As Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to preach, He makes this statement: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 10:32). This verse hit me hard today as I was thinking about my desire to proclaim the gospel to the unreached and helping other believers do the same. Rarely do we consider what is going on in heaven as we are preaching and sharing the gospel with others. If you allow me to put this in my own words; ‘While the Holy Spirit is helping us powerfully proclaim salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, He is telling the Father that we are giving this life-changing message to others here on earth’. All of heaven is engaged in what is taking place here on earth when it comes to declaring the gospel – “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
Are you engaged with the priorities of heaven? If not, why not? Heaven is infinitely interested in our representation of God’s eternal plan to those who need to hear and understand His plan.
Consider the following: “The primary mission of the church…is to proclaim the gospel of Christ and gather believers into local churches where they can be built up in the faith and made effective in service; thus new congregations are to be planted throughout the world.”
As we examine Paul's method of evangelism and church planting, this is exactly what he did. What he did in ten years following this model spread the gospel and planted churches from Jerusalem to Rome. We have a lot to learn from this example.
Hesselgrave, David J., Planting Churches Cross-Culturally – North America and Beyond, Baker Academic, 2000, page 17.
There is another valuable point that Paul and Barnabas made as they shared in the Antioch church what God had done on their missionary trip. “They declared all that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). I am greatly challenged by this statement because it shows that these missionaries were not self-focused, wanting to share what they had done. They were filled with joy over what “God had done”. This is what should motivate the church toward greater involvement in the mission field, whether it is going, sending, or supporting those who go. God is most glorified when we find joy in what He is doing.
A follow-up point to this is that “God had opened a door” for the Gentiles to hear the gospel. If He opens a door for the gospel to be presented to those who have never heard, we must be faithful to go through that door. It is a ‘God’ opportunity! For a further example of how Paul looked for these open doors, see 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 and Jesus’ words in Revelations 3:7.
Be occupied with what God is doing and look for the opportunities that He presents. This will preserve us from striving with our own agendas and seeking glory from men.
It is common for a missionary to return home on ‘furlough’ and report to the ‘home church’ what has taken place on the field. This is what Paul and Barnabas did when they returned to Antioch, their sending church. But note carefully Luke’s next comment; “they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled” (Acts 14:26). If this method used by Barnabas and Paul were properly used today (See yesterday’s post), the mission work on the field would be quickly finished and we could move onto other fields of unreached people.
If the Lord’s return is dependent on every people group (ethnos) hearing the gospel, and someone in that ethnos group believes, (Mt. 24:14) then wouldn’t we want to use the most effective means possible to accomplish our task? Let us hasten Christ’s return!
Yes, stoned and thought to be dead! “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19). This happened after a powerful ministry in Lystra. But Paul’s stoning is not the end of his work in Lystra though!
“But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city. One might think that Paul would take a vacation from ministry to heal. No! The body of Christ came together to revive, strengthen, and support what God was doing through His servants. “On the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra” (14:20). Why did Paul go back to the very city where he was stoned and left for dead? They were not distracted from their goal to “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encourage them to continue in the faith, saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (14:22). They did not leave Lystra, Iconium and Antioch until “they had appointed elders for them in every church” (14:23), the hall mark of a strong indigenous church.
NOTICE PAUL’S MODEL: PREACH THE GOSPEL – MAKE DISCIPLES – STRENGTHEN – ENCOURAGE – APPOINT ELDERS/LEADERS
This is effective missions! The time spent was very short and even persecution could not stop the progress God was making through His servants. I urge you to carefully consider whether our churches and mission committees/boards are following Paul’s model.
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”
By: Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China
This is one article I do not want to write. It deeply challenges my own heart; but it must be written. Over the years in doing ministry and mission work, we have observed that the desire for money and possessions is a great hindrance to the work of God. You may ask why? It becomes a distraction from abandoned love for God and weakens our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, personally and in the body of Christ.
Let me give you a few examples that will help make this clear:
Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was struck with Naaman’s leprosy because he coveted the money offered to Elisha which Elisha refused (2 Kings 5:15-27). His actions were a direct violation of the free gift of healing grace given by God through Elisha. Personal worldly gain and the gospel do not mix.
Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied to the Holy Spirit about money received from selling property (Acts 5:1-11). This was a direct violation of the pure gospel and its powerful work in the early church. All mission and ministry efforts must exalt Christ and the gospel, not men.
Paul makes it clear that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). In all three passages, money became destructive to the individual and hindered the work of God.
This is why we insist that the most effective way to promote, establish, strengthen and expand God’s work is through a self-sustaining, self-supporting indigenous work of the Holy Spirit that is not dependent on outside money, buildings or education. The true work of the Holy Spirit will make love for Christ and His word supreme. John Piper says that “we scorn the infinite worth of God when we covet” which Paul calls “idolatry…on account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5-6). What will you and I treasure more highly; money or the work of God by grace?
Just before the long list of those in the ‘Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews 11, we find the statement, “you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:34-35).
Where does this joy and confidence come from? Verse 32 points out that it comes after we have been “enlightened” by the gospel which this book unfolds in wonderful detail. The glory of Christ in the gospel enables us to “endure a hard struggle with sufferings…being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction” (10:32-33). In chapter 11, Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (11:26).
Joy in suffering for the sake of Christ comes from determining in our hearts that we have “unsearchable riches” in Him (Ephesians 3:8) and they are far greater than what this world can offer. How strong is your confidence in this truth? What reward are you really looking for? Your answer to these questions will determine what you are willing to suffer for Christ’s sake.
We often hear persons say that God “allows suffering” for our good, which we have observed before, but rarely does anyone say that it is a gift. As Paul was admonishing the Philippians to live their life “worthy of the gospel” and not to be “frightened in anything by their opponents”, he adds a most interest statement: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:27-29). The word “granted” means “a generous gift” as if it were handed to us to keep as a custodian. Not only must our lives clearly represent the gospel we preach, we also have the high privilege and gift of suffering for the sake of Christ!
Later in chapter three, Paul said he “counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…and may share His sufferings” (3:8-11). As a representative of Christ and the gospel of His grace, suffering is given to us as another way for the glory of Christ to shine through us for others to see. Therefore, how we accept and go through suffering is a very critical part of proclaiming Christ and the gospel. Stephen is a powerful example of this in Acts 6 and 7, who in the suffering of being stoned to death reflected the power and glory of Christ. It was God’s way of defining the guilt of his murderers and beginning the process of convicting the heart Saul. It also was His tool for expanding the church beyond Jerusalem into Judea. For these reasons, we must see the side of privilege and generous gift we have in suffer for the sake of Christ.
Don’t look for suffering. Receive it as a gift when God sends it and let Him use it in you for His glory and purposes.
The words of Jesus to Ananias about Saul make us stop and ponder our own calling; “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:16). Coming at the beginning of Saul’s call did several things for this new convert:
Paul went to places where suffering was inevitable because he was “constrained by the Spirit” even though he did not know what would happen when he got there, “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22-23).
There was one reason why warning ahead of time about all his suffering did not divert him from his call. “I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). The name of Jesus is “the gospel of the grace of God” and that is what mattered.
How strong is your resolve to carry out and complete your calling by God? REMEMBER: It is not your strength that causes you to finish your calling. It is the grace and power of God through the Spirit.
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