Stand up and be counted
(How can I Be Sure of My Beliefs)
( Acts 17: 1 - 15)
The amazing thing about sharing the Gospel is that it cuts across culture, gender, and race. The Gospel is relevant to everyone. It has the message that can change people’s lives.
If you think that it is difficult to preach the Gospel in our society, well you are correct. The amount of apathy in the west is staggering. Society on the whole has rejected the Gospel message in favour of the idea that you believe what you want and we answer to nobody for our actions.
If there is no God, then we can live as we please provided we do not hurt anyone.
The exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ is not accepted in today’s society. If there is a Christian message it certainly is not that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.
A message that is being preached today is an inclusive Gospel, God is love, He loves everyone, it doesn’t matter what religion you have been brought up in, whether it is Christian, Islam, Bhuddism, Seikism or even Atheism. Man can find his own way to God.
I mean, how can a God of love condemn anyone to hell?
No one wants to confront sin, the Gospel message should not make any one uncomfortable.
The Gospel today is out of vogue and evangelism is not easy.
However that is nothing new. The early church found the same problem.
Christianity was new, facing the Pagan cultures of the day and also strong religious beliefs in Judaism.
We see this throughout the Acts of the Apostles.
Paul encountered this opposition in Thessalonica. The Gospel was met with different reactions.
Some received the word gladly and others rejected it, some rejected it vehemently and reacted with anger and violence.
When we attempt to share the Gospel with our friends or relatives or work colleagues, we may encounter opposition. We can either stand up for the message, or we may be tempted to water the message down to make it easy for people to swallow.
We may even give up sharing our faith orally and decide that we can show it with our lives.
It is easy to fall into a comfortable, convenience style Christianity. We shop around for a church that will provide the services that we want. If it meets our needs and makes us feel good, we attend, unless, of course, we have something better to do on the weekend.
Some of our churches have changed to make the Gospel easier to accept, they have become seeker sensitive churches, catering to what people wants instead of sticking to the truth of the Gospel.
Seen on a wayside pulpit was this advert:
“The Light Church: 24% fewer commitments, home of the 7.5% tithe, 15 minute sermons, 30 minute worship services; we have only 8 commandments—your choice. We use just 3 spiritual laws and have an 800-year millennium. Everything you’ve wanted in a church … and less!”
The truth is, we cannot compromise with the Gospel.
Jesus called people to take up their crosses and lose their lives if they wished to follow Him.
(Mark 8:34-35). Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and because of the gospel will save it.
The life of the apostle Paul gives us a good example of what that means. Acts 17 1 - 15, having just been mistreated in Philippi, the Apostle Paul comes to Thessalonica and has the boldness to speak to them the gospel in the face of much opposition.
(1 Thess. 2:2). But although we suffered earlier and were mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition.
Because of this persecution Paul had to leave Thessalonica, he moves on to Berea. The same happens again and he then moves on to Athens.
In Thessalonica, an angry mob accuses him and Silas of upsetting the world, or as some translations put it, of turning the world upside down and of proclaiming a king other than Caesar.
Act 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Act 17:7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
Both charges were of course exaggerated and false. It was Paul’s accusers that were upsetting the world by stirring up mob violence. Paul exhorted his followers to live quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity.
(1 Tim. 2:2) even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Paul also preached that believers should be subject to the governing authorities.
(Rom. 13:1-7) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
2 So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment
3 (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation
4 because it is God’s servant for your well-being. But be afraid if you do wrong because government does not bear the sword for nothing. It is God’s servant to administer punishment on the person who does wrong.
5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience.
6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to to governing.
7 Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
There is a challenge for all of us in this passage of scripture.
The question is, are there two options for Christians?
One option is for the bold type, those that love confrontation, the martyr type. They drop everything and only concentrate on preaching the Gospel. They give up a lot of their time and effort in promoting the cause of Christ. They may give up certain comforts of life, deny themselves and give up that time to share the Gospel.
OR, if that option is a bit too intense for you, there is the comfortable option.
Comfortable Christians usually go to church on a Sunday, unless it clashes with something else. They give a donation to the upkeep of the church and maybe support a couple of charities. They volunteer a bit of their time to the causes that fits in with their lifestyle.
For these, Christ is someone that makes life for them a bit more pleasant but Christ is not the centre of their life. For these, to engage in the preaching of the Gospel can mean an inconvenience.
Do we really find Jesus offering two options to any of His followers?
Was the great commission only to a few disciples or was it to us all?
Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, making disciples of all nations”
We should all be ready to give an account of our faith in Christ.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
We may not be mighty preachers, we may speak in fear and trembling but we all have the commission.
We should always keep in mind the message to the church at Laodicea (one of the seven churches in Asia)
Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
This kind of church makes the Lord vomit.
It is amazing what Christ can do through a committed Christian.
Quote from John Wesley: “Give me fifty men who love nothing but God and fear nothing but sin, and I’ll change the world!”
The Gospel needs to be shared, it is the God ordained way for sinners to be saved.
(Rom. 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek”
We can debate and argue about things like Evolution, the evils of the world, whether or not the Bible is the word of God or any other religious topic but not of these lead to salvation.
Without the Gospel, one cannot be saved.
Paul said in 1 Cor 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
We have to realise that the Gospel is a stumbling block as well as the means of salvation.
The Gospel is divisive. Some will embrace it and others will reject it but no one can sit on the fence.
The Gospel is always controversial. When we quote the scriptures it challenges the hearer and people react in different ways.
The disciples in Thessalonica experienced exactly this. Some accepted and some rejected and some of those that rejected, reacted with violence but did this deter them. No, they just moved on and continued preaching the same Gospel.
They did not change the message to make it more palatable. After all we are not responsible for how people react to it.
Our duty is to preach it. 1 Cor 3: 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
One of us plants the seed, someone else waters it but it is God through the Holy Spirit that applies it to the listener.
This is what happened on the day of Pentecost recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter just stood up and preached the Gospel. Some of those that heard the word were pricked in their heart and believed.
It was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin, convinced them that Jesus was indeed the Christ and converted them through their faith.
Acts 2: 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
What holds us back when it comes to preaching the Gospel? Why do we find ourselves shrinking back when we have an opportunity to share our faith?
Is it because we are not sure ourselves what we believe? Could it be that we are not really bothered about other people? Could it be that we are so comfortable in our own little Christian cocoon that we are not willing to step outside of it to share with others?
Many Christians feel very safe within the fellowship but feel vulnerable when we go into the world.
We sometimes can be like rabbits in a warren, we pop our heads out and then quickly scurry back into safety.
Many of us don’t engage in evangelism because we are not sure of what we believe.
So, it is important for us to acquaint ourselves with the truth of the Gospel.
We should be like the Berean’s in our text, searching the scriptures daily to see whether these things are so.
Building ourselves up in the faith.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We would have more confidence in sharing the Gospel if were familiar with the simple facts of the Gospel.
Just taking time to memorize a few of the verses that relate to salvation is extremely helpful in personal evangelism.
Man is a sinner and separated from God by that sin.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Man is dead in trespasses and sin.
Ephesians 2:1, 5 …who were dead in trespasses and sins…5 even when we were dead in trespasses
Because of sin we are destined to hell.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus is the only Way
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father but through Me.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Repentance is essential to salvation.
Mark 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
This is the simple Gospel message, this is the message that we are told to share.
It is the only way that people can be saved. We are not responsible for the results. God is the author and finisher of our faith.
We must also remember that we are told in scripture that when the Holy Spirit comes He shall give you power to be witnesses to Me.
Evangelism and prayer work together.
Learning the Gospel and praying that the Holy Spirit will empower us is essential to evangelism.
See Prayer & Evangelism. Blog 15