Preached by Pastor Jeff Hamling
Sunday, August 9, 2020
August 9, 2020
Through the Roof (Part 1)
Today, only about 19% of U.S. Christians proactively look for opportunities to share their faith with non-Christians in their life.
While there are many reasons for this, I want to share with you three of the major reasons why Christians are reluctant to share their faith with an unbeliever.
- I don’t see the need.
A Lifeway Research Study found that about half the people who regularly attend an evangelical church stated that they think people can find eternal life through other religions and spirituality. Why share the gospel if people can find eternal life apart from Christ?
- I feel inadequate.
Christianity Today recently reported that because of the rise of atheism and thoughtful skepticism, many Christians don’t feel like they can respond in an intelligent way to an unbeliever’s questions.
- I’ve tried sharing the gospel and it didn’t work
The Christian organization 9 Marks states that many Christians read a book about evangelism or heard a sermon about it—then tried it and didn’t see any results.
*I’m doing a two-part sermon series on this passage. This morning, I want to consider each of these 3 objections to sharing the gospel and show how this story is meant to encourage us.
- I Don’t See the Need.
The story begins in v.1-2 where Jesus is teaching in a house. The house is packed with people listening to Jesus—standing room only. V.2 tells us that there’s NOT even room to stand outside the house since a crowd has gathered in front of the door to listen.
Then in v.3 we’re told that 4 men carry a paralyzed man—attempting to bring him to Jesus.
It’s important to pause and consider what exactly this picture represents. Often when the Gospels tell us about Jesus healing someone—YES, it’s meant to show how Jesus cares about our physical needs. BUT it also conveys a theological message. A spiritual message.
- When Jesus heals those who are blind. It’s meant to be a picture of how we are all blind to spiritual things—but God in his grace opens our eyes and gives us faith to believe in him.
- When Jesus raises a dead person, it’s a picture of how we are spiritually dead—but God makes us alive and raises us from the dead.
In a similar way, this story about 4 men bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus is a picture of someone who is unable to obtain eternal life on his own. He is in need and incapable.
New Testament scholar Mary Healy writes: If a paralyzed man is an image of someone who cannot help himself—who needs the help of others to carry out some of the basic tasks of life—then all human beings are paralyzed in relation to God! None of us can approach God with self-sufficiency, relying on our own strength alone. All have been incapacitated in one way or another by sin and need the faith of others to “carry” us to Jesus.
How can we say we DON’T see the need to share our faith? When the Bible clearly teaches, apart from Jesus, we are all blind. We are all dead. We are all paralyzed. This story confirms that we are all in need of Christ.
- I feel inadequate—there are people better suited to share the gospel than me. ///
If the paralyzed man in this story represents someone in need of Jesus, then it seems appropriate to think of the men who bring him to Jesus as representing evangelists.
v.3 says: Some men came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.
Notice it says, “some men” brought the paralyzed man to Jesus. There are multiple people involved. And of that larger group—four of them carried the man to Jesus.
It’s worth noting that this man was not brought to Jesus by merely one person—A doctor or some expert. It’s just a group of people working together.
Apply this to sharing the faith, to evangelism. YES, there are some people who are uniquely gifted as evangelists.
Charles Spurgeon is a famous example from history. He was a preacher in England in the 1800s. Almost every week he preached, people became Christians. His sermons where printed in the paper each week—where more people became Christians when they read the sermons. There’s a story of one woman who was converted through reading a single page of one of Spurgeon’s sermons wrapped around some butter she had bought. Another time, he was testing the acoustics in a massive building called the Agriculture Hall in London. He yelled, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. A worker happened to be in the rafters heard him—and became a Christian.
There are people like that—God’s Spirit rests on them in an unusual way—and people regularly come to Jesus through them. We think: I can’t do that. I’ll leave it to the experts.
But this story is encouraging because it shows that you DON’T have to be an expert evangelist to bring people to Jesus. You can be part of a group of people. A community—working together to do evangelism.
Even Spurgeon himself recognized this. In a sermon on this passage he says,
“This man could not be brought to Christ by one, he must have four to lend their strength to carry him. Let us apply the principle: Yonder is a husband who is unsaved; his wife has long prayed for him; but her prayers are unanswered. But good wife, God has blessed you with a son who rejoices in God. And have you not two Christian daughters also? O you four, take each a corner of this sick man’s mat and bring your husband, bring your father, to the Savior.
What’s he saying? Evangelism is a community project.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege to baptize Shantelle—a young women in our church. For those of you who were present, you remember her story: She had grown up an atheist. She was completing her degree in psychology at MSU. Yet she felt something was missing in her life. She decided to try church. She and her roommate started attending 2 different church each Sunday for a couple months. When she tried Trinity, she talked to Pastor Bryan and shared what she was doing. He said, why don’t you pray and ask God to give you direction? She decided to keep coming to Trinity. Joined the college and career group. Then one Sunday, during the worship service, she was overwhelmed by a sense of grace. Started to cry (it had been 5-6 years since she had last cried). She gave her life to Christ.
Who led her to the Lord? Was it an expert? Someone in the college and career group? The pastor preaching the Sunday she came to Christ? No—it was an entire church community.
If you have a friend, family member, roommate or colleague who isn’t a Christian and you want to share the gospel—but you’re afraid you can’t answer their questions.
That’s ok. Just be curious. Ask good questions. Listen to their story. Ask if you can share your story. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. Ask people to pray for you. Invite them to church.
Like the 4 men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus—we do it together!
- I’ve Tried Sharing the Gospel and it Didn’t Work
Back in our passage: These men have a great plan to bring their friend to Christ. They enthusiastically attempt to bring him to Jesus…but then a wrench is thrown into their plan:
v.4 …They could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd,
The house is so packed, they CAN’T even enter it. Their plan fails. It’s doesn’t work.
Perhaps you can relate: You share the gospel with someone—but they’re antagonistic or NOT interested. Or as you try to steer the conversation to spiritual things—it gets derailed. It’s like you’re blocked by a crowd surrounding the house and you can’t get in.
But notice what happens next:
v.4 continues: Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
Instead of saying, I guess we tried and it didn’t work—they persisted. They got creative.
An author by the name of Rebecca Pippert recently released a book about evangelism called Stay Salt. Tim Keller says that he thinks it’s probably the best book on evangelism for our generation.
In that books she tells the story of how she became a Christian during college. When this happened, some of her friends expressed an interest in learning about Christianity. We want to understand what you saw in the Bible that changed your life so much. Would you be willing to explore the Bible with us?
So she started a little Bible study in her dorm with 3 friends.
But then, on the 3rd week, there was an announcement over the PA system in the dorm asking that Rebecca come to the dorm advisor’s room. The dorm advisor had heard about her Bible study. The advisor told her than under no circumstance would she be allowed to teach a Bible study in the dorms. It was strictly forbidden by dorm policy. If you continue, you’ll risk being kicked out of the University.
It’s as if she were bringing these 3 women to Jesus’ house, but she was met by the crowds. Blocked her from bringing them in.
She prayed about it. Read the policy. And discovered that she could do the study as long as she didn’t invite anyone or advertise it. So she decided to keep doing her study.
The next following week, when she was walking to her friend’s dorm room for the Bible study, the hallway was packed. She couldn’t even get into the room. She explains what happened next in her book:
As I walked to the student’s room where we met for the Bible study, I was surprised to see the hall filled with students. “Excuse me,” I said. “I need to get through because I have a meeting.” “That’s where we’re going too.” They said. “Only the room isn’t big enough. We can’t all fit in!” They were all trying to go to my Bible study. What had happened? Turns out, my story had traveled through the dorm like wildfire. Many of the students have a revolutionary spirit and didn’t like the idea of the administration trying to shut down anything—even a Bible study.
The following week even more women came! We finally had to meet in the only available public room on our floor that was large enough to accommodate us. Their interest in coming was probably far more motivated by their desire to stick it to the university than to wrestle with the claims of Christianity. Nevertheless, they came and heard about Jesus. Through all this, I learned an invaluable lesson: Not only is God delighted when we try to make the gospel known—he will multiply our efforts—even when we don’t [see the immediate results.] …Every tactic that Satan used to suppress the gospel, God used to make the gospel more widely known.
That’s exactly what happens in the Gospel of Mark as well. The four men trying to bring the man to Jesus were met with resistance—there was a crowd. They couldn’t get in.
But they were faithful and persistent. They open the roof and lower the man. Jesus forgives the man’s sins and he heals him. In v.11 Jesus says, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
The words “get up” are the same words used later in Mark to describe Jesus’ resurrection.
What happened to this man is a picture of the gospel. He is forgiven and he is raised to new life. And the result? God multiplied the efforts of the 4 men:
v.12 says, This amazed everyone (the entire crowd!) and they praised God, saying, We have never seen anything like this.
If you are faithful—in sharing your faith—God will work in ways you CAN’T anticipate. And he will multiply your efforts beyond your imagination.