John 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV) “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
A thought I had several years ago: if one could condense the entire Bible into one verse it would be John 3: 16. Then, at some point I read Billy Graham had said the same thing twenty years before. The concept of Christianity is really simple. Either you believe it or you don’t. In John 3: 16, there are several key words but one at the top of the list is “believe.”
In 1986, a team of twenty-four men were in Kenya, East Africa for the purpose of evangelism. That is to tell people about the saving power of Christ Jesus: that he was crucified for the remission of sin and resurrected from the dead.
We went into the villages, markets and other places where people gathered. A village is usually a family unit. One usually consists of a few huts and a perimeter boundary such as a hedge. We were almost always asked to sit with the family and share our information with them. The Kenyans are a very courteous, polite people. They strived to show an interest in what we had to say.
The in-country missionary had an old Chevy Blazer with the top removed. We used it in the markets and other public places where people gathered. It was like a stubby old pick-up truck. We had two speakers and two microphones. A few people with us would play a guitar and sing a few songs. Invariably, a crowd would gather.
One of our men, along with an interpreter, would preach a simple, evangelistic sermon. We just simply told the story of Jesus. A basic outline would have been: his birth, life, ministry, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Using an interpreter, a fifteen minute sermon took thirty minutes. We saw literally hundreds of people accept Christ through those actions.
One day, it came my turn to preach. I said, “I’m not a preacher, you guys do it and I’ll counsel afterward.” That excuse didn’t work out for me, so I preached. If I remember correctly, about 90 people prayed to receive that day. All I could say was, “Thank you, God for giving me the words to say.” I literally said things I did not know. God was in control of my voice and at the time I did not realize what was happening.
That evening, a young preacher, Tony McCall, and I were talking. We were staying in a hotel on the Indian Ocean and were walking on the beach. He said to me, “Van, you did a fairly good job with that sermon today. Have you ever thought God was calling you to preach?” Trying to worm out of that very uncomfortable conversation I replied, “That could never happen.”
He simply asked, “Why not?” My reply was, “Because I’ve only got one sermon.” What he said next has been indelibly etched in my mind forever. He turned toward me and looked me square in the eyes and said, “That’s all there is; there’s only one sermon.”
Tony, making that simple, short statement to me probably changed my life. The thought of those few words have resonated through my mind numerous times as the years have gone by. To be able to tell someone something that will change their eternity in so few words in such a short time is absolutely incredible.
That one sermon is: Christ crucified for the remission of sin and resurrected. We have conducted services at homeless missions, prisons, motorcycle rallies and numerous other places and events. No matter where from the Bible a lesson or sermon comes, it must ultimately end with the gospel message. For anyone that takes the Bible seriously, we must regard eternal life as a reality. There must be nothing of greater importance than sharing Christ with others. Be alert, watch constantly for opportunities to share Jesus. If we just pay attention, those opportunities are all around us to share that one and only simple sermon.
In the field of education, people are taught to watch for “teachable moments.” I find opportunities to share Jesus in some of the most unexpected places and situations. Just this week, a biker friend stopped on the street in front of my house to chat for a while and such an opportunity presented itself.
One final thought- the only possibility for saving our world is a return to Christ Jesus. Most would agree, our civilization, if we can still call it that, is crumbling. We are living in an environment of moral decay. Many churches have closed the doors or are in a state of decline or at best, have plateaued. We have been in numerous churches working as missionaries and pulpit supply. Probably half or more of those churches have no, or at best, very few young people. Many churches are literally dying of old age, one member at a time.
It’s up to all Christians to preach that one sermon. If we don’t do it, no one will.