Tag: Evangelism

Living with Hope and Holiness in a Hostile World

1 Peter 1:1-2

As Pilgrims Living Counter-Culturally what do we do? How are we to live if we are to carry out Christ’s mandate to love God, love our neighbor, and make disciples? And what should we expect to encounter in the process?

cf. 2 Cor. 3:2-3 “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” NIV

Everybody who is reading that letter in each one of us should read a message of hope, see us as examples of holiness. As world / culture around moves further away from biblical norms, the hopeful and holy Christian becomes easier to spot. Peter’s two letters intended to encourage believers living in 1st century culture with many similarities to our own, one in which Christian is expected to live counter-culturally.

This world is not our home nor is it the source of our hope. Yet we do have a permanent home… waiting for us, and we have a hope that is both “a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Heb. 6:19)

A. Christians live in a hostile world

ever since the Fall, has been hostility present in world: between serpent and woman, his offspring and hers – will continue until new heaven and new earth

They were and we are pilgrims / exiles.

temporary residents – might turn into permanent resettlement, but no guarantees… given or looked for – hoping to find safety, way to provide for daily needs, worship in peace

not seeking citizenship – probably would not have rejected it, but… apt to come with more liabilities than assets, hindrances than helps – having goals, using methods often contrary to God’s word

not putting down cultural roots – ultimate destiny not here in this world, had little appeal because looking for / investing in better city

They were “of the Dispersion”.

had been scattered because of persecution – life had become uncomfortable enough wherever they were… decided time to move

would be considered displaced persons, scattered (or broadcast) by God’s purpose throughout region with God’s intent they should bring forth fruit / multiply / make disciples there

perhaps from both “Rome” and “Jerusalem” – same word Luke used following Saul’s persecution, group may have included both Jews and Gentiles – either way were in Gentile territory at that time

They were and we are living in hostile territory.

religious hostility – if there were Jewish enclaves in N Turkey, Christians not welcome… either into Jewish church or social circles

not welcome in pagan society because they refused to follow accepted practice, Christians would not want to go to their church

political hostility – emperor-worship increasing so Christian rejection of pagan gods seen as lack of loyalty to / attack on the state… and neither would be tolerated

were free to worship any god they chose as long as they at least burned incense to Caesar – sounding more like our times

B. Christians can live with hope in this hostile world

We can have hope because we have been chosen by God.

purposeful on God’s part – according to his foreknowledge – no part of our hope depends on our genius or ability… is all God’s doing

hostility present in world is not outside God’s divine plan; God’s plan to call us out of kingdom of Satan into kingdom of his dear Son not random act either

chosen with purpose for a purpose – some of most hopeless people in world those who have no sense of purpose, no reason to think there is purpose in anything beyond this life – not so for a Christian

a holy people devoted to obedience – may not know all the details, almost certainly a good thing, do know basic outline: live righteously, soberly, godly in a hostile world

We can have hope because we have been saved by the Triune God.

is all God’s work that completely saves us (obedience is result, not cause) – have been saved and are being saved, all three Persons actively involved in our salvation

selected by the Father – apostle Paul tells us we were “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” – iow, incl. in God’s eternal purpose, not last minute deal to be adopted into God’s family

sprinkled by the Son – sprinkling an essential part of OT sacrifice and purification imagery – Son has redeemed us at cost of his own life, washed away all our uncleannesses and replaced with his righteousness

sanctified by the Spirit – is the mark of the Spirit that distinguishes from mark of the Beast – are set apart, identified and devoted to specific purpose: holiness of life that outwardly reflects Spirit’s presence

We can have hope because we enjoy God’s multiplied grace and peace.

an ongoing supply of grace and peace – continually receiving confirmation of God’s ownership: he keeps giving peace in midst of hostility, grace we need to stay faithful in hard circumstances

an adequate supply – sufficient for us to meet expectations – tempted to ask “Lord, are you sure? You want me to do that?” and he says “Yes, I am sufficient for you”

NOTE: not only can live with hope, we should live that way – we of all people, objects of God’s great blessing, should be able to look past present, have confidence in God and his plan for our future

C. Christians can live with holiness in a hostile world

We are set apart by the Spirit.

for a different purpose – our purpose includes important aspects of this life but is not limited to this life – includes things now that have significance later

with a different motivation – not personal gain, acclaim / affirmation of society; instead, love for God demonstrated by obedience, leaving results to him

using different methods – especially with regard to spiritual matters, our methods determined by what God and Word dictate

We are being empowered by the Spirit to obey.

experience of early church – filled with the Spirit – only after that they got really fired up and effective; when filled, they did!

remember what Paul said – written by the Spirit – letter needs to be readable, not masked / distorted by lots of “world” stuff

and… led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14) – can count on the Spirit to lead us – ask for his help, depend on his help, he will do his part

We are being purified by the work of the Spirit and the blood of Christ.

God loves us while sinners… but doesn’t leave us that way – the more we do our part to follow the Spirit, less like the world we become and more like Lord Jesus

and sinners don’t need a “pre-treatment” to get good enough for God to save them – lost people need to hear that

the blood washes away our past – can never rightly say that are things we’ve done that God can’t forgive – nothing in our past should hold us back, nothing in past should keep lost from coming to faith in Christ

the Spirit works in us in our circumstances to conform and equip – no hint of promise anywhere in Peter’s writing that God would change his peoples’ circumstances – instead he changes us in our circumstances to equip for other circumstances

The worse the world gets around us, more noticeable holy and hopeful Christians will be. Greater opportunities for God to show his power in and through us, use us as instruments of his peace to bring good news of Gospel to others. Are we up for the challenge? God certainly is, will enable us individually and as church family to do his will.

 

Acting Out: Tell-ers

Acts 1:1-11; 4:23, 31; 8:1-4, 14 

Since Paul in his crash course on Missions given to Roman church declared “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17), should expect need for Tell-ers. If there are to be hearers, must be tell-ers, too. Christ’s kingdom will grow only as the good news of salvation and eternal life through faith in Christ is publicly and confidently declared.

Need those who pray… and much need / opportunity for prayer. Need those who bring people to Christ. Also need those who tell others about Jesus. These needs addressed in all kinds of ways – may be same person filling all three roles, may also be two or more involved. Regardless of that, all of us need to be praying for all of us and lost.

So what can we learn about Tell-ers from Luke and the record of what Christ was doing in his church at the beginning?

A. begun  (1:1-2)

doing

is titled Acts of the Apostles, shouldn’t forget who started it and – “Jesus began” implies Jesus continued… through disciples

Peter to Cornelius – “Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)

we can participate in that: those who respond in faith to Gospel message will be released from their oppression under sin and Satan… besides acts of compassion and kindness

teaching

things that lead to eternal life must be taught, not simply demonstrated or pictured – have to learn from God’s word what it means to follow Christ

besides, he said to teach disciples to obey everything he commanded… includes teaching them to teach others

delegating

one of commandments he gave – you go and reproduce yourselves – you are disciples, go make more disciples… who make more

crucial aspect of following Christ that has been largely lost in the church – maybe witnessing is everybody’s job, discipling not so much… that’s for pastors and teachers

simply put: never have been or will be enough pastors / teachers / evangelists / missionaries to reach the whole world with the Gospel

B. continued  (1:8, 11)

empowered

Jesus continuing what he started through work of Holy Spirit empowering disciples – don’t even think about trying it on your own

propagating

ripples on a pond… that covers entire world – one ripple leads to next one… our task: to be telling those within reach, people relationally close to us in one way or other

btw, should be intentional about nurturing relationships with people who are physically / geographically close… our neighbors

working

“Why are you standing here, you have work to do.” (the angel) – Jesus gave instructions, expects his followers to be actively obedient

C. described  (4:31; 8:4)

verbal

“spoke the word”, “preaching the word” – where “tell-ing” comes into play – not making it up either… inseparably connected with God’s word and its results in our own lives

notice who tell-ers are: companions of Peter and John (ch. 4), iow the Jerusalem church – “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

continued later with “those who were scattered”, not the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem – Great Commission not given only to the Apostles, through them to professionals in the church

what is described here in early days of NT church: large portion, majority, most everyone involved in some way in taking message of Gospel to others

freely

open, confident sharing of the Gospel will be opposed – was Satan at work through agency of Saul then, uses similar means today… because he hates the Gospel / Christ / Christians

persecution => scattered like seed, intended to take root in new place and produce fruit – went as missionaries, not refugees

“For the moment, Luke gives us a glimpse of the victory God is going to win out of this seeming tragedy: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (8:4). As Everett Harrison writes, “The people went as missionaries more than as refugees.” He points out that “Luke could have used the general term for scattering but chose instead to use a word [diaspeiro] that means to scatter as seed is scattered on the ground.” This word is connected with the Jewish dispersion. Perhaps Luke is conscious of a new dispersion coming into being. With the benefit of hindsight, Luke sees great significance in these events. In fact, when he describes the preaching of the gospel to Gentiles for the first time outside Palestine, he says that the ones who did this were “those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen” (11:19).” Fernando

“Persecution does to the church what wind does to seed: It scatters it and only produces a greater harvest. The word translated “scattered” (diaspeiro, Acts 8:1, 4) means “to scatter seed.” The believers in Jerusalem were God’s seed, and the persecution was used of God to plant them in new soil so they could bear fruit (Matt. 13:37–38). Some went throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 1:8), and others went to more distant fields (Acts 11:19ff.).” Wiersbe

they scattered seed liberally, freely, confidently

evangelizing

“εὐαγγελιζόμενοι”, evangelizing, “proclaiming the message of good news” HCSB – too much of what we hear today is bad news, we have good news to tell and should be about it

“witness is a key word in the book of Acts and is used twenty-nine times” Wiersbe – if we aren’t seeing same things happening now as in 1st century, perhaps (in part) because we aren’t doing the same things

D. assured  (8:14; cf. Matt. 16:18)

heard

preaching, speaking, proclaiming necessary for hearing but does not automatically guarantee hearing – anyone with children can attest to that… effective communication works in two directions

when Christians from Jerusalem scattered to Samaria and beyond, Samaritans “received [welcomed] the word of God”

received

word must be received so it can produce proper response – will happen when Christ by his Spirit works through his followers

don’t put God in a box, do your part and trust God to do his part in his way in his time – too often we have our ideas about how God will work, who will hear… God may have different plan

promised

he will build his church – Christ does have a plan, he is working his plan and we are part of it – if we are working at building Christ’s kingdom, our success is guaranteed when we do his work his way

he will complete good work he has begun (Phil. 1:6) – Jesus began the work… with 12 men; one was a traitor and bailed, his replacement was a converted terrorist; the rest all abandoned him, yet came back

if Christ can use those kinds of instruments, surely he can and will use the likes of us to carry out his promise and build his church

Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things when the Spirit of God is at work in their lives. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity. …while some of God’s people have a calling to evangelism, all of God’s people are expected to be witnesses and tell the lost about the Savior. Wiersbe

Incentive to get to work: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acting Out: Bring-ers

John 1:35-51

 

Focus will be on verses 40-51, begin reading at verse 35.  –Setting: John, the forerunner, preparing the way… had declared shortly before who he was not, then who he was, then his prophetic role (John 1:20ff) John calling others to follow after the Messiah, not himself. Some were following John, waiting / anticipating his announcement and identification of the Messiah. John got them started, as soon as they knew who Jesus was they began following Him.

Like John, Jesus and others, we are to be calling people to a person and way of life, not a program or place:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Matt 16:24Luke 14:27

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”  28:19-20

Even Apostle Paul used similar concepts: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1 “Copy me, as I copy Christ.” Moffatt  iow, you copy Jesus, you follow Jesus the way I follow Jesus. Involves bringing others along to follow Jesus who bring others along to follow Jesus… Paul not talking at a pastors’ conference, was writing to dysfunctional church. Work of making disciples / followers gets messy, time-consuming, often frustrating and discouraging. Remember… Jesus who is foundation of the church said he would build it. Method Jesus uses is disciples making disciples – you can try other methods, I’m going with what Jesus said.

A. enthusiastic Andrew and Philip  v.40-42; 43-45

already followers

Andrew a follower of John, heard what John said when he called Jesus “Lamb of God” – seems like was no discussion, just abruptly stopped following John and picked up following Jesus

first thing Andrew and companion did was find out where Jesus was staying – didn’t want to lose track, intended to keep following – showed their commitment, now, to Jesus: he would be their Rabbi

next day: Jesus purposely singled out Philip, probably already acquainted w/one another, calls Philip to leave what he was doing

acted: found

once convinced they were following the right teacher, each went intentionally, found others – Andrew his brother, Philip his friend

each knew other person well enough to gauge response, expect it to be positive – knew Peter and Nathanael already interested in spiritual things

acted: spoke

almost goes w/o saying – had to be lot of expression / excitement in all of body language… words each used gave focus

notice even for all things held in common among these 4 men – language, culture, occupation, heritage – Andrew and Philip said same thing… differently

Andrew and Philip knew what would get Simon and Nathanael’s interest up, pique their curiosity – tailored announcement to have desired effect on hearer

acted: brought / led

simply saying had found the Messiah enough to get Peter on his feet – pretty simple for Andrew to go from there

something different about Andrew, too… easy for people to follow him – boy with lunch (6:8), Greeks looking for Jesus (12:20ff)

Philip had to do more work, encouraging Nathanael to respond – noticeably slower process for Nathanael, required gentle encouragement from Philip

B. inquisitive Simon  v.41-42

already curious

Simon more impetuous, waiting for more information to satisfy his curiosity – already had his radar on, probably had fair OT understanding

Andrew understood what was missing for Simon – had the interest, had the desire, had the curiosity, simply needed information

willing to act on his curiosity

didn’t have to build up foundation, then nurture a desire and encourage to act – was ready to go as soon as he knew direction

acted to satisfy his curiosity

Simon knew what he needed, believed he could get it from the Messiah – first question… is my brother right? is it really Him?

not about to wait around, had to act on his curiosity immediately – are those today in similar position, prepared by God to respond immediately to Gospel truth when presented

C. skeptical Nathanael  v.45-48a

questioned value

Nathanael more laid back, had some pretty decided views about people based on where they came from – prejudice nothing new

had knowledge of OT, incl. prophecies about Messiah – had his own ideas about how religious details ought to work out, didn’t really want to listen to what didn’t fit his prejudices

“follow me and see for yourself”

Philip capitalized on his relationship with Nathanael and Nathanael’s way of thinking – used his credibility to stir up enough curiosity for Nathanael to act

at same time, didn’t rely only on credibility… also didn’t leave Nathanael to make bad call w/o considering the evidence – come w/me, check it out for yourself, reach good conclusion based on facts

doubted what he saw and heard

Nathanael mind / opinion not easily changed – needed more than simple say-so, wanted substantial evidence… perhaps because of previous bad experience

could have been hurt by folks from FBC of Nazareth, still suffering flashbacks, not quite ready to hear they weren’t like all Baptists

D. convinced Nathanael  v.48b-51

was Jesus, not Philip who persuaded Nathanael

Philip didn’t try to change Nathanael’s mind, instead encouraged him to check out the evidence… in this case to check out Jesus

as always, Jesus could do what Philip never could – demonstrated his divine power in a way personally relevant to Nathanael

brought to where he could see and hear Jesus

this where every potential follower needs to be brought – not only to see / hear about Jesus (important preparation) but to see / hear Jesus for himself

didn’t expect Nathanael to be convinced by rational argument, put his faith in that – intended Nathanael to put his faith in Christ

brought to where he would be “discipled”

both Andrew and Philip brought friend/brother to Jesus so they could all follow Jesus together – they wanted to follow Jesus, wanted others to share in their experience / blessings

Notice: each one brought one. Didn’t send other person, said “come with me”. Was someone they already knew, had relationship / credibility, tailored their interaction to needs / desires / interests of other person.

So you bring the one next to you,
And I’ll bring the one next to me;
In all kinds of weather, we’ll all work together,
And see what can be done.
If you’ll bring the one next to you,
And I bring the one next to me,
In no time at all we’ll have them all,
So win them, win them, one by one.

And… the big goal – that Christ would be glorified in our lives, our homes, our church, and beyond. He will be glorified when he works through his disciples to make other disciples.

Lord, Be Glorified

Acting Out: Pray-ers – Part 2

1 Timothy 2:1-8 

Started last week with: need for all kinds of prayer to be made for all kinds of people to the end that we may lead quiet peaceable lives. iow, live happily ever after. Not!  See v.3-4… so that “all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. Those other things are important things to include in all kinds of prayer, but they stop short of the ultimate goal

C. to what end  v.2b-4

disciple-making

should be primary focus of earnest prayer by all of us – that we would do our part and God do his part to make disciples

is good and acceptable praying, consistent with God’s desires (v.3-4), means high likelihood God will answer favorably

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

conversion: to be saved – saving faith in Christ essential condition for true discipleship – should be praying people be converted

Rev. 14:6-7 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth; to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people; saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

pray lost people would hear the gospel, that would be explained adequately, they would understand, then respond appropriately

discipleship: come to knowledge – this the ongoing process that takes place in setting of personal relationships and local church

2Pet 3.18  “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Matt. 28:20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”

expected outcome of us discipling others is that disciples would in turn become disciple-makers… leading others to Christ and discipling them

D. by what means  v.5-7

the Gospel (5-6)

normal means of conversion is by power of Gospel heard and applied by Holy Spirit – only one Gospel, one God, one Mediator

need to pray Holy Spirit would accompany the Gospel in power and make it effectual in minds and hearts and lives of hearers

pray the Holy Spirit would give lost people desire to hear God’s truth, ability to understand it, desire to respond in faith

publicly proclaimed (7)

see Eph. 6:18-19 “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,”

Col. 4:3 “meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,”

if Paul needed / wanted others in churches at Ephesus and Colosse praying for him in this way, we ought to pray for those proclaiming the Gospel

and… we must be praying for one another – doors of opportunity, the right words, boldness to speak… and asking them to pray that way for us

E. how: confidently  v.8

expectation is God’s people will pray… individually… corporately… fervently and confidently… everywhere, starting here

and… women’s prayers, mother’s prayers heard and answered by God – yet he wants men to be praying, too… more important as culture becomes more feminized

right life – holy hands

acceptable prayer comes from life that pleases God… and our hands need to be doing the right things, loving God AND neighbor

all this necessary not only for effective / acceptable prayer, essential foundation for effective witness through personal relationships

1Pet. 3:15 “always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess” – assumption: you are living in such a way that people ask questions, want what you want

Donna Spiers – a Christian because saw what Nancy Pratt had and wanted same for herself, asked questions, was converted

right attitude – without wrath

peaceable life should flow out of peaceable heart and attitude – besides, when angry with someone, usually want God to do something other than save their sorry soul… not a good place to be

must be praying for their conversion and growth in grace because we see neighbors as Jesus sees them and love them as he does

recognize their need, their lack of genuine hope, an awful future that waits for them, sin-blindness that means they continually do foolish things

Jesus on more than one occasion “saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them” (Matt. 14:14)

right expectations – without doubting

remember bit about kind of good prayer acceptable to God, what “God our savior” desires – if God wants our neighbor converted and intends to use us to do it, he will answer our prayers

in light of that, we should pray expectantly… that he will hear and answer favorably – also pray willingly… willing to be used by God in whatever way he deems best

Acting Out: Pray-ers – Part 1

1 Timothy 2:1-8 

Know there is need in culture, community, world for people to turn to the Lord. Awareness of that need is inescapable for child of God. If task is to obey three imperatives – love God, love neighbor, make disciples – what should that look like? Acting In covers loving God – worship, prayer, study. Acting Out addresses our showing love for God by using our strength to love our neighbors. Remember, our efforts / thinking cannot stop short of goal… to make disciples – our actions / interactions should have that in mind, bringing people to Christ.

3-part implementation – Part 1: Pray-ers; Part 2: Bring-ers; Part 3: Tell-ers. To reach maximum effectiveness, need people actively engaged in each part – those who pray for others, those who bring others, those who tell others. The more people are engaged in all parts, more effective we will be. And all of that should flow out of a life that stands out for being counter-cultural, that encourages other people to want to know more.

Our text comes on the heels of 1 Tim. 1:18-19  “that by them you may wage the good warfare, ​having faith and a good conscience”. What we are engaged in not play-acting, not another flavor of “cowboys and Indians”. Is serious warfare against spiritual enemies, requires spiritual weapons, spiritual power that comes from outside ourselves. Charge given specifically to Timothy, pastor of local church in Ephesus (1:3) but not to him alone. Instructs Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

According to Paul’s instruction to Timothy, what comes first in waging good warfare is PRAYER. Prayer of all kinds for all kinds of people beginning with those closest to us… our neighbors.

A. what: all kinds of prayer  v.1a

supplications – prayers for the physical and emotional needs of men

doing so intelligently requires knowledge – many (but not all) physical needs can see from a distance, emotional ones not so much

and… appearances can be deceiving – many people in our lives wear masks, keep thoughts and emotions hidden away from public view

prayers – for the spiritual needs of men

every last person on earth has spiritual needs of some kind – one example: Satan doing his best to deceive the saved, destroy the lost

big deals in news… opioid crisis, abortion issue – have medical / physical components for sure, more powerful spiritual issues – Satan destroying lives by thousands through drug use, the lie of a woman’s choice

intercessions – we come as subjects to a King on behalf of others because we have privileged access

especially interceding for lost: “act between parties with a view to reconcile differences” Webster – we can come to King not only as subjects but as children, something lost cannot do… yet

giving of thanks – we are grateful for all the He does, and has done, for us

should not take God’s good gifts to us for granted, rather give sincere thanks – now take it up a notch: God uses all kinds of people to deliver his good gifts to us… and others, we should thank him for them too

B. for whom: all kinds of people  v.1b-2a

all men

“…not only for believers, but for all mankind. Some might reason thus with themselves: “Why should we be anxious about the salvation of unbelievers, with whom we have no connection? Is it not enough, if we, who are brethren, pray mutually for our brethren, and recommend to God the whole of his Church? for we have nothing to do with strangers.” This perverse view Paul meets, and enjoins the Ephesians to include in their prayers all men, and not to limit them to the body of the Church.” Calvin

kings

no room for misunderstanding here, should go all the way to the top in our prayers – people in the highest levels of government, ours as well as in other parts of the world

all in authority

not only the one at the top, those in lesser positions of authority in and out of government need our prayers too

C. to what end  v.2b-4

quiet peaceable life

pray for God to enable authority figures and neighbors to live and act in way that promotes public and private peace and harmony

not just about laws and policies and implementation – how do people relate, what example is set, how do people top to bottom act toward others and does it promote peace

free to worship

not only us, people the world over: they be able to worship God freely according to their conscience without fear or persecution

and… they be free to live in a way that honors God in all things – includes freedom to not be required to do things in workplace e.g. that violate conscience

Acting Out: The Need – Part 2

Matthew 22:34-40

Regardless of what people say about their religion / belief in God, every thinking human being knows there is a God… of some kind… somewhere… But, most of them do not know he loves sinners, sent his son to save sinners, will send his son back someday to judge the world. Someone who loved God loved us too and showed us the way to eternal life. Lost neighbors have same need. Last week reviewed some of how we got here… where 3 out of 4 people in Cumberland County claim no connection with a church of any kind. Number of genuine disciples, followers of Christ significantly lower than that. Need is great, so are opportunities.

Two-fold Need: Cultural and Theological – not one or the other, is both this and that. One not more important than the other, both equally important but in different ways. One centers on our relationship with God, one on our relationship with others. People need the Lord, God’s people need to be obedient. Not something new that Jesus started, what he declared in text came straight out of books of Moses, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Are three commands, imperatives Jesus himself gave primary billing to – love God, love your neighbor, make disciples. Not optional, can’t pick 2 out of three, are expected to be actively involved in carrying out all three. Shouldn’t be a surprise, should also be our desire.

A. Imperative #1: Love God – Matthew 22:34-38; Deut. 6:4-5 

heart – worship

“The heart is a figure of speech that stands for the very core of man’s being, the very radix [root] of his personality, the very hub of his nature, and the very essence of his I-ness. …In Scripture the heart is the spiritual center of the embodied human soul. It is the wellspring from which all of life and its activities originates, takes its cue, and receives its propulsion, spiritual as well as physical. As such it is also the seat and subject of the three internal functions of thinking, willing and feeling.” Krabbendam

from that part of us that true worship comes, has different forms of outward expression as mind and body get involved

soul/breath – prayer

soul that part of us that survives separation from body, must be capable of intimate fellowship with God since “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8)

often during times of prayer that use our breath not only to ask things from God, also to express our love / devotion / commitment

mind – study / exercise of the mind

Bible uses figure of speech to identify closest relationship between husband and wife – he knew his wife – lets us know true intimacy more than physical, requires use of mind

loving God involves more than feelings / emotion – must be based in knowledge… that comes from reading, re-reading, studying his love-letter to us

strength – witness

love God with all our strength when we put it into action – for starters, doing what he says is important: worship, prayer, study, all directed toward God, then our neighbor

B. Imperative #2: Love your Neighbor – Matthew 22:39-40; Lev. 19:18, 34 

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” [G. K. Chesterton]

“like” (ὅμοιος) – “of a same or similar nature or quality; of similar drift and force” Mounce 

was asked about “great commandment” singular, response implies question has two-part answer – parts can be distinguished from each other but not separated

why 1 John 3:14-16 

we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” – Jesus gave his life for us before we got cleaned up

we have experienced his love, know value and blessings of it, why wouldn’t we tell others – will tell about favorite restaurant, ski slope, movie…, why not about favorite person

how 1 John 3:17-18 

praying for others is good, in fact is essential, but is not enough – need to “put our money where our mouth is”, deeds to follow words

whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

NOTE: I know John says “brother”, some try to confine teaching to those already known as brothers – don’t we want all our neighbors to be brothers? why wait to love them?

who Luke 10:29-37; Lev. 19:34 

Jesus told a story about that when lawyer asked him “who is my neighbor?” – remember the Good Samaritan? even have laws that go by that name – neighbors not only ones close by all the time, include “random” encounters

and God says we must not discriminate – “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself”

what Isa. 58:6-10; Matt. 25:31-40 

begins with (but doesn’t stay with) addressing physical/practical needs:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”

C. Imperative #3: Make Disciples – Matthew 28:18-20 

go

while you are doing that, loving your neighbor, don’t lose sight of ultimate goal – should be on radar in all relationships

should continually be striving to help others move closer to Christ whatever their current status is – saved or lost, mature or not

make disciples

remember how it worked with Jesus / disciples – he “went about doing good”, they went with him, learning from him, following example

dad did stuff, I watched, got to where could anticipate what he needed and pass it to him/hold things, then do while he watched

of all the nations

doesn’t say “of all the church family”, “of all our Christian friends” – why we need to be acting out, making disciples out there

reaching the nations only 5 relationships away (according to some) – true or not, nations are coming to our doorstep… more opportunity

baptize

this whole plan Jesus presented far more extensive than simple sidewalk or civic center evangelism – results in direct connection with a local church: baptism of believers / disciples into body of Christ

teach

typical situation of loving neighbor a long-lasting ongoing kind of relationship that has significant spiritual component – yes, address physical/financial/emotional needs and spiritual needs also

remember: Jesus said “make disciples”, “make learners”, “make followers” – not pray a prayer see you in heaven, is come along with me as we walk this path together

sacrifice – Heb. 10:32-34 

gonna get messy, likely gonna be costly, may involve suffering and persecution – need to keep our eternal hope in mind

The goal: “people come to church” or “people come to Christ”? Not mutually exclusive but… – first one stops short of Mandate… “make disciples”. And if we stop short, we probably won’t get there. If we make disciples, Christ will add them to the church. But for that to happen, we need to be living for Christ and loving our neighbors because we love God.

Acting Out: The Need – Part 1

Acts 17:16-31

Said last week: “No big secret, is obvious to people the world over that something is not quite right. Things are not the way they ought to be on this planet, maybe not even in the universe.”

Let me say that a different way: “Should be no secret, should be obvious to people all over our community that something is not right… in our churches.” btw, is true of virtually every community, county, state in our nation. Between 2000 and 2010, church with largest loss of adherents, Roman Catholic. By no means alone – some Protestant groups gained adherents but not enough to offset losses in:

American Baptist Churches — Conservative Baptist Association — Southern Baptist Convention — United Church of Christ — United Methodist Church — Evangelical Lutheran Church — Assemblies of God — Evangelical Free Church — Church of the Nazarene

Appears the trend has continued, sad truth is fewer people were regular adherents (claim a connection with a particular church or group) in 2010 than in 2000… and trend has continued. Means the church in our neighborhoods is not even maintaining, much less keeping up with population growth. Those churches that are experiencing growth doing so largely by transfer growth, not with new disciples. Seats in churches are empty, not for lack of people, but for other reasons – in Cumberland County alone:

2010 Unclaimed: 201,422 (not adherents of any of the 236 groups included in the Religious Congregations & Membership Study) Data source: http://www.thearda.com/rcms2010/r/c/23/rcms2010_23005_county_name_2000_ON.asp

For last century+ American church has laid heavy emphasis on 2 greatest commandments… individually. Can be distinguished, not separated. Too often… have tried to love God while ignoring our neighbor. Or… show kindness and compassion to our neighbor without showing them Christ. Broad generalization: evangelical churches fall in first group, so-called mainline churches the second.

“we struggle to know how to engage with the community around us. We desire to have opportunities to invite people to church, but it is hard to find a good format for doing that. Please pray for wisdom and opportunity in this area.” Prayer request, 12/18/18, local church.

iow, we (the evangelical church) do pretty well at acting in, we need to be acting out. Don’t hear that the wrong way – is not one or the other… is one fueling and encouraging the other.

Two-fold Need: Theological and Cultural – not one or the other, is both this and that; not one more important than the other, both equally important but in different ways. One centers on our relationship with God, one on our relationship with others. Will take up the Cultural Need today, Theological Imperative next week DV.

A. How did “we” get here?

condemned  Genesis 2:17; 3:8 

started with perfect couple given all they needed in abundance by gracious God… including boundaries: “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

the moment they violated God’s boundary, came under condemnation – were immediately sentenced to death by their actions

confined  Psalm 107:10-16 

sin had immediate effect – from Call to Worship, was equivalent of Adam and Eve voluntarily walking into prison cell, slamming the door, that’s where all their offspring have been born too

corrupt  Romans 1:20-25; 3:10-18 

this couple who had more intimate relationship with of God than anyone since became corrupt, did not glorify God as God

claimed to be wise but acted the fool, hid from God rather than seeking him; since, no one freely seeks after God even in face of overwhelming evidence of his existence

clueless  1 Cor. 2:13-14 

result: no ability to comprehend spiritual truth, in truth believe message of Christ crucified is foolishness – consequently, attempt to give worship to a God they do not know… among all the rest

here in Athens of today known as Gorham, Maine, might as well have same inscription on sign/front of building as Paul observed

vast majority of people passing by daily have no more understanding / knowledge of God we worship than pagans of Athens

B. What about us?

remember, we were like that  Eph. 2:11-13 

“were separate from Christ, …foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world”

was not superior intellect, not family born into, natural curiosity – was God and God alone who “brought [us] out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke [our] chains in pieces”

someone acted out  Rom. 10:17 

often outside “bubble of safety”, maybe even outside comfort zone – credibly shared truth of Gospel in terms we could understand

C. We’re here, who needs us?

persistently lonely

est. 22%-75% of American adults – no regular personal contact with someone who is interested in knowing them, serving them

those who lack connection

have few if any close direct connections with other people, often no connection with something bigger than self – community group, civic organization, church

ones who need purpose and good news

disconnected from people, alienated from God, lacking answers to ultimate questions – “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Thoreau

Matt. 9:36 “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

D. Where do we go from here?

ChronoBridge – God / Man / Sin / Death / Christ / Cross / Faith / Life – basic & essential points of Paul’s address to philosophers

creation  (24-29)

our neighbors not first to believe lies about creation, Athenians did too – non-biblical views demeaning / devaluing of human life

this the foundational starting point – is a God, has spoken in his Word, here’s what he has said about man / sin / death

cross  (30a)

absent first half of story, second half has no context and makes no sense – first half w/o second offers no hope to lost people

cannot ignore physical/emotional/financial needs in order to address spiritual need, then think we’re done – at same time, cannot get so focused on all of that we neglect to lead them toward Christ

command  (30b)

only way to genuine hope includes repentance – not optional, is commanded… and for good reason: far more than praying simple prayer, asking Jesus to do something – is radical change of desire and direction

consummation  (31)

pretty simple standard for judgment day – are you “in Adam” or “in Christ”, trusting in your own efforts or in what Jesus did

peoples’ lives hang in the balance, not only for here and now but for eternity – we know truth that will make all the difference

More than 50 years ago song writer penned words about “People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening / People writing songs that voices never share”. Went on to write about “the people bowed and prayed / To the neon God they made”. Composer summed up the song’s meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, …especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”

Our culture even more impoverished today than in 1964. Need not be discouraged. Cultural need is great… but we have a great God who is not content to leave mankind destitute of hope. Is “not with swords’ loud clashing, / Nor roll of stirring drums; With deeds of love and mercy / The heav’nly kingdom comes.” We must be about those deeds of love and mercy coupled with clear witness of Christ, doing our part to bring others with us into the kingdom of Christ.