Sunday, April 13, 2008

Numbers 10:11, 29-32 - Comfort Zone Evangelism

Opening thought: Oftentimes we are told that we should get out of our comfort zones. Usually that cliché is an encouragement, or sometimes a guilt-producer, that we should put ourselves into a challenging or uncomfortable position to do something that stretches us or scares us – something that makes us uncomfortable, gets us out of that zone of ease we enjoy, makes us dare and risk failure. Getting out of our comfort zone, then, often translates as some moral one-upmanship for those who do and guilt-laden good-for-nothingness for those who won’t. After all of that talk about getting out of your comfort zone, what does it usually net? Usually it finds you on the couch with a bag of potato chips watching the race on Sunday afternoon. Nothing. Nothing but guilt. Getting out of your comfort zone just does not work, because guilt is a poor long-term motivator.

But what if I stayed in my comfort zone and just talked to people I’m comfortable with about my relationship with the Lord? What if I didn’t go outside my circle of influence and didn’t make a big deal out of it? You know, evangelism is not supposed to be some nerve-wracking, get-my-words-right, angels-singing-Arias-in-the-clouds, religious mumbo-jumbo. Evangelism is supposed to be real life, between friends, over a pizza, ground-level, easy-going, dirt-under-the-fingernails real. Evangelism was never designed to be hard and super-spiritual. It was designed to be within your comfort zone.

Contextual Notes: The Israelites fled Egypt on the night of Passover on April 15, 1462 BC. They arrived at Mount Sinai on June 15, 1462 BC. And they stayed there to receive the Law through May 20, 1462 BC. In the Bible, Israel’s time at Mount Sinai runs from Exodus 19:1 to Numbers 10:11.

After nearly a year at the foot of Sinai, the Israelites move out into the Wilderness, headed toward the Promised Land. Our text begins here today and gives us the often overlooked story of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, a Gentile Arab, whom Moses persuaded to go with Israel instead of going home to Midian. That story teaches us a lot about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those in our comfort zone.

Pray and Read: Numbers 10:11, 29-32

Key Truth: Moses wrote Numbers 10:29-32 to teach Israel how to be a witness to the nations through missions and evangelism within their networks of influence.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what the Bible says about how you must invite others within our comfort zone to join the family of Jesus Christ.

Sermon Points:

1. We must be involved in missions (10:29a)

2. We must be involved in evangelism (10:29b-32)

Exposition: Note well,

1. WE MUST BE INVOLVED IN MISSIONS (10:29a).

a. Hobab was a Kenite, Midianite, Bedouin Arab. He was not part of the people of Israel. He was a Gentile. He was a foreigner. Moses invited him to be part of the people of God.

b. Alexander Maclaren: In the Book of Judges we find traces of the presence of Hobab’s descendants as incorporated among the people of Israel. One of them came to be somebody, the Jael who struck the tent-peg through the temples of the sleeping Sisera. She is called ‘the wife of Heber the Kenite’ (Judges 4). Probably, then, in some sense Hobab must have become a worshipper of Jehovah, and have cast in his lot with his brother-in-law and his people.

c. ILLUSTRATION: The Cooperative Program among Southern Baptists is the best strategy for funding missions and Christ’s Kingdom ever devised by human beings. In 1925, a central fund was conceived for missions, education, materials, church planting, evangelism, administration, etc. in which every church could give voluntarily and every Southern Baptist entity could participate. That way a small church like ours which could not support a missionary ourselves could give and participate with other SBC churches in sending over 5000 missionaries to the nations.

d. APPLICATION: That is our calling as the people of God. We are called to be involved in Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. For some of us, our calling is to go to the hardest places on earth and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. For some of us, that is our comfort zone because that is our calling and what God made us to be and do. For some of us, our calling is to serve as senders to the mission field, encouraging others to go, letting them know about opportunities and leading short-term mission trips. For many of us, our calling is to support that work through telling people about Gospel needs around our globe, to tithe and give from our incomes for the proclamation of Christ’s message worldwide. What about you? What is your calling? Are you following it? What are you giving of yourself to contribute to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom among the ethnic nations of the earth?

2. WE MUST BE INVOLVED IN EVANGELISM (10:29b-32).

Missions is taking the gospel of the Kingdom to the frontiers of the Kingdom. Evangelism is sharing the good news with those we can.

Notice with me some things about Moses’ style of evangelism. It was totally within his comfort zone.

a. It was friendly. “Come with us, and we will treat you well.”

b. It was comfortable. Hobab was someone he knew. Moses didn’t get out of his comfort zone and go look for a Bedouin herding sheep somewhere around Sinai. He shared his faith in God’s promises with someone he knew and loved.

c. It pointed to the Lord and His Word. “the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”

d. It was kind. “we will treat you well”; “we will share with you whatever”

e. It was persuasive. Moses was not put off when Hobab at first declined his offer to join the people of God. He came back and kindly encouraged him to join the family of the Lord. Alexander Maclaren: “So Moses pressed Hobab to change his position, to break with his past, and to launch himself into an altogether new and untried sort of life. And what does he plead with him as the reason? ‘We will do thee good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.’”

g. It appreciated Hobab. “You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes.” Moses didn’t act like he had all the answers and Hobab had none. He was honest with Hobab and recognized his expertise in the desert. Was Moses using Hobab? No. Remember, the cloud and pillar of fire, God’s presence, led them. Moses was letting Hobab know he appreciated him.

h. It was a generous partnership. Similar to Acts 2-3 in which the early church shared all things together in common and like the Cooperative Program today, Moses not only acknowledged what Hobab could do, but he told Hobab that as a part of the family of God, he would share “in whatever good things the Lord gives us.”

Invitation:

Whatever happened to Hobab? He was probably close to Moses’ age, around 80 years. Once he decided to join Israel, he was there with all the complaining they did and finally died in the wilderness.

Alexander Maclaren: “‘Come with us,’ says Moses. Hobab went, but neither he nor Moses ever saw the land, or at least never set their feet on it. Moses saw it from Pisgah, but probably Hobab did not even get so much as that. So he had all his tramping through the wilderness, and all his work, for nothing, had he? Had he not better have gone back to Midian? Then, did he make a mistake? Would he have been a wiser man if he had stuck to his first refusal? Surely not. It seems to me that the very fact of this great promise being given to this old Hobab, and never being fulfilled at all in this world, compels us to believe that there was some gleam of hope, and of certainty, of a future life, even in these earliest days of dim and partial revelation.”

Today that same kind of certainty of future eternal life is for you. I cannot tell you what life will be like if you give yourself to Christ, but I can be confident that joining the family of God is the best and most important decision you could ever make. Will you do that right now?