The Apostle Paul was writing to the Church of Philippi from a Roman prison…a deep, dark, dank place filled with hopelessness and misery, yet he was exhorting his fellow Believers to live a life worthy of the Gospel…worthy of the calling they had received. Jude 3 calls it contending for the faith. Of taking the truth of the Gospel Message we’ve received and studying it, learning from it, believing in it, and finally, defending it. When we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel we are fulfilling our duty to stand firm against those who may attempt to alter/ or change the grace of God into some man-made Religion. For the next verse goes on to say, “Stand firm in one Spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:28)
A man of folk-lore and legend in the Midwest is John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. During the 1800’s he wandered the country-side of large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia planting apple orchards…some of which still stand today. This American pioneer nurseryman spent his lifetime scattering seed in hopes of a harvest someday. In these verses, Jesus is likening the kingdom of God to the mystery of germination and growth and what man’s responsibility is in it all. We are told to plant or scatter seed…the Good News of the Gospel Message, and then to allow God to do the rest. For God’s kingdom grows in His time, in His way…always moving forward. So just like Johnny Appleseed, we are to be sowers of hope and leave the progress up to God.
In this verse the Lord lays out very clearly what’s our responsibility and what’s His. For starters, this relationship can’t happen until we have that “coming to Jesus moment”, a time when we finally stop, admit our sinfulness, repent, and turn back to Him. He says that at that moment He will restore, renew, and revive our old self into a new one that is worthy of carrying His Message to others. But there is also a warning in this verse, a caution to not allow compromise to creep into our message – however enticing it is – to merely win the approval of man. As Zechariah 3:7 tells us, we are to continually walk in His ways and keep His requirements…not what we think others want to hear.
Paul used the word gospel twice in this verse but both had very different meanings. The first meant the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…that by way of His death, burial, and resurrection, we might have eternal life. The second gospel could not have been farther from that truth. It was distinctly different and deceptive and was leading the Church of Galatia astray. In II Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul called these teachers, “false apostles and servants of Satan masquerading as apostles of Christ.” They came proclaiming a ‘new and improved’ Gospel Message that was categorically incorrect and flawed, but the people were accepting it. Paul here was charging them to be vigilant and discerning…for if the message did not proclaim justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…it was a false gospel.
So what stops you from sharing Jesus with others? Awkwardness? Apprehension? Do you realize that even the early Church had reservations about telling others the Good News of the Gospel…for in Acts 4:29 the Believers prayed, “Enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness.” So I pray for you today that the Holy Spirit would give you the words to speak to that unbelieving friend, stranger, or relative. And that you would speak with confidence, boldness, and articulation as you share the Gospel Message with them.
God’s love was revealed in Christ Jesus who came to set us free and break off the chains of sin that bound us so tightly. This sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood was necessary to atone for our sins and is the only way we can come back into a right relationship with God the Father. For you see, true freedom can only be found in Jesus.
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.