What was John telling the Church in Sardis they needed to remember? It was the Gospel Message…the Good News of Jesus. We should never discount or dismiss the wonder-working power of the Gospel. For within its message is the Holy Spirit at work in hearts and minds. And when we hear and receive the Good News, it’s then our responsibility to obey and repent. For true repentance is a moral reorientation of our soul…a acknowledging of the error of our ways and a turning towards truth and righteousness…of turning to God.
The Apostle Paul was telling the Church in Corinth to focus on the Gospel Message, not on the person that had presented it. There was disunity and infighting in the Church depending on who they had heard the Gospel from…Paul or Apollos. Paul wanted them to move on from that and rather center their minds on the Good News of Jesus…not on man. For too many times we can get caught up by a dynamic, charismatic personality and end up following the person… not Jesus. For if you think about it, the Gospel Message doesn’t need theatrics or drama for it to be powerful and life-changing. All it needs is an obedient soul sharing its story.
This week our Bible Study Group wrestled with this verse…The Great Commission, and with Evangelism. While we all agreed that Christians everywhere are called to share the Good News of the Gospel with others…we also readily acknowledged the intimidation it can bring. So why are so many of us uncomfortable to evangelize? Let’s look at it from a completely different perspective…so forget yourself and your hangups, and think of it from the other person’s view. Imagine you are a beggar telling another starving beggar where they can go and find bread…you wouldn’t have a problem with that, right? You’d be happy to share that information so they might eat and live. And that fellow beggar would be appreciative of your actions simply because you hadn’t hoarded or hidden the source from him. Telling others about Jesus should be just as easy. For we should be eager to share good news.
The content of the Gospel Message…the Good News of Jesus doesn’t change. What does change when you share it with others is the context and circumstances surrounding it. When people see you going through difficult times with grace and peace…they’ll be very curious. They’ll be watching you and wondering where you get your strength and hope. It’s then that you can share the Gospel Message through your personal struggle… which can only have an tremendously powerful impact on the listener.
Paul is thought to have written this letter to the Philippians during his first Roman imprisonment. He wanted them to be encouraged whether they ever saw him again or not. Paul especially exhorted them to stand firm in one spirit…something that the modern-day Church should take heed of. When there is infighting, discord, and division, the Church cannot function as it should. For when we are not standing firmly together in unity…contending for the Gospel as one…the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ is lost in the muck and mire and turmoil within the Church walls. Paul reminds the Philippians, and us, to lead our lives in a manner deserving of the Gospel of Peace.
Paul is admitting here that even the lack of self-awareness of any negligence on his part doesn’t prove his faithfulness and obedience to God…for only God can judge. As Believers we are all held accountable to…responsible for…and entrusted with the Gospel Message. To paraphrase II Corinthians 10:18, We can’t just hear the Word to be in right standing with God…we must obey it. And in the end, we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of our Lord.
Here the Apostle Paul was showing that he sought to find common ground with whoever he met…whether Jew, Christian, slave, master, weak, or strong in the faith…in order to preach the Gospel to all. Unfortunately as a people, we generally look for petty differences and disagreements than seek out things that we share. But if we would take the time to think about it, we have much more in common with each other than we can disagree about. Finding common ground with one another can also be easier if we ask ourselves this question first…In the eternal scheme of things, does this matter? Sure, there’s some non-negotiables…but really, the vast majority of stuff we fight about makes no difference at all.