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Christ Commands and Confirms the Spread of the Gospel (Mark Sermon 90)

Series: Mark

Christ Commands and Confirms the Spread of the Gospel (Mark Sermon 90)

May 26, 2024 | Andy Davis
Mark 16:15-20
The Gospel, Exclusivity of Christ, Evangelism

Salvation only started when Jesus died on the cross, and it doesn't end there. Join Jesus in his ongoing mission to spread this incredible news of eternal life!

-Sermon Transcript -

As we come to the end of the Gospel of Mark this sermon... next sermon, there'll be one more summary at the end, God willing, we really come to the point of everything. We come to the point of it all. There is a purpose and a reason why God created the universe. We believe in eternity past, that the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit before anything was created at all, existed in perfect fellowship, in a loving fellowship, one with another. It was not out of need at all that He created the universe but out of a sense of generosity that He might create a context whereby He could reveal Himself to sentient beings, angels and humans who would be able to know and appreciate His glory and be delighted in it and be happy in it and have fellowship with Him. That is why God created the universe.

But sin intervened, stepped in. Adam sinned on our behalf. And we all fell in Adam, we all sinned in Adam.  We became what Isaiah 9 calls “the people walking in darkness”, the people who do not see the glory of God, do not understand it. But God sent His son to be the light of the world, and He has rescued us out of the dominion of darkness. He's given us spiritual eyes. The eyes of our hearts have been enlightened, if we're Christians. We have seen the glory of God in Christ. We have been saved, we have been redeemed, and though we see only a little of that glory... as it says in one Corinthians 13, "We see through a glass darkly," someday we're going to see it clearly face to face, and that brings us great joy.

But why are we still here? Having come to salvation, having received the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith, having received the forgiveness of sins and adoption, why are we still here in this sin-cursed world?  I believe that part of the answer to that is we are here for the glory of God in the salvation of others who have not yet crossed over from death to life. We're here to be witnesses. We're here to become fishers of men, that we will be instrumental in the hands of God to draw people out of Satan's dark kingdom. That is part of the reason why we're still here.

"We are here for the glory of God in the salvation of others who have not yet crossed over from death to life. We're here to be witnesses. We're here to become fishers of men, that we will be instrumental in the hands of God to draw people out of Satan's dark kingdom."

I also believe we're here to grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ to become more and more conformed to Christ, to be like Jesus more and more in our minds, in our hearts and our lives to grow in holiness. Those things are not different from each other. They are conformed together, that we begin to see other people the way Jesus did. When He looked out at the crowds, He saw that they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, and His heart went out to them, and He said, "The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out labors into his harvest here." That was His heart when He saw them and He saw their true spiritual condition.

The text you just heard read is one of five different versions of the Great Commission given to disciples at the end of the life of Jesus on earth. He commands us, His church, His people to go into all the world and preach the good news, the Gospel to all creation and to put people who hear that message at the fork in the road. If they believe and are baptized, they'll be saved. If they do not believe, they'll be condemned. That's the text we're looking at today, that’s the calling.

I. Christ’s Mission Continues

We come to the point of Jesus' mission, why He came from heaven to earth. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, period. That saving work of Jesus Christ was only begun during His time on earth. When He died and rose again, it only began. The blood of the Passover lamb that dreadful night, the night of the 10th plague in Egypt had to be shed, but then it had to be painted on the doorposts and the lintels of the house for the angel of death to pass over. The redemption by the Passover lamb had to be accomplished and applied. Also, Jesus' blood, having been shed, then has to be spiritually applied to sinners all around the world. That is the purpose of Jesus' continuing mission in the world, the application through the Holy Spirit of God, the application of His shed blood to individual sinners for their forgiveness. That is the work that we are about here at First Baptist Church.

The unifying message of Mark’s Gospel, it starts Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” essential to the Gospel message, is the identity of this person, Jesus Christ, declared to be the Son of God. The whole Gospel of Mark unfolds details and dimensions of that truth, that Jesus is the Son of God.

The NIV has the phrase, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Other translation simply say, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."The word “gospel” means “good news”. The word in English accurately translates the Greek grammar in the simplest sense of, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that “of” mean? It's either the good news from Jesus or it could be the good news that Jesus proclaimed, “of" meaning “origin” there;  the message that came from Jesus or, as the translation says, it could be “about”. It's the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the end both are true. This is the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed, but it is also the about Jesus Himself.  It is marvelous then to think of Jesus not as merely the messenger of a message we now take on and proclaim, the good news that Jesus proclaim, but that He actually is the good news itself. He is the good news. He is the Gospel.

In another place in Matthew 13:44, He said this, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hit it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." A treasure box hidden in the fields. I believe Jesus is that treasure, and I believe He is worth selling everything you have in your life so that you can buy that field and own the treasure.

Paul said in Colossians 2:3, "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." When you open up that treasure box, that box hidden in the field, you're going to find all wisdom and all knowledge. But wisdom and knowledge are not the only treasures you're going to find hidden in Christ. We also find perfect love. We find total forgiveness of sins. We find reconciliation with Almighty God. We find access to the throne of God. We find a promised eternal inheritance in heaven for each one of us who have believed. We find, in that treasure box, resurrection from the dead and life forevermore, and infinite other treasures besides.

Christ is infinite and immeasurable treasure, most of it hidden from our minds in this world. We'll never get to the 1,000,000th of a percent of the treasure that Jesus is in this life, and therefore I believe in a eternal education, in the glory of Christ, in heaven. Forever and ever and ever we'll be learning how glorious He is. We'll never stop. Jesus is the treasure hidden in the field.

The Gospel, the good news, is not merely a message that He proclaimed, He is the good news. His incarnation is good news. His perfect, sinless life, perfectly fulfilling the two great commandments, the only man that's ever done it in history, is good news. His astonishing miracles are good news. His astounding teachings, unlike any teacher had ever lived, is good news. His fulfillment of all of those Old Testament prophecy, fulfillment of prophecy is good news. His substitutionary death on the cross, giving His life as a ransom in your place is good news. His bodily resurrection from the dead, defeating death forever for us is good news. His promise to return to earth someday and establish an eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God is good news.

Christ's mission to earth began in His life on earth almost 2,000 years ago, but it continues. Mark starts with a statement, “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  The Holy Spirit's not just saying through Mark that Mark 1:1 is the first of 679 verses that will come in the Gospel of Mark. This is the beginning. I think it's more than that. Rather, it's that Jesus' mission to earth was just beginning with His short, His brief life on earth. It was just starting. Jesus Himself had more work to do even at the end.

Luke makes the continuation clear in Acts 1:1-2. There, he says, "In my former book, Theophilus," [Gospel of Luke], "I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach." I love that word, “began”. That was just the start, [Gospel of Luke] of all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up to heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.  In our text today, if you look at it, Mark makes it just as clear. Look at verses 19-20 of Mark 16, "After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven. And He sat at the right hand of God. Then, the disciples went out and preached everywhere," listen, "the Lord working with them or worked with them, confirming His word by the signs that accompanied it." There's Jesus up in heaven continuing His work at the right hand of God. This is just the beginning, the beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is continuing His saving mission to sinners in this cursed world.

II. What Christ Commands of the World

What does Christ command of the world? There is a command given to the world shortly after that initial statement in Mark 1:1. He gives this command, Mark 1:15, "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." That is a command given to the world worldwide. "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel." That's the command He gives. It's the command of the Gospel. From Almighty God through His only begotten son, Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the church messengers to the world, this command is given, “repent and believe.” The Gospel is good news to be believed, but it's also a command to be obeyed. It is a command from God to sinners that they must obey.

Paul picks up on this in Romans 1:5, "Through Him, and for his namesake, we," Paul and the other apostles, "we receive grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience of faith." Or one translation has “the obedience that comes from faith." Faith produces obedience to the king, to God, the king.  Again in Acts 17:30, Paul preaching there says, "In the past, God overlooks such ignorance," idolatrous pagan religions, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent." This is a command from God to repent.

When I meditate on this and consider myself and my role as an evangelist, I realize I'm an ambassador from almighty God and I'm going to a rebel, I'm not going there begging and pleading and sniveling, I'm going there as a messenger from God, the king who's commanding that sinner to repent. That doesn't mean you have to be mean or harsh or have an angry look on your face, none of that. But the fact is we are messengers of a God who is telling sinners to throw down their weapons of rebellion against His kingly rule. He's commanding them to repent. It's a command. These two commands of the Gospel, “repent and believe.” Those are the two basic commands of the Gospel, repent and believe.

What does that mean? Repent literally means to “think differently.” That's the meaning in the Greek. It's the meaning also in the Latin that is the basis of our English word, “repent”. It means to think differently, have a different mind, a change of mind resulting in a change of life, a radical transformation of how you think, resulting in a transformation of how you live. That's what repent means, “to turn away from sin to God."

“Believe” means, I think, “to see with the eyes of the heart”. I believe that faith is the eyesight of the soul by which we see invisible spiritual realities. It is the ability to see invisible things and to know that they're true. The invisible truths of the good news, of the Gospel, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, though you have never seen Him and you don't see Him now. Believe that He died on the cross in your place for your sins, though you didn't see any of that. Believe that He rose from the dead on the third day, though the only evidence you have for that is written in the pages of this book. You've never seen it, but you believe that it's true and that He offers full forgiveness of sins to any who will repent and believe. That's what it means to believe the Gospel.

The reason for this is there's a sense of urgency. The time has come and the Kingdom of God is at hand, meaning it's right here. There is no time to waste. Time is of the essence. There's an urgency here. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Today is the day of salvation." We don't know if we'll be alive tomorrow. As James says, "You don't know what tomorrow will bring." You don't even know if you'll be alive tomorrow. The Kingdom of God is at hand, coming. It's right here. It's not distant, it's right here. God, the king here, and He's calling on people to repent. Time is essential. Salvation is eternal, eternity in heaven, a place where there is no more death, mourning, crying, or pain; free forever from those things, an eternity in a world like that, a glorious world.

But on the other hand, an eternity of condemnation for those who do not believe, who do not repent and believe. Whoever does not believe will be condemned. Condemnation, Jesus taught, is terrifying. No one in the Old Testament ever taught so clearly about hell as Jesus did in His teaching ministry. He was very, very clear about hell as a place of eternal conscious torment. Mark 9, "If your hand caused you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell where the fire never goes out." Five verses later, "Where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, where existence is upheld by the sovereign God, and so also is the fire that brings about torment." If people say it's just a metaphor, it's like the reality is worse than the metaphor. It's terrifying. Jesus came from heaven to earth and suffered and bled and died on the cross so that people who believed in Him would not have to experience that eternal conscious torment. There is an urgency in this Gospel work. We're surrounded by people who are on their way to hell, surrounded by people who are on their way to being condemned justly for their sins.  That's what Christ commands of the world. 

III. What Commands of His Church

What does He command of us, His church? As I said, there are five great commissions, so-called, that have essentially the same message, but they're all different from each other. It's beautiful how Matthew's version is different than Mark's version, which is different than Luke's version, which is different than John's version. And it's different than the version given in Acts 1:8. They're all different, and they all contribute something, but they tell the same basic message.

Our version here, Mark 15: 16, Jesus said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." He commands us to go and preach. Those are the commands given to the church, to go and proclaim the message. The proclamation of that Word, the proclamation of the words about Jesus, His life, His death, His resurrection, and the theology of salvation wrapped up in Jesus' mission, those words are the power of God for salvation to sinners who believe. Our job is a words task. It's not the only thing we do, but fundamentally, the call here is to proclaim words.

Paul says in Romans 10 very plainly, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." The universal statement to every human being in every context. "Everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved." How then can they call on the one they've not believed in? Before they call, like the verse tells them to do, they have to first believe in the Lord Jesus. And how can they believe in one of whom they have never heard? You need the facts about Jesus before you can believe. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? That's the work of the church, to give them the facts they need to be saved. And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

According to Scripture, we have been sent. Jesus said in John's Gospel, "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." We are sent. Then a few verses later in Romans 10:17, it says, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Our task is to proclaim the words of the Gospel to lost people in the hope that they will repent and believe those words and be saved.

The extent of the Great Commission is to go into all the worlds and preach the Gospel to all creation. That's Mark's version, all the world, all creation. Matthew's is probably the most famous of the five great commissions. Matthew 28, 18-20, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I'm with you always, even to the end of the age." In Matthew's version, it's “all nations,” go and make disciples of all nations, with the end that having become a disciple, they obey all the commands. It's a comprehensive life obedience, teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you. This is going to happen in all areas of human history. "And surely I'm with you always, even to the end of the age," all nations, all commands all time.

In both Matthew and Mark, baptism is an essential sign of discipleship. Mark says it in verse 16, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Matthew 28 says, "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, of the Holy Spirit.”  A disciple is a learner, a follower of the master of Jesus, the great teacher. We're disciples. We follow him and not just cognitively agreeing or assenting to his teachings, but with our lives obeying and following his pattern. That's what a disciple is. But in order for that, we have to be obedient to the master, we have to be obedient to the king, and so an initial test of obedience is water baptism. We don't believe that water baptism is essential for salvation because a thief in the cross was not water baptized. Paul says, "God did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel." If water baptism were required for salvation, he would never have made such a careless statement. It's not water baptism that saves. However, having been genuinely saved, justified, forgiven, it is a first step of outward visible obedience to the commands of God, a willingness to do this simple thing. The word “baptism” means “to immerse or plunge in liquid.”

To all my friends that think that sprinkling is baptism, it isn't. The word means “immerse”, and so it's a plunging into a vat of liquid, like a garment being dyed or a ship being launched or something like that, it's a plunging in liquid. For us, water baptism is an immersion in water as an outward and visible symbol of an immersion in the Holy Spirit that Jesus has done first. We are baptized by Jesus through the Spirit into one body through our faith in Christ. That baptism, real baptism having already happened, we then do the symbolic water baptism as an outward and visible sign. You don't have to be water baptized to be saved, but no, you can't refuse to be water baptized and think that you are saved. That is a clear essential first step of obedience. That's what we're called to do. The church, we, the members of this local church, and Christians worldwide are called to this great and glorious work. Go and proclaim. Make disciples. Baptize them, teach them, do the work of the great commission. That's what we're called to do.

IV. How Christ’s Church Has Obeyed

How has Christ's church obeyed? The church has been overwhelmingly and stunningly and gloriously obedient for 20 centuries. That's how we've gotten to this point in which there are hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. It says it right in our text. Look at verse 20, "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere." It is very easy for us to be discouraged about our failures.  I was saying to the staff this week, we were talking about it, it's like massive step down when Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, I'm sending you." The “me" is the only begotten Son of God who the Father chose and sent. He's sending people like you and me. It's part of God's plan to use weak, fragile, sinful, even vessels like us to do this Great Commission.

Weak, fragile, sinful, broken people have done incredible things for 20 centuries to spread the Gospel as far as it's gone. In the first three centuries of church history, many unnamed, unknown Christians were willing to risk their lives under the oppressive Roman Empire to spread the Gospel and permeate that part of the world until the Emperor Constantine thought it, at least politically expedient, to declare himself a Christian. Whether he was genuinely converted or not, I don't know. Find out. If you get up there to heaven, you see Constantine, you'll know. But the point is that the Gospel had made such progress at that point that he thought it was at least beneficial. Many of his centurions, many of his soldiers were Christians. It's an incredible, spiritual conquest of the Roman Empire in three short centuries. And since that time, the missionary drive has only continued and expanded.

Over the last two centuries in particular, it's been stunning how much progress missions has made. The Gospel spread through the Indian subcontinent, led by William Carey and others, spread through Burma led by Adoniram and Ann Judson and others, spread through China, led by Hudson Taylor and Lottie Moon and others, through Africa, led by David Livingstone and Mary Slessor and many others, through the steamy jungles of the Amazon, led by Cameron Townsend and Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and others, even to Erie and Jaya, led by Don Richardson and Mark and Gloria Zook and others. What an incredible story, the spread of the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit has indeed come on the church and empowered the church and enabled us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Yet for all of that, we must admit tons of failure as well. Church history is a mess. I'm being honest with you. Battles with cults, battles with false doctrine, battles with decades of indolence and laziness. The Crusades, Ralph Winter calls, the most misguided conception of the Christian mission in history.

That's big picture. What about individually? Do you not often feel like a failure in this topic? Isn't it easy to feel like a failure when it comes to witnessing? I do. When I look at the tens of thousands that live in the immediate proximity here, and I realize the level of unchurchedness and lostness coupled with high education rates and wealth, prosperity, and then others that don't have those educations or wealth; we're surrounded. They've lived near our church; now they live maybe a little further away from our church, but they're lost. There's darkness there. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But this is exactly what Acts 1:8 is all about. You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you need that power. This is the call. Mark 15:16 is the call to our church now. This is what we're called to do with the rest of our lives in part.

V. How Christ Confirms his Word

Christ confirmed His word. Look at verse 19 and 20. Marvelous. We see Christ's sovereign power, which is essential to the spread of the Gospel. “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. And then the disciples went out and preached everywhere.” The Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it. What a beautiful picture this is. Jesus ascends, goes through the clouds, the cloud hides Him from their sight. He goes into the heavenly realms, He passes through the heavens, He goes above the heavens. He sits down at the right hand of Almighty God far above the heavenly realms. And Jesus said, "Therefore," in Matthew 28:18, "all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me by God."

Or again in Ephesians 1:20-23, "God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one that come." It's hard to believe that Ephesians 1:21 is actually an understatement when it says, "Far above all rule and authority." Infinitely far above them. That's the great power of Jesus at the right hand of God. God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

This authority, Jesus' authority, to rule all things is essential to the spread of the Gospel over 20 centuries because every step of the way, the advance of the Gospel has been opposed by Satan and his demons and by human enemies of the Gospel. It's been a bloody advance, it’s been hard. The church is portrayed as taking enemy territory. He said at Caesarea Philippi, "On this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prove stronger than it." The idea of gates is “we're storming the gates.” We're taking enemy territory. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe, but when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and he divides up the spoils. That's Jesus plundering Satan's kingdom. We're part of that. But it's a dangerous, dangerous journey. And Jesus' sovereignty is essential to it.

He's able to control the minds and hearts of the movers and shakers in every era of history. Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like a water course in the hands of the Lord." He directs it whichever way He pleases. He's sovereign over even tyrants who hate the Gospel. He's able to direct their decisions. He says to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3: 7-8, "What I open, no one can shut. And what I shut, no one can open." Isn't that a great statement? “I know your deeds.” He said to the church of Philadelphia, "Behold, I have placed before you an open door which no one can shut." That's an opportunity for that church of Philadelphia to go through that door into Gospel fruitfulness. That's the sovereignty of Christ. 

The nations, there is nothing before Christ's power. Isaiah 40: 15, "Surely, the nations are like a drop in the bucket. They're regarded as dust on the scales. He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. He sits in throne above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of the world to nothing." Jesus, therefore, is at the right hand of God. He is exerting his authority to spread the Gospel of salvation in every generation.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, delivers that power. The Holy Spirit is the delivery agent of the power of Jesus from the right hand of God down to earth. It is the Spirit. It is by the Spirit that Christ actively works in this present evil age to win sinners and spread the Gospel. He said in John 16:7, "I tell you the truth. It is for your good that I'm going away. Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And the spirit works that power in us. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes in you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to the ends of the earth."

Let's be honest, we are weak, we are frail, we are fearful, we are selfish, we are lazy. Peter's failure, the night that Jesus was arrested, is proof that we are all essentially frail and weak. In just a matter of a few hours, he went from that confident assertion, “even if all fall away on account of you,” to denying he even knew who Jesus was.

Furthermore, the parable of the Good Samaritan depicts the priest going by and seeing the bleeding man by the side of the road, and he just keeps on going. The Levite does the same thing; sees the bleeding man by the side of the road, and he just keeps on going. How can we not, when reading the parable of the Good Samaritan with tears and brokenness, see ourselves in those two? Oh, Heaven forbid that you would ever say, "I thank you, God, that I'm not like the priest or Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan." Don't say that. Say, "Oh, God, show me how I'm like that."

Especially spiritually, people are broken and beaten down and bleeding by the side of the road spiritually because of their lostness, and we know them. We work with them, we live around them, we shop with them. We are surrounded by that brokenness and that lostness. How can we just walk by on the other side? But that's our nature, isn't it? It's our nature. We need to be honest. It is our nature to be priest or Levite. Only the Spirit enables us to be different. He will enable us to be different. Again and again, He'll enable us to care, to cross over that road, to bend down, to say something to somebody, to ask what's going on in their lives, to get involved in the mess, to get involved in the brokenness, and to win people to Christ. And we will. And we're going to tell the story for all eternity in heaven. It's going to be an awesome story. It's going to be an awesome story.

But in the meantime, there's so much sorrow. Jesus wept over Jerusalem's lostness. Paul wept over the lostness of his own Jewish nation. "I speak the truth in Christ. I am not lying. My conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit." Paul said, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish, for I could wish that I, myself, were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people. I would do it. I would lose my own salvation if they could be saved." There's that yearning and that brokenness.

Jesus works and works and works and is by His Spirit to make us care about lostness, to care about people on their way to hell, and He moves us. He exerts power, conquering our fears. But He didn't just work in us, He works in them. He powerfully works in lost people, convicting them of their sins so that they can be saved. It says in John 16:8, "When the spirit comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. And He will give them the gift of repentance in faith." The Spirit has the power to do that. It's nothing the person can do for him or herself. The change is so radical, it's like a heart of stone being removed and a heart of flesh being put in. You can't do that to yourself, but the Spirit can. As Ezekiel says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I'll put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

As we're doing this witnessing, we're hoping that the Spirit will do that miraculous regenerating work that only He can do. It's not something we can do. The Spirit works repentance, the Spirit works, faith, and the Spirit calls to His sheep, unconverted elect. But the day has come, the day of salvation has come for them. And it says beautifully in John 10, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life. I call them by name, and they follow me." That's a beautiful work, isn't it? Don't you want to be there when that happens? Don't you want to watch it happen as somebody who is walking in darkness crosses over into the light and with tears coming down his or her face that Jesus is my Savior, He's my shepherd? How beautiful is that?

The text says that Jesus confirmed His word by signs of the Spirit. Verse 20, "The Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." The Lord worked with them. What a majestic picture of cooperation. As 2 Corinthians 5 says, "We are, therefore, Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." We're, again, working together with Him, then “…  implore you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” This sovereign power of Christ is working in us. By the grace of God, we are what we are. And His grace to us will not be without effect. "We're going to work for the Gospel," as Paul said, 1 Corinthians 15.

Concerning signs and wonders, it's very clear that that happened in the apostolic age. Look at verse 17 and 18, "These signs will accompany those who believe. In my name, they will drive out demons, they will speak new tongues, they will pick up snakes with their hands. When they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. They will place their hands on sick people and they will get well." Those things all happened. That's not fiction, it's not myth; those things happened. We have a record of it in the book of Acts, many of them, except the poison part. But I'm sure that happened too, it's just not recorded. Paul testified to it as well in Romans 15: 18-19, “I will not venture to speak about anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit. From Jerusalem all the way around to the Balkans, to Illyricum, I fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.” Miracles following everywhere, healings, speaking in tongues, all of those things, even the serpent thing. Amazing.

The miraculous signs confirm the truthfulness of the Gospel. In Acts 8: 6-8, “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. And when the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. There's great joy in that city.”

The signs also showed that Satan was being driven out of his throne in people's hearts. Jesus sent out 72 evangelists during His mission, and they returned full of joy. Luke 10: 17 -19, "The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.' He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you.’"

I've been thinking about that verse. This morning, we sang about martyrs who died. What's that whole, “nothing will harm you” thing? The martyrs weren't harmed by their death, they were ushered from this sin-cursed world by great sacrificial service, both to God and to sinners, into eternal glory and a martyr's crown. Do you think up in heaven they're thinking they were harmed by their martyrdom? They were not harmed. People were benefited because Tertullian said, "The blood of those martyrs was seed for the church,” and by their willingness to die to themselves, and even physically die, new Christians came.

"The martyrs weren't harmed by their death, they were ushered from this sin-cursed world by great sacrificial service, both to God and to sinners, into eternal glory and a martyr's crown."

VI. Our Part in This Work

What is our part in this work? Obviously the most important thing anyone listening to me right now can do is make certain that you, yourself, have been saved, that you, yourself, have repented and believe the gospel for the forgiveness of your sins. Nothing's more important than that. The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.

But let's say you've already done that. What now? What is our work? Our work is to share the gospel with near neighbors and distant nations. This sermon and next week's as well, we're going to lay out specifics for FBC's members.

The elders of this church are all unanimous that the single greatest area of growth for our church is faithfulness and fruitfulness in evangelism. We want to see far more baptisms happening in a year than we do. We want to see those kind of baptisms that happen in this pattern saying, "I was lost, I met so-and-so from this church, and now I'm here today to testify to my faith in Jesus." I want to hear that. Don't you? I want to be part of that. That's our calling. That's what we're called to do, to be fishers of men. We cannot sit comfortably in this beautiful sanctuary, hearing the Word of God week after week and not pay the price to share it with the thousands of lost people that are around us throughout the week. This area is going to grow. Estimates say we're going to add about half a million people in this region over the next 25 years. Most of those will be lost, unchurched. That's our field to work. This is our area to work. This is what we're going to be held accountable for on Judgment Day. We're called on to do evangelism.

What is evangelism? Max Stiles says, "Evangelism is teaching the Gospel with the aim to persuade.” Teaching. We're going to teach concepts about people. We're going to explain theological truths to people who don't understand them. We're going to teach. What are we going to teach? The Gospel. God, man, Christ's response. We're going to say things about God, that He created the ends of the earth and that He's a king and a ruler, and He makes laws. We need to follow them. That man, that we are created the image of God for a relationship with Him, but we have broken His laws and we're rebellious against Him, and we stand in danger of eternal condemnation. Christ, that Christ is the Son of God. He came and lived a sinless life, He died on the cross and rose again. And response, repent and believe, as in Mark 1:15.

We're going to teach the Gospel to people with the aim... We're going to have an aim. We're going to focus on winning, lost people to faith in Christ. It's intentional. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the loss. We have to have an aim, a purpose, and we're going to persuade. We're going to win people. We're going to persuade them to repent, to turn to Christ. We're going to use argumentation, we're going to use proofs, we're going to use passion, we're going to use persuasion. We're going to plead. I've never really pled with a lost person before. It's in Acts 2. I do a lot of airplane evangelism. I have yet to be broken down and, with tears, beg a lost person to cross over. Now, I think I probably would get arrested. But there is that passion in our hearts of pleading with people to be saved.

Our goal is a culture of evangelism. What does that mean? A culture of evangelism. Max Stiles speaks of communal evangelism where it's a church-wide focus. We're going to hold one another accountable. We're going to strengthen our mutual resolve in evangelism. We're going to learn from each other. How do you do it? How do you do it in the workplace? How do you do in the community? How do you do hospitality? We're going to learn from each other. We're going to rejoice together in successes, and we're going to cry over failures and setbacks. We're going to bond through shared experiences in intense situations.

What is a church culture? Isn't culture like shared ideas, shared language, shared behavior patterns, shared experiences, shared expectations? That's what a culture is. A culture of evangelism is motivated by love for Jesus and His Gospel. It's a culture that's confident in the Gospel as the power of God for salvation. We don't need gimmicks, we don't need entertainment, we don't need smoke machines. We don't need any of that stuff, we need the Gospel. We trust in it. It's a culture that understands the danger of this present evil age. A culture that sees people clearly, a culture that pulls together as one, especially in prayer, a culture in which people teach one another what the Gospel is. What is evangelism? What is conversion? How can we best share this Gospel message? That new converts are taught these things, and then they're sent out as messengers themselves. It multiplies. A culture that models evangelism. A culture in which people who share their faith are celebrated and learned from in this church. A culture that knows how to affirm and celebrate new life. A culture that does ministry that feels risky and is dangerous. A culture that understands that the church is the chosen and best method of evangelism in the world.

Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the chance that we've had this week, and God willing that we'll have again next week to look at our responsibility in the Great Commission. Help us, Lord, to be faithful. Help us, oh Lord, to be courageous. Help us to be humble and admit our weakness and our failure. Help us to help each other. Help us to ask each other how you're doing in evangelism. Help us to be involved in the summer's “Let's Go program” of going out on Wednesdays and sharing and being trained and doing prayer walking and doing prayer meetings and just being involved. Help us, oh Lord, to be more fruitful and faithful than we've ever been before. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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