“The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” Jesus calls his disciples to be “fishers of men”, and this means commercial trawlers, not Sunday anglers. For 2015 God is calling us to keep on presenting the gospel boldly to our existing contacts and also to ten thousand people and more in North Springfield who are outside the circles of any church.
God is calling us, as he calls all Christians, to find the right ways to communicate the timeless Easter message of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ to people trapped in their post-modern problems!!! We have the gospel which can save “from the guttermost to the uttermost.” This year we will want to take every opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ to our friends and neighbours.
And at the same time we have bold plans for remodelling our premises to make them more useful for outreach and evangelism and serving the community. The plans will require brave vision, careful listening to God, hard work, generous giving and enthusiastic fundraising. The project will demand as much faith and prayer as anything the church has engaged in before. But all this talk of outreach and evangelism and also redeveloping our building might sound too daunting, too difficult, too challenging. If so, we really need to hear the message of Zechariah 4:6.
6 “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Zerubbabel was the people’s leader in Jerusalem. He had the responsibility to finish the work of rebuilding the temple after the exiles had returned from Babylon. But the work had ground to a halt. Zerubbabel needed stirring up to carry on the work. And God gives him some amazing encouragement!
NOT BY MIGHT
On more than 100 occasions the Old Testament uses the word MIGHT to refer to collective strength, to armies or forces or warriors or fighting men – the armies of Pharoah or of Israel or of Babylon. In anything God calls us to do for him if we put our trust in MIGHT, we will be wasting our time.
Not by might of NUMBERS
It is encouraging to see new friends worshipping with us and making their home in the church. It is great that around 60 or 70 folk have come into these premises for the first time through Haven Café. But if we put our trust in numbers, in sheer human effort, that will count for nothing. Our trust must be in God alone.
Psalm 20:6 ¶ Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
Not by might of MONEY
It is good to belong to a church which is able to pay its bills, just. At the same time we give to support Baptist Home Mission and Baptist World Mission and also local causes like CHESS. But if we think that the people of North Springfield will be saved just by us giving generously, we are missing the point. God will call on us as a church to spend significant sums of money on evangelism and outreach, at the same time as we spend much bigger sums on the premises. But if we think we can “buy conversions”, if we are putting our trust in money instead of in God, then we will be rebuked.
Not by might of BIGGER PREMISES.
Not by might of NEW TECHNOLOGY.
Not by might of LOTS of ACTIVITIES.
These things are blessings from God to enjoy. They are tools He may choose to use to help bring folk to salvation. But we must not put our trust in our premises or our technology or our activities.
NOT BY MIGHT – says the Lord Almighty. He is the ALL MIGHTY God. In comparison to His great might, all our human resources count for nothing at all!
Not by might, and
NOT BY POWER
100 x in the Old Testament we find this word, which refers to the strength of individual men and women. We must not put our trust in our own power or our own efforts. All our skills and abilities count for absolutely nothing!
Not by power of EXPERIENCE
We may have done loads of evangelism before. Over the years I have been involved in running half a dozen town-wide evangelistic initiatives plus more than a dozen missions, as well as school and university missions, and Crusader and other youth missions. All this experience counts for NOTHING. Power of experience counts for NOTHING if we are relying on our own experience instead of on God’s power. We may have had training in evangelism and sharing our faith. Training counts for nothing if we are relying on the programme instead of relying on the presence of God!
Not by power of HUMAN WISDOM
Our education, our clever ideas, our brilliant schemes, our ingenious slogans won’t achieve anything by themselves. We don’t need human wisdom!
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. .. 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
We don’t need our own clever ideas – just the message of the cross! It is NOT by the power of human wisdom.
Not by power of HARD WORK
Toddler Group and Haven Café and Drop In are great! But it isn’t all our hard work in those activities and others which will bring people to Christ. Don’t think for a minute that as long as we put in the effort, as long as we deliver enough leaflets, or knock on enough doors, or hold enough meetings, people are guaranteed to be saved. It doesn’t work like that!
NOT by power of training or experience or human wisdom or hard work. These things have their place. God will use them. And don’t get me wrong. We can’t just sit back and put our feet up and expect God to save North Springfield without us playing our part by training and experience and hard thinking and lots and lots of hard work. If we don’t play our part, nobody will get saved! But if we put our trust in training or experience or human wisdom or hard work, instead of in God, nothing will happen either!
Oh, and one other thought. All of this means that none of us should think for a second that we can leave evangelism and outreach to other people. Evangelism isn’t something we just hand over to Ministers and Deacons and people who work with children and people who feel called to evangelism, and indeed anybody else, but not to me Lord. “Here I am Lord, send somebody else.” Outreach and evangelism are not just the responsibility of a few “special Christians”, but of EVERY Christian.
There’s a little story I’m sure you will have seen before on a card or poster.
Once upon a time there were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it.
But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody and Nobody did the job that Anybody could have done in the first place.
That little story sometimes seems more relevant to outreach and evangelism than to any other element of the Christian life. Nobody does the job that Anybody could have done in the first place. God wants to use US to tell our friends the Good News of Jesus Christ, because quite possibly WE are the only Christian our friend knows, or maybe WE are the only Christian your friend will listen to! “You will ALL be my witnesses,” Jesus said!
And all of us CAN be witnesses for Jesus. Because it’s not by might, not by power
BUT BY MY SPIRIT says the Lord Almighty
If people are going to be saved, God is going to do it. Not us, in our strength, by our efforts, but God. By the power of His Holy Spirit. As Michael Green once said,
it is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin;
it is the Holy Spirit who glorifies Jesus;
it is the Holy Spirit who enables people to say Jesus is Lord;
it is the Holy Spirit who baptises people into Christ;
it is the Holy Spirit who brings new birth;
it is the Holy Spirit who assures us that we belong to Jesus;
it is the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit of changed characters;
it is the Holy Spirit who gives us gifts so that we can serve God more effectively.
Our part is to make sure we are available to God and ready to obey Him when He wants to use us, and that we don’t get in God’s way by trying to do His work for Him!
And God the Holy Spirit is already working in the lives of very many people in our community.
2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Only God the Holy Spirit can lift the veil the devil puts over the eyes of unbelievers to allow them to understand and believe the gospel. We can’t do that, only the Holy Spirit can. And He will! That’s His job!
John 16:7-11 Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
It is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin and brings them to repentance and forgiveness and new life. We can’t do that, only the Holy Spirit can.
The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of “not yet Christians.” And the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives too. It’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the words to say when we share the gospel. That’s how it was for the apostle Paul.
1 Corinthians 2:1 ¶ When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
We may feel we could never tell other people about Jesus. But it’s not about skillful speaking and persuasive words. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, and working in the people we are talking to! And that power isn’t just for ministers and evangelists, but for EVERY Christian. That is what Jesus promised in Luke 24:46-49:-
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Power from on High. Power to be witnesses for Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit. The dynamo and the dynamite of God the Holy Spirit at work in OUR lives, which can accomplish so much more than we can ever ask for or even imagine.
To Zerubbabel the task of rebuilding the Temple seemed impossible. To us, the challenge of bringing the gospel to comfortable materialistic North Springfield may seem harder, overwhelming even. But listen to how the Good News Bible translates Zech 4:6-7,
“You will succeed, not by military might or by your own strength, but by my spirit! Obstacles as great as mountains will disappear before you. You will rebuild the Temple, and as you put the last stone in place, the people will shout, `Beautiful, beautiful!’ ”
God is ready to remove mountains of doubt and apathy and self-satisfaction so that people WILL be saved! `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.