Todd Friel in the Wretched Radio Newsletter.
When all is said and done, what should be the result of a witness encounter?
Like Horshack, you probably just shouted, “Ooh, ooh, pick me!”
Not so fast Ron Palillo.
Let me give you four options before you give your final answer.
1. The heathen feels like a wretched sinner.
2. The heathen understands the love of God.
3. You made it all the way through without passing out.
4. Jesus is exalted.
The correct answer: 4.
Yes, 1, 2 and 3 are important, but if you take a survey through the book of Acts, you will discover that the ultimate goal of apostolic Gospel preaching was: Jesus.
Let’s see if I can prove it. And if I can, you and I may need to reconsider how we share and preach the Gospel.
Acts Sermon #1: Acts 2:14-40
The Holy Spirit has fallen on the apostles and 120 others as they begin to speak in foreign languages. After Peter explains to the devout Jews that they are not drunk but fulfilling the prophecy in Joel 2, he launches into his sermon. How does it begin?
“Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst.” The remainder of Peter’s sermon is all about…Jesus.
Acts Sermon #2: Acts 3:11-26
After the lame man was healed and a crowd gathered, Peter sees the opportunity to launch into an open air sermon (gotta love that). How does Peter begin the sermon? By explaining that the miracle was performed by Jesus. How does Peter end the sermon? He proclaims the resurrection of Jesus. What did Peter talk about in between? Jesus.
Interestingly, the reason why Peter and John were arrested was because “they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2)
Acts Sermon #3: Acts 4:8-12
Peter and John have been arrested for healing the lame man and Peter gives his defense. What does he preach? Bingo! “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
What is that name? Jesus.
Eleven More Sermons
There are at least ten more sermons in the book of Acts and each sermon either begins with Jesus or climaxes with Jesus.
Consider Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7. He didn’t give the learned Jews a history lesson for nothing. He preached through the Old Testament to demonstrate that it was all headed toward a fulfillment in…Jesus. That is when the rocks started flying.
“Phillip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.” (Acts 8:5)
Phillip then approached the Ethiopian eunuch and “preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35)
Saul got saved on the road to Damascus. The scales were removed from his eyes and what did he do? “Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus.” (Acts 9:20)
Peter preached “peace through Jesus Christ” to Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10:36)
Paul preached Jesus in the Areopagus in Acts 17. Paul preached Jesus in Acts 22 as he presented his defense before the Jerusalem mob. Paul preached Jesus to Felix in Acts 24 and to Agrippa in Acts 26. In fact, “Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’” (Acts 26:28)
Consider the last words of the rather abrupt ending to Acts. “And Paul stayed two full years (in Rome) in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
The conclusion is unmistakable, the main emphasis in the preaching of the apostles in the Book of Acts is: JESUS.
What do we do with this? Well, I am not entirely sure. I am still digesting the above information since hearing a magnificent sermon by Pastor Ty Blackburn just ten hours ago. I think I have three conclusions (ugh, that sounded kind of emergent).
1. Lighten up on the apologetics
Do we lose apologetics entirely? Nope. We are always prepared to give a reason for the hope we have (I Peter 3:15). But as we study Paul’s apologetics, he reasoned with people from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). The emphasis of Paul’s apologetics was not big bang cosmology, but Jesus. Paul used the Old Testament Scriptures to demonstrate their fulfillment in Jesus.
Yes, we use apologetics; after all, the mind has to be convinced of the truth. But perhaps we have been letting the atheists take us down apologetics rabbit trails that take the focus off of the name that gives them the shakes.
2. Start in different places, end in the same place
It is obvious in the Book of Acts that each sermon has a distinctly different starting place. With the Jews, the sermons typically began with Jesus the Messiah. With the Greeks, Paul began with creation. We also notice that each circumstance demanded a different opening. The first words out of our mouths don’t need to be “Jesus the Nazarene”, but our sermons and witness encounters should be like the apostles: Jesus centered.
While we may spend some time (and it may be quite a bit of time) discussing creation and the Law, we better make sure that we end our message with the name that saves.
3. Dwell on Jesus
Does this mean we should no longer use the Law and preach the Ten Commandments? Certainly not. But I am suggesting that maybe our (ok, my) witness encounters have not been as Jesus centered as they should be.
As Pastor Blackburn preached, “After our witness encounters, Jesus should be left ringing in their ears.”
What does all of this look like?
I am not sure.
As we make our way through the month of August, will you ponder this with me? How can we make sure that Jesus is the star of our message?
I will be trying to do this in witnessing and preaching. Will you kindly offer your suggestions and give your critiques? If I fail, chastise me. Should I stumble across a particularly good presentation, tell me.
Be listening. I will be trying. Give me your advice, opinions and suggestions.
Together, let’s make sure that Jesus rings in everyone’s ears.
Hat Tip to Street Fishing!