Posted by: lepages | June 22, 2010

Preaching the gospel – no matter what!

My preach from Sunday – felt inspired as I brought it and if you listen online you may well find more than in my notes here!!

Introduction
The Christian faith is a missionary faith – at its heart is a call, no a command, from Jesus himself, to go and take the news of his salvation to all people everywhere, to go and make disciples – people who will follow him and live their lives for him – from every tribe and language and people and nation. That’s why we’re here today! Because others have taken the trouble to do that and so we have heard or have opportunity to hear this glorious gospel, this glorious good news of life to the full which is found in yielding our lives to Jesus. And if others are to be in the same privileged position that we are as children of a heavenly Father, knowing a love that goes beyond words being lavished on our lives, then we need to be obedient to Jesus’ command to his disciples to go, to share this good news and to make other disciples in turn.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve heard a bit about how this news began to spread.

Two weeks ago we saw how Paul, (Saul as he was known then) became an ardent follower of the one whom previously he had opposed in any way he could. Last week he came and shared with us a little of how he was called to go and take this gospel, this good news to other people, of how he invested in others to make them disciples of the Lord Jesus.

This week we look in on some incidents that happened to him in a later period of mission activity to see what we can learn to encourage us in fulfilling Jesus command to us – and we do so, under the heading “Preach the gospel – no matter what!”

To set a bit of context – Paul has had a call to mission in Greece – they have sailed from Turkey to Greece, and have just begun to minister in a town called Phillipi. There was no synagogue in the town, but they found a place of prayer by the river where an influential business woman by the name of Lydia gave her life to the Lord and was baptised there. Her whole household became followers of Christ and she invited Paul and the rest of the team to come and stay in her home, which they gladly did.

We pick up the story as they are heading once again to this place of prayer.

READ Acts 16:16-35

As I was praying and preparing for this morning I felt early in the week that this was going to be a very much ‘in your face’ preach – a real challenge to you, and a real challenge to me – and I think I may have shared that with Brian & Jean and perhaps other cell leaders.

On Friday morning as I was spending time with the Lord early in the morning, reading and praying and I came face to face with this scripture:-

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

I was caught up with this word ‘admonish’ the Merriam-Webster net dictionary says this:-
to indicate duties or obligations to
to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to

In that verse in Colossians, we’re encouraged to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly – so I want us to dwell on the account we have read, let it earth itself richly in our lives.

We have already in my opening comments ‘indicated our duties and obligations’ to share the gospel as it is Jesus’ command to us. I hope now that from scripture, from experience and as we continue in worship that we can continue to give ‘friendly, earnest advice and encouragement to one another to share the gospel, no matter what.

We’re going to work our way through the account picking up on themes as we go.

I hope that it will encourage you to share the gospel no matter what and that you will go away feeling richly warmed by the grace of God.

So firstly,
Preach the Gospel –
even in times of disruption v16-18

We have no record of what Paul and his colleagues were doing from day to day, but its fair to assume that they were seeking to share the gospel as opportunity arose – but clearly as they went about it they were being disrupted by this young woman who by means of an evil spirit predicted the future and drew attention to them – she didn’t say anything wrong – she spoke truth! She said
‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’

Well actually, that’s a pretty cool introduction!
But sometimes you don’t want everything announced, you just want to get on with it!
Sometimes its just that you just don’t want interruptions – and eventually this woman’s shouting got to Paul, and so in a moment he spoke to the evil spirit and commanded it to leave her.

I remember being in a church in London and a few minutes into a preach the speaker got interrupted by a heckler in the congregation – at first he tried to answer the questions the heckler threw at him, but after a while he said ‘Look, as I prepared for tonight there were things which I felt God wanted me to say – and at the minute I’m not getting to do what I felt I should do. Now, I’m quite happy to talk with you after the service, but please be silent whilst I share what I believe God wants me to share, or I will have to ask the stewards to remove you from the building. The chap sat down, but a few minutes later started heckling again and a couple of stewards came and escorted him out. A few minutes later a brick came hurtling through a window sending glass everywhere. The minister just kept on sharing his message.

On another occasion I remember being in deep conversation with someone about the Christian faith – as I talked with them I kept being interrupted by Christians asking things from me! There were times when I just felt like saying ‘Will you just shut up! Can’t you see how important this conversation is!’ I didn’t…. perhaps I should have done! I just kept on sharing the gospel in response to the conversation that was going on.

Whenever you share the gospel you may well find disruption taking place. Just keep on going on – and if necessary, deal with the disruptions!

Paul’s sharing of the gospel, his responding to the disruption to that process brought a change in circumstances, it brought consequences.

For the minister in London, it brought a broken window, for Paul and Silas it meant being brought roughly before the magistrates, being falsely accused and condemned without a hearing to flogging and imprisonment.

They were prepared to preach the gospel:-

Whatever the consequences v19-24

People still do that today. They preach the gospel whatever the consequences.

I wonder whether we’re prepared to do that, or whether we hold back because we don’t want to offend anyone, we don’t want to risk losing a friendship, we don’t want to cause embarrassment.

Just over a week ago, I received a booklet through the post
Iran 30 – discover, pray, transform.

Its a prayer guide for the church in Iran (yes, there is a church in Iran – now estimated at 100000 believers – in 1979 only thought to be around 500 believers.)

Let me read to you Day 6 from the prayer guide, titled ‘Evangelism, happens every day’

Iranian Christians read the Bible and try to do what it tells them. So they take their responsibility to evangelise seriously in spite of the real risks they face. They have especially taken Acts 13:-1-3 to heart where there is first prayer and fasting – then evangelism.

There are many remarkable testimonies that can only be described as ‘divine appointments’. Christians have witnessed to seekers on religious marches; they have found themselves on buses showing films about Christ; they have led people to faith in taxis; they have witnessed successfully to women who work on the street. It is through this Holy Spirit led evangelism that new fellowships are planted.

Despite being constantly watched, the established churches are also active in sharing the Gospel. Even if informants are sitting in the services, the full Gospel is preached and guests are invited to repent. Sometimes people get up from their seats and ome to the front of the church even before the sermon had finished.

On the streets people are remarkably open. The wife of one church leader gave out many thousands of copies of the ‘Jesus film’ based on the Gospel of Luke – only two refused them.

And all this in a country where day 2 has the heading ‘In prison, often without charge’ – and mentions over 50 Christians imprisoned in 2008 and day 3 has the heading ‘Martyrs, the ultimate price’ with pictures of 8 significant Christian leaders who have been martyred in Iran since 1979

We need to admonish one another, to give friendly earnest advice and encouragement to one another to share the gospel.

V25 of our reading is fascinating!
READ v25

I’ve put a heading for this verse… Preach the Gospel
in any way you can v25

Were they singing and praying to share the Gospel or just reminding themselves of the greatness of their God?
Who knows?!
But others listened in!

The African chap in M&S with his smiley cheer and his song of praise has been mentioned several times by people – I don’t know whether he’s still around or not, but in his time around he has been a positive witness to many.

Our website is a witness. Over the past week nearly 70 different people have visited the site. Recently, I discovered someone who is not yet a Christian had been reading my sermons on my blog and listening from the website. When people post things on Facebook its a witness in unexpected ways. When you praise God for something, when you pray for something – you don’t know who may be listening in!

God is a faithful God and he extends his grace to us in all different sorts of ways.
God’s grace was extended to Paul and Silas in prison in unexpected ways – an earthquake opened their prison doors, their jailer took the best care of them he could!

Not the ways you would necessarily expect God’s grace to be made known.
But as God’s grace comes to us in ways we would not expect – so we need to extend it, sometimes in ways we would not expect.

Point number 4, Preach the Gospel

and always extend God’s grace v26-34
God’s grace meant that Paul and Silas could have just walked free from the prison…. but they chose not too. They stayed where they were and took the opportunity to reassure their jailer that they were still present. As conversation opened up they took the opportunity to share the Gospel with their captor, and then with his family, and they then had the joy and privilege of baptising their captor and his family!

Did you notice the phrase in v34 about the jailer
‘he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.’

If you have not yet believed in God, you can put your trust in Jesus and what he’s done for you in his sacrifice on the cross, and yield your life to him, and you can know that same joy.

Tony Anthony, in his biography ‘Taming the Tiger’, describes a time when as a Kung Fu world champion who found himself in prison, and there met with Jesus, was faced with a guy who wanted to beat hell out of him. He could have responded with his martial arts skills, but chose not to and just prayed – as he was held against a wall, the man chose not to beat him up – and turned and walked away. Tony was to go on to share his faith with this man and many more in the prison… and inspite of his circumstances he was filled with a deep joy.

There is a deep joy in finding faith in Christ – and joy is infectious.
If someone starts laughing, others will join in!
There is a deep joy in sharing the Gospel with another person.

If you want to know joy in your life, then make sure you put your faith in Christ and ask him to be Lord of your life, and then make sure you share that Gospel, that good news with others – no matter what happens in your life – persist in sharing it, even when your attempts to do so seem to be disrupted, share the Gospel in whatever context you are in, whatever the consequences – some have lost their jobs for doing so – share the gospel in any way you can and get the good news out so that others can hear it – and finally share the Gospel and always extend God’s grace to others – even those you would not expect to receive it, or even those you might resent receiving it – because as you do you will know a deep joy.

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