WHAT ARE WE PREACHING? Sermon Central Staff Aug 31, 2011
A nationwide survey of church leaders by George Barna recently reported:
* * Only 53% of church leaders believe that moral truths are absolute
* * An amazing 43% of church leaders doubt the existence of the Holy Spirit
* * 33% of church leaders believe that Jesus never had a physical resurrection.
* * 27% of pastors have either never read the Bible all the way thru, or do not read it on a daily basis.
* * And, 19% of church leaders believe that Jesus sinned while alive.
These figures are among the church leadership. Now, if the church leaders of America believe such lies and forsake the reading of God’s word, what do you think the congregations sitting in their churches believe? This is false teaching at its very worst, and it is creeping into every church that focuses more on the people having a good and relaxed time than having them learn the truth of the Lord as stated in the Holy Bible.
Doesn’t that grieve your hearts? It certainly grieves mine. We need the unadulterated, unabridged Word of God, the Word that challenges people and takes them from where they are to where they need to go. The book of Acts tells this same story, because the temptation to water down the Word of God has always plagued the church.
Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Both were written by Luke, a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul.
The main point of the book of Acts is that all people receive the grace of God through one man, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ gospel goes out to all places and all types of people, because Jesus is Lord of all.
Acts 20:17-21 (ESV) 17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul preached both in Miletus and Ephesus, but since he wanted so desperately to get to Jerusalem, he called for the leaders of the Ephesus church to meet him in Miletus. Paul also reminded the people that he didn’t shrink back from declaring anything that was profitable, and he testified to all about the message of repentance toward God and of faith in Christ Jesus.
The apostle is getting ready to head to Jerusalem and wanted to see the leaders in Ephesus one last time. He is telling them, “look, I said all I can say. And you know what? Paul did this in spite of numerous plots against his life, and all kinds of trials. The Jews…his own countrymen, tried to kill Paul. And yet still, he resolved to give Christ to both Jews and non-Jews.
Acts 20:20 (NIV) 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you
Acts 20:20 (NLT) 20 I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear
Acts 20:20 (MSG) I didn’t skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got.
Just as the apostle Paul gave the people all of the Word of God, I pray that you all can see that I have tried by the grace of God to explain the Word of God with clarity. Let the whole Bible be beneficial to you. Just like Paul didn’t hold back from preaching the truth, don’t hold back from absorbing the truth.
Don’t shrink back from the truth – There’s a story in Ezekiel that also has parallels in the book of Revelation, and our story today.
Ezekiel 3:1-4 (ESV) 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.4 And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.
Neighborhood Church, I counsel you today. Soak in what you hear today, and every Sunday, and every single passage of scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit help you understand what you’re reading. See, first, God gave Ezekiel a scroll to eat, and THEN he said go, speak to the house of Israel. He also told Ezekiel not only to eat the scroll, but to be filled, to fill his belly with it. Then when Ezekiel had digested God’s Words, he could speak to God’s people GOD’s Words. The bottom line is, if we don’t get our instructions about life…all aspects of life, relationships, money, careers, friends, if we don’t our instructions from the Bible, we will either get those ideas from the culture around us, or from a worse place. The Bible clearly talks about doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-2). My prayer is that you all would take this to heart.
The apostle Paul reminded the people of what he had taught them, and then he told them what his next steps would be…..
Acts 20:22-24 (ESV) 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
The apostle Paul tells the people of Ephesus that he is Jerusalem-bound. Paul said his life was not important, except if he finished his course and the ministry he received from Christ, to testify about the gospel of grace.
Paul can already anticipate what’s going to happen to him when he goes to Jerusalem, But the Spirit of God was sending Paul there anyway. The only reason Paul put any value on his life at all was to proclaim the gospel. What a powerful, challenging statement. Can we say that the only reason we believe our lives have value is so that we can proclaim the gospel? When you see people who don’t know Jesus Christ, do you really believe their souls, and heaven and hell, hang in the balance? What about the urgency of the Gospel? This world is a plane that is going down, and the gospel is the only parachute.
Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives meaning to life – Nowhere else will you find an idea about a crucified Savior who is also our Creator, our sacrifice, our defense attorney, the lover of our souls, all at once. See every person who is ever born at some point in their lives has to ask themselves some very importance questions, big questions, questions about their origins, meaning, morality and destiny. My point is this….only in Jesus Christ do those questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny get sufficiently answered. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives meaning to life. And if this is true, we should be utterly passionate about the message that the Bible contains.
ILLUSTRATION: An Atheist’s Perspective on Evangelism Sermon Central Staff
Perhaps you’ve heard of Penn and Teller the comedy team who has worked Las Vegas for years. Penn Jillette is an atheist, but one day a businessman came and gave Penn a Gideon’s New Testament and wrote his contact info. Penn said nobody had ever done that to him before. On the video he says, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell; and people could be going to hell; or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward; and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize…just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell him or her that? I mean if I believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it? And that truck was bearing down on you? There’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is MORE important than that.”
There you have it; a confirmed atheist telling us that if we believe there heaven and hell exists, and if we believe there is eternal life, and we DON’T tell others; then it shows we must really hate them. Actually, the Bible teaches that it is the love of Christ that constrains us to urge people to be reconciled to God. Let us practice the Great Commission, that is the call in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples of all nations. The next few months will be geared towards how we can specifically do that. [END OF ILLUSTRATION].
This gospel has life and death ramifications. This has to be made clear to people, and clear to us. The apostle Paul encouraged the people to respond, and then gave them a serious warning in the following passages.
ACTS 20: 25-32 (ESV)25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Paul says the leaders of Ephesus will never see his face again, but he was innocent of the blood of all because he gave everyone the whole counsel of God. He then warned the people to pay attention, and said that wolves would come in, and pollute the Gospel. Paul warned everyone with tears for three years. Finally, he commended the people to God and the word of his grace.
Paul makes some heart wrenching statements. However, I believe Paul finished by saying that the people will be prepared for whatever comes next. This is so vital. it was up to them to utilize the Word and ignore distracting, demonic, and detrimental doctrines
Let’s devote ourselves to the whole counsel of God —
Paul left the people to the Lord and let it go. I have no idea what’s going to happen to Neighborhood Church after Chi and I leave. I am trusting and believing God that Neighborhood Misawa will continue to grow, thrive and flourish. We are placing Neighborhood in God’s hands, because we must. But our theme here at Neighborhood for this year is the whole counsel of God. What does this mean? This means to heed everything God wants to say to you, and me. The parts we like and the parts we don’t like all still need to be listened to. The answers to life are contained in the full counsel. There isn’t a human emotion or a human experience that the Bible doesn’t cover. God cares about every aspect of human life. He cares about singles and married believers, he cares about older believers and children. He cares about Japanese people, black people, white people. He cares, and the answers are in his counsel, if we would just eat it like Ezekiel!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuqyGrUYI_o (The Bible Sermon Jam)
What an amazing time we live in, because we have so many tools with which to help us understand the whole counsel of God. We have the words of Jesus and the apostle recorded as well as the prophets of the Old Testament. Let’s dig into that whole counsel.
“Preaching, then, is proclaiming God’s desire to take hearers from where they are to where God wants them to be through the gospel.”
When I was a cop in the Air Force they taught us that if our Air Base was to get attacked, and we got overrun and ran out of ammo, we would have to destroy our guns so the enemy couldn’t use them. But you know what? They told us that we didn’t even need to do all that. Just remove the firing pin from the gun. By just removing that firing pin, the primer is not lit, the gunpowder does not explode. For a soldier in the desert, you cannot stress the importance of being intimately acquainted with their weapon. Since we’ve enlisted, do we understand that knowledge of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is life and death for us? Folks, it’s the same with the Word of God, you need all the parts of your weapon for it to save your life.
Let’s continue to cling to the Words of Jesus. Paul says in verse 32:
Acts 20:32-38 (ESV) 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Paul tells the people that he wasn’t out to get paid. He says that all of his ministry expenses came out of his own pockets. And then he prayed with the people and they all wept. The people were sorrowful because none of them would ever see him again.
Paul was saying he wasn’t after anything from the people. I hope you all understand that I am not after anything with you all either. Honestly, I would definitely prefer to be a full-time pastor, or speaker or ministry, but right now is not the season for it. But eventually, we want to be full-time speakers or missionaries. And I hope and pray at Neighborhood Church you won’t see people who are perfect, but we are perfectly serious about pointing people to Jesus. Make sure to please appreciate your pastors, wherever you go after here. Please cherish those vessels who deliver God’s Word to you.
Remember to cherish those who bring you the Word of God — The next place you go to, be sure to honor your pastors, and Sunday school teachers and youth pastors, your children’s workers, they all have a tremendous responsibility.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Chi and I will not be here in October, but October is national clergy and pastoral appreciation month, so whoever our replacements are, if you are here in October make them feel welcome. Take care of them. And wherever you are in the world, in October, do something special for your pastor. Now, please don’t kiss your preacher like they kissed Paul! But submit to your pastors as they submit to Christ. Find a church that stretches you and takes you out of your comfort zone, that makes you wrestle with the Word of God.
The people of Ephesus had many challenges like us. Like our time, many religions and philosophies and ideas circulated the marketplaces. Many languages were spoken in Ephesus and there were people of all different races. But just as Paul in his human sinfulness and weakness still gave the people the whole counsel of God, and they embraced the whole counsel of God, so should we.