Sharing Christ

Scripture: John 7:37-39

Title: Sharing Christ

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Open wells
  • We are the cup
  • Grace & truth
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Today, because we have welcomed people into church membership, we take a break from our series on Moses to focus on one of our members’ pledges:

 

To share with other people the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

To some people sharing their faith comes naturally, but not to all of us

  • For many of us sharing the gospel of Christ feels anything but natural
  • It feels awkward or difficult or scary
  • And while there is risk involved in sharing our faith we need not be afraid

Looking more closely at that statement on the wall, the word ‘gospel’ simply means good news

  • We Christians are not being asked to share bad news
  • We have something positive to share, something life-giving

And the good news we have to share is about a person, ‘Jesus Christ’

  • Sharing the gospel isn’t primarily about passing on ideas or rules or doctrines (although it does include those things)
  • Sharing the gospel is first & foremost about sharing a relationship – introducing others to Jesus, our friend

Open wells:

One of the best illustrations of what it means to share Christ with others is found in John chapter 7 – page 128 toward the back of your pew Bibles

To put you in the picture, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the festival of shelters

  • This is an 8 day festival held at the end of autumn
  • Autumn, in the Middle East, is usually a dry time of year and the people are looking to God to provide rain
  • On each of the first seven days of the festival the priest draws water from the pool of Siloam, then leads a procession to the Temple, where he pours the water onto the altar
  • The people are reminded of God’s provision for Israel in the wilderness after leaving Egypt – particularly the way God made water pour out of a rock in the desert
  • Words from Isaiah may be read as part of the water pouring ceremony
  • “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” [1]
  • Or, “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” [2]

It is against this background that Jesus makes His statement

  • From John 7, verse 37, we read…

[Read John 7:37-39]

 

May the Spirit of Jesus refresh us today

On the wall here is a picture of the fresh water springs at Petone

  • Most of you would have been to this spring I’m sure
  • Water bubbles up through the ground naturally – and as it passes through the sand and gravel the water is purified
  • Even though people could easily get water by turning a tap on at home they still come to the spring to fill up bottles to drink

 

In John 7, Jesus uses the water symbolism of the feast of shelters to talk about the living water He will bestow

  • The land is dry and the people are thinking of rain and of their own physical thirst [3]
  • Jesus turns their attention to the deep need of the soul and to the way he would meet that need – with the gift of Himself, the gift of His Spirit
  • Jesus is like a fresh water spring (or a well) – and the water He offers is God’s Holy Spirit

With this in mind, sharing the gospel of Christ is best understood as introducing others to Jesus – the one person who can satisfy the thirst of the soul

  • In sharing the gospel, therefore, we are showing thirsty people where they can get a drink
  • More than this though we actually become the means through which Jesus delivers His water

 

Jesus says…

  • “Whoever believes in me, streams of life-giving water will pour from his [or her] heart”

In other words, those who believe in Jesus (those who trust Him and are committed to Him) will become a vessel for God’s Holy Spirit

  • Wow – that’s pretty incredible

A fresh water spring or a well works by being accessible and open

  • People are drawn to a well and they draw from a well

One of the keys to sharing our faith is simply being open & honest with people

  • Listening carefully to what people are saying & letting them enquire of us
  • We don’t need to try and make something happen
  • God will create the opportunities naturally – we don’t need to force anything – but we do need to be open and available

If you look at our organ pipes here you will see they have holes in them

  • Holes in either end and a hole in the front
  • The pipes make a sound precisely because they are open
  • If we were to block up the holes so the air couldn’t pass through then there would be no music
  • Each of us is like one of those organ pipes – we must stay open to strike the right note
  • But as organ pipes we don’t provide the air
  • God is the organist and the wind of His Spirit passes through us

Christian believers are like organ pipes and water wells – we work best when we are open – open to God and open to others

Openness to God and to others could mean accepting an invitation to dinner

  • Or, if someone asks you what you did on the weekend you include the fact that you went to church
  • Being open might mean being interruptible enough to listen to someone or help them with something
  • Those who volunteer to help support a refugee family to relocate in our area (if that is needed) are showing an openness to God & to others

Other times openness means allowing people to draw the water of grace & truth out of us by answering the questions they ask, openly and honestly

Not that we must always wait to be asked what we believe – sometimes it is appropriate for us to take the initiative

  • If you can see someone is thirsty, then why not put a cup of water directly into their hands

We are the cup:

Okay, time for a practical demonstration

  • I need a volunteer to come up the front on the stage with me
  • This would especially suit someone who doesn’t like me that much
  • [Wait for volunteer]

On the table over here we have a bowl of water and a cup

  • I want you [the volunteer] to fill the cup with water from the bowl and stand ten steps away from me
  • Now I’m going to open my mouth and I want you to try and throw as much water as you can from the cup into my mouth, without moving from the spot

[Volunteer throws water, I get wet and dry myself]

 

[To the congregation] what would be a better way to get the water into me? [Wait for people to respond]

  • That’s right, pass the cup to me and let me drink from it myself
  • [Get the volunteer to do that – then ask them to sit down]

For the purposes of this illustration I want you to imagine…

  • The bowl is Christ
  • The water is the gospel – the good news of salvation
  • And you are the cup

As the cup you have no ability to manufacture the water by yourself

  • The most you can do is be filled with the good news about Jesus so that others can drink from you

Sharing Christ, sharing the gospel, doesn’t really work from a distance

  • It doesn’t work to throw the gospel at someone
  • You have to get close to people to share your faith
  • Introducing others to Jesus is an intimate thing
  • It will inevitably require us to make ourselves vulnerable

Making yourself vulnerable means demonstrating trust in others

  • In Luke 10, when Jesus sent out 72 of his followers to share the gospel, He said to them, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals… When you enter a house… stay in that house eating and drinking whatever they give you…”
  • In other words, don’t go in strength, go in weakness
  • In that situation, Jesus wanted his disciples to trust themselves to the mercy and hospitality of strangers
  • Talk about making yourself vulnerable

If you go up to someone cold, on the street, and say to them…

  • ‘You’re going to hell unless you repent and accept Jesus’
  • Then that’s not making yourself vulnerable
  • That’s like throwing water in their face
  • I guess God could use that as a wake-up call for some people
  • But I expect most people would be turned away from Jesus by that sort of approach – it would just make them feel angry and like you’re trying to manipulate them

We need to be careful with the way we represent Christ and His gospel

  • Yes, there is a judgment which we must all face one day
  • And yes, there is a hell which we want to avoid
  • And yes again, Jesus is our hope of salvation
  • But trust needs to come first – faith is the foundation
  • And it’s a far stronger foundation than fear and guilt

We are the cup, we are the container – we don’t manufacture the water, we simply hold it for others to drink

  • But people quite often need to trust the cup before they will drink its contents
  • If the cup is dirty then people will be less inclined to drink from it
  • We need to keep the cup of our soul clean

So what does it mean then to keep the cup clean?

  • Well, in a word, integrity

What we do needs to match what we say

  • It’s no good speaking about faith in Jesus and then ignoring those in need
  • As James says, ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ [4] 

We need to share Christ with our words and our deeds

Integrity (or keeping the cup clean) also means keeping our motives pure

  • Our motivation for sharing Christ with others needs to be love
  • Love for God and love for our neighbour
  • If your motivation is fear or guilt or self-interest then people are less likely to trust you
  • They won’t want to drink from your cup
  • Even if you what you have to say happens to be true

Grace & truth:

There’s a wonderful movie which came out a few years ago called ‘The Bucket List’, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson

  • Carter, the character played by Freeman, is a believer
  • But Edward Cole, played by Nicholson, is not
  • Carter is always trying to put the cup in Edward’s hand, but Edward is reluctant to drink

 

You can put the cup of water into someone’s hand but you can’t make them drink – people need to be thirsty before they will drink

One of the things I like about Freeman’s character in this movie is that he is honest – there is truth in his conversation with Edward – truth with grace

  • Freeman’s character (Carter) does not deny his faith in any way – he accepts Edward without bending to accommodate him too much
  • Carter is honest about who he is and what he believes – and through that honesty trust grows between the two men
  • Then, as the trust grows, Carter begins to challenge Edward
  • Because Edward is actually very thirsty – he just doesn’t know how to satisfy that thirst

Although Nicholson’s character (Edward) is closed to God at first, Carter helps Edward to find the joy in his life

  • In the end Edward’s heart is opened – opened by truth and grace

As we have already noted, the living water Jesus talked about in John 7 is the Holy Spirit of God

  • The key characteristics of the Spirit are truth & grace
  • When the Spirit of Jesus is in us, our words and actions will communicate grace and truth

In John chapter 4 Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well

  • He does the culturally inappropriate thing of asking the woman for a drink of water
  • The woman answers, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan – so how can you ask me for a drink?” (Jews won’t use the same cups as Samaritans)
  • The woman is taken aback by the grace Jesus shows here – the grace of acceptance

And Jesus replies with truth, “If only you knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him and he would give you life-giving water… ”

As the conversation progresses Jesus asks the woman to go and get her husband

  • But she says, “I haven’t got a husband”
  • And Jesus agrees, “You are right when you say you haven’t got a husband. [The truth is] you have been married to five men and the man you live with now is not really your husband.”

By saying this Jesus reveals that He is a prophet

  • And as a prophet Jesus has put His finger on an inconvenient truth – the woman has a chequered past and is currently living in sin
  • But the woman stays in the conversation with Jesus, even if she does change the subject to talk about where God should be worshipped
  • In the end though Jesus reveals that He is more than just a prophet – He is the Messiah
  • The woman believes in Jesus and tells those in her town about him – many of whom believe also, because of her testimony
  • She has become the first missionary to the Samaritans

 

Conclusion:

To share with other people the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • This is one of the most important reasons for us being here

The good news is about a person, ‘Jesus Christ’

  • Sharing the gospel is first & foremost about sharing a relationship – introducing others to Jesus, our friend

In sharing Christ we are not selling anything – we are giving something away, by keeping ourselves open and accessible to God and the world

  • We are not trying to prove something
  • We are putting the cup of the gospel (a cup of grace & truth) into people’s hands and letting them decide for themselves

Let’s pray…

[1] Isaiah 12:3

[2] Isaiah 58:11

[3] Leon Morris, NICNT ‘John’, page 373.

[4] James 2:14-17

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