God believes in his people - Appointing them to evangelize the world.
Vast numbers of Church-attending Christians tend not to see themselves as evangelical. This is mainly because they have developed the habit of thinking about evangelism in terms of denomination. If pressed in the matter, they might say: ‘But we are not evangelicals. The Evangelical Church is half way along the High Street’.
This attitude towards evangelism, contains a considerable danger; that of disregarding the commission that Christ gave to the whole Church, to be his witnesses. By such an attitude, people count themselves out of the fulfilment of the Church's ‘Call of God'.
It is safer to heed what Christ said, as he commissioned his Church: and to fulfil our calling. To fulfil our calling, we need to see that 'evangelism’ is not a matter of denominational practice and tradition - along the lines of ‘They are evangelicals, and we are not’. Instead, we are to see that our English word 'evangelism’, has a Greek root, ‘euangelion’, which translates as ‘gospel', or 'good news'.
God has a message of love, the 'Good News' of new life in Christ; which he has entrusted to the Church to deliver. So, perhaps any reluctance on our part to be 'evangelical', relates, not to deliberate disobedience, but to uncertainty as to what to do; and also to how, and where to do it, if we were certain.
There is a story of Christ returning to heaven, at the completion of his earthly ministry; and of the Angel Gabriel asking the Lord what he had done, and how things would continue.
Jesus explained that he had commissioned a handful of men to begin taking the gospel into all the world. The story goes on to say that Gabriel was surprised, and said: ‘A mere handful of men! Is that all?’, to which the Lord Jesus replied: ‘Yes! That is all! I have no other plan!’.
We, as inheritors of the gospel, are part of 'Christ's Plan'; and called to share the 'Good News'. A BRIEF PRAYER: God our Father, where we have not fully understood our calling, please forgive us; and, in your love, grant us new vision and zeal. Amen.
Jesus gave a clear and wonderfully practical command about this at Acts 1:8
He said to his disciples: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem. and in all Judea and Samaria. and to the ends of the earth’.
JERUSALEM was where their closest relatives and friends lived, and where opportunities for a quite natural witness were the greatest. JUDEA was where more distant relatives and acquaintances lived, and where opportunities to witness didn't occur quite so easily, and might have to be deliberately created. SAMARIA was that bit foreign; where people who were not Jewish were in the majority; and who would have to he deliberately approached, in ways acceptable and attractive to them. AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH indicates that which is beyond normal contact, and which has to be tackled on a different basis.
Christ's practical command said: Start from where you are, and gradually work your way outwards; and that is exactly what the Early Church did. Through the centuries, that original, obedient response to the call of God, has continued to be wonderfully effective in its ongoing outreach.
We, as inheritors of the gospel, and of Christ's evangelistic command, are called to begin our outreach, our sharing of the 'Good News', from where we are; and, where opportunities are given, or can be created, gradually work our way outwards.
Most Christians have a testimony to the fact that their own 'life of faith' began with the help, encouragement and even the challenge of people close them; relatives; friends, teachers and so on.
A simple form of outreach, which became a blessing to us; is exactly how God wants us to reach out to other people, so that what is done may become a blessing to them. A PRAYER: ‘Lord, your 'Gospel of Peace' is a beautiful thing. Please help us to speak out what we know, with simplicity and graciousness. Amen’.
THE MESSAGE ITSELF. Usually, when messengers come to our house, and deliver a packet or an envelope; they do not know the contents of it: but simply deliver it, and go. Not so with the Christian messenger.
The Christian must first receive God's 'Gospel of Love' message; believe it, and live by it; before he or she can even begin to pass the 'Good News' on, in a meaningful way. God entrusts his message his followers; not so that it should be defended by them; or even explained by them; but so that it should be delivered by them. If we take time to think about it; those churches that we have known, or belonged to, have always done a certain amount of defending the gospel, or explaining it; but have done very little about delivering the message of God’s love, in Christ.
In the 'Acts of the Apostles', at chapter 7. we find Stephen making a speech to the Jewish leaders, and showing how they, and generations of their predecessors had killed the prophets that God sent to the people; including, and especially, Jesus Christ. He said that God had spoken to Moses in the long-ago, and that he had ‘received living words, to pass on to us’.
If asked, most of us could testify to the fact that, in one way or another, God has spoken to us; not only through written words, such as the Bible; but also directly; to our hearts, minds and spirits; in the deep places of our lives.
Where this has been so; the direct words of God to us were ‘Living Words’. Whenever this has been so, some of those ‘Words’ were for us alone; and others were for us to pass on, in witness and testimony.
A PRAYER: ‘Lord God; for what we received from you, that was for us alone, we give you thanks and praise. For what you entrusted to us, but we failed pass on, please forgive us, and grant us new opportunities to share your love in Christ. Amen!’.
LIVING WITNESSES. The 'living word' of God is best expressed through 'living witnesses', of which, there are two, main types; those who give witness through what they say and do; and those who can witness to what they heard and saw being done. Both kinds of witness have an important place in God's great evangelical scheme of things.
At Mark 2.12., Jesus Christ gave a great witness to God the Father's love and power, through what he said and did. The people standing all around, responded to what they heard and saw, by giving a verbal witness to it. They said: ‘We have never seen anything like this!', and their verbal witness to what they heard and saw, must have continued; in their homes; places of work, and out on the streets, as they met friends, and talked with them.
In the famous story of 'The Woman at the Well', the woman herself was a very effective 'living witness'. Having received some particular teaching from Jesus, she went back into the town, and told her friends and neighbours about it. Then said: ‘Come, and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’. The story goes on to say: 'Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him, because of that woman's testimony'.
And the story doesn't end there. Not merely content with words about Christ, the townspeople went out into the countryside, to meet him for themselves. Then they said to the woman; to the 'living witness'; ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world’.
There is a very great difference between a made-up story, and a true one; but there is also a very great difference between a true story told by someone who merely repeats it, and a true story that is told by someone who actually experienced it. Those who have actually experienced God, have something special about them; for they carry with them, something of the Spirit of God. That is what makes them to be ‘living witnesses’. Jesus had something particular to say about this, when he sent seventy-two disciples out on a mission to the towns and villages.
He said: ‘He who listens to you, listens to me’. When God, in Christ, speaks through us; it is not a matter of words only, but of power: for the words are to do with life itself; and not physical life only, but of life in the spirit.
To the ancient Jews, who were to become the channel of mission and outreach to the world that God loves, the Lord said: ‘Behold, I have set before you life and death. Therefore, choose life, that you may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, and hold fast to him’. (Deut. 30: 19).
In due course, Jesus Christ made a statement on this very matter. He said: ‘I have come that you might have life; and have it to the full’. (John 10:10.). In so many ways, Jesus made it quite clear that here, too, there was a choice; between the way of the world, and the Way of the Lord, and that everything depended upon the right choice being made.
When God in Christ speaks through us, it is not a matter of words only, but of power; for the words are to do with life itself. The Lord entrusts the 'Word of Life' to his followers, and relies upon them to evangelise the world around them; and it appears to be true that the Lord does have 'No other plan’.
At Deuteronomy 30., where the Lord says: 'Therefore, choose life'; he also says: 'You don't have to go searching for the 'Word', for it is very near, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may believe and obey'. (V.13 +14).
Through the pen of his servant, Paul; the Lord says that this 'Word of Life' must not remain in the heart only, but, to be effective, it must be spoken out by the mouth. At Romans 10: 8. he wrote: ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith that we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your lips "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe, and are justified; and it is with your mouth that you confess, and are saved’.
God entrusts his 'Word of life' to his evangelists, to the bearers of God's 'Good News'., that is, to his Church. All of this raises a question.
If it is true that Christ has ‘No other plan’; then, where opportunities to offer the 'Word of Life' are not taken up; is life actually withheld from those who, otherwise, might have received it? Amen.