English Service on October 19 Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison “Entrusted with the Gospel” (Part II)
Scripture:II Timothy 2:1-13
1. Last month we received again the call from God in His word to pass on the Good News of life in Christ that others for almost 2,000 years now have passed to us. I encouraged you to first let it be Good News in you, healing the broken parts of your life, bringing you into closer relationship with others, making you a more understanding and caring and joyous and in many other ways Christ-like person. But as the Good News has its effect on you, God asks you not to just sit on it but tell it to others who need to hear it, as well. That is part of our church’s vision. We believe God’s vision for Open Door is to make us a church where . . . .
A. we proclaim the Gospel to the world’s people through word and deed (in particular to teachers, students, people with special physical challenges, families with children, and people from international backgrounds)
B. we work to plant new churches
C. we send people into the world to proclaim the Gospel
2. In continuing to re-discover God’s vision for us, today let’s stay with this theme. Last time we saw it in Philippians, especially chapter one. Today let’s pick it up again but from II Timothy 2. You may remember that Timothy worked with Paul in starting and building the church in Philippi, as well as going back later to follow up on its development. His letter to Timothy shows a lot of the purpose and spirit these men shared as they did this work of spreading the message of Christ.
3. In vv. 8-10, we can see something about the first part of our vision I just read, to tell the Good News through words and actions. This grows out of God’s vision, which Paul and Timothy had also caught.
8 Remember Jesus Christ. He came from David's family line. He was raised from the dead. That is my good news. 9 I am suffering for it. I have even been put in chains like someone who has committed a crime. But God's word is not held back by chains. 10 So I put up with everything for the good of God's chosen people. Then they also can be saved. Christ Jesus saves them. He gives them glory that will last forever.
4. We can see here, also, the multiple benefits of telling the Good News of Christ. We do it to honor God, to show that we want to obey Him. We do it because the people around us need to know how important they are to God, and many of them don’t yet understand it. But the writer of Philemon 1:6 points out another thing. He says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Obeying Christ’s final command to take His message around the world in the end meets our needs as it meets those of others. Some musicians say, “A song isn’t a song until it’s heard.” Many teachers notice that the best way to learn is to teach. There is something about telling the message to someone else that makes it yours in a way it could never be otherwise. So God’s command (not suggestion or advice) to tell the Gospel grows out of His compassion and care not only for those who haven’t heard it but for those who have, as well.
5. Imagine you are Paul or Timothy. How will you go about spreading the message of Christ in a place like Philippi? Thinking of what has already happened there in Acts 16, I wonder if you won’t start some type of prison ministry. Remember, the jailer and his family are now followers of Christ. And there are people who have been in jail together with you. They have seen the power of the Gospel at work, leading you missionaries not to run away when an earthquake struck and you had a chance. Instead, you stayed and looked after the safety of the very person who had been forcing you to stay there. Seeing that could well have made a hunger in the heart of these others in jail to know your God.
6. And now today our Lord has worked in similar ways in many countries throughout the centuries. In Japan we know the stories of the Mission Barabbas members. One ex-criminal in the US named Danny Croce met Christ in prison, became a believer, and later became a prison chaplain. He says that Christ calls people to be fishers of men, so why not go where the fish are biting? There are a lot of people in prison who come to see their need for Christ there. The Bible teaches that in coming to faith in God, one important step is seeing that you are a sinner and need to receive Christ as your Savior. But Danny Croce says that when he teaches prisoners about Jesus, he can pretty much skip that step. They already know they are sinners. They know their lives are messed up and need to be turned around. That gives them a good chance to discover faith. The guards are generally different. They think they are good people and have a lot more trouble seeing their need for Christ. They are not as open, not as hungry, and they often miss the chance to know the Lord through faith. But working inside the jail where he was once held, Croce has found many people eager to hear the Gospel and follow Christ. Where are the most fish biting in Sapporo? If you have an idea, I would like to hear it in Bible Discussion time.
7. The second and third parts of our vision that I mentioned are not really different from each other. Working to plant new churches and sending people into the world to proclaim the Gospel are fundamentally the same thing, though the places and ways we spread Christ’s message may be different. God has never imagined Open Door as a place we would receive the Good News, grow more and more comfortable with it, and just let it support us until we all grow old and die someday. If that becomes acceptable to us, we are moving away from our Lord. God is not satisfied for us to just get the Gospel and sit on it. It is meant to be shared. In the Father’s time and way, that will result in new believers and new churches with new leaders. A normal way for a New Testament church to function is for God to raise up from within it people who will become leaders. Some will lead new groups inside that culture, and others will be sent out to give His message across various kinds of cultural barriers.
8. So how can that happen in our case? When will we begin planting a church to grow up from Open Door? It doesn’t seem difficult to imagine when you think how many ways we have to communicate today. Many of Open Door’s members communicate with people around the world all the time, whether through Facebook, Skype, or some other means. Telling in a conversation with non-Christian friends here in Sapporo—or anywhere—how your faith has helped you is one very good way to spread the Gospel.
9. God has brought together a group of travelers in this church. He also has given us a sister church in Monrovia, Liberia. As you know, there is great danger there now from the ebola virus. Why did God put us together as sister churches? We believe God does things for a reason. Maybe there is something we can do now or in the future to help. Christian medical workers have already gone there to help fight this disease. They are like the Christians centuries ago when the plague was killing huge numbers of people in Europe. They chose not to run away or hide but actively go and take care of sick and dying people. Could God raise up from our family of faith someone or a group to travel to Liberia and support our brothers and sisters directly? What a witness to the power of the Gospel that would be! There are limitless possibilities. Let’s remember that as we seek God’s leading in prayer.
10. But to help us envision them and get a sense for which possibilities God is actually leading us toward, let’s look once more at God’s work in Paul’s day. First of all, he writes in Philippians 1:5-6 the following.
5 I am happy because you have joined me in spreading the good news. You have done so from the first day until now. 6 I am sure that the One who began a good work in you will carry it on until it is completed. That will be on the day Christ Jesus returns.
11. The members of the church in Philippi have joined Paul in presenting the news of Christ to people. They are team members with him. He is not trying to do all the important things by himself, and the people are not sitting around waiting for him to do them. He is not planning to make all the key decisions on his own and find leaders who will follow him without question. Instead, he says to Timothy (II Timothy 2:2), “You have heard me teach in front of many witnesses. Pass on to men you can trust the things you've heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others also.” It’s the multiplication principle.
12. Paul’s goal then is not to stay in one place and build a gigantic church there with him in tight control of things as long as possible. Rather, he goes to people where they are, helps them know Christ deeply and personally, then trains leaders who will continue when he is gone. Through approaching his work in this way, he keeps a very large vision for what God can do through him.
13. Roland Allen wrote a book about 100 years ago, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? It has had a powerful impact on Christian missions since that time. In it, he points out that Paul chooses certain cities for his work. Apparently they are ones that he thinks could become central points from which the Gospel can spread to an entire area. And often, when Paul describes his plans, he talks about working throughout a whole region, not just in one city (Allen, p. 12). For example, Acts 19:22 says, “He sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, to Macedonia. But he stayed a little longer in Asia Minor.” Both Macedonia and Asia Minor are regions—Philippi is part of Macedonia, and Asia Minor is what we call Turkey today. Paul works to plant churches all over the area. Growing churches that plant churches—that is the pattern God has followed typically when the Church of Christ has grown around the world for many centuries. As I finish my 20th year at this church, one of my constant prayers is, “OK, Lord, what’s next? How can I serve you most effectively now?” I hope you’ll pray that for me, for yourself, and for our church as a whole. Let’s keep moving, whether the Lord wants us to keep growing where we are or if now is the time to expand to other places.
14. Roland Allen, as you may have guessed from the title, wrote that Western missionaries such as those in his own group of churches, were making some serious mistakes in their work. He called the Church to return to the message and methods of Paul so that we could better do the work of the Gospel effectively in modern times. A key question is Who is in control? That includes Who will be responsible for the Church’s work and Who will pay for it? For example, should the missionaries and churches who send them and pay the salaries of church leaders and decide things? Should the local churches do this? If the answer is both, in what combination?
15. In Allen’s time, most all missionaries went from the West to the rest of the world. He thought they were taking too much control and keeping it too long before passing it to people in the local culture. Today, we think God has led many new churches around the world from an age of dependence to an age of independence and now to one of interdependence. From . . .
A. relying on foreign missionaries to
B. being free from them to
C. partnering with them . . .
is the way many world Christians see God leading them. Current trends make it very difficult to say the West will be the center of the Christian world as it once was, as Israel and then several Mediterranean rim countries were in Bible times. It looks as if in the future, there will be multiple centers, with missionaries being sent all over the world from all over the world.
16. God calls Open Door to be a part of that global project of taking His love and His word to every living creature. We have seen His vision and taken it as our own. We have begun the process of answering that call. Now what do the next steps look like? Who needs to hear the Good News of Christ from you? How would be a good way for you to show the love and message of God to those particular people? Let’s pray that God will show us the way as we seek to walk with Him in taking the Good News of Christ into our hearts, our homes, our communities, and our world.
17. God who saves, we hear you sending us to give your message to the people in our lives and our world who do not yet know you. But we remember the Bible’s words that we hold this treasure in earthen vessels. Your Gospel is a treasure, but we containers who hold it in our lives confess that we are like cheap plastic, or torn and dirty cardboard containers sometimes. So help us to have the wisdom we need to tell your message at the right time and in ways that people can understand and accept. Help us to pray often and well so that we will be used to listening to you and understand when you lead us to share your message. But even more we ask you to fill our hearts with your saving love, so that when we don’t speak so skillfully and beautifully, your message of love will shine through anyway. Use us in your work of bringing the world’s people to know and receive your gift of salvation and life forever with you. In Christ’s name, amen.
Allen, R. (1962). Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing.
Croce, D. (January 27, 2003). Wheaton College Chapel Service. Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://espace.wheaton.edu/media/wetn/ chap01-02prior/mp3/Croce012703.mp3
Elliot, J. (n.d.). GoodReads. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from http://www. goodreads.com/author/quotes/2125255.Jim_Elliot