Not Called to be Prosecutors

I've just submitted my next article for the local paper. Since I just did a sermon this past Sunday I just did a shorter version for the article.

Not Called To Be Prosecutors
By Pastor Kevin Presseault, Woodside Bible Fellowship

Every once and a while I like to sit back and ask myself the question “How are you doing spiritually?” Why ask the question? Because God wants us to. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we read: “Test yourself to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourself regular checkups… Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it”. So I like to test myself… and if something isn’t right then I should do something about it.

I believe God created us, and the church, to fulfill five purposes. These are Fellowship, Worship, Ministry, Discipleship and Evangelism. For a healthy spiritual life I believe that we need an equal balance of these purposes. For example, you can do all the Bible studies in the world and fill your head with information but if that doesn’t get you to worship God or serve others in ministry then that knowledge is pretty useless… So I like to see how I am doing in these five areas. After my last checkup, I realized what shouldn’t have been very surprising. The scariest of the five purposes was WAY down at the bottom of my list: Evangelism. Don’t do it. Don’t like it. I would rather that purpose didn’t even exist.

So after wrestling with God a little bit over why this should be the responsibility of everyone else but me, I was reminded of some very simple and important truths.

The first is that all around me are people who are trapped in spiritual prisons. What does that mean? So many people’s lives are not turning out the way they want them too. No one wakes up in the morning and asks the question “What can I do today to mess up my life?” Yet, so many people are making decisions every day that do just that. And because of these choices they end up trapped in a prison that they don’t know how to get out of. If they could only find a solution to their problems they would gladly do it. You can see the evidence of that simply by looking at the best selling books about spirituality on Amazon.com. What is the number one book? The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. This book teaches about the Law of Attraction and is quite a simple concept. The universe wants to give you everything you desire. You just need enough positive energy to get it. Health, money, possessions, it’s all yours for the asking. Simply believe and you’ll receive it. What a great idea! It should be of no surprise to us that people trapped in prison would turn to this as a solution to all of their problems. Sounds simple, but reality just doesn’t work that way.

I was also reminded that we humans cannot set ourselves free from our prisons. No matter how much we wish for it. Only Jesus is capable of doing that. Not only is he capable, but he was sent to do so! In Luke 4:18 Jesus reads this prophecy about himself “He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” Jesus wants to set people free from their prison and, here’s the crazy part, he wants US to be a part of that work. In all four Gospels Jesus makes his mission statement pretty clear on what he wants us to do. We are told to “go and make disciples” in Matthew 28, “go into all the world” in Mark 16, to be “witnesses of all these things” in Luke 24 and finally to be sent, “as my Father sent me, so I am sending you”. Seems simple enough… so why is it so scary? And why does it seem like it’s the thing that so few Christians actually do?

I think we’ve turned Jesus’ call to be “witnesses” into a call to be “prosecutors”. If you watch any court room TV show you can clearly see the difference between these two roles. The prosecutor needs to present all the facts. She must get the jury to see her side of the story and to make sure that they come to the conclusion that she wants them to. She will use every argument possible to make people leave that courtroom believing exactly what she wanted everyone to believe. The witness is completely different. When the witness comes to the stand he simply is asked to tell his story. He tells the jury what he saw or heard. Then it’s up to the jury to make up their own mind based on what was presented to them. Which of these sounds harder to do? Convincing people of your point of view or just telling your story? Hopefully you’re now thinking like I do and that the call to being a witness is much easier then being a prosecutor.

I was recently reminded of the story of a young girl named Suzie. She was 17 years old and just started attending college. Suzie was an incredibly sweet girl who loved Jesus and people. Her locker was beside three guys who were in their last year of college. She started talking regularly to one of them each morning. This guy however was a conceited jerk. He was self absorbed, loved to party and didn’t really care about anyone but himself. Suzie decided to start praying for this young man every single day. One day an opportunity to share her faith with him came up. He laughed his head off at her. Then he got everyone else around them to laugh at her as well. She didn’t let that bother her and continued to pray for him for the remainder of the year. He graduated and she continued on with her life. Eighteen years later, a friend of Suzie’s was getting married. She decided to host a bridal shower for her. At the party, Suzie met a woman whose husband had recently resigned from a long career in the computer industry and was going to become a pastor. Suzie thought this was such a wonderful thing. The husband showed up at the party to pick up his wife. When he arrived Suzie was shocked to learn that it was the guy who she used to pray for way back in college! She was amazed to see an answer to her prayers. A month after that Suzie and the man met up again at the wedding of the friend. The man told Suzie that ten years after college he had come to understand what Jesus did for him. Shortly after that he remembered how badly he had treated Suzie in school so he prayed that God would give him the opportunity to apologize to her. So he did. He thanked Suzie for standing up for what she believed in such a hostile environment. She then told him that she used to pray for him every day. After sharing this incredible God moment together they parted ways. Two weeks after that, the man, his wife and their two kids left Montreal and moved to Elmira, Ontario where he became the Pastor of Integration and Discipleship at Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So how important is evangelism to me? I probably owe my eternal life to the prayers and simple story of a seventeen year old girl who I barely knew! So, yes, I’m going to do whatever it takes to just be a simple witness and not worry any more about trying to be a prosecutor.

And, how about you? What’s your response to this call? Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve never understood the idea of how Jesus came to set us free and you’re still trapped in some form of spiritual prison. If that’s the case, give me a call here at the church. I’d love to grab a coffee with you and hear your story and maybe share mine. Or maybe you have accepted the gift that Jesus freely offers but you still find yourself trapped in the prison of certain behaviors. I would encourage you to find a small group of believers that you can openly and safely talk with. I know that no one can break free from prison on their own. We all need the love and support from other people. For us Christians, find a place to share your story. If you love to play golf, play golf with non-Christians. If you love to quilt, quilt with non-Christians. By simply doing what you’re already passionate about doing evangelism becomes a joy instead of a burden.

All around us people are in prison. God has a HUGE heart for those who are in prison. I believe the only way for people to break free is through a relationship with Jesus. Let us all be less concerned with trying to convince the world that we are right and they are wrong. Instead let’s simply answer the call to tell our story and show the love of Jesus working in our lives.

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