The Power of the Gospel

Hope for our Broken World, 25 August 2019

Hope for our Broken World
August 25, 2019
1 Cor. 6:9-11; John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:8-9

Series Big Idea:
The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

Big Idea:
Our broken world desperately needs to experience the Gospel.

Jesus is the hope of the world! Our politicians, scientists, educators, or entertainers will never bring the healing our nation and planet desperately need. Only the love, grace, mercy, and redemption of God can cure what ails us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus and his power, not the evil of our world.

Today we’re concluding our series The Power of the Gospel. We said the gospel—or good news—is ultimately about Jesus, Jesus is LORD. He is the good news. His life, death, and resurrection have wonderful implications for those who follow him, but the gospel is so much more than going to heaven when you die. It’s about Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life…now!

We talked about how the good news needs to be shared, and last Sunday we saw an example of a remarkable transformation because of the gospel as Saul—an enemy of Christianity—encountered Jesus and became arguably the most important figure in the movement Jesus began. Today we conclude our series in a message entitled
Hope for Our Broken World.

Our world is desperate for hope. This is not only obvious, it’s nothing new.

I know, some of you want to return to the good ol’ days, but did they ever really exist?

What if today is tomorrow’s good ol’ days?

I don’t know when America was actually great (though I heard a rumor that Queen Elizabeth has a hat which reads, “Make America Great Britain Again!”).

Has there ever been a moment when our world was truly at peace?

Our world is broken because of sin. It is desperate for hope.

If you study world history—and especially church history—you’ll see how desperate humanity has been for hope. Consider this excerpt from a letter written to the church in ancient Corinth in Greece:

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NLT)

As someone once said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Our world is desperate for hope.

They seek it in the strangest places.

  • - Politics
  • - Entertainment
  • - Science
  • - Drugs and alcohol
  • - Sex
  • - Religion
  • - Greed and consumerism
  • - Adventure and danger

The problem is none of those things will truly satisfy. Sure, they may bring temporary happiness, but they will all eventually fail to live up to their promises…and in many cases will create their own problems such as addiction or even death. Amazingly, people have been “lookin’ for hope in all the wrong places” for centuries!

If my first statement would delight Captain Obvious, I’m even more convinced of my next declaration…

Jesus is the hope of the world.

Unfortunately, this is not obvious to everyone. In fact, billions of people know nothing about Jesus. They’re not offended by him. They haven’t had a bad experience with him. They’ve never even heard his name, much less met him!

If we turn back to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, it continues…

Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11, NLT)

Only Jesus offers real cleaning.
Only Jesus can make us holy.
Only Jesus can make us right with God.
Only Jesus offers real hope.

Many of you have heard this a thousand times, but listen again…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

The meaning of “so” is not about the amount of God’s love. It literally means the qualitative aspect of God’s love, the manner in which He loved the world. It is stating, “This is what the love of God looks like”…a sacrifice, a gift, …action!” To follow Jesus means we follow his example of sacrifice, of action, of sharing good news.

How in the world did Jesus-followers get the reputation of being filled with hate when God loved?

How can we be known as people who are after people’s money when God gave so generously to us, sending Jesus?

How is it that so-called Christians can judge unbelievers when Jesus came to save them, not condemn them?

Jesus is the hope of the world.

Hope is good.
Hope is attractive.
Hope doesn’t need to be sold, only offered.

For some Christians, there are only two dates that matter: the date they were saved and the date they die and go to heaven. What a tragedy!

Jesus is not just the hope for you. God loved the world! Jesus is the hope of the world! It is a responsibility and a joy to proclaim the gospel…good news…Jesus…to the world!

Some pathetic Christians are sitting around waiting for the world to end so they can get out of here, but that’s not God’s heart. That’s not a Jesus’ attitude. He sent us on mission, family. He commissioned us to make disciples, to love, to proclaim the Gospel. Peter wrote,

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Do you know how many of my kids I love? All of them!

Jesus said he would return soon, and I think he’s a little slow, which is why I’m grateful for these words from Peter. See, if anything, God’s waiting for us. It’s not that He’s slow, but that He is love. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to repent, to turn from their sin, to surrender to Jesus. He’s not eager to judge us—though we will all be judged—but wants all to repent, to turn from sin, to follow Jesus. But…

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

If the only thing that mattered was your salvation, you’d get zapped to heaven as soon as you surrendered your life to Jesus. But you’re still here! You’ve got work to do, and so do I.

We are here to re-present Jesus.

Followers of Jesus—Christians—are to look like and act like Jesus. He passed the baton to us. He told us to go and make disciples. This requires action. It’s not a suggestion. It’s why we’re here!

What would happen if we really loved Jesus…and proved it not with our head but with our hearts and hands? What if we really took him seriously, got out of our comfort zones and loved this city that way Jesus would love it? Imagine if every person in Toledo was given an invitation to know and follow Christ? Wouldn’t it be great if we could participate in an earth-shaking spiritual awakening in our world which began here in Holy Toledo?

I’m done with status quo, mediocre, boring Christianity. I want more of God! I want more of the Holy Spirit! I want to see revival…in me…in you…in our city…in our world. I’m sick of satan grabbing all of the news headlines! I want some good news! I’ve got some good news!

We are called to be hope dealers!

If Jesus is the hope of the world, we become that hope as we re-present Jesus, as we are the hands and feet of Jesus today.

Our nation has had some revivals, including the Great Awakening.

There’s a fascinating video called
Transformations which documents communities transformed by the Gospel, by Jesus, by a miraculous move of the Holy Spirit when people come together in unity repentance, prayer, and evangelism.

I want Him to do it again…here!

Is anybody with me?

This is our day. This is our world. Previous generations experienced revivals, but what about us? God never changes, friends. I believe He’s ready to pour out His Spirit on us, our city, and our world if we will repent, pray, and share the gospel. We have to go and make disciples. We have to proclaim in deed and word good news. We have follow Jesus and practice what we preach, 24/7/365.

So What?

“Great, pastor. You had too much caffeine this morning, you’re getting all excited, but now what?”

I’m so glad you asked! I want to offer a few, simple, next steps. In a word, BLESS.

BLESS your neighbor.

Begin with prayer

You don’t have to be a spiritual giant to share good news, to offer hope to our broken world, one life at a time. You can bring someone to Dinner Church tonight. You can ask open-ended questions to stimulate conversation such as, “Where are you at on your spiritual journey?” You can invite your neighbors over for a BBQ. You can buy someone a cup of coffee and chat.

This fall you can be a conversation partner with Water for Ishmael.
You can volunteer at the After School Klub and Rosa Parks Elementary.

Barna research has concluded 97% of church members will never share their faith, yet I bet most of you want to. You want your neighbors to experience good news. You want them to have faith, hope, and love. You just feel awkward. I know. I don’t walk up to total strangers and say, “Hi, I’m Kirk. Do you know Jesus?” Some people actually do that! But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re a family. We partner together. We literally set the table once a month at Dinner Church. Our Christmastime gatherings will create great opportunities for people to encounter the Hope of the world.

But there’s one more thing I want to tell you about. Coincidentally, this past week was the beginning of a movement which could be a catalyst to revival in our city and nation.

Saturate Toledo

We have been invited to join Toledo area churches in distributing bags to reach all 500,000 souls in our area. What an opportunity! We will pray, stuff bags, and deliver them to our neighbors. It’s that simple…and all of the resources have been donated!

Area pastors are invited to a free lunch on October 1 at The Premiere Center. If you know a pastor—besides me!—make sure they know about it. Our plan is to assemble and distribute bags this fall. If you can walk, talk, and/or pray, you can participate.

The goal is 60 million homes by the end of 2020. So far, 28 million have been adopted and nearly 13 million have already been saturated…that’s 40 million people who have received a bag in 45 states!

One of the exciting things is donors are making this available to our church and city for free! All we have to do is assemble the materials and pass them out to our neighbors.

Saturate Toledo is a simple way we can make sure everyone has a chance to encounter the Hope of the world, Jesus Christ.


Our world is desperate for hope. They’re never going to find it in Columbus or Washington, Hollywood or Broadway. Money, sex and power will never truly satisfy. It won’t come through Facebook or Apple or Instagram.

Jesus is the Hope of the world…and we get to re-present him to every person we encounter, online or in person.

It’s time for us to rise up and proclaim good news. No pressure, no manipulation, just love. BLESSing. Hope. Our world desperately needs it. It couldn’t be more obvious. What are we going to do about it?

LORD, give us Your heart for the lost, the lonely, the least of these that we may re-present Jesus, the hope of the world.

Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Transformed, 18 August 2019

    Series—The Power of the Gospel
    Acts 9:1-31

    Series Big Idea:
    The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea:
    Every person you encounter is a masterpiece with tremendous potential, regardless of their present condition.

    Several years ago, my late mother-in-law invited Heather and I to her new home in central Michigan. She had warned us it was a fixer-upper, but we were not prepared for the mess she purchased. I have been in nicer tents! Perhaps we should’ve planned on sleeping in the car!

    Rather than embarrassment, she was proud of her purchase. She described in detail all of the things she was going to do to this shack. Any person in their right mind would’ve done exactly one thing: knocked it down and started over! She didn’t have another place to stay, so she lived in this structure for months and months while it was renovated around her. The woman had vision, and the end result was nothing short of amazing.

    Have you met people like that cottage? Their physical health might be a train wreck. Their finances are in shambles. Their relationships are a disaster. They need serious mental and emotional help.

    Perhaps the person is you…or it used to be you.

    In our series “The Power of the Gospel,” we’ve noted how the gospel—or good news—is, indeed, powerful. It’s all about Jesus, and this world needs Jesus. I need Jesus. We all need Jesus, whether we know it or not. It’s both a responsibility and a joy to share good news, to introduce people to Jesus. It’s up to them what they do with Jesus, but at this moment there are literally billions of people on our planet that have never been introduced to Jesus. Many have never even heard his name. This is why it’s so important for us to go and make disciples, to proclaim good news.

    But what if you proclaim Jesus to someone who wants to kill you because of Jesus? We’re going to look at a true story about just such a man today. His transformation may be the greatest in human history…and it offers hope for everyone.

    It’s the first century. That Jewish man Jesus has died and then resurrected. He ascended into heaven and his followers are telling everyone about him and his promised return. The early Christians are seeking to follow Jesus’ two primary commands, to love God and to love others as they love themselves. It’s a radical faith, spreading rapidly, among both Jews and Gentiles. But there’s opposition. Many of the Romans could care less about religion, but the Pharisees—the religious leaders who wanted Jesus killed in the first place—are attacking these early believers in Yeshua, Jesus. One of their leaders is a man named Saul.

    Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

    How would you like to run into this guy? The first Christians were called people of the Way, and Saul was threatening to kill them while taking them as prisoners. This is not a nice man, though he thought was doing the right thing. He was religious, and he saw these Christians as opponents of his Jewish religion. Persecuting them was doing God’s word, he thought.

    As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,
    “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:3-4)

    Has this ever happened to you? You’re on your way to visit the high priest and you’re confronted by a bright light and a voice speaking your name! It must’ve been quite the scene. After all, it literally changed the course of history.

    “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)

    Do you think Saul had a choice?!

    Although this is an unusual miracle,

    God still speaks today.

    He speaks primarily through the Bible—which is why we must read and study it—but He does use other things to communicate with us. In my life, God has spoken through other people, circumstances, an idea at 3 o’clock in the morning, and His still, small voice. Others have experienced life-changing dreams. Prophecy, music, prayer, and nature are all conduits of God’s messages. He is speaking. Are you quiet enough to hear?

    One thing that’s essential to know is
    God will never contradict Himself. In other words, He’ll never tell you something which goes against the Bible. If you’re not sure a message or idea is from God, I’d recommend sharing it with someone who knows God and the Bible and see what they think.

    Back to our story…

    The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (Acts 9:7-9)

    Saul was blind for three days. That’s a popular period of time in the Bible!

    In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,

    “Yes, Lord,” he answered. (Acts 9:10)

    The Lord told him,
    “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” (Acts 9:11-12)

    Normally if God speaks, the appropriate response is, “Yes, LORD!”

    The actual response is sometime, “What?!”

    “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14)

    Even without radio, tv, or even newspapers, Ananias knew about Saul. His picture was posted at the Christian post office (ha!). The thought of going to Saul made as much sense to Ananias as an American scheduling a meeting with Osama bin Ladin when he was alive. You’ve got to be crazy! This guy’s on a man hunt…for you and your people!

    But the Lord said to Ananias,
    “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)

    If I’m Ananias, I’m thinking “must suffer” is appropriate after all the Christians persecuted and killed on Saul’s watch. God said “go!” and Ananias obeyed, even though he must’ve been scared stiff!

    Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-19a)

    This was a miracle! Saul’s conversion is—to this day—one of the most radical in history. This religious Jew encounters Jesus and becomes not only a follower, but one of the two leaders of the early Church, along with Peter.

    What follows in Acts chapter 9 is a descriptions of Saul’s first days as a Christian, preaching and proclaiming the gospel, the good news, Jesus is the Son of God. His transformation was so amazing, the Jews conspired to kill him! A verses later,

    When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26-27)

    It took Barnabus to convince the others that Saul had really joined their team. Sure, it seemed too good to be true, but

    The Gospel can reach anyone. There is no such thing as a hopeless causes with our God. There’s no person on earth Jesus’ blood can’t forgive. Good news is for everyone.

    About two thousand years ago, some shepherds were in their fields when an angel appeared and terrified them.

    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

    Good news…Jesus…the Gospel…for all the people. The Gospel can reach anyone. Kirk Franklin sings in a song, “I’m the reason why God made grace.” I love that! I am that reason. We are all in need of grace, of love, of God’s forgiveness, of reconciliation with God and one another, and that’s why Jesus came. He is the ultimate good news in a world full of bad news. And this is why I want the world to know about Jesus!

    I mentioned Osama bin Ladin earlier, but I prayed many times for his salvation. I thought if he were to follow Jesus, countless lives would be influenced for good rather than evil. As far as I know, bin Ladin never trusted Jesus with his life, but even though he had done terrible things, he was forgivable. The 23
    rd chapter of Luke tells of a criminal on the cross next to Jesus.

    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

    Jesus answered him,
    “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

    Is that even fair?! Does he spend eternity in the same place as Mother Theresa and Billy Graham? We don’t know the details for their afterlife, but Jesus seems to be telling this criminal in his final moments his faith is valid. God can reach anyone; even your boss, your son or daughter, your friend, your enemy. God so loved the world, which includes everyone in the world. In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as a hopeless cause. God can reach anyone. Even me. Hallelujah!

    So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,
    but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:28-30)

    Saul’s ministry grew, as did his Jewish opposition.

    Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)

    This was a brilliant, yet dangerous, time in the life of the early Church. The opposition was real, yet the testimony of one Pharisee who would later be known as Paul was a game-changer.

    So What?

    I want to challenge you today with a simple next step: pray for your greatest enemy. It might be a parent or child or some other family member. Maybe it’s your boss or neighbor. It could be a political figure you’ve never met, or a prisoner who wronged you. Whoever it is, they would be a better human being to themself and the world if they would surrender their life to Jesus. You may seek revenge, but you surely don’t want their bad behavior to continue. What if they had a Damascus Road encounter with God like Saul? Imagine their testimony for the Kingdom of God.

    You might be thinking, “They don’t deserve God’s grace after all they’ve done,” but that’s a misunderstanding of grace. They
    don’t deserve it. Neither do we. Grace is unmerited favor, so by definition, you cannot earn or deserve it. Jesus said to

    …love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44b)

    Love and pray for your enemies.
    Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
    But seriously, Jesus commands us to love and pray for them. That’s not easy, but it is possible with the power of the Holy Spirit. And there’s not greater power than love. There’s no force which can transform like love. We can pray for anyone to encounter Jesus! That’s the first step in proclaiming the gospel, the good news, Jesus. If the greatest gift we can give anyone is Jesus, prayer is like wrapping the gift. It’s getting it ready to be received. We can’t guarantee acceptance of Jesus, but we can pray and ask God to open their hearts, to use our deeds and words, and to transform the person.

    Many people think of Christianity is all about not doing bad things. I was once told Christians don’t drink, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do! Avoiding bad behavior—or worse, hiding bad behavior—is not what it means to follow Jesus. Yes, there are many things harmful to us and God which are never good for us, but Christianity is not just about what we’re against. It’s also what we’re for. It’s about
    who we’re for. We are for people. We are for sinners. We are for saints. We are for Toledo. Why? Because Jesus is, and a real Christian is someone who acts like Jesus. They love…even their enemies. They pray…for their friends and even their enemies. They aren’t afraid to get dirty, uncomfortable, or inconvenienced. They know the value of listening, even when they want to speak. They are generous, even when it might seem extravagant. They care for the least of these—the stranger, orphan and widow. You might say the SOW into the stranger, orphan, and widow. They engage with the “least of these.”

    They know every person they meet is God’s masterpiece, created in His image with dignity, value and worth. Broken? Yes. Waiting for restoration? Yes.

    The gospel changes lives…for eternity! You might see a mess—like what I saw in my mother-in-law’s house—but God sees potential. He has a plan and a purpose for every member of the human race, if we’ll only let them know…and if they’ll only surrender.

    And one more thing…Jesus died for you, too. He’s good news for you. His grace—unmerited favor—means nothing you can do can make him love you more, and nothing you can do can make him love you less. He wants to be Savior, but also LORD. Let’s all obey him this week, proclaiming the gospel, praying for the not-yet-saved, and watching the greatest miracle of all take place right in front of us, the transformation of a human life.

    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Send the Light, 11 August 2019

    Send the Light
    Series—The Power of the Gospel
    Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:6-11; Romans 10:8-17

    Series Big Idea:
    The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea:
    Proclaiming the gospel is a joy because we love God and people.

    Words are powerful. They’re loaded with meaning; sometimes multiple meanings. This is why we are sometimes misunderstood. One simple word can trigger thoughts and feelings instantaneously.

    I’m not going to yell it in a public building, but if someone were to yell f-i-r-e, a very important message would be conveyed. Perhaps no word seizes your attention more than your name.

    This morning I want to talk about a word that is frightening to many. It’s not “change.” It’s not “evil.” The word is…evangelism.

    We’re in the middle of series entitled “The Power of the Gospel.” Last week we noted the Greek word
    euangelion means “good news,” a word we often translate “gospel.” We said the gospel is all about…Jesus. It’s more than personal salvation or going to heaven when you die. The gospel—according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and in seven sermons in the book of Acts and 2 Timothy 2:8 and Romans 1 and other places in the Bible—is Jesus.

    Although the word “evangelism” does not appear in most English translations of the Bible, the Greek word “euangelistes” or evangelist shows up in Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, and 2 Timothy 4:5 and it simply means one who announces glad tidings. Evangelism, then, is simply proclaiming the gospel, proclaiming good news. That’s not so scary, is it? Actually, I would think proclaiming bad news would be far more difficult.
    I hope today you’ll be encouraged and equipped to proclaim the gospel, to introduce people to Jesus, to make disciples…who make disciples.

    Jesus famously took the 613 laws of Moses and boiled them down to two commands:

    Love God.
    Love others as you love yourself.

    - Matthew 22:37-40
    - Mark 12:29-31

    I want to offer you two simple reasons why we proclaim the gospel, why we invite people to follow Jesus.

    We proclaim the gospel because we love Jesus.

    Jesus said,

    “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

    What did he command? During his final hours on earth before ascending into heaven, Jesus gathered his friends together.

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

    We’ve looked at this text many times, and we will continue to do so. This is known as the Great Commission. It’s what Jesus told them to do under his authority. This is not a suggestion. It’s not an option. It’s not just for pastors or professional Christians.

    Go. The word is a participle. It means “going” or “as you go.” There’s no mention of sitting, status quo, indifference, or being passive. This is an action word. It’s a word in Greek, poreuo, that is sometimes translated “to pursue after, be devoted to, to go after.”

    Make disciples. In a word, reproduce. Disciples follow Jesus and help others follow Jesus. This alone is good news! Imagine a world filled with people who act like Jesus. Yes, please! This is the heart of the command: make disciples.

    Part of the process of becoming a disciple and making disciples is being baptized. A Jesus-follower who hasn’t been baptized—publicly declaring their faith in Jesus—is like a person who has a secret wedding, ashamed to announce their marriage. It’s also disobedient! Disciples are to be baptized. They are also to be taught to obey. That’s the mark of spiritual maturity: obedience. It’s not religious activity. It’s disciple-making. It’s action. It’s helping others become like Jesus. It’s love. The hallmark of our faith is love for others. Therefore,

    We proclaim the gospel because we love people.

    Jesus said to do two things:

    Love God.
    Love others as you love yourself.

    Love is others-centered. It’s caring for another person. It’s looking out for their best interests. If you truly love someone, there’s no greater gift you can give them than an introduction to Jesus.

    Think for a moment about what you do for those you love. Maybe you speak kind words to them. Perhaps you buy or make them gifts. You might spend quality time with them. I like to tell them about good deals I find (bargains is one of my love languages!). You can let them know about opportunities that could enrich their lives.

    But there’s not opportunity, no person, nothing that can add more value to them than Jesus.

    It’s not your job to convert anybody. You’re not selling anything. There’s no force, no pressure, nothing weird. You don’t need a megaphone or photos of fire or scary movies. If you love Jesus and you love people, network! Bring them together. Introduce people to Jesus.

    Matchmaking is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t mean romantic matchmaking—though that can be fun…and risky! I mean connecting good people with employers who are searching for quality talent. Although I’ve never received a finder’s fee, I’ve been delighted to make introductions which led to career opportunities.

    I love introducing people to Jesus, too. I love talking about Jesus. I’m not especially good at it—and I often struggle to meet unchurched people working in a church office—but when I get the opportunity, I love to talk about my faith and how it’s all about Jesus, not a religion or a bunch of rules.

    It is both a responsibility and joy to proclaim the gospel.

    Jesus commands it. He commissioned us to make disciples who make disciples…assuming we are disciples, we are following Jesus, the one who “
    came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10b), the one who was called a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).

    I love roller coasters. I love the thrill, the energy, the speed, the excitement…yet seeing someone seek after God is even greater. Watching someone meet and surrender to Jesus is exhilarating. Sure, the birth of my kids and my grandbaby were beyond words, but the spiritual birth of a person—and playing a role in it—is such a joy.

    My favorite days on our church calendar are the International Easter Dinner, baptisms, and Dinner Church. All three are opportunities to proclaim the gospel, for people to meet Jesus.

    We are to proclaim the gospel in deed and word.

    People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    You don’t have to be a genius to know organized religion is in decline in our country…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m glad people are finally holding church leaders accountable for their bad behavior.

    I’m certainly not a perfect example, but I’m a living example of someone trying to follow Jesus. I’m accountable to our elders and our District Superintendent, Rev. Thomas George. My desperate prayer is for wisdom. I know I’m inadequate to re-present Jesus. Fortunately, God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualified the called. And that includes you.

    I believe actions speak louder than words. Years ago, I attended a conference where a well-respected Christian leader said, “The greatest obstacle to people coming to Jesus is the church.” I wanted to throw my chair at the guy, but he was right! Our reputation in our society is not good. We’re known not for our love—according to researchers—but for our hatred of people. Many believe we love our politics more than our faith, judging rather than extending grace, talking rather than listening, and converting rather than caring.

    The medium is the message. If we aren’t loving, our message of love—our God of love—will never be heard. Please don’t give God—or the church—a bad name. And don’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians!

    Send the Light

    Jesus said,

    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

    Why don’t we send the light? Why don’t we shine? Why don’t we proclaim the gospel and introduce people to Jesus? I think the primary reason is fear. We fear rejection. We fear embarrassment. Perhaps most of all, we fear failure. What if I introduce someone to Jesus and they reject him?

    It’s not your job to convert people! Just like a matchmaker isn’t responsible for a couple falling in love and getting married, your job is just to make the introduction. You don’t have the power to change a human heart from their selfish pride to surrender…but the Holy Spirit does! If we do our part, He’ll do His!

    Right before Jesus departed our planet, Luke writes,

    Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

    They thought Jesus came to restore a physical kingdom in Israel, but the Kingdom of God is global.

    He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” (Acts 1:7-8)

    The Alliance has really focused on Acts 1:8.

    The Holy Spirit does the word. We are to be God’s witnesses—even martyrs—in Jerusalem (Toledo), and in all Judea and Samaria (Ohio and the unwanted and outcasts…the widows, strangers, refugees, immigrants, orphans, disabled, poor, …), and to the ends of the earth.

    Most of us like the ends of the earth. It’s exciting to hear what spiritual heroes are doing in other countries. It’s easy for many of us to write checks to support their work. We may even pray for our International Workers, but that’s not the only way we fulfil the Great Commission. Jesus wants everyone involved, including you! We’re all called to be missionaries…in Toledo or Timbuktu! Every Sunday is a missions conference where we get equipped to live out the mission of God…to seek and save the lost, to make disciples, to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.

    Why Wait?

    Billy Graham said, “The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear the responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities."

    Family, people are dying because of gun violence and random shooting. They are committing suicide (the suicide hotline is
    800.273.TALK). Our tomorrow is not guaranteed, nor is it certain for those around us. What are you waiting for?

    Next Steps

    I know, it can be difficult to talk about Jesus. Some of you feel like you don’t have enough knowledge, which didn’t stop the woman at the well from telling those in her town about her encounter with Jesus on the same day she met him (John 4). Share your story! Why do you love Jesus? If you can’t share it, maybe you don’t have one!

    Get out. Go! The light shines brightest in the darkness. It’s great to gather together on Sunday mornings, but the rest of the week is for scattering. We need to love our neighbor. Don’t worry about slick presentations. Build friendships. Join a club. Take a co-worker out for coffee. Every person you see this week is a broken masterpiece for whom Jesus died. Do they know how loved they are by God? By you? Take a risk. Introverts, use social media, if desired. Starts some conversations. If all of your friends are Christians, you might not be one! Jesus was a friend of sinners. Followers of Jesus go, they get out, they do not become of the world, but they go into it. They love and serve the people in it. I’m not a perfect example, but I’m thrilled to say in recent days I have been having some great conversations with spiritual seekers.

    Here are a few simple next-steps you can take to connect with non-Christians:

    - Dinner Church
    - Coffee or a meal
    - English conversation partners through Water for Ishmael
    - Volunteer to tutor at Rosa Parks Elementary with you this fall
    - Volunteer at the After School Klub (ASK) this fall

    Don’t forget two essential tools:

    Prayer. It’s not about our eloquence or knowledge, but the Holy Spirit’s power.

    If you spent your entire life rooting for the Michigan Wolverines, do you think a five-minute conversation will cause you to change your allegiances to that team down south? I can tell you the answer; no! It takes time for seeds to produce fruit, even when there’s plenty of rain, fertilizer, and sunshine. It takes some people years—even decades—to get off the throne of their lives and submit to Jesus as LORD.

    If you were raised in the church, faith might be second-nature to you. For adults who have lived their entire lives doing things their own way, it takes time to see the wisdom and value of surrendering control to Jesus.

    In conclusion, Paul wrote,

    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
    (Romans 10:14-15)

    Proclaiming the gospel is a joy because we love God and people. Let’s demonstrate that love this week as we engage in spiritual conversations and introduce people to Jesus.

    One more thing…

    Jesus never said to make converts. He said to make disciples. Evangelism is the front end of the discipleship process. It’s not the end. The goal isn’t getting people to pray a prayer. It’s to become like Jesus and help others become like Jesus.

    Additional Resources

    What about those who never hear the gospel? (we don’t know for sure!) (simple 3 circles evangelism tool)

    The main reasons Christians do not evangelize—according to Thom Rainer—are:
    1. 1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
    2. 2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
    3. 3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
    4. 4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
    5. 5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
    6. 6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
    7. 7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
    8. 8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
    9. 9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
    10. 10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
    11. 11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
    12. 12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
    13. 13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
    14. 14. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.
    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Power in the Blood, 4 August 2019

    Power in the Blood
    Series—The Power of the Gospel
    1 Cor. 15:1-8; Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 3:1-14, 23-29; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:5

    Series Big Idea: The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea: The gospel—“good news”—is powerful because it’s all about Jesus.

    What’s the best thing that has happened to you so far this summer? Think of one highlight and share it with someone.

    Our world is filled with bad news. I still think one of the most depressing things you can do is watch television news—it doesn’t even matter what channel! They’re all filled with doom and gloom. Meanwhile, babies are being born, the beauty of God’s colorful creation is on full display, poverty in Africa is falling, families are experiencing reconciliation, Toledo is tied for the fifth-fastest growing construction job market in the country, you’re in an air conditioned building…

    Today we’re beginning a new series entitled The Power of the Gospel. The word “gospel” simply means “good news” and that’s something we all could use more of, amen?

    Before we go any further, let’s begin with a seemingly simple question:

    What is the gospel?

    The Greek word euangelion means “good news,” but what comes to mind when you hear the word “gospel?”

    Here are some common expressions I’ve heard:

    Gospel music (black gospel and southern gospel)
    Full gospel
    Gospel truth
    Preach the gospel

    I’ve heard people explain the gospel by saying if you pray a special prayer, you’ll go to heaven when you die. Salvation for sinners is good news, but the gospel is so much more. Paul once wrote to a church in the Greek city of Corinth these words:

    Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

    Okay, Paul, what is the gospel?

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

    The gospel is not merely justification by faith. It’s not just personal salvation. There’s more to it than who’s in and who’s out, though many Christians have reduced the gospel to who gets to go to heaven when they die and who goes to hell, which is tragic.

    If you imagine a theatrical play, some of said the Bible unfolds like six acts:

    God creates His Kingdom
    Rebellion in the Kingdom
    The King chooses Israel
    The Coming of the King
    Growth of the Kingdom
    Return of the King

    The word “gospel” belongs to the biblical story. It is the announcement, the heralding, the declaration that Jesus is Messiah, the goal of the narrative, the climax of Israel’s story.

    There are seven gospel sermons in the book of Acts (2, 3, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17), each a narrative of Israel which climaxes in Jesus as LORD and Messiah.

    The gospel is all about Jesus.

    It’s about who he is and what he did. It’s the story of the Messiah, the preexisted Son of God becoming king.

    Paul wrote to Timothy,

    Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, (2Timothy 2:8)

    Scot McKnight writes,
    “The gospel is the redemptive story about what God has done in Jesus the Savior Lord. It is the story about the redemptive Jesus. First Christology, then soteriology. Not either or, but both, in that order. When the second is first, Jesus becomes a means; when the first is first, Jesus becomes the subject and our redemption the effect of Jesus.”

    In other words, the gospel is first about Jesus, and then our salvation. Jesus is LORD and our Savior.

    Many have reduced the gospel to the plan of salvation, yet nobody in the New Testament would’ve ever thought of the gospel in such a narrow way.

    I’m not suggesting the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans Road or anything other “plan of salvation” is bad. For those unfamiliar with the plan of salvation, it goes something like this:

    God loves us and wants a relationship with us.
    Our sinful rebellion breaks the relationship.
    Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God, paying for our sins.
    We can choose to accept or reject Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, receive forgiveness and eternal life, and be reconciled to the Father by faith.

    This month we’re talking about the gospel and I want you to understand it’s more than a prayer you pray to go to heaven when you die. It’s all about Jesus. The good news is the Messiah came to earth, showed us what it means to be human, taught timeless truths and wisdom, died for every man, woman, and child who follows Him, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return soon.

    We have four books in the Bible that are called the gospel…the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, the gospel of Luke, and the gospel of John. They are all about…Jesus! They are four biographies of Jesus. Jesus is the gospel. He is the good news. He preached good news and is good news.

    The gospel is the power of God.

    Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

    The context is important. The Roman empire was the definition of power. The Greek word for power, dunamis, speaks of supernatural power, miracles or mighty works. The gospel is more than just words or religion or ideology or dogma. It is powerful.

    Jesus is the power of God, God in the flesh, God incarnate. Jesus came as a Jew into a Jewish culture that often despised Gentiles, but Jesus came, died, and rose for Jews and Gentiles. This might not seem like a big deal today, but it was radical 2000 years ago.

    Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, of Jesus. He risked his life to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God which Jesus brought to our planet, making righteousness–right living—is available by faith to everyone. They can go from death to life, from hopeless to hope-filled, from condemned to redeemed.

    It’s not about what we do. It’s about Jesus has done. It’s not about our works, but faith in Jesus.

    There’s power in the name of Jesus.
    There’s power in the death of Jesus.
    There’s power in the blood of Jesus.
    There’s power in the teachings of Jesus.
    There’s power in the resurrection of Jesus.

    And that power, that Jesus, that

    …gospel is for everyone.

    Praise God, that means you and me. That means black and white, rich and poor, male and female, Republican and Democrat. The gospel—Jesus—and his bride—the Church—should be the most unifying, healing, welcoming people on earth.

    So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

    We’ve looked at this text before and it’s truly wonderful. The entire third chapter of Galatians tells us we are all invited to follow Jesus, regardless of language, geography, gender, or ethnicity. This is why racism is satanic. This is why denominationalism is satanic. This is why looking down upon the poor or judging the rich or hating anyone is satanic.

    Jesus came for everyone.
    Jesus died for everyone.
    Jesus loves everyone.

    But we all choose whether to make Jesus the leader of our lives or push him to the side and live life our way. The consequences are eternal, so this is a big deal. We can do now and eternity with God or we can do this life and the next without Him. It’s our choice.

    I don’t know how anyone could reject God, His love, His grace and mercy, His forgiveness, His power, His relationship, His freedom, His joy, …

    Some simply don’t know any better. They’ve never heard about Jesus or have a distorted view of who Jesus is based upon the poor witness—in word and/or deed—of his so-called followers…Christians.

    Tragically, here and around the world the gospel—the good news, Jesus— has been replaced by rules, legalism, and religion. People have been led to believe it’s about going to church rather than being the church, that is, doing life together in radical community. They think it’s about what we’re against instead of what we’re for…them!


    Jesus is for Toledo. Jesus is for the planet.
    We must be for Toledo. We must be for every man, woman and child on earth.

    That includes those in prison, immigrants, refugees, those with AIDS, Muslims, atheists, child molesters, human traffickers, and terrorists. Jesus is for them, too. Their only hope is Jesus. The only way they can change is Jesus. The only power available to them is through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    Some Christians get frustrated when non-Christians act like…non-Christians! They wonder why non-Christians don’t change. It’s because without Jesus and his supernatural power, they couldn’t change if they wanted to!

    If you remember one thing today, remember there is supernatural power in Jesus Christ…and we are all invited to trust in God and His supernatural power.

    The gospel is not merely good news, it’s great news! Why in the world would you want to keep it to yourself?

    The gospel must be shared.

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

    As humans, we naturally want to do things, accomplish things, earn things. This is why so many in our culture believe they’ll go to heaven when they die because they’re “good” people. God doesn’t grade on a curve, though. Any sin, mistake, failure on our part is enough to separate us from a holy God. The gospel reveals Jesus and his mission to seek and save the lost, to die for us, to shed his blood, to pay our debt, to create an invitation so compelling it seems unbelievable. Grace—unmerited favor—it truly amazing!

    Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

    The Jews were following 613 laws from centuries earlier, hoping their religion would earn them favor with God. Paul’s saying Jesus changed everything. He shattered their expectations with his life and teachings. He shocked them with his death and resurrection. He said the first will be last, to save your life you have to lose it, the greatest is the servant, the wisdom of man is foolishness compared to God. Jesus turned everything upside down.

    Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

    I wonder what Paul would say to us in the USA today, given our knowledge, technology, and philosophy.

    Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

    I love this! I’m privileged to have been raised in a stable home, given a good education, never deprived of food, and live in a country that has given me freedom and opportunity. Yet many of you and certainly many of our brothers and sisters around the world have been foolish, weak, lowly, or despised by the world’s standards…yet they are precious, loved, powerful children of God.

    It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

    And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:1-3)

    My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

    Paul said it’s all about God’s wisdom, God’s power, Jesus Christ, the gospel. May the evidence of the gospel be the way it transforms lives, including ours!

    Credits: some ideas from Scott McKnight, D6.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.