Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Responsibility of Sounding Forth the Gospel

1 Thessalonians 1:8-9
6.19.2011 AM SERVICE

“For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”

It is every believer’s responsibility to spread the good news of the gospel. In our church culture today, however, we have turned it into a ‘calling’ for just a few. Our actions show that we believe that only missionaries are called to evangelize and share the Word of God. By and large in America today, the people who fill churches on a Sunday morning do so with no sense of urgency, no sense of meeting with the Lord, and no desire to reproduce throughout the week what they learn in church on Sundays. Church has become an extra-curricular activity, and it is last on the priority list. Rarely do you hear believers share on Sunday who they witnessed to through the week, or even what they taught their children about God. You don’t see many couples strengthening their marriages for the purpose of strengthening their own ministry, and you don’t see many parents training their children to be sent out by the Lord for the mission field. In fact, in most church families in America, you see the exact opposite. Within the realm of what we would consider the ‘Christian’ culture in America, you see parents asking if their kids want to go to church rather than bringing them to church. You see many parents pushing their kids to get better educations, better jobs, and better possessions. Marriages are falling apart in the church culture and couples seem more interested in their careers than devoting their lives to serving the living God. And you see the retired crowd that think that they have reached perfection. They act as if they have retired from Christian living and service. This is not what the Bible describes as Christianity. The Lord Jesus himself has commissioned His followers to be witnesses for Him throughout the whole world. While they are going, they are to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to keep all of Christ’s commands—not exactly what you see in the American church.

The Thessalonians are often referred to as the ‘discipling church.’ From what we read in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, you would conclude that this is a church that had it made. They were a healthy church. They were a church that listened and heeded the words of Paul, the apostle. You could read through the books of Thessalonians and find the following things being accomplished by the people: praying, equipping, defending, repenting, loving, laboring, modeling, feeding, leading others to Christ, watching for the return of Christ, warning, teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting, comforting, admonishing, and much more. The Thessalonian church serves as an example to Christians today as to what an active, healthy church should look like. They are a church that understood the commission of their Lord and Savior and they sought to fulfill it.

There is a process to this passage of Scripture that I would like to study this morning: Reverberation of the Word, reproduction of faith, and repentance of salvation.

1. The Reverberation of the Word of God – Sounding Forth! (1 Thes. 1:8a)

“sounded forth” - exēcheomai – To resound, to ‘echo’ forth.

a. Sounding forth is the nature of the Word - it proceeds, it reverberates throughout the earth:

Throughout Scripture we read of the reverb of the Word of God. The picture given to us in Thessalonians is that of a stone being thrown into a pond. It hits the water and causes ever-expanding ripples. In the same way, the Word of God echoes forth and causes ripples. Listen to some examples from Scripture:
  • Deuteronomy 5:5 – Moses declared the Word of the Lord to the people
  • 1 Samuel 15:10 – The Word of the Lord came to Samuel
  • 1 Kings 13:9 – It was commanded by the word of the Lord
  • Psalm 33:6 – By the word of the Lord the heavens were made
  • Isaiah 55:10-11 – "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
  • Acts 13:49 – the Word of the Lord was being spread through all the region
  • Acts 19:20 – So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed
  • Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
  • 1 Peter 1:25 – But the Word of the Lord endures forever…
The Word of the Lord was active in Scripture, and it is active today. The Thessalonian Church understood the nature of the Word of God. They understood that it sounds forth. All they needed do was be faithful in speaking it.

b. Sounding forth the Word is a command of Christ

These are the words of Christ:
  • Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
  • Mark 16:15 - And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
  • Luke 24:46-48 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.
There was no questioning this for the Thessalonians. In fact, Paul said that he did not need to say anything. They had simply done it. In being faithful to sound forth the word, the faith of the Thessalonians had reproduced in the surrounding areas.

2. The Reproduction of Faith – Going Out! (1 Thes. 1:8b)

In order to be faithful to the great commission of Christ, we must do our best to see our faith reproduced in others. The Thessalonians fulfilled this by faithfully sounding forth the word of God.
“gone out” – exerchomai – to issue, to come forth, escape, get out, go abroad, go forth, go out, proceed, spread abroad.
  • John 7:37-38 – If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

a. Reproduction is the nature of faith

Faith in God is a contagious thing. We see that throughout the New Testament:
  • Acts 11:24 – For he was a good man (Barnabas), full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
  • Acts 16:5 – So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.
  • Romans 1:8 – you faith is spoken of all the world
  • Romans 4:16 – Abraham our greatest example: (Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness) Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
  • 1 Timothy 1:2 – To Timothy, a true son in the faith
The faith of the Thessalonian church had gone out—it had been spread abroad to other areas. It is the responsibility of the church to spread the faith.

b. Reproduction of faith and growth in faith is a command from the Lord

Listen to the words of the Holy Spirit:
  • 2 Peter 1:5 – add to your faith
  • Romans 1:5 – obedience to the faith among all nations for His name
  • John 7:37-38 – If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

In a genuine faith there is an inward compelling to spread the faith abroad. You can’t explain it, other than it is what God has designed faith in Him to be like.

Let’s review: Reverberating the Word results in Reproducing faith, which results in:

3. The Repentance of Salvation – Turning to God! (1 Thes. 1:9)

“how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”

Vine’s New Testament Definitions tells us that repentance means to change one’s mind or purpose and, in the NT, it always involves a change for the better, except in Luke 17:3-4 where the offending brother comes 7 times in one day to say ‘I repent.’ Obviously he hadn’t repented.

a. Repentance is the nature of Salvation

The Thessalonians had turned to God from idols. Thayer tells us that the word ‘from’ “denotes any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed.”
Pre-conversion, the Thessalonians (every unbeliever for that matter) were joined to idols. They served the idols. They worshiped the idols. They were completely devoted to the idols. Then when faith came to them through hearing the Word of God, they turned away from the idols and turned to God. Now they worship and serve the living and true God. That is the nature of salvation. There is no other way to describe it, no other way to see it happen. This is the testimony of every believer.

b. Repentance is commanded by Christ
  • Mark 1:14-15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.”

Not only is this a command from Christ, it is the desire of God. 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The reverberating Word—reproducing of faith—the repentance of salvation. That is the process. That is what the Thessalonian church was being faithful in. It is what we must be faithful in. By and large, this is a broken-down process in America. It is a broken-down process in the state of Maine. And it is a broken down process at our church.

4. The Responsibility of the Family – Sounding forth the Gospel as a family unit

I link the breakdown of this biblical process in American church culture to the breakdown of the family unit. Families no longer eat meals together. As a result, they spend less and less time together as a family. Time schedules are filled up with more and more activities, resulting in continual busyness. There is no longer any time for things like family devotions and prayer. Parents no longer seek to be parents to their children, they want to befriend them. As a result, kids no longer view their parents as authority figures and they have no reason to obey their parents. Parents have ceased to be the main educators for their children. As a result, children no longer look to their parents for wisdom and guidance for life’s issues. In fact, research shows that most young people today would rather seek advice from social media like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, than from their own parents. Most households today are two-income homes in order to support over-budgeted lifestyles. This results in parents spending substantially less time at home. And substantially more time at work.

All of this makes it nearly impossible for a family to fulfill the commission of the Lord to sound forth the Word of God.

So what is the solution? How can a family be faithful in sounding forth the word?

a. Fathers –
Dads need to be spiritual leaders in the home. Sound forth the Word to your family first. Where a father leads, everyone else will follow.
1. Lead family devotions. Your wife and your children need you to be digging deep into the Word of God and teaching them what you learn. You are their example of how to study the Word and how to have a relationship with God. You are the discipler of your household.
2. Make godly decisions. For example, decide to be in church. Period. You see, deciding to go to church is one decision. If decide to go to church Sunday morning, chances are you rarely will. Make a godly decision for your family to go to church (Hebrews 10:24) and then take them to church.
3. Show your sons what it means to love your wife. What it means to take a vow to care for her in all situations. Love your wife as Christ loved the church. (Eph. 5:25) Your daughters need to see what sort of man God has in store for them to marry.
4. Get rid of sinful habits. Take the lead in this. Stop serving yourself and start serving Christ. Set a pattern for your family in personal holiness. Show your family what it means to become more like Christ. They are looking to you for guidance. And, for the most part, they will imitate you.

b. Mothers –
Mothers need to be godly examples to their children and faithful wives to their husbands. They need to be faithful prayer warriors to help support their families. Sound forth the Word to your family first.

From P, C & D's song: Midnight Oil:
Mama always got up early

And she never went to bed 'til late
Yet, I never heard her complainin'
About her family of eight
There were times she should have been sleepin'
But, late in the midnight hour
She'd get down on her knees
And you could hear her say,
"Lord fill them will your power"

Mama liked to burn the midnight oil
Down on her knees in prayer
If you asked why she did it
She said she did it cause she cared
Mama knew that Jesus was waitin
When she knelt down by her rocking chair
Oh, I'm glad my mama was willin'
To burn the midnight oil in prayer

Mother, your daughters also need to see an example of how to love and submit to your husbands and your sons need to see the sort of woman they want to marry.

c. Children –
I love Psalm 127:4 – “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.” Children are the hands and feet of their parents. They will follow your example—whatever that example may be. If you have set forth an example of faithfully sounding forth the Word of God, they will mostly likely do the same. If you are not faithful to the Lord, they will most likely follow that example.

It is the responsibility of any church or family to follow the example of the Thessalonians: Faithfully sounding forth the Word of God so that their faith is reproduced and demonstrated through repentance. What are you doing to get the Word out?

Churches today are being rendered ineffective because we are not being faithful as a church and as Christian families to sound forth the Word of God. We as a church need to break out of this mold that American church culture is pressing us into. It is time to step up dads. It is time to step up moms. It is time to step up church. Sound forth the Word and we will see it spread abroad.

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