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2005-11-06_The Greatest News

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The Greatest News

Shaun LePage, November 6, 2005

I. Introduction

A.   Review

1.     We’re in the midst of a series of messages related to our Core Values. Those core values are printed on the back of your bulletin. As I’ve said, your elder board developed this list before I ever came into the picture— When I did come into the picture, we found that we shared these values. It’s not an exhaustive list, but a helpful one as we consider the direction Community Bible Church should take in the future.

a)     We believe these values are biblical.

b)    We believe these should be a grid through which we evaluate our programming and make our decisions.

2.     I’ve asked you to think in terms of three relationships as we look at these values: Your relationship with God, your relationship with unbelievers and your relationship with believers.

a)     We spent a couple weeks looking at our relationship with God—that our purpose as individuals and as a church is to glorify Him. The way we glorify Him is basically through the Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The values on our list that most closely related are worship and prayer.

b)    Of course, the second greatest commandment is inseparable from the first—love your neighbor as yourself. If we say that we love God but hate our neighbor, we are liars. Love for God must result in love for neighbor. So outreach, community and our other values are all closely related to these commandments.

c)     Two weeks ago—before the Fall Bible Conference, I began discussing the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. My case is this: The Great Commission is the work of those who love people because they love God because they desire to glorify God.

3.     Today I want to talk about the first step of the Great Commission: Going.

a)     Before I go into this “going”, I want to say this: I have not arrived. I have no intention of making you feel guilty. I want to be on your side, not your back. In fact, my point in preaching these great and foundational passages of Scripture as I assume this pulpit ministry is not so much for you as it is for me. I’m a big picture kind of guy. I need to step back before I take on any task and I need to say, “What is it we’re trying to do here?” If you need to hear these things again and be reminded of what we’re all about then that’s wonderful, but I’m not just preaching at you—I’m preaching to myself in this series.

b)    My great dream is that we—as a small group of Christ-followers in the middle of America at the beginning of the 21st century—would glorify God by being all about His work. I don’t know about you, but I need to remind myself over and over. Our lives as individuals—and as a church—are like a truck going down the highway. You can’t just point it in the right direction and take off without ever touching the wheel again. You’ve got to steer it. Steering is a matter of constantly making the necessary adjustments in order to keep heading in the right direction. You and I need to steer our lives and this church according to the Word of God—to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. We can’t do that one time. We must constantly evaluate to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. I hope these messages—including our time this morning—will help us do just that.

c)     Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20, NASB95) [1]

d)    Again, the primary command here is “make disciples”. So we must be clear on what a “disciple” is. Some say a “disciple” is equivalent to “Christian” because of the way the word “disciple” is used in Acts. Maybe so, but I don’t think it’s that simple. The word is actually used of unbelievers in John 6. So we’ve got to dig a little deeper to understand what Jesus meant by the word “disciple.”

e)     “Disciple” is the Greek word matheteV. The root of this word means “to learn.” So a disciple is a pupil, a learner, an apprentice. It was common for rabbis in Jesus’ day to have “disciples” who studied under them. The disciple left his home and moved in with his teacher. He became a servant to his teacher and treated him as an absolute authority. He didn’t just learn head knowledge from his teacher, but he was expected to imitate his character and lifestyle. The rabbi in turn would take care of his disciples—providing for them. (See Encyclopedia of Bible Words.)

f)Here’s the frustrating part of all this. The word “disciple” is never used after Acts. All throughout the Gospels and Acts, this word is used repeatedly. But the epistles never use the word. Not in Paul. Not in Peter. Not in John. Not in Jude. As important as the Great Commission is, the word “disciple” was dropped for some reason. That’s frustrating to me. If I was writing the Bible, I would have followed up the Great Commission with an entire letter dedicated to defining and explaining and describing exactly what a “disciple” is. But we don’t have that.

g)     But when we look a little closer, we can find answers to our questions.

(i)    Luke 6:40 is very helpful. Jesus said, “A pupil (matheteV; disciple) is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40, NASB95) [2]

(ii) A “disciple” is one who is “like his teacher”—or at least one who is working hard at becoming like his teacher. So this sheds light on what Jesus meant in the Great Commission. What is a disciple? One who is “Christ-like.” This is very helpful because even though the epistles—the letters of Paul, Peter, John and the others—don’t use the word “disciple,” they do have much to say about Christ likeness. When we approach things with this understanding, we find much in the epistles that helps us understand what it means to “make disciples.”

(iii)     So, Jesus gave us a three-step plan—if you will—for how to do that: Going, baptizing and teaching (three participles). The “going” implies evangelism. So, even though the Great Commission is a beautiful and perfect plan, it does not fill in all the details. It’s a “big picture”. The rest of the New Testament fills in the important details.

(iv)     Here’s why I think all this is so important: As we read the rest of the New Testament, we discover that “disciple” is not equivalent to “Christian”. We need to make this distinction clear in order to guard the treasure which has been entrusted to us: The gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift, but discipleship comes at a high cost.

h)    This morning I want to talk about that first step for disciple-makers—“going.” After the induction service next week, we’ll get into the “baptizing and teaching” part of this. But, when Jesus said, “Go…and make disciples” He was telling us that “making disciples” must begin with evangelism.

(i)    The Greek word for “go” is used for walking or living as well as going from one place to another. And again, since it is a participle, it could be translated “as you are going”. But it is stronger than just “going”. It has an imperative force. Matthew 28:7 is a good example. “Go” in this verse is the same root word. It is an aorist participle, but it wouldn’t make sense to translate it “as you are going.” There is clearly an imperative sense. In other words, the “Go” in the Great Commission is a command.

(ii) So yes, we should be sharing Christ “as we are going” through life, going to work, going to school, going to the mailbox, going, going, going. But we must also be intentional. We don’t just wander through life hoping we’ll get the chance to make a disciple sometime somehow. We must go out with purpose. We must pray for opportunities to share Christ and we must be intentional in our efforts to share Christ.

(iii)      We are not instructed to say, “Come”—there’s a time and place for that, but the mission is to “go”.

4.     As we seek to obey the Great Commission, we must “go.” In order to pull off this all-important first step, we must understand at least four things.

II.    Body

A.   The Motivation: The Great Commandment fuels the Great Commission.

1.     This is what I tried to say earlier—it is crucial to developing the motivation to share your faith:

a)     To glorify God requires complete love for God.

b)    To love God is to love our neighbor.

c)     To love our neighbor is to share the greatest news for his greatest need.

2.     Let’s face it: This “going”—sharing the gospel, doing evangelism, witnessing—is hard. Most people admit they don’t do it because of fear. They realize it’s important, but they’re afraid to look foolish or that people might think they’re a religious fanatic.

a)     Beth’s sister has cancer. For a time—how long we don’t know—but for a time, she didn’t know she had cancer. She had an incredible need for aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. But she didn’t know she had this need. The fact that she didn’t know she had this need did not make her cancer any less deadly.

b)    Everyone’s greatest need is for salvation through Jesus Christ. Most people don’t know they have the cancer of sin. They don’t know their greatest need is for a cure for that sin. The fact that they don’t know of this need does not make it any less deadly.

3.     Jesus assumes that His disciples will naturally and intentionally share their faith as they are going through life. Why “naturally”? It’s hard—most of you will agree with me that it doesn’t come naturally? But it is natural when we understand the seriousness.

a)     If someone’s house is on fire and they haven’t yet discovered it, we will “naturally” find a way to let them know so they can get out and not burn to death.

b)    If a plane is going to crash, the pilot will “naturally” find a way to let the passengers know they should start strapping on some parachutes.

4.     Our love for people—rooted in our love for God—should provide the motivation to share Christ if we understand that their greatest need is to be cured of the cancer of sin.

B.   The Message: The Greatest News for Everyone’s Greatest Need.

1.     The “gospel” is good news. That’s what that word means. If we are going to share the gospel, it is vital for us be perfectly clear about what that gospel is. We have the greatest news for everyone’s greatest need. If that’s the case, what exactly is this news?

2.     Please turn to 1 Corinthians 15. I know of no better passage in the Bible than this for understanding the gospel.

a)     The gospel is “of first importance” (v.3)

b)    Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures

c)     Christ was raised according to the Scriptures

3.     What is the gospel? Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.

4.     Why is that such good news? Because of our greatest need. Our greatest need is to be saved from the penalty of our sins. John 3:16 is such a popular verse because the whole ball of wax is right there. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

a)     What did God do? He sent His Son.

b)    Why? To offer us a choice: Believe and receive eternal life. Don’t believe and “perish.” To “perish” is to experience eternal hell.

c)     So, the bad news is we deserve to perish. But the good news is we can have eternal life with God. This is our message. It’s a life-or-death message. It is the greatest news for everyone’s greatest need.

C.   The Method: Inviting People to Trust Christ.

1.     We need a method to share this message. Why do we need a method? Two good reasons:

a)     To keep you on track. You can take all kinds of rabbit trails, but having a method will help you get back on track and communicate the message in its entirety. A cohesive line of thought.

b)    To give you confidence. How do you feel when someone puts you on the spot in any situation and says, “What do you think?” Does it affect your level of confidence if you know beforehand that question is coming and you’ve had time to prepare an answer? Of course it does.

2.     Let me just share with you the simple method I use. I didn’t always use this. I tried a few different approaches, but I’ve found this to be the clearest.

3.     Bad News / Good News

a)     Two Diagnostic Questions

(i)    “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?”

(ii) “If God asked you why He should let you in, what would you say?”

b)    The goal of a spiritual conversation: “Has anyone ever taken a Bible and shown you how you can know for sure you’re going to heaven when you die?”

c)     Bad News—2 points, 2 passages, 2 illustrations

(i)    You are a sinner. Romans 3:23. Rock.

(ii) The penalty of sin is death. Romans 6:23. Wages.

d)    Transition: Since you couldn’t get to God, God came to you.

e)     Good News—2 points, 2 passages, 2 illustrations

(i)    Christ died for you. Romans 5:8. Cancer.

(ii) You can be saved by faith. Ephesians 2:8,9. Chair.

f)“Is there anything keeping you from trusting Christ right now?”

(i)    Prayer doesn’t save.

(ii) The biblical word “believe” means trust. So trust is the issue. Invite people to trust Jesus.

D.   The Mission: Go! Go as a missionary.

1.     One of our core values is innovation. As I’ve said before, innovation is creativity and translation. It is creatively translating our timeless message for our time. As a church body, we must work together in pulling this off. The whole process of making disciples is the work of the church—a group effort. But that doesn’t mean individuals aren’t required to do evangelism. We gather to encourage and equip. We scatter to be light and salt in the world. 

2.     A missionary doesn’t need a translator if he stays in his own language group. If you’re going to people who don’t know your language, you need a translator. Translation is the number one tool of a missionary.

3.     I propose to you that the reason we fail to translate the good news to the people we work with, the people who live next door to us and to the people in our extended families is because we do not perceive ourselves as missionaries. The reason we let our fear keep us from sharing what is of “first importance” is because we do not have a missionary mindset.

4.     What is a missionary? A person on a mission from God.

5.     I know of a pastor who says it is unrealistic to expect the average church member to participate in evangelism. Let me be clear about my view on this: Wrong! I refuse to believe it because I have seen too much evidence to the contrary.

a)     I have seen evidence to the contrary in the lives of other people.

(i)    I have a friend in Texas named David who signed up to go on a mission trip in Brazil. David had no idea how he was going to contribute to the ministry on that trip, but he knew one thing for sure: he would not be on the evangelism team. No way. No how. But one day on that trip, the leader of an evangelism team invited David to tag along. He reluctantly agreed to go, but he knew for sure he wasn’t going to open his mouth. To his great surprise he did get the opportunity to share the gospel through a translator. He stumbled his way through it but he did it. He survived it and by the grace of God, that person actually trusted Christ for salvation! David was changed forever. He shared the gospel several more times on that trip. The next trip he went on, he led an evangelism team—challenging and training others to share the gospel. He now shares his faith on a regular basis—not just on missions trips but as he is “going” through his everyday life—at work, at his son’s football games, wherever.

(ii)  I refuse to believe the average church member can’t be expected to share his faith because I’ve seen evidence to the contrary in my own life. I remember as a new Christian saying to myself, “Well, I believe in Jesus, but there ain’t no way I’m going to do any evangelism.” I resisted for a long time, but I began to realize that I had to. I was compelled to. I literally shook with fear (and still do sometimes) but I could not escape the fact that the gospel is the greatest news for everyone’s greatest need. As I began to understand and believe that hell is very real, I could not sit back and do nothing while some of the people I most love in this world are headed there. I am a missionary.

b)    You are a missionary. Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora, Kansas is your mission field. Any missionary worth his support checks will learn the language of the people on his mission field; build relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel; and invite people to trust Christ for salvation. You may not be getting a support check, which makes you a tent-maker. You may think you’re an employee of Kansas University or Douglas County or Sunflower Bank or Taco John’s or John’s Tacos but you’re not—you’re a tent-making missionary for Jesus Christ. Until we see ourselves as missionaries we will fail to fulfill the Great Commission.

c)     It is true that the average church member does not participate in evangelism, but I refuse to believe that’s the way it has to be. God help me if I ever stop challenging you to share the greatest news for everyone’s greatest need. We are missionaries and missionaries go. That’s what we do.

d)    A few years ago, a girl started coming to my youth group. We soon found out she was in a tragic situation. Her sweet Christian mother had died about a year earlier. About that same time her father—a staunch atheist—was diagnosed with some serious medical conditions. He needed more than one major organ transplant if he was going to survive. He was dying and his chances of getting those transplants was slim. I tried for a couple years to talk with him, but he wouldn’t give me the time of day. When his health deteriorated to the point of hospitalization, I tried one more time. This time, he was glad to see me and he listened, but he would not believe. Several months later, his daughter contacted me and let me know her father had died. But, to my great amazement and joy, she also reported that he had become a Christian—he did not die without Christ. I went to the funeral and was introduced to a pastor who knew the story. Just days before he died, someone had shared Christ with him. By the grace of God, his heart was ready. He received the gift of salvation. Who was this amazing evangelist who convinced the staunch atheist of his great need for Christ? That pastor told me it was a member of his church—just an average church member—who was just “going”. She went to the hospital as a missionary and I believe that staunch atheist trusted Christ and went to heaven.

III.  Closing: The Lord’s Supper

A.   What is of “first importance”? The gospel. It is the greatest news for everyone’s greatest need.

B.   It is so important that Jesus Himself gave us an ordinance—a ceremony—for keeping it in the forefront of our minds. A constant reminder of the heart of our message. The “good news” that has changed our lives and that we are to share with the world.

C.   Because the gospel is of “first importance” and the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of what is most important, I want to make a relatively minor adjustment to the calendar of events at CBC. I want us from now on to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the “first” Sunday of the month. A relatively minor adjustment. But hopefully, it will remind us every “first” Sunday of the month what is of “first importance”.

D.   Celebrate the Lord’s Supper.


[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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