9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ v
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
This is why we preach the gospel! It is worth pointing out that unless you are Jewish, you are part of “the nations.” The gospel has come to me and I am not Jewish, but part of the nations, part of the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). How could I now cease from continuing to preach the gospel?
But who does salvation belong to? Is it mine or yours? In a sense, sure. The one who has received it as a free gift has it. But whose is it to distribute? It belongs to God. He accomplished it through the lamb (Jesus). The response ought to be wide open, bold worship. The glorification of the one who not only went to the cross and was sacrificed, but the one who rose again and will come again.
Take some time this morning and thank God for this great truth, perhaps read these songs we find in this text back to God in worship. Thank him that salvation is His to give and that He has given it to you. Then pray for an opportunity to share this truth with someone else and invite them to church. Perhaps they too will join the nations will sing of God’s glory.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This passage is a well-known passage often referred to as “The Great Commission” or as Greg Stier calls it, “The Cause.” Either way it is the driving mission of the church. But there are some things worth noticing that are often overlooked.
First, this is a post-resurrection experience for the disciples. They are seeing the risen Jesus. Second, Jesus starts his statement by stating that all authority has been giving to him. Then it says, “therefore.” In other words, everything that Jesus was about to say rests on his authority!
J. Mack Stiles in his little book Evangelism defines evangelism this way, “Evangelism is teaching the gospel (the message from God that leads us to salvation) with the aim to persuade.” There is a teaching aspect to evangelism. There are certain things that must be taught in order for a person to understand the gospel. You don’t have to be a teacher per se, but each of us do teach. We are sinners, we need a savior, we can’t save our selves, Jesus saved us by doing what we could not (paying for our sin), eternity is real, Jesus makes it possible to be in eternity with a good God, Jesus blood provides the means of salvation.
We don’t do evangelism by ourselves, God it with us. Do you trust Him? If so, then the pressure of performing in evangelism is relieved. It isn’t up to you, God it with you. Your job is to be faithful and proclaim, the Holy Spirit will do the rest. You don’t have to “perform” in some great fashion, you just have to be faithful.
Will you do that? Will you be faithful? Who will you invite to church this week? The gospel will be preached. Who will you evangelize to, even if uncomfortable and awkward? Who are you praying for? Write their names down and then be active in proclaiming the gospel to them.
1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
You might think evangelism or the proclamation of what God has done is strictly a New Testament thing, but it really isn’t. Now, it is true that as readers of the New Testament and as people living between the first coming and the second coming of Jesus we have more of the story. But if evangelism is simply proclaiming what God has done, then you find it throughout Scripture.
Notice that sharing one’s faith or proclaiming the what God has done is an act of worship. Giving praise to the Lord and proclaiming his name so that the nations will know what He has done are connected. When we share the gospel we are not only praising God and worshiping Him, we are also living in obedience. Proclaiming the good news of Jesus isn’t optional for the Christian, but it is often neglected.
We can pray without other people, we can read God’s word without other people, we can worship God without other people, but we can’t share the gospel without other people. To make matters more difficult, evangelism requires the sharing of the gospel with a person that doesn’t yet believe in Jesus. That means it might require doing so with someone who disagrees with you! Yeah, that’s hard, but it also glorifies God.
One of the ways I have tried to begin to talk to someone about my faith is through prayer. People will often share their difficulties in life and be open about their struggles. So I will often simply ask them if it is okay if I prayed with them. Almost always they have said yes. Then I pray, WITH them, not later, right then. It doesn’t have to be long, it can be very short. It isn’t that people will bend their knee to Jesus right then, but the conversation is started. The benefit of praying with someone is that they might just see God answer that prayer.
Ask God for an opportunity to pray with someone today…then look for that opportunity and be bold enough to take it.
2 Cor. 5:11-21
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
EVAMGELISM!! It’s a scarry word. Christian’s have been told that they are to keep their faith to themselves. Religions is a private decision, the culture and media tell us. Yet, we are commanded in this Scripture to be ambassadors for Christ. We are called to a ministry of reconciliation. That ministry we have been given is to reconcile people to their creator, God. That necessarily means our faith in Jesus and the gospel itself can’t be a private decision, but must be something that is proclaimed (Rom. 10).
Take a few minutes and watch this video from the famed atheist and magician Penn Jillette of the famed duo Penn and Teller (click here).
Wow, what a statement. Penn understands evangelism and proselytizing better than many Christians. There is a respectful and kind way to share your faith in Jesus, be bold, give it a shot!! Let God work through you.
Who are you praying for that does not know Jesus? Have you invited them to church this Sunday? Invite them today and maybe invite them to your house for dinner after church…you can do it!! Pray!
Acts 1: 1-9
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
In the church we use words like, “the gospel” or “evangelism” to reference a particular part of what it means to minister in the world and to the world. It is probably true that certain misconceptions about these words and what is required to “do evangelism” or “share the gospel” exist within the minds of many Christians. You might think, like many others, that evangelism or sharing the gospel is reserved for pastors or “super Christians,” but that would be wrong. But maybe you think this because of he way these words are used or talked about. Perhaps you know the word translated gospel, “εὐαγγέλιον,” simply means good news. Of course the way Christians use this word and the New Testament uses this word, it is more specifically the good news of Jesus Christ, his life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return that is being referenced.
When we talk about evangelism, we aren’t talking about standing on a street corner with a portable sound system, although that could be one mode of evangelism. Instead, we are talking about something much broader. We are talking about the same thing that is being talked about in the passage you read today. We are talking about being a witness. Notice what Luke (the author of Acts) is doing in this book, he is recording the events of the launch of the church of Jesus. More specifically he is writing this for Theophilus who was the recipient of the book of Luke as well (Luke 1-4). In Luke’s opening to the book of Acts he begins by reminding Theophilus of the life and teaching of Jesus recorded in Luke and then proceeds to point out that Jesus had presented many proofs of His resurrection and then he proceeded to give them a declarative statement, “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Notice the words “gospel” or “evangelism” aren’t used in this text; yet, we recognize this text as being evangelistic in nature. Indeed, it is, the disciples, and us by proxy, are being told to be a witness for the good news. Of course, the disciples witnessed these events in a way that we did not. They saw Jesus put on trial, executed, put in the grave, resurrected, and then His ascending firsthand. We have the word of God as a witness and we have God’s saving work in our lives; that is what we proclaim.
Many people use tools like tracs or various other systematized proclamations of the gospel to assist them in being a witness for the gospel. Maybe those things will be helpful for you, but here is the challenge, be a witness.
Pray for five people today that do not know Jesus. Pray for them by name. Now, invite all of them to church, look for opportunities to talk about Jesus and what He has done for you (be a witness), and allow the Holy Spirit to work in your witness. Be bold!!
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Children often reveal to us foundational truths of reality if we will pay close enough attention. One of those truths is connected to identity. I am not you, and you are not me, for instance. They also, on some level, seem to understand the concept of ownership. Hang around some toddlers for about 15 minutes you are likely to hear one of them proclaim to the other, “hey, that is mine!” It’s a simple statement the recognizes the distinction between persons and the concept of ownership. It is innate to who we are and how we were created.
As a result, we teach our children to share. We attempt to convince them that sharing is a good and wonderful thing. Much of the time this attempt fails. One might even suggest that this lesson fails all the way into adulthood. Adults are often attempting to get a lot of stuff, they want to own things and build our kingdom of dirt. And so often, we don’t learn the lesson of sharing. Yet, this lesson is a Biblical one.
When we share, when we do good to others, God is pleased. In so many ways that is what we are here to do, please God. Sharing pleased God. It isn’t wrong to have stuff. In fact, you can’t share something you don’t have. But as Christians we are to live with open hands.
Stop and think for a moment about how you might have been blessed by someone share with you. How did their generosity impact you?
Pray for an opportunity to share, to be generous towards someone today. Then, when you are generous, remember that, that pleases God!!
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
This passage is a very common passage that is used to challenge people to give financially. It is a good one to be sure, but sometimes the context is missed and that is unfortunate. Usually just verse 10 is quoted to encourage people to open up their bank accounts.
What exactly is the context? After Israel had been exiled and then been returned to the land they expected God to bless them. The Temple had been rebuilt, but there was no fervor for God; their love for God had grown cold. Corruption had sunk into the priesthood and the people of God had begun to question God’s faithfulness and goodness. The problem was not on the side of God.
God pointed out how the people had broken covenant with God. The sacrifices that were being offered were blemished (ch. 1). They were going through the motions, but they weren’t giving God a worthy sacrifice. Their hearts had grown cold.
In chapter 3 they were withholding the complete tithe. They weren’t Giving to God what was rightfully due to him. The text says they “robbed” God. That is strong language! It implies that it belonged to God, it was His. By keeping some of it back they were robbing God. God chastised them for this, but He also offers a potential blessing. That’s where verse 10 comes into play. If you will bring the tithe God will pour out his blessing.
How much more should we bring the tithe to God? Tithe means a tenth. When we give we are worshiping God, this is true in the Old Testament, but also the New. There is room for debate about what the New testament says about how much to give, but 10% or 1/10 is a good number. The math is simple, if you make $1,000.00 the you move the decimal to the left one spot and give that $100.00. For some people 10% wouldn’t be very generous, for others it is a significant sacrifice. That is something that we all need to work out by seeking God’s calling, but it is safe to say that all of us should probably give more than we do.
Pray for God to work on your heart. How much should you and I be giving at church? That is part of the generosity equation. For some it might be 15%, not 10%. Pray for generosity today!!
2 Cor. 8:1-7
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
What an amazing story, the Christians in Macedonia weren’t wealthy churches with all kinds of resources, they were poor. Yet, they were generous to the point of sacrifice, giving beyond their ability. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to find out that people of lower incomes outgive people with higher incomes, by some metrics. Not only that, but people in lower incomes are more consistent during economic downturns.
Why is this the case? I suppose one can only offer conjecture. Could it be that the more wealth we have the harder it is to keep it from impacting our hearts? That would be consistent with the teaching of Scripture. Jesus told the rich young ruler if he wanted eternal life he should go sell everything he owned and give it to the poor. At this the man was dismayed…he loved his wealth more than the treasures the would be available to him in heaven.
What is the cure for the love of money? I might suggest the cure is generosity. Maybe we all need a simpler life more than we need an extravagant life or more stuff.
Pray that God will help you to be generous today and then go look for that opportunity.
24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
25 A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
26 People curse the one who hoards grain,
but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.
Is this the prosperity gospel? No, it’s not. Remember, when you read Proverbs you are reading a work of wisdom, a book of principles that are generally true, not promises. These verses describe how things generally work, even if it seems counter intuitive. When you read these verses you might begin to wonder how all this works. How does one who gives freely gain more while the one who holds tightly to what they have end up in poverty?
It seems that verse 25 might give us a clue. This isn’t about a balance sheet or the amount of money in a savings account, this is about people. It is about the one who is generous for the purposed of refreshing others. There is a general principle that is found in Scripture in many places including this passage, you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7).
Generosity breeds good will. In other words, people are watching and when they see generosity they want to reciprocate. On the other hand, when they see a person hoard resources there is ill will towards that person. How can we be generous and build good will. There is blessing in generosity, but in order to see it you have to look past the numbers, the account balance, and the profit and loss report. Generosity is about relationship as much as it is about money.
Who can you say yes to today? Pray for a generosity opportunity, look for it, and then do it!!