Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

2 Samuel 19:1-14 (Part 1 of 3)
Joab Rebukes the King

I am now in the beginnings of the third semester of my doctoral program. I had to take spring semester 2018 off due to the job change and move to Illinois. But I am back at it again now. We have four semesters of course work to do in the program before candidates can begin their dissertation process. So, after this semester, I will be ¾ of the way through the course work. This semester, the course is Missions & Evangelism. One of the seven books I have to read this semester (already have two of them read and now have begun the third), Becoming A Contagious Church, had a profound statement in it very early on in the book. It kind of kicked me in the pants as a pastor. At pp.16-17 of this book, the author, Mark Mittleberg, states the following:

“We talk a good game but our actions speak louder than our words. According to a recent survey, a mere 14% of pastors claim that their churches are heavily involved in evangelism. Do we really care about lost people? Are we convinced that everyone we know, without exception, needs to find the forgiveness, friendship, life and leadership Jesus offers? Do we truly believe in hell and that our friends and family members will end up there if they don’t trust in Christ before they die? Doe we REALLY believe that? If so, are we willing to stretch and take risks to warn them? Are we willing to invest the time and energy in developing churches that will attract, challenge, and teach them to step across the line of faith?

Jesus commanded us to become contagious Christians and to build contagious churches that will do whatever is necessary with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to bring more and more people to Christ…Evangelism is the primary reason we are left on this planet.”

Early on in this book, Mittleberg shoots straight with us about why most churches today are stagnant, declining, or only growing through “transfer growth” (taking members from other churches). Very few churches are actively drawing in unchurched or dechurched. It is because we no longer place an emphasis on personal evangelism. We cannot become contagious churches if we do not personally become contagious Christians, Mittleberg later says. Talk about a kick in the pants. No holes barred, unadulterated truth. And the real kicker in his early statements in this book is that he says that the fault lays at the feet of the leaders of churches. If we do not live lives that are marked by personal evangelism, then, then, then, how can we expect our people to see personal evangelism as a priority. It’s just that simple. People follow the example set by their leaders. Simply by the nature of my position as a pastor at my church, though I am an administrative pastor, that sets the bar higher for me just as it does for the two other staff pastors and our senior pastor. Just as at any church, the pastoral leadership must lead the way by example when it comes to evangelism.

Bam! In yo face, Mark! There’s no saying that it’s not my job or that it is not my giftedness. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is an unqualified imperative statement. Implied in the version of the verb to go is that is collective plural “you”. If it was a full sentence instead of the elliptical sentence it is, it would say, “You go and make disciples!”. It is the collective plural you in the present tense. We all are ordered to go and make disciples. Not just those who are gifted at sharing the gospel. We all must go. In the present tense, it means now. Now, we must all go. It is inherent in all Christ followers from this command that we share the gospel now.

Sadly, as Mittleberg says and it is so true, most of us Christ followers live in a cocoon of all Christian friends. We have no friends in our social circles outside the fellowship of our churches often. How many friends do you have that are not Christians? How many friends to you have that are unchurched and unsaved? I know the answer for me is a very precious few. Talk about a book that is a convictor of the Christian soul and one that does it early on in the book and in the bluntest way possible. Sometimes, we need to hear the truth because otherwise we would not deal with it.

This time, it was a book. But there are times when we need to hear the truth from a live person. Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable but necessary. Do you have a friend or family member or someone at your work that has the guts to tell you the truth when you need to hear it?

David got the truth from one of his employees in this passage – the straight on truth. Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 19:1-14, now and see how Joab lays it on David:

Chapter 19
1 Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. 2 As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. 3 They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle. 4 The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

5 Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. 6 You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. 7 Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.”

8 So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him.

Meanwhile, the Israelites who had supported Absalom fled to their homes. 9 And throughout all the tribes of Israel there was much discussion and argument going on. The people were saying, “The king rescued us from our enemies and saved us from the Philistines, but Absalom chased him out of the country. 10 Now Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, is dead. Why not ask David to come back and be our king again?”

11 Then King David sent Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to say to the elders of Judah, “Why are you the last ones to welcome back the king into his palace? For I have heard that all Israel is ready. 12 You are my relatives, my own tribe, my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to welcome back the king?” 13 And David told them to tell Amasa, “Since you are my own flesh and blood, like Joab, may God strike me and even kill me if I do not appoint you as commander of my army in his place.”

14 Then Amasa[b] convinced all the men of Judah, and they responded unanimously. They sent word to the king, “Return to us, and bring back all who are with you.”

In this passage, we see that, at times, we must share the hard truth with those people we have relationships with, whether it be with family, with work associates or superiors, or with friends. Joab knew he was risking the king’s displeasure by confronting him, but David was so caught up in his own grief that he could not see what it was doing to the morale of the nation. Joab told David that there would be dreadful consequences if he did not commend his troops for their victory. There are times in our lives where we need someone in our lives to give us the cold, hard truth.

Just like Mark Mittleberg laid it on me in his book, Becoming A Contagious Church. As a pastor, if I expect results in evangelism from our people, then, I have got to live the evangelistic lifestyle in front of them. I have to break out of my cocoon (though it was not intentionally formed) of Christ follower only friends and acquaintances. As a pastor or a heavily involved member of a church, you can easily find yourself with Christian only friends. It’s easy to get into the rut of not venturing outside these circles. We need a kick in the butt as leaders to be intentional about seeking out opportunities to connect with unchurched people in our midst. We need to seek opportunities with our neighbors who we know are not saved and try to interact with them, gain an entry into their lives, make relationships with them, and earn the right to speak into their lives. We must have urgency about seeking out those who do not know Jesus just in our own neighborhoods. We cannot expect our church members to do it if we are not modeling it ourselves. Man, it is so easy to get so focused on the busy-ness of church that we can forget that evangelism is why we, ourselves, are working for the church. If someone had not shared the gospel with us, we would not be where we are.

Just as Joab tells David that he needs to get off his pity pot and start leading the nation again. His got so wrapped up in his own life issues that he had forgotten how to be king. He needed a kick in the butt from Joab to say, “hey buddy, I know you are hurting but you got a country to lead!” We all need reminding sometimes of what is important, what our duties are, what responsibilities we have. We need those people in our lives that will shoot straight with us.

Amen and Amen.

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Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 2 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Our church motto is “missionaries where we live, work, and play.” The intention of the motto is to demonstrate to our people that we should be on-mission, Jesus’ mission, all the time no matter where we are or what we are doing. So often, we think of mission as being someone being sent to a foreign land to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, our church motto reminds us that our mission field is not limited to foreign lands. Acts 1:8 tells us to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem (here we live), in Samaria (in our region and nation), and to the ends of the earth (foreign lands). We are called to be missionaries just as much locally, regionally, and nationally as we are called to be missionaries in foreign lands. Each of us has a mission field in our normal everyday lives. We each have a sphere of influence that is our mission field. We each have a sphere of influence where we work. We each have a sphere of influence where we live – in our neighborhoods and in our sections of town. We each have a sphere of influence in our leisure pursuits and just normal everyday interactions with people with whom we come in contact not at work or in our neighborhood.

The motto is to encourage our LifeSong folks to be mindful that each one of us is part of the kingdom’s work each and every day no matter where we are or what we are doing. We should be “on-mission” all the time. We should consider ourselves ministers of the gospel. It’s not just the preacher’s job. Having full-time pastors in a local church is a recent development in Christendom. For most of the early centuries of the church, the job of what we call a preacher today was shared among the elders of the church and each and every member of the church was not excused from carrying the gospel just because they were not an elder. So, our church motto is one that reminds that we are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) as part of God’s people. Church should not be a compartmentalized thing that we do on Sundays only or at special events at other times that require us to volunteer. We should be missionaries when nobody from church is looking. We should be missionaries when the preacher is not there to pat us on the back. We should be missionaries where we live, work, and play because we are playing for “and audience of one”, as my pastor often says. The “audience of one” is God and He is the one whom we must please and not necessarily so we can gain favor with our preacher or the people that we want to impress at church. We should be doing the work of the kingdom, spreading the gospel, because we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and because we love others so much that we want them to have the opportunity to encounter a real person who has been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. We want people who do not know Jesus to come to know the joy and peace that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ. We should care so much about the eternal destination of all the people we come in contact with in our spheres of influence that we are on-mission every day. We think about it. We pray about it. We act upon it. We give glory to the Lord because of it.

That’s the intent behind the motto. But at the same time, if we do not live out Christlikeness in our everyday lives, then, all of the above is meaningless. I think part of the intent of the motto is also to remind us that being a Christ follower is a full-time 24/7/365 calling. It is not some box that we pull out of the storage rack in the garage on Sunday and play with its contents for a few hours on Sunday and maybe at special events of the church here and there and maybe at some small group setting on a regular basis. Being a missionary where we live, work, and play is a reminder that we are Christ followers all the time – from the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night and even while we are sleeping. During our day, we should remind ourselves that we are Christ’s representatives here on earth. We should NOT be like the old saying about church hypocrisy of “go to church on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Not that we should try to be some paragon of virtue, we are flawed, fleshly human vessels on this side of heaven, but there should be real life change as a result of salvation. We should be through sanctification by the Holy Spirit from the inside of us out becoming gradually, gradually more and more like Christ every day. We should be different from the rest of the world because Jesus sure was. We should be so different and have such different values from the rest of this fallen world that people are drawn to us and want to know why we are so different. We should live our lives in such a way that we have good reputations and people can count on our word being our word. We should be people who value integrity and honesty. We should be people who demonstrate those qualities in everything we do. We should have demonstrable faith. We should be people who are unafraid to live out the gospel in their daily lives. We should be unafraid to share our faith with others. We should have such a reputation for being a Christian that people are drawn to us and want to know how Jesus changed our lives. We should have a reputation for being ethical people even when we don’t have to be. We should have a reputation for being a hard worker. We should have a reputation for being a person that can be counted on to go above and beyond what is required. In our neighborhoods, we should be seen as people who are uncommonly kind and who care about our neighbors. All in all, we should be on-mission not only in intentional acts of evangelism but we should let our lives reflect that we are missionaries each and every day where we live, work, and play.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the second of five reads through this morning – how Ruth was a woman of character all the time, every day. She was an example of a missionary on-mission all the time. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 for the first of five blogs today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities. She was hardworking, loving, kind, faithful and brave. These qualities gained her a good reputation, but only because she displayed them consistently in all areas of her life. Wherever Ruth went or whatever she did, her character remained the same. Your reputation is formed by the people who watch you where you live, work, and play. A good reputation comes by consistently living out the qualities that you believe in – no matter what group of people you are around or what surroundings you are in.
So, when you wake up this morning and go to work, and then interact with people all day at work, and then you come home to your family, and when you are out in your neighborhood, and then when you go out to eat and interact with people all along the way, will there be enough evidence of you being a Christ follower for people to notice that you are a Christian. Are you a missionary to the people you work with? Are you a missionary to your family? Are you a missionary to the people you come in contact with when you are not at work and not at church? Are you a missionary all the time? Does your life reflect that you love God and love others? Does your life reflect that you are part of the kingdom of priests and the holy nation of God’s people? Does your life reflect that you are an ambassador of Christ? Are you on-mission all the time? Are you a missionary where you live, work, and play by the actions that you take and how you live your life? Am I? Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit reveals to us where we are failing Jesus in that regard.

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 8:28-34
Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men

Details of the Christian faith. One of the things that I love about our faith is the fact that it is the only faith that couches itself in history. People in historical context. Events that can be compared to historical records outside of the Bible. Ours is a faith that can be tested against man’s reality. All other religions begin with fables or claims of historical fact that cannot be tested. Christianity begs you to do research. Those who understand our faith welcome your skepticism and call upon you to do the research. It is a reasonable faith. It is a real time faith that welcomes your questions. Why is that important? The fact that it is a faith that can be verified, and it is a faith that does not rely on the word of one main or some created legend, it is a faith that can be shared by reasonable men and a faith that can be shared by all. One of the historical facts that is in today’s passage, Matthew 8:28-34, is that there was actually a place called Gadara in the time of Jesus and its inhabitants were called the Gadarenes. Why is this important? Let us see. The passage begins with the statement that Jesus and the disciples arrived at the other side at the region of the Gadarenes. What does that mean? Why does Matthew mention the “region of the Gadarenes” and what purpose does that serve in what Matthew is trying to say here?

According to Wayne Blank in his devotional, “Gadarenes”, at http://www.keyway.ca/htm2003/20030210.htm, Mr. Blank says,
“Gadara was one of the Decapolis, or ‘Ten Cities,’ that were originally inhabited primarily by Greek people who settled in the region after the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest. After the Romans occupied the region from about 65 B.C., Gadara was made the capital of the Roman province of Peraea. Gadara was located east of the Jordan River on a mountain about 6 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The people of Gadara were known as Gadarenes…” He continues, “They were still mostly Gentiles in the time of Christ, as indicated by their keeping of pigs…”

To me, the inclusion of this sentence in Matthew’s text is significant in several respects. First, it gives historical perspective to the story. Gadara being one of the ten cities of the Decapolis is something that can be verified via historical research into the Greek and Roman antiquity. Although the Bible does not need help, it certainly continues to prove the point of the historical veracity of the Bible and that the events of Jesus’ life did actually take place in places that you can go to and touch and feel. My wife and I have a friend from our life group that recently got to go Greece on a mission trip to serve missionaries who had come in from other countries for a conference. During the conference, as a nurse, she was a part of the team that checked on the health of the missionaries and their families. During her time there, she was able to do some sightseeing such as visiting the ruins of ancient cities mentioned in the New Testament such Philippi. The fact that she could stand where Paul, one of the great men of our faith, stood is not only awe-inspiring but it is also evidence of the historicity of our faith. The fact that this friend could visit the places where Paul preached and evangelized gives confidence to our faith. Though our faith does not depend on us visiting such places, for there are those who will never see the Holy Land or visit Philippi, it does give you confidence that our faith is one that can be verified. It occurred in the real time of human events. There are historical references outside the Bible that Jesus existed. There is ample evidence to support the reasonableness of our faith. All of that can get you 95% of the way to Jesus Christ, but faith must get you that last 5% of the way. Jesus was real. But the question you must come to answer is whether or not you believe that He is the Son of God and that He is the only way to the Father in heaven. That is the most important question that you will ever answer in your life. Your eternity hangs in the balance. However, our faith is one that welcomes your questions. It does not take blind faith in a fable as Hinduism and Buddhism do. It does not require that you accept blindly the vision revealed to only one man as so many other religions such as Islam do. To understand what Christ has done for us on the cross fully, the Christian faith almost begs you to investigate it. Blind faith based on feelings or coercion is not the way of the Christian faith. Our faith demands that you understand it, question it, and make up your mind.
Second, and as importantly, this passage is proof that Jesus took his ministry outside the traditional Jewish boundaries. The implication here is that the Good News of Jesus’ ministry was for everyone, the whole world, and not just his native Jewish nation. This is not to knock the Jewish nation in anyway because Jesus was a Jew. He was saddened by their unwillingness to be the light of the world as God’s chosen people. Thus, Jesus carrying the message to regions of Palestine that were not Jewish is significant. He was taking up the mantle of being the light of the world. A mantle that Christ’s church took seriously after his death and resurrection such that the example of his life and his teachings spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus was spreading the good news of the kingdom to all who would hear it. If it were not for those who desired all to share in the kingdom of God, Christianity would be a small little sect of Judaism located in Palestine right now to this day. Jesus sets the example here that would be followed by his disciples. His command to go and make disciples at the end of this gospel was not without precedent. We see him on numerous occasions through this and the other gospels sharing the gospel outside the boundaries of Jewish society. Jesus, the Great Commission, was not asking his disciples to do anything that He had not already demonstrated to them. Jesus commands to do the same. Here, we see Him doing it. Later, we see his disciples doing it. Now, it is our turn. We have been shown by our Teacher.
The implication for you and me is that we have an example right here of how Jesus willingly took the news of God’s love to everyone even in regions where they worshiped other gods. We are, thus, called to share the Gospel anywhere, anytime, anyplace. We must share the gospel. It is not an option. It is a command. We have our example from Jesus himself. If we do not share the gospel, people cannot have the experience of asking questions about the faith. They cannot come to understand it. They cannot come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They cannot come to love the fact that our faith is one that can be verified. They cannot know that our faith is one that welcomes your questions and your doubts. They cannot know the amazing changes that can be brought about through the Holy Spirit that give us hope and peace in knowing that we have been saved from the precipice of hell by the loving act of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let us be unashamed. Let us be bold. Let us share the gospel. It only makes sense that all should have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ.

Luke 20:20-26 — Have you, as a guy, ever been asked this question by your wife or girlfriend, “Does this dress make me look fat?” This question is the killer of all husband/boyfriend questions. There is no right answer to this question. Run. Run away! It is almost as bad as “Do you think she is pretty?” Run, boy, run. Most of us men are simple. We just want food, clothing, shelter, and sex. All of the other things in life are just window dressing, what has to be done to make women happy. For men, if the basic needs of life are met, life is good. These types of no-win questions leave us in stunned, fumbling silence. Uh, well, ummm is the usual response. I only mention the glorious differences between men and women that make the world go round here because the no-win question plays a role in our Scripture lesson this morning.

Another example would be from the fictional series, Star Trek. The Kobayashi Maru test. It is a no-win scenario.The notional primary goal of the exercise is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The disabled ship is located in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would cause an interstellar incident. The approaching cadet crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction and avoid an incident that could cause all-out war with the Klingons. No win scenario.

The temple leaders try to put Jesus in the position of husbands everywhere with the Do I Look Fat In This Dress scenario or the dread of star fleet officer cadets everywhere with the Kobayashi Maru scenario. The no win scenario. First, they flatter Him with compliments about his teaching and then they lower the boom. They ask him the apparently no-win scenario question. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Whoa, tough question. If Jesus agrees that Roman taxation is right, then perhaps they can turn public opinion against Jesus with the same vehemence with which tax collectors are hated. But if, as they suspect, Jesus secretly despises the Romans’ right to occupy Israel and place burdensome taxes on its citizens, perhaps they can get him to say something that can be construed as rebellion against Rome. Perhaps they can paint Jesus as a Zealot, one who fights to free Israel from Roman domination. It is a trick question, all right!

As in the tale of the USS Enterprise crew, where Captain Kirk redesigned the program of the no-win situation to come out the Kobayashi Maru test as a winner, Jesus gives the most amazing answer. His answer silenced the leaders. They could not use what He said against them. It was brilliant. Render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is God’s. The unimpeachable answer is given. But what does it mean for us today. What does it mean for our lives today that we can put into practice in our daily lives.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. There are so many things to say about this one statement. First, we have a duty to support our governments because they have been placed over us for a reason. In Jesus’ day, Israel had become a conquered nation because man-made designs but because Israel was paying the consequences of becoming a godless nation. Under David and Solomon the nation had become mighty and strong. They had become self-centered and self-indulgent and had pushed God aside. He allowed their self-indulgence to make them weak and they became conquered by successive empires of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and now Rome. God created the idea of government to organize people. He condones the idea of government. We have a legitimate obligation to both God and the government. Government serves as an organizing point to society and we have an obligation to support it. God is a God of order and not of disorder. His Word is consistent and true and non-contradictory. It is simply part of His character. Government then is God condoned as a way to establish an orderly society.

The point here to remember is that the two, Caesar and God, are not necessarily always at odds with each other. If our government is run by Christ followers and those seeking to do what is morally and spirtually right, then we have as our duty to support that. We should support our government when its ways are reflective of God’s way. We were not born to live in disorder so when our governments are seeking to reflect the character of God by its actions (whether the leaders are saved or not) then we have an obligation to support it. It is only when our government is at opposition with the character of God that we must place our duty to God over our duty to government.

In nations where there is no democracy that may mean to work passionately, compassionately, and diligently to change the ruling government through its replacement or through changing it from the inside out. In nations where there is a democratically elected government, we must seek out at the ballot box to change the government’s path by voting en masse for those whose candidacies appear most to reflect the character of God. What it does not entitle us to do is to withdraw from government and complain about the direction it is heading. What it does is to call us to action when our government becomes godless. We must wage war at the ballot box. 82% of Americans claim to be Christian. However, only 48% of all eligible American voters participate in elections. Therefore, a lot of Christians stay home on election day. How can we claim that our government is out of control and is less than godly when we do not participate in the process. Why do we complain that there are no godly candidates out there when we do not run for office. People will elect from the choices that they have. When they do not have Christ-like choices, we get godless governments.

Jesus avoided the no-win scenario, because, well, He is God and as a result He is kind of a good debater! LOL. In his answer, he says that He is not a rebel intent on destroying Rome but He did not jump into Rome’s lap either by what He said. He is saying you decide. Look at your government. Is it aligned with God’s character. Then we have an obligation to support it if it is. If your government is one that has become the antithesis of God’s character, then we must always stick with God. If we see the current state of affairs in our government as in opposition to God’s Word such as in matters of marriage, abortion, welfare, etc., we must rise up at the ballot box. We must rise up and run for office. We must change the government instead of watching it slide down the slope. Much deeper than that, we must no longer be closet Christians. We must be out in the world sharing the gospel daily to a nation that needs to know Him. A godless government is a reflection of its people in a democratic society. We must not be content to keep the gospel to ourselves. We must share it. We must live lives that draw others unto Him. We must tell the story of Jesus so that others will come to know Him as Savior. With each person that comes to Christ our nation begins to more reflect the character of God. When our nation reflects the character of God, our government eventually will too.

Luke 16:19-31 — You know, for several weeks now, as we have progressed through Jesus’ teachings in His parables, one thing that pops out is that a lot of these parables are about possessions and money. Today is no different. Today, we look at the Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar. Many of us think that there is always more time. Just give me a little more time to live as I want to and then I will come to Christ.

It is a bit ironic that we run across this passage today. Last night, my wife and I were sitting on our back porch (our favorite spot at our house, especially in the spring and summer), and it was raining. My cat, Flash, was out there with us. It was raining pretty hard outside but yet my wife does not like to let my little buddy in the house too often. So, there sits Flash on the porch. Can’t go outside because of the pouring rain. Can’t go inside because of Elena. So, he just sat on the floor stairing aimlessly outside. I said “Poor lil Flashy! He’s in porch purgatory.”

That got me to thinking. Where did the Catholics come up with the doctrine of purgatory? According to Catholic tradition, this belief has existed since the beginnings of the church (remember the Catholic church was the original church of Jesus’ disciples, catholic is Latin for universal. The church did not get this official name until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire around 300 AD). Research shows that Judaism believes in it as well. Islam does too in a sense with Islam’s levels of heaven. So, the Catholics are not alone in this belief that there is some type of cleansing that goes on for a period of time before we get to go to “real” heaven where we are cleansed of our imperfections. It is said that half of all Christians have this concept as part of their beliefs and most all other religions do too. Only we Protestants (all non-Catholic) believers dismiss the concept as having no basis in God’s Word itself. Man has developed this belief that there is always more time. More time to get ourselves straight with God. The dogma of purgatory almost gives us the idea that we do not really have to get it right while we are here on earth. We have a chance to get it right after death and before our final eternal destination. What a crock this is? It almost eliminates the need for Jesus and eliminates the urgency to come to Him. We’ve got time, always more time. I can put off til later dealing with this salvation thing.

This passage reminds us that purgatory is not biblical. This passage reminds us that hell is real. This passage reminds us that we are not guaranteed tomorrow so salvation and evangelism are essential.

As we see here in this passage, the beggar went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. This means that there is an immediate assignment of our soul to its eternal destination. There is no purgatory. There is no second chance. Purgatory is just an invention of man to make himself feel better about his loved ones who have passed on or about our own lifestyle as it is lived out day to day. It takes away the urgency of evangelism and it takes away the need for salvation. Jesus never spoke of purgatory. He only spoke of heaven and hell and we see it here clearly that there are only two options. Live a life of hard-heartedness. Live a life of rejection of God and His Word. Live a life of never accepting Jesus as your Savior and you will get your answer about the afterlife immediately.

This passage reminds us that hell is for real. There is no purgatory. There is the “hell express” immediately upon death for those who do not come to Christ in this one life chance that we have. Hell is not a pretty place. The rich man complains of the unquenchable thirst that he has and that he is in anguish. Let’s get this straight first. The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich and had much wealth. He went to hell because selfish. He refused to help the beggar right at his doorstep, a man so sickly that even the dogs licked his sores. Let’s remember first century Jews had no love for dogs the way we do. They were considered mongrels and were considered unclean, nasty animals and were never kept as pets. To be so sick that dogs would feed on you meant that you were lower than low. The rich man would not care for the beggar at his doorstep who begged for food. He refused to take the beggar in or even care for him. The rich man was hard-hearted despite his many material blessings. This man went to hell because his wealth was his god. He was blinded that Moses and prophets preached that God wants us to show love to the less fortunate. In the caring for the less fortunate, we learn not to love our things and make them our God. Caring for the less fortunate helps us to show the world that there is a God who loves them and will give them hope. Yet this man probably felt that his wealth and the maintenance of it was more important than helping his fellow man. When we make anything else other than God our god during this one chance at life that we get, we destine ourselves to the anguish of hell. It is a place of eternal suffering, pain and thirst and fire and the gnashing of teeth and bone and burning flesh and stench and emptiness. It is real and it is immediate. Do you want to keep putting off your coming to Jesus, the only way to the Father? The only way! No other way! Is living this life with some sense that you have time to get this right later on really a good bet? The rich man in this parable probably thought he had a long life to get things right but He didn’t. How much time do you think you have? Hell is for real. It is permanent. It is immediate when you die. I am not trying to scare anyone into salvation. That never works but it is so common for us when we are non-believers to think that we have more time to deal with our eternal destiny.

Why is it that we think that we always have time to deal with Jesus later? We think we are going to live forever. All of us, even Christ followers, do not like to think of death as being right around the corner. As Christ followers we know we are secure in heaven at death but we do not like to think it could be when we step our door to go to work this morning. The reality however is that we are not guaranteed one more minute in this temporal life that we are living now. We could indeed step out the door this morning to go to work and never make it there, even if you live less than two miles from work like I do. Death is always out there. We do not know when it comes. Why is it then that non-believers think they can put off dealing with Jesus until later. I put it off for 39 years. Let me live my life the way I want to right now. I can deal with Him after I have sowed all my wild oats. I am having too much hedonistic fun right now to deal with Him. I am too busy reveling in my sins right now. I will deal with Jesus later. We are not guaranteed one heart beat more than the next beat. Don’t put off coming to Jesus. Come to Him now. The rich man in this parable thought he had all the time in the world. We think we will live forever. Tomorrow I will deal with Jesus. Tomorrow. But tomorrow may never come. We may die today. Come to Your Savior now. As the captain of the space shuttle on Armageddon said, “We’ve got no time. No time!” Today may be your last day. Don’t put off knowing Jesus as your Savior. The rich man thought he had more time but died suddenly and putting off and putting off landed him in a place of eternal anguish known as hell.

The fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow not only should give the non-believer a sense of urgency to deal with Jesus but as Christ followers it should give us a great sense of urgency to share the gospel message. We put off sharing the gospel but it has been statistically proven that a person typically has at least 8 gospel encounters before they finally accept Christ. If we miss our divine appointments because we feel uncomfortable sharing, we are stretching out the time frame that a person has before the come to Christ, if at all. We are not guaranteed tomorrow as Christians but non-believers are not either. Hell is for real and is immediate upon death as we see in this parable. That raises the stakes for us as Christ followers. We must share the gospel when the opportunity arises. We must have a sense of urgency. Now. Now. Now. Hell is at stake. Souls are at stake. One chance at this life. It is short. Non-guaranteed long life. Today is the day. We should have that urgency on our mind when gospel opportunities are laid before us. Let us live with gospel urgency!

Luke 2:8-20 — Often we miss what the angel of the Lord said here. It is important for us to really get what is said. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David. And you recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (vv. 10-12, NLT).

Do not be afraid. The Shepherds were afraid. The angel reassured them that they did not have to be afraid. It reminds us of the assurance that we have in God. Our God is not out to squash us like bugs. He wants us not to be afraid. Although God is a God of justice and evil cannot stand in His presence, God is not out to punish us. He does not want us to be afraid. He wants us to come to Him. He calls out to us. Do not be afraid. God is love and He loved us so much that He pursues us through the person and work of Jesus Christ and through His Word. He does not want us to be condemned by His perfect and fair justice. He wants us to open our eyes and not be afraid. We all stand condemned and should be afraid but God provided the answer to the fear in this innocent child lying in a manger.

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Notice how broad is the angel’s message. It’s not for just the pious or the Jew, but “for all the people.” What wonderful news for those who are estranged from God. Great joy for all people. The shepherds are great examples of a whole people group that had been written off as unworthy and unsavable by their Jewish brethren. The birth of Jesus being announced here changes everything. The game will no longer be the same. Jesus came for everyone. His actions from birth to death and resurrection are for all, even for unbelievers. All you have to do is believe that He is the Son of God who died for our sins and who was raised from the dead to give us our eternal hope. This is good news. No one is too far from the grace of Jesus Christ. No one. Liars, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, drug addicts, adulterers. All are welcome at His table. All we must do is receive the grace that already exists in Jesus Christ. All we must do is confess our sins. All we must do is humbly ask Jesus to come into our lives and change us from the inside out. All we must do is realize that our way is the road to destruction but humble submission to the Lord is the way to permanent life change and eternal life. This is the good news that is great joy. This is the good news that it is for all people. Not just the pious few but for all people.

The Messiah has been born. The Savior. The Messiah. The Lord. He is all of these things. Having all of these descriptors used together at one time. Those who study Hebrew understand that the angel is making sure that those who read the text understand that this is no ordinary baby. He is God himself in the flesh. No ordinary baby. Jesus, part of the eternal trinity of God, coming to earth as a baby born in the usual way. He is the horn of salvation for all people. This act of coming into human history forever alters the course of human history. You cannot have the cross without the manger. He had to come and do it in the way that He did. He came to show us how much God loves us. He came to sacrifice Himself for our sins, past, present and future. He came to finish. He came to put and end to the hopelessness of our sin problem. This birth is the most necessary thing ever. The Messiah has been born. The Messiah has been born. Announce it! We would have none of our favorite hymns, favorite contemporary Christian music. We would not have churches. We would have none of it if God did not choose to send Jesus. This is the most loving thing ever. This is the most important thing ever. The Messiah has been born.

You will find a baby. You will find a baby. Jesus came to earth as a baby. He could have come as He will in the second coming in the clouds with trumpet sounds. But, the first advent is a humble one. He came as a baby. A child. Can you imagine the God of all things in a baby’s body? I bet Jesus was thinking, wow, this is pretty limited! LOL But back to the point. Jesus came as a child just like you and I are born as babies. He was a baby. He crawled. He learned to eat food. He learned to walk. He learned to be a part of a human family unit. He learned to do chores. He learned love. He learned physical pain. He learned emotional pain. He learned his father’s trade. He lived as a man. He knows. He knows. He knows what it is like to live the human experience. Jesus is our advocate with the Father because He knows what it is like to live in a human body. All of it. From birth to death. He lived the human experience. He knows. Because he came as a baby. So, when you think that God will not understand what you are going through or feeling, think again. Jesus knows. Jesus knows your troubles. He knows how you feel. He can more than just sympathize. He can empathize. He lived the human experience. He walked among us. He knows your hurts, habits, and hangups. He knows. He came to us as a baby. He did not magically appear. He lived the whole human experience. Never think He does not or could not understand. He knows. He came as a baby.

Father, thank you for the good news that makes us no longer afraid. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending Him to us to deliver us from our condemnation in our sin. Thank you for sending Him to live the life that we experience. Thank you for His understanding of the human experience by coming to earth in the way that we do and living the life that we live. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.

Romans 10:5-21 — “But how can they call on Him unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” (vv. 14-15). Wow, Paul tells us the way it is. He tells that we have a responsibility to share the gospel. We are to tell!

In telling others about Jesus Christ, an effective witness must include more than being a good example. Eventually, we must explain the “what” and the “how” of the gospel. Sure, living a Christian lifestyle in front of our unsaved friends, neighbors, co-workers, and complete strangers is important. Our actions should match our words, certainly. At some point, though, we have to feed the bulldog, pay the fiddler, put our money where our mouth (and those are about as many cliches as I can through in there!) We will need to connect the mind of the unbeliever with the message of the gospel. We often hear people say that they prefer lifestyle evangelism (living by example) rather than encounter evangelism (directly sharing the message of the gospel). Both should be used not one or the other.

We must take God’s great message of salvation to others so that they can respond to the Good News. How else will they hear it? It’s like the old Publisher’s Clearinghouse motto, “you can’t win if you don’t enter.” How will non-believers hear the message of that Jesus Christ died for their sins to make them right with God unless we do actually share the message with them. They can’t be saved if they don’t know. One of my professors at the North Greenville University Master of Christian Ministry program told us that research has shown that, on average, it takes at least 8 direct evangelism encounters before a person typically respond positively to the gospel message. If we don’t share the gospel, how will they know? How long will it take for them to come to Christ if we overlook our divine appointments?

We should not make assumptions about who has heard the gospel and responded to it either! Some people who have been in church all their lives are not saved. They think they are because they go to church, even read the Bible, and do all the right things. As we have noted here in the last few days, doing all the right things does not save you. It comes down to belief, real belief in your heart that Jesus is Lord, that He died for my sins, and that He rose from the dead! At the same time, those whom we see as unsavory in society are sometimes the most responsive to the gospel message. As well, sometimes those who are most antagonistic to the Bible such as someone who proclaims to be an atheist is simply a severely hurt person who simply needs a reason to believe. We cannot pre-judge with whom we share the gospel. It is not our job to determine who will have the best chance of responding positively beforehand. We have never saved anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. We are only participants in the process and it is through believers that God has designed the sharing of the gospel. As we have noted, it often takes at least 8 direct envangelism encounters for a person to respond positively to the gospel. So, there is a great likelihood (probably almost an 88% chance) that your sharing of the gospel will be rejected. But to be there when it does happen is oh so sweet. To watch the Holy Spirit have victory in a lost soul is amazing to watch. Transformed lives after that moment of salvation is just so amazing to watch, so beautiful. What if no one shared the gospel with them?

Clemson and Carolina don’t when their conference championships in football every year but they still field their teams every year in the hopes of winning the championship. And we they do win their conference, it is oh so sweet for the team and for their fans. The point is for these two teams is that you can win the championship if you don’t field the team and put out the effort. Evangelism is our job not just our pastor’s job. We are not called to evangelism meaning only a select few are to do it. We are commanded to do it. We are to just do it! It is not an option. Sure, God grants some the gift of being an evangelist, but Jesus commanded us to go. He commanded us to make disciples. In order to make disciples, the message must be shared. He did not say those of who are gifted in evangelism must go. He said YOU. That’s us! He said to make disciples of all nations. That means everybody. We cannot pre-select who we are to share the message with. We are not to share with only those people that seem the easiest to share it with. We are to make disciples of all. It’s your job. It’s my job. It’s every believer’s job.

The Bible tells us our destiny is the fiery lake of hell if we do not come to saving knowledge of Christ. That’s a pretty important detail that we gloss over in today’s world. Hell is real. Hell is eternal suffering. Hell is being permanently separated from God. Do you really want your worst enemy to suffer this fate? It is eternal. No take-backs. No exchanges. It’s permanent. How can we NOT share the gospel? Wouldn’t pull a person out of a car that is headed for cliff that doesn’t realize that they are headed for a cliff? Sure, it can be uncomfortable. Satan wants you so uncomfortable that you don’t share. But, I do know a guy by the name of Jesus Christ that got a little uncomfortable for our sake. He died and excruciatingly painful death for us. We should share the gospel even if it makes us a little uncomfortable. Just share YOUR story of how God changed your life. Pray that you and I will not shy away from our divine appointments to share life change with others.

We should live ready to tell. How will they know if we don’t tell them! How will they hear if we do not share?