Sharing the Gospel 1 May 2011 Dr Paul Ferguson

I read a story recently of a farmer in China who was blinded by cataracts. His sight was wonderfully restored after he had the cataracts removed by a Christian doctor at a Christian mission clinic. Not many days later the doctor looked out the window of the clinic and saw the same farmer with a long rope. Attached to that rope were many blind Chinese peasants who had been rounded up by the once blind farmer. This farmer wanted his friends and neighbours to see just like he could. The same principle should be at work in all of us who were once “…dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and whom the devil “…hath blinded the minds of them which believe not….” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Once we were in darkness but now we have the light. This blessing should fill our hearts with gratitude and a love and determination to tell everyone around us of the same gift of eternal life we have received. Many of us cannot wait to tell the world about our latest promotion, our children’s examination results, and our rising property prices. But how many of us would boast in the Saviour who saved us from our sins? The joy of leading a precious soul to Christ is worth more than any of the accolades of this world, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3) To this the wise king Solomon adds, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). The rewards of the soul winner go on for much more than a million years! John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, echoed this when he wrote that at the Day of Judgment, ‘a smile or a kind look from Christ shall be worth more than ten thousand worlds’. On Resurrection Friday we were challenged from the pulpit to share the gospel with the world around us both in our words and deeds. In Acts 8 we have the first great evangelistic movement of the early Church outside Jerusalem. Notably, it was directed by the Lord not the Apostles. We are told, “….And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles”. (Acts 8:1). The Apostles fade temporarily out of the picture, but the work continues, as the focus in Acts in the growth of the Church is not on man but God. We are told of the ordinary members of the early church that “..they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). This verb translated “preaching” here is the Greek word “euaggelizo” where we get our English verb “to evangelize.” These believers had seen their leader Stephen brutally martyred; many were dragged from their homes and their possessions confiscated; some were savagely beaten and all were forced to flee their city for their lives. Instead of being intimidated or discouraged by the persecution and lying low, these saints talked about Jesus wherever they went. No wonder the early church turned the world upside down! All of us are called to share the gospel with our loved ones, neighbours, and friends. It is not a gift to a few select individuals but a command to every true believer (Matthew 28:19-20). This failure to shine for Christ to those around is serious for “..if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Corinthians 4:3). John Calvin put it bluntly, “If the gospel be not preached, Jesus Christ is, as it were, buried. Therefore, let us stand as witnesses, and do Him this honour, when we see all the world so far out of the way.” Apostle Paul’s Example The Apostle Paul was not just a renowned preacher, theologian, missionary, pastor but also a great personal witness of the grace of God to the lost. From the moment he was converted he had this

passion to share the Gospel. In 2 Corinthians 5, he gives three compelling reasons for seeking souls for Christ: (1) Rewards of God as Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). (2) Reality of hell as Paul warns, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….” (2 Corinthians 5:11). (3) Revealed love of Christ in him as Paul admits that “..the love of Christ constraineth us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Paul’s motivation was driven by the love of Christ that was shown to him. These truths were the heartbeat of this man’s life. In Acts 9 we read after he was saved that in Damascus “…straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God…. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him….And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:20, 23, 26). But Barnabas testified to the apostles that Paul “..had preached boldly at Damascus in the Name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). Despite this traumatic experience, Paul was not discouraged. In Jerusalem we read of Paul that, “..he spake boldly in the Name of the Lord Jesus…” (Acts 9:29). The Apostle engaged himself in ‘house-to-house evangelism’ (Acts 20:20). He even hired a room for daily evangelism (Acts 19:9). Paul boldly preached to rulers such as Felix (Acts 24:25) and to Agrippa (Acts 26:28-29) at his trial. When imprisoned, Paul preached to his guards (Acts 16:31; Philippians 1:12-13). This personal sharing of the gospel by Paul characterized his whole life. Once he was stoned at Lystra in Acts 14 to the point of death by a devil-inspired mob. When God miraculously touched his body, the Apostle did not sneak away but went back to witness in that very city. No wonder he did so much damage to the devil’s kingdom with persistence and courage like this. The book of Acts ends on a note of triumph. We see Paul a prisoner at Rome under house arrest, but victoriously preaching the Gospel “….with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). Though a prisoner in the hands of the Romans, he was free in spirit. His trial was delayed in the providence of God, and a door of utterance was therefore opened unto him. When Paul writes his prison epistle to the Philippians he adds in his closing words, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:22) Doubtless, these saints in Caesar’s court were saved through the witness and testimony of this great man. Challenge to Us No matter what the external conditions, the Word of God is never bound. Paul was in chains but the Gospel cannot be fettered. The early history of the Bible-Presbyterian Church was characterised by such a desire and a willingness to share Christ with the lost around us. Rev Timothy Tow wrote of its beginnings, “…the overall mandate to any and every church is what is known as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). However, I would also call the Great Commission ‘The First Commandment to the Church’. It would be a great mistake for any pastor to sit in his sheepfold and watch that none stray into another pasture. Such a defensive policy is defeatist. Rather, we should heed the Master’s call to bring in the other sheep, those wandering in faraway valleys or on mountain slopes, those who are crying for help. The First Commandment to the Church, as has been proven through the years, is evangelism and missions.” Despite this emphasis, Rev Tow reminded his readers, “we tend to grow cold from our initial enthusiasm, to deviate from the original pathway.” In 1960 the official population of Singapore was less than 2 million but in 2010 it passed 5 million persons. Sad to say the number of Bible-believing Christians (inclusive of Bible-Presbyterians), instead of increasing has declined proportionately throughout this period. Leading souls to Christ is the greatest job on earth. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Few things in the Christian life

bring more joy than to see someone’s life transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, the Easter season has passed many of us by and we are unmoved. Too many believers today are apathetic, careless, preoccupied with self, and indifferent about the perishing souls around us. We are comfortable with the ‘status quo’ and frankly don’t want anything that upsets our carefully laid plans and ambitions for our families. Contemplate on this - we have the only answer to the needs of others, yet how few of us are willing to speak a word for Christ. Tengah members - who have you witnessed to recently? For whose salvation have you prayed most fervently this year? Do you pray for opportunities to share the love of Christ with others? My challenge to every believer is to pray earnestly that God would use you to lead one lost soul to Christ this year. Will you join me in this prayer? Grace Reese Adkins summed up the heart of every true Christian when she penned thus, “By and by when I look on His face, Beautiful face, thorn shadowed face; By and by when I look on His face, I’ll wish I had given Him more.

More, so much more, More of my life than I e’er gave before By and by when I look on His face, I’ll wish I had given Him more.”