Evangelism Is a Lifestyle – 6/11/23

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Title

Evangelism Is a Lifestyle – 6/11/23

Teacher

Nathan Arms

Date

June 11, 2023

Scripture

Romans, Romans 10:14-15

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning. My name is Nathan. I’m part of the missions and outreach team here. And as Peter said, today is one of our Formation Sundays, and so, we are going to be talking about evangelism. Before I get into that though, I wanted to let you know of an opportunity, and Peter mentioned, I think, the cookies that were in the lobby. Every fall, thousands of students come to the Greenville area to go to university, and we have several people in our church that are intentionally engaging them with the gospel. So, everything from inviting some of the international students into their homes to share with them a meal because that may be the only time they’re ever invited into a home in the US, to having coffee with someone, or going up to Greenville Tech to help people who have just become believers, help them through their discipleship process. And so, it’s an incredible mission field for us right here to get involved with as a church. So, if you’re interested in that, there’ll be a couple of people in the lobby as you go up toward the Kidstuff wing. There’s balloons and things on the table. Connor and a few other people will be out there, and they would love to talk to you. So, let me pray for us, and then we will start.

Father, thank you that we get to freely gather in a place and learn from your Word and worship you. We know that’s not the case in most places around the world. So, we do see it as a privilege. God, we pray that you would speak to us through your Word today, and God, we pray that you would give us boldness to talk about you everywhere that we go. In your name, we pray. Amen.

So, I imagine that when I say the word evangelism, there are a couple of different groups of people in here. One group, I say that and you’re probably terrified. You’ve seen door-to-door evangelism, or you don’t love going up to strangers and sharing about Jesus. I totally get it. There’s other of you in here who are very energized by that. You’re outgoing. You never meet a stranger. You love talking to other people about what God’s doing in your life. And then there are those of you who know that evangelism is important. You’ve probably heard it preached a couple of times, but that’s about it. For me, I’ve had different seasons, I would say, of evangelism. Seasons where I felt like I was doing this well. I was being intentional about going places to try to meet people that I knew did not know Jesus and sharing with them several times a week. But this was a time that I was surrounded by a community of people that were all doing this together. So, it was like a team effort. We were going out and sharing the gospel, and it was an exciting thing to be a part of.

There have been other seasons where I’ve just felt guilty that I was always not doing enough or not sharing enough. And then honestly, more often than not, there have been seasons where I haven’t even thought about it. Life gets so busy that I haven’t even thought about … Hey, who are the people that I came into contact this week, just in my regular schedule, that didn’t know the good news of Jesus that I could have shared with them? I haven’t even thought about it.

So, my goal for us today is to see that evangelism is actually a lifestyle, and there are practices that we can put in place that will help us make this a reality. So, “evangelism.” The definition we’re using today is “the sharing of the good news of Jesus with other people,” and then “lifestyle,” meaning “the way in which we or a group of people live.” So, another way of saying “evangelism is a lifestyle” would be “the way in which we live should be characterized by an active sharing of the good news of Jesus with others.” The way in which we live should be characterized by an active sharing of the good news of Jesus with others.

So, why is evangelism important today? What’s the reality today that says we need to be sharing the good news of Jesus with other people? Well, Nicole just read the reality, Romans 10:14-15,

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

So, this is a clear picture of how God intends for the good news to spread to all peoples. It’s by people verbally sharing with other people this good news of Jesus. John Scott describes the flow of what Paul says like this. He says, “Christ, sends heralds.” Heralds are people that are just bringing news. So,

“Christ sends heralds. Heralds preach. People then hear. Hearers then believe. Believers call. And those who call on the name of Jesus are saved.”

So, unless people are sent, the good news will not be announced. If the news is not announced … What? No one will hear it. And if no one hears, no one will believe the gospel. Therefore, people evangelizing are essential for the good news of Jesus spreading.

Now, this isn’t to overlook … We know the Holy Spirit is the one that saves. And we know that all over the world we have multiple stories of God, Jesus showing up to people in dreams, then believing in him through that dream, or God speaking directly to a person and then believing in him then. But typically, that’s followed by God sending a fellow Christian alongside them a week or two later to help them unpack what they experienced. So, it’s not to discount that. We know that happens all over the world. But the primary way that the good news spreads to other people is by people speaking to other people about it. Paul quotes Isaiah at the very end of that passage to honor the people who are already going about sharing the good news. It’s already part of their lifestyle. He says,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Leon Morris is an Australian scholar. He says,

“Messengers normally traveled on foot and the feet were the significant members [because that’s how they got places]. They might be dirty and smell after a long, hot journey, but to those who eagerly awaited good news, they were beautiful.”

So, it truly is a beautiful thing that we get to be called to be a part of the spread of the good news to other people.

Now, before we go any further in talking about sharing the good news with other people, I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page as to what good news is. So, kids in the room, this is for you. This is the kids’ version. We’re going to watch a video, the kids’ version of the good news of Jesus. For anyone that’s not a kid in the room, I would encourage you to watch closely because it shows how simple and how transferable the good news of Jesus is. Often when we get a little bit older or if we’ve had certain education, we try to overcomplicate the gospel, and it paralyzes us from trying to share it or being able to share it with other people. Or they’re not able to take in all the information. So, this shows us how simple and transferable the good news of Jesus actually is. Let’s watch this video.

“God’s story, the good news. So, part of God’s story is about the gospel or the good news. And it goes like this. In the beginning, God made everything — the sun, the moon, stars, planet, the entire galaxy, and earth was part of that creation. God made mountains and oceans and forests and deserts and animals that crawled on the ground and flew in the air and swam in the water. And he made people, Adam and Eve, to live in a garden called Eden, and God called everything he had made good. There was just one rule. Adam and Eve could eat anything they wanted except for the fruit from this one tree, but a snake tricked Adam and Eve into disobeying that one rule. Because of that, sickness, sadness and all kinds of bad things came into God’s perfect creation all because people made wrong choices.

“Part of how God punished Adam and Eve was by not allowing them in the perfect garden anymore. And if that were the end of the story, that would be bad news for us. That would mean all the wrong stuff in the world would never be made right. But God still loved people, and he had good news for them. He was going to send a rescuer. So, they waited and waited and waited. Then one day the rescuer was born as a baby named Jesus. Christmas is when we celebrate the good news of Jesus being born. But it’s not just that he was born. It’s what he did later that was the best news of all.

“He took the punishment for all the wrong choices that anyone has ever made anywhere. See, all of us have continued to make wrong choices, just like Adam and Eve did. And just like Adam and Eve, we deserve to be punished for our wrong choices. But here’s the thing. Jesus, the rescuer, never made a single, bad choice. Kids, think about a time you made a bad choice, maybe telling a lie or taking something that wasn’t yours or hurting another person with something you did or said. Can you believe that whatever that was, Jesus never made a choice like that? And even though he never made a bad choice, he still took the punishment for our wrong choices? And then Jesus did something even more completely unexpected. He came back to life! Really! You can read about it in the Bible, in the stories written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We call those books Gospels, which is just an old fancy word for … you guessed it … the good news of Jesus coming to earth, dying for our wrong choices and coming back to life. That’s what we celebrate on Easter, but not just because coming back to life is totally amazing.

“By coming back to life, Jesus was showing that God can make anything new. There’s nothing God can’t do. He’s more powerful than any sadness, shame, wrong choice, disease, disaster, and even death. And that’s the best, most amazing, good news of all. It’s so amazing Jesus’s friends told everyone they could find about the good news. And those people told other people. And those people told other people, and on and on, and that’s still happening today. In fact, you just heard the good news, and the Bible says, ‘If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ That’s another way to say God rescues us. And that rescue includes you, your friends, your family, and anyone else in the whole world. And that’s the story of the good news.

“So, in case you missed it, here’s the quick version. God made a perfect world. People made mistakes, and the world isn’t perfect anymore. God promised his family a rescuer. The rescuer’s name is Jesus. Jesus died to take a punishment we deserve. But he didn’t stay dead. Jesus came back to life because Jesus can make anything new. And that’s a part of God’s story.”

So, that is incredibly good news! But what’s crazy is that there are people in the world that have not heard this good news. Amazing news like that you would think everyone would have heard, or we would want everyone to hear. So, how many people do you think in the world today have not heard this good news? It’s around 2.8 billion people that have heard nothing about Jesus, no good news at all. Now, I know you may say, “Well, Nathan, that’s all over the world, and we as North Hills, we partner with missionaries; we give money for missionaries who are specifically called to go overseas to share with those people. We live in the South, in South Carolina, where there’s a church on every corner and many people go to church.” I would agree with you. God does put a special calling on people to pack up everything and move overseas and tell unreached people about the good news of Jesus. There is a church on almost every corner, and a lot of people actually do still go to church. But the reality is most of the people that are our neighbors in Greenville County do not believe that the good news of Jesus is true.

In 2021, a study was done and showed that only 25% of the people polled in Greenville County — so, our neighbors, the people that are North Hills’s neighbors — only 25% would say yes, I believe the good news of Jesus is true. Meaning 75% of our neighbors still need to hear the good news of Jesus.

So, what is our call? What are we to do as people in Christ, knowing there’re people out there that do not know the good news and knowing that God’s plan in the beginning was for the good news to spread by people telling other people about him? What is our call? 2 Corinthians 5:17, I think, paints one of the clearer pictures of what our call is. It says this.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

We saw what that looks like in the video just now that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to live in the old self; we’ve been made new, right before God.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

So, none of this could happen outside of God, and no one else could be the sacrifice except for Christ because he was perfect. And he reconciled us to himself, which is just another way of saying that “Hey, I’ve sinned; God is perfect; I can’t have a right relationship with him, but Jesus took our place. So, now we’re reconciled. We can now have a right relationship with him.” And then it says he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. So, not only did he make things right between us, but then he said, “Okay, now you have this message, and you’re now a minister of that to share it with other people.”

“That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” [2 Corinthians 5:19].

God has given us this message and said, “You’re now a minister. Here’s the message. I entrust it to you,” meaning be a good steward of the message that I’ve given you, and being a good steward of this message is what? Sharing it with other people. Paul ends, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,” meaning we are the ones sent out by Christ.

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, God is making his appeal through us as people who are sent out with a message that we’re to steward well, and stewarding it well is to tell everyone and anyone about this good news.

So, we know the reality of how good news of Jesus spreads and that we as people in Christ are to be the ones spreading this message. So, if this is not what characterizes the way we do life, I don’t want to make us feel … we’re not to feel guilty. That’s not my point. What I want to do is look at some things that we can consider to help us move in that direction. I can use that help. I think we all can use some practical things to help us move in a direction so that this is what characterizes our lives, that 2 Corinthians passage.

I want to suggest two things that we can be intentional about and three barriers that we can try and knock down. And I think this will help evangelism become a regular part of who we are as we go about following Jesus. The first is we have to be intentional with where we go. For evangelism to become a lifestyle, we want to be intentional in the relationships that are already part of our daily rhythms. I’m not asking you to add something else to your busy plate. We all have a ton going on. That’s the last thing I’m asking. What I am asking is that you’re intentional in the things that you’re already doing. So, for some of us that find ourselves in somewhat, maybe, of a Christian bubble — you work for a Christian organization, you play sports through a church league, kids are in a Christian school. As odd as it sounds, especially hearing the statistic of how many people still need to know the good news in Greenville County, as odd as it sounds, it can be hard to think of people that are nonbelievers that we truly know and have a relationship with. So, for those that fall in this category, we have to be extra intentional in the places that we go. If I love going to Publix to shop and I know I’m going to go there twice a week, or I go down the road here by Brook Glen and go to W. E. Willis to get gas once a week, I’m going to see the same people working every time I go in there. And so, I want to make it a point to engage with those people, to actually build a relationship with them, not just to get to the gospel, to truly build a relationship with them. And part of loving them well is going to be sharing this good news with them because if we have good news, we want to tell it to the people we love, right?

So, this is what I mean. I have two stories that I think show this well. It’s from our partner who is serving in Georgia. The first, he told me about one of their church leaders, his church leader and his wife. They befriended this Georgian lady named Lali, and she worked in the outdoor bazaar near their apartment, which is just a big marketplace. They went every week, sometimes multiple times a week, to buy vegetables from her food stall. And in the cold winter months, they would bring her hot tea. In the hot summer months, they would bring her cold water. And they eventually came to a point where it had been raining for several days, and they invited her into their apartment to get out of the rain and introduced her to Jesus by giving her this Georgian Bible and just asked her to start reading it. That was several years ago. Two years ago, Lali said, “I want to believe the good news of Jesus,” began reading it with her friends. Two other ladies came to faith because of Lali’s witness. And now they hold a small group where they all have Georgian Bibles, which is a big deal to read in their own language. So, that’s one example. I mean, as simple as going to the same person to buy vegetables and being aware that, hey, she may be cold right now; let me give her some hot tea; she may be hot right now; let’s give her some cold water, opened up an opportunity to share life-changing news.

The other story is from our partners, something they do personally. And they have started going to the same body shop to get their cars worked on whenever they need it. And it’s this row of auto shops down by a river. There’s probably twenty-five of them with a manager. And he said it’s not like your typical AutoZone. It’s more like this Russian style oil change — little stalls. So, they’ve been going there for the last five years. And one day he said that the Holy Spirit just told him, “Hey, you should go to the manager and ask him if you can cook for all the mechanics.” And so, he went and asked if he could cook for all the mechanics, and the manager said, “Why would you do that? You’ve already paid them for their services. Why would you do this?” And he said, “We just want to show how thankful we are to them and love on them.” And he said, “No one’s ever done that for us.” So, our partner, he has these big smokers where he smokes chickens, and he pulled the smoker down by the river, smoked one hundred chickens for these guys to eat, and then did it again at a later time. And he said, “This is what happened. It began to open up a channel of communication where we could talk about anything in the world.” He said, “including church, Jesus, salvation, family, anything,” just by saying, “Hey, we know we’ve already paid you for what you’ve done, but can we just do one extra thing because we really appreciate and love you?”

And at the end of our text (we were texting back and forth) he said this. “We need to stop asking God for opportunities to witness and rather pray that we would be bold and creative in helping those he puts in our path each week.” So, it’s not wrong to ask God for opportunities to witness. We need to do that. But sometimes that can paralyze us, and we miss all the people that we’re coming in contact with each week that do not know Jesus and we would have the opportunity to share with them. He said, “Whether or not they become a Christian is up to the Holy Spirit, but we should be the hands and feet of Jesus each day to our own spheres of influence.”

So, that’s what it looks like to be intentional in the places we go. It’s nothing huge. It can be small, and it opens up opportunities for us to share Jesus. So, be intentional with where we go, and then be intentional with our friend groups.

Often, if you’re not in that Christian bubble, you have two groups of friends. You have nonbelieving friends and you have believing friends. And when our believing friends go to the movies, we go with them. When our nonbelieving friends ask us to come over for a grill-out, we go with them. But what if a key to evangelism being a lifestyle and not just a one-time event or this initiative, is us, bit by bit merging those two groups of people together? We invite a believing friend to go with us with our unbelieving friends to the grill-out. We invite a believing friend to go with us to the movies.

Sam Chan in his book How to Talk about Jesus Without Being That Guy, says this. He describes what typically happens when someone gets fired-up or convicted about evangelism. He says,

“We go out solo [so, by ourselves] join a book club, a cooking class, a softball league.”

And he says,

“These solo efforts are admirable and worthy, but the result is that we’re the one and only bozo in the room who believes in the Jesus story. And no matter how true it is, no matter how much evidence, no matter how good we can argue, our story remains unbelievable because there is no other person in the room who also believes it.”

So, what if one of the main reasons our friends are not Christians is they don’t belong to a community of friends who also believe in Jesus.

Several people have written of the importance of community, things like it’s “the most powerful force in determining belief. Community shapes the way we interpret our experiences. Community shapes the way we interpret facts and evidence.” So, introducing our nonbelieving friend to a community of Jesus followers can have an enormous impact. This is why we want to fight to merge the two groups of people together. It is one of the most powerful ways our friends can come into contact with the gospel, by them seeing a whole other group of people that all believe the same thing and believe that it is truly good news.

Nathan Campbell, a pastor, said that

“evangelism in a skeptical world [which is what we’re in] is basically a team game.”

We need to do evangelism together as a team, playing off the same playbook. And he goes on to show that Paul seemed to have adopted this lifestyle as well. Paul understood the importance of community and belief. When Paul writes to the Thessalonians he says,

“You know how we lived among you.”

So, we know Paul was with two other people. Many scholars believe he was with a community of believers, and they were the example to the Thessalonians before they became the church, this small community of believers that the Thessalonians were watching day in and day out of [seeing] this is what it looks like to follow Jesus. And then they became the church of the Thessalonians.

Paul shows the importance of community and belief when he writes to the Corinthians, and he’s telling the Corinthians that he has seen Jesus risen from the dead, but he knows that just his testimony isn’t enough. He knows that he has to have more people that have seen him, and so he says this. He says,

“[Jesus] appeared to Cephas, and then the Twelve. After that, he appeared to five hundred brothers and sisters at the same time who are still living. He appeared to James, the apostles, and last of all, to me.”

So, Paul knew that his testimony was way more believable if five hundred brothers and sisters that the Corinthians knew and loved and that were still around there could say, “Yeah, we saw Jesus too.”

So, being intentional with that groups of friends and bringing them together is key, I believe, for our unbelieving friends to begin to believe what we know about Jesus is true. So, we’re intentional with where we go, we’re intentional with our friends, and then we get to the barriers that we can begin to knock down.

The first barrier is the fear of man. So, many who have a fear of evangelism. At the root of it is essentially a fear of man. Questions start going through your head when you’re thinking about sharing the good news of Jesus with someone. Questions start going around like this — “What if she thinks I’m crazy when I start talking about Jesus?” Or “What if they don’t agree, and it destroys this relationship that we’ve had for a couple of years?” Or maybe this — “What if I say the wrong thing and it misrepresents who Jesus really is?” It’s like I have to have this perfectly packaged, theologically correct presentation. And fear of man, it’s really that subtle voice in our head that’s saying, “I’m trying to please everyone in everything that I do.”

And the Bible actually warns us against this fear of man, pretty strong, in several passages. One is Proverbs 29:25. It says, “The fear of man lays a snare,” a snare being a trap.

“The fear of man lays a [trap], but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

And so, this verse tells us that really the only remedy for getting out of this fear of man that exists in evangelism especially, is a deep, abiding, and growing trust in God. We must find our refuge in Christ, not the praise and approval of others. Another way of putting it would be we need to start to fear God more than we fear them.

Ed Welch says this. He says,

“All experiences of the fear of man share at least one common feature: that people are big. They have grown to idolatrous proportions in our lives. They control us. And since there’s no room in our hearts to worship both God and people, whenever people are big, God is not. Therefore, the first task in escaping this trap of the fear of man is to know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people.”

Not to say we don’t care for other people or that we don’t see other people meaning God’s image. That’s not what you’re saying. But he’s saying God is the one that’s awesome and glorious and to be big in our hearts, not other people.

So, how do we practice remembering that God is awesome and glorious? How do we get out from this trap from the fear of man? Do you remember the prompt that Peter told us last week to practice? If you don’t, we’re supposed to be practicing up to this week and further on. So, I’ll remind you. It was take a few minutes each day to practice letting go of self-concern as you stand in awe. I would encourage you that this is a key in evangelism as well. When we are in awe of God, like we talked about last week, we begin to be less worried about what others think. And as you stand in awe of something, it really begins to capture you. If you did practice it this last week, think about as you were standing in awe of whatever it was, it captures you mentally, physically. And Jesus says in Matthew that whatever captures our hearts overflows out of our mouths, right?

And that’s true. That’s not just a Christian thing. That’s in any spheres of the world. Whatever captures our hearts flows out of our mouths. Think about the sports fan on game day, covered from head to toe in their gear, going out, doing last-minute shopping, and they’re not afraid to talk to anyone about how great their team is to anyone and everyone. Or it’s the coworker who holds unpopular opinions and freely shares them, like “The Lord of the Rings is a terrible series” or Creed (do ya’ll remember the band, Creed?) “Creed is an incredible band.” In both examples, people managed to overcome the fear of man or this unpopularity, and instead be overwhelmed or in awe of a greater passion.

So, we’re all evangelizing about something, something that has captured our hearts and overflowing out of our mouths. So, this is the same for evangelism. As God becomes bigger than anything else in our hearts, we then will be like that sports fan with this overwhelming passion for him that overflows and into our speech, and then we’re not crippled by the fear of man but in awe of how awesome and glorious God is. And then we’re ready to share about this good news of Jesus anywhere and everywhere we go. So, that’s barrier 1, the fear of man.

Barrier 2 is “what do I say?” So, as we’re intentional meeting people, as we start to hopefully overcome this fear of man, at some point for the good news to be transferred to someone else, we actually have to say something, right? And this could be one of the hardest things. So, one option is what we just watched, the full good news, gospel story of how God created the world, and sent Jesus; there is a problem because we had sinned; Jesus was the sacrifice, rose from the dead; all who trust in him will be made new. That’s one option.

But I would say a great place to start is the story that you know best, and that’s your story. The story of how God transformed your life is the story that you know best, and no one can argue it because it’s your story. A simple way to think of this is my life before Christ, how I came to Christ, and then my life after Christ. So, there’s nothing magical about this. But what it does is it actually gives us a framework for when we get in the moments that we get the opportunity to talk about the good news of Jesus. It gives us words to say.

So, we’re not going to do this now, but I would encourage you when you go home to fill in those and just put one sentence under each thing. And as we practice this, what it does is it allows us freedom so that when we’re standing in line at the grocery store and we have one minute, I can easily talk about my life before Christ, how I came to Christ, my life after Christ in a minute with someone. Or maybe I’m on a plane ride across the ocean. I have thirty minutes to share with someone. It also frees me to have a framework to be able to talk to someone about that. So, what do I say?

And then the last barrier is “who do I say it to?” So, we’ve already talked about introducing our friends to each other, being intentional with where we go. Hopefully we’re meeting people that we will have a relationship with, or we already have a relationship with that we know do not know Jesus. And so, we want to start praying for those people. That’s where it starts because as we pray, God works in our hearts to love that person more, those people more, and make us more aware of them. If I’m praying for someone every day, I’m going to be a lot more aware of them, and when I see them, I’m probably going to pick up more on what their needs are, as well. And the more that they’re on our minds, the more God softens our hearts to them so that we want to engage with them. We want to share with them this good news as we begin to pray for them. And since we know that God is the one that changes hearts, going to him first, asking him to do so is one of the most incredible ways we can love these people.

And so the band’s going to come up, and this is what we’re going to do. (Can you put that next slide up there?) On the back of your handout, you have … It’s called an oikos map. It simply just means these are spheres of influence or places that I’m going to be going every week where I’ll meet people and I know that I’ll have the chance to develop relationships, maybe I already have relationships with them, and be able to share with them. And so, this is an example of the different spheres. If your name’s in the middle, you may put a coworker’s name, a neighbor, a supervisor, family member, friend, a barista. (Let’s go and put up that next one, too.) So, an example is I would put my name. I put “Jim” and “Rick” from the gym, “Tom” the barista, “Steve” a neighbor, “Kevin,” who works at Publix.

And so what we’re going to do as they play, we are going to think of those people that we come in contact with each week. We’re going to write names in those circles, and then we’re going to spend some time right here — you can get with other people or do it by yourself — praying this over. Then we’re going to pray what our partner in Georgia said. We’re going to pray that we would be “bold and creative in helping those people he puts in our path each week see that the good news of Jesus is true,” that we would be bold and creative in helping those he puts in our path each week see that the good news of Jesus is true. So, let’s take some time doing that, and then we’ll continue singing after a couple of minutes.