Straight to the Heart

 
 
 

Boldly Speaking the Gospel No Matter the Cost

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness…”

(Acts 4:29, ESV)
 
Much of the persecution we face today does not result in imprisonments or executions. It mostly occurs in intimidation, ridicule, and loss of rights or freedoms. Think of all the news accounts over the last few years of Christian business persons who have lost their religious freedom to operate their company, whether small or large, according to their conviction. In the early period of the church, it too faced this kind of persecution, and that is what we find in Acts 4. In Acts 4, the church faces persecution for the first time in the New Testament.
 
One of the lessons we learn is that all persecution, whether great or small, results from a clash of authorities, a clash of kingdoms. You see, God has placed His king – Jesus – on the throne, and the nations rage against God’s king (Psalm 2). And because, as Christians, we are subjects of King Jesus, the nations will rage against us also – that’s the reason for persecution.
 
The question every Christian must face is: When persecution comes, and we must decide whose authority we will follow, Christ’s or the world’s, what will we do? Will we cower under the world’s authorities? Will we retreat and keep silent? Or, will we stand in the name and jurisdiction of King Jesus and speak the gospel with boldness, no matter what the cost? The first biblical account of persecution helps us answer these questions.
 
First, we need to understand that when we speak the gospel with boldness, we WILL be persecuted (Acts 4:1-4).When the temple leaders arrest Peter and John, we are witnessing the clash of two kingdoms, two authorities – the authority of King Jesus versus the authority of the old Jewish temple system. By arresting the apostles, the temple authorities are fulfilling Jesus’ warning to His disciples in Luke 21:10-19. We shouldn’t be surprised by Christian suffering and persecution; this is the norm for faithful, bold Christians (John 15:18-19). BUT, persecution is not the only result of boldly speaking the gospel. We also see that some people will respond to the gospel message (Acts 4:4; also John 15:20).   You see, while persecution is inevitable when we speak the gospel boldly, so is gospel fruitfulness. So, regardless of the consequences, let us boldly share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some will rage against King Jesus and as well as us as His messengers, but others will hear our message and believe. But since persecution is sure, what should we do when we encounter it?
 
Second, when persecuted, we should continue speaking the gospel with boldness (Acts 4:5-22).This may sound counterintuitive, but that’s precisely what the apostles do. Peter and John are arrested, brought before the top Jewish officials, and they speak the gospel with great boldness. Here we see four reasons why we should continue pronouncing the gospel boldly:
 
  • 4:5-10 | We have the Holy Spirit– Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaims Christ and charges the Jewish leadership with killing Jesus. The promise of the Spirit is not just for the apostles, though. It is for all who believe! That’s you, and that’s me. We have the Holy Spirit of God, and we should ask God to fill us with His Spirit so that we may be empowered to be a witness for Christ.
 
  • 4:11-12 | We offer the only way of salvation– While many “enlightened” souls today claim that all roads lead to God, Peter is clear that the only name given by God by which we may be saved is “Jesus” (4:12). If there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, doesn’t that mean that we should be urgently engaged in the mission to speak the gospel of Jesus with boldness? Shouldn’t we share the gospel with our unbelieving family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances – with anyone who doesn’t know Jesus and comes into our lives? This is what we call evangelism.
 

And shouldn’t we be concerned with the million of peoples around the world who do not know Jesus? Shouldn’t we be engaged in praying for, supporting, and even sending people to share the gospel across cultures to unbelievers? That’s what we call missions.   The fact that salvation is only in Christ means that we should be telling others about Christ as often as possible.

  • 4:13-14 | We have been with Jesus– we can speak the gospel with boldness because we have been with Jesus and taught by Him. Sure, the apostles uniquely were with Jesus, but we too have the Spirit, and Jesus is with us by His Spirit. And Jesus is now teaching us as we commune with Him by His Word. But Jesus is also preparing us now by His Church – through our discipleship interactions with one another, and through the Word ministry of the pastors which Jesus has given to His church (Ephesians 4:11).
 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when unbelievers came into contact with us, they could tell that we have been with Jesus? Because we have been with Jesus, we don’t need a formal theological education to be able to share the gospel. We just need to tell others what we have learned from Jesus in our personal devotions, in our times of discipleship, and in the preaching of the Word.

  • 4:15-22 | We cannot help but testify as to what Jesus is doing in our lives– When we’ve been with Jesus and see what He is doing, we can’t help but tell others! To be sure, our testimonies are NOT the gospel, but our testimonies are our stories of how God is at work in our lives and in our church. Let’s tell others the good things God is doing!
 
  Finally, when persecuted, we should ask God for grace to continue preaching with boldness (Acts 4:23-31). Persecution is certain; so is God’s grace! When the apostles were released from prison, they joined the other disciples and prayed together, asking God to give them more grace to be able to continue preaching the gospel with boldness.
 
May High Pointe be known as a church that walks with Jesus and speaks the gospel with boldness. And may we jointly ask God for the grace to speak the gospel with boldness with all unbelievers we come in contact with. Can you imagine what God might do if all of us together asked Him to give us boldness in sharing the gospel? We will likely experience persecution, but I suspect, we will also experience gospel fruitfulness. Will you join us in asking God for the grace to speak the gospel with boldness, no matter what the cost? May God answer this prayer!
 
Love,
 


The Practice of Normal Evangelism

Many of us find evangelism daunting, even frightening. Evangelism, though, should happen naturally as we talk with people. That is, as we have regular conversations, we are to look for opportunities to speak to people about Christ. In a church culture where evangelism is the norm, prayer for the unbelieving is a priority, and gospel conversations are celebrated regularly, not just “deals closed.”  To help encourage us toward normal evangelism, we are asking one another, “Who’s your one?” ‘Who’s your one?‘ is a national evangelism effort, spearheaded by Dr. J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. To learn more about ‘Who’s your one?‘ and even obtain helpful resources, CLICK HERE.
 
We hope that all of High Pointe is regularly and normally sharing the gospel with as many people as the Lord brings into your life. But, for those who struggle with evangelism, we want to encourage you to think about just one person you can pray for and reach out to with the gospel. All of us can think of at least one person who needs Christ. So tell me, who’s your one?   All we’re trying to do by asking ‘Who’s your one?’ is make evangelism normal. When evangelism is special, it requires special Christians, trained with special methods, using special tools, during special times. But, when evangelism is normal, every Christian is engaging in gospel conversations, praying that the Spirit would give spiritual life to those we’re sharing with. May evangelism become normal at High Pointe. Here are ten practices of normal evangelism to spur you on this week in whatever opportunities the Lord may grant you.
 
  1. Know the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)! When we understand the gospel, we know that GOD is holy and created a world without sin.  God provided mankind with all he needed to dwell in His presence. But, MAN rebelled against God, and rebellion requires judgment, the penalty of which is death.  Yet, God in His grace, provided CHRIST as a representative substitute to live a life of perfect obedience and to receive upon Himself the penalty of sin on our behalf. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, proving His victory over sin and death. Now, all who RESPOND with repentance from sin and faith in Jesus have eternal life. This is the good news that we must know in order to share it with others.

 

  1. Live your life in light of this gospel.  As this gospel takes root in our own lives and we begin to apply it to our marriages, parenting, relationships, lives together as a church, then our lives will be markedly different than the world and thereby attractive.  How can we announce that this gospel is the power of God to save and change lives if we who profess Christ continue living just like the world?

 

  1. Pray and fast for unbelievers(John 14:12-14; 15:7-8).  One reason unbelieving people are not on our minds is that we don’t pray for them. Make a list of unbelieving people and begin praying for their salvation. But also ask God to open doors for evangelism, then by faith be obedient when the opportunities arise.

 

  1. Be willing to share your life with unbelievers(1 Thessalonians. 2:1-8). If we are going to reach unbelievers, we need to get to know them: where they live, shop, eat, recreate. Look for opportunities to relate with them where they are, instead of thinking they will come to us. Let us wisely share our lives with unbelievers: talking to them, inviting them to church, or into your home for a meal.

 

  1. Share the gospel with urgency (2 Peter 3:8-10)!  To be sure, we need to share the gospel naturally & clearly, but we must also share it urgently. Right now is the time for salvation. When a person dies, or Christ returns, there will be no more opportunities for repentance and faith.

 

  1. Study the doctrine of hell! If you lack urgency in evangelism, then study the doctrine of hell.  As you consider the fate of those who reject Christ, ask God to break your heart and move you with urgency to share the good news with the lost.

 

  1. Invite unbelievers to repent and believe!  The gospel requires a response.  We must call on all people everywhere to repent (turn away from their sinful ways) and believe (in Jesus Christ).

 

  1. Invite unbelievers to church.  Invite the unbelieving, unchurched to come with you on the Lord’s day so that they may hear the gospel proclaimed. Surprisingly, in a 2010 study of unbelieving, unchurched people in Austin, a large number indicated that they would be open to invitations to go to church.  Imagine that!  They don’t come because we don’t ask.

 

  1. Trust Christ for the results.  Faithfulness, not results, is what God requires of us.  Salvation is of the Lord, so we must trust the sovereign Lord to do His work in the hearts of unbelieving people.  Our responsibility is to faithfully share the gospel indiscriminately.

 

  1. Share with others and ask them to join you in prayer.  I have found it encouraging to hear other Christians’ stories of evangelism. Share your evangelism encounters, celebrate simply sharing the gospel, and pray together for those souls.  Let’s make evangelism normal again!
 
 
Love,
 


In Remembrance of Me

“‘And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

(1 Corinthians 11:24-25, ESV)

 

            As Americans, we commemorate a lot of historical events. Typically, when a historical event is of such importance, we want to keep it in our memory, so we try to imprint it on the American psyche with a special date. Some of these dates turn into national holidays which also are annual moments of commemoration with the purpose of showing honor by remembering.

            Accordingly, the New World Dictionary defines ‘commemorate‘ as, “to preserve or honor the memory of.” As Christians, when we observe the Lord’s Supper we commemorate Christ; we remember and honor His name and His sacrifice for sin. The supper is a remembering of a specific event in the life of Christ. We preserve the memory of Christ and honor his name by remembering and reflecting upon what the bread and the fruit of the vine signify. Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper we do so in remembrance of Him in the following particular ways:

            We look up in adoration.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, we remember God’s mercy and grace as the loving Father sent His beloved Son to die on the cross for sin.

            We look back in commemoration.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Christ came into this world to save sinners. He lived a life without sin, yet He was rejected by His own, beaten and ultimately killed for our sake. Through His death, Jesus paid the penalty for sin and liberated those who trust in Him from the bondage of sin.

            We look forward in anticipation.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, we are eating and drinking in anticipation of the great marriage supper of the Lamb, at which a place has been reserved for all those who belong to Christ’s family.

            We look outward in proclamation.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, our actions proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

            We look inward in examination.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, we reflect upon our own lives, asking the Holy Spirit of God to expose our own sins, so that we might come into the presence of Christ with clean hands and pure hearts.

            We look around in consideration.Whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper, we are forced to look around at our brothers and sisters in Christ being reminded that we are sitting at the table as a family.

     This Sunday morning, we will participate in the Lord’s Supper during our worship gathering to commemorate Jesus’ death. I encourage you to examine your hearts as we sit together at the Lord’s table in remembrance of Him. And come prepared to celebrate the salvation God has accomplished for us in Christ.

 
Love,
 



Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. In addition, Juan serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and Seven Dangers Facing your Church. Juan and his wife, Jeanine, have five daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.
 
    

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