The Work Of The Ministry
by Eric S. Love
podcast available (My 1, 2011)
The Effective Gospel
Introduction: What makes the Gospel effective? What does it mean to be “saved?” How do we spread the Gospel in a way that changes people’s lives? How much training do we need in order to ministers of the Gospel? All of these questions are pertinent to our primary purpose for being alive today. We are here to build up the Kingdom by revealing the Gospel of Jesus to a starving world. So, how do we do that effectively? We begin by understanding the spiritual transaction that takes place when someone becomes a Christian believer (section I). Then, we look at how Jesus, the greatest evangelist in Christian history, spread the Gospel and how effective He was (section II). And finally, we look at how Jesus trained those He had chosen to carry the Gospel further and how well they faired (section III).
Defining the Gospel: What happens during this spiritual transaction. (NOTE: The Gospel is clearly laid out in the following outline. However, this is nothing more than an explanation of what occurs. Jesus never used these verses for the purposes of leading people to the Truth, i.e. Himself. Nor did Paul or any other New Testament writer. These verses were written for believers for the purpose of explaining to them what happened during their spiritual conversion. It was not used evangelistically, though this is nearly the sole approach to spreading the Gospel in the church today. This is included so that you can know what happens when someone becomes a believer. This is not for the purposes of witnessing or evangelism UNTIL a person is at the point of receiving Christ.)
In Greek, it means announce “Good News” (In the NT it always refers to the death, burial, resurrection, and witness about Jesus Christ, including its implications for humankind’s relationship to God. *From Strong’s Concordance)
If the Gospel is the good news, then what is the “Bad News?” (Romans 3:23; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 6:23A; Romans 1:18-32): All sin and fall short; we will all die eventually and then be judged; the wages of sin is death; God’s wrath is against ungodliness and unrighteousness - and He will basically let us do what we want (give us over to degrading passions...)
The Good News (Romans 6:23B; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Isaiah 53:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5): the gift of God is life eternal; God loved us so much He sent Jesus so whoever receives Him would have eternal life; Jesus dying for us while we were sinners is God demonstrating how much He loves us; God has caused our iniquity to be put on Jesus; we are saved by grace through faith - it’s a free gift; we are not saved based on good works but by His mercy and the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit
The basic elements of the Gospel: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (Paul lists the elementary pieces of it here: Jesus dyeing for our sins according to scripture, buried, raised on the third day, appeared to many - including the twelve and later himself)
The story of Nicodemus: John 3:1-10 (Jesus said, “Unless you are born again you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said, “How can a man be born when he is old... enter again into his mother’s womb?” Jesus said, “Must be born of water and spirit” - water is flesh birth, basically. Spirit birth must follow.
The story of the Rich Young Ruler: Luke 18:18-23 (Keeping all the commandments isn’t enough... “Sell all you have, distribute the money to the poor, and follow me.” It costs us everything.)
God preached the Gospel to Abraham: Galatians 3:8 (He said, “All the nations will be blessed in you...”
Presentation of Gospel using one verse: Romans 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)
The Effective Ministry of Jesus
Acts 26:17-18: It begins with relationship (discipleship). Jesus said to Paul he would first open people’s eyes, and then they would be able to turn from darkness to light. (The change in evangelism happened in the late 1800’s when people tried mass evangelism rather than personal discipling: relationships. Door-to-door witnessing and evangelistic advertising/campaigning was developed by D. L. Moody who died in 1899. He spread the “revivalist gospel” which was expanded later by Billy Graham - “with every head bowed and every eye closed.” * From Pagan Christianity, Viola/Barna. Most evangelistic tools are inventions of men and not based on the gospel, which is, at its core, relational.)
How Jesus did it: John 1:43 (Made a human connection with Philip and opened his eyes. This connection isn’t even specific. It was on a human level, but Phillip followed him and the next day was telling Nathaniel - come see for yourself...); John 2:11 (Turned water into wine. Opened the eyes of the disciples. It was after this they put their faith in Jesus.); John 3 (Story of Nicodemus. Jesus hooked him by saying, “You must be born again.” These were words he would understand, because he was a teacher of the Law. His eyes were opened to the truth behind the Law.); John 4 (Samaritan woman at the well. He prophesied to her. She said, “I perceive you to be a prophet.” In our time she would have called Him a psychic. In any case, her eyes were opened.); John 4,5 (Healing opened people’s eyes.); John 6 (He fed thousands of people with very little food and opened their eyes. Walking on water opened eyes.); John 7 (Here, Jesus declares to everyone who had seen all the miracles from the previous chapters that He was the water that would cause them to thirst no more. Now, because the people’s eyes had been opened already, they knew who Jesus was and they could believe in Him, going from darkness into light. Look at what kind of miracles Jesus performed. They were personal. He would heal people or feed people. Maybe we can’t heal people like that, but we can care for them. We can love them.)
How then should we evangelize? By demonstrating the power of God. Through prophecy, dream interpretation, healing, deliverance, love, etc. This will open people’s eyes more than any theological truth: even that based on scripture. The gifts of the Spirit are for the purpose of building up the body. And any and every gift is available to any and everyone. Find the “style” you fit into naturally, what you are good at, and go with it. In this way you will be the most effective.
Once people have become spiritually awakened by having their eyes opened, they can then be discipled. Those whose eyes are opened may not know how to act at first. So what. They simply need discipling through relationship. It is impossible to have a heart for the lost without also having a heart for the body- beginning with those in closest relationship to you. Why? Because the lost are coming into the Body, and if the Body isn’t concerned with relationship with each other, then those coming in will not be discipled and will fall back into the darkness from which they came. (Love those you can love. Don’t take responsibility for evangelizing everyone.)
God loves people more than we do! This must be something we understand. This must be the reason we evangelize… simply because God loves! Remember, the only true evangelism is love. This begins with God’s love (give mercy cause we need mercy). Discipleship only happens within relationship.
So what is evangelism? Simply put, evangelism is influencing people for Jesus.
Jesus message of the Gospel: Matthew 4:18 (Come follow Me.); Matthew 22:39 (Love God and others.); Matthew 28:19 (Now, go make disciples. This is the last thing He said on the subject.)
Remember evangelism is a process. Nothing happens instantly. It is a series of events that slowly bumps a person closer and closer toward receiving Jesus. God will water the seed you plant. Every act of kindness and love is a seed. (Remember, God is love. When you love others, you are planting seeds of God into them whether they know it or not.) It is about building relationships with people, not building walls (walls are built with religious lingo that makes the other person feel that you are somehow superior to them, and by judgement). Ultimately, it is about trusting God to do the work of evangelism through your obedience. He will send people to finish work that you have started. He will water those seeds. He will tug on the heart of the lost. Trust Him.
Evangelism is NOT confrontational or rude. If it is not done in love, it is not evangelism!
The fruit of the Spirit are equally important as the gifts of the Spirit. Character is more important than gifting! Luke 8:15-16: Our light is in direct correlation to our fruit. What else will people see when they look at us if not our fruit? If our fruit is bad, our light (our witness) is bad. Good character validates your ministry. Bad character invalidates your ministry. Period. Remember, Jesus not only performed miracles. He was also not afraid to reach out and touch the leper. (Luke 5:13)
Proof of effective evangelism IS NOT acceptance by organized religion. In Luke 8, verse 37, the people asked Jesus to leave because He delivered someone of demons. Read Luke 7. Jesus proves Himself by pointing out the miracles He performs and how they fulfill prophecy from the Old Testament (vs 22). One of the best examples of Jesus opening the people’s eyes is in verse 16. Following a healing, the people suddenly were overcome with reverent fear and they “began to recognize God.” True evangelism will always point people to the Father, not to us. Remember, it is not about pleasing man. It is about pleasing the Father. Jesus was accused of many things. He was even accused of being a glutton and a drunk because He hung out with sinners. His response to this was wisdom is justified by her children. (vss 33-35) God will justify you. Do not attempt to justify yourself in the eyes of men. The fruit of your ministry will speak for itself. (Luke 6:42-44)
Training For Effective Evangelists: How did Jesus do it?
First of all, we must understand that often we wait for God’s power to come upon us so we can step out into ministry. In truth, God is waiting for us to step out into ministry so He can give us power. Also, we will never be perfect. Therefore, we cannot wait until we are to do the work of the Kingdom. We have to get past looking for perfection in ourselves and begin instead looking for fruitfulness.
Luke 9:1-5: Jesus gives His disciples authority and power to perform the miracles that will open people’s eyes. He trained them by saying, basically, “Don’t take anything with you. Trust me. If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, move on to the next place and try again. Now… ready, set, go!” Verse 6 says they went out and spread the gospel and restored the afflicted to health everywhere they went. Sounds pretty successful.
Luke 9:46-48: The first big problem happens. The disciples begin arguing over which of them were greater in the Kingdom. Possibly they were comparing themselves based on the exploits of their first romp as evangelists (vs 6). In any case, their first major mistake was one of pride. (Look up how often they Bible refers to God hating the proud and setting Himself against them. This is a major offense.) Still, Jesus simply talked with them. They were not disqualified because of their failure. We do not have to be changed entirely before we can be used. In truth, Jesus wants to use us and change us along the way.
Luke 9:49-50: Second big mistake. The disciples forbid a man to deliver people from demons simply because he was not part of their group. In other words, they said, “Hey! Stop delivering those people! You aren’t part of us! That’s our job!” Jesus response was to say, “If he isn’t against us, he is for us.” Jesus actually encouraged the man’s ministry. Still, the disciples were not disqualified, even though they were extremely territorial: even to the detriment of those they were supposed to be ministering to!
Luke 9:52-57: Third big mistake. Knowing a group of Samaritans would not receive Jesus and His disciples, James and John (the disciple known for his love) asked Jesus if He wanted them to kill the Samaritans with fire from heaven. Finally, Jesus rebukes them and says, “I have come to give them life and you are asking me if I want you to take their lives for my sake?” Still, Jesus used them, even though he told them they had a spirit of murder (which is in truth a demonic influence of murder).
What do you suppose Jesus did next? He did not say to them, “Alright. For the next six months you are all put on probation. I am taking back the power and authority I have given you until you learn to use it better. You’re going to go back over the fruit of the Spirit and the beatitudes. We’re going to keep going over this stuff until you get it. If you don’t have it in six months, you’re out of the program!” No… He didn’t nothing like this. Instead, He chose 70 more people who were less equipped than the twelve and sent them out as well! (Luke 10:1-2) They lacked character. They lacked discipline. They lacked maturity. They lacked love. Still, Jesus used them! He gave them His authority. And He wasn’t afraid they would screw it up. He desires for us to grow in all the places we lack, but we will only grow as we are walking in relationship with Him. To walk with relationship with Him means we will be doing what He is doing: that is reaching out to the list and needy.
When God’s power filled them, everything that was in them surfaced: pride, territoriality, even a spirit of murder. These things must come out in order that they can be dealt with effectively. As long as we can deny our faults, they can continue to rule our lives. In our culture, we teach people to act like Christians. Jesus shaped Christians.
Luke 10:17: The 70 returned to Jesus saying, “Hey! We saw demons cast out!” Jesus replied, “Well, I saw Satan fall from his place of authority in heaven!” God did not give Satan authority over earth. Man did (in the garden). When man is mobilized in faith and steps back into their place of authority, Satan is automatically displaced.
Eric Love, 5/1/2011
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