Great Expectations


What would you tell your kids if you knew these would be your last words?

I have had several opportunities to speak to an audience when I knew I would never address them again. Going into such a situation, I ask myself what is the most important message with which I could leave them. I would attempt to determine what they needed to hear from me.

Interestingly, Jesus was in that same position. In the beginning of the book of Acts, Jesus is meeting with His disciples for the last time. He is fully aware that He will not speak to them again during their lifetimes. So, how does Jesus handle this situation? Here is the narrative.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:8–11)

The last idea Jesus left with His disciples was that He wanted them to be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. This was important to Him. He knew that that was an impossible task for them in their present state. So, He would provide them the power through the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus gave them this charge, He was taken up in heaven. Their charge was clear (as is ours). They were to carry out this great commission knowing that Jesus would one-day return to earth in the same manner in which He left.

The disciples would be His witnesses in a very tough world. There would be persecution from the Jews and the Romans. They would be crucified, decapitated, speared, and boiled in oil for the name of Jesus. The whole world would be their mission field.

How does this relate to us in the United States? Did you know that according to four leading pollsters only 7.2 to 9% of the American population fit the Biblical definition of a Christian? More people are turning to crack cocaine than to Christ. The US is a mission field and we are Christ’s missionaries.

We are all too eager to turn to other solutions to our problems in America. But guess what—politics will not fix anything; laws won’t fix anything; social justice will not fix anything. Only Jesus Christ can change anything and everything. It seems that in today’s society the hardest thing for us to do is to see a person turn to God. The hardest thing for us to do is to share the gospel with unlovable and see them trust in the salvation offer of Jesus, the Christ.

It wasn’t easy in the early Church either. The Roman Empire was against them. There were no seminaries or Bible Schools. They didn’t even have church building to which they could bring people to hear the gospel. People had to meet people—face-to-face—and share the good news of the Gospel. The first Christians had to go into the world and share the Gospel.

The US is facing many problems arising primarily from moral decay. The only answer to the issues we face is found in Jesus, the Christ. The only way people will hear about Jesus is through those faithful few in the Church. We are here is because God entrusted us to spread the gospel so that others He died for can hear the truth and trust in Him.

We need to see God do something wonderful. Nothing is too hard for Him—through Him we can reach our community. I recently heard that Scotland—the one-time center of evangelical Christianity—will have no Christian presence by 2029-2032.

Why aren’t’ more souls being won?

What needs to change?

What do we need to do differently?

What do we need to do to make a difference?

Let me suggest four actions we can, we should, and we must take.

We need to love the people around us

We have to want to win souls because we love people. We need to see people through the eyes of Christ. We need to see the world the same way Jesus saw the world. Far too often, we see the world as an enemy. Our anger is directed toward those people who don’t know Christ. Instead, we should weep over the lost—those living in the darkness outside of the presence of God. We should approach people with the heart of God instead of treating them like terrible enemies. We need to demonstrate care and compassion toward all people—even the unlovable. There is something wrong with the church and the way we do ministry. Do you realize that there are some 1500 pastors leaving the ministry every month?

I am familiar with a man who had opportunity to visit Mother Teresa’s Home of the Dying. He spoke with one of the nuns and he asked her why anyone would chose to serve in such conditions. She said they attract three types of people. First are those who wish to pad their résumés. They don’t last long in this ministry; perhaps a couple of weeks and then they move on. Second are those who really want to help. They are there because they have a real concern for the people. They want to do good works, but they also don’t last long; perhaps a few months. Then there are there because of the love of God. Their love for God has resulted in their call to such a difficult and horrible ministry. Because they seek to do God’s will rather than meet human expectation, they stay in this ministry for years and even entire lifetimes.

The question is, “Are we motivated by a quest for human approval, by a desire to what is good for personal satisfaction, or by a love of God that causes us to love others in the same way God loves us?” I fear that many in the church of today are driven by the first two alternatives. Too few of us are seeking to serve God in whatever way He directs.

We need to preach the true gospel

Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16). He recognized that the true gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. The gospel has power. Said another way, there is power in the gospel. Many in the church of today preach a gospel other than the true gospel of the Bible. People preach a social gospel, or a political gospel, or a legalistic gospel, or a conservative gospel, or a black gospel…and the list goes on. But the true gospel has power to break through to people regardless of the culture.

People in the church preach a gospel compelling people to join their church. But we are not to preach a “church-joining” gospel.

Many preach a gospel to create, at any cost, a large church. But we are not called to preach a “church-growth” gospel. We are not called to “Go into the world and build a large church.”

We are called to preach the gospel that Jesus taught and the disciples passed. So, what did they preach? It was no cultural or legalistic. The early gospel was not toned down to keep people from revolting when confronted with their sin. The early gospel was not a story of how God loves you and wants you to be successful. The early gospel was not marketed and branded with a simple message and short meeting time. All of these false gospels have been designed to bring more people into the church and raise more money for bigger churches.

The early gospel preachers were concerned about hitting sin head-on so that people can be made right with God. Reconciliation was the goal. The true gospel tells it like it is. We are all sinners deserving of the judgment of God. Everyone without Christ is destined to spend eternity separated from God. But God loved us and provided the perfect sacrifice for our sin so that whoever trusts Christ will be reunited with God. By trusting in Christ, we can be certain of spending eternity with God.

This is the good news that the world needs to hear. And the world need to hear it from us.

We need to tell people of new life we have in Christ

Christ died for our sins. We can be born again by placing our trust and faith in Him. We need to understand that by trusting in Him we become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we will bear fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must also know that there is nothing we can do—once we have place our faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death—to fall out of the hands of God. We cannot lose our salvation because even though we may be faithless, He will remain faithful (2 Tim 2:13).

Our salvation is by faith in Christ alone. It is not a result of our works. In fact, our salvation is a work of grace by God (Eph 2:8-9). Yet, our salvation necessarily leads to accomplishing the good works that God has already prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son… (Hebrews 1:1–2). God has spoken to us through His Son. Our message, therefore, must be about the new life we have through His Son.

We need to rely on the Holy Spirit

We are hearing less and less about the power and work of the Holy Spirit within the evangelical environment. There is actually a growing antisupernaturalism permeating the American church. This has probably happened because of the strong statement—actually false statement—attributing the Holy Spirit for all sorts of events. By making fabricated statements about the work of the Holy Spirit (falsely attributing great works to the Holy Spirit that never really happened) has resulted in a recoil by the evangelical church. We have actually moved to the point of not attributing anything to the Holy Spirit. In many cases, we have stopped teaching about the Holy Spirit altogether.

But we need the Holy Spirit and His power if we hope to see any success in our ministry. We must reinvigorate the church by infusing it with the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then will we see people seeking the Lord and coming to faith in Christ. Remember, angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7).

We often don’t consider what the Holy Spirt gives us.

  • He gives compassion so we can see people the way God sees them.
  • He gives wisdom so we know when to talk to people about Christ and when to remain silent.
  • He gives awareness so that we recognize the opportunities we have to share with others.
  • He give ability so that we can present the gospel.
  • He gives power so that that our words and prayer are effective.

We need to see our churches explode because Jesus is preached and He is glorified. God’s expectation is that we all get involved in the great commission (Matt 28:19-20). We need all-out devotion to God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Are you willing to allow God to work through you for the spread of the gospel?


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