Body Life Witness

Lawrence Richard Walters always dreamed of flying. He wanted to be a pilot in the U.S. Air Force but was unable due to his poor eyesight. However, his dream never diminished. On July 2, 1982, at the age of 33 Larry took one of the most unique flights. It was unique because he took flight in a lawn chair![1] Larry, nicknamed, “Lawnchair Larry” built his homemade aircraft from an ordinary patio chair tied to 45 helium filled weather balloons. On this flight his travel baggage consisted of a parachute, CB radio, pellet gun (to shoot the balloons when decreasing altitude), sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera. His flight was semi-successful in that it worked, but got into trouble because the chair rose rapidly to a height of 15,000 feet drifting over Long Beach, CA and into the airspace of Long Beach Airport. After 45-minutes in the air he was able to shoot several balloons to descend but got tangled in some power lines, causing a 20-minute blackout in Long Beach. He then was able to climb out.

He was immediately greeted by authorities who arrested him. When reporters asked him why he attempted this flight he responded, “A man can’t just sit around.”

As we’ve looked at the early church we cannot help but see their eager devotion. They were men and women who were passionate about Jesus Christ. Their lives were transformed in seeing him crucified and resurrected. They hearts burned within them saying, “We cannot just sit around… we must go and tell the world about Jesus.”

We’ve looked at: Body Life – Gospel Fellowship, Gospel Teaching, (this one) Gospel Witness

Throughout history, the church has had an unsurpassable influence on civilizations, on culture, on the arts, music, entertainment, on education, medicine, technology and national freedoms and of course on countless individual lives.

The church must continue to advance God’s kingdom and extend its influence outside its walls and buildings. It has a mandate from Jesus,

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2:42-47
How does this happen? How do God’s people gain the favor of all the people? Is there joy in communities across our nation because of the church? To make it personal, is there joy in our community because of our church? Does the community see us as a valued presence or are we simply just taking up real estate? One more to drive the point home, if our church did not exist what would not get done in our community? That answer reveals not only the focus of our church but the direction we need to move toward in fulfilling our gospel witness.

We will look at this subject but allow me to remind you of a previous quote from Michael Green, regarding how gospel witness and evangelism spreads out from the church to the community:

“If we want the gospel to spread in the community of which we are a part, we would be unwise to start with some evangelistic outreach. We would be much better employed in paying attention to the quality of our church life. That is going to be the magnet to draw others to the Jesus who has made us into his body…; This love, this cohesiveness, this hospitality is no less vital today. Why should God add people to his church until there is something warm and loving for him to add them to? He does not hatch chickens in order to put them into deep freezers… [2]

Acts 8:1-8     “great joy in that city”

The early church witness spread out just like Acts 1:8 described, from a warm center in Jerusalem and Judea. This passage in Acts 8 describes the spread into Samaria.

Samaria was an idolatrous city. Jews hated Samaritans because they were a mix race (half-breeds) of Jews & Gentiles. Nonetheless, Jesus’ disciples obeyed the Great Commission by following his example (John 4) and going to Samaria.

The impetus that led the disciples to Samaria was persecution in Jerusalem. It made them scatter outward from Jerusalem. We must remember that God has a plan in all things, even persecution and challenges the church faces. Sometimes it takes such a crisis to cause the church to think outwardly and move them to fulfilling His greater mission. Their persecuted dispersion led to the growth of a movement.

Body life gospel witness is boundless (8:4-5).
The disciples preached the word “wherever they went”. One of the disciples, Philip went into the city of Samaria. There he preached Christ. Going to Samaria was a major step in the advancement of the gospel. It shows the gospel is not just for a select few (the Jews) but it (He – God) is for all people. The gospel is boundless in that it crosses all barriers rather they be geographic, economic, racial or gender.[3]

This boundless is the point of the gospel and the book of Acts. It starts in Acts 1:8 and moves to the expansion of the gospel in Acts 8 and to the ends of the earth from chapters 13 and following. The concluding statement in Acts is worth noting,  “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” The reader gets the impression that Christianity will never stop and indeed that’s the point. In a sense, the church today is Acts chapter 29, continuing the boundless story.

Apply: This message was not meant to be kept in. Remember Lawnchair Larry – “we can’t just sit around”. Who has God positioned in your life to communicate the gospel?

–          Challenge you to mentally list 5 people who need the gospel.
INVEST: in a relationship with them to genuinely care
INVITE: them to church, events, Easter
INCARNATE: live it out, you are a walking gospel

Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Body life gospel witness is Christ-filled (8:4-5).
Philip went to Samaria for the purpose of preaching Christ. He did not go for a religious vacation (contra many contemporary mission trips). He had a sense of urgency in his message. Christians around him were being persecuted and paying the ultimate price as a martyr. He proclaimed Jesus Christ – a man, accredited by God, crucified, resurrected and reigning as Lord (Acts 2).

When you witness to others it must include the gospel. There can be many good deeds that we do to help others but if it fails to be accompanied with the gospel then we have failed in God’s purpose.

Someone said, “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” The intention of this statement is that our lives reflect and incarnate what it means to know and love Jesus. But it loses power when we fail to communicate the reason. The early disciples not only preached Jesus with their lives but also with their words. They said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help SPEAKING about what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20). The gospel must be shared with our words. One of my former pastors says about this statement, “It’s like saying tell me your phone number, if necessary use digits.” [4]

Body life gospel witness is people-caring (8:6-8).
God allowed the preaching of the gospel to also be accompanied with miraculous signs. He did this so that people would see the sign and look toward the Savior, or the healing and see the Healer. It wasn’t a magic show on display. It was deep revelation about the power of the gospel to enter and transform a life.

Evil spirits were exorcised, the paralyzed and crippled were healed and there was great joy in the city. The city experienced joy because they listened and believed in Jesus. Christians are called to care about the city and people around them just the same. They are called to bring healing wherever they are. This does not necessarily mean that we can do miracles on demand. But it does mean we attempt to offer care and compassion in the name of Jesus. And, many times God will show us the miraculous ways He provides. Healing has multiple dimensions. The call is for Christians to be obedience and leave the results to God.

TAKING IT HOME

  • What does it mean for a community to have joy?
  • Is there joy in our community because of our church?
  • Does the community see us as a valued presence? Why or Why not? If our church did not exist what would not get done in our community? What is God saying to you about these questions?
  • What are some of the implications for you and our church that the gospel is boundless? (cf. Invest – Invite – Incarnate)
  • Have you seen the gospel communicated without words? Share examples.
  • Explain why it is necessary to use ‘words’ when communicating the gospel? (cf Romans 10:17)
  • Where can SPBC offer hope and healing to our community? 
  • Will you unite with our church that we can be a witness?

  


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW5ZLFHTwLc

[2] Michael Green, 30 Years That Changed The World, pp.48, 37

[3] This weekend celebrates the life of MLK Jr. He fought for racial equality but note he was not the first. The “dream” started with Jesus. King pointed people to God’s dream. In Letters from a Birmingham Jail he said, “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” King’s dream understood that the point of the gospel was to be boundless for all peoples. Therefore, any issues of race, class or discrimination is ultimately a prejudice against God.

[4] See http://www.challies.com/archives/general-news/its-always-nece.php, http://twitter.com/pastorjdgreear

2 comments

  1. You asked, “Is there joy in our community because of our church?”

    Honestly, I don’t think so. I think we’re such a fraud. Myself included. We act like we’re joyful inside, when we were angry in the car on the way to church, then we put on our masks to make people think we’re doing okay. I wish we were honest with each other. The world sees us and says, “I see no change, what’s the point?”

    If joy is a fruit, then it doesn’t just grow in one day. It has to be grown and cultivated over time and I think we as Christians think if we don’t have joy then something must be wrong so we try to act like we do have it.

    I relate so much to Nicodemus in the bible because of my questions and doubts and wanting to know who Jesus is. That’s the reason why I named my blog after him. There’s so much pressure to fit a certain type of mold as a Christian and it’s unhealthy. I think joy starts to grow and happens when we’re honest with ourselves and not acting like we have it all together.

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

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