I am convinced the church is a tool through which the Holy Spirit works to save souls and make those souls disciples of Christ. The church is sent to every ethnic group. The Church is to be the tool of the kingdom. This tool is to reach every ethnic group with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
By Delbert Young
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, Luke 16:20-31
I want to begin today by asking you a very serious question. It is, “What is your highest source of pleasure?” What is it that fulfills you and satisfies you more than anything else in this world? What is it that when you experience it you go, “AHHH! This is what life is all about for me. I love this more than anything else.” What is it? What is it that really turns your crank? What is it that really gets you up in the morning and when your head hits that pillow at night fulfilled if it happens?
Let’s come from this from another direction. I will mention two names. We could mention more, but two will accomplish the job. You tell me in your opinion what turns their crank. How about Donald Trump? The answer to me would be accumulating money. The man lives for that and is very good at it. How about Hugh Hephner, the owner of Playboy magazine? My answer would be sensual pleasure. I don’t think he would argue. In fact he boasts about it.
What is of ultimate consequence to you? If you are taking notes, draw a box in the upper corner of your page. Leave it empty, but if I asked you to write your driving motivation in the box, what would you write in the box?
It is important to identify what is in your box because whatever is in your box will affect your life for the rest of your life. It already has affected your life and will continue to affect your life. Every human being has something in that box. Though every person has a box, we seldom consciously think about the box. Okay, you got it?
Apostle Paul’s Box
If we know someone, or if we are given sufficient information about someone, we can know what is in their box. It is not difficult to know what was in the Apostle Paul’s box. Let’s stand and read our lesson for today with this in mind.
1 Corinthians 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1 Corinthians 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1 Corinthians 9:23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
In the Apostle Paul’s box was the cause of Christ. In Paul was a way to touch every person with Christ. It was the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone that would listen to him. He adapted and became to a society what the society could hear. To the Jew he became a Jew so he could gain the Jews. To people that were legalistic Paul became legalistic so he could gain those that were legalistic. Paul became weak to the weak so he could gain the weak to Christ. Paul’s box was gaining people to Christ. That box controlled his life and dictated how he would approach every person. In another place the Apostle said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi1:21).
The last years of the apostle’s life were spent in prison. Paul, at one time, was actually chained to a guard. Can you imagine being chained to the Apostle Paul? Paul wrote about this and said that he shared the gospel with every one of those guards. Paul was chained to a guard twenty-four hours a day. The way Paul looked at that was they didn’t have him chained. He had them. He had a captive audience. Paul’s thought was that if he had them long enough he would win every one of them to Christ. That was his box.
The truth is that no matter what any of us are going through, we should still be witnessing and winning people to Christ. God has strategically chained us to different people. We are divinely linked and have a captive audience. Are we taking advantage of the opportunity? Is the box hindering us?
What is your box? My box will greatly determine how many people I bring to faith and make disciples.
We were sitting in the auditorium of Willow Creek Church which is a four thousand five hundred seat auditorium. The program began and after the first song, I looked at Lance and said, “This place always moves me.” In a few moments, I began to cry as the Spirit of God began touching me within. The next song began. I looked to my right. Judy was weeping nearly uncontrollably. She was holding her face capturing her tears. Next to Judy was Mechele. Mechele was dabbing her eyeballs profusely with a tissue absorbing the tears as they flowed form her tear ducts. I looked beyond Mechele down the row. There was Terry with tears streaming down his face. Terry doesn’t cry much. I think I have witnessed Terry crying once or twice in the many years I have known him. So, when I saw him moved in that dimension, I knew our trip had been successful. It had been successful within the first ten minutes of the first session. I looked back at Lance. He was now weeping. Angie was like a sponge. She was looking all around and taking in everything.
We had taken six believers to a church arts conference at Willow Creek Church. The purpose was to better convey to some key people what we were attempting to do here at Life Gate. All six of us were moved upon in a magnificent way by the Spirit of God. It was at that moment that I looked at Lance and said, “How can a person come here and not get saved?” They had become all things to all those people and had gained so many. Their box had become winning the lost.
There are moments that transform. These are transforming moments or defining moments. We have all experienced them. A defining moment is the moment we met Jesus Christ. It was the moment a child was born. It was the moment we were married. It is a moment that helps define the remainder of our lives. That conference was probably a defining moment in my life. There was a power at Willow. It was a power to save souls. All about me people were clapping and crying and lifting their hands to Jesus. I was experiencing a moment and I was intelligent enough to recognize it.
Willow Creek Church is a church in the suburb of Chicago called Barrington That church has around 23,000 members. It has found a way become all things to all men to gain some. There were times in the past when I wondered why they had experienced such tremendous success. I now understand. How could a person come to this place and not feel the presence of God? Everything shouted “God” to me from the time we drove onto the property until the time we left. The lawns and yard are manicured with excellence. Everything was clean. There were people standing around asking if they could help us. Every aspect was first class.
The presentation of the gospel at Willow was with excellence. Everything, from the big screens (eighteen of them, it think) to the music to the singers to the speakers, filled us with the sound and sight of the goodness of Jesus. Every single move those people made was thoroughly though out. The questions of “Who are we trying to reach?” and “What are we trying to accomplish?” were answered before the service ever began. Every word, every person, every song, every speaker was directed at that goal. The effect on me was, “How can anyone come here and not get saved?” Their box is similar to the Apostle Paul’s box. They had found a way to convey the gospel to every person that entered. What is our box at Life Gate?
I want to read a passage of scripture to us and comment shortly about it.
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Luke 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
Luke 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Luke 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
Luke 16:28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Luke 16:29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
Luke 16:30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Luke 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
I am not a “doom and gloom” preacher. Nonetheless, I felt to warn us that there is indeed a horrible place called hell where some souls actually go after this life. Is there a solution? What is the Lord’s plan to keep people from hell?
This year 2.2 million people will die in America.(1) Only God knows exactly how many of those will spend eternity with the Lord and how many will be eternally separated from him into a place called hell. Statistics are only statistics, right? That is until someone close to us becomes one of those statistics. Many of us knew someone that died last year. Research suggest that more than one million of those that died last year did in fact go to that place called hell.(2) Why? Why so many? Did anyone attempt to bring them to Jesus? Did anyone care enough? Did they matter to anyone? They mattered to God.
Jesus told a parable about two people. One person was wealthy and “fared sumptuously every day.” Life was good. He had lots of success. He had lots of food. He had lots of drink and lots of everything. The other was much less prosperous. In fact he got by on much less. However, one day both men died. Death makes us all equals. The extremely prosperous person is no more important than the unsuccessful.
In this parable, the unsuccessful person was carried to a place to be held and comforted and loved in the bosom of his father Abraham. The extremely successful person was carried to a place called hell and tormented. How horrific it would be to open one’s eyes in hell! Is the possibility even imaginable? Hell was so horrible that the man desired to warn his family that the place actually existed. The tormented man said, “Let that person that I so disdained, dip his finger in water so I can lick it.” How horrible hell must be! Hell is so horrible that the rich man said, “I beg you father Abraham, please send Lazarus back to my family to tell them that hell is real!”
What is the Lord’s plan to keep people from hell? We know that the answer is receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. Certainly it is to teach and make disciples, but there are no disciples unless people come into the kingdom. That has been the answer for two thousand years. Still, one million people in America alone will begin an eternity in hell this year. Jesus is the answer, but how can believers do a better job at bringing the lost to Christ?
I am more convinced today than ever that the church was created for that very purpose. I am convinced that the church is a tool through which the Holy Spirit works to save souls and make those souls disciples of Christ. The church is sent to every ethnic group. The Church is to be the tool of the kingdom. That tool is to reach every ethnic group with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the church is a hammer that nails down the truth, or pulls out nails of tradition and untruth. In some places it is a screwdriver that gets our heads screwed on straight, or tightens some loose screws. Sometimes it’s a chisel and a hammer that will chip away at a hard heart. Sometimes it’s a tape measure to determine the distance a heart is from the kingdom, or how far a heart has traveled within the kingdom. The church is a tool with many abilities.
We desire Life Gate to be a tool that presents the gospel in a way that is extremely difficult to resist.
God has us here. We are not in Chicago. God has each of us right here at Life Gate Church in little O LaFayette, Georgia. What are we going to do about it? How many souls can we keep from hell? How many disciples can we make for Christ?
There are people in our communities that are not as far away from God as we might think. They are one relationship away. They are one phone call away. They are one visit away. They are one prayer away. What do they find when they come to Life Gate?
Evangelism does not happen under a normal routine. Even with the routine of a person with a high evangelist gift, the routine must be altered. A special effort must be made to touch a person. Whom are you touching? Are we each making the tool better? Is your box stopping someone from experiencing an eternity in hell? The tool must be used to its maximum potential if we are going to keep people from hell.
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