Summary: How can we deliver honest hope for today’s problems. This message examines the need for people to share the gospel.
GOING ON TO GREATNESS
INTRO: I have been in many churches in my life. But I will never forget the experience that I had in one church I visited. I was commenting on how beautiful the sanctuary was, when the pastor said, “This room never is as beautiful as it is when the people are here.” During the offertory, I often pray for our people. As I look around the congregation and think of the different needs our people have, I pray for each of you. God has called me to deliver His Word to you in a way that provides the tools for living in today’s world.
Jeremiah’s writings confronted people in exile who had many needs. Unfortunately, his people were being fed by the false hopes of charlatans. Today’s church faces the same problem. How can we deliver honest hope?
I. WE MUST RECOGNIZE THE PROCESS WHICH LEADS TO DISTRESS.
In Jeremiah’s day people longed for their restoration and return to the Temple. Today, people say they long for revival. Yet, that is exactly where the problem lies. Our people say one thing, yet they respond another way.
ILLUS: Several years ago, someone wrote in the newsletter of his church of this tendency toward half commitment. They wrote: “Half commitment is the hesitation between following Christ and being merely religious. Half commitment is spouting pious words about submission while resisting all authority. Half commitment is justifying everything you want to do because, if you were God, you would let you do it. Half commitment is choosing convenience as preferential to costly sacrifice. Half commitment is being an admirer of Jesus without being His disciple. Half commitment tips God instead of taxing one’s soul. Half commitment talks much, sings some, gives little, cares less, criticizes a lot, and serves never. Half commitment creates sour servants, frustrated fellowships, proof-text piety, belligerent believers, and witless witnesses.”
The person who tries to be neutral in the service of Christ nullifies his hope and is ineffective in his spirit.
A careful study of the process which lead to distress reminds us of John’s words to Sardis: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1, NIV).
II. WE MUST REMEMBER THE PLAN WHICH LEADS TO COMMITMENT.
Jeremiah 29:11 shows God’s promise of plans for a future. That future can be ours if we will walk in total commitment.
The plan requires we teach and preach the Bible. The priest may say, “Thus saith the church.” The prophet may say, “Thus saith the Father.” However, today’s leaders have too often said, “It seems to me.”
The Bible must replace ball-game summaries and wedding plans during the Sunday School hour. We reach people for Christ as we enlist them in Bible study which applies eternal truths to everyday experiences. Here is where people find the hope in the Christ we seek to share. And here is where they can be won to Christ. Out of every two lost people that are enrolled in Sunday School, in a year’s time, one of them will become a Christian.
The plan requires we practice what we preach. The people in the community around our church believe our members when they tell them about the awful things going on with the church. Our complaints and gossip close the door to ministry when crisis occurs in the neighbor’s life. The Bible challenges us to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4: 25), and to conduct ourselves in such a way as to convey a positive witness for Christ (Colossians 4:5-6). This plan requires church leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
III. WE MUST RENDER THE PREPARATION WHICH LEADS TO SUCCESS.
How do you prepare for the future God has planned for you? You begin by opening your heart to the vision of Bold Mission Thrust. Most of us find it easy to make commitments to big, general goals that don’t require much of us on a personal level. However, every individual must be open to God’s doing a personal work through him.
Is it possible God wants you to share hope in Christ by reaching new people? Is it possible you can share hope in Christ by winning friends, family members, fellow workers, or even neighbors for Christ? Is it possible God wants you to join two fellow believers and start a new Bible study class that will extend the Kingdom of God? Open your heart and seek God’s will for you.
You need to open your Bible. The enthusiasm of a person can motivate you temporarily, but the inspiration of Scriptures can motivate you eternally. Study the Word that you may know the heart of God.
You must open your life. Life changes as life touches life. You witness the power of God in your weakness as well as in your strength. Be open to letting people see God at work in the struggles of a fellow human being. The reality of your faith in crises has convicting power.