Untitled Sermon (27)
Again I want to welcome everybody that is joining us online today.
And for those joining us for the first time, I especially want to welcome you and would encourage you to take a moment and fill out a digital connect card at mcf.life/online so that we can better connect with you and send you some information about our church.
If you are new to our church, it would also be helpful for you to know that here at MCF we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”.
What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking books of the Bible and then studying them from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to better understand what the Bible says and how it applies to our lives.
That being said, we are currently doing that through the book of Acts. A NT book written by a first century disciple named Luke, who wrote it for two primary reasons:
First, to give us a history of the church. How it started. Who was there, the circumstances that surrounded it.
Second, to give us a ministry template of sorts. A template for how to accomplish the mission Jesus has given us to take the gospel to the entire world.
So, if you haven’t been with us, I would encourage you to go online to MCF.life where you can watch or listen to all the messages leading up to today.
However, today we are moving into Acts chapter 16, and a new section in our study, as Paul begins his second missionary journey. a journey that will be similar but different than his first missionary journey for a few reasons:
#1 - Instead of traveling with Barnabas, who went with Paul on his first missionary journey, Paul will be traveling with a new ministry partner, a man named Silas.
Now you might be wondering, “Who is Silas?”
If you recall, Silas was one of the Jewish Christians that was officially sent by the church in Jersualem to the church in the Antioch to answer a critical question. The question being, “Do gentiles have to be circumcised in order to be saved.”
A question that came up because of some false teaching by a group called the Judiazers, who were teaching that if a person wanted to be saved, not only did they need to put their faith in Jesus, but they needed to be circumcised as well.
But as we learned, nothing could have been further from the truth, because according to the Apostle Peter, the Apostle James, and the Apostle Paul, salvation comes through faith in Jesus and faith alone, and circumcision has nothing to do with that. In fact, Peter puts it like this:
11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Peter says that salvation comes through the grace of Jesus that comes by faith, and not by circumcision or any other work. The Apostle Paul backs this up as well. In Romans 10 he writes:
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
That being the case, in order to reinforce this truth, the church in Jerusalem sent Silas too Antioch to testify to the Gentile Christians that you don’t have to be circumcised in order to be saved.
That being said, because Silas is an official representative of the church in Jerusalem, he’s a great ministry partner for Paul to take on his second missionary journey, because this question of circumcision will surface again. And it will be amazingly helpful to have somebody like Silas on the trip who officially represents the church in Jerusalem and can speak to it.
So, that’s the first difference. The second is this:
#2 - While Paul will be visiting some new cities and planting some new churches, Paul’s primary purpose in taking this second missionary journey is to strengthen the churches he planted on his first missionary journey.
In other words, Paul wants to make sure the churches he planted continue to grow. So, in a way, this second missionary journey is a check up so to speak, as Paul seeks to nurture these newly planted churches.
Finally, this second missionary journey is different because in a number of ways it highlights how the Apostle Paul ministered and lived out his faith.
In other words, it highlights how he handled certain situations, how he navigated certain challenges, how he engaged believers, non-believers, and skeptics, and in general how Paul approached sharing the gospel.
And this is important for us, because with each story and encounter, we are going to learn what it takes to share the gospel and how to handle the challenges that often come with being a Christian.
Because like Paul, we too are called to reach a lost and dying world for Jesus. And like Paul we too will face challenges.
That being said, we need to have a Biblical understanding of what it takes to share the gospel in the world we live in. And through this journey, Paul will serve as a great model for us.
And so as we begin this second missionary journey with Paul today, I have two initial goals.
Goal #1 - To introduce us to opening stage of this journey. Which is super important, because how you start a journey will often determine where you go, how far you can go, and how the journey ends.
Goal #2 - To determine what it initially takes to share the gospel. And when I say what it takes, I’m talking about what it will require of you.
Think of it like this. If you had a goal to climb Mt. Everest, which would be a difficult goal to attain, the first question you would need to ask yourself is, “What will it require of me?”
Well, for one, it would require a certain level of commitment, right? Because that’s not something you don’t do on a whim or in your spare time. In fact, in some cases, climbers plan 5 years out for a Mt. Everest Climb.
Secondly, it would require a certain level of training. Because just working out on a stair master and going to a rock wall gym a couple days of week isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it’s going to take a lot of intense high altitude training in order to climb Mt. Everest.
Finally, and most of all, it will require a certain mindset. Because if you talk to anybody that has climbed Mt. Everest, it’s not just about about climbing technique and physical conditioning that gets you to the peak. It’s actually more about your mental state when it comes to your desire, ability to focus, and mental tenacity.
Why? Because as you climb Mt. Everest, there will be moments your body is going to want to quit. Moments you’ll have to convince your body to keep moving forward. Moments where fatigue and exhaustion overwhelm you to the point you might even think you’re going to die. And in those moments your desire, your ability to focus, and your mental tenacity will be the only things that keep you moving forward and maybe even save your life.
And believe it or not, the same is true when sharing the gospel. Because sharing the gospel requires a certain level of desire, focus, and mental tenacity. It requires a certain mindset in order to keep you going and accomplish the task of reaching people for Jesus.
And this morning we’re going to discover what the mindset entails.
And so with that as our basis, let’s pick back up in Acts as Paul begins his second missionary journey. And to give us a proper perspective, we’re actually going to start at the end of chapter 15 as Luke leads us into chapter 16. So, beginning in verse 40 of chapter 15, Luke writes:
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. 1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot going on here, but what I want you to notice first is that Luke begins Paul’s journey by giving us an overview of this journey. An overview that consists of his travel, the places they visited, and the results of their ministry.
And from this overview I want to highlight three initial mindsets that were necessary from the beginning in order for Paul to accomplish these objectives. And I would state the first mindset like this:
In order to effectively share the gospel:
Mindset #1 - I have to be committed to the idea that it involves risks.
Here’s what I mean by that. Notice first what Luke tells us about Paul’s journey. In the last part of chapter 15 and the first part of 16 Luke writes:
“but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Paul came also to Derbe and Lystra...” Acts 15:40-16:1a (ESV)
Now, the truth is, when we read that, it’s really easy to skim right over it and not give a lot a thought to what Luke has just told us. Because after all, Luke is just giving us Paul’s travel information and the cities he visited. No big deal.
But what we have to understand, is those are important details, because in Paul’s day, they didn’t have planes, trains, and automobiles. What they had were mules, horses, and camels, and those were typically only for people who could afford it. And so for the most part, travel in the first century took place on foot. Meaning, if you wanted to go somewhere, you walked.
And in this case, for Paul to get from Antioch to the churches he planted in Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, and Lystra, it’s a walk. A walk that involves many threats and dangers.
In fact, based on the information Luke has given us, we know Paul’s travel involved passing through what was known as the Cilician Gates, which was about a 68 mile hike through mountainous terrain. Not a simple walk in the park.
On top of that, it was a travel route that was often littered with bandits who would prey upon small groups of travelers.
Which means, for Paul and Silas to get to these churches, it involved some personal risk. In fact, it required them to put their lives on the line.
And guess what, they knew that going into it. They knew before they left Antioch that they may not arrive at their destination. And if they did get there, there was a good chance they wouldn’t be coming back. I mean after all, the last time Paul was there, he was stoned.
But you know what, they went anyways. Their mindset was, “What we are doing is too important not to go. It’s worth the risk. People need Jesus. And we have to do what it takes to get there.
And what was true for them has to be true for us. Because the fact is, if we want to reach people for Jesus, it’s going to require a certain level of risk on our part.
Now, when I say that, some of you might be thinking, “Pastor, what kind of risk are you talking about?
I’m glad you asked. Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Practically speaking, when it comes to risk, sharing the gospel is going to initially put your reputation at risk.
Because the fact is, people who are serious about leading people to Jesus are typically seen as radical and a little strange. And as a result, there are labels people tend to assign to them. Labels like Bible Thumper, Jesus Freak, or Holy Roller.
Which means, if you’re going to be serious about sharing your faith, it will affect your reputation. You might get a label.
In addition to that, as you begin to express what you believe, your views are going to rub people the wrong way. And as a result, they’re going to attach additional labels.
For example, if as a Christian, you tell somebody that homosexuality is a sin, there’s a good chance you’re going to be labeled as a homophobe.
Or if you tell someone you don’t believe sex should take place outside of marriage, you’re going to be labeled as a religous prude or something along those lines.
In fact, if you really put it all out there, you might even get labeled as a “religious extremist”. Which today is the most popular label used to describe any Christian who holds to Biblical thinking and traditional values. A term that has led many people to actually see Christians as a threat.
In fact, in a recent poll conducted by Barna institute, they found that three-quarters of Americans believe “being religiously extreme is a threat to society.”
Which means that many Americans now believe that Christians who advocate for sexual abstinence, believe in traditional marriage, are pro-life, in some way are a social threat.
I want you to think about that for a second. Three quarters of the people in our country believe that if you hold to Biblical views and traditional values, you are an extremist and a threat to society. Kind of scary, right?
All that to say, if you’re going to be committed to leading people to Jesus, you need to know going in, your reputation will be at risk. What people think of you will change.
Which means, you may lose friendships. You might get blocked or attacked by people on Facebook. You might be ostracized at work. You might not get invited to the social gathering Because all of a sudden you’re going to become known as one of those. One of those religous extremists that goes to the church out by Taco Bell.
But not only will your reputation be at risk, you may also risk losing opportunity. Opportunity for a certain job you wanted. Or an Opportunity for that promotion you worked for. Why? Because you’re one of those. You’re one of those religous extremists.
You also may risk being ostracized by family. As your parents and siblings begin to wonder what Kool-aid bowl you’ve been drinking out of.
So, those are just a few of the practical risks. But there is a greater risk. The risk that it might actually cost you your life.
Now, I know we tend to think that could never happen in America, but the reality is it could, and it is already happening in other places around the world.
For example, Fox News recently did a story on Christianity in the communists country of North Korea. And in the article we are given a glimpse of what life for a Christian is like in North Korea.
For one, being a Christian in North Korea means one must use spy like tactics to read the Bible. Because in North Korea, the Bible is illegal.
In addition to that, Korean Christians constantly face the threat of the death penalty if caught reading the Bible or practicing their faith, they could be executed.
On top of that, they constantly deal with North Korean propaganda that claims Christians are known for heinous acts, one of those acts being the harvesting organs.
It’s a fear tactic that is meant to keep people from pursuing faith in Jesus. One defector, who converted to Christianity, said he was terrified of the first Christian he met because he was taught they would harvest his organs.
It’s kind of like what we see in America. For example, we’ve had people attend our church who were told if they became members at MCF, they would have to turn over the tax records. Or that they better be careful because we handle snakes. Ridiculous right? Guess what, it’s a fear tactic. It’s meant to scare people away from the truth.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in North Korea. Because in North Korea, Christinas also have to contend with the state religion. A religion founded by the Kim regime called “Juche” which means self reliance. A religion that teaches that Kim is not only their leader, but a divine being.
As a result, North Koreans are taught hymns of praise to Kim Il Sung, the nation's founder, and to the current leader, Kim Jong Un. Kindergarteners are taught to say a prayer before they eat: “Thank you, Father Kim Il Sung, for our food.”
But guess what, it doesn’t stop there. Because if you’re a Christian in North Korea, you always have to be on the lookout for spies since North Koreans are required to spy on their neighbors and report them to authorities
In fact, when reading Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them," North Korean Christians have a different version. It goes something like this, "Where two or three are gathered one of them is likely a spy."
All that to say, North Korean Christians must always be on their guard, because to get caught practicing or sharing their faith would mean immediate execution. Why? Because if Jesus is Lord, then that means King Jun Un is not. And in North Korea, that’s treason.
Now, you might be thinking, “Ok pastor, I get it. There are parts of the world where it’s risky being a Christian. But we don’t live in North Korea. We live in America. That isn’t going to happen here?”
All I can say to that is, “Bless your little heart.” Because you my friend are living in a bubble if you think that.
In fact, I believe the Coronavirus pandemic has given us a clear picture of how it could happen.
Think of it like this. The reason we are shut down right now and the government is able to dictate so much of how we live our lives, is because a public health hazard has been declared. And the reason we’ve all been compliant to this point is because we understand the risk that the Coronavirus presents. In fact, in some states, the Governors have encouraged people to turn people in who aren’t complying.
Here’s my concern. As our country becomes more and more secular, what if it’s not just something like the coronavirus that’s deemed as a public health hazard. What if at some point, the gospel is deemed as a public health hazard?
Why the Gospel? Because according to some, the gospel makes people feel bad. According to some, the gospel is hate speech. According to some it is a public health hazard that is causing unneeded stress in a persons life that leads to all kinds of physical issues. In fact, I just read an article that this is the kind of thinking that is beginning to creep into our culture. That’s one views can bring harm to someone.
Now, you might be thinking, “Ok pastor, sounds like somebody’s been drinking a little too much of the conspiracy Kool-aid.”
Listen, I’m just telling you. If it can happen in South Korea, it can happen here. And whether you realize it or not we live in a country that for the last couple of decades has worked tirelessly to rid itself of Christianity and its values. A country that has adopted a new religion. The religion of self reliance. the religion of live how I want do what I want. And its god is self.
All that to say, if you’re going to share the gospel, then you need to get your mind around the fact that it comes with risk.
Jesus put it like this:
“In this world you will have tribulation...” John 16:33
This leads us to the second mindset, and I would state it like this: If you’re going to share the gospel:
Mindset #2 - You have to be committed to becoming all things to all people.
Look at what Luke tells us happened next:
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Luke says a Paul and Silas traveled, they came to the cities of Derbe and Lystra, which were cities close by to one another.
And Luke says while visiting Lystra, they ran into a young man named Timothy.
So, whose Timothy? Well, Luke tells us.
First, he’s a disciple. Which means he’s a Christian, and is probably was one of the first individuals who came to faith in Jesus on Paul’s first missionary journey.
Second, he’s the son of a Jewish woman who is a believer . Which means, not only did Timothy come to faith in Jesus, but his mother did as well.
Third, his father was a Greek. And this is where it gets intersting, because what that means then is, is that Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage. Which in the 1st century wasn’t uncommon, but presented complications for a young man like Timothy.
One complication would be the issue of circumcision. Because in cases like this where the Father was Greek and the mother was Jewish, more than likely the Greek father wouldn’t have allowed his son to be circumcised. Which would have kept the son from being declared Jewish. Meaning, he wouldn’t have been fully accepted by the Jewish culture.
The second complication involved his Greek side. Because as a half Jew half Greek, the Greek culture would have struggled accepting him.
So, for a half Greek half Jewish child, he often found himself torn and often rejected by both worlds.
And such is the case for Timothy. Which then leads to an action by Paul that raises some questions. Because Luke says after encountering this uncircumcised half Jew half Greek, Paul has him do something. Luke writes:
3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Notice it says Paul circumcised him. And this leads to two obvious questions.
Question #1 - Why now after all this time?
Question #2 - “Why would Paul require this of Timothy? Because isn’t it Paul that says a person doesn’t need to be circumcised in order to be saved? So why is he requiring this of Timothy?”
Those are great questions, and here’s the answer:
In order for Timothy to effectively share the gospel, he has to become all things to all people.
Here’s what I mean by that.
When Paul encounters Timothy, apparently Paul recognizes that Timothy would be a great person to join their ministry team, and so he decides to take him with them.
However, there’s a problem. The problem is that Timothy isn’t fully accepted by either Jew or Gentile. And so if he’s going to share the gospel effectively, he has to become acceptable to both.
So, how do you fix that problem? You fix it by getting Timothy circumcised. Because by getting circumcised, Timothy will be able to break down two barriers.
The first barrier is the Jewish barrier. Because by getting circumcised, he will be seen by the Jews as fully Jewish. Which means, they will now be more open to listening to him.
The second barrier is the Gentile barrier. Because by getting circumcised, he is embracing his Jewish side, which for the Greek, is totally acceptable and preferable in his case. And now they too will be more open to listening to Him.
And so in a way its a win win which allows Timothy to now have influence with people he could never have influence with before, which will be crucial in his ability to lead people to faith in Jesus. That’s why Luke writes:
3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Luke says Paul knows if Timothy doesn’t do this, he won’t be accepted and it will be very difficult for him to share the gospel, especially with the Jews.
All that to say, his circumcision has nothing to do with salvation, and everything to do with strategy. Because now that he’s circumcised, he has the ability to reach the people God has called him to reach. He has now become all things to all people.
And what you have to understand, is that this was the mindset in which Paul always ministered. We see this specifically in his letter to the church at Corinth. Look at what he says:
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
In this passage Paul gives us several examples on how he reaches people for Jesus. For example, in order to reach Jews, he embraces his Jewish heritage and uses that knowledge to lead Jewish people to Jesus.
When it comes to Gentiles, he engages their culture in a way he can relate with. Meaning, he's willing to set his Jewishness aside in order to reach them.
Now, some might say, “Does that mean Paul compromised his faith in order to reach them? That by engaging Greek culture he was willing to do something sinful?”
Of course not. That’s why Paul writes:
21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
Paul says, I didn’t break the law of God in doing this. But I did do what I needed to do in order to relate with them, so that I might win them to Jesus.
What it’s saying is that he was sensitive to their culture. In other words, he didn’t come in with Jewish guns a blazing.
Instead he took time to get to know them. He took time to learn what they believed and why they believed it. And then he looked for commonality. He looked for a way to relate to them.
And yes, he probably adopted some aspects of their culture. For example, maybe he wore a clothing style they would feel comfortable with.
Maybe instead of sticking to the Jewish food diet, he ate something off the Greek menu.
But what he didn’t do is engage in sinful activity. He just looked for ways to relate so he could minister to them. He became all things to all people.
It was his mindset. It was the way he did ministry and reached people.
That said, you might be wondering, what does this look like for us?
Well, there would be a number of examples I could give. So, let me give you a corporate and an individual example:
On a corporate level, a great example would be how we do church. Because this is the mindset of MCF. That we would be a church that becomes all to reach all.
And again, that doesn’t mean that we are willing to sin or accept sinful living. What it means is we are willing to do what it takes, within God’s standards, to reach people.
For example, that’s one of the main reasons I wear jeans instead of a suit or a robe on Sunday morning. Because the reality is, we live in a blue collar community. And outside of a few business professionals, nobody wears suits or robes in Marysville. In fact, the most common dress attire in Marysville is a casual wardrobe that consists of jeans and a t-shirt.
That being the case, if as a pastor I want to relate with the average person in our community, then I need to dress in a way they can relate with. Because the reality is, if I wear a suit or a robe, I have automatically put a barrier between us. A barrier that says I’m up here, and you’re down here. I’m more holy, and you’re less holy. I have all the answers, and you don’t.
Because the fact is, clothing either builds or breaks down barriers.
Now, if I was in a community of business professionals, guess what I would wear? I’d wear business casual or maybe even a suit. Why? Because that’s what would relate with that community. As a pastor, even though I don’t like suits, I’d be willing to be come all things to all people when it comes to dress.
Another example would be our style of worship at MCF. To be honest, it’s not completely my preference. But here’s my mindest. As a church, our primary purpose isn’t to make church the way we want it. Our primary purpose is to reach the next generation for Jesus so the church can grow and live on.
But in order to do that, we have to be willing to do what it takes to reach a younger generation. We have to become all things to all people.
Which means, we need to provide a style of worship they can relate with. And I’m sorry, they can’t relate with hymns. They can’t relate with an organ. They can’t relate with a style of music that was popular 30 years ago.
And so in order to reach the next generation, we’ve become a church that provides a style of worship the next generation can relate with. Why? Because they are the future of our church.
So, those are a couple of corporate examples. Now, let me give you some personal, and I’m going to make them as practical as I can.
Here’s the first one. You all know I’m a Broncos fan. Have been my whole life. But let’s say I’m trying to reach somebody that doesn’t know Jesus, and they just happen to be a Chiefs fan. And please hear me, I’m not implying that Chiefs fans aren’t Christians.
So, here’s this guy I’m trying to reach, and out of the blue one day he invites me to go to a Chiefs game with him.
Now, as a Bronco fan, I could say, “No way. I’m a Broncos fan. No way I’m going to go cheer for the Chiefs at Arrow Head Stadium!”
But if I do that I’m going to miss an opportunity to build a relationship with this person that I’ve been trying to reach. So instead of sticking to my guns on being a broncos fan, I say, “Sure, I’ll go with you, that sounds fun.” And for one afternoon I put on some red and become a chiefs fan.
Now, why would I do that? I would do it because I’m willing to become all things to all people, even if it means becoming a chiefs fan for a day. Why? Because by becoming a chiefs fan for a day, I now have an opportunity to build a relationship with this person, that hopefully opens the door for me to share the gospel.
I know that’s a silly example, but illustrates the principle.
The same would be true if somebody I was trying to reach invited me to go fishing. Honestly, I don’t have much interest in fishing. But you know what, I’ll become a fishermen for a day if it could lead to an opportunity to share my faith.
Do you see how that works? It’s not about compromising your faith. It’s about you learning how to relate or maybe even give up a preference, in order to find some kind of common ground with that person.
Think of it like this. If you’re trying to reach somebody for Jesus, you don’t start with Jesus. Instead you start by trying to find something you might have in common with them, so that a relationship can be established, so that over time you can lead them to Jesus.
That’s why when I meet people who don’t know me, I never start with, “I’m a pastor.” In fact, what I’ll say sometimes is, “I’m in the people business.” Because honestly, startiing with “I’m a pastor” automatically puts a barrier up. “Oh, you’re a pastor. Guess I better watch my language. Guess I better be on my best behavior.”
And now there’s a barrier. Now they’re not being themselves and their view of me has totally changed. Happens to me all the time.
What I’d rather do is meet someone and find something we have in common, build the relationship, and then at some point drop the pastor card on them. Which is always fun to do.
The same is true for you. If you want to reach somebody for Jesus, start by establishing a relationship with them. Find a commonality. Let go of a preference. Become a Chiefs fan. Do what you need to do in order to become relatable to that person. And then, as trust and relationship is built, lead them to Jesus.
It’s a strategy. It’s why Paul had Timothy get circumcised. Because in order to reach the people he was called to reach, he had to become all things to all people.
This leads us to our final mindset, and I would state it like this:
Mindset #3 - You have to be committed to discipleship.
Look at what Luke writes as he closes out this paragraph:
4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Luke says as Paul went through the cities he delivered the decision on circumcision that had been made in Jerusalem, and he strengthened the churches.
Here’s why that’s important and what this tells us. It tells us that the first part of this trip was primarily about discipleship.
Remember, these were cities Paul had visited before. Cities where he had established churches and led people to Jesus. And now he’s come back. Why? To help them to continue to grow in their faith. It’s called discipleship.
Now, here’s what this means for you and me. If we want to share the gospel, we also have to be willing to disciple as well.
Meaning, it can’t just be you inviting them to church and hoping the message leads them to Jesus, and then moving on. If you’re going to lead somebody to Jesus, you have to be prepared to disciple them or at least point them in the right direction.
Paul was committed to this. This was his mindset. It’s seen in his concern for these churches, and its especially seen in his relationship with Timothy. Because from this point on, Paul takes Timothy under is wing and begins to disciple him.
Sadly, this is where many Christians fall short in sharing their faith. For some reason, we have this idea that all we have to do is get them saved. Get them to accept Jesus. Get them to attend our church. And then our job is over. But our job is so much more than that. Our job also entails helping them grow in their faith.
Think of it like this. If you and your spouse have a baby, once that baby is born, is your job done? Of course not. Actually, it’s just begun. Now you will spend the next 18 years nurturing, caring, directing, and teaching your child as you help them grow into a mature adult.
And honestly, it doesn’t stop there. Because even after they leave home, there will be times they come to you and ask you for advice and direction. Probably won’t be until they are around 25, but it will happen.
The same is true when you lead somebody to faith in Jesus. In that moment they are spiritually reborn. In John 3 Jesus refers to it as being born again. Which means, when a person is born again, they are now in an infant stage. And now it’s your job to help them grow. It’s your job to give them direction. It’s your job to come alongside them in their spiritual growth and development.
Now, some might say, “Ok Pastor, but isn’t that the Holy Spirit’s job? Didn’t Jesus say He’d send the Holy Spirit to do that?”
Yes, part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to help you grow in your faith. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the work of transformation that takes place inside of you. Paul writes:
11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Paul says the Holy Spirit is actively transforming you.
But here’s the deal, along with the Holy Spirit on the inside, a baby Christian needs somebody on the outside as well. Somebody like you.
Somebody that will bring encouragement in the initial days of their faith. Because the enemy is going to try and discourage them.
Somebody that will show them where to find spiritual food as they teach them to read God’s Word.
Somebody that will hold them accountable when their tempted to go back to their old ways.
Somebody that will correct and protect them if they are given to false teaching and ideas.
Which is exactly one of the reasons Paul as come back to these churches. He’s come back to correct some false teaching that came through a group called the Judaizers. A teaching that said they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Nope, not true. That’s why Luke writes:
4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
Luke says as they visited these churches, they corrected the false teaching and reinforced the right teaching.
And honestly, this is where I think we often fail new believers by not pointing them and directing them to right teaching.
And so what happens then is, in their hunger to grow, the new believer gets on the internet and googles some whackadoo who starts filling their hearts and minds with unbiblical thinking and ideas.
Church, we have to do better than that. If we’re going to lead somebody to Jesus, we have to accept the responsibility of discipling them. It’s not google’s job. It’s your job.
Now, some might say, “Yeah pastor, but I just don’t think I’m qualified to raise a new believer. I mean, I’ve only been a Christian for a couple of years myself.”
You know what, that’s the great thing about being big brother or sister. Because no matter the age, you play a part in their growing process.
For example, when I was in 8th grade, I had a Honda XR 80 motorcycle. And honestly, I had outgrown it. And so one day I taught my little brother to ride it. And I even made him a pretend motorcycle license once he learned to ride it.
Now, was I an expert motorcycle instructor? No. I was a 14 year old kid teaching my 11 year old brother how to ride. Scary, right!
You see, your age in something doesn’t mean you don’t have something to teach someone. No, you haven’t grown up all the way either. But you still have something to teach.
For example, if you’ve only been a Christian a couple of years, then teach that new Christian what you’ve learned. Help them navigate some of the initial challenges you know they’ll encounter. Help them avoid the pitfalls you know lie ahead. Order them a Bible like the one somebody ordered for you. Show them the scriptures that have meant the most to you. Pray for them everyday and be a constant source of encouragement for them. Make a commitment to disciple them.
Listen, I’m telling you, if you’re going to lead people to Jesus, you have to be willing to disciple them. You have to have that mindset going in. You can’t leave them to themselves.
So, these are the mindsets if you want to effectively share the gospel. Mindsets that involve risk, strategy, and commitment.
So, as we close this morning, I guess my question to you would be, “Are you willing to adopt these mindsets?”
For instance, when it comes to a mindset of risk, are you willing to put yourself at risk? When it comes sharing the gospel, are you willing to risk whatever it takes to lead somebody to Jesus, even if means giving up your reputation, and maybe even your life? What’s your level of risk?
When it comes to the mindset of becoming all things to all people. Are you willing to set preferences aside? Are you willing to wear different clothes? Are you willing to step down off your high horse? Are you willing to put the hymnals down? Are you committed to looking for ways to relate with someone who desperately needs Jesus? What’s your strategy look like?
When it comes to the mindset of discipleship, are you willing to take somebody under your wing? Are you willing to invest time into somebody’s spiritual development. Are you willing, like any parent would, to make sacrifices for those who can’t help themselves? Are you willing to help somebody grow in their faith? How committed are you?
Here’s the bottom line. If you want to reach the people God has called you to reach, it starts with your mindset. It starts as you make some initial commitments in order to accomplish the mission.
My prayer today is that you would be willing to adopt these mindsets.