Sermon delivered on Easter 6C, Sunday, May 22, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
Lectionary texts: Acts16.9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21.10, 22-22.5; St. John 14.23-29.
I greet you all in Jesus’ name!
It is a joy to come back to St. Augustine Anglican Church. I congratulate you on acquiring new facility to worship God. And praying for your transition to new Rector, and also for a blessed retirement of Fr. Kevin.
Thanks for supporting the Diocese of Kitale with scholarship for theological students. God bless you for it!
I will use the story of the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16, the first European to accept Christ, and highlight lessons we learn from it on effective ways to share the gospel of Christ.
I present this message in 2 parts:
- Why Sharing the Gospel is Important?
- Three Effective Ways of Sharing the Gospel Sharing
Let me introduce this sermon by sharing the story of Lydia, the first convert to Christian faith in Europe to help give us the context and prepare us for this sermon.
Paul and Silas, and now Luke and Timothy have crossed the Sea from Troas to Neapolis, which marks change of direction from Asia to Europe. The Holy Spirit had forbidden them to preach in Asia (16:6-8). So, they went to Philippi because it was the leading city in the colony of Macedonia. On Sabbath day, they sought a place to pray by the riverside because there was no synagogue in this Gentile city. Here they could baptize those who had accepted Christ and believers went there to pray.
Lydia was a Gentile woman of means, and she was god-fearing having left paganism, but had not heard the Gospel of Christ nor baptized. But after hearing the Gospel, Lydia believed, she was baptized, and started serving God by hosting apostles and the first Christian home in Europe.
I – Why Sharing the Gospel is Important for Christians?
- It is the only way for God to save the world!
It is the only way and means to save the world from the consequences of sin or evil. The Bible tells us that sin and Devil comes to steal, destroy, and kill (Jn.10:10), and that all who are in sin will be destroyed (Jer.6:21 & Rom.6:23).
After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost in Acts 2, the disciples of Jesus went to different directions as eyewitnesses in preaching the gospel of Christ as mandated by Him Matt.28:16-20.
Today, this remains the urgent mission for the Christians and the church. To be a Christian and follower of Jesus we affirm the fact that each one of us is called to share what we have received and experienced from Jesus (Luke 24:39, Luke 24:42-43, Acts 1:4, Mt 28:9, John 21:9) and become the basis for the preaching. Disciples could not keep it to themselves!
- It demonstrates God’s love to the World!
Sharing the gospel displays God’s nature of love and mercy. John 3:16 shows how God in His love send Jesus to die on the cross to save us from perishing from sin.
Several Parables of Jesus reveal God as a ‘Searching Father’, looking for the lost, actively seeking them, and rejoicingwhen they are found.
An important part of Character of God is His mercy to the undeserving – not only those who we stumble upon, but an active mission and outreach programme of seeking out the hurting and oppressed, the blind and the imprisoned (Luke 4:18-19). That is the message of the cross, the message of active love!
The disciples must become like the Master, who was driven by love and passion for the lost: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). We share the gospel because it reveals God’s nature of love to restore the lost humanity from perishing.
- It is the reason You and I are Christians today!
It is because of sharing the gospel that you and I are Christians today and live with the hope of life now and into eternity. By Paul sharing the gospel, Lydia got converted which opened the doors for Christianity of Europe. And when Europe shared the gospel, North America and Africa got salvation. And faithful believers, generation after generation, have handed over the gospel until you here at St. Augustine Church are worshipping Jesus today.
We would not be Christians if it were not for God to reach out to me and you by sending Jesus to die on the Cross, instead, we would be lost and perished in sin!
All these 3 reasons are critical for a young, newly planted congregation like St. Augustine, and ACNA at large. Your church will grow like the Early Church by intentional sharing of the gospel so others can come join you. Sharing the gospel is not an option, but a mandatory obligation and strategy that the Holy Spirit uses to grow Christ’s church!
II – 3 Effective Ways of Sharing the Gospel
Let us look at 3 ways for effective sharing of the Gospel we learn from the conversion of Lydia:
- Involve God at Every Stage of Sharing the Gospel!
Like all God’s mission work, God is the alpha and the omega, He begins it and completes the work of gospel sharing. God begins by sending Paul and also preparing Lydia’s heart. He was the One who directed Paul and his team to Philippi from Asia to Europe. And it is God who opens the heart of Lydia to accept salvation.
We see how God convicts and prepares the listener in John 1:12-13, Rom.9:16 and Phil.2:13.
To succeed in gospel sharing, we must be prayerful to invite God to start and end well the sharing of the gospel. No human being can take credit or glory for evangelism work. Ours is only a little part of being available to be the mouthpiece of God, but God makes it work out successfully.
- Proclaim the Gospel by Personal Evangelism!
The second effective way to share the good news is to proclaim the gospel truth personally, one-on-one. Lydia would never have heard the gospel if Paul and his team did not accept the call to proclaim the gospel truth to her.
Apostle Paul makes this truth clear in Rom.10:14-17, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news’”. See also, 1 Cor.9:22.
Since creation to our day, God’s plan remains using the human means to achieve divine ends. Every believer is an apostle, ‘the sent ones.’ For others to be saved, you and I must tell them the gospel, or at least get them to somewhere where they can hear it. But because most don’t want to come here, so you must tell them out there.
Let us not be mistaken, my brothers and sisters, it is not just the priest who should share the gospel, but believers. That is why once Lydia was baptized, she went and shared it with her family, and they were all baptized (16:15a). She was probably a widow and head of her family.
Lydia was effective in personal evangelism to her family and are we to our families and to our friends. There is no better effective evangelism than personal evangelism.
Paul puts it well in 2 Cor.5:11, “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God and I hope it is known also to your conscience”.
A good mark of true conversion is when one has a strong desire to immediately share with others their new faith.
We are all commanded to share the gospel with our families, friends and personal contacts and make sure they know and obey the gospel!
Don’t let the day or week go without sharing the gospel in your household and family members.
- Invite New Believers to Personal Transformation!
The third effective way of sharing the gospel is to invite the new believer into personal transformation of living like Jesus and serving like Jesus. Sharing the gospel is not complete until the believer conforms to the lifestyle of Jesus and becomes a disciple.
After receiving the gospel, Lydia shows her true conversion by expressing her desire to serve. The text shows how she pleaded to host and support Paul and his team. She began serving in the Kingdom immediately.
Paul puts it well in 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new come.”
Salvation demands transformation of our lives. For some it is dramatic, for others it is less so, but desires will be transformed. If you have no desire for Christ or His kingdom, you may be deceived.
The early believers in the Book of Acts were so obedient to Jesus and His teachings that other people knew for certain they were His followers. There was something distinct about the way they spoke, acted, and lived that showed others they were followers of Christ. It’s something to think about when considering our own lives.
Do I love like he does? Jesus’ own words tell us “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”(Romans 5:5). We have His power to love and serve others in His name. Jesus’ love was pure and sacrificial. Likewise, our love should cost us something. It may be in the form of material goods, but it also may be the sacrifice of extra patience, our time, etc. Each of us should ask self – (i) Is my life lived humbly and in humility as Jesus did? (ii) Do I forgive like Jesus? (iii) Do others see Jesus through me?
The key mark of the Christian when they bear fruit of the Christian faith. The extent to which we bear fruit of the Spirit is the extent to which we are a Christian or not. So, our identity as a Christian is depended on whether we bear the fruit of Christian faith or not. We shall be judged by the fruit we produce, not by the spiritual gifts we had, or church activities we performed (1 Cor.13:1-3)!
A WhatsApp message circulating recently states it well this way, “Many Christians grow up in the church, but never grow in Christ. They know hymns, but they don’t know Him”.
My brothers and sisters the effective way to share the gospel is by calling people to be transformed and to live and serve like Jesus!
I end this message with the way Jesus sought the lost and a story to cement it!
During his earthly ministry, Jesus searched for two different kinds of people:
(1) those who had never known him and were alienated from a life of faith. These included, the taxi collectors & sinners.
Question: How many non-believers, unchurched and alienated people are out there that need us to evangelize to?
Is St. Augustine reaching people who live in neighborhood around this church building? Are you reaching out to them so they are not lost? Are you reaching those living in immoral lifestyle of corruption, alcoholism, prostitution, drugs, etc.? In other words, ‘Who is seeking the lost’?
(2) those religious leaders, like Pharisees, who did not want to associate with sinners so they don’t compromise their faith. For us, this could me some of us church goers who are believe we are too holy and set apart to reach out to others.
Remember that Lydia was religious or god-fearing, what Acts 16:14 calls, “worshiper of God”, but was not a Christian!
Question: Are there categories of people we are not sharing the gospel with because they don’t fit our category?
Are you sharing the gospel with the religious category? Those who are regular attend worship but have not known Christ?
To religious leaders, Jesus said elsewhere in Matt. 21:31, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you”. They were not happy with Jesus for attacking their integrity and their faith.
As today’s church, we must follow the example of Jesus and His apostle in having passion to find the lost and share the gospel. So, the most important thing we Christians and the Church should do is to reach out to those who need to hear the good news about Jesus. Everything else is secondary. We are told in 2 Peter 3:9 that, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
And in reaching out to the sinners, personal and persistent contact is a key factor. This is illustrated by a story told by one preacher:
There was once a young man who courted a young lady in a very unusual way. Every day for one full year he sent her a special delivery letter. And so every day for 365 days she received a letter that he sent to her. Finally, one year later, she married. But she didn’t marry the young man who mailed all those letters. She married the postman who delivered them. After all, personal persistent contact makes all the difference!
LET US PRAY!!