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April 1, 2015

ADVANCING THE KINGDOM (Part 3) - The Great Commission

The more we love God, the more we will pray for our neighbors, immerse ourselves in the Word and be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Love for our neighbors will grow and our dedication to fulfill the third step in God’s 3-Step Plan, The Great Commission, will be obeyed.

Praying and caring are both good and needful, but there comes the time when we must step out in faith and share the “Good News.” Sharing the “Good News” with our neighbors should not be just another activity to add to our “To Do” list. It must be central to who we are. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means being on His mission. The “Good News” is not a private matter and was never intended to be kept to ourselves. Jesus said to “let our light shine” and to “invade the darkness.” He doesn’t invite us, but instructs us to join Him in this 3-Step Plan of Praying, Caring, and Sharing the “Good News” with our neighbors.

Christ’s last command was for us to share our faith (Matthew 28:19). His last prayer on the cross was for the forgiveness of a soul (Luke 23:34). His last act on earth was to win a soul (Luke 23:43). Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). We don’t have to be great students of the Bible; we don’t have to be accomplished speakers; we just have to be in love with Jesus. When we are in love with Jesus, it will show in our deeds and be expressed in our words. Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). We don’t have to be concerned about drawing people to Him. We introduce Him and He will do the drawing.  

Someone has said, “I share the ‘Good News’ by the way I live. I don’t have to share the message verbally; I share by my good deeds.” A misquote, attributed to Francis of Assisi states, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” However no biography written within 200 years of his life contains that quote. It should be noted that he shared the “Good News” whenever he could, often five time a day. He lived the message, but he spoke the message as well.

Duane Liftin, president emeritus of Wheaton College, addressed the trouble with sharing the “Good News” by deeds only when he said, “It's simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.”

To proclaim the “Good News” by deeds only is not biblical either. Paul asks, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)

We must speak the “Good News” in words. Your neighbors need to know the truth of God’s Word for the issues they face. We must be the message we seek to share and we must share it verbally. A beautiful example of what we are to do is given to us in Ezra 7:10, For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra studied God’s Word, obeyed God’s Word and then he taught it. I think too often we study God’s Word, then teach His Word, but we don’t obey it by sharing our faith.

In a more serious pronouncement, Oswald J. Smith said, “Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.” And who are we, but individual believers who make up the church.

If we are not sharing the “Good News”, why aren’t we? Could it be that (1) we have deemed other things more urgent, or (2) we don’t know unbelievers with whom to share, or (3) we are too fearful to step out of our comfort zone. How do we overcome these self-imposed obstacles? (1) If we have deemed other things to be more urgent, we must readjust our priorities and distinguish between the urgent and the important. (2) If we don’t know unbelievers, we must meet our neighbors and build relationships. (3) If we are fearful, we must take the focus off of ourselves and look to the Lord for He will remove the fear and replace it with power, strength, confidence and assurance.    

Christ was motivated by love to purchase our salvation (John 3:16) and we should be motivated by this kind of love as well---love for Christ and love for others. Since we share the things we love, we should naturally share Jesus with our neighbors. Ask God to give you a heart that overflows with love for the salvation of your neighbor.

The God who called us and indwells us has also called us to witness for Him. He promises to provide the power to accomplish His will. Neither knowing the Scriptures, nor caring for your neighbor will be effective in their coming to the Lord if we are not empowered by the Spirit. He will open hearts and draw all those He has called when we share the “Good News.”

We need to live our lives in light of eternity with a sense of His impending return. Pursue your neighbor, share the reason for the cross, point them to the Savior and invite them to come to Him.    

He has chosen us to share the “Good News” in both word and deed. No one is beyond the saving grace of God. In our unstable, chaotic world, we possess the message of hope and salvation through Jesus Christ. Share this hope with your neighbors today. They are in desperate need of a restored relationship with their heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

You may ask, “Just how do I share my faith in this post-Christian era? In the months ahead, we will review ways to do just that---ways for sharing with those we may have just met and with those whom we have built a relationship.

Hymn writer, Charles Wesley penned these words in 1739:

Jesus! The name that calms our fears, That bids our sorrows cease

’Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’Tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.

My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim,

To spread through all the earth abroad, The honors of Thy name.

Prayer:

Father, as I focus on the spiritual conditions of my neighbors and pray for them, thus fulfilling The Great Commitment and loving care for them, thus fulfilling The Great Commandment, I ask for your promised power to share my faith with them, thus fulfilling The Great Commission. Go before me by preparing hearts, providing opportunities to share and the power to do so effectively.

 

Dave Dagwell

Assistant to the President