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.
What wonderful time it must have been for those in the early church. Three thousand were saved on the Day of Pentecost and so the air must have been filled with a holy excitement. In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren describes five purposes of the church – all drawn from this passage of scripture.
- Outreach – The church has been called to evangelize the world
- Discipleship – The church has been called to edify those who receive Christ by teaching them how to obey His commands
- Fellowship – The church has been called to encourage and give support to all those who are a part of the church
- Service – The church has been called to equip those who are saved in how to serve and to minister
- Worship – The church has been called to exalt our Lord and Savior
Today we continue in our study of purpose #1 – Reaching the World with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
I. Proclaiming of the Gospel
During His last days here on earth, Jesus gave some important instructions to His disciples.
Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
In other words, make sure that every person in this world has the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved.
A. What is the Gospel?
The word ‘gospel’ literally means “Good News.” The gospel is God’s good news.
1. The Bad News
What makes the good news – good news is the fact that there is bad news. What is the bad news?
a. Man’s Sin
Hebrews 9:27 It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
One day each of us will die and after we do, we will have to stand before God and give an account for the way we have lived. The Bible says that men will be judged according to their works. (see Revelation 20:11-15)
What will God find when He judges mankind? The Bible says:
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.
All of mankind is guilty before God. Everyone has sinned. The Bible also tells us what will be consequences for our sins.
Romans 6:23 …the wages of sin is death…
The death referred to here is more than just a physical death. It is also an eternal separation from God in a place the Bible calls hell. (see Revelation 20:11-15; Matthew 25:41)
b. Man’s Sorrows and Struggles
Our sin and its consequences is bad news. But there’s also other bad news in many people’s lives. Jesus said:
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…” (NKJV)
I thank God daily that He has saved me, but also that He walks with me through life and helps me with my struggles. Jesus helps me overcome the enemy of worry, fear and doubt. He keeps me from becoming depressed whenever I face discouragement. Jesus Christ is my closest Friend.
2. Good news
The bad news is that we’re all sinful and deserve to be punished. The good news is – God loves us and desires to help us.
a. God desires to help us with our sorrows
The Bible says that Jesus understands what it is like to be a man and to live on this earth. He understands the weaknesses of our humanity and desires to help us.
b. God desires to help us with our sins
God desires to help us with our sorrows, but even more so He desires to help us with our sins. The Bible says”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus wants to give us life, and life more abundantly.
God has good news for the world. But He needs someone to go and tell it to others.
B. The Necessity of Proclaiming God’s Good News
Romans 10:13 … 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?
1. God’s Preachers
Whenever we hear the word ‘preacher’ we think of someone like myself who stand behinds a pulpit and preaches on Sunday morning. It’s true, I am a preacher of God’s good news, but I’m not the only one that God has assigned this task. Every Christian is to be a preacher or a ‘proclaimer’ of God’s good news.
a. God Uses Angels as His Evangelists
Who was the first preacher? Some might think that it was John the Baptist or one of the disciples. But actually it was an angel.
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.
We should also note that God will use an angel during the Tribulation Period.
Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
b. God Uses Men His Evangelists
God has on special occasions chosen to use angels to proclaim His good news, but primarily He uses those of us who have been saved. The last words Jesus said to His disciples were:
Acts 1:8 … ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
What is a witness? A witness is someone who gives testimony to that which they have seen or heard. We are to share with the world what we have seen and heard and know to be the truth.
i. Just the Apostles?
Who is to be a witness for God? Some think that only the first disciples or apostles were to seek to evangelize the lost. Yet we read from scripture:
Matthew 28:20 Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
The Twelve Apostles are dead and gone, and yet Jesus has promised that He would be with His evangelists until to the end of the world, or in other words – until the end of time. Who is Jesus with today? He’s with me and He’s with you. He’s with every believer who seeks to obey Him and to do His will.
Proclaiming God’s good news was not just a first-century assignment. It is God’s will that every generation proclaim the gospel to the world during the time in which they live. Consider these words spoken by our Lord:
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.
Right up until the very end, God’s good news of salvation and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to all that will listen.
ii. Every follower of Jesus Christ is to be an evangelist
Every follower of Jesus Christ is to be one of His evangelists. We all are to share God’s good news with our friends and family. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we are on mission with each other and with God.
1 Corinthians 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God:
II. The Power of the Gospel
Many of us know that we should speak to the lost about their salvation, yet we are afraid to do so. Why are we so afraid to share God’s good news? I think that there are several reasons:
– We’re afraid that we don’t know enough or that we might say the wrong thing.
– We’re afraid that we will make people mad and perhaps drive them away from Christ.
– We’re afraid that people won’t like us.
– We’re afraid that we might be attacked or persecuted for our faith.
All of these are real fears and ones that even the first century Christians faced. Apparently Timothy battled some with fear for Paul encouraged him by saying:
2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Paul also experienced the battle with fear, for he pleaded with the Christians at Ephesus to pray for him that he might have boldness to faithfully proclaim the gospel. (see Ephesians 6:18-20) Their fear was very real. Many of them were physically attacked and persecuted for their faith. Yet like Peter and John, we must not let fear keep us from spreading the gospel. Consider their reply to those who commanded them to no longer preach about Jesus and His salvation.
“You figure out whether or not we should listen to men rather than God. But we cannot be silent concerning what we have seen and heard.” (Covey paraphrase Acts 4:19-20)
We cannot let fear stop of from sharing the gospel. Let me give you three reasons why:
1) Those who aren’t saved – won’t go to heaven
2) People can’t believe in what they don’t know
3) God will enable us to do His will
For the remainder of this message I want us to focus upon the power we have in sharing God’s good news.
A. The Power of the Holy Spirit
First, we should consider the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples:
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…
We try to excuse ourselves by saying – “I can’t.” We’re right, we can’t; but God can. The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest witnesses this world has ever known. It might surprise you to know that Paul didn’t lean upon his own power and ability when it came to proclaiming the gospel. Paul leaned on the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (ESV)
How will the Holy Spirit empower us to witness?
1. He will strengthen our inner man
“…strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…” (Ephesians 3:16)
2. He will tell us what to say
Jesus promised His disciples that – “…the Holy Spirit will teach you what needs to be said…” (Lk 12:12 NLT) He will bring verses of scriptures and examples for illustration that you would never have imagined. That’s a promise from God.
3. He will make our words real and powerful
John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The word ‘reprove’ means to: convince and convict. The Holy Spirit will convince our audience that our words are true and He will bring spiritual conviction to their souls. We don’t save people. The Holy Spirit does. We’re simply the vessel that He uses to help get the job done. We’re one beggar sharing with another beggar where to find bread.
B. The Power of the Gospel Message
Paul told the Corinthians that he didn’t try to use lofty words of man’s wisdom. He simply focused upon Jesus Christ being crucified for our sins. (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-4)
It’s the gospel that helps a man be saved; not our clever words. The Apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome to spread the gospel. Rome was the center of the known world at that time. It was everything – socially, politically, and economically. Some said that Paul might preach his gospel message in some back-woods community, but that he would never come to Rome. Consider his response.
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 ; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The word ‘power’ means dynamite. The reason Satan wants us to keep silent is because he knows that the gospel has the power to completely change a person’s life. It changed mine and it changed yours. Why shouldn’t it change the lives of others as well?
C. The Power of a Changed Life
A third element in our ability to share the gospel is the power of a changed life. Paul praised the church of Thessalonica for their changed lives. He told them that everywhere they went, people were talking about how this group of individuals had turned away from idols in order to serve the true and living God. (see 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
A changed life is a great testimony for the power of the gospel to change a person’s life. In some ways we might say that we are walking billboards for Jesus Christ. Either we’re saying to the world:
Jesus Christ is real and alive
and can dramatically change a person’s life,
…or, Jesus Christ is a fake and so is His gospel
There was a man in the Old Testament named David. At one time David was called a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ But like a lot of folks, David allowed himself to become complacent about his relationship with God and as a result, he fell into terrible sin. First he committed adultery with another man’s wife and conceived a child by her. Then he had her husband killed in war in order to try to cover up his crime. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin. During his confrontation Nathan said – “You have caused the enemies of God to blaspheme.” (see 2 Samuel 12:14) In other words, you have caused the lost to mock God and disregard Him. Perhaps this sin was even greater than his adultery and murder.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The Bible says that the lost should be drawn to Christ through the way we act and live. (see Titus 2:10; 1 Peter 3:15
D. The Power of Caring Relationship
I am not the world’s greatest evangelist, although I have had the opportunity to lead many to Christ. Surprisingly enough, most of my effectiveness as a witness has not come while I was behind the pulpit, but rather during a one-on-one conversation. I believe that one of the most important elements of sharing the gospel is to let people know that you care about them.
The whole basis of the gospel is love. When sharing the gospel with a man named Nicodemus, our Lord said:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Paul said that it was the love of God as shown through Christ that motivated him to share the gospel with the lost. (see 2 Cor 5:14)
E. The Power of Prayer
Lastly is the power of prayer. I believe that we need to be praying today for those whom we hope to reach tomorrow. Why is prayer so important? Prayer does at least two very important things:
1. Prayer Helps to Prepare the Soil to Receive the Seed
In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable about a farmer who went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some of the seed fell onto the hard ground and was quickly devoured by the birds. Later Jesus said that Satan was that fowl that came to steal away the seed. Many people’s hearts are hard today and they aren’t getting any softer. Our culture is desensitizing the hearts and minds of many and causing them to become openly defiant.
Therefore we need to be praying for the lost. Paul wrote:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1)
Every Christian needs to be praying fervently for someone who is lost.
2. Prayer Helps to Prepare the Sower to Sow the Seed
Not only should we be praying for the lost, we should be praying for ourselves and each other as well. During this 40 Days with God, I have been praying for you. I have been praying that God would help you to study and to pray, and I have been praying that God would give you opportunities to share your faith and that you would take those opportunities. I have been praying the same thing for myself.
Matthew 9:37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Pray for people to get out of their comfort zone and to get into the harvest. The Apostle Paul believed in the power of prayer, especially when it came to finding the courage to share the gospel. Consider his prayer request to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 6:19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should. CSB
Often I have prayed this prayer for myself – “Lord, make me bold. Lord, make me bold.”
There is a story in the Old Testament about four starving lepers. (2 Kings 7) During the days of the Old Testament, a leper was not allowed to live near other people and therefore many of them often went without food or proper clothing.
These four men became so desperate for food that they decided to approach a nearby city and beg for food. They concluded – “If they kill us for being lepers, so be it; we’re going to die of starvation anyhow. But perhaps they will be merciful and give us something to eat.”
As they approached the city, they noticed something very unusual. There was no one there. The city was completely abandoned and therefore the four men were able to enter in and eat all their hearts’ desired. But then one of them said: “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news, and we’re not telling anyone about it.” (see 2 Kings 7:9)
I have heard that when a Christian shares their faith in Christ – it’s like one starving man telling another starving man where to find bread.