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Sharing the Gospel

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We can't always change the way we are viewed by the world; we have to trust God to change people's minds. We must learn how to present the gospel to a dying world, but we must trust the Holy Spirit to convict people's hearts.

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Week 3
Slide
While it’s easy to believe that the “image problem” the church has now is a new problem, a quick look at history will remind us that this just isn’t true.
Topic: Evangelism, Charity, Mission
Acts 2:36–41 ESV
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
While it’s easy to believe that the “image problem” the church has now is a new problem, a quick look at history will remind us that this just isn’t true.
Big Idea of the Message: We can’t always change the way we are viewed by the world; we have to trust God to change people’s minds.
The specifics and nuances of the issue have certainly changed, but Christian beliefs have always been seen as pretty weird by the surrounding culture.
Application Point: We must learn how to present the gospel to a dying world, but we must also trust the Holy Spirit to convict people’s hearts.
Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:
Mark Galli writes about his experience in college in the 1970s, recounting a time he overheard a few fellow students commenting that Jesus’s death on the cross was a “sick” belief to have.
1. While it’s easy to believe that the “image problem” the church has now is a new problem, a quick look at history will remind us that this just isn’t true. The specifics and nuances of the issue have certainly changed, but Christian beliefs have always been seen as pretty weird by the surrounding culture. Mark Galli writes about his experience in college in the 1970s, recounting a time he overheard a few fellow students commenting that Jesus’s death on the cross was a “sick” belief to have. Galli contemplated their words as they walked away, and despite his frustration, he found some peace. He writes, “We Christians on campus spent a fair bit of time and energy trying to show our fellow students that Christians were not as stupid, moribund, irrelevant, and hypercritical as everyone had been led to believe. I’ve discovered all that damage control was for naught: After living another 35 years as a Christian, I’ve come to see that like my fellow believers, I really am stupid, moribund, irrelevant, and hypercritical, and that Jesus’ death on a cross for sin is just one of many ‘sick’ things I believe” (Mark Galli, “Grace—That’s So Sick,” Christianity Today, July 26, 2007, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/julyweb-only/130-42.0.html). The question is not if we will have an “image problem,” but if it will be for the right reasons—are we letting our infighting and division define us, or are we defined by the radical and weird truth about Jesus?
Galli contemplated their words as they walked away, and despite his frustration, he found some peace.
He writes, “We Christians on campus spent a fair bit of time and energy trying to show our fellow students that Christians were not as stupid, moribund, irrelevant, and hypercritical as everyone had been led to believe.
I’ve discovered all that damage control was for naught:
After living another 35 years as a Christian, I’ve come to see that like my fellow believers, I really am stupid, moribund, irrelevant, and hypercritical, and that Jesus’ death on a cross for sin is just one of many ‘sick’ things I believe”
The question is not if we will have an “image problem,” but if it will be for the right reasons—
Slide
are we letting our infighting and division define us, or are we defined by the radical and weird truth about Jesus?
2. While we have been focusing on how we can’t fix the church’s “image problem,” that desire isn’t all bad.
Presenting the gospel in an effective way to nonbelievers is an important part of the work of the church.
In this passage, we see a beautiful example of how this should work.
Just before verse 37, a large part of chapter 2 is Peter’s address to a crowd about the death and resurrection of Christ.
And then it tells us that when the people heard the gospel, “they were cut to the heart” (v. 37).
Slide
Just as Jesus explained in ,
John 16:8–11 ESV
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
the Holy Spirit convicted the people.
the Holy Spirit convicted the people.
This conviction is more powerful than anything we could try to do to convince people of the gospel.
The Holy Spirit can convict even people who think that what we believe is “sick” or weird.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the work of the church—
displaying how God’s love changes us and makes us more like Christ—
but it does mean that we can’t take on the responsibility for all of the results.
3. We’ve all probably seen commercials with the tagline “Results guaranteed.”
If you google that phrase, you’ll see advertisements for products “guaranteeing” everything from six-pack abs to a perfect SAT score. Companies promise that if you use their exercise program or tutoring service, you can’t go wrong.
But even when we read that promise, we know it isn’t true.
You can sit through the hours of an SAT prep course, you can do all the homework and practice tests, but there are plenty of factors outside of your control—
you can’t prepare for every possible question, and our natural abilities all vary.
Slide
And the problem for the church is the same: we can’t guarantee results.
Our part to play is so small compared to God’s.
In this passage, Peter has just finished rebuking the crowd for crucifying Jesus.
And then after this incredibly dramatic moment, the people are convicted and repent.
That was certainly not due to Peter’s speech—he had just accused them of murder!
The gospel will always be offensive to people, but we should make sure that it’s the gospel and not our behavior that they find offensive.
The people were convicted by the Holy Spirit not human effort, just as the church’s growth and flourishing now cannot happen of our own abilities.
4. So, while we cannot do this work ourselves, Peter shows in this passage exactly how the early (at this point—the earliest!) church attracted people:
Slide
he allows the Holy Spirit to convict them,
and then he answers the question they asked in verse 37 (“What shall we do?”).
Slide
He gives a four-part answer that we can also use to explain to people how to respond to this message: repentance, baptism, forgiveness of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit.
While his response is very clear, it does not give a “set, mechanistic pattern”
Each of these four elements is a crucial part of understanding the unbeliever’s acceptance of salvation, but they should not be thought of as a formula.
5. Sometimes we try too hard to make the church seem relevant or modern.
One silly example is the influx of “Christian” clothing in recent years.
Here’s a list of silly Christian T-shirts that are great examples of this trend:
Slides
https://relevantmagazine.com/culture/definitive-ranking-christian-t-shirts.
These shirts represent an attempt to make Christianity seem cool, but they fall so flat.
They’re funny, some are even clever, but they ultimately do very little to actually change the perception of anyone who has a hardened heart—
the actual barrier to accepting the gospel.
6. This passage also presents us with an important reminder:
“Three thousand were added to their number that day” (v. 41), in spite of the strangeness of their message.
Even though Peter had accused them of murdering Jesus, even though the message seemed weird and irrelevant, the people were convicted and accepted it.
God will accomplish his mission on earth under any circumstances, including (and perhaps especially) the ones that we think are less than ideal.
As Mark Sayers explains, “This grace that fools the wisdom of the world is often not served well by the strategy of relevance. The language of ‘relevant’ and ‘irrelevant’ ministry reduces the posture of the church to either one of complete engagement or total withdrawal. However, when the church comprehends its role as a creative minority, new possibilities emerge”
We should not be afraid to share the gospel. Our job is to share it and then let the Holy Spirit work.
That’s it.
It is not your job to get people saved but rather to draw their attention to the fact that they are not saved.
The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Let’s pray.
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