Do you feel empowered and equipped to share your faith? Taking a short break in our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy “TA” Ateek uses 2 Corinthians 5 to provide clarity around our mentality, message, mission, and motivation in proclaiming the gospel to those who need to hear it.
Christmas Eve | John 1:1-14
All Hands On Deck | December 2022
God is Here | John 2:13-22
From Good to Godly | 2 Samuel 6:1-16
Living a Life of Faith, Not of Logic | John 2:1-11
“Why Doesn’t God Do Something?” | Revelation 21:1-8
Marriage and Family | Psalm 78:1-8
All Hands on Deck | May 2022
Good Friday 2022
Leveraging Our Lives for the Sake of the Gospel | 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2
Do you feel empowered and equipped to share your faith? Taking a short break in our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy “TA” Ateek uses 2 Corinthians 5 to provide clarity around our mentality, message, mission, and motivation in proclaiming the gospel to those who need to hear it.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? Good to see you. I'm so excited for what the Lord has in store for us as we open up his Word. I want to start by sharing with you… As I was preparing for this morning, I began to flash back in my mind to when my third son, Jake, was born. I have three boys. Noah is 12, Andrew is 10, and then Jake is about 4-1/2 years old.
I began to think about when I was in the delivery room and my wife was giving birth to Jake. There was this moment that I remember when I was just… The delivery room we were in was in College Station at this hospital, and it was a fairly large room. My wife was in the bed over there, and I think there was a bed over here. I found myself in this very awkward position where I was literally… My wife was in bed over there, and I was just standing there having no clue what to do.
You know how Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights is like, "I don't know what to do with my hands"? I was like, "I don't know what to do with anything right now." It had been six years since our second son had been born, so I was simply out of practice. I found myself just standing in the middle of the delivery room while my wife was over there doing her thing, doing the work, and then the doctors and the nurses were moving all around me.
I didn't want to get in the way of the people who actually had something very meaningful to do in that moment, so I just stood there awkwardly. I will never forget this nurse coming over to me and giving me some direction. She was like, "Okay, Dad, if you want to come over here, then you can stand right here next to your wife, and you can encourage her." I was like, "I can do that. Thank you so much for the direction."
The reason I share that with you is because when you step into the spiritual realm… When someone puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Scriptures would refer to that as a birth. It is known as being born again. What you have to understand is anytime someone is born again a miracle is happening. We've established that in 1 Corinthians. We've talked about the fact that salvation is a miracle. The Spirit of God moves and works in someone's life, and they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures would say they are born again.
No one can come to faith in Christ without the Spirit of God doing a miracle, and at the same time, God in his kindness gives us the privilege of playing a role in the spiritual births of his people. The difference between physical birth and spiritual birth is this. When I was in the delivery room for my son Jake's birth, there were primary roles and there were secondary roles.
My wife had a primary role. We would say she did the heavy lifting in that moment. My role (and I use that word very loosely) was very secondary. It was to simply stand there and be like, "Keep doing what you're doing. And, no, we cannot change places. Thank you for doing what you're doing." There are primary and secondary roles. But when it comes to spiritual birth, there aren't primary and secondary roles.
My fear when it comes to God using us to share the gospel with others so they would come to faith in Christ is that you would ever get to a place where you believe there are primary roles and secondary roles when it comes to reaching the world with the gospel. What I want to avoid is anyone ever getting to the place where you see the Watermark staff as having a primary role and you having a secondary role, which is just to kind of encourage us.
You can give money to make sure we can keep the lights on, and you can tell people, "Hey, I really like what Watermark is doing, and I hope they just keep doing what they're doing." No. There are no primary and secondary roles. God wants to use each one of us to play a crucial role in the advance of the gospel. See, sharing your faith is not a pastor thing or a missionary thing; it's a Christian thing.
Every single one of us is invited into the family business to leverage our lives for the sake of the gospel. Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love said the point of your life is to point people to Christ. That's really helpful. If you're here this morning and you're kind of wondering, "Why do I exist? Why does my life matter? What's the point of my life?" this is it. The point of your life is to point people to Christ. You have a very significant role you are to play.
But you might be like me, standing in the middle of the delivery room, wondering what you're supposed to be doing and what role you're really to play. What you might need is someone to come alongside you and just say, "Hey, you can come over here, and here's the role you are to play." What I want to be for you this morning is someone who simply gives you some direction to say, "This is how God wants to use you to leverage your life for the sake of those who have yet to put their trust in Jesus Christ."
So, this morning, I'm going to bring clarity in four ways. I'm usually not a big alliteration guy. I tend to avoid it, but this morning, I'm just going to lean into it. I want to clarify for us what our mentality should be when it comes to reaching those who have not put their faith and trust in Christ, I want to clarify what our message is, I want to clarify what our mission is, and then I want to clarify what our motivation should be.
I'm going to do it this morning by looking at 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. That might feel like a pivot, and it is. We've been in the book of 1 Corinthians. We're keeping it in the Corinthian family, people, but we're going to push pause on 1 Corinthians this morning. We'll pick it up again next week. It just felt like we needed to pause for a moment for two reasons.
There are two reasons I wanted to push pause on 1 Corinthians this morning and spend a little bit of time calling us to play our roles in sharing the gospel with others. The first reason is that Easter is coming up in two weeks. If there was ever a time when it is easy to start conversations about Jesus, it's around Easter. "Hey, does your family celebrate Easter? If so, what do you do for Easter?" It doesn't take much to then get to, "Okay. So, what do you think about Jesus?"
It's an awesome opportunity to invite people to join you at church. So, I just want to put it on your radar to live with a great amount of intentionality during this time. The second reason I wanted to push pause on 1 Corinthians and talk about this is simply because, for the last 22 years, Watermark has been a place where people have relentlessly pursued those who do not know Jesus, and my fear is that spring fever or whatever has set in regarding who we've been and who we're going to be. That's who we've been and that's who we will always be.
We want to be a place filled with people who live on mission, that we would leave this place each Sunday with clarity of mind and heart that God wants to use us to share the beautiful reality of Christ with those who have yet to put their faith and trust in him. So, if you have a Bible, join me in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. I just want to read you verses 16 all the way through chapter 6, verse 2. Paul says this, starting in verse 16 of chapter 5:
"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
There are four things I'm going to give you this morning. First, I want to clarify our mentality when it comes to living out the point and purpose of our lives, which is to point people to Christ. Again, Paul says in verse 16, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer."
You have to remember that the author of 2 Corinthians is the same author as 1 Corinthians, and that's the apostle Paul. Paul, before he came to Christ, was a devout Jew. He was extremely religious. He was advanced in the structures that existed within Judaism, a very respected individual. It would have been against the law for him to interact with non-Jews or Gentiles.
So, what Paul is saying is "There was a time when I saw the world through the framework of ethnicity." Now he's saying, "I see the world through the framework of spirituality." He's saying there was a shift in his mentality. He no longer saw people for the physical; he saw people for the spiritual. I tell you that just to say, when it comes to sharing our faith with others, when it comes to reaching those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, we might need to have some shifts in our mentality. We need to have the right mentality when it comes to reaching the lost.
Let me tell you four shifts that might need to take place in your mind. The first is it is not a good thing to cocoon yourself inside of a Christian bubble. It's not a healthy thing to cocoon yourself inside of a Christian bubble where (watch the wording) you have no (here's the key word) meaningful interaction with those who do not know Jesus Christ. I'm not talking about sitting next to someone who doesn't know Jesus. I'm not talking about working out next to someone who doesn't know Jesus. I'm talking about having no meaningful interaction with those people.
If we're not careful, we're going to fill our lives with spiritual activities, and we're going to get filled up, but we're never going to be wrung out. You know what? Spiritual activity is a good thing. You can come here on Sunday morning, and you can soak up what is happening, and then you can get together with your Community Group, and you can soak that up, and you can come to men's Bible study or women's Bible study, and you can get filled up. There's nothing wrong with that.
The problem is when you don't get wrung out. See, we come to church to get filled up, and we come to Bible study to get filled up, but here's what our lives can become. Sunday morning: church, breakfast with our Christian friends, lunch with our Christian friends. We work the system with the soccer team so that our kids are on teams with our parent friends who are Christians. You go to men's or women's Bible study. You vacation with your Christian friends.
None of these things are bad things, but do you know what this becomes when it's never wrung out? A block of bacteria. You get filled up to be wrung out. That's the goal. That's who we want to be. So, I just encourage you. There might have to be a shift in your mentality. If you have no meaningful interaction with those who don't know Jesus, you might need to change your schedule, and you might need to begin to engage in a different way.
Another shift in mentality might just need to be this. You might have to stop seeing people for their sin and start seeing people for their need. When all you do is see people for their sin, you're going to withdraw in judgment instead of pursue in love. You have to remember this. You should never be surprised when people who don't know Jesus don't look like Jesus. You can't expect people who don't know Jesus to value Jesus or the things of Jesus.
You should never be surprised when sinful people sin. I mean, heck. Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ still sin, and that doesn't surprise us, so we shouldn't be surprised when those who don't know Jesus don't look like Jesus. Just remember their sin is just a symptom of their need. We have to look past their sin to their need.
A third shift that might need to take place is it's never us versus them. Remember, you only have one enemy. It's Satan. That is the only enemy you have. Atheists are not our enemies. Agnostics are not our enemies. People from other religions are not our enemies. Those who do not value the things of Jesus or look at the things of Jesus and think they're ridiculous and do the exact opposite of what Jesus values are not our enemies. We believe those people are captives of the one true Enemy. That should cause us to pursue them and engage with them in love. Our goal isn't to be right; it is to call them to see Jesus.
The fourth shift in mentality that might need to take place is this: with Jesus, the impossible is always possible. I'll just say this. There's somebody in our extended family that my wife and I… There have probably been times where we've just said, "She is never going to come to Christ," because she is hostile toward Christianity. She doesn't understand it. She doesn't want to explore it. She's against what we do.
There have been times in our lives where we've just said, "I don't think… I can't even see the path forward." I think God is like, "Hello! What do you think I do? How do you think you became a Christian? It was a miracle." If you know Jesus, it's because God did something miraculous in your life. He changed Paul's life. He changed my life. He can change anyone's life.
I tell you that just to say: never lose hope, even if it has been decades. Never stop inviting. If you've been told no 100 times, there's no telling what God will do on the 101st time. You just never know how the Spirit of God is moving in someone's life. You never know if God is just teeing someone up for a conversation you're going to have with them where they just break down and give their life to Christ. Do not lose hope. That's our mentality.
The second thing we want to be clear on is our message. If the point of our lives is to point to Christ, we have to be clear on our message. Paul spells it out for us. Verse 17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." That is our message. Our message is a message of newness.
Jesus Christ takes those who were dead and makes them alive. We're not gathered here today because we are bad people who want to become better people. We are gathered here today because we were dead people, and now we are alive solely because of Jesus Christ, because he is in the business of newness. He gives clean starts to messy lives. Did you see what the wording said? It says, "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
This is the best news on the planet: you don't have to be defined by your past. Whatever it is, whatever you've done that makes you hate yourself, whatever it might be, wherever you have failed in life, Jesus' message to you is "I can take your failure and give you my forgiveness. You don't have to be defined by what you've done. You can be defined by what I've done." Jesus Christ has canceled the record of our debt. He has taken it away, and he has given us a permanently new start.
That newness is not something we ever move on from. If you've been a believer for years and right now you're struggling with sin, it's possible that you look at that new creation thing as a thing of the past, but that's our identity. It's our permanent identity. That is just who you are. You are a new creation, a permanently new creation. So, we have the privilege of living out of that identity. That's our message.
I wonder if anyone here this morning… You don't even know why you're sitting there. You woke up this morning, and you're like, "How did I get to church this morning?" That was not on your radar, and somehow God brought you here. Or a friend was like, "Hey, do you want to go to brunch?" and then they brought you here. They tricked you royally. It's possible that you are here this morning hanging by a thread, believing, "How could God ever love me?" The message this morning is: he can make you new.
But that's not all. Look at what it says in verse 18. "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
Here's something important to know: speakers repeat what's important to them. Let me say that one more time. Speakers repeat what is important to them. Did you see what word Paul repeated multiple times in two verses? What was it? Reconciliation. That means we'd better make sure we understand what reconciliation means, because Paul clearly wants us to clue in on it.
That word reconciliation in the Greek has two implications. First, it implies distinct change, that a distinct change has occurred. The second thing it means is that you have been brought into favor. So, put those two ideas together. Because of Jesus, a distinct change has happened that has resulted in you being brough into favor.
What's the distinct change that has happened? This is amazing. I mean, if you're new to Christianity, if you think Christianity is just about standing against things, you don't understand Christianity. If you think Christianity is just about trying hard, you don't understand Christianity. This is our message: we were enemies of God, and then Jesus has done something to make us children of God. That's the distinct change.
Ephesians, chapter 2, would say every person, apart from Christ, is a child of wrath, an enemy of God. That's important for you to know. I was on the campus of Texas A&M. I was walking around, and I was talking to this guy about spiritual things. Here's what he told me. He said, "You know what? I'll get serious about religion and spirituality later in life, but right now, I just want to enjoy myself."
He was making an assumption. Do you know what that assumption was? The assumption was that he was in neutral standing with God, that because God was irrelevant to him, he was irrelevant to God and he and God could both ignore each other until they both wanted to do something with each other. He was in neutral standing. Here's the thing. You're either at war with God or at peace with God. There's no middle ground. If you don't know Jesus, the Scriptures would say you're at war with God.
You might be here this morning and finding out for the first time you're at war with God, and you didn't even know it, but there's great news. You don't have to stay at war with God, because Jesus Christ, through his death, burial, and resurrection, has kicked open a door into the family of God for you and me. So, anyone who's an enemy who would simply put their trust in Jesus Christ can become a child. That's the distinct change.
To say you've been brought into favor… The God of the universe looks at you and calls you his son or his daughter. He doesn't just put up with you. He actually delights in you. He enjoys fathering you. He commits to being with you every moment of every day, leading you, comforting you, caring for you, because he loves you. This is our message. We've been made right with God. Do you sense that? Are you at peace with God? If not, Jesus can make you right with him.
How is it possible for us to experience a distinct change that results in us experiencing God's favor? It's because of Jesus, but Paul spells it out for us in what is one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible. If you want one verse to memorize, let me recommend 2 Corinthians 5:21. It might be the most beautiful verse in the entire Bible.
Here it is. This is how reconciliation happens. "For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We're just going to camp out here for a moment and make sure we fully understand this verse, because it is so powerful. Let's just walk phrase by phrase.
Paul says, "For our sake…" If you want to know if God cares, if you want to know if God loves you, if you want to know if God sees you, three words: "For our sake…" Everything God has done… God leaving heaven and coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ was for our sake. Jesus Christ being crucified on a cross like a criminal when he deserved to be worshiped as a king was for our sake. Jesus Christ being buried in a tomb was for our sake. Jesus Christ walking out of that tomb victorious over our sin was for our sake.
Everything God has done is for our sake. "For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin…" Just get what's happening here. The only people involved are God the Father and God the Son. One of my friends puts it this way: only God could design and execute a plan of reconciliation with himself. That's it. Only God can do it. Only God can design and execute a plan of reconciliation with himself.
Dan Dumas says what we're talking about is God crushing his sinless Son so that sinful enemies could become sanctified sons and daughters. "He made him to be sin…" That doesn't mean Jesus became sinful. It just means Jesus took all of our wrongdoing, all of our sin, upon himself, including the consequences for it. We were destined for wrath, and Jesus Christ endured it on our behalf. John MacArthur says God treated Jesus on the cross as if he had personally committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe.
Our sins were charged to Jesus' account. The punishment that was ours was taken and endured by him. _ "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him…" _ Let's be clear. Salvation is only in Jesus Christ. Period. This isn't "You believe what you believe. I'll believe what I believe. The important thing is we just all believe something." No. In Jesus Christ. This is solely through Jesus Christ.
"…so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." This is beautiful. This is what's known as the great exchange. The great exchange in the Scriptures is simply this: his righteousness to us, our sin to him. Let's all step into vacation Bible school. I want you to repeat that with me. Just repeat after me. "His righteousness to us, our sin to him." Let's just say that again. This is the great exchange. "His righteousness to us, our sin to him."
What a busted deal. The God of the universe takes all our sin and gives us all his righteousness. This is the great exchange. This is how imperfect people can spend eternity with a perfect God in a perfect place. Have you ever thought about that? If you're here this morning and are thinking that, as an imperfect person, you're just going to try really hard in this life and, hopefully, at the end, a perfect God will look at you and say, "Eh, it's good enough," that doesn't make sense.
Imperfect people, living with a perfect God in a perfect place… Your imperfection does not fit. How is it possible for imperfect people to be made right with a perfect God? Only by a perfect God leaving heaven and coming to earth and doing business on behalf of imperfect people. Jesus Christ took all of our imperfection upon himself. When he was crucified on the cross, he was crucified for all of your imperfections and for all of mine. When he rose from the dead, it was a demonstration that he had conquered all of your imperfection and all of mine.
When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, here's what happens: Jesus gives you his perfection. That doesn't mean you'll be perfect for the rest of your life. What it means is when a perfect God looks at you, do you know what he sees? Not your imperfection, but the perfection of Jesus Christ. This is really good news. I hope you see it as good news. When you know Jesus Christ, God the Father looks at you, and he sees Jesus.
Everything God the Father feels for Jesus he now feels for you, because what Paul would say all throughout his epistles is we are in Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." The love God the Father has for Jesus he now has for you because you are in Christ. The delight and the pleasure God the Father feels for Jesus he feels for you because you are in Christ. The acceptance and approval he has for Jesus he has for you because you are in Christ. This is our message. Is there anyone you know who could benefit from this?
We've clarified our mentality. We've clarified our message. Let's clarify our mission. It's found in verse 20. Paul says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." When we think of an ambassador, we think of a representative from one country to another, but what you need to understand…
One commentator explained it this way: Ambassadors were messengers sent from an overpowering army to one that was about to be destroyed. As was military custom, the messengers brought terms of surrender and thus peace to the army that was about to be overwhelmed. It was a final offer before utter destruction.
That's what's in view here. God is like, "Hey, you're my ambassadors. You're the ones who are going to go to the world offering one final offer before utter destruction." That is what God wants to use us to do. We are inviting people to surrender to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but here's the good news: our King's rule doesn't bring oppression; it brings joy and peace. So, this is what we have the opportunity to do.
This should speak to a void many of us feel in our hearts. Here's the deal. Many of us fear being nobodies. Nobody wants to be a nobody. We hunger for significance, but we think significance is going to be found in a job title or job promotion or in some success. God is like, "You get to be my ambassador." Tell me what would look better than that on LinkedIn. "Ambassador for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords." There's nothing more significant.
This is God inviting you into the family business. This is God inviting you to be a part of something eternally significant. This is God inviting you to be an agent of rescue. I'll explain it this way. Do you all remember that movie Taken that came out years ago with Liam Neeson? If you haven't seen Taken, there will be some spoilers in this, but you've had years, people, so I'm not worried about it.
It's basically this movie about this man whose teenage daughter goes to Europe, gets kidnapped, and is sent into the sex slave trade. Unfortunately for the bad guys, this girl's dad destroys people for a living. That's his job description. So, here's what I did years ago. I needed a sermon illustration, so I asked my creative director… I said, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to take the movie Taken, and I want you to take out all of the wrath and all of the rescue, and whatever clips remain, just put those together."
This is what was left: A man has a daughter. That daughter gets on an airplane to go to Europe, and then that girl gets on a plane and comes home. That's it. It's not much of a movie when you remove the wrath and the rescue. I tell you this because this is what so many of us do to the people who don't know Jesus around us. We remove from their story the impending wrath and their need for rescue.
We wake up, and we go to work, and we just watch people wake up and go to work and sit at their desk and go to lunch and go home and do it all over again, and we remove from their story that "You know what? If they will not allow Jesus to endure the wrath of God for them, then they will endure it themselves. They're desperately in need of a rescuer." It's just a reminder. God is inviting us into the family business to be agents of rescue.
Why do you think something in you came alive when you saw Bryan Mills, the father, hug his daughter for the first time in Taken? Why does something in you just burst with excitement when you saw those SEALs drop those Somali pirates in Captain Phillips? It's because of the rescue. You're someone who has been rescued. You know what it's like to be in captivity and to be rescued, because Jesus Christ has come for you and for me, and he's giving us the opportunity to be agents of rescue.
Finally, we need clarity on our motivation. What's our motivation? Look back all the way at verse 11. We haven't even read it yet, but Paul says, "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others." Knowing the fear of the Lord; knowing who God is, that God is holy, holy, holy; having a right relationship with him and a right understanding of who he is; that we will all stand before him one day and, as we saw last week, give an account for how we lived our lives here on earth. We want to persuade others to come and know Jesus.
Verses 14-15: "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." The love of Christ controls us. It compels us. If we've experienced the love of Christ, we should express the love of Christ. That's our motivation.
Then chapter 6, verses 1-2: "Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.'" Don't miss the wording here. "Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
Do you want to know what your motivation is? Today is the day of salvation. The gospel is winning. Let me just show you. There's an organization called Global Media Outreach, and they share the gospel with people through the Internet. They have ads you can click on. They have websites that share the gospel, apps you can download. They have a map that shows people interacting with the gospel in real time.
The blue pins you see falling indicate someone who has clicked on an ad or visited a website, and they count that as a gospel visit. Just today, 120,000 visits. If you look at where pins are falling, they're falling in Africa. They're falling over in India. They're falling in South America. They're falling all over the world.
The orange pins, according to them, indicate some type of decision. If people click on a banner or go to a website, they can get connected to an Internet missionary who will talk with them and engage with them and help them take a step with Jesus. I show you this just to say… This is just one organization, and the gospel is on the move.
Let me share a few more statistics of how the gospel is on the move. Christianity is the front-running world religion with 2.4 billion people worldwide. This year, 93 million Bibles will be printed. In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands…some estimate between 800,000 and 1 million…Christians in Iran. It's considered the fastest-growing church in the world today, a country where the gospel of Jesus Christ is not welcome.
Nepal is one of only two Hindu-majority countries in the world. In 1950, there were no reported Christians. Today, people estimate there are between 1 and 3 million, and some have considered Nepal one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. In 1975, there were an estimated 2.7 million evangelical Christians in China. People estimate now that there are somewhere between 80 and 100 million Christians in China.
The Houston Chronical put out an article one to two years ago estimating that by 2030, there would be more Christians in China than in the United States. Today, more Christians live in Africa than any other continent. If you think the United States is the launching pad for Christianity, it's not. By 2050, Africa will be home to almost 1.3 billion Christians.
See, the gospel is winning. I don't know what that does to you, but the gospel is winning, yet there's so much left to do. I don't know if you know this, but there are approximately 3.3 billion people in the world who have either limited exposure to the gospel or virtually no exposure at all…3.3 billion people. And what about our world here? That's the world, but what about our world here in the Metroplex in Dallas-Fort Worth?
There are 7.6 million people in DFW, and there are loads of amazing churches in Dallas-Fort Worth…amazing churches that are meeting right now that are doing incredible work, proclaiming the gospel and teaching the Bible. But here's the thing. If all of the churches in DFW that proclaim Jesus, that teach the gospel, teach the Scriptures…
If all of them had their best day, had their record-breaking attendances, there would still be potentially millions of people unreached in Dallas-Fort Worth. So, we have an opportunity. We can do something. We can leverage our lives for the sake of the gospel. So, how do we respond? What can we do? Let me just come alongside you. Let me direct you and say, "Hey, here is what you can do today." Let me give you a few action points, and then we'll pray.
First, identify your spheres of influence. A sphere of influence is a place you go at the same time on the same days each week and engage with the same people. That's a sphere of influence. So, your workplace is a sphere of influence. A recurring play date is a sphere of influence. Your kid's soccer team is a sphere of influence. Your gym is a sphere of influence.
Secondly, pray for opportunities. Just ask God, "God, give me opportunities to talk to others about you." God loves to answer that prayer.
Thirdly, break through social barriers. Love those whom Jesus loves but other Christians don't. When my wife and I lived in Waco, my wife's hairdresser was one of the leaders in the pagan society in Waco. She needed a place to have her 1- or 2-year-old son's birthday party, so we were like, "Well, have it at our house." So we had the pagan society to our house. They looked different than us. They valued vastly different things. It was an opportunity to love them with the gospel.
Next, listen for needs Jesus can meet. People will overshare all the time. Strangers will overshare with you. If you ask the question, "Hey, how are things going today…?" Like, you just ask your barista. Sometimes they'll say, "It's great," and other times they'll actually answer honestly. Just be prepared for it. Listen for needs Jesus can meet.
I remember this repair guy being at our house. He was about to leave, and I said, "Hey, man. Is there anything I can get for you?" and he was like, "You got a million dollars?" He went out to his car, and while he was at his car, I had Acts, chapter 3, the story where Peter meets the needs of this paralyzed guy. So, when this guy came back, I said, "Hey, man. I don't have a million dollars, but I do have Jesus Christ." I was like, "That's it. Maybe that'll meet your need."
Next, ask good questions. Just ask good questions. A question that has been circulating Watermark for years is "Do you have a faith?" You're eating lunch with a coworker… "Hey, we've never talked about this, but, I don't know if you know, faith is really important to me. Do you have a faith?" "I know Easter is coming up. I don't know if your family celebrates Easter. Do you have a faith?" That's it, and you're in the conversation. It took five seconds. You're in the conversation.
Here's the question a friend of mine loves to ask. I've enjoyed most of the times I've asked it. It's just simply this. You can ask it to anyone. "Hey, let me ask you, is there anything you or your family needs that I can ask God to help you with? I just wanted to ask real quick. Is there anything that you or your family needs that I can ask God to help you with? Oh, okay. Can I pray for you right now?" Or "You know what? As I'm leaving, I'm just going to pray for you. Nice to meet you." That's it. Ask good questions.
Invite people to church. Easter is coming up. Who are you going to invite? Then, finally, share your story with people. No one can argue with your story. This week, we were on a retreat. I loved it. We were in Buc-ee's. God bless Buc-ee's. There were some Mormon missionaries in Buc-ee's, and John Elmore, the other teaching pastor, was like, "You know what? I was an alcoholic." This is Buc-ee's, the middle of Buc-ee's, talking to Mormons. What was he doing? Sharing his story. They can't argue with that.
I'll close by saying this. When we lived in Waco, there was this billboard around town. It was just a black billboard with two words in white, and those words were "Use me." It was promoting the billboard. I looked at them, and I was like, "What an appropriate prayer for every Christ follower to pray." "God, use me. May my life be a billboard for your love, for your goodness, for your grace. Would you use me?"
I want to give you an opportunity to pray that this morning. This might be uncomfortable, but if you're willing… There's freedom in this place, so you do not have to do it if you don't want to. I just want to invite us to get on our knees before we leave. We're going to leave in just a few minutes. Before we leave, I want to invite you to get on your knees, and let's ask God to do a great work in our city.
Let's ask God to do a great work in the world and in our worlds. If you can't get on your knees, that's totally fine. If you don't want to, that's totally fine. But if you're willing, I just want to invite you. We're just going to pray for a moment. I just want to invite you to get on your knees and ask God to use you.
First, I want to encourage you to pray for your world. So, would you take a moment and think through the spheres of influence God has placed you in? See people's faces. Who in your spheres of influence do not know Jesus? Think through them, and ask God right now, "God, would you use me in this person and this person and this person and this person's life?" Just pray through those things right now.
Then I want to invite you to pray for the world. Just think about that sobering fact that 3.3 billion people have little to no access to the gospel. Just pray. Say, "God, I pray that your gospel would continue to win." Ask him to raise up missionaries to go to the unreached. Then I want to encourage you to pray this. Just say, "God, what would you have me do so that the gospel can go to those who have yet to hear it?"
Then, finally, maybe you're here this morning and you're not ready to share this message because you've never received this message. So, if you're here this morning and you don't know Jesus, but for the first time you've realized you want a relationship with him, then let me invite you even now. You can pray and say, "Lord Jesus, would you come into my life this morning? Thank you, Jesus, that you died for me. Thank you that you were punished for me. Would you come into my life? Would you forgive me of my sins, and would you lead me in a new life?"
Lord Jesus, we need you. We love you. We thank you, God, for your good news, and, Lord, we just want to ask: Would you use us this week? We will go where you want us to go. We will talk to who you want us to talk to. We will say what you want us to say. Would you use us, God? Would you do a mighty work in this city, and would you do a mighty work in this world? We love you. You are a good King. In Jesus' name, amen.