John 3:16-21

A life or death situation

I was listening to the radio on Tuesday morning and there was a doctor talking about a case that he had been studying. There was a three year old girl, out for a walk with her parents on a cold winter’s morning. She had slipped away from them for a couple of moments and when they looked round they saw that she had run out on to a frozen pond. As they watched she fell through the ice into the water. They ran out onto the ice to try and rescue her, but they couldn’t find her, she’d become trapped under the ice. Thirty minutes later their reaching arms brushed a limb and they pulled her out. She wasn’t breathing, her heart had stopped beating.

The ambulance arrived. There were no signs of life, the girl’s eyes wouldn’t respond to light. But it was a three year old girl. So, they started chest compressions, and got her to the hospital. Her body temperature was very, very low. At the hospital they rigged her up to a heart and lung bypass machine. That took another hour or so. As her blood went through the machine they slowly warmed it up, not too quickly or they’d damage the blood. Eventually her body was up to a normal temperature. And then, her heart started beating. One organ was working.

They tried to put her on a ventilator, but her lungs were too full of water and the oxygen couldn’t get to her blood. So they took her off the heart and lung bypass machine and put her on a different machine, that just bypassed the lungs and put oxygen in her blood for her. Every hour they sucked the water and pond mud out of her lungs. A day later they tried the ventilator again, and this time it worked. Her lungs were functioning. That was two organs. They continued treating her and got her liver and kidneys, her guts working again.

Until, after two days of treatment, there was just one organ still not working. Her brain. She was well enough now to go for a scan, and this showed that there her brain had swollen and there was pressure in her skull, but there were no dead spots in the brain, it was still alive.So, the surgeons drilled into her skull and placed pressure sensors so they could tell what was happening as the tried different drugs to bring the swelling down. The pressure dropped, the swelling of her brain came down, and one day, her eyes opened. She was back. The treatment didn’t stop there. Over the next two years came intense physiotherapy and language therapy. By the time she was five she was a normal five year old – mentally and physically. She was fully recovered.

This morning Stephen has asked me to look at two questions with you. Firstly: Why do we want people to become Christians? Secondly: How can we help them to become Christians?

It seems to me that the answer to the first one is the same as asking why the parents of that three year old girl continued to search for her under the ice. It’s the same as asking why the medical staff kept on treating her and working to bring her back.

Firstly, all the adults involved knew how much danger the girl was in. They knew that what was happening to her was life threatening. In fact, it was worse than that. She was 99% dead.
Secondly, the parents loved the girl and did want to lose her. Thirdly, the medical staff knew that without their help she would die. They saw the promise of a life cut short. From their own experiences they knew how good life can be and wanted to give the girl the opportunity to experience it. To grow up, to fall in love, to have children, to fulfil all the potential that was in her.

These are the same reasons that we want people to become Christians, to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. These are Biblical reasons.

In John’s account of Jesus life we are told that Jesus said this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

The first thing to understand is that the Bible is clear that those who do not believe in Jesus, who do not know him as Lord, are in great danger. They are going to perish. We may not like to think about this, it may make us uncomfortable, but it is what Jesus taught us. We know that people’s sinful choices cut them off from God. We are taught that if people do not repent and turn back to God in faith then they will die and be cut off from God, the source of light, love, and life forever. In fact Paul describes people as being “dead in their sins”. People who do not know Jesus’ rescue are in grave danger, and this is the first reason that we want them to become Christians.

Secondly, God is the Parent and Creator of every person who has ever lived. God loves all people so much that Jesus came on a rescue mission to earth, so that people’s sins could be forgiven, so that they could live. It is God’s love that motivates Jesus’ mission to search for and rescue those who are dying. It is God’s love that found us, and restored us to life. It is God’s love for our friends, our families, our neighbours and work colleagues that becomes our love for them and means that we want them to become Christians.

Thirdly, we have experienced life as children of God. We know the good news of God through our own experiences. We know why we are Christians, why we follow Jesus, and we want other people to experience this life as well. We want people to know the healing, forgiveness, joy, love, kindness of God that we know. We know that Jesus has given this task to us, he said to us

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, in addition to the danger that we see people are in, the love that we have for people, and our own experience of God’s good news, it is a matter of obedience. We want people to become Christians because Jesus has commanded us to go and help people become Christians.

But how do we do this? How do we help people to know Jesus as Lord, to believe in him, and to follow him?

The medical staff treating the little girl had at least three things that they relied on in their treatment of the little girl.

The first thing that they had was their training and practice. The healing of that little girl started many years ago when the doctors on the team were young people deciding what to study at school. They had dreams of becoming doctors, so they choose their subjects and worked hard to get the grades. They applied to university and went through seven years of training with long hours and hard work. As they went through their professional lives they kept up with the latest developments in techniques and medicines. All those years of learning, training, and experience came together on that day. We are called to the even greater task of saving lives for eternity. Shouldn’t we take seriously our training and practice. We can study our Bibles, we can read about evangelism, we can talk about our faith naturally. There are many ways of training and practicing, but we need to do it.

The second thing that the medical staff had was their teamwork. They weren’t all doctors, some of them were nurses, technicians, paramedics, cleaners. Each of them had a part to play. All of them were necessary. If the ward hadn’t been clean, and infection had set in then all the work of the doctors would have been in vain. Everybody who had contact with that girl and looked after that hospital contributed to her survival. Paul talks about the different gifts that Christians have, and about the church being like a body. We all have different things that we bring to the team that is working to help people become Christians. We are not all natural evangelists, but we can all be kind and loving. We can all do our part in leading people to Christ.

The third thing the medical team had was an understanding of the stages of recovery. When they started treating the little girl they had to know the right order to do things in. They knew that the priority was to get some oxygen into her system and to get the heart beating again. They knew that they couldn’t warm her up to quickly, or it would do more damage than good. Once the heart was working they had to use a different machine to get oxygen into her blood while they cleared her lungs. They had to do one thing at a time, and in the right order.

I think that this is a helpful reminder to us when we are thinking about how we introduce people to Jesus.

When Jesus was teaching he used examples from normal life in the time and place that he was living. So, they weren’t medical stories, but he often talked about farmers and what they do. He talked about the time for sowing seeds and the time for harvesting crops. He talked about the weeds that can damage crops, and he talked about the harvest being stored away in preparation for the feast.

From these stories has come a way of thinking about sharing the good news of Jesus that we use in our ministry. It is called, “Sowing, Reaping, Keeping.”

We need to understand that most people that we come across are not interested in Jesus. They think that Christians are odd, and that God is an old man on a cloud, or they don’t believe God exists at all. They are very cold and not breathing. It is probably not the right time to introduce them to Jesus, we need to warm them up first and to clear all the water from their lungs. We can do this be sowing seeds into their lives. We sow seeds that show that Christians are normal and that God is good. We can do this with simple acts of kindness, of friendship and of generosity. We can do this as a church by serving people, by organising community events, by being welcoming and open to people.

Once they have begun to warm up, we can start to sow seeds of the gospel. We can share stories of how God has been good to us. We should be ready to explain the hope that we have in us, to tell our stories. As a church we might run an Alpha course, or find other ways of giving people an opportunity to find out about Jesus, to experience the Holy Spirit’s grace and power.

We will probably find that we have to sow for a long time, and in many ways. We will find that some of the seed falls on the path, and is taken away. We will find that some falls on rocks or among weeds and never grows properly. However, some will fall on good soil and will begin to grow. In some people we will see signs of life beginning to come. Their hearts will begin to beat and they will begin to breathe.

Then it will be harvest time. It will be time to ask people if they want to follow Jesus. Are they ready to say that he is their Lord, and that they repent and believe in him. Will they accept their adoption as God’s children, will they open their lives to the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Do they want to be a Christian? Sometimes we have spent so long sowing that we have forgotten how to harvest. Sometimes we have become such good friends with people that we do not want to risk the relationship by asking someone if they are ready to make this decision. It is at this point that we need to be reminded of the danger that they are in, the depth of God’s love for them and the responsibility that Jesus has given us to make disciples.

And that disciple making responsibility doesn’t stop once someone has become a Christian, once their eyes have opened. There is still work to do, there is still physiotherapy and recovery work to do. This can take a life time, none of us are perfect. As well as helping people to become Christians, to convert, we need to learn how to help people mature as Christians, to become disciples who themselves are ready to sow and reap, to work in the Father’s fields. This is the keeping part of the story.

There is one thing that I do not know about the story of the little girl. I do not know if anyone was praying for her. What I do know is that prayer is vital in seeing people become Christians. We can train hard, we can work as a team, we can sow and try to reap, but unless we pray we will not see a harvest. In the end we are called to be obedient and faithful, but it is God who adopts, the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, and Jesus who saves people. We cannot make people Christians, only God can do that, but God has called us to be part of this work, so let’s follow that call and be astonished at the joy of seeing people’s eyes open as the come to new life in Jesus.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.