This last week at the Ash Wednesday service, I invited the congregation to celebrate Lent through putting concentrated effort into evangelism: loving neighbors with the goal of sharing the life of Christ with them. I encouraged you to seriously consider and plan to have your neighbors over for a meal or to look for some way to bless them and show your care and love for them. And those neighbors who are not believers or do not attend church, I encouraged you to invite. We are called to be the marks of Christ, we are all called to embrace and follow after Jesus with radical determination and love and hope. But there was another point that I made that I want to reiterate here as well that ties into our sermon text. All ministry and evangelism must flow out of hearts that are full of joy in Christ. This means that while following Jesus is dangerous and difficult and frequently involves great risks, because we are casting our cares, our fears, our hurts, and all that we are upon the God who cares for us, we ought to be full of joy. All ministry and evangelism needs to be an overflow of delighting in the goodness and grace of God. The gospel that we preach and celebrate is in fact “good news,” the sufferings and death of Jesus are “good news,” but we cannot adequately proclaim that good news unless we are constantly reviewing and applying that good news in our lives and in our families. And so I would continue to urge you to celebrate Lent as a season of evangelism. But begin by preaching this gospel of the cross and God’s triumph over sin and death to yourself. Call on the name of the Lord, cast all your cares upon him, spend time in the Word and in prayer. Delight yourself in the Lord and in His gospel and then pour out this delight on your children, on your spouse, to your roommates. Blow on the coals and kindle a fire that is worth spreading around. And then invite your neighbors over with your homes ablaze. Apostasy is a mystery, and we cannot understand exactly how and why Judas fell away from Christ, but Judas was involved in ministry and evangelism right along with the other disciples. Somewhere along the line, he confused ministry and evangelism as duties separate from love and joy in the person of Jesus. The last thing we want is to turn the gospel and evangelism into a program or a job disconnected from real communion with Jesus Christ. That would be like Old Covenant believers offering sacrifices without broken hearts. The end of that road is betrayal and death. So let us urge one another on to rejoice in our king, and invite our neighbors into the joy of the Lord.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.” (Ps. 51:12)
Frequently, we are unable to teach transgressors the ways of the Lord and sinners are not converted because we are not walking in the Spirit, and we have lost the joy of His salvation.