Series: The Man Who Won’t Go Away
We begin a new series this morning in the Gospel of Luke but more on that in a few moments. For the next few moments I want to talk about our church and a personal challenge for you in 2013. That challenge is why I am and we are wearing these t-shirts today. I want us to think about the next twelve months as a church for the next few minutes. Here in the beginning of 2013, I want to speak toward the direction of our church.
1. I am Not Ashamed
I have chosen this theme I’m Not Ashamed to best describe the efforts of where God is directing our church for the next year. The phrase comes from a prominent passage from the New Testament book of Romans: ”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” (Romans 1:16). Throughout this year, I am calling on us to be bold in sharing our faith in the DFW Metroplex in practical ways. I want to challenge and encourage you to be bold in sharing the gospel in 2013. There’s an inherent boldness to Christians: ”The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). So here at the beginning of 2013, I want to stir you up something inside of you for boldness. If boldness were the flu virus, I want to see many of you catch this virus. And I want you to want to be bold. I don’t want to see an artificial boldness but a boldness for communicating the gospel that is authentic and natural. A boldness that emerges because of a love for God and a love for people and a humble boldness that seeks to love others and not manipulate them. So … ”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” (Romans 1:16).
I was reading yesterday through the book of Luke and came across the words of Jesus Himself in Luke 15: ”Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). There are again two reasons why we should be bold in sharing the gospel with others – for the love of God and the love of others. Jesus is sharing a series of three stories about objects that were lost and their owners went about searching for them in Luke 15. He tells stories about a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son. After he tells the story about a lost coin, where the owner search sweeps the house, it’s right then that Jesus says: ”Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Notice the Bible says there is ”joy before the angels of God” means that God, like the woman in the story who lost her coin, is happy when one sinner turns away from their sins to the gospel. So again, there are two reasons why we should be bold in sharing the gospel – for the love of God and for the love of others.
1.1 For the Love of God
Because of our love for God, we love to see God happy. Whatever makes Him happy, makes His followers happy. The message of the Gospel is so great that it needs to be communicated to others.
1.2 For the Love of People
Not only for the love of God, but for your love of others also. The message of the gospel demands being told to others because people are worth it. God tells the stories of the lost coin, the lost son, and the lost sheep because of these were valuable to their owners. Just like these, God finds people valuable. So I want you to be bold for the love of God and for the love of others. We need to make it hard to go to hell from the Mid Cities. ”and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Take a moment and think about your unchurched friends. For just a moment, count the number of unbelieving friends you have. Probably the longer you have followed Christ, the fewer unchurched friends you have. So I am challenging and encouraging you to make friends with the unchurched. I want you to identify three unchurched friends or family members and love them. Be friends with them and show them kindness. My challenge to you is this: Invite them into your home. Take them out to lunch, breakfast, or coffee and get to know them. Share and Show them the Gospel in the coming months.
I want to sketch for you some of the ways we are designing to allow you to communicate the message of the gospel with boldness throughout the year. Each of these efforts are for the purpose of challenging and equipping you to share the gospel with unbelieving friends, family members, and coworkers in 2013. Faith at Home is an emphasis where we encourage you to practice your faith at home. Its through the Faith at Home emphasis that we encouraging you to not be ashamed of the gospel in 2013. Here’s how it works. In your Sunday Morning Bible study time, we’ll be reading and studying David Platt’s book Radical. This book provides perspective for followers of Christ to understand the vital need of sharing the gospel with others. Our study of Radical will point us to four things: Pray for those unchurched friends, family members, and coworkers; Give toward opportunities that are designed to share the gospel with others; Go toward opportunities where you can share the gospel; And read the book Radical with hundreds of others. Let’s break each of these down: Pray for those unchurched friends, family members, and coworkers. Simply adjust your prayer time to include people who don’t have a saving relationship with Christ. Pray for these people specifically on a daily and weekly basis. We’re suggesting praying for three people by name who do not know Christ.
Give toward opportunities that are designed to share the gospel with others. We’ll provide opportunities where you can financially support people who are sharing the gospel. Let me share with you one way you can give. For example, one of the church planters you can support in 2013 is Pastor Victor Thomas and The Point church. The Point church is located in Vancouver where there 2.5 million people. 93% of these 2.5 million people do not identify themselves with Jesus Christ. One of the reasons we have chosen to support this work is that Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city where 200 languages are spoken. Pastor Victor himself is from Cape Town, South Africa There will be mission teams to India and Japan throughout the year. By giving to our church’s budget, we’ll be supporting this church by giving them $500 monthly. Go toward opportunities where you can share the gospel.
Again, every person connected to our church is being challenged to identify three unchurched people who they can share the gospel with in the coming year. I’m challenging you to invest in three unchurched people in 2013. After reading Radical this winter and spring, through Faith at Home, you’ll be challenged to open your home up to someone who is outside the faith in the summer months. As we get into the fall, you’ll be challenged to share the gospel at least three times. You’ll also be challenged to memorize one of two (your option) methods to share the gospel with others. Faith at Home is designed to escalate all of our evangelism efforts in 2013 from reading Radical to sharing Christ. All of us can do this. One way you can do this is to stop thinking evangelism is optional to the Christian life. Adopt at least two schools to share Christ’s love with- Jack C. Bignon Elementary and Snow Heights Elementary. We would like to adopt more schools based on your response but we’ll start with these two. As you read Radical, you’ll hear about getting out of your context. By adopting these two schools, we’re hoping that many of you will love on these children and the broken homes around us by mentoring them.
We’ll find selective ways our church family can intelligently give but we’ll want to do more than give, we want to develop relationships where we can express the love of Christ. Again, evangelism isn’t optional to the Christian life. As you consider who to invest your life in, we’ve designed several events where you can invite the unchurched to hear the gospel in 2013. These events don’t substitute your telling the gospel but are designed to come alongside your efforts. Tailgate Sunday is Sunday, February 3, or what is known as Super Bowl Sunday. Then, let’s turn up the volume of our evangelistic fervor as we approach Easter on Sunday, March 31. NRHBC will have five services celebrating the resurrection of Christ. In addition to three service we normally have, we are including a Spanish speaking service led by Manuel Sosa and an additional Saturday night service. The Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, I hoping that many of you will join us by placing some 8,000 door hangers on nearby homes inviting them to one of these five services. The Sunday after Easter, I’m calling Vision Sunday as I’ll be sharing a vision to reach the people of the Metroplex and beyond that Sunday. To do this, we’re forming the Great Commission Council, a group of approximately fifteen people who are looking at five areas where our church can see growth. These five areas are additional church plants, Hispanic ministry, additional worship services, assisting struggling church in Tarrant County, and how to measure discipleship. All of this is part of an effort where you are being asked to develop a relationship and pray for three unchurched people. So many of you are already spending your life wisely by sharing the gospel with others. Some of you are involved in prison ministry and homeless ministries. Each week our church’s bus ministry has weekly opportunities to pray and witness to the lost as 4-5 teams go into nearby apartment complexes. But we don’t have to wait for a special Sunday or special event to invite others, each week our church presents the gospel in a credible way so you friends, coworkers, and family members who do not know Christ can hear the good news of Jesus. You’ll be hearing more about this theme, I’m Not Ashamed, in the coming days, but I simply wanted to whet your appetite.
We begin a series entitled, The Man Who Won’t Go Away, this morning. When you consider the influence of Jesus Christ upon human history, he is like the tail of a comet, which darts across the night sky. His life brings inspiration to art, science, medicine, government, and education. Let me offer you one example of the Comet’s influence upon you and I. No one knows what Jesus looked like, as we have no paintings or sculptures of Him. The Bible doesn’t even give us a physical description that an artist could draw a composite picture of Him for our eyes to see. Yet, Jesus and His followers have become the most frequent subjects for art in the world. Jesus’ image was settled around AD 400 in Byzantine art and it is recognized around the world. Even in the field of mental health, if patients have grandiose identity disorders, it is Jesus they imagine themselves to be. Do grandiose Buddhists imagine themselves to be the Buddha?
There are in fact, four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each is a biographical sketch of Jesus, all true, emphasizing different aspects and facts of Jesus’ person and work. Matthew is written to those who are Jewish in background, Mark to those who are Romans, John to those who are Greek, and Luke to those who are Gentile, or not privy to a Jewish background of reading the Bible going to synagogue, Temple, etc.
Luke 1:1-4 can be found on page 1087 in the black pew Bibles in front of you.
”Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).
2. The Benefit of Doubt
Luke tells us that he writes ”that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Certainty is hard thing for some people. You may be here today plagued by doubts. I remember talking to Phil. Phil was an ex-Marine with a wife and two children. He was about my age. He grew up in the south and excelled in football when he was in high school. He ran a successful construction business. He told me he liked that his children and wife attended church. He enjoyed the relationships with other men in the church. Nevertheless, he expressed private doubts about Jesus Christ. He asked in an alleyway behind our church, ”If God exists why doesn’t He just write a message in clouds of the sky for all to see?” Maybe that is you this morning. Luke writes for skeptics. Doubt even effected heroes of the faith such as David, Job, and Abraham. Again, Luke writes so that you may have ”certainty.” The poet Roger White said, ”A mosquito buzzes round my faith” – the mosquito of doubt. For many of us, doubt acts as a nagging question that buzzes in our ears. We have to have ”certainty” but are plagued by doubts. Luke writes for you.
When he introduces his Gospel, he begins with one long sentence, which is four verses long. He writes to help you be more certain of the events surrounding Jesus Christ. Luke tells us that while he wasn’t an ”eyewitness,” he did talk to ”eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” Luke is a second or third generation Christian who was probably a gentile (non-Jew) and a medical doctor. Notice his honesty with you as he tells you that he wasn’t there for the events of Jesus’ like. Matthew and John, the authors of their respective Gospels were there and they wrote their own accounts. Yet, Luke receives his information from others. Nevertheless, he carefully researched the events for your benefit. He researched and complied with tremendous care a well-organized Gospel account that is historically accurate. Here he introduces us to the Gospel which he defines in verse one as ”a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1).
Just a little more than four years ago, Hollywood giant James Cameron purported to find the tomb of Jesus buried outside of Jerusalem. Cameron claimed to have found the tomb some twenty years before but it had taken some time to work out the DNA evidence as well as decipher the hard to read words on the outside of the ossuary. As these things often do, Cameron’s findings found their way to TV show entitled, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. The Lost Tomb of Jesus made for good TV but bad history.
Yet, doubt can also mean asking questions and voicing uncertainties from the standpoint of faith. ”There are a lot of things I doubt,” writes an anonymous single mother who posted her thoughts on an internet message board. ”I doubt my decision to split with my daughter’s father two years ago. I doubt my ability to essentially raise a child on my own. I doubt my ability to ever have another relationship again. I doubted my ability to make ends meet when I lost my job. I doubted my decision to go back to school instead of pursing the elusive full-time job with benefits. I’m even beginning to doubt my skills at maintaining a relationship.”
Faith and doubt are not always mutually exclusive. Doubt is not always the opposite of faith. I need you to know that doubt isn’t the unpardonable sin. Doubt can be admitted to other believers and it can produce positive results in your life. I have entertained my own doubts through the years about certain aspects of the Christian faith. I have found that when I explore my doubts they became marvelous opportunities for my faith to grow. Nevertheless, what is most damaging to those who doubt is that there is so little honestly about doubt and so little understanding of how to resolve it.
You may have arrived here today as a prisoner of your doubts and hesitations. You may believe that all doubt is wrong and you should feel guilty for experiencing such thoughts. Luke wants to build your faith. If Christianity is the Truth, then the Truth should not hide from a thorough investigation. Doubt can actually benefit your faith as it can strengthen your faith. Luke writes for skeptics as an investigate reporter. Luke writes, compiles, and researches as he asks the famous questions: Who? What? When? Where? How?
He writes for doubters and for those who ask Who is Jesus? Did He really do what people said He did? When Luke was satisfied he had the story straight he wrote it down for us.
3. Doubt and the Gospel Truth
”that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). The word we see in verse four is ”certainty” and it indicates an absolute certainty. It’s the kind of certainty where one’s report is thorough and definite. It’s the kind of knowing where you raise your hand in court and you have no doubts. There is a ”firmness: to Luke’s knowledge of events. The word is used in Acts 5:23: ”We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside” (Acts 5:23).
It is 1,151 verses, 568 of those verses are simply the words of Jesus. So, if you want to know what Jesus said, just read Luke’s Gospel. Roughly half of Luke’s Gospel, which is the longest Gospel, is just quoting verbatim exactly what Jesus said. Luke checked Jesus out. He checked out the story of Jesus’ virgin birth. He double-checked the story of Jesus casting out demons. Famed archaeologist William Ramsay says it this way: ”Luke is a historian of the first rank. . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Luke was certain of the events in his Gospel, his story. He was certain of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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