Grace For The Journey
I want to use the next two blogs to share with you what I have discovered and been committed to regarding the mission and message of the church for our world today. What is different about in the 21st century as compared to those living in the first century? In so many ways, the 21st century is completely different from the 1st century.
With our computers, we can instantly read and hear about events that are happening live on the other side of the world; we can listen and view a pod cast from anywhere in the world! This is so different from life in the time of Christ and His Apostles. Very different – Yes! – but there are certain issues that are the same.
Can we, in the 21st century, afford to ignore the voices which speak to us from the 1st century? We search for a model for Church life, a model for ministry for the 21st century. We search for, and learn, about modern methods of communication and caring. Still, we are faced with the question –
Why aren’t we proclaiming the message
Following the mission and ministry
Of the 1st century church?
When I was a student in college, I listened to a message by a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. R. G. Lee, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. He preached on the third verse of the letter of Jude where we are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the people of God.”
As I listened, my hearts said, “Yes. This is it. This is one of the main purposes and mission of the church for today. This is the message our world needs to hear. This is the message we must never forget.”
As we seek a way forward, God’s way for the 21st century, we need to see that the way forward begins . . .
When we go back to the Word of God,
Back to the Savior,
Back to mission and message
Of the first century church.
We have a clear and effective for our message and ministry in Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20!
Paul is a man from the 1st century,
Yet his message is for our time.
It is a message which calls us to take God seriously. It is a message which calls us to listen carefully to God’s Word. Paul calls us to center our lives on Christ and His message and ministry. He calls us to commit ourselves to preaching the Word and discipling believers.
Paul speaks to the leaders of the church at Ephesus and instructs them regarding their purpose and priority. The Bible records his words in Acts 20:18-21, 27-28, 31-32, “. . . You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you and taught you publicly and rom house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” . . . “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” … “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears, so now brethren, I comment you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
From these verses we see the strategy and substance of Paul’s ministry and the first century church ministry.
(1) The church’s ministry was a helpful ministry.
He tells us, in verse 20, that “he kept back nothing that was helpful.” In his public preaching of God’s Word and in his pastoral work in the homes of the people, Paul prayed that his ministry would help the people to grow in their knowledge of God, their love of God, and their service of God.
Why was Paul’s ministry such a helpful ministry?
It was helpful because it was real. He was a man living in the power of Christ’s resurrection, a man who could truly say, ‘For me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
His ministry was helpful because it was a ministry of powerfully showing in his personal life the power of salvation as work, in His fearless preaching, faithful pastoral work, and fervent prayer.
Paul was fearless as he preached God’s Word to the people.
He was faithful in the ministry of bringing Christ to the people in their own homes.
He was fervent in prayer as he asked God to use His to change the people.
This is where the helpfulness comes from. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord.
When we have done all that we can do, we must look away from ourselves to the Lord and say it is, “Not by might. It is not by power. It is by the Spirit of the Lord’” (Zecharaiah 4:6).
When we look at all that has been achieved, we must learn to look away from ourselves to the Lord and say, from the heart, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23).
This is helpful ministry . . .
Ministry which serves the purpose of God’s salvation,
Ministry which depends on the presence of God’s power,
Ministry which maintains the priority of God’s glory.
This is helpful ministry – bringing Christ to the people, bringing the people to Christ. It is ministry that never forgets to say, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord . . .” (Psalm 124:8).
(2) The church’s ministry was a Gospel ministry.
In verse 24, he describes his ministry. He tells us that he “received this ministry from the Lord Jesus.” He also tells us that it is a ministry of “testifying to the Gospel of the grace of God.”
What is the Gospel?
It is the Good News:
Christ has died for our sins,
Christ has risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Is the preaching of the Gospel simply the announcement of these facts? No!
It is more than that.
There is also the challenge of the Gospel,
The call to repentance,
The call to faith (verse 21).
God not only wants us to tell people something . . .
He wants us to asking them something.
Will you repent? Will you believe? Luke laid out this principle for the followers of Christ in Luke 18:13 where God tells us, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him” and in Luke 18:13 where God shows us what we are to ask of Him, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
This is our message:
Because of what God has done in Christ
We are to proclaim a message of repentance and faith toward the Lord Jesus.
People must turn from their sin;
They must turn to God;
They must take their sin to Jesus
And people must trust Him for forgiveness.
To everyone who hears the Gospel, the question is asked, “What will your response be?”
As I look back over my own spiritual journey, I am forever grateful to those who impressed on me the need to make my personal faith and repentance response toward Jesus Christ. It was not enough to know and believe that, “God so loved that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16). There needed to be something more powerful and personal – “the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It was not enough to say, “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world” (John 4:12). There needed to be the personal confession of faith – “Jesus Christ is my Savior.”
Paul was a faithful and fearless preacher of the Gospel. If, in our generation, we are to follow his example and the example of the 1st century church, we must not hesitate to impress upon the people the necessity of “repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”’ (verse 21).
Last year, I had the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference. One of the speakers preached out of the Book of Hebrews and the points of his message was centered around three verses in that marvelous Book:
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
“Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
In these three statements, we have the key features of Gospel ministry:
First, we are to hear the Gospel – the Good News that Christ died for our sins;
Second, we are to believe the Gospel – “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be
Saved” (Acts 16:31);
Third, we are to live the Gospel – Christ has died for us. Now He calls us to live for Him.
This is to be Gospel message and ministry
Of the church today:
Hearing the Gospel,
Believing the Gospel
Living the Gospel.
May God help us to be faithful to His Gospel
In our preaching and teaching,
In our believing,
And in our living.
Tomorrow we will look at the final aspect of the church’s message and ministry that we should be committed to today.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”