This weekend was our church camp. 100 adults and what felt like 3500 kids spent Saturday through Monday in the Magaliesburg (um, actually it was more like Hekpoort but there where mountains in the background) at the Scripture Union campground. The speaker was a guy named Joel. He and his family come from Grace Fellowship in Pretoria. The focus of the weekend was the message, the methods and the motivation of evangelism.
On Saturday Joel spent time scanning the book of Acts looking at what Peter and Paul believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be. It basically boiled down to: “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.”
All stories have a beginning and this one starts in Luke 24:46 – 47 where the risen Jesus Christ commissions His disciples to spread the Gospel. Jesus’ words were:
Luke wrote two books, the first was his Gospel account and after completing it he wrote a sequel, the book of Acts. In Acts 2:22 – 24, 38 Peter is standing up in front of the assembled Jews in Jerusalem. The big question is: What will this fishman say? Will he chicken out, he’d done it before, remember the three denials of Christ? Rather, emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands and delivers the Gospel once delivered to all the saints:
And then a little later, to finish the whole message off, he says:
Anyway, stories progress as stories do and Acts rolls down the railway track of time. Now what’s in the thinking mans head is: Would the Gospel change with time? With popularity? With pressure? Would Peter and the rest of the gang exchange Jesus’ Good News for a mansion in Bethany? For a leather trimmed carriage or a gold dinner service? Would it become more people friendly? A bit more bling? Would Peter or Paul reduce it to a name it and claim it prosperity counterfeit? In Acts 3:13 – 15, 19 , 26 Peter again is preaching to the masses:
mmm, that sounds familiar. Later he caps it off with:
As the proverbial Gospel train moves on down the evangelistic railroad track the clackity clang of consistently is, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins…”
Well Acts is an epic not a short story. There’s a whole lot of different scenes set at different times. A few chapters later Peter is facing major opposition. He’s in jail, locked up for preaching that same old message, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent…” you get the picture.
Anyway, Peter is in jail. His back is up against the wall. Is he going to change his tune? Remember, he did before. Well Acts 5:19 – 20, 29 – 31 is the message he preaches on his miraculous release:
After that kind of reminder what would you do? Preach the whole message? What message?
Mmm, clackity clang, clackity clang, the Gospel train remains on the track (get the rhyming couplet?). “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sin.”
Acts is a longish book as books go (like 28 chapters) and it covers a fairly long period of time in the early church. You see Peter started out only chatting to the Jews about Christ but pretty soon everyone wanted to get in on the deal. While chatting to a Roman named Cornelius Peter entered into a whole new game. The Roman mind was different to the Jewish mind. So big question: Would Peter change his tune? Acts 10:39 – 40, 43 records the interaction:
And a little later:
Well all fair and good but if you know anything about the disciples you probably know that Peter was a fisherman. Fishermen were not exactly known for their intellectual powerness and wirely wit. Maybe he had just got on the Gospel train and now didn’t know how to get off? Well step in Paul. This guy was sophisticated, Theologically training, well read, connected and considered the brain of his day. One day he was persecuting Christians and the next he was one. But the big question is: Would he have the brains to change the message to fit the day? Well we can peer into his first recorded sermon in Acts 13:28 – 30, 38:
Um, Paul, that’s half the story. He adds:
Toot toot, toot toot. You hear that? It’s the Gospel train, repetitively sounding out the same old one track sound, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins…”
Well, Paul got into hot water as well (Are Christians doomed to forever be in conflict?). Towards the end of the book of Acts he’s standing before a puppet ruler and a Roman governor giving a defence for the nonsense that he’s been running around Judea and the whole Roman Empire proclaiming. Anyway, what do you think he does with his defense? What would you do? Of course, he turns it into a Gospel presentation. It’s recorded in Acts 26:18 – 20, 22 – 23:
Um Paul, aren’t you forgetting something? Next verses:
mmm, sorry for the poor review but I started writing about the content and couldn’t stop. Joel was great. The content was simple to understand and clearly conveyed. Thing is if you made it this far I’d like to ask you a question? What do you think the Gospel is? What are you being taught it is? Is it watered down to a lucky packet answer to life’s problems? Is it a liberation messages from the struggles of this life? Is it not really talked about? Could you articulate it? Do you think you’re a Christian but other than what Christians do (go to church, do good stuff, save bunnies from forest fires) you have little idea of what Christians believe?
If the church that you’re attending isn’t preaching that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the God-man, came to earth, died on a cross as a substitute for sinners, if the church that you’re attending isn’t preaching that on the third day God rose Him from the grave, a conquerer, if the church you’re attending isn’t preaching that you’re a worthless sinner in need of the perfect savior… Then walk out the door and find a group of Christians who do!