I suppose that I have gone to church almost my entire life. From my very earliest memories I can recall being in God’s House on Sunday morning. Although I was always taught to reverence the church, I don’t think that it was until I was about age twelve that I began to value the church.
Someone in our community invited our family to a church in the area and it was there that I first began to experience Jesus Christ. Although I had heard many sermons, I believe that it was the first time I ever heard the Bible explained in a way that I could understand it. Shortly after we began to attend that church, I accepted Christ as my Savior and so did my brother and my dad. Mom had been saved since she was a teenager, but down through the years her love for the Lord had grown cold. I have heard her say many times that when she saw the joy of Christ upon the faces of the people in that church, she began to pray and ask God to allow her to experience it once again. Mom rededicated her life to the Lord during that time period and although it’s been close to fifty years since that all took place, I believe that I can honestly say that my mother has walked close to the Lord ever since. God changed our lives at Max Creek Baptist Church.
In 1986, Tammy and I, along Cindy who was only two years old at that time, moved to Chattanooga, TN for me to attend Tennessee Temple University. While there we attended Highland Park Baptist Church. Once again God used His church to minister to us in a powerful way. Many of the people in that church were so committed to the cause of Christ that it completely revolutionized our view of Christianity. Although it’s been almost thirty years ago, Tammy and I still talk about the impact Dr. Jennings and his wife had upon our lives. They helped us see what a privilege it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They set a standard before us that we are still to this day striving to obtain.
The early church was a place of joy and excitement. After Jesus ascended back to His Father, the disciples began to meet together in a place known as the ‘upper room.’ Some believe that the upper room was a room located in the home of the parents of a young disciple named John Mark. It was here that Jesus had celebrated His final Passover with His disciples and therefore it was probably a place very special to them. Though the church is not a building, many of hold some place dear in our hearts where we first began to walk with the Lord.
What exactly is the church? The word literally means – ‘called out.’ The church consists of all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and who have been called out of this world in order to serve Him and do His will . Some speak of what we might call the ‘universal church.’ The universal church consists of all those (from Pentecost to the Rapture) who have or will be saved. The Apostle Paul is a part of the universal church and so is Simon Peter and the rest of the apostles. Men like Spurgeon and Moody are also a part of the universal church. I am a part of the universal church and so are all the Christians around the world. The moment we receive Christ as our Savior, we are made a part of the universal church.
But then there is also what we might call the ‘local church.’ The local churches are subgroups within the universal church. Twin Oaks is a local church and so were churches like the church at Philippi, Thessalonica and Ephesus.
The church should be very dear to each of us because it is very dear to our Savior. Scripture refers to the church as:
- The Body of Christ
- The Bride of Christ
- The Family of God
- The Sheep of Christ’s Flock
Peter describes us as a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9) and Paul calls us a ‘holy temple.’ (Ephesians 2:1)
A phrase that is often used in the book of Acts to describe the early church is those who gathered of ‘one accord.’ Literally phrase means those who were of ‘one mind’ or ‘one passion.’ The early church was of one mind and one passion, united together in order to fulfill their Christ-given mission. What is Christ’s will for the church?
Several years ago I came across a book called ‘The Purpose Driven Church’, written by Rick Warren. Although there are some who are critical of this book (some are critical of everything they’re not leading), I have found much of the book to be very beneficial and informative. In this book Rick Warren lists five purposes of the church, taken from the book of Acts.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Purpose # 1 –
To Reach the World with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
I. Proclaiming of the Gospel
The early church was very evangelistic. What does it mean to be evangelistic?
For a time period there were people being saved – daily.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls… 47… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The gospel was being presented daily and the lost were responding.
A. What is the Gospel?
What is the gospel? In the Greek the word gospel is ‘euaggelion’, from which we get the English words: evangelize or evangelization. It is a compound word which means: ‘good message.’ (‘Eu’ means good. ‘Aggelion’ means message.) It is from the world ‘aggelion’ that we get the English word ‘angel.’ An angel is a messenger from God.
Actually it was an angel who first preached God’s good news.
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
B. What Does It Mean to Preach?
Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mt 16:15) What does it mean to preach the gospel? Most think that preaching the gospel is only for the pastor or evangelist. Yet the word ‘preach’ actually means to proclaim. Go into all the world and proclaim God’s good news to every person. Consider this passage from the book of Acts.
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
When Philip preached the message of Jesus to the Ethiopian Eunuch, he was sitting only inches away from him; therefore I doubt very seriously that Philip was shouting and banging the pulpit. In a logical and understandable way, Philip was talking to the eunuch about who Jesus is and what He came to do. Note something else very important- the Bible says that Philip ‘opened his mouth…and preached unto him Jesus.’ Proclaiming Jesus requires us to open our mouth and to communicate.
The Bible says:
Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
The disciples proclaimed Jesus wherever anyone would listen; whether publicly or privately.
The Apostle Paul preached the gospel as well. Paul wrote:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…
Because the gospel had the power to change Paul’s life, he believed that it could change the lives of others as well. That is why he was not ashamed or hesitant to talk about Jesus, wherever he was at. It didn’t matter if it was in the palace or in prison, Paul told everyone he could about salvation in Jesus Christ.
Is this still relevant for today? Are Christians still supposed to be talking about Christ in this post-modern world? Consider what Jesus said:
Matthew 24:14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Jesus said that even during the Tribulation Period – right up to the very end – God is going to be proclaiming His message of salvation and forgiveness to all who will listen.
II. The Purpose of the Gospel
Most of us are somewhat fearful to share our faith with the lost. Either we’re afraid that we might offend them, or we’re afraid that they might ask us a question we can’t answer. In order to overcome the temptation to remain silent, we must understand the absolute necessity of proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost.
A. The Necessity of the Gospel
There are four truths about life that you and I can know with absolute certainty:
1. The Absolute Certainty of God’s Holy Character
1 John 1:5 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.
To say that God is light is the same to say that God is holy. God is absolutely and perfectly holy and sinless. In Him is no darkness at all.
2. The Absolute Certainty of Man’s Sinful Character
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 3:10 … There is none righteous, no, not one:
Romans 3:12 … there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
3. The Absolute Certainty of a Day of Judgment
Hebrews 9:27 … it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment
Revelation 20:12 … and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
4. The Absolute Certainty of God’s Plan of Salvation
John 14:6 … I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
We must proclaim the gospel because it and it alone reveals to us how we can be saved and forgiven. God’s good news is that Jesus died for our sins.
B. The Necessity of Someone Proclaiming the Gospel
No true Christian will argue the fact that the gospel is the only way to heaven. Yet many Christians try to debate and deny the need for them to proclaim the gospel to the lost. Consider Paul’s words found in the book of Romans:
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Paul says that people can’t believe in something they’ve never heard and they can hear it unless someone tells them.
15 …How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
In other words, how wonderful the person is who is willing to get out of their comfort zone and to share with their friends and family God’s good news.
Most of us are afraid of what someone who rejects the gospel might say about us. Think for a moment what someone who receives the gospel might say about us. Perhaps the greatest reward someone will ever receive in heaven is to look around and see those whom they’ve helped come to Christ.
That is all the time we have today, so we will return to this important subject once again next week and consider the power of God’s gospel message. In closing today, let me ask you two important questions.
1) Have you personally received the gospel and Jesus Christ and been forgiven of your sins?
Jesus said: “I am the way , the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. ” (John 14:6) All roads do not lead to heaven. All religions are not the same in the sight of God. Man cannot save himself. He must have a Savior. He must have someone who is able to do for him what he cannot do for himself. The Bible says: “For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross for our sins. In exchange, He offers to us His righteousness. Through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven and receive a home in heaven.
2) Are you actively engaged in this process of reaching the world with God’s good news?
Are you talking with others about their need of salvation? Are you sharing with them God’s good news? Are you praying for the lost and looking for opportunities to talk with them about Christ?
I encourage every member of Twin Oaks to get involved in this process of reaching the lost with God’s good news. The Bible says that one sows, another waters, and another reaps the harvest. Each of us are co-laborers with each other and with God. (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-8) I encourage each of us to begin praying today for the lost that are a part of our lives. It may be someone in our family or a close friend.
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ,as though God did beseech you by us:we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.