Unhindered in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine? The freedom to share your story of faith. Unhindered by our own fears. The wonder of seeing lives transformed, a different view of the world, looking for opportunities…
One person said that if you were to remove missions from the pages of the Bible, all you’d have left are the covers. There is a lot of truth. The book of Acts is no exception: from beginning to end the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the moving of the Holy Spirit across the world. In the closing verses of the book the Apostle Paul is in prison (28:16), his own rented house, guarded day and night by a Roman soldier, yet he has freedom/boldness to tell others about Jesus Christ (READ 23). The last verses of Acts read this way: (READ 30-31). In the original language, the very last word of Acts is “unhindered”: “Boldly he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, UNHINDERED.” That’s the final word, the final focus. Unhindered. That’s the challenge. That’s the goal. That’s the opportunity. Unhindered. One of the traditions of the imprisonment of Paul is that the Roman soldiers shackled to Paul were frequently rotated, because if they stayed in Paul’s presence too long they kept converting to the Christian faith. We will never know how much of a legend that is, but I like the thought, and I hope that in spirit there is some truth in that in my life: if somebody hangs around me long enough I hope they hear the gospel and make their own commitment of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Unhindered.
The Church: some assembly is required. And make no mistake, some assembly is required because the Lord is still putting together his church… We cannot give up on anyone… In recent years, it sure seems like a lot of deaths, a lot of tragedies in our own community/county… The thought keeps coming to me: what is it going to take for people to change, where is their bottom? Let’s pray for a revival… a turn around of the community. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord is a matter of each person making a decision of faith, yet there are moments in history when waves of people come to faith, a contagious spirit of Christ moves across communities. The Lord is assembling his church. The Lord is needed NOW.
What hinders us in sharing the gospel? Satan… Other people… Ourselves!
For some it might be lack of knowledge. Paul knew a lot… (read 23) I’ll tell you what. Learn, read your bible, small groups, gather together as often as possible, but the basic gospel message is simple: The Lord Jesus Christ loves you, lived, died and lives for you, the forgiveness of sins, new life…
What hinders us? Personality: some people think sharing the gospel for others. But I’ll tell you what, Paul was unhindered in sharing the gospel, but the Bible says he only shares the gospel with those who come to him (read 30b). God uses your personality and will reach some for Christ that only you can impact because of your unique relationships. We are all different. I was talking to one Christian person in the community and encouraging her to form deep relationships with a few people. I have a personality and temperament to be able to cast a wide net and get to know hundreds of people, but many cannot do that. (yesterday, the [wrong] message from Sally…)… I am not the model, I am only one personality of many. We need more people to be able to spend more time with fewer people…, God will use your personality, the people in your life,
What hinders us? Fear. I’m with you on that one. Fear of what people will say, fear of failure. Fear of rejection. And rejection is real: (read 24). You overcome your fears by being prepared, being expectant, gaining experience. You know what some of you need to do? Call me up and I’ll introduce you to some people. There are people in this community who need mothers, friends, trustworthy people, understanding people.
What hinders us? Not believing yourself that Jesus Christ is the only answer. If that describes anyone here, if you think Christ is one of many answers, if you think Christianity is good but just a personal choice, then that would be a huge hindrance. Pray to the Lord and ask him to reveal himself to you and take that question straight to God. Paul was absolutely convinced of the gospel message: from v. 23: “tried to CONVINCE them…” Paul was not neutral but persuasive. I want to help people get food, clothing, friendships… but I am most interested in their Spirit and heart.
My personal goal is to shed many of my own personal hindrances in sharing the gospel, to become unhindered, to be more bold, to see the deepest need of the people in our community and allow the Lord to use me.
The Church: some assembly is required. The Church is still being assembled. That’s why we send people out in the mission field. That’s why we pray for our own community and look for opportunities to show people the way, the truth, the life of Christ.
Let’s take a closer look at the gospel method and message:
The right method: The gospel was unhindered, yet Paul took the opportunities he was given. He was limited in his mobility, he was in prison, his own rented house, chained to a Roman guard, yet people came to him.
Day and night, morning till evening, he welcomed people. He took what he was given. We are all different, so I am not telling you to follow my patterns, and I am not commending myself as the absolute model, but I’ll tell you some of my personal rules to remind myself that I am available. I like watching some sports (fewer now than I used to) if I am at home, say watching the Seahawks on a Sunday afternoon, if somebody comes to visit me, I am willing to turn off the tv (unless it’s the superbowl). Call me anytime. If I can, I will. Look for opportunities to share the gospel, expect opportunities, and take advantage of whatever opportunity you are given, that’s the right method.
The right method is to fully believe the message. I had a vacuum cleaner salesman come to the door one day, a person I knew, had made an appointment. He started out the presentation, “You don’t have to buy this, you probably don’t need it…” and it went downhill from there. He didn’t last long in that line of work. Yet isn’t that too often our approach to Christianity? … Where’s the passion. Paul tired to CONVINCE them. There is nothing more important that a person’s faith. Nothing more important than their relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing more important than for them to receive the Holy Spirit and transform their lives.
The right method is to grieve whenever anyone rejects the gospel. No room for callousness. Some will reject. I am convinced this is Paul’s attitude as he responds to the Jews who reject the message of the Salvation of Jesus Christ (25b-27)…
Yet when there is rejection, the right method is to go on (READ 28). To keep on keeping on with confidence. “They will listen.” Our little church is NOT in the business of giving up on this community. The Church of Jesus Christ is not fully assembled. There are people who need to hear and will listen. May we never forget, never give up, grieve over those who reject but keep on keeping on.
The right method is patience (for two whole years) boldness (Boldly and without hindrance) and without discrimination (welcomed all who came to see him)….
Let’s talk in our remaining time about the right message. I believe too many church leaders have gotten priorities askew. We leaders care more about the health of our own church, statistics, level of competence, reputations, than we do about the greater Kingdom. What does Paul preach and teach (v. 31) “the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I am impressed with the Father who says to his children, I don’t care what church you go to, I just want you to go to a church. That’s kingdom talk. I don’t care who you marry, as long as they are Chrisians. That’s kingdom talk. The kingdom is greater than the local church. The local church is part of the kingdom. The kingdom is grace, the kingdom is salvation, the kingdom is a great army, a tent, that is being assembled by God, ruled by God. Only God can grow his kingdom and touch the hearts and minds of children, young people, men and women. The call is to be new creatures in Christ. Paul preached what Christ had done, he taught the implications of what Christ can do for new believers transforming the heart and mind. Paul’s passion is kingdom work, watching God assemble together his people and looking forward to a coming day when everything will be new. Let me tell you what I am grateful for. I am so incredibly grateful for our wonderful little church. You understand and bless the greater work of the kingdom. You want to be in the community and you want me in the community, making a difference for the kingdom. In the past 12 months, the Lord has used me in a small measure to influence more people to become a part of other churches more than our own. In my lower moments its easy to become jealous: “Lord, why not here.” It’s not about numbers, it’s about people, and I like the people that end up in other churches. Yet the Lord tells me over and over again: “it’s about the kingdom.”
I have a vision. I don’t know what the end of time looks like, but the Bible talks about standing before the Lord when he comes again. As I stand before the Lord, I suddenly realize I am not alone, and I realize I am in a small group of people, and I recognize your faces, and as your faces become clear to me, I realize that we are not alone, and there are other groups of people that come into focus and I can start to recognize some of the folks in the surrounding groups as people from the CR Church, the Valley Church, and I realize some of those folks I don’t even like, but there they are, and there are more folks I recognize from the community filling in the gaps, some I didn’t even know were believers, but they bi-pass the churches in Sumas to go to Lynden, Bellingham, have their own story. And the throng goes out from there, as far as the eye can see, as the circle goes further out I recognize fewer and fewer people, yet there they are, standing in unity together before the Lord.
As long as the Lord sees fit to give me breath, I am going to pray for me to become more and more unhindered in sharing the gospel. Won’t you join me in the same prayer. The Church: Some assembly is required. It’s about the kingdom. The gathering together of God’s people.