Tag Archives: evangelism

St Matthew, Evangelist

Are You Calling Me?

Yes, God is calling you. He is calling me. He is calling us to be evangelists. Are we prepared to walk away from our personal plans and ambitions?

Matthew was a first century Galilean who collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. He had become rich because of his trade, though he was despised like all the other tax collectors who worked for Rome. It must not have been an easy decision for Matthew to leave all that he had and follow an unknown itinerant preacher. After all, his call was very early in Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had little idea of what was being asked of him.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:9-13)

The Pharisees were gatekeepers. They made the rules and keep scores, not for themselves but for everyone else. That is not what an evangelist does. The evangelist is the one who extends God’s mercy. Judgmental people do not understand evangelism. They may be pious. They may quote scripture. But do they understand the love of God?

Matthew came in contact with the love of Jesus. It changed his whole direction. Are we ready to follow Jesus as Matthew did? Are we ready for a new direction? Do we know the love of God in our hearts? If so, then we will want to share it with others.

In proverbs we read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Matthew, the tax collector, could answer the call of God because his heart had been touched. He set aside his agenda for that of the Lord Jesus. He did not know where Jesus would be leading him, but he trusted him nonetheless. Do we trust Jesus? Do we love Jesus? He is calling us to go on a adventure. We may never leave home, but we will see our neighbors in a whole new light. Our joy will be to share the good news of Christ with them and all whom we meet.

Matthew is called the Evangelist because of his Gospel writing. Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew. This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek. His Gospel  emphasized how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.

Early Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries.

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10

Track 1: A Plumb Line in Our Midst

Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

God had a covenant with Abraham. Israel was under this covenant, but they were not keeping his covenant requirements. Reading from the Prophet Amos:

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”   (Amos 7:7-17)

When Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, became aware or this prophecy, he warned King Jeroboam. He then threatened Amos:

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”   (Amos 7:7-17)

The prophecy of Amos did not follow the narrative of King Jeroboam. But God is a God of truth. He is not bound by any human narrative.

We are a covenant people under the new covenant of God in Christ Jesus. There is no temple. We, the Church, are now the temple of God. In 1 Peter we read:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17)

As in the day’s of Jeroboam, God’s judgement is in our in our midst. Do we have any court prophets in our churches who want to protect the status quo? Do we have any Amaziah’s who elevate church doctrine over God’s Word?

How many churches has tacitly supported abortion. What does God’s Word have to say?

Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

This word speaks against the sin that leads to abortion. There is no mystery about what the Word of God says about the unborn.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.   (Psalm 139:13-16)

What about the doctrine of once saved always saved? The is what the Word teaches:

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:23-27)

God’s word is clear. When we do not live up to it, what do we do? Do we hide in our doctrines, rituals, and false piety? Confession or coverup? Repentance or rationalized doctrine? What will it be?

God’s covenant people are called to live at higher standard than the world – a much higher standard. God is holding a plumb line beside us. He is a holy God. He calls us to be a holy people: The Church, the body of Christ, of which e2 are a part. has not fulfilled its responsibilities. It should be a moral compass for the world. But the world has crept into the Church.

God is calling us out:

For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.   (Leviticus 11:44)

We do not have to hide in darkness. Let us not hide from him, but run to him. The good news is that God is the one who can make us holy. The Apostle Paul wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

 

 

Track 2: Self Justification

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

If there ever were a question abput who is our neighbor, the Parable of the Good Samaritan should settle it. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”   (Luke 10:25-28)

When Jesus told the lawyer to “do this” he realized that he had to do more than talk. He might be able to make a case for himself if he could narrowly close the category of neighbor. No offense to lawyers is attended, but he was looking for a loophole in the commandment:

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:29-37)

 When Jesus implied that we should treat every one as a neighbor, the lawyer realized that God’s Commandments are beyond human rationalization and self justification. They are required to be followed down to the very letter and spirit of the law.

Only Jesus could do that and he did. He fulfilled the righteous requirements by living a perfect life without sin – a lamb without spot or wrinkle, thus becoming the sacrificial lamb and just punishment for our sin. We do not need a loophole in the commandments. He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. He justified us.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (Romans 5:1)

We no longer have to justify ourselves. We have peace with God. Now we can consider everyone our neighbor. No one is threat to our relationship with God. It is based on love, mercy, and forgiveness. Love is not puffed up. It does hot keep a record of wrongs. We do not need to compare ourselves to anyone. God has accepted us and we are to accept and forgive others.

Where do we stand to day? Do we love God with all our hearts? And do we love our neighbor as ourselves? If we fail to do so at times we can call on God for help. Jesus will live within us as he pours out the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. The Apostle Paul wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

Track 1: My Rivers Are Better than Yours

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Most of us probably remember the account of Naaman of the Old Testament. He was the commander of the army of the king of Aram,   He was in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.

Naaman, unfortunately, had leprosy.. A young girl captive from the land of Israel, who served Naaman’s wife said that there was prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy. Naaman told his king who said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”  (2 Kings 5:5)

Reading from 2 Kings:

Naaman went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.   (2 Kings 5:6-10)

Naaman was not prepared for this response from Elisha. The prophet did not greet him properly, or acknowledge his highly esteemed position he enjoyed in his own country:

Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.    (2 Kings 5:11-12)

Fortunately, the wisdom of his servants prevailed:

His servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.   (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Naaman almost lost his healing because he did not understand the greatness of God. God is our healer and not any human who may be used as an intermediary. Moreover. whatever standards which we expect God to accord us is immaterial. God has his own standards that we should meet. Do we tell God that “my rivers are better than yours?”

Proverbs warns:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but wisdom is with the humble.   (Proverbs 11:2)

God spoke to the Prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

When it comes to healing, we leave everything in the hands of God. He is sovereign. We need to listen carefully to him and obey his commandments and directions. All we need to do is keep thanking hm. We do not need to make judgments or listen to the opinions of others, just our believing Christian physician.

The psalmist wrote:

I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his;
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,
his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night,
but joy comes in the morning.   (Psalm 30:1-6)

 

Track 2: Lambs into the Midst of Wolves

Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Would ew say that evangelism is the most important mission of the Church? Certainly the commission that Jesus gave his disciples just prior to his ascension would indicate this to be true:

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.   (Mark 16:14-16

How do we do evangelism? This is how Jesus began his earthly ministy:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near repent, and believe in the good news.   (Mark 1:14-15)

Repentance is part of thr good news. Sin must be addressed. Certain post modern churches and seeker churches say we must go easy on the need for repentance, at least initialing, because people may take offense.

Jesus prepared the areas he would be visiting by sending out advance teams. He said that they must be prepared to experience offense:

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.   (Luke 10:1-6)

Our ministry must be performed in the peace of God and not that of the world. As evangelists we need to remember that we are  ambassadors of Christ. If we are looking for personal affirmation and acceptance we are no longer speaking for him. Jesus said:

Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.   (Luke 10:16)

We must be prepared for rejection. We should not be looking for the acceptance of ourselves, but the acceptance of the Gospel. Rejection is [art of our cross. Jesus said:.

and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.   (Matthew 10:38-40)

Who are the wolves that Jesus warned us about? Perhaps they are some of 8s. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?   (Matthew 7:15-15)

If we have sheltered people from the offense of the Gospel, then we have been false teachers and prophets. What has been the fruit of this sheltering? A deed church? The people we shelter might eventually become church leaders. They will oppose thy Gospel at every hand.

The Apostle Paul wrote his student Timothy::

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound teaching, but, having their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, be sober in everything, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

This type of evangelism got results:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”   (Luke 10:17-20)

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Ascension Day

Clothed with Power from on High

There is much speculation in today’s Church concerning the date of Jesus’s return to the earth. Little has changed from the Early Church. This same concern was on the mind and hearts of the early disciples. From Acts we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus did not answer his disciples directly. Rather, he told them that there was a more important consideration for his Church. They were to be witnesses to his resurrection. From Luke we read:

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”   (Luke 24:46-49)

There would be two essential ingredients to witnessing for Christ: 1) they were to proclaim the repentance and forgiveness of sins, and 2) that they would be clothed with power from on high. That does not sound like a seeker church with a watered down Gospel.

The Church is not need to blend into the world and, thus, have little relevance. We need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill our calling. The age of the apostolic faith is not over. We are now the apostles.

Are we equipped for ministry? If not, let us ask for power from on high. Jesus promises to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. He has called us to do his greater works. Now is not the time to shrink back or hide behind man-made doctrines or traditions.

The questions the angels asked the disciples on the day of ascension is still applicable to us:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:11)

We do not have time to waste. Let us get on with the true task of the Church. Jesus may come at any moment. We should be living holy lives with our lamps full of oil all the time. Our concern must be for the lost. That is the heart of God. We were once lost and someone witnessed to us. Will we not witness to others? If we love Jesus then we will obey his command and commission..

His great commission is all the more important today as we approach the close of the Church age. Jesus speaks to us today:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:8)

Waiting on the return of Jesus is not our mission. The world is waiting on us. Jesus Christ living in us is the witness that the world needs to see. Have we received his Spirit? If not, we need to ask Jesus now. He will fill us and refill us with the Holy Spirit.

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