Matt Carter teaches on why witnessing matters using Romans 10:9-17
Series: This Matters
A popular phrase I hear is, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” It’s the idea that our lives can be so Christ-centered and soaked in the gospel that actually speaking about the gospel becomes unnecessary. Our actions alone are enough. There’s some biblical basis for this statement.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
You should live your life in such a way that people will notice something is different about you and wonder who is this God you worship.
In no way do I want to diminish the power of letting your life be a demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But this phrase is a less than biblical statement. It’s not unbiblical, but is a less than biblical phrase.
A more biblically accurate statement would be, “Preach the gospel at all times; with your actions and your words.”
There are a couple of reasons that first phrase became popular. The few past generations’ actions didn’t measure up to what they were preaching. Yet, for us, the pendulum has swung the entire other direction. Now it’s popular because it lets us off the hook; we feel like we don’t have to talk about Jesus to others.
It’s easy for us to travel to a foreign country and build somebody a house in the name of Jesus. It’s easy to go to an under-resourced neighborhood and mow some yards in the name of Jesus. It’s easy for us to go to a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving morning and feed the homeless in the name of Jesus.
A lot of us are more than willing to demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ with our lives. However, we are incredibly hesitant to declare the gospel of Jesus with our mouths.
Your calling as a follower of Jesus is not just to demonstrate the gospel with your life. It is also to declare the gospel of Jesus with your mouth.
FAITH COMES FROM HEARING
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 (ESV)
Anybody and everybody who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Yet, they can only call upon the name of the Lord if they believe in Him.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14 (ESV)
The word preach isn’t referring to a preacher like me; it means proclamation, a messenger.
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:15-17 (ESV)
Faith comes from hearing.
Hearing comes through the Word of Christ.
WE ARE HIS PRIMARY METHOD
God can save people without the audible words of another human being. I know a guy who came to know Jesus through watching football. He kept seeing the John 3:16 sign in the crowds at the games. A friend told him it was in the Bible. So he bought a Bible, looked up the verse and gave his life to Jesus. God can save people through dreams. This is happening a lot in Islamic countries. People can trust in Jesus, because they see a Christian live differently, pick up and read a Bible for themselves and trust in Jesus. But these are the methods God uses when Christians will not open their mouths.
The primary method God has intended for the gospel is for it to be spoken out of a believer’s mouth and to be heard by an unbeliever’s ear.
God desires and commands you to be a person that demonstrates the gospel with your life and to declare the gospel of Jesus with your mouth.
Jesus rose from the grave and gave the disciples the Great Commission saying, “Go to the nations, baptize, and make disciples.“ Their plan to get the gospel to the nations was not to build a homeless shelter then stop there. Or to build houses for poor people, live really good lives and then just hope and pray the message of Jesus got to people through osmosis.
Did they take care of poor people? Yes. Did they care for widows? Yes. Did they care for the orphan? Yes, as they should have and were commanded to. But that’s not where it stopped.
These ordinary guys went. Jesus sent them and they went. They spoke. They talked. They preached.
They shared with their mouths the message of Jesus Christ.
I am so thankful they did. We are sitting in this room today as believers because they spoke and preached Jesus’ message. You and I are called to be a people that don’t just demonstrate the gospel with our lives, but we also declare it with our mouths.
THE DISCIPLES' PROCLAMATION
This story in Acts takes place after Jesus ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit has already come and the disciples have begun to preach. A crippled guy has been healed and people are wondering how it happened. The disciples claim Jesus did it.
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 (ESV)
5,000 men came to believe. They were dead in their trespasses and sins when they woke, but went to bed saved as believers in Christ, because they heard the Word and believed.
We can learn a few things from the proclamation these people heard.
IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT JESUS
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
5,000 to 10,000 people converted in one day!?! The priests wanted to know how they had done it.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:8-12 (ESV)
When the disciples spoke the declaration of the gospel, it was always about Jesus.
Sadly, a lot of folks in our culture have moved away from this. When talking about and sharing your faith with people, you cannot just talk about the existence of God and He loves them. That’s not enough.
Understanding God exists and loves you is not enough to save you from your sins. Jesus has to be a part of the equation for your sins to be forgiven.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
When Christ Jesus is in the picture, with His blood, cross and resurrection, nothing can separate you from the love of God.
You can believe in God and believe He loves you, but go straight to hell when you die.
In order for you to receive forgiveness for your sins, you have to understand, believe and confess that God’s love comes to you through a person; the person of Jesus Christ.
11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12 (ESV)
Your declaration of the gospel has to be more than just the existence of some benevolent deity who wants to make our lives better. We’ve got to open our mouths and speak about the cross, the resurrection and the forgiveness of sin through the person, the death, the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 (ESV)
They saw the disciples as uneducated men. Yet they had an unbelievable boldness to their proclamation.
A lot of stories in the Bible and in church history are about people who have such boldness to their witness:
Andrew, the brother of Peter, was crucified. With his hands tied he started pointing to the cross as they walked him to his death. A Roman soldier asked him why he was pointing to it and he responded, “I know it’s going to kill me. I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. I’m about to see my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Polycarp was eighty-seven years old preaching and proclaiming the name of Jesus. The Romans told him they were going to kill him because he wouldn’t shut up. They put him on the stake to burn to death. Right before, they told him if he renounced and denied Jesus, he could live the rest of his life in peace. Polycarp said, “For eighty-seven years my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has not denied me. I will not deny Him now. Light your fire.” They lit the fire and he started singing praise songs while he died.
Why are we so afraid to declare the gospel of Jesus with our mouths? We say Jesus is the most important thing in our life. Yet, we are so afraid to talk about Him.
We’re all evangelists about something. We have zero problem being passionate and opening our mouths about the things that are important to us. Parents don’t have a problem striking up a conversation about their kids. A single person who just started dating someone cannot shut up about the person they’re falling in love with.
WE'RE ALL EVANGELISTS
I’m an evangelist of the Big Green Egg, a combination between a smoker and a grill. Aaron Ivey got me hooked on it. I used to use a gas grill, but not anymore. The Big Green Egg takes grilling to a whole new level. I was witnessing about it to a pastor at a pastors conference just the other week and I realized that I hadn’t witnessed about anything that passionately in a long time. But I was just talking about a grill.
We’re always passionate about something. Yet, my passion for the Big Green Egg doesn’t even come close to my passion for Jesus. I would never come into a room and sing at the top of my lungs for a Big Green Egg.
Why is it so easy to talk about that grill and about my kids, but it’s so hard for me to talk about my belief in Jesus who saved me?
It’s even easier for me to come up here and preach than it is to preach about Jesus on the airplane or at a coffee shop.
Nobody is going to ridicule me about talking about my children. Or stop being friends with me because I tell them about my Big Green Egg. Nobody’s going to fire me because I told my coworker he’s dumb for owning a gas grill.
But. I might get ridiculed if I tell somebody I love Jesus more than anything in the world. I might be rejected or lose a friendship if I start telling my friends there’s only one way to get to heaven; through Jesus. You might get fired if you start telling people at work about the gospel.
There are a lot of places in the world right now where you can be put into prison for talking about Jesus. People are dying all over the world by just mentioning the name of Jesus.
That’s why we’re scared.
Even though Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, our mouths stay shut.
But Jesus didn’t let fear of ridicule, rejection or death keep him from living out and declaring the gospel. Jesus knew He would be ridiculed, rejected and die for living out and declaring the gospel. Yet, He did it.
At some point, we need to get to the place where we say, “Lord, if you have done this for me, then give me the strength to do it for you.”
Some of you have not shared your faith with anybody. You haven’t spoken the gospel in years, maybe ever. Pray for boldness. Ask Him to give you the passion and boldness He gave Andrew, Peter and Polycarp.
The Holy Spirit of God lives in you. He is dying to do what He does; which is tell people about Jesus.
THEY WERE URGENT
15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:15-20 (ESV)
They heard the love of God through the cross of Jesus and saw Jesus come out of the ground. They couldn’t stop talking about that. They had an urgency with their message.
I pray we would be a church marked by those four words, “We cannot but speak.”
God had to knock me over the head about urgency. It’s easy to be urgent up here on stage. But it’s hard for me to be urgent in life.
Years ago, I had preached one Sunday morning and was exhausted. Jennifer and I were packing right after church to leave for vacation. But I got a call. There was a lady, who had heard me preach that morning, whose son had overdosed on drugs that afternoon. She wasn’t a believer, but called the church asking if I could come see him in the hospital.
I had just got done preaching and was walking out the door for vacation, but now had to go to the hospital. I wasn’t excited. I was thinking of someone who could go for me. But my wife told me we had to go. I called Chris Collins, who I worked with and knew had done drugs before he was a Christian and we went together.
The kid was a jerk to us. While we were trying to reach this kid, Jennifer asked his mom if they could go talk. The woman looked at Jennifer and said, “I am at the bottom. I have tried everything in life and nothing satisfies me. I’ve tried men. I’ve tried drugs. I’ve tried money. Nothing satisfies.” Jennifer began to talk to her about Jesus and how God designed it that way. There is nothing in the world that can satisfy our hearts except the person of Jesus.
We got done with the kid and prayed for him. Chris and I got to the door and saw Jennifer and this woman crying together. Jennifer said, “This woman wants to hear more about Jesus. Will you talk to her?” Again, in the back of my mind I was thinking about vacation. So I said, “Here’s my Bible, read the Book of John and next week I’ll talk to you.”
But Chris said, “No. I’ll tell you what. Would you like to trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior right here and now?” She looked at him and said yes. Right there in the ICU, we held hands and watched that woman receive Christ as her Savior in the hallway.
It didn’t end there. Over the course of the next few weeks, she told her son about Jesus who had completely changed her life and filled her heart. Her son came to trust in Jesus too. Eventually his father and sister did too. The entire family’s life and eternity was radically changed because somebody had the courage to open their mouths and ask them if they wanted to trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Let’s pray God would make us evangelists for Jesus Christ, so that it can be said that you were a person who could not be stopped speaking about what they had seen and heard.