Monday, January 14, 2008

New Year 2008 Message: Why We Must Preach the Gospel

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 6th January 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

The Apostles and Prophets represent the Revelation of God in the Old and New Testament. The churches of all generations are built upon the teaching of the apostles and the prophets. They are the foundation of the church, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. The teaching of the apostles and the prophets all point to Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ.

And upon these foundation of the church, God has given the Church 3 main ministries: evangelism, pastoral ministry and teaching. Preaching the gospel is the first requirement. It is the call to be witnesses to the world so that sinners might be brought before the presence of God. After these people come to the church, we need to pastor their spirituality and teach them the right doctrines. Preaching is like giving birth to a child. A church that does not preach the gospel is suicidal. After the child is born, he needs to be nurtured and educated so that he might grow up, mature and become healthy. But it is no good just to be healthy but remain ignorant. If you do not take care of the child, he will be sick. If he is not taught, he will be ignorant.

People come to the church through the gospel and grow through pastoral ministry. But these are not enough. They must learn to differentiate between good and evil. So they need to learn doctrines. The Apostle Paul said he knew whom he believed in. Christians need to understand the foundation of their faith.

Focusing on the first ministry in this session, the following are the reasons why we need to preach the gospel.

1. It is God’s will

Every Christian is required to obey God’s will. Preachers can preach the gospel and every believer can preach the gospel too. We need to have a solemn attitude towards God’s will. How important is God’s will? John Calvin said there is nothing greater than the will of God than God Himself. God is the Lord of all universe. His will is greater than all wills.

If we honor God, we will be obedient to His will. His will is serious and profound. If He has not willed, there is no heaven and earth. All things exists because of His will in creation. If He has not willed, there is no salvation. Salvation came about because of God’s will in redemption. Because of God’s will in creation, all things exist. Because of God’s will in redemption, we are saved. Because of God’s will in revelation, we can understand God’s truth. God’s will is very great and profound. Therefore we are not to take the name of God in vain and say “the will of God” haphazardly.

God’s will is different from God’s guidance. God’s will is that we are to be holy. But in the guidance of God, some will get married and some will not. But whether married or not, we are to live a holy life. Similarly, it is God’s will that we preach the gospel. Some are guided to be preachers, some are not. But whether we are preachers or not, we are to preach the gospel. A preacher preaches the gospel as his profession, but a normal Christian preaches in his lifestyle. Preaching the gospel is not God’s guidance, it is God’s will. Whether preacher or layperson, we must preach the gospel.

2. It is the command of Jesus Christ

Jesus said if we love Him we will follow His command. Christians have to love God and obey His command. Jesus Christ gave two great commands to us. The first one is internal and the second one is external.

Before Jesus was betrayed, He gave a new command to His disciples to love one another. Why is this a new command? Because in the Old Testament, we are commanded to love God. This encompasses the first 4 of the 10 commandments, that is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second one is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is is the Old Testament. But the Old Testament does not say to love one another. Love here becomes mutual responsibility. If we love each other, people will know we are Christ’s disciples. That is the mark of a true disciple of Christ. As Jesus said, the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. We prove we are Christ’s disciples through our love.

Reaching out externally, Christ commanded us to go to all the world and preach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He will be with us until the end of age. Therefore, based on this command, we must preach the gospel.

3. The love of Christ compels us

We know Jesus has died for us. Those of us who live should live for Him because He died for us. The Apostle Paul continued to preach the gospel despite all the sufferings and dangers he constantly faced because he was compelled by the love of Christ. He was internally motivated to preach the gospel. Whether a preacher is good or bad can be ascertained by how he is motivated in preaching the gospel. If he does it for any personal reason it is of no value. But if it is because of the love of Christ, it is of a great value.

We love because Christ first loved us. His Holy Spirit works in our hearts. The extent to which we understand His love is based on how much we understand His sufferings. The more we understand His sufferings, the more we know how to love Him. We will do things people will not do, suffer what people will not suffer, because we are inspired by God’s love. He receives a supernatural power that surpasses his own ability and experiences. When we love someone, we are willing to die and challenge all our limitations. Nothing can stop us. No danger can frighten us.

Do we want to preach the gospel? It is not just a matter of studying and doing well in exams. We need to be inspired by the love of Christ, and then relentlessly we will continue to preach the gospel so that others can share in the blessings.

When we are compelled internally, it is no longer our choice. We no longer have the freewill to go against it. All of a sudden, we move from being active to becoming passive. The great wave moves us. There is no way for us to do differently. The Apostle Paul said the love of Christ compels us. His power to subdue us is greater than our power to refuse. This is what it means by the power of Christ overcoming us. We will become willing to work harder than usual. Do we have such experience? When we look at the unsaved, the lost sinners, how do we feel?

4. This is the need of men

Only Christ can see the true need of men. When we are richer, we think we need better things. We sell off our old car and buy a new car. We change our furnitures and lifestyle. We have more high class enjoyment. The concept of better living is different for different people. But the more meaningful better living is to enjoy deeper culture, art, morality, truth, greater form of music, purer form of love, closeness to God. This is better living which surpasses material changes. If we do not increase in knowledge and become better in character, and we clothe ourselves with all kinds of jewelleries, it is just like a pig with a lot of expensive clothes and jewelleries on it.

What we truly need is God’s love, the light of God’s truth and the touch of the Holy Spirit. And in our lives we should desire a part in contribution to mankind. The greatest of all need is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is very paradoxical, because while this is men’s greatest need it is also the need that men are most insensitive about. That is why it is so hard to preach the gospel. People really need it but they do not know they need it. Church has a problem where they only preach to those who come, rather than going out to preach the gospel. For people to come, we need to go and get them to come. On one hand, we know they need the gospel. On the other hand, they do not think they need the gospel. Few people are willing to become preachers. When we truly want to consider it, we become calculative. Our experience tells us that people do not feel their need so we continue to get rejected.

This is the paradox of the gospel. It is God’s will and it is also the hardest to obey. We see this in many things. Can we live without eating and drinking? We cannot. Can we live without breathing? We cannot. Breathing is more important than drink, and drink is more important than food. Air is more important than water and water is more important than food. We can live without food for 3 days, but we will die without water for 3 days. And we will die without air for 3 minutes. But the more important thing is cheaper. We never pay a single cent for oxygen. We pay for our drink and pay even more for food. The most important thing cannot be bought with money. And the most expensive things in monetary terms are the things we do not really need.

We must preach the gospel. The Apostle Paul said woe to him if he does not preach the gospel. Whatever he does is for the gospel. His hardwork, his debates, his sufferings, his death, all he does, are all for the sake of the gospel. How many Christians are able to declare this? Apostle Paul said he wants others to share the gospel blessings. Preaching the gospel is the true act that gets us out of our selfishness. God had fulfilled his need so he wanted to meet others’ need of the gospel.

5. We are indebted redeemed sinners

The more we have a sense of debt, the better we can live our lives. Do we know it when we owe people something? The attitude of a perfect person is one who is aware of his debt. Why are we rude to others? Because we do not think we owe them any manners. Why do we not honor people? Because we do not think we owe anyone honor. We will enter into perfection when we see what we owe. A truly humble person does not think he is humble. A person moving towards perfection knows that he is imperfect.

If we do not feel that we are indebted to God to preach the gospel, we will not preach it. The Apostle Paul sensed it very deeply.

What sort of attitude do we have in preaching the gospel? D.L. Moody said he could not sleep if he had not preached the gospel for one day. He was not evangelist only to the masses, but he was very diligent in his personal evangelism.

May we make a covenant with God in this new year that we will be fruitful for Him, to be obedient to His will, to be constrained by His Spirit, to be inspired and have a sense of debt to God so that we are willing to share the gospel with others.


At 1:33 AM, Blogger Darren said...

i think u made a mistake with the date. Should be 2008 instead of 2007. :)

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Corrected the date already, thanks!


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