20 June 2020
The Challenge facing the Church and Christians
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come to see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
The Apostle Paul was calling for integrity in our Christianl life – our conduct is to be in keeping with our calling, with our repentance, with our Lord and with the God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. There is to be no dichotomy between what we profess and what we practise, between what we say and what we are. We may wonder how this is related to evangelism and how this can encourage fellow believers to press on in their faith. The messenger of the gospel message must reflect the reality of his message. If we claim to be Christians, we must be like Christ. We may not realise it fully but the message is not just communicated through words we say but also effectively through the lives we live.
Satan may oppose believers who seek to evangelise and to encourage fellow believers through attacking the mind (with false and distorted teachings), the morals with temptation and the physical with persecution but Paul’s call to stand firm indicates God’s ability to ‘establish’ His people.
What is clear is that bad behaviour discredits the gospel, while good behaviour adorns and commends the gospel. When Christians care for each other and for the deprived, Jesus Christ becomes more visibly attractive.
We are not only to stand firm in the gospel ourselves, but to fight for it in the public arena as well. It is a combination of evangelism and apologetics, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, with a prayerful spirit. It is not enough to proclaim the good news; we have also to defend and confirm it. The apostles did not separate these tasks. The Apostle Paul sum up his ministry by stating “we persuade people” (2 Cor. 5:11). Luke describes Paul doing so – reasoning with people out of the Scriptures and convincing them of its truth. Paul told Festus that what he was saying is true and reasonable (Acts 26:25).
The Holy Spirit brings people to faith in Jesus Christ through our words, our reasonings and persuasion when He enlightens their minds to perceive the truth and feel the force of our own message.
To defend the gospel and the truth and to confirm it requires us to know and understand our faith. It requires us to be students of the Bible and to be able to ‘handle the Word of truth’ faithfully and accurately. To persuade non-believers and to reason with them implies that we should be aware of how they think and what are the areas of objections and confusion they carry in their minds and understanding.
Above all else, we desire to bear witness to the supreme authority of the Word of God, the atoning efficacy of the cross of Christ and the indispensable ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Word, the cross and the Spirit, have a special place of honour in our thinking as we share the gospel and encourage the brethren as we wrestle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Without the Bible we would grope and stagger in thick darkness. Without the cross we would flounder in the deep waters of guilt and alienation, with no mercy, no redemption, no forgiveness and no hope. Without the indwelling Spirit we would be the helpless victims of indwelling sin, of pathetic self-effort and so of unremitting failure.
We have seen that humanism teaches that man is at the centre and is independent and autonomous; ‘ man has come of age’ and can dispense with the traditional notion of God and of salvation. Jesus teaches us about our dependence on God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in our evangelism, in our ministry, in our lives, we always need to express our humble dependence on the Trinity – on God and HIs Word, on Christ and His cross, on the Holy Spirit and His work.
Throughout eternity the redeemed will attribute their salvation to HIm who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. There is no place for human boasting.
“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
God is absolutely sovereign. No one, no force, nothing can stop the fulfilment of God’s purpose. We have seen the far reaching power of the evil one and noted him to be a formidable foe but his days are numbered and no matter what he does, his place is reserved for him in the ‘lake of fire’. We need to cling to our God and know that He would enable us to persevere to the end and to bring along with us those who believe through our words and our lives. May God alone be glorified!