The Message, Not the Messenger

The Message Not the Messenger: Acts 26:16-18

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We often feel we are inadequate or lack enough training or knowledge to share the gospel.  Some of us think we don’t have the ability to be a great orator. We get tongue tied, or speak to softly, or stutter. Some of us are held back from the shame of our past. We wonder how could we ever confront someone on what is right or wrong with the things we have done in our past?  Maybe its that we are not the right color, or the right age, or that we are just a new Christian. Insecurities creep in from every direction.  Our insecurities help is to make millions of excuses why “someone else” should tell people about Jesus and not us.

We compare ourselves to Billy Graham, or some other big named evangelist and tell ourselves that I could never be that useful to God.  We may even compare ourselves to the Apostles and say man, I wish I could be like Luke and write amazing things about Jesus and the church.  We may tell ourselves, I could never be like Paul and plant churches everywhere I go.  To often we look at our own limitations and not what God can do; if we were to just be obedient.

Peter was just an average guy  when he was called by Jesus.  He was a fisherman who made a living by the sweat of his brow and the sores on his hands. Peter denied Christ when he needed him most.  Peter was a man of shame. He had to overcome this in love of Jesus Christ. Paul murdered Christians and suffered beatings, sicknesses, and ridicule.  Paul had to be encouraged in his ministry by other believers, and even had to have a personal physician.  Paul had to overcome all of this in the love of Jesus Christ.  Both men, and even Luke had their failings from the past to look beyond.  They had to keep looking forward to the day of redemption, and to be faithful to the commandment from Jesus that they had received.  The commandment to go and tell.  We however continue to look at our failures and let them assure us that we are unworthy to carry such a message.

The truth is, we are unworthy to carry such a message.  However; we are also uniquely qualified to carry the message of hope.  We to must overcome our past by the love of Jesus Christ. You see we did not earn the privilege to speak on his name.  We received a task that is a privilege to perform for him.  We know our dreadful past with all of the horrific things we have done against God and others.  But we are not the only ones who know.  Those who God sends us to, they know it also.  Our friends and family, wives, siblings, children, parents, they all know who we used to be.  More importantly, we know who we used to be. But we have something to share with them.

What we share with them is hope.  We share with them Jesus and a new life that is free from the past.  We show them by our lives that they do not have to be the same way they are.  There is a way to live without shame, addiction and rejection.  None of us started out the way we ended up.  We all wanted to be something better than what we became.  We show them how Jesus can make us free to live life in a better way than we ever dreamed.  We can have redemption, hope, joy, and love!  We can be loved!  We can love others too! The gospel of Jesus Christ is that and so much more.  But, we hide this important message from them because of our insecurities.  We forget that it is not us, but the Spirit of the Living God who resides in us that gives us the ability to bear witness of the things he has done for us, for them.

We don’t see that before Billy Graham was a world renowned evangelist and clergy to the Office of the President of the United States, he was just another guy.  He gave his life to Christ at the age of 16.  He was a farmer’s son.  His first ministry was to lead prayer meetings in a trailer park.  He applied to be an Army Chaplain and was denied do to a lack of formal experience.  He then became a Pastor of a small Baptist church.  He began to host a weekly radio program.  Billy Graham looked for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eventually he became the first full time organizer of Youth for Christ.  This is what God used to open doors all across the world for many generations.  Billy Graham was of humble beginnings, without experience, and largely unlearned, and often felt inadequate to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he was obedient.  It is God who made Billy Graham, Paul, Peter, Luke, and all the other historic men and women of God who they are today.

In Acts 26 we get a look at Paul, or Saul at this time.  It is strange, but; when we consider who would have been the first martyrs of the church we would assume that it would be one of the twelve apostles.  You know the guys who were right there, and saw it all go down.  I could see Peter volunteering himself to go first.  After all, he did tell Jesus that he would go with him unto death!  However; this is not the case.  Instead, the first martyr recorded was a young man.  This youth was named Stephen.  Stephen was one of the deacons of the church.  He tended to the widows, orphans, and other needs of the church and it’s members.  Like other early followers, he was not restricted to just administrative tasks, but was active in spreading the gospel himself.  This is something that we should all learn.  Even though he was a deacon, he understood that his work for the gospel of Jesus did not end there.  He didn’t say, “I’m a deacon, not a preacher”.  In fact, if you study the book of acts you will see that all of the first deacons were also preachers, and evangelists.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what seminary or special training that Stephen went though, or how powerful of a speaker he was.  It does not tell us that Stephen was anything exceptional.  With the exception of this, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8)  Stephen was full of faith!  That is it.  Because Stephen was full of faith, God did great wonders and miracles through Stephen.  So this humble young man who believed enough to share his faith soon got into trouble with the local religious groups.

Stephen was brought up on charges of blasphemy for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony of Jesus.  Now a man named Saul, was one of those present and took pleasure at the stoning of Stephen.  This Saul, would become known as Paul, the same one who would latter change the world with the doctrine of salvation by grace, hated believers in Jesus Christ.  Saul even went further and received authorization to persecute Christians throughout the Providences of Asia.  This meant he had permission to go from town to town and arrest, beat, and stone to death anyone who he witnessed or was witnessed to him, as a Christian.

Paul himself testifies of his own evil deeds that he did.  He tells King Agrippa that he threw many “followers of the way” (Christians) into prison and saw to it that they were executed. Paul himself would testify against them in courts. He said that he often punished them in the synagogues.  He would back them into a corner with his knowledge of scripture and his intellect and force them to commit blasphemy in front of the Pharisees so that they would be stoned to death. When the persecuted fled Jerusalem, then Paul proceeded to hunt them down throughout Asia.  Now, I ask you.  What have you done that is shameful?  What has disqualified you from sharing the gospel?  How many innocent lives have you taken?  How many followers of Jesus Christ have you condemned to death?

OK, so this Saul was on a hunting trip to catch more followers of the Way. Then while Paul is riding along and anticipating his trophies to be won, suddenly, he runs right smack dab into Jesus.  Jesus blinds Saul with his glory and then confronts him on his sin.  Saul, like you and I, repented.  Saul saw the error of his ways, his foolish pride and arrogance, his sins against God himself.  His errors in the past swept before his heart and his mind’s eye.  Saul was immediately sorrowful and his shame was displayed before him.  He suddenly understood how shameful he was.  He was not the righteous soldier of God he had imagined in his vanity.  Instead he was a murderer of the ones that truly loved God.  Saul had worked his whole life and studied hard to be pleasing to God, and yet he had not seen the light.  He was lost, more than any other man. He also knew that his actions, above of all other men’s, could not be forgiven.  The pride that had blinded him, was now gone.  Saul was broken.

Then something happened.  Jesus forgave Paul.  He forgave him of everything, with nothing left out to hold over his life.  Just like Jesus forgave you and I.  But that would not be the only thing that Jesus did for Saul.  Jesus sent Saul on mission. Acts 26:16-18 tells of about this, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Paul was to rise to his feet, but to never think to highly of himself again.  Paul’s humility would be the strength that God would use to spread his gospel of grace by faith.  Jesus told Paul, “rise and stand upon thy feet.”  Jesus told him to stand up, I have a job for you.  Jesus confronted Paul of his sin.  Once Paul confessed and repented, Jesus stood him up and gave him purpose.  The Lord gave Paul a new life and a new purpose, in and for Jesus Christ.  Now that Paul had been delivered, he was not to return to his old life.  Paul would no long serve his own purposes.  Paul, now that he was redeemed was now a servant of the Lord who had redeemed him.

Paul’s new purpose was to go where the Lord directed and “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

How did Paul start out this mission?  He was humble.  He was blind.  He was dependent upon those around him.  He was led about by the hand. He had to wait on the Lord.  When Paul first started preaching, no one listened to him.  His past immediately came up, and people did not trust him.  They didn’t believe in his conversion.  Then when they did start listening they tried to kill him.  Does this sound familiar?  When you first believed in Christ, were you not treated in such a way?  Did friends and family disbelieve the sincerity of your conversion?  Did they say things like, “Awe you just on a Jesus kick!” Afterward, they would then grow tired of you talking about Jesus and even begin to be confrontational, or avoiding you.  See these same things you go through, even the great Apostle Paul went through.  All of these feelings of inadequacy.  Things that encourage you to just crawl in a hole and not mention the name of the one who redeemed you.  They are real things the enemy uses to silence us.

See we are all the same.  We are all just servants, none of us is better or more important than the other. We all need to be obedient and follow the calling of Christ.  This mission that Jesus gave Saul, it the same one he gave the other disciples.  It is the same one he gives us as new disciples.  This is part of our inheritance.  We have the great privilege to speak life to people in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ.  Let us then do like Saul, who became known as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let us get up and put our old lives behind us.  Live the life and purpose that Jesus has now given to us.  Go on mission to tell others about what God has done for you.  How he has delivered YOU from death and shame into love and life in Jesus Christ.  Have we forgotten that the Lord told the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”   We are who the Lord chose to reveal himself to; those who are sick, and feeble, those who are in need.  He did not come to call the religious, but those who are lost and need redemption.  He did not call the perfect, but those who are broken and distraught.  Those who need him are the ones he came to deliver.

We who have believed have now been made anew.  Like a new garment that is clean and nicely pressed we have a new life.  The Spirit of God has come to indwell this new wineskin, not the old. Jesus had laid his hands upon us and healed us from our infirmities.  Jesus removed the shackles of death and the bondage of sin (addictions) that once crippled us.  He has raised us up to be glorified in him, to him, and for him.  We like Saul have been redeemed, bought, for his purposes.  It is by faith that we have been made whole.  Faith that God exists. Faith that Jesus if the Son of God.  Faith that Jesus dies and was buried for our sin.  Faith that we will be resurrected just as he resurrected.  Faith that he will return to establish his kingdom here on earth and destroy his enemies. Faith that we are delivered to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is our hope in this life.  We have this newness of life in Christ.  Death died with the old man we used to be.  Now we have a new life in Jesus Christ.  This new life is free from sin, shame, and death.  We have nothing to fear in this life and can then love as Christ has love us.  There is nothing that anyone can hold against this new creature in Christ that we have become.  Paul told Timothy, “let no man despise they youth”. Let no man despise you’re youth, in age or spiritual maturity, for many elders in the church have gone to sleep spiritually.

So again let us, open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among we which are sanctified by faith that is in us concerning Jesus Christ.

The Need of God-fearing Men

The Need of God-Fearing Men

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In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd.  This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in.  The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services.  Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy.  This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station.  A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities.  In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit.  I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes.  In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me.  There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber.  The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.

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When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors.  Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area.  What is the income level?  What is the major ethnic population?  What is the major health or poverty driven issue?  What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease?  How many children per home?  How many single mother homes are in the populace?   All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church.  However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground.  The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age.  This is true in more than one way.  But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental.  We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.

I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room.  The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach.  They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour.  The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”.  In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying.  The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all.  Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved.  The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.

I want to make something clear.  Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service.  It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry.  They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.

Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service.  They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed.  They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things.  In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items.  We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down.  The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved.  Men are the leaders in the church.  When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear.  A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done.  A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished.  A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.

These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service.  John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”   This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ.  He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom.  We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men.  I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”.  However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders.  Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself.  We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church.  Men need to be held to a standard and accountability.  These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them.  These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church.  To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.

I showed up at one of these churches early one morning.  While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name.  I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.”  Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying.  The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared.  Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry.  I joined the church that service.  That was all it took.

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Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel.  Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings.  There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.

Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another.  We should also pray for one another.  Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16)  Wow!  Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe.  Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry.  However, it also includes mentorship in Christ.  Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.

Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services.  I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies.  The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning.  It means to share on one’s self.  This means that we should be living in fellowship.  We should be involved in one another’s lives.  We should be giving towards one another.  We should be living with one another on a daily basis.  Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another.  This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches.  Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.

The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home.  1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”.  This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding.  We should act like mature men, not like children.  We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit.  We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture.  We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error.  We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures.  We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God.  In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men.  Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost.  Men who lead.  If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her.  The husband may not go.  She has no authority to make him.  The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.

The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church.  This is because, boys want to be like their fathers.  The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?”  In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself.  However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church.   He has that authority.  The wife who wishes to please her husband will go.  The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents.  More so if the father is actively involved in the church.  Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance.   The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ.  A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.

The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society.  To much of that nonsense has already happened.  We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community.  Men that are bold in their profession of faith.  Men that stand up for what is right.  Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.

When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men.  When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men.  The first recorded martyr was also a man.  The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men.  I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today.  That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service.  He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock.  Then he gives some criteria.

I know what you are most likely thinking.  This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these?  He says that a man of God should be blameless.  There should be no cause for accusation in his life.  He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church.  He should be the husband of one wife.  This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife.  He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy.  He should be vigilant.  This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others.  Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him.  He should be sober.  He should be of a good nature and not into mischief.  He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others.  He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself.  The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)

These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches.  Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord.  Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church.  In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties.  Israel became scattered having no leadership.  The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey.  They were weak and sickly.  This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?

Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”.  Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3.  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church.  He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal.  They are not doing the things of the Lord.  Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out.  Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close?  They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.

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Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church.  In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church.  Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect.  You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life.  We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing.  We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows.  (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.

Evangelism in the Sunday School

Evangelism in the Sunday School

Sunday school is probably the most important arm of the fruitful, evangelistic, church.  The secret to long-lasting, exponential grown in the local church is in the efforts put forward by teachers who have an evangelistic mindset and desire to save souls.

Ken Hemphill wrote in Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur:

The Sunday School must be plugged into a passion for evangelism; otherwise, it will settle into the comfort zone of a maintenance organization. By ignoring the evangelistic potential of the Sunday School, we have reduced Sunday School to a stagnant pool of introverted groups that look primarily to their own needs and interests and ignores the plight of the unsaved.

(“How Is Evangelism Related to Sunday School?” Sunday School Leaders, 19 Aug. 2014, www.sundayschoolleader.com/722/.)

The Tennessee Baptist Convention did a 25-year study that looked at the number of baptisms per year and compared it to the numbers of attendance in Sunday School programs.  What they found was in the churches that used effective evangelism in their Sunday school programs had the highest baptism rates for the time period studied.

In 1923, Dr. P. E. Burroughs published a classic called Winning to Christ, a Study in Evangelism. In this publication Dr. Burroughs explains the purpose of the Sunday school.

Beyond all question the supreme business of the Sunday school is winning to Christ.  We do not forget to obscure the necessity of divine grace in the saving of men and in their spiritual growth, when we urge faithful human effort.  This is our task; taking the child at the threshold of ts life, we are, through the ministry of the Cradle Roll and through the instruction and training of the Beginners and Primary departments, to prepare him for Christ; very early we are, through divine grace, to bring him to a personal surrender to Christ and acceptance of Him as Saviour and Lord; then we are to seek to bring him to a personal surrender to Christ and acceptance of Him as Saviour and Lord; then we are to seek to bring his whole life into harmony with God’s will and to make him a Christian in all the depth and wetness of that term.

Failing here, we have failed utterly. It is of little avail that our youths shall grow up to know the Bible if they do not come to know by a vital experience the Christ of the Bible.  It is of little moment that men shall come to know the framework of Bible history if they are not to know the living Spirit which breathes in every part of that history.  We have signally failed it, having taught out youths the Ten Commandments of God, we do not bring them to know and obey the God of the Ten Commandments; if, having taught them to know the twelve apostles of our Lord, we do not bring them to know our Lord Himself.  Let all the estates of Israel, let all the forces of the home and the Sunday school set forth this as the supreme goal, that the young life about us shall be redeemed by the blood and brought into complete subjection and conformity to the will of Christ. – Dr. P. E. Burroughs. Winning for Christ.

Many if not most Sunday school programs cannot grow because they do not have an evangelistic approach.  There is focus on reaching out to new people.  They are not prepared when new people show up. They do not even try to follow up with new members or guests attendance.  When we talk of Sunday school, we are not just talking about the children’s church or the young adult’s classes.  We are talking about the complete church program of teaching bible students in the local church, in order for the student to grow in the knowledge and fruits of faith in Jesus Christ. Sunday school is not just a church social club.  It should be involved in evangelism, ministry, and discipleship.   Without these three parts, the Sunday school program will dry up and wither away.

Developing effective evangelism and discipleship methods in the Sunday school is important to the local church.  Effective training, coaching and practical application can be safely implemented in the Sunday school program.  Implementation of weekend and afterschool/work activities of walking through neighborhoods handing out fliers, bibles, and even personal witnessing will get your church out where it belongs, in the marketplaces of the community.   A culture of Sunday school evangelism creates an environment that holds one another accountable and encourages the young/new believer in the sharing of their faith.

Evangelist Dr. Summers states that 82 percent of all current church members come from the Sunday school program.  A clear indicator of a church that does not have an effective evangelistic Sunday program is the presence of the elderly church.  I travel to many different churches across Texas, and I can see the blatant signs everywhere.  I know of churches that are filled with elderly who sit in the pews and classrooms, and whose tithes and offerings help the church with a great many things, and by their financial report, these churches appear to be very healthy, yet they only have one or two youths in the whole youth department.  I mean of school grades from 3rd to college level, there are only a handful of youth.  Those that are there only come because their parents make them come.

This may not seem bad, however; in just a few short years, the youth grow up and leave, the elderly die off, or become unable to come to services, and slowly and painfully, the church just dries up.  If you can picture a dead tree, the tree is still standing yet the inside is rotten, and decayed, eventually it will collapse on itself because it has nothing inside, no root system, and no fruits. Yet just a few blocks away the church there has a vibrant youth program with 10 – 20 students in every classroom.  What is the difference?  An attitude of Evangelism is throughout the church.  The successful church shows a constant desire to win souls for Christ.  Like scripture reads, as you sow, so shall you reap.

An evangelistic Sunday school program has rewards other than the obvious spiritual rewards.  These rewards have some very tangible advantages to the local church.  The primary of which is that is opens the doors to local schools, and community events and outreach opportunities.  An effective evangelistic Sunday school program puts the church on the front line of the battle for the hearts and minds of the community.  The church is no longer a building that the lost just drive by.  Instead it is a beacon of light in the community.  The Evangelistic Sunday school draws the lost and allows the Spirit of God to reach out to individuals of all ages that would normally have not responded to other evangelistic means.  The potential for evangelism in the Sunday school is unlimited.

Let us not also forget those who are in the Sunday school because they are forced to be by their parents, or a spouse.  Yes; a spouse, we cannot forget the adult Sunday school participants.  You see those that are there sitting in your classes, no matter their age, or how long they have attended, may not be saved. Pastor Richard Sumner (of New Hope Baptist in League City, Texas) relayed a story to me one time about a man that would come to his services faithfully every Sunday.  This man proudly announced repeatedly that he did not believe, but that he came because it pleased his wife.

There are other couples, in my church, where one spouse comes and goes to the services, and the Sunday school, because their spouse is a believer.  Some have even been saved, as the Word of God is explained to them through the Sunday school teacher.  To be honest with you I know of more Christians who say that they were saved in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School, under the direction of a volunteer teacher, then those that were saved by listening to a corporate evangelist or a preacher.  God is truly amazing.

The point is we never know what the spiritual condition of someone is, when they enter our Sunday school, whether it be for the first time, or the one-hundredth time. We do not know what they are dealing with in their lives, or what the Spirit is dealing with in their heart.  We must keep in our mind that even though students come to our classes, they may not be saved.  All of them know, deep in their hearts that they should be saved.  Even though they may put up a front, they want to be saved.  Paul spent time in the market places, daily making argument for Christ and Grace.  This is your time to make your arguments.  We cannot let the lost who come to our classes slip through our fingers.

Once saved we must instill, in the newly saved, the necessity to share their faith to others.  We must teach them how to share their faith.  We must disciple them and encourage them to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called.  We must show them that there is an expectation from Jesus that they too are to share the gospel to their friends, their family, and their immediate community. In short, we must bring them up in the way that they must go, so they will not depart from it.

The student of the Sunday school classroom is of vital importance to the church, their family, the community, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The student of the Sunday school then becomes a part of the body that is necessary for the whole body to function properly.  Instruction must be given with how to read and study scripture, what is sound doctrine, historical Christianity and the importance of their role in the Kingdom of God. This brings us to an important part of the Sunday school program-the teachers.

Many churches will spend months or even years in selecting a Pastor.  Personally, I think that is a bit extreme, but the role of the Pastor is extremely important.  The Pastor has many responsibilities and his vision that God has given him for the church is very important.  Poor leadership can wreck a church. However, many times churches will immediately take the first person who volunteers to teach a class.  There is not formal vetting, no board review, or selection committee appointed to fill these vital positions.  Teachers play a vital role in the church and are very influential positions.  Most regular attending members of the church will spend more time with, and receive more biblical instruction from the Sunday school teacher, then from the Pastor.

In the book The Biblical Evangelist there is a good basic list of things we should look for in a Sunday school teacher.

Qualifications for Sunday School Teachers:

  • Must be a person who loves people
  • Must be a person wo believes God
  • Must be a person who lives Christ
  • Must be a person who knows the Bible
  • Must be a person who visits
  • Must have sound Doctrine (added by me)
  • Must be able to pass a background check (added by me)
  • Must be a member of the local church for at least 6 months (added by me)

These may seem like they are obvious, however; I met a man who has taught Sunday school for over 10 years at a youth program.  Eventually this young man became the head of the youth department.  Once we were alone and began to discuss in detail his approach to Sunday school, he confessed to me that he does not even believe the Bible.  He is not sure if God even exists as the sole creator of the universe.  When I asked him what he teaches, he said he mainly just teaches the philosophy of the scriptures. Folks this is Gnosticism!  This is the very heresy that divide the early church.

Think of all of the hundreds of souls that were lost because of the failure of the church elders who did not vet or monitor this Sunday school teacher.  Even worse, they promoted him, and gave him a salary to spread his false doctrine into all levels of the program.  No purpose for saving souls was in this Sunday school.  How many others were lost because of the false doctrine his students then shared.  Sunday school should not be a second-hand venture passed off to the first person who comes along.

The Pastor should take time to intentionally disciple the Sunday school teachers and administrators.  The direct involvement of the Pastor will let his vison of evangelism guide and direct the teachers and will unite the church in the common mission of saving souls and raising up disciples that will unashamedly seek souls for the glorification of Christ.

We should also create an environment in the Sunday school that allows the unchurched or unsaved newcomer to feel accepted and valued.  They should feel comfortable in asking, “the stupid questions”.  They should be invited back.  Invited into the sanctuary to listen to the preacher and see how worship is conducted. Taken out for coffee or lunch after the services.  We should teach with substance, so that we are not wasting their time, or our opportunity. Summarize previous lessons to bring them up to date on the current lesson.

We can also create a culture of Evangelistic Sunday school by having regular prayer meeting with all the teaching staff and administrators.

Some things that the Sunday school staff could pray for:

  • Eyes to see the needs in the community and the opportunity to evangelize
  • Pray for boldness to testify and share the Word
  • Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Hunger for the lost
  • Desire to serve Jesus faithfully
  • Confidence in the scriptures
  • Patience and awareness to be a good living witness
  • Pray for the lost

Soliciting prayers from students and praying for them before the class starts.  You can also pray for the class to have the same things we mentioned for the staff.

You should also develop an expectation of sharing in the class and out in the world.  Give a few moments for someone to share a personal testimony.  Encourage your Sunday school members to plant seeds for the gospel by sharing what they have learned this week with a friend or a family member, or a co-worker.  Then the following week ask for testimonies of how they shared what they learned in class.

Dr. Joseph Clark wrote a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 for Sunday school workers.  I thought this would be something that you might want to share with your Sunday school workers in the future.

“Though I speak with the tongues of scholarship, and though I use approved methods of education, and fail to win my pupils to Christ, or to build them up in Christian character, I am become as the man of the wind in a Syrian desert.

And though I have the best of teaching skill and understand all the mysteries of religious knowledge, and lost not myself in the task of winning others to Christ, I become as a cloud of mist in an open sea.

And though I read all Sunday school literature, and attend Sunday school conventions and institutes and summer schools, and yet am satisfied with less than winning to Christ and establishing my pupils in Christian character and service, it profiteth nothing.

The soul-winning teacher, the character-building teacher, suffereth long and is kind; he envieth not others who are free from the teaching task; he counteth not himself, is not puffed up with intellectual pride.

Such a teacher doth not behave himself unseemly between Sundays, seeketh not his own comfort, is not easily provoked.

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things.

And now abideth knowledge, methods, evangelism, these three; but the greatest of these is evangelism.”

I hope that this has been an encouragement to you and to your way of looking at the Sunday school program.  Evangelism in the Sunday school program is the seed that is planted that will eventually grow a strong and vibrant church for years to come.  Like any crop, it must be tended to, watered in due season, and fertilized.  A hedge should be built about it to keep out the wolves.  Constant monitoring is necessary to keep out the weeds.

 

References

“How Is Evangelism Related to Sunday School?” Sunday School Leaders, 19 Aug. 2014, www.sundayschoolleader.com/722/.

Burroughs, Prince Emanual. Winning to Christ: a Study in Evangelism. Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention, 1923.

Sumner, Robert L. Biblical Evangelism in Action. Sword of the Lord, 1966.

The Roman Road

Matthew 4:17-19, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And he saith unto them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”

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1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

In a web article written by R. C. Sproul published in 2014 for Ligonier Ministries, the Reform Theologist declared,

“One of the most important subdivisions of theology is Christology, which is the study of the person and work of Christ.  Within that field of study, when we want to get at the aspect that is most crucial, the aspect that we may call the “crux” of the matter of Jesus’ person and work, we go immediately to the cross.  The words crucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for “cross”, crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity.  In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus.”  (Sproul, R.C. “What Does It Mean to Know Nothing except Christ and Him Crucified?” Ligonier Ministries, 11 Apr. 2004, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-it-mean-christ-and-him-crucified/.)

Every Christian should be in the business of witnessing for Christ and the power of the Cross in our lives. We should be sharing what Christ can and will do for those of whom we are speaking to, or communicating with.  When Jesus told Peter that he was going to be a “fisher of men”, he meant that his purpose in life was to make disciples.  This is the mission of every Christian who is on the face of the earth.  The first part of discipleship is the process of personal evangelism.  As we see by the example of Paul, the cross is the center or our message.

This is our objective then, to share Jesus Christ, and his work of salvation that was completed at the Cross, Jesus declared on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30).  These are probably the most important words ever said in the history of man on earth, maybe even in all creation.

What are we trying to tell the individual about this work of the cross?

Personal Evangelism is about relaying this information:

  • The individual is lost
  • Christ made sufficient provisions for them
  • Salvation is only obtained by faith in Jesus and the work of the cross
  • A choice must be made

As we begin our personal evangelism efforts; we must consider how important our relationship with to whom we are speaking.  It is actually very rare to find someone, especially in the United States, that has not already heard something about Jesus.  They have been informed from a wide variety of sources.

Most of these sources are unfortunately untrustworthy.  There have been a lot of false teachings, frauds, and legalist that have convoluted the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to gain authority or financial supremacy over others.  Many have been enslaved by false doctrines and blinded by Church Dogma. Their perception of Christ has been understandably distorted.

For this reason, evangelism is an ever changing process, but one thing will always remain true.  The best way to evangelize is always through a personal relationship with the prospect.  Gaining the trust of the lost soul, in order to show them Jesus Christ. In this manner we can show what a personal relationship with Jesus looks like.

A genuine relationship disproves lies, and breaks down fears, stereotypes, pain, and anger.  It gives you an opportunity to speak to the heart of the individual and address their spiritual need on an ongoing basis, developing trust, and opening doors through the intervention of prayer and the Holy Spirit.  The importance of this was relayed by God himself.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14a).  God, through Jesus Christ, became accessible to man on an intimate level. To dwell among us means to reside, or live with.  God came and shared his time with us.  This is what the church needs to do.  This is what you need to do as a Christian. Get into the neighborhood, embrace a neighbor, learn their stories, develop relationships for the sake of spreading the gospel, showing them Jesus.  Jesus ate with sinners, ministered to the sick, confronted false doctrine.  If we are the salt of the earth, then this is how we must live to be effective for the cause of Christ.

The most common route of scripture that is used for leading someone to Christ is referred to as “The Roman Road”.  This is a selection of scriptures from the book of Romans.  These verses lay out the plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  There are some small variations, however they following verses are commonly used.

Rome1

The “Roman Road” Plan

  • Gain the attention

o   Romans 3.23

o   Romans 3.10

o   Romans 5:12

  • Establish the Need

o   Romans 6:23

  • Supply the Answer

o   Romans 5:8

  • Close the Deal

o   Romans 10:9-10

o   Romans 10:13

o   Reassure

o   Romans 10:17

Deeper Look

We must never assume that whoever we are speaking to has a proper understanding of God.  We must also never assume that they are ignorant of scripture.  When I share scripture with someone I generally either tell them the scripture in a form of conversation or either locate the scripture and pass my bible to them and have them read it aloud for themselves, then I begin a dialog with basically asks them to tell me what they have read and what they think it means.  This is where knowing other scriptures than the Roman Road comes into play.  The other scriptures can be used to explain the text and give it context.  Your personal witness gives you the ability to make it real to them.

Romans 3.23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3.10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

With these opening verses we establish some facts concerning God.  We show that God is a holy God. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5).  He has established a set of laws, we commonly refer to as the 10 Commandments.  These were established to show us the holiness of God, and how impossible it is to be righteous and holy like God is.

It does not matter how “good” we are in compression to someone else.  If we point the finger at our neighbor who cheated on his wife, and yet we look at his daughter with lust, we are still just as guilty of adultery as our neighbor is (Matthew 5:28). So when the Lord said thou shalt not commit adultery, you violated that commandment. But the list goes on, how many “white” lies have you told? How many times have you passed on gossip about someone else?  If so then when the Lord said thou shalt not bear false witness of they neighbor, you violated the law in both external application and internal intent.

The Ten Commandments are only an outline of the Law, if you could not even keep them, then how could you ever hope to keep the whole law?  But even if it were possible to keep the entire law with every jot and every tittle you would still have the inherited sin of rebellion that has been passed down from the original sin of Adam.  Some sins follow generations.

Ever here of “Sins of the father?”  This is an illustration that shows a spiritual principle, “Sin has a consequence for the sinner and his whole family, even to the children and grandchildren.”  This is also why some sins take what is called a Break in the Cycle to alleviate.  An example is child or spousal abuse, or even alcoholism, or drug abuse.  Lee Strobel cites that almost down to the last, every predominant atheist in history has had issues with their Father, either abuse, neglect, or abandonment.  Prisons are filled with men and women who had the same issues.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The argument then comes to “I didn’t know”.  There are some terms that are thrown around in the legal system.

  • Malum in se (latin) – meaning wrong or evil in itself. In other words, “the act is inherently wrong by nature, independent of regulations governing conduct.
  • Malum in prohibitum (latin) – meaning wrong because prohibited.
  • Ignorantia juris non excusat or inorantia legis neminem excusat (latin) – basically both terms mean that ignorance of the law excuses no one.

So if we as mankind expect adherence to our laws, customs, and norms of society, and do not excuse ignorance of the law as a defense to defer adjudication, then why do we expect God too?

Now knowing that we are all guilty of violating the law of God and thus fore failing to live up to God’s standard of Holiness what does that mean?  Just like when you violate a law in society there is a consequence.  The consequence is death.

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15).

Death brings an end to the hope of redemption.  “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27).

Death brings a time for judgement.  You can kind of explain it like this.  When you break the law, the police come and arrest you.  You are put in jail and then you are brought before the judge.  But unlike here in the United States, you only have a prosecutor, “Satan” and no lawyer for your own defense.  You are brought before the court, God is the Judge, the Word of God is the Law you are judged from.  Satan is the prosecutor and the witness against you.  It doesn’t matter what kind of “cool dude” you thought Satan was while you were living, he is revealed as your enemy and takes pleasure in insuring you fate,  a sentence of Death.  There is no appeal process.  Because God is just and holy, and  there is no higher authority, His judgement is final. Ignorance, willful or not, is no excuse.

The death penalty is so fierce it is described as “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and described as fiery torment.

  • Matthew 13:42 – And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  • Matthew 13:50 – And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  • Matthew 22:13 – Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • Matthew 24:51 – And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • Matthew 25:30 – And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I know there are allot of preachers out there that say we should not speak of hell, but I don’t see how we can love someone and not warn them of the truth of their fate without Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Ignorance is no excuse, and judgement is final, the consequence is death.  But there is hope!  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Jesus Christ himself, who is God, provided the payment for the penalty.  Jesus died in your place.  This was the whole purpose for Jesus coming to the earth. He voluntarily took your place and received your death sentence.

He died so that you would not have too. In doing this, he stepped in as your lawyer in the throne room of God. Every sin you have ever  inherited from Adam, or committed in your life or will be has been removed from your account by the death of Jesus.  You have been set free from the penalty of death because he died.

That is what is so different of Jesus from any other religion on earth.  God loved you so much the God died for you.  NO other religion, no other philosophy, no other science can, nor will make that claim.  Not Buddha, Not Mohammad, not the Pope, no one can say that they restored you to God, but God himself in the form of Jesus who is the Christ, the living Son of God.

On top of that, you did nothing to earn it.  Look again at Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It is a gift! A gift is a contribution, bequest (inheritance), bestowment, payment on behalf of someone else.  In it’s truest form requires no cost to the receiver.  This is more than just a “get out of hell free card”. More than just getting into “heaven”. This gift is eternal life in communion with God.  This gift restores you whole being to what it was meant to be before Adam ever sinned.

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If you confess faith in Jesus, and Lord and Saviour of your soul and really believe in your heart that Jesus provides justification through his death, and believe that Jesus rose from the grave then you shall be saved according to your acceptance and profession of faith.  It takes an internal belief, acceptance in faith that results in a public profession in Jesus.

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Whosoever means “anyone who will” believer and choose to act on their belief will be saved.  The bible says that even the demons believe in Jesus.  So believing in God, or even believing that Jesus existed and was a “good man” or a “prophet” won’t save you.  You have to understand that Jesus is the only way to salvation and call out to him.  You have to depend on him for your salvation.  If you were hanging out the window of a burning building, and a fireman on a ladder told you to take his hand and to trust him not to let you go, you can say all you want to, but until you take his hand you wont be saved.  It’s the same with the kingdom of God.

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Now is your time to choose.  Do you believe what I have told you?  Do you understand what the scriptures say about life and death?  Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God that was sent to die for you?  Do you believe that he wants you to live in freedom, right by his side?  Will you accept his give of life, or will you choose to die?

 

1 John 1:1-4 What Have Your Heard?

1 John 1:1-4 What Have You Heard?

  1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
  2. (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
  3. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
  4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John was so overwhelmed with the importance of his message that he dispensed with normal salutations and introductions what would normally arrive in such a letter. During the time of the writing of this epistle the church was being influenced with by the acceptance of Gnosticism.

The Gnostics were marked with a philosophy that had a variety of views, one such basic view is that the spirit is good and matter is inherently evil, and the two constantly war against one another.  So then the one who is more knowledgeable or of a strong enough will, could overcome the weaknesses of the flesh. As a result Gnosticism held two major thoughts on Christ.

Docetic Gnosticism held that the humanity of Christ was ethereal, and that he only appeared to have a body. That is that Jesus was just a phantom force, which appeared and had no real physical substance.

Cerinthus Gnosticism held that the man Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary was not the “Christ” until is was bestowed upon him at his baptism and then the Spirit empowered his ministry, and then it left him before the crucifixion.

Now you may ask, who cares if they believed this?  What does it matter?  Well either view of Jesus in this manner removes the incarnation of Christ, and the atonement of his sacrifice.  The word “incarnation” simply means “the act of being made flesh”.  In other words, Jesus was indeed the Son of God and became man through his divine intervention and as such remained both God and man.

The Gospel of John puts it this way.  “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1).

If Jesus was not “Christ” from before his birth, through his death, and resurrection then he would have been just a man.  As a man, he could not have escaped the original sin of Adam. Jesus could not have brought atonement because he would have had sin.  It doesn’t matter how enlightened he may have been.  Knowledge does not relieve us of sin, knowledge exposes sin.

You see Adam (man) was created by God.  In fact man was singled out from all of God’s creation to be made in the likeness of God.  As part of this likeness of God man was created with a free will.  When man was created and set in the world he was given dominion over all the earth and man was without sin.  In fact when God finished creation He looked at it and said that it was “good”.

But man rebelled against God, of his own free will, and then sin entered into man, and a curse has since followed man.  Now that man was in sin and darkness, he was separated from God, because God is pure and righteous.  His presence would destroy man.  Romans 5:12 tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered in to the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.

So you see a man cannot save man, because he is already tainted with sin.  Only God can save man, through a sinless sacrifice that would only be made once, one that could cover all of man’s sin, past, present and future.  There could only be one way to bridge the gap between man (creation) and God (Creator), God would have to provide the sacrifice.  This shows the necessity of God becoming man.

God had compassion on man.  God in his grace, had a plan to redeem man, from the very beginning.

The whole bible from beginning to end is a revelation of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 3:15 God tells the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve into rebellion that, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This is the first prophecy concerning the salvation that would come through Jesus.  There are over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus in his short life here on earth, and there are still more prophecies yet to be fulfilled upon his return.

The author of this letter claims to be an eye witness to the ministry of Christ.  This makes the author and authority on who Jesus is and what he is doing. We must not ever forget the importance of having a witness.  John is telling his readers of this epistle that the things that they have been taught concerning Jesus is the truth and has been witnesses by them.  The witnesses are in what they have heard, both in the scriptures and in the words of Jesus.

  • Your testimony of what Jesus has done in your life is your witness of the truth of Jesus.
  • No one else can stand up and proclaim what you have seen and what you have heard from God.
  • No one else can explain how the love of Jesus has changed your heart.
  • No one else can explain the release of the guilt and the shame that you have suffered.

There is an old saying that people love to use.  “Who are you to judge me?” This is a true statement.  Who are you?  To many Christians get saved and in their enthusiasm to have others convert, forget that they were once lost and in rebellion.  They forget that it took someone who in genuine concern reached out and connected with them.

And you know how they did that?

  • They shared who they were, and who they are now.
  • They shared how Jesus made that difference and they shared the love that was given to them – freely.

It does not matter how much time we spend in church, Sunday school, or in memorizing bible scriptures.  It doesn’t even matter if we speak in tongues, or if we can heal others at a touch.  What matters is if we can reach out in love.  We have to love others enough to overcome the fear and insecurity of sharing our testimony.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” (John 13:35).  He also said that I speak that which I have heard of the father.  Jesus led by example.

He didn’t talk about things he didn’t know.

  • He talked about things of heaven.
  • He explained the things that pertained to the Kingdom of God.
  • He gave examples and illustrations.
  • He testified of things he knew, that he had seen, and he had heard.

How?

  • Because he is God.
  • He existed before creation.
  • He was the creator.

So what do you know? What have you seen?  What have you heard?

You know the truth

  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Jesus is faithful
  • Jesus loves you
  • Jesus forgave you
  • Jesus provided atonement for you
  • Jesus released you from your bondage
  • From sexual immortality
  • From lies
  • From disease
  • From the bondage of sin
  • Jesus gave you a choice again
  • You are no longer a slave
  • You have eternal life

These are the things that are in your testimony.  Henry Clay Trumbull (1830-1903) is considered one of God’s pioneers in soul-winning evangelism.  In fact he wrote the first books ever devoted strictly to the principles of personal evangelism.  He was a renowned expositor of scripture, missionary, organizer and lecturer.  He was the editor of the Civil War era publication. “The Sunday School Times”.  He was the author of 38 books in total.  He lectured at Yale University and traveled relentlessly spreading and teaching the gospel.  Yet here is what he said concerning personal evangelism.

“Looking back upon my work in all these years I can see more direct results of good through my individual efforts with individuals that I can know of through all my spoken words to thousands upon thousands of persons in religious assemblies, or all my written words on the pages of periodicals or of books.  Reaching one person at a time is the BEST way of reaching all the world in time.”

When Jesus said no man lights a candle and puts it under a table, but he puts in on top of the table so that all who enter the house can see the light, he was talking about you.  You are the light of Christ!  Don’t put it under a table and hide it!  Tell somebody what Jesus has done for you. –Amen!

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What Are We Here For?

What Are We Here For?

I walk around and I see allot of empty churches.  I see Christians afraid to speak up in their community, and being passive to the point that we have let our freedom to worship the one true God be taken away.  I think this might be because Christians don’t have an understanding of who they are.

Question: Why didn’t God take us to heaven the moment we were saved? Wouldn’t it have just been easier, to just take you, as soon as you confessed Jesus as Savior? As soon as you said, “Oh God! Have mercy on a poor sinner like me!” Then ZAP! You’re in the presence of God. All this pain, suffering, the sacrifices, and the struggling would all be over. Surely, God must want us with Him. What purpose could we serve by staying in this dying, forsaken world?

I believe the answer is right here in this text.

Luke 2: 41-49

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

But they , supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me>? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? You see Jesus stayed behind, because he wasn’t finished with what He had to do for His Father.  He still had things He had to do to get prepared for His mission, for His new life that He would be starting, very soon.  He was investigating, learning, and testing His knowledge.

Jesus said, “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” John 5: 36

Jesus also said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 4:34

We are also called to complete the work of Him who sent us. We are chosen to be singled out, to be different, to share the greater witness.

1 Peter 2:9

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should she forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

So why were we not taken to heaven right away? We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people that show forth His marvelous light! We bear witness of the light! We are not done with our Father’s business.

Chosen Generation

God has chosen us – “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Deuteronomy 30:6

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21-21

We are chosen by God and called to love Him with all that we have. With our very being. He chose us above all creation, and before the foundations of the world. The scripture says that “before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” Jeremiah 1:5

Royal Priesthood

 The function of priests is to serve God and men. Repeatedly in the 28th chapter of Exodus, the garments which are made for Aaron and for his sons are those which enable them to minister to God. So that we frequently find the expression, or one that is similar, “… that he (or they) may minister as priests to Me” (cf. Exod. 28:1, 3, 4, 41; also 29:44). The emphasis here is on serving God, more than on serving men, though I believe both elements are present.

In Exodus we get a look at what the priesthood’s responsibilities are by looking at what Aaron was to wear.  The ephod is to contain two stones on the shoulder pieces (Exod. 28:6-14). On these two stones were engraved the names of the sons of Israel. Aaron was to wear these, “as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel,” to bear “their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial” (Exod. 28:12). In this manner a priest bears the burdens of those who he represents before God.
We are to bear one another’s burdens.

Aaron also was to wear a “breastpiece of judgment” (vv. 15-30). I am sure most of you have seen this breastplate pictured in artwork or in movies about the Gospels.  On this breastpiece four rows of stones were set, with three stones in each row, each signifying one of the tribes of Israel. The purpose of these stones is given in verse 30: “… and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually” (Exod. 28:30b). We see the intercession that the priest makes on behalf of Israel. So we should pray for one another, and pray for our enemies.  We should be in a constant attitude of prayer.

On Aaron’s turban was to be placed a “plate of gold” (Exod. 28:36-39). It was to be engraved with a seal, reading, “Holy to the Lord” (v. 36). This kept the sanctified attitude of the priest.  He was to be set apart for the service of the Lord, blameless.  We should be humble in our service to man and to God, remembering that we are only here by Grace.  God is a just God and if He gave us what we deserved, we would have received the punishment we deserve, instead of the grace that Love provides.  We should love one another, at Jesus loved us.

Jesus, our High Priest did away with the Aaronic Priesthood and the law that established it. He made one sacrifice that covered all of the law and transgressions. His priesthood is higher than the priesthood established under the Mosaic Law. I don’t have time in this sermon to cover it in detail, but it is great information, and it can be found in (Hebrews 7). We are established in Jesus Christ in His priesthood.

Turn to and Read Hebrews 10:19-25

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter in to the holist by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”

You see as we see the signs, the day approaching of His return, we should work more urgently.  We are called to complete His work, and time is winding down.

The Christian Priesthood

Just as the Levitical priests were consecrated to their office by the washing of water, even so, men and women today may enter upon their priestly functions as Christians. This they do by drawing near to God with a true heart, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:22).

What we miss is that All Christians are priests. We are to come before God with spiritual sacrifices, and offer up service to God through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.  The scripture is full of references to the children of God explaining our priesthood.(1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).

Holy Nation

God has made us holy, separated us out from the world. This is the same thing that God said to the Israelites when he brought them out of Egypt, in Exodus 19:6 “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” We, Christians are set apart, like Israel. “my holy nation” (goy gadosh in Hebrew) means set apart for a special, sacred purpose. As a holy nation, Israel was not to be like other nations, neither are we. We have been set apart for a special relationship with the Father through Christ. We are God’s representatives here on earth. Our holiness is not just in our being different from our neighbors, but devoted to God’s mission while we are here

 Peculiar People

The Greek work is “Segula” meaning special treasure. The ancient kings would select great jewels and place them in a protected room and show them to the world. Their purpose was to show the world how great their kingdom was. It’s like putting your best china in a glass cabinet to show all your guest what fine things your hard work has been able to procure or the linage of your family. Or a trophy case at the school that shows all the state championships your basketball, or football, or baseball team has won over the years. This is a sense of pride in your household, or school, or organization. Some people have what I call an “I love me wall”, where you display all your certifications, or licenses, or degrees.

See we are a spectacle for all creation to observe. We are God’s Facebook wall, or Instagram Page. We are strange to those around us, because we are pilgrims journeying through this world. We know where we are going, and in whom we serve. We have a hope in life that no one who is not a follower of the Way can understand. IT IS FOREIGN TO THEM! You are an example of God’s love at work, school, in public, with your families and friends.

Show forth praises

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

“This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” Isaiah 43:21

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;” Psalm 107.2

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord, Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltry and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

I think this speaks for itself, if you cant find a reason to praise the Lord in this Psalm, then you need to seriously consider your salvation. Paul and Timothy wrote in Philippians 2:12 “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

 Conclusion

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work.” John 9:4

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen – Matthew 28:1-20

See your not here to pray for new cars, or bigger houses.  Your here to complete the mission for which you have been called.  You are here to teach, preach, sing, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  That is your purpose.  That IS your calling.

How can we do this? Here is your homework. Go home and answer these questions. Pray and seek God and come back and tell your Pastor. These are my answers!

  1. Am I willing to commit my life to whatever God asks of me?
  2. What roles that God has placed me in have I neglected?
  3. What talents or abilities has God blessed me with?
  4. How can I help the church or my Pastor with these talents and abilities?