by Norm Miller
LEMGO, Germany (TMNews)—Sunday service began typically. Parking spaces filled. Shiny-faced children held reverent parents’ hands as families ascended church steps.
The congregation of more than 1,000 filled the seats and waited for 10.30.
Scores of young children, some pre-school ages, sat on the front rows. Hundreds of young people – from teens to college ages – sang in the youth choir. Many young adults and some older ones filled the bright, white auditorium.
Older women wore headscarves. Several women with infants in baby carriages sat in the foyer.
The Mennonite Brethren Church in Lemgo, Germany, gathered for worship, June 22.
A praise team led in worship through singing. Despite German lyrics, the Holy Spirit of God used the music to minister to the Americans who comprised Truett-McConnell College’s 2014 Anabaptist Tour.
Soon, Dr. Emir Caner – president of Truett-McConnell College – rose to preach through an interpreter.
Expressing the deep honor of worshiping alongside the houseful of Anabaptist descendants, Dr. Caner noted the 2014 Anabaptist Tour afforded its participants to “walk the history of the Anabaptists.”
Visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, 14 Truett-McConnell staff, faculty and students gained a deeper appreciation and broader understanding of Baptists’ forebears.
Noting where Anabaptists ministered, and were murdered for their faith, Caner said, “Anabaptists understand that a faith that is worth living for is a faith worth dying for.”
Considering all that the members of the 2014 Anabaptist Tour had seen and heard, Caner told the congregation: “It is one of the highlights to worship this morning with you for we realize our heritage is the same.”
That shared heritage includes “the emphases on a believer’s church and religious liberty, the new birth and discipleship, and the greatest of emphases – how to share Jesus Christ with a lost world,” Caner said.
Caner said believers have compassion on a lost world “not merely to love them, but to share the love of Christ with them so that the lost may be saved.”
Inviting congregants to turn in their Bibles to Luke 19, Caner preached about Zacchaeus and his encounter with Jesus Christ.
“Imagine if your testimony was placed in holy Scripture,” Caner said. “All of it, the good and the bad. Would you be embarrassed or would you allow it to happen?”
The testimony of Zacchaeus reveals three aspects of his life: 1) who he was before meeting Jesus Christ, 2) his salvation experience, and 3) his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Caner highlighted how tax collectors like Zacchaeus acquired their jobs and the corruption that accompanied the role.
Zacchaeus was an “extortionist and a hustler,” Caner said. And since he was also a Jew, he was considered a traitor. He was a “hated man,” Caner noted.
Despite his sinful status, Zacchaeus was “willing to seek out who Jesus was,” Caner said.
The tax collector represents the lost people of the world. Though one can cite their sinful status, “each lost person is desperate to be loved … looking for a relationship with God,” Caner said.
This sinful status of others and their yearning for love means “with certainty we can tell every lost person that God loves them, that Christ died for them, and he wants to set them free,” he said.
Though Zacchaeus sought answers on his own, “only Christ can reveal the answer to him,” Caner said.
Zacchaeus was desperate to be loved and was begging to be saved by “pushing his pride aside to see Christ … from a sycamore tree,” Caner said. “It must have been embarrassing for him.”
That embarrassment was quickly displaced by excitement and anticipation when Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, Caner noted. “A man so hated by the world was called out by the Son of God.”
Reconciled to God, Zacchaeus wants to reconcile with others. Testifying to his change of heart, Zacchaeus committed to give half of what he owned to the poor and give back four-fold to those he cheated. The tax collector “becomes a selfless man and a free man,” Caner said. Declared a true son of Abraham by Jesus, Zacchaeus found salvation.
Verse 10 reveals “the reason Jesus came to this Earth,” Caner said. “He came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
“What is the greatest compassion we can give to anyone but to share the love of Christ?” Caner asked.
Jesus came “so that a lost world right outside these doors could hear the gospel,” he said, adding that “with certainty” Christians can tell the lost that “Jesus died for them, in the same way someone told you.”
Imagine the millions, who, thinking there was no hope, read the testimony of Zacchaeus and noted that Christ called out the tax collector’s name, “saved him, and gave him new birth,” Caner said. Many among those millions have found new life in Christ through the telling of Zacchaeus’ testimony.
“The greatest thing we can do is to share our testimony with others, with lost people all around us,” Caner said. “They desperately, desperately need to hear it.”
“Christ calls you to share your story,” Caner said. “Christ calls you to share the gospel. He has chosen us to be his ambassadors.”
“When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone,” Caner asked. “This is part of our heritage from the Anabaptists: they shared the gospel with everyone they met.”
“We must love the lost, pray for the lost, and share the gospel with the lost,” he added. “After all, there are hundreds of millions outside these doors who need Christ.”
“It is our privilege to tell others about Jesus Christ ,” Caner said. “The only question is, will you?”
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