Saturday, March 5, 2011
DO YOU GO ABOUT PREACHING THE GOSPEL?
Acts 8 + HYMNS: 42, 343, 123, 524
Do you appreciate how blessed we are being in Kenya and Nairobi, where there is no persecution from the government? We are free to preach and witness to anyone any time any place. What a blessing it is to be able to share the gospel that brings salvation to all men? How much do we exploit the opportunities that we encounter every day for witnessing? How do we seek to be of profit and fruitful to the kingdom if we do not share the gospel with the workmates, colleagues, the neighbors and relatives?
How privileged we are to be stewards of the gospel of God? What could be better than being a Christian where you have known the mind of God having His Spirit and being a minister of reconciliation – bringing people to God? We should not neglect the sharing of our faith because then it would mean that we are ashamed of Christ who paid such a high price to redeem us. We should be willing to tell others of what Christ has done to us and that He is willing to do the same to them only if they would trust Him.
The question that I would like you to answer today is, ‘Do you go about preaching the gospel?’ Do you share your faith with others who have not known the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour or you think that that is the work of pastors and evangelists? Do you take the gospel with you wherever you go or you leave it for others to do it? You say that you do not have the gift of evangelism I tell you that this is neglecting your commission and so you are disobeying the Lord. It is leaving your children, your relatives, your colleagues to go to hell when you have been given the tool to bring them to peace with God. Do not wait for a formal opportunity like from the pulpit of sharing the gospel – such opportunities are rare and so use the ordinary opportunities you have.
From this chapter we have three very important lessons for us to learn to be better Christians in this neglected area of personal evangelism. Person to person evangelism is the usual way in which the kingdom of God has been expanding through many centuries.
The first lesson is this,
1. Share the gospel even when it is not conducive
The church in Jerusalem was united in mind, at heart and all was well within. Then a severe persecution broke out leading to the death of many among them Stephen a leading Deacon in the church. A man full of Spirit and zeal for his Lord. A man full of Scriptures and willing to share the gospel with others even the persecutors. He preached the longest sermon ever giving a deep Bible survey without their permission of course. He was hammering the great truths of the gospel to the people who were raving mad as they gnashed their teeth to kill him. But notice that God held them back until they heard his last word. This provided the opportunity for Saul, who was in charge of approving the murdering of the Christians, to hear the gospel. He heard it very clearly preached and in the following chapter Christ saved him. Then he took over the work because the Word of God must accomplish its purpose. It was not the right time for Stephen to preach humanly speaking but he preached the gospel nonetheless. He did not witness any conversion but instead he saw people who were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him (7:54). He saw them cry in a loud voice and they cast him out of the city. He saw them as they cast their stones and kill his body but not His soul. But he witnessed the approval – a standing ovation from none other than the Lord Himself In heaven and saw the heavens opened to receive a good and a faithful servant. A fruitful servant will be received gladly by the Lord Jesus and approved.
Many others Christians were displaced from Jerusalem, including another leading Deacon and a preacher called Phillip. As they left Jerusalem, they moved to Samaria, from a hostile home to a hospitable foreign land. This was the right direction of the commission for from Jerusalem they were to go to surrounding Jewish regions and then Samaria. They moved to Samaria to demolish the middle wall that separated the Gentiles and the Jews. The dispersion of Jews, though a judgment on them, was a blessing to the nations and so the redemption had at last come upon the gentiles.
I know that most of you agree that there is a need to share the gospel. But you have not been able to share with anyone yet in your class on any colleague simply because you have no time remaining from your reading or working. It is never convenient with your relatives as well because they are always in a hurry and you have so much family things to discuss. It is neither conducive with your business colleagues and customers because they are so businesslike and in hurry. It is particularly not conducive with your boss because you fear him. He is not the sort of a person you can relate with as you say.
But you see you fail to realize that this is one of the ways that they could have heard the gospel and be saved. For some of them it is the only way. Is the reason why God saved you – so that you can proclaim Him to the nations? Then do it preach Christ and Him crucified. You are not being told to save them – only to tell them to go to your Saviour and He will save them. You will not even be persecuted by telling them to trust on Him because this is Kenya, not Somali or Saudi Arabia or Turkey. Why? If they don’t listen then you have done your part – for you have sounded the trumpet. If you do not do your part then their blood is upon you as Ezekiel puts it in Ezek 33.
You are disobeying God by giving lame excuses that are not bringing any honor to God or good to the many non-Christians that you relate with. But because you say that you do not have opportunities for sharing the Word of God, may point out to you that there are times when you have very good opportunities for sharing the gospel – please share the gospel then and so this is our second lesson;
2. Share the gospel when it is conducive
Philip went down to Samaria where he preached to an eager and attentive crowd – thirsty for the Word of God. They Listened to him keenly in one accord as it is recorded. They received the Word of God with joy and gladness. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest (10). Then they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (12). Everything is working out very well Christ is proclaimed and men and women boys and girls are being saved. And then they also receive the Holy Spirit when the apostles came. It is incredible what is happening in Samaria. And we say Praise the Lord!
Besides, God was with Him to do astounding miracles for their good – to heal them and relieve them of demons. We read that many “unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.” God opens the hearts of the Samaritans and they are saved – conveyed from darkness into God’s marvelous light. This is the right time to bring Christ to others to hear the gospel. Even Simon the great sorcerer ‘believed’!
But this is the problem of preaching the gospel at conducive time – when there are revivals and many conversion are witnessed many are not genuine Christians. Listen to those preachers who give impressive numbers of conversions and ask what happens a few months after wards. There are many counterfeit Christians who join up with true converts because of emotion and euphoria but their hearts are not truly transformed. They believe for a show and their believe does not last long before they abandon the faith altogether. They are like the seed that fell on a rock because their hearts are as hard as a stone for the seed to find a fleshy, fertile heart it must be work of God who sends His Spirit to do the surgery.
Simon is a warning to many of us. There are many among us who profess Christ and yet have not been converted, they say that they know God when God has not known them. They think that because they had that spectacular experience they are saved. They think that because they felt a unique flow of blood when someone prayed for them they were converted. One who has had his heart removed and a new heart transplanted must test themselves to see if they be in the faith (2 Cor.13:5). Do not be content in assurance that does not test the faith in the light of the Word of God. Look at your faith and find out if it is bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Go to John’s first letter and look for love – if you are lacking in love for others to witness to them then there is a high possibility that you might not be saved at all. Find out from deep within you if Christ is precious to you as Lord and Master, Saviour and King. Find out if you identify with Him and His people find out what He means to you.
Surely, when is it better to proclaim Christ and Him crucified than when God has given you the opportunity to share it? When you are talking with your relative and by God’s providence they castigate the Christians. That is your golden opportunity to point out to the person what he is lacking for not being saved. Maybe you are talking with another one and she swears by the Name of the Lord your God. Again this is a lifetime opportunity to show that person that she is abusing the Name of God because she does not know Him. And when is it better to share the gospel that when you have been asked to account for your conduct by unbelievers? Again it is very conducive to share the gospel with all the people especially relatives when there is bereavement or one is very sick – that is when they are thinking about death.
However, you find that that this is when we ourselves are overtaken by grief like them – something that Paul tells us not to do. Even when Stephen was murdered under great persecution and with great emotion, notice that these dear brothers did not abandon his body for fear of being killed themselves. We read that they buried him. This proved to their predators that they did not fear what they feared and that the One who was in them was greater than the one in the world. As Christians, we know better than the world and so we should seize the opportunity to bring the gospel to them and tell them that soon we all shall die the physical death but a far worse death is the spiritual death, which comes upon all who do not believe in Christ while in this life.
May the Lord help us to discern when a conducive environment has been availed to us by the Spirit of God to preach Christ. May we be people who value every minute and seek to spend it to the profit of our Master to the good of our relatives, friends and neighbors for God’s glory.
The third lesson is the reason, the encouragement on why we are to share the gospel is because God has promised to give the harvest. So you are assured of God that by using the means He has given, He will give fruit, He will give the harvest and honor His Name and His Word, therefore;
3. Share the gospel because God gives the harvest
The encouragement for sharing our faith is that God uses His Word, the gospel to bring people to a saving faith in Christ. We know that Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
Look at what God is doing here:
• And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. (Act 8:6)
• They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the power of God that is called Great." (Act 8:10)
• But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Act 8:12)
• Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. (Act 8:17)
• And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (Act 8:36)
God caused these people to listen to Stephen, Philip and the Apostles and made them take heed of the gospel. God by His Spirit makes people respond to the gospel by faith and repentance. He makes them forsake their evil ways, turn, and live for Him in all of the rest of their lifetime. It is God at work here, using men to bring his people to Himself. He is at work in appointing men to call people by the preaching of His Word. He is at work to make the calling effectual. He is at work to make them acknowledge, accept and trust Christ Jesus for their salvation. He is at work to justify them and make them right with Him. He is at work to sanctify them daily by the Holy Spirit. He is providing the necessary means of grace to persevere up to the last day. God is at work.
God is at work and His work cannot be stopped by anyone – neither the devil nor angels, neither men nor animals, neither time nor situations, neither things present nor things to come – Nothing is able to halt or stop or stall the work of the sovereign God. You cannot and I cannot stop God. The governments systems cannot. Therefore, when the authorities in Jerusalem rise up against the Christians in Jerusalem, it is the right time for God to send them to Judea and to Samaria according to His purpose. When they is more hostility in Samaria it is the God’s appointed time to go to Antioch. Throughout this book we see God moving to open doors of opportunities for the ministry of the gospel, simply because no one is able to stay or thwart the hand of God just as Job observed in Job 42:2. Those who try to fight with God ends up working for Him unwillingly. Therefore we are to share the gospel gladly lest we attempt to stay the hand of God.
Look God is not telling us to save people – He is the One to that. He choose those to save in the eternity past and these are the ones that He placed into the Hands of Christ. Christ has already died to pay for their penalty on the cross. He has paid the full ransom for His people. He has borne all the wrath of God on the accursed tree. He has turned away all God’s wrath for He took it all upon Himself on the cross on our behalf, fully propitiating our sins. He has fully satisfied the justice of God. Moreover, Christ has given them His own righteousness to present before God. Consequently, God will justify them when they present this righteousness before Him. Ultimately, He has given them the Spirit to be guarantee of their inheritance, to seal them so that they are branded as His. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son ... And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30)
No one is able to draw them away from His hand – neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38, 39)
It is God who is saving all He is telling us to do is to point the sinners to Him. We are to act as signboards to point them to Christ. We are His instruments to call people to come to Him. He has promised to give the harvest. He has promised to exchange their stony hearts with fleshy hearts. He has promised to make the dead in their transgressions alive in Christ. He has promised to make the blind see their sins and see the only Saviour. He has promised to bring them to Himself by the blood of His Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He has promised to give the Holy Spirit to indwell them and to make them new creatures. He has promised them inheritance incorruptible and that which does not fade away. If He were asking us to give them our money or property or estates then we would have a reasonable excuse. But thank God that He has everything well worked out so that He has prepared for each of His people a heavenly mansion in glory.
You have heard what you are to do as a Christian, you are to share the gospel in and out of season, when you feel like and when you don’t. How about for you who have been hearing the gospel year in year out? Where do you stand? First of you can’t share the gospel because you are not qualified – God has not sent you. You are to heed what those who have believed Christ tell you from the Word of God. You can never find true peace and joy without Christ Jesus. You can never be reconciled with God who is your enemy as you are now without going to the Lord Jesus Christ and forsaking your self-worth and telling Him to forgive your sins. You are to trust in Christ Jesus who is able to save completely all who go to Him in repentance and faith. Please go to Him now and He will gladly receive you and transform you from being God’s enemy to becoming God’s child.
How about those of you who have either this excuse or the other for not sharing the gospel message? – it might be that you are fearing that there might be no result? You say that after all there too many preachers and so you do not have to do anything. You say that you are not qualified to do evangelism because you are not trained for it. You say that God will save those He wants to save. You all well know the sort of excuses that you give for not sharing your faith. I have one answer to all those excuses – God has sent you, even commissioned you, obey Him and do what He Has said in His word. Do not hesitate or waste time because He has promised to give fruit to your work – all He needs is for you to open your mouth and to live as has called you. Open your mouth in matatus, to your neighbors, to your children, to your colleagues at school, to your friends and your relatives as well. Leave the rest to Him. Confess of your sins of inertia for so long and move on in witnessing.