(If you have not read the blog post from last week, please go do so before continuing. It will lay the groundwork for this week’s post. Click Here.)
How seriously do you take the command to evangelize? Do you see it as a responsibility of your own, or do you see it instead as an opportunity to write a check to someone else so they can do it for you? Unfortunately, we tend to want to casually sit back and not only let someone else evangelize for us, but we expect someone else to evangelize to us . We don’t see passages like Matthew 5:14-16, I Peter 3:15, and Mark 16:15 as a motivation to spread the Word to others.
Personally, I believe this is another reflection of how casually we approach our Christianity.
I know that we’ve all heard the story of Stephen. He knew what kind of fate awaited him. He had a choice that he could make. As an angry mob stood before him with rocks in hand, this is a man who spent his last breaths proclaiming the message of Jesus. The mob so hated what he was saying that Luke records the following in Acts 7:54,57:
“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth…Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord.”
That is pure hatred and evil. Though Stephen may not have known the extent to which they were going to attack him, he had to have known that he was in for some type of punishment following his speech.
I can already hear some of your thoughts now. Come on, Jonathan. Don’t start accusing me of being a casual Christian because I’m not a preacher like Stephen. Stephen was something special. He was one of the original deacons. He had a special talent for that kind of thing. Have you met me? I can’t even talk to my kids without getting anxious.
I don’t know everything about Stephen’s life, but I know one thing. An act of dedication and obedience like that does not happen without first living a life of dedication and obedience. He had already cut his teeth on evangelism. I imagine that he had already told that same history lesson to hundreds of people in the past.
Still not convinced you can evangelize?
The stoning of Stephen sparked something. From what is recorded in Acts, it seems to have been the first step to a war of persecution toward Christians. Listen to what Acts 8:1 says, right after it records the death of Stephen:
“At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
But a couple verses later is what really should speak to us. Listen to Acts 8:4.
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”
That must have been all the preachers, right? That must have been more people like Stephen. That must have been the apostles and their closest followers, right?
Go back and read again Acts 8:1. Go ahead. Look at the last 3 words of that verse. “EXCEPT the apostles” (emphasis added). The apostles were not part of the group that was scattered. So who exactly was this group that went everywhere preaching the word? It was everyone else. It was your everyday, run of the mill Christian. It was people like us.
These early Christians understood that they had something special. They had been blessed to learn about the hope that exists in a life of obedience to their Lord and Savior. How could they keep it to themselves? They knew that no matter what type of persecution awaited them (such as Saul going house to house and dragging families to prison – Acts 8:3), they had a responsibility to tell others about Christ and what He had done for them. They woke up every morning excited to tell their friends. They looked for every opportunity to share the Good News with someone.
If the persecutions that faced the first century Church were to face us today, how would we respond? Better yet, what would happen to the Church? Would it decline? In the first century, it flourished, and it spread like wildfire.
After knowing what the early Christians did for Christ, shame on us if we think we can punch our ticket to heaven because we sit in a pew a couple times a week and throw money in a collection plate to pay someone else to do some work. Christianity takes work and dedication. It takes each one of us.
Christianity is not a casual venture to fill up our Sundays. We can’t sit on the sideline as a fan, never get in the game, and expect to be counted as one of God’s faithful. Christianity is anything but casual.
Christ literally gave everything He had for us. The least that we can do is take it seriously.