Sunday, July 13th, 2008 | Author:

[Note: This is a message I shared at my church on July 13, 2008.]

I’m going to start this morning by taking a look at the greatest gift any of us have ever received. Romans 6:20-23:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]

Just think about that for a minute. When we are freed from sin by accepting Christ’s payment for our sins, we obtain the immediate benefit of sanctification, which simply refers to the process of being made holy and set apart for God. God continually works on our hearts and our minds, transforming us into the image of His Son. In my case, that’s a major miracle. Day by day, I’m being made more like Jesus. Who would ever have thought?

But our gracious God doesn’t stop there. The ultimate outcome is eternal life in God’s presence. What a comfort that is. What peace that brings to our hearts. No matter what happens in our lives, we know the end of the story. We know we’ll be with Jesus for all eternity. We have God’s promise, sealed with the Holy Spirit. As we read a few weeks ago, we can agree with Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:15:

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift![2]

So out of the gratitude of our hearts, we try to serve God. We try to share His love in many different ways. We offer encouragement and support to those who are struggling. We pray for them, and we back our prayers up with practical help. We give of ourselves and our things, as we are able.

But there’s one thing that God calls us to do that I think we don’t generally do very well around here. Listen to Romans 10:8-17:

But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[3]

We are all called to share the gospel, the glad tidings with those who haven’t heard. We’re supposed to share the greatest gift we’ll ever receive, using not just our hands and our feet, but our mouths, as well.

“But I’m not a preacher,” you say. “That passage is talking about preachers!” You think that gets you off the hook? Then let me remind you of the armor of God in Ephesians that we’re all supposed to wear.

Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;[4]

There are those feet again. And how about that? They’re still talking about spreading the gospel, about being prepared to spread the gospel.

So now you say, “But that’s just it. I’m not prepared. I don’t know how to share the gospel.” This time, Peter will answer you:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;[5]

If you don’t know how to share the gospel, then maybe it’s time to ask God to show you. About a year ago, I didn’t know how to give a sermon, but, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing quite a few of them the last few months. When God wants us to do something, he shows us how. We just need to be willing.

I can see your wheels are still spinning, and this time you say, “But I can’t be a missionary. I can’t just pack up and run off to Africa like Jayme. I’ve got a family and responsibilities!” Well, I’m here to tell you – you don’t have to go anywhere! The lost and downtrodden are all around us. Among them, I’m certain, are those that God is calling, because He doesn’t wish for any to perish but desires that all come to repentance.[6]

And if He’s calling them, then He is looking for Christians who will speak with them and share the good news of the gospel — because faith comes with hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[7]

So where are these people God is calling? They live next door to you, they work beside you, they’re in our schools, they’re everywhere. Some have never been in a church, and have absolutely no idea about our Triune God. Others have been in legalistic, even abusive, churches. They’ve been hurt by supposed Christians and have vowed to never go back.

Among those who hold religious beliefs, some do not claim the name of Jesus Christ for their salvation. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, the Shinto of Japan, and even God’s chosen Jews, are destined to hell unless someone shares the gospel with them.

More troubling to me are those whose teachings claim the name of Jesus, but it’s not the Jesus we know from the Bible. Jesus told us this would happen in the end times. Matthew 24:4-5

See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.[8]

Take the Mormons. Officially, they call themselves the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” They claim their authority from the Bible, but also from the book of Mormon, another book called Doctrine and Covenants, and another called the Pearl of Great Price. The problem is that these other books do not agree with the Bible.

For instance, they believe that God the Father is an exalted man from another planet like earth. He was married, died, and was resurrected to be the god of heaven. He and his goddess wife, called Mother God, had millions of spirit-children in heaven.

The Mormon’s Jesus was born of The Father and Mary, through sexual intercourse, the same as any other man. Before His crucifixion, Jesus was married to at least 3 wives, and had children through them.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said this:

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.

The Mormons, however, believe that the church was completely overpowered, and no longer existed. They say it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, which is why they call themselves Latter-day Saints. All other churches, including ours, are apostate.

They also believe that they can be baptized, by proxy, for the deceased, and the deceased will be saved. So if you die an avowed atheist, your Mormon offspring can “save” you, by being baptized in your place. This is why they do all that genealogy.

Most troubling to me, though, is their view of salvation. They believe that some sins cannot be covered by Christ’s atonement, and people must atone for those sins themselves. In other words, what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t quite good enough.

But Ephesians 2:8-9 says this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

In short? Mormons who believe their church doctrine are destined for hell, unless they hear the true Word of Christ.

Like the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses believe they are the only true church, and all others are apostate. They don’t believe in the Trinity. They don’t think Jesus was God. They teach that first Jesus was Michael the archangel, then later was born as a perfect man.

And again, their salvation message is false. They believe there are only 144,000 who are born again and completely righteous because of Jesus. The rest of them have to earn their way to heaven. I quote:

A person must first “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” and then comply with everything they teach. In this way, a relationship with the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, is presented as the basis of salvation.[9]

This is legalism, folks, and Paul had this to say about it to the Galatians:

nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.[10]

Jehovah Witnesses need to hear the good news of the gospel.

Which brings me to some people closer to home. A while back, God led me to do some reading about our Amish neighbors. I discovered last week after Early Bird that God has been leading Norm to read about them, also. We had quite a conversation, which is why, Gloria, we didn’t make it to prayer.

So what have I learned?[11] First, I’ve learned that there are many different sects within the Amish community: Old Order, New Order, Beechy, Tobe, Troyer and Swartzentruber, among others.

They don’t have a central doctrine, but each church in each location creates what they call an Ordinance Letter. It’s a list of rules that covers everything from dress, employment, and types of equipment, to transportation, salaries, and entertainment. It’s updated on a regular basis.

The Ordinance Letter is strongly enforced. Anyone who does not abide by the rules will be disciplined, up to and including excommunication from the church. Anyone who leaves the Amish voluntarily will be shunned and ostracized, and told they are going to hell.

The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch at home. They learn English in first grade. Some learn German on Fridays so they can read the Bible, because the Bible they use is translated into German, making it very difficult for most to understand.

They are taught that if they break the rules, they will go to hell. As examples, they’re told that:

· If they don’t get baptized
· If they don’t obey their parents
· If they don’t dress in plain clothes
· If they don’t die Amish

… they will go to hell.

They don’t talk about the salvation of Jesus Christ on the cross. They don’t talk about the free gift of God. They talk about salvation by works. Romans 3:19-20 says this:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.[12]

Can you imagine that? They acquire the knowledge that they are sinful, but they don’t know that Jesus paid the price for their sins. They need to hear the true gospel of our Lord.

And if the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Amish aren’t enough to stir your heart, Jesus tells us this parable in Matthew 13:24-30:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’[14]

I believe there are tares in every church on earth. Whether the church is Catholic or Lutheran, Reformed or Methodist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian, there are people who do not trust in Jesus for their salvation. They think that going to church on Sunday, or going to confession, or doing some good deeds for others will get them into heaven. They don’t have faith in our Lord and Savior, but in their own works.

So, no, we don’t have to go to Africa to find people who haven’t trusted in Jesus. We are surrounded by people — people we know and people we like and people we love — who are on the road to hell. We are living in the middle of a mission field.

Most of us remember when the Thruway bridge collapsed into the Schoharie Creek. Afterwards, I talked to some people who heard the bridge go down. They raced up to Ft. Hunter Rd. where it crosses over the Thruway. From the overhead bridge, they did everything they could to attract the attention of drivers headed downhill. Some of them even took off their clothes to wave at the traffic. Eventually, a tractor-trailer driver noticed them, realized something was wrong, then stopped and blocked the road so no one else could drive off to their deaths.

I know in my heart that every person here would also have tried to do whatever he or she could to prevent those tragedies. And yet the greatest tragedy of all is people on the road to hell, where they will suffer unbearable torment for all eternity.

If you’re feeling God tugging at your heart, encouraging you to open your mouth and share the greatest gift you’ve ever received, but you’re still doubting and saying to yourself, “How can I do that?” I say this: How can you not?

Let us pray.

Lord, we know that under our own power we cannot share your good news with anyone. So we ask You, Father, to open our minds and our hearts and our mouths. We know we need the power of Your Holy Spirit to teach us and make us bold, and we ask you now to send Him to us, to work among us, that we can be named among those with beautiful feet, who bring glad tidings of good things. In the name of Jesus, our amazing Savior we pray, Amen.

[1] Romans 6:20-23
[2] 2 Corinthians 9:15
[3] Romans 10:8-17
[4] Ephesians 6:14-15
[5] 1 Peter 3:15
[6] 2 Peter 3:9
[7] Romans 10:17
[8] Matthews 24:4-5
[9] http://www.apologeticsindex.org/j02ab.html
[10] Galatians 2:16
[11] http://www.mapministry.org/
[12] Romans 3:19-20
[13] http://www.biblebb.com/files/CATHINFO.HTM
[14] Matthew 13:24-30

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2 Responses
  1. Reynaldo says:

    Wow, great sermon, believe it or not the same sermon my pastor gave today, but yours was better.

  2. akaGaGa says:

    Aw, thanks, Reynaldo!

    Gee, do you think maybe the same Holy Spirit talks to a Catholic priest in Miami – and an uneducated, no-name in upstate New York? What a concept!