Advancing and defending the Gospel
In the Scripture text that we studied yesterday (Acts 15:35-40) we see the missionary team in Philippi of at least 4 individuals(Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke) make a big deal about the defense and advancement of the Gospel.
In fact those two themes are themes that Paul and Timothy reiterate in the first chapter of their letter to the saints in Philippi almost 10 years later (Philippians 1:5,7,12,16,27-30).
Those two gospel centered decisions that day, had very long lasting implications in that city and church as we will see in our study (April-June, 2014) of Philippians. So much so that we still are talking about those decisions today.
Paul’s decision to challenge the magistrates decision to let them go free, but secretly (Acts 16:37) was not about vindicating Paul and Silas rights as Roman citizens, but an intentional strategy to defend the gospel from further political and religious persecution. The team, and Paul in particular was focused on the progress of the gospel in that city (Philippians 1:25). It made a Spirit empowered decision to challenge the way things are done.
Then after encouraging the saints gathered at Lydia’s house Acts 16:40, the team purposely left Luke, their companion in Philippi to advance the gospel in that city. (Acts 17:1). Take note of the pronouns Luke uses, in that verse.
So what do our decisions communicate to others about the relevance of the gospel in our culture? Do we even consider how our decisions defend and advance the gospel, or are we more preoccupied in how they will affect us personally.
Read the first chapter of Philippians today and see how much Paul is concerned that our manner of life be worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). What are some of the implications of taking his exhortation seriously?
Do our decisions about our relationships (dating, marriage, business, church) communicate to our city that we are more about advancing the gospel than advancing our personal agendas? Am I willing to say both “no” and “yes” in my relationships for the defense of the gospel?
For example, if as confessing Christians, divorce is always a viable option for an unhappy relationship, are we really defending the transforming power of the gospel with our manner of life.
The divorce rate among believers today is not markedly different than the world. A generation of Christians were not consumed, like Paul, with the gospel, and did not consider the implications that their decisions would have on that gospel. A multitude of individual choices created a culture of divorce in the US that does not mirror the power of the gospel.
What about my job and personal advancement? Am I both willing to say “yes” and “no” to employment that neither advances the cause of the gospel or defends it.
For example, does the fact that more and more confessed evangelicals agree to work on Sunday during church, contribute to advancing the exclusive claims of the gospel over our lives? Aren’t we really communicating that going to church is expedient only when it doesn’t conflict with my personal agenda?
A multitude of individual choices in regards to church attendance has created a culture of indifference towards the gathering together of Christ body. We give up the teaching of the word, fellowship and prayer for just about anything that suits our fancy. ( Bad weather, sports, headaches, tiredness, work, play practice, time of service, length of service, preacher, music, you name it). It used to be that your neighbors knew something was different about you, because your car left the same time every Sunday morning and evening.
Next time you make a decision about anything, think and pray : How will my commitment to both the defense and advancement of the gospel influence my choices and how will those choices affect the generation to come?
2 Corinthians 5:13-15
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
This is my humble attempt to contribute Christ honoring blog posts to the internet. For me, writing is a struggle, but that encourages me, because in my weakness Christ is glorified (1 Corinthians 1:20-31). I am not much for the internet either, and am Social Media adverse, but I’m learning.
But, this is what I would like to do for the body of believers banded together at GRACE CHURCH in Lebanon, Indiana and our small community of Lebanon.
I would like to commit a part of every Monday, reflecting on the Word of God, preached the day before. I will try to be consistent on MONDAYS. Don’t expect me to post every day., as that would be way too time consuming. And, please don’t expect me to comment on the comments, if there are any. Let’s use this blog to encourage one another for the GLORY OF GOD and to reach the lost with the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ
Yesterday’s passage was our continuing study in the books of Acts. We started at the beginning of 2013 and have taken some detours along the way, but are back in it for a short time, before we begin our series in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Actually, yesterday’s sermon, and the next two, will set up our series in Philippians, because we are in Acts 16.
Almost immediately after the sermon, God placed on my heart a thought that has stuck with me. So often, in our attempts to penetrate our community, we strategize on how we can attract them to the gospel. Often times it is more about adding that denial. Most often, it is with the implementation of some new program or some addition to our physical building. Maybe we feel we need to add a New Praise Team, or a new youth room, or new signage and a web presence, or a new blog. The list could go on ad infinitum (forever).
But, in our passage yesterday (Acts 16:1-10), we saw that Saul and Silas were not preoccupied with attracting people to the gospel, but attracting them with the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the good news that God gave up his Son for the sake of sinners ( I Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul, Silas, and Timothy (especially) were literally willing to forsake a little piece of skin (Acts 16:3) for the sake of the gospel. Jesus said that the gospel is denying yourself, taking up the cross, and following Him (Mark 8:34). To them it was less about adding that giving up.
We like the "feel good" strategy of attracting people to the gospel. If we are honest, new programs, buildings, praise bands and blogs are often more about ourselves, than the lost. Not always, of course, but search us, O God (Psalm 139:23-24).
How willing are you and I to give up something that reflects the true nature of the gospel that transformed us? What are we willing to do for the sake of our neighbors? What are we willing to give up (time, money, comfort, reputation, or personal preferences)?
It is quite possible that when our community sees that GRACE CHURCH of Lebanon, Indiana, is living out the gospel, by being willing to lay their lives down for the sake of others, instead of building it up for ourselves, Christ Jesus will be truly magnified in changed lives.