Evangelize with Confidence

July 29, 2018 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Evangelism 2018

Topic: English Passage: 2 Corinthians 2:14–4:18

If you have not been with us for the past few weeks, you should know that we are almost done with a six-week series on the topic of evangelism. Today is week 5, and once we’re done with this series it’ll be our Church Family Camp.

Once we get back from Camp, we’ll have another elder preach that week, and then on August 26, we finally get back to our series on John and Proverbs.

I want to remind you that you are always able to go online and listen to any of the previous messages, or use that as a resource to point people to as you reach out to them.

Like I said at the beginning of this series, the reason we elders chose evangelism as a theme for a series is because we recognize how important of an issue it is, and yet how difficult it is for most of us.

I’m not sure how long ago it was, but I remember hearing a preacher once say that evangelism is one thing that we will not be doing in heaven, but are commanded to do here in this life. In heaven, we will definitely be talking about Jesus and the gospel, but we will not be aiming at seeing conversions. That's not going to be happening.

Jesus came once, in order to turn hearts toward God, and one day, He will come again, and men’s hearts will be confirmed and fixed in either faith and love or unbelief and hatred. So, in the meantime, we aim to reach people for the glory of Christ.

As we’ve gone through the topic of evangelism, I think one of the main questions on the front of my mind has been: “What makes a great evangelist?” What makes a great evangelist? We might all have a picture of what that looks like. But for our own edification, I want to know what’s behind that. What components lead a person to be faithful for the kingdom of Christ? And what is missing in our own lives?

In our first lesson, my goal was to help us start by having a faithful definition of evangelism. You can’t do evangelism well if you don’t really understand what it is. We don’t want to make more of it or less of it. So we learned what it meant, and we used a simple definition that Mack Stiles promotes: Evangelism is teaching the gospel with an aim to persuade.

In our second lesson, we saw that evangelism isn’t supposed to be something that just a few Christians do. It’s everyone’s job. We’re not all gifted the same way, and we don’t all have the same opportunities, but every Christian has this responsibility. We all play a part in reaching the lost.

In week number 3, we got a little more practical and learned some of the biblical commands for HOW we are to evangelize. I divided it up into twelve points for how we should evangelize. I hope that was helpful.

And last week, rather than look at a positive example of evangelism, we did a quick study of a negative example. We saw the lesson God taught Jonah when he ran from his duty to reach people with the message of God. And it wasn’t just a story we learned, it was an application of theology. God is sovereign—He’s all-powerful—and He is compassionate. And those attributes should affect how we minister.

For today, what we’re going to do is focus on one attribute of a faithful evangelist. And that attribute is confidence. Confidence. You can know everything you need to know about evangelism, but when the time comes, and the opportunity presents itself, if you’re too timid, you won’t say anything. What you need in that moment is not another lesson about the gospel. It’s not a reminder about God’s command or God’s love. What you need is confidence. Boldness.

No matter what excuse I make for NOT speaking up for Jesus Christ, I think that’s really what’s behind my thoughts when I don’t evangelize. I lack confidence.

Christ obviously didn’t have this problem. He perfectly ministered to the people in deed and in truth. John the Baptist was similar. He had no problem exposing the sin of the people. And then once Pentecost comes, we can see the boldness of Peter, who stood against the Jewish official. I think many of us wished we could talk openly about Jesus like Peter did.

But if we’re honest, our ability to speak up for Jesus sometimes looks more like Peter after Jesus was arrested. We’d rather no one know that we have connections with Jesus. That’s obviously not the right approach if we want to be faithful evangelists.

So, how do we gain that confidence? I think we get a big boost in this area by looking at a passage in Second Corinthians. Go ahead and turn there if you’d like. We’ll be starting in 2 Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 12.

And I hope that what we learn from God’s word today helps move us in the direction of being confident evangelists.

The Apostle Paul was definitely a confident evangelist. He stood up for Christ boldly, even in the harshest opposition. How could he do that? It’s because he was confident. But the confidence didn’t come from being a good-looking man, or a famous man or a rich man. In fact, the confidence of Paul had very little to do with himself.

And by seeing where Paul drew his confidence, we can do the exact same thing. Now, before we get into the passage today, I just want to give you some of the background to what’s going on.

Although we call this book Second Corinthians, it’s actually the fourth letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. It’s just that we only have 2 of those letters—the second one and the fourth one. Second Corinthians is the fourth one.

Paul planted the church in Corinth, and once he continued on his missionary journey, the letters were a way for him to answer some of their questions and address any major issues. Well, before writing the letter we know as 2nd Corinthians, the church in Corinth had a group of false teachers come into the church and start attacking Paul. They were trying to discredit him and his ministry. And nobody came to Paul’s defense.

Obviously Paul was upset by this, but not because he cared so much about his own reputation. He was upset because he didn’t want the church to be led astray by deceitful teachers. These were false apostles. So Paul has to write a letter defending his own ministry.

And in writing that letter, it’s like he peels back his ministry and lets us see the heart behind it. and that’s what I want to focus on for today. What made Paul so confident in his ministry, even when he faced such serious opposition?

Number one on that list, I would say was that Paul was confident in Christ’s leading. He had a confidence in Christ’s leading.

Verse 12 of chapter 2, tells us that when Paul arrived in Troas, he was there to preach the gospel. But he didn’t feel at rest because he didn’t find Timothy. He was probably concerned about what might have happened to him, and he would have wanted to be with his spiritual son and coworker for the gospel. So Paul headed to Macedonia.

Macedonia is the region to the north of the Aegean Sea, and it included cities like Philippi and Thessalonica.

But even though Paul was disappointed over not finding Timothy, his response is one of gratitude because he knows that God is leading him. Christ is the one who called him to ministry, and Christ is the one leading him every step of the way. And that is the promise that Jesus gave in the Great Commission. “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Look at how Paul describes this confidence. 2 COR  2:14

A triumphal procession was a familiar event in those ancient days. A general who came back victoriously from battle would celebrate with an extravagant Triumph parade. And part of that parade included the aroma of incense and the smell of sacrifices. Well, picking up on that imagery, Paul then says, VERSE 15-16.

Paul is not the triumphant general in the parade. Jesus is. Christ leads us. Christ is the victorious one. And Paul is just glad to be a part of it. Just like the smell of incense and flowers and carne asada would fill the streets, Paul says: “I am in this world and I am having an influence for Christ.” And the same is true for every one of us. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. Wherever you are, you can be confident that God has placed you there.

God has placed in that family, in that home, in that neighborhood, in that workplace, so that you will be an aroma of Jesus Christ. Not everyone is going to receive Christ, but our job is not to convert people. It is to faithfully present our Lord. We are taking part in the greatest, most significant, most enduring movement and victory in human history—the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ.

And understanding the amazing movement that he gets to be a part of, Paul ends verse 16 with the question: “Who is sufficient for these things? Who is qualified? Who is competent?” Well, in one respect, Paul is. God placed him there.

From the world’s perspective, Paul was a nobody. There were many eloquent and successful men in Corinth. But why weren’t they considered worthy? Look at VERSE 17.

The word used there for peddler, was used for a huckster, a con man. This was usually a street vendor who would sell you something that was corrupted. They might have fake, imitation merchandise or watered-down wine. And they would sell it at the price of the real stuff in order to make money.

These guys were smooth talkers. They were effective conversationalists. They were confident. And there were even people taking that kind of approach with the Bible. They were travelling around, preaching fake messages and taking collections.

But Paul’s confidence wasn’t in his ability to persuade people. It was in Christ who leads him. He wasn’t going to corrupt or cheapen the message. He wasn’t going to water it down. And he wasn’t in it for the money.

Paul spoke and lived with sincerity. That’s what verse 17 says. He had been commissioned by God. He lived “in the sight of God.” And so, he spoke “in Christ.” He only spoke the word of Christ. That’s his confidence. Christ has led me to where I am, and Christ has told me how to live, and He has told me what to say. And that should be your mentality too. We are confident in Christ who leads us.

There’s a second confidence that Paul has, and it’s a confidence that you should have as well. Secondly, there is the confidence in the glory of the new covenant. The glory of the new covenant.

We not only have Christ who leads us, we come as ministers of a glorious reality.

In the days of early Christianity, if someone travelled from one church to another, they would often be sent with a recommendation letter. It was supposed to be a testament to their character or their ability. It’s like an endorsement. And many of the false teachers had letters like that.

Paul, one the other hand, didn’t carry around those kind of letters. And while his enemies used that against them, Paul appeals to something greater. He appeals to the glory of the new covenant. Look at chapter 3, verse 2.

What does he mean by that? He’s saying: “Look at what God did in your church.” Corinth was a city of immorality and greed. And the Corinthian church had former homosexuals, former adulterers, former thieves, and former drunkards. But by the power of the gospel, the power of the new covenant, that turned around. And everybody had heard about it.

The people didn’t become perfect all of a sudden, they still had problems, but the trajectory of their life changed completely. They repented. They were transformed. And so, Paul says in VERSE 4-6.

The false teachers were corrupting the true gospel by adding elements of Jewish law, the Old Testament covenant that came through Moses. And in response to that, Paul shows them how insignificant that first covenant was when compared to the new.

The law of Moses couldn’t transform someone’s heart. It called for change on the outside, but couldn’t produce any change on the inside. It’s main purpose was to remind the people of their own sinfulness—to help them see that, without the mercy of God, they would be condemned. Because no one could keep it perfectly.

That’s why it’s called a ministry of death or a ministry of condemnation. Not because the law was bad in itself, but because it exposed the wickedness of the people.

And the argument Paul makes in verses 7-11 is that if an institution that brought death came with so much glory, how much more glory is there in a ministry that brings life?!

Who has more power(?): the man who kills or the One who raises the dead? Which is more glorious? VERSE 10-11 says.

Just to say it another way: It doesn’t matter how brightly the stars shine at night. They are reduced to nothing once the sun rises. And the dawn of the New Covenant is bringing us into an eternal state. It rendered the Old Covenant obsolete (which is what Hebrews 8 tells us). Verses 12 and 13 point to how glorious Moses’ face was after he talked with God, but that brilliance didn’t last forever.

At first, Moses wore a veil over his face because his face was so shining. But afterward, the veil was covering the fact that the glory had gone away. And that’s an image of the Old Covenant. It’s glory went away once Christ came.

And using Moses as an example, Paul says the Jews have their own veil over their faces. They are blind to the truth of Jesus Christ. But through Christ, through the New Covenant, that veil is lifted. And once someone sees Christ with the eyes of faith, they are transformed. That’s the glory of the new covenant. Even if you’re already a believer, when you, through the Word of Christ and the Spirit of Christ, behold Christ’s glory, you are transformed. VERSE 18.

The glory of Moses turned people away and showed them their sinfulness. The glory of salvation in Jesus Christ, draws us toward Him and makes us like Him. That’s the work of the Spirit. And the giving of the Spirit was part of the New Covenant. That’s the confidence with which we are to speak. This is a message that has the power to transform a life from the inside out.

That’s why as we turn to chapter 4, it starts with the word “therefore.”

Since we have confidence in the leading of Christ, and since we have the confidence in the glory of the new covenant, here’s what Paul and the Spirit of God say to us: 2 COR 4:1.

Despite all the hardships, despite all the excuses he could have made, despite all the people who opposed him, Paul did not lose heart.

The word used there for “losing heart” basically means giving up or abandon. And it was usually connected to discouragement, fatigue, pain, or difficulty. And the connotation also includes that it’s a morally wrong decision. It means calling it quits on God’s will for your life. But Paul never threw in the towel. In fact, he says the exact same thing later in verse 16: We do not lose heart.

Isn’t that our temptation many times? We want to speak up for Christ. We want to see people come to salvation. But after a while, the energy goes away. People reject. People oppose. Life gets busy. And so we call it quits. It’s like the typical New Year’s resolution. We mean well, but it doesn’t last. The energy and the confidence don’t last.

But that’s not what happened for Paul. He was confident that God was leading him. He was confident in God’s strategy. And he was confident in the power of the new covenant, that is the power of the gospel.

And if the power is in the gospel, then Paul’s strategy, and ours as well, is not to be impressive or appealing to people in a worldly way. Our strategy is to faithfully and clearly and boldly and graciously present them with the truth. And then we trust God for the rest.

That’s what characterized Paul. That’s what we hope characterizes our church teachings. And it’s what should characterize your personal evangelism. Look at how it’s described in VERSE 2.

His life and his conscience was clean. And he refused to tamper with God’s word. Let’s read the beginning of verse 2 one more time, and think about how that applies to your personal evangelism. 2 COR 4:2.

Paul could say: My conscience is clean! Not just in personal holiness. He was fighting sin in his life. But his conscience was clean with regard to the motive and the methodology of his ministry.

There’s no secret here. There’s no hidden agenda. There’s no underhanded technique. And we need to make sure that’s how we do evangelism too.

Don’t use an unbiblical technique when you share the gospel with someone. It undermines the message. What are some examples of shameful ways of presenting Christ?

Well, maybe the worst would be to charge for it. That happens in some places. This past week, I watched most of a documentary from 1972 following a man named Marjoe Gortner. He was a travelling Pentecostal preacher who was basically living a double life. He didn’t believe anything we was preaching, and he did it all for the money. And he invited a film crew to follow him on one of his final tours, and he’s talking to them about all the techniques he uses to get people to believe in him and give him money.

That film, by the way, won the Academy Award for best documentary that year. It’s a very tragic story, both for him and for his followers.

Now, you and I might not go those extents. We’re not in this for the money. But we can sometimes adapt the message because we want to make it easier for people to believe.

Tim Challies, who is a very helpful Christian writer and blogger, just did a little series on some of the most important sermons in recent history. And he was analyzing what made those sermons so effective and meaningful. He had a sermon by Criswell to the Southern Baptist Convention. He had a sermon by John MacArthur and John Piper and R.C. Sproul.

But eventually he decided to add an example of a horrible sermon. And he chose the sermon online that according to him has more views on Youtube than any other sermon. Oprah posted a link to it on one of her pages, and she said the sermon changed her life. It was a sermon by Joel Osteen called something like “The power of the I am.”

And unlike what the title should allude to, the sermon isn’t about Jesus. Challies gives a helpful explanation about why the sermon is so bad, but one of the point is that the sermon doesn’t really focus on Jesus. It’s about us. Our problem, according to Osteen, isn’t our sin before God; it’s that we don’t believe in ourselves enough. So we need more positive “I am” messages in our life. Our problem is that we don’t think highly enough of ourselves.

That is the exact opposite message of the Bible. That kind of message keeps people out of heaven.  It doesn’t help people see the glory of God and their own wickedness. And if you don’t see that, then you won’t see Christ for who He is.

And maybe in smaller ways, we can do the same thing. We water-down the gospel so that it’s not as offensive. Sometimes, if you say, “Just invite Jesus into your heart,” it makes Jesus look like a stray kitten searching for a home. Just open the door and let Him in, please?

That’s not the tone of the gospel in the Bible. The biblical message is Jesus is the Risen Lord. He has power over life and death. And He will come to Judge the world. So surrender to him now. Wave the white flag of your life, and He will have mercy on you. He will forgive you on the basis of what He has already done in His perfect life and in His substitutionary death, and in His resurrection. This is the only way to be made right with God.

Don’t change that message. Don’t water it down. Be confident that that is the message God will use to bring His people to Himself. Like Paul said in Romans 1:16—I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Paul wasn’t indifferent to a person’s unbelief. He cared about them. But their rejection never crippled him. It didn’t stop him. Because he knew that there were spiritual forces at work here that were beyond his ability to control. VERSE 3-4.

To some degree, I think we can say that Paul didn’t take another person’s unbelief personally. This person in blinded by Satan. And what are they blind to? They’re blind to the truth. They’re blind to the gospel. They’re blind to their own condition. But ultimately, they are blind to Jesus Christ.

And this is our last observation for today. Paul was confident in the leading of Christ. He was confident in the glory of the New Covenant. And lastly, he was confident in the value of Christ. The value of Christ. Look at VERSES 5-6.

The same God who created the world, who said “Let there be Light,” has done a similar miracle in the heart of every Christian. The miracle and the wonder of salvation isn’t that we turned our life around. It isn’t simply that we’ve been forgiven. It’s that God has shown us Himself in Jesus Christ. That’s the miracle. That’s the light coming on in your life. We see the face of Jesus Christ with the eyes of faith. That’s the value of Christianity. That’s the tradeoff. We get to know God in Jesus Christ. And that’s the treasure that we are supposed to be telling people about—Jesus Christ.

People are not supposed to look at Christians and get to know them and simply be impressed with their family, or with their finances, or with their achievements, or with their fancy cars. They are supposed to come to know Jesus Christ.

That’s what Paul’s life highlighted. VERSE 7.

Clay jars were cheap. They were ordinary. They were unimpressive. They weren’t used for anything fancy. In fact, they were used for the lowest purposes. And Paul says: that’s what I am. I’m a clay pot. Why? Because I’m here to show off Jesus Christ.

I don’t put my family photos in beautifully ornate golden frames. Because I don’t want you to focus on the frame. I want you to see my family. Actually, I don’t use gold because we couldn’t afford it, but you get the point.

Paul didn’t want anybody to steal credit from Jesus Christ for the impact of his ministry. In modern terms, it wasn’t that Paul had a great hairstyle or a nice car or fancy clothes, or an impressive website. None of that is what made him effective. It was Christ alone.

And so, even when Paul was going through severe difficulty, it only gave him more confidence. Because the weaker and the more unimpressive his life appeared to be, the more glory went to Jesus Christ. That’s why he could say VERSES 8‑10.

Even Paul’s most severe suffering brought glory to Jesus Christ. And even if it meant Paul was going to die, it would be an entrance into the glory of Jesus Christ his Lord. So, VERSE 16-18.

Let me just close with this question: Are you confident in the value and the glory of Jesus Christ? Jesus said eternal life is to know God, and to know the One whom He has sent—Jesus Christ.

That’s the glory of heaven. That’s where our final confidence is—in the person of Jesus Christ.

When you evangelize someone, when you teach them the gospel—your goal is not ultimately to have them believe what you believe. It’s not to have them know WHAT you know. Your goal should be that they would know WHOM we know. We want them to know Christ, the Son of God. We want them to see Him in all His glory and beauty and majesty.

Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price. He is the one who makes it worth trading whatever it takes. And He will prove Himself to be worth much more than any cost. No earthly sacrifice is worth anywhere near the glory and value of Jesus. And when we finally see Him with our own eyes, we will know that we would have traded 1,000 times what we did in this life, if it meant staying with Jesus Christ. That’s our confidence.

More in Evangelism 2018

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Don't Stop Evangelizing

July 22, 2018

The Reluctant Evangelist

July 15, 2018

Guidelines for Evangelism