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Rev Peter Thomas - North Springfield Baptist Church
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AND NOW FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT -
the gospel for today
In sending out the seventy-two in Luke 10:1-22, Jesus commissions all his disciples to preach the gospel, and that includes us! 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
God wants US ALL to be workers in His harvest field. The urgent task is to take God’s blessing to people
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
We go to share God’s blessings – the blessings of God acting as King to save his people, blessings of healing and deliverance.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
The gospel is an announcement, Tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
The kingdom of God – the Kingly Rule of God – the things that God has promised to do to save his people – the kingdom of God is near! Not an invitation – do you want God to be your king? But a declaration – God IS King and God is ready to act as king in YOUR life!
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 3:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” … “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The gospel of the Kingdom is simply the announcement of the year of the Lord’s favour.
Let us be clear about what the Christian gospel is. The gospel is not an offer. The gospel is not an invitation. The gospel is not a debate. The true gospel is simply an announcement that Christ has come, and that Christ is Lord of all. And that announcement is so earth-shattering that it demands a response from every one of us who hears it. Repent and believe!
I fear we often play down this radical nature of the gospel announcement. We seek to share the good news of Christ at Christmas in a very gentle way. As if we are saying – take another look at Christmas and you’ll find a free gift inside, the gift of the Baby in the Manger. But the message of Christmas is not an offer or an invitation which people can choose to accept if they would like to. The message of Christmas is the announcement of a historical fact. Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem was indeed the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. Whether you like it or not, whether you choose to accept it or not, God was in Christ! Jesus Christ is God! Fact. So repent!
In the same way, the message of Easter is not an invitation to believe that the cross of Christ was in some way special and different from the deaths of other Martyrs. The message of Good Friday is the announcement that on the Cross Christ died for our sins and that saving death is the only way of escape any of us have from a Holy God. So repent! And the good news of Easter day is not an gentle invitation to discover for ourselves that Jesus is alive again. It is the proclamation of the historical fact that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God raised Him from the dead and that is all the proof that anybody will get because that is all the proof that anybody needs that Judgment Day is coming and every single one of us needs to REPENT!
The gospel is an ANNOUNCEMENT - a proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!
Apostle Peter at Pentecost: Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. …. 26 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 9:19 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
PAUL in Athens: Acts 17 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
The supreme task of the church in every generation is to preach the gospel. To proclaim and announce to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!
Not everybody will respond
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you.
The disciples couldn’t afford to get bogged down in one place. There was no time to lose! They had to make sure everybody had heard the good news!
Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
We are speaking representing Jesus
16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Sometimes we can get bogged down in one place in our evangelism. Stuck proclaiming the gospel to one group of people who refuse to listen, when others never get to hear. We are too polite to wipe the dust off our feet and move on. Maybe in some situations we need to learn what it would mean to obey that command. 5 If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.”
It is good to be used by God – but more important that we know God and that God loves us!17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Whether people respond or not to the gospel is all God’s work. It is about revelation by the Holy Spirit. But OUR job is to tell people!!
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. 22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no-one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
We don’t have to convince the world of the truth of the gospel. That is the Work of God the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is the Witness! Jesus said so.
JOHN 15:26 “When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
Yes of course we have our part to play! But it is the Holy Spirit who takes our words and makes them live in people’s hearts.
John 16:8 When the Counsellor, the Helper, comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The Holy Spirit works as the witness for Christ through the resurrection of Christ, through signs and wonders, and through transformed lives.
Not everybody will respond. Not everybody will be saved. As makes that sad reality abundantly clear in the parable of the Sower.
Luke 8:11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
We are not responsible for how people respond to the gospel. We ARE responsible for making sure that we have told them!! That the seed is sown! The old saying is true – you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Our job is not to make people drink from the waters of life. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. But our job is to MAKE SURE that EVERYBODY knows where to find those living waters – to announce the kingdom!
We must deliver the message urgently!
2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Jesus SENDS US out to be His workers
In Mark 16, Jesus commands us: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
Matthew 28:19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
God wants US ALL to be workers in His harvest field
But it won’t be easy or comfortable!
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
It can’t be easy to be a lamb in a field of hungry wolves! Sometimes we stay silent instead of proclaiming the gospel because we don’t want to be eaten alive!
We shouldn’t get bogged down chasing after money. 4 “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals;”
And we should get on with the mission – not get sidetracked! “and do not greet anyone on the road.”
I learned the significance of this verse in Uganda from Rev. Donus Ucanda. A big problem in Africa today as it was in the Middle East in Jesus's day is that if you meet anybody you know as you are going along the road it is only polite to stop and greet them and pass the time of day. By the time you have enquired about their family and they have enquired about your family each stranger you bump into and greet can take ten minutes or even half an hour – and so you can end up so late on the way to where you were going you turn round and go home and decide to make that visit another day. But the gospel is an urgent announcement – we must not get distracted by conventions or politeness from delivering it!
Jesus sends out the 12 LUKE 9:3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.”
The task of the 12 apostles and the 72 disciples Jesus sent out was to proclaim the message to those who listened. They had to keep moving, so that everybody got a chance to hear! To shake the dust off their feet of any town which was not willing to listen!
Notice the pattern of evangelism in Acts – the apostles did occasionally stay in one place for a while. Paul stayed for a year and a half in Corinth. But much MORE OFTEN in Acts we read that he only stayed in any one place for a few days or for a week, then moved on. Because of the URGENCY of making sure that as many people as possible hear the gospel!
So we have a message to deliver, an announcement to make, a gospel to proclaim - that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!
Not everybody will respond – but that is not our problem. Our responsibility is to make the most important announcement anybody will ever hear with all the diligence and urgency we can offer! Because people who never hear are lost without Christ for eternity!
I am always moved by the story of the messenger sent by the King to the prison with a message for the Governor. But it was a hot day and the messenger stopped at a taverna along the way for a tequila. But he was thirsty so he had another tequila. And another. And another. So it was dusk as the messenger arrived at the prison as yet another prisoner was executed. And the messenger delivered his message – it was a letter of pardon, for the prisoner who had just died.
Can we afford to respond to the needs of the world and the challenge of proclaiming the gospel when we have so many other important things to keep us busy? Can we afford NOT TO?
I have a recurring nightmare. It is that on my way to the gates of heaven I will have to walk up a path past all sorts of friends and neighbours I haven't seen for years. Past work colleagues and even members of my family who are trapped outside never to enter. The nightmare is that each one of them will hear each one of them saying to me, “you never told me.” I knew the way to heaven, I had found the way to eternal life, but they say to me, “you never told me.
2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
SO HOW SHOULD WE PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THIS POST-MODERN WORLD?
The gospel for the post-modern world according to Acts 17:16-34
Ø How do we “preach” to people who have rejected ideas of objective truth or authority?
Ø How can we reach out to people when their network of relationships has nothing at all to do with geography? In such a world “Who is my neighbour?”
Ø How can we talk about God as Father and the church as Family when very many people have very different and sometimes very negative experiences of these things?
Ø In this success-oriented world of “instant everything” how can we share the gospel of a suffering dying saviour whose triumph only came through failure?
As we think about proclaiming the gospel in this Post-Modern world, we can learn from the example of Paul in Athens in Acts 7:16-34.
Context for the gospel
The world today is similar to world then: All sorts of different religions and different philosophies
Epicureans – pursuing the simple life; Opposite today – eat drink and be merry, tomorrow we die!
Stoics – suppressing emotion and exalting reason; Opposite today - expressing passion and rejecting reason
Everybody chasing novelty – the latest new ideas
In today’s world it is considered rude to say that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. It is “politically incorrect” to say Jesus is Lord, the only Lord, the only Saviour. But that was just as true in Paul’s time. In fact in those days confessing "Jesus is Lord" cost many martyrs their lives. Yet still Paul spoke out!
Paul went to where people were! Synagogues for Jews, Marketplace for everybody, Areopagus for serious debate
Paul started from where people were. He didn’t condemn their understandings – but tried to lead them forward. He ASSUMED people had a basic yearning for God
27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
This is true – because man made in image of God – although image is marred we all still have enough of God’s image to make us seek after God – Augustine – “our hearts have no rest until they find their rest in you”
God has revealed Himself in Creation
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
We still have conscience – to know right from wrong
Romans 2: 14 when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
The image of God, God’s General Revelation in Creation, human conscience, all enough to make people seek after God, and for us to be justly condemned if we run away and hide from Him.
The gospel itself
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
The challenge to repent. To change direction. To change our minds. To turn away from our sins. To stop running away from God and run back towards him again. God commands all people everywhere to repent! No exceptions! All people everywhere – turn your lives around!
And why should we repent, people ask?
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.
Repent, says Paul, because judgment day is coming! Prepare to meet your Maker! Prepare to meet your doom!
. Our world today is full of people with no regard for the law, and many with no idea at all of right and wrong. I saw a slogan on a T-shirt once, “The only rule is there are no rules.” Many people are living their lives by that slogan! Many people are living as if they never have to answer to ANYBODY else for their actions. “The only rule is there are no rules.”
The vast majority of people today live their lives as if there is no God, as if God doesn’t exist. Some respect man-made laws, some do not. Many people pick and choose which laws they will obey and which they will ignore. Most people are just content to live by the eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught.”
There’s a book by Ray Comfort called “Hell’s best kept secret”. There’s also a website where you can listen to his message. But what is Hell’s best kept secret? What is the great truth that all the powers of evil want to keep secret? What is the truth which would change the world if people really believed it? Simply the truth that God is a Holy and righteous God and every single human being will one day face judgement for all the wrong things they have done!
Hebrews 9:27 every man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
People would live different lives if they only knew that one day they will be called to account for the evil they have done and the good they have left undone. If only people realised that the deeds they have done in secret will one day be brought out where everybody can see them. If only people knew that one day they will come face to face with the God they have rejected and ignored and hidden away from. Here is Paul’s message for the politically correct world where the only rule is there are no rules.
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.
So Paul spent his life warning people about the wrath which is to come. It isn’t fashionable to tell people to change their lives. It doesn’t make you popular to warn people of the disaster and destruction they are rushing headlong towards. The first people who warned us all about global warming were dismissed as crackpots! They were ignored and rejected – but they were right. How much more should we Christians shout from the rooftops our warnings about the judgment which is to come!
And how did Paul know his message was true? What proof could he offer the Athenians that judgment day is coming?
Acts 17:31 (God) has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s proof that Jesus was the Son of God – God incarnate. The resurrection is God’s proof that Jesus is the Saviour of all who put their trust in him – the only escape from the wrath of the Holy God. The resurrection is God’s proof that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Lord, the one and only Lord. And the resurrection is God’s proof that judgment day is indeed coming!
And this is the message we need to proclaim to this Post-Modern world. That God commands all people everywhere to repent – to return to him. Because judgment day is coming! And how can we be sure this is true. Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.