2020 Vision – Our Community Needs the Gospel (Col. 1:24-29)
“Outreach in Swartz Creek”
The events of the last few weeks have illustrated how much the country needs the Gospel of Christ.
I’m talking about the incident revolving around George Floyd. You may be tired of hearing about yet another black man being killed by a white police officer or yet another protest that included looting and destruction, but hear me out… (I also recognize that all the facts are not necessarily known yet but I’m trying to report what appears to be true.)
Police responded to a 911 call that a counterfeit $20 bill was used to buy cigarettes at the Cup Foods store in south Minneapolis. If Mr. Floyd was, in fact, trying to pass along a $20 bill (and it has not been proven that Mr. Floyd knew it was a counterfeit), then Mr. Floyd was violating one of the oldest commandments of God: “Thou shalt not steal.”
Floyd was 46 years old, three years younger than I am. Floyd grew up in Houston and was a 6’ 6” football and basketball player. In 1998, Floyd was charged with theft. Then charged with drug possession. In 2007, Floyd was charged with armed robbery after breaking into someone’s house. Two years later, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison but he was paroled after four years. It was sometime around then that Floyd realized he needed to do positive things and he became associated with the Resurrection Houston community church.
About a year later, Floyd decided he needed a change of scenery and moved to Minneapolis. He left behind a daughter and the mother of his daughter. He had a girlfriend in Minneapolis. Floyd and Derek Chauvin actually worked together in a night club as security officers. According to the toxicology report, Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamines as well as cannabis in his system at the time of arrest. The 911 call report suggests that the employee of the store thought Floyd was drunk.
Derek Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the police force. Mr. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Two of the other officers on the scene were rookies and their defense sounds like it’s going to hinge on the idea that Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene and they were just following orders.
Mr. Chauvin had a complaint filed against him in 2007 from a woman who claimed he needlessly removed her from her car. There have been at least 16 other misconduct complaints against Mr. Chauvin over the course of his career. It is unclear whether those other complaints were related to racism. What I did see as I scanned his record, what has been made public, was a persistent use of excessive force.
Mr. Thao was the Asian police officer on the scene and he was accused in 2017 of punching, kicking, and putting his knee on a black man, leaving him with broken teeth and bruises.
Just this past Monday, it was announced that a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis city council has decided to disband the police depart and replace it with - who-knows-what. Both that city council and Mayor de Blasio of NY have decided to at least decrease the funds going to the police department and send those funds to minority communities.
Do you know what all this tells me? It tells me that our country does not have a clue about what to do on racism. We passed the Amendments to the U. S. Constitution which outlawed slavery, made blacks full citizens of our country, and gave them the right to vote. Then we passed various other laws like the Civil Rights Laws of the 1960s. And still we have racism. And I’m not even sure that Chauvin is guilty of racism; that’s not be proven yet. But, it sounds to me like our country is grasping at straws in trying to determine what to do about racism when there is only one thing that can irradiate racism out of a man’s heart and that’s the love of Jesus Christ in a man’s heart.
Many Americans have chosen to take out their exasperation by destroying other peoples’ property. That accomplishes absolutely nothing good and, apparently, they have forgotten that four commandments behind “Thou shalt not murder” is “Thou shalt not covet” and I don’t know but what looting and destroying other people’s property is evidence of coveting - “If I can’t have it, you can’t have it and I’ll destroy it."
Family, America needs the gospel! Now, I don’t live in Minneapolis so there’s nothing I can do about what’s going on in Minneapolis. But I can have some influence on you who can have influence on your friends and family. We need to be focused on preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the only power strong enough to motivate men and women to control their own behavior and keep it within acceptable boundaries.
Each month this year, I am focusing on what we ought to focus on as God’s children, Christ’s church. I have given you a definition of the Swartz Creek church of Christ based on what Scriptures teach. “The Swartz Creek church of Christ exists, by the blood of Jesus, to share the gospel with the lost, strengthen the weak, encourage the members, and worship God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
For the first three months of this year, I took a theological look at “Vision 2020.” The last two months, I turned our attention to practical matters. We have seen that we need to focus on:
We should honor God.
We should glorify Jesus Christ.
We should follow the Holy Spirit.
We should build up each other.
We need to worship God in spirit and in truth.
We also need to focus on reaching out into our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am going to take my text from God's word from Colossians 1:24-29 as we talk about the fact that our focus as a church needs to be on reaching into our community, to our neighbors with the gospel of Christ.
WHAT CHRISTIANS NEED TO DO:
We need to do our share in taking the message of Christ to others. In verse 24, Paul says he rejoiced that he could suffer for the sake of carrying the gospel to the Colossians. He was simply doing his share on behalf of the body. The body here is identified as the church of Jesus Christ. You and I are the body of Christ on earth. That means we have a responsibility to serve others, to teach others, as Christ would if He were on earth.
What does Paul mean when he mentions “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? Wasn’t the sacrifice of Christ once and for all? Wasn’t it complete? Wasn’t it a perfect sacrifice? Yes, to all these questions. What is lacking is the message about Christ getting into the hearts of other people. That is what is missing.
What should Christians do? In verse 25, Paul says he was a minister, a servant of the word of God. He was a steward of the gospel of Christ that God had put into his hands. Paul says he was a minister and a steward for the benefit of the Colossians so that he could fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.
WHAT CHRISTIANS NEED TO PREACH:
There are some things that our politicians can do to help make things better in our country. What needs to be done is debatable but ultimately what needs to be done is completely overlooked by our politicians. That is, preach the gospel of Christ. The message about God extending peace and forgiveness to mankind was a mystery in past ages but it has now been manifested to the saints (verse 26).
You and I know that message. God has “willed” to make known that message that reveals the riches of the glory that is available to us, to all men - that Christ can dwell in us - He is the “hope of glory!”
What do we need to do? What do we need to focus on as Christians? Verse 28 - We need to proclaim Jesus Christ, admonishing every man, teaching every man with wisdom so that we can present every man (notice the number of times Paul uses that phrase “every man” is this one verse!) “complete in Christ.”
If you have a “George Floyd” in your life, in your sphere of influence, try to help him or her understand the love of Christ, the message of the gospel, the hope of having him or her enjoy having Christ dwell in them. If you have a “Derek Chauvin” in your life, in your sphere of influence, try to help him or her understand the love of Christ, the message of the gospel, the hope of having him or her enjoy having Christ dwell in them.
That’s our job family. We are the hope for a better world - because we know Christ and can teach Christ. Verse 29 - Paul says it is for the purpose of presenting men complete in Christ that he labors, striving according to God’s power which works in him.
That’s what we need to be doing. That needs to be our focus. When we look at our church’s budget, evangelism needs to be a huge line item. We need to stay committed and stay focused on preaching the gospel of Christ.
We need to make friends of those who need friends. We need to find the “Saul of Tarsus” among us and reach out to them and see what we might do to help them come to know Jesus Christ. I remind you of Acts 9:31 that tells us once Saul of Tarsus became a Christian, there was peace in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.
Only the Gospel tells us where man originated. It is not the theory of evolution. Evolution teaches survival of the fittest. He who "has the gold makes the rules.”
Only the Gospel tells us what man’s worst problem is. The prophet Jeremiah says, “the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (10:23). “There is none who does good, no not one” (Psa. 14:3). “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Sin is America’s problem. Sin breaks up homes. Sin leaves little boys and little girls orphans, fatherless and motherless. Sin lifts up the politician, makes the business man greedy, joins man to man and woman to woman in the homosexual relationship. Sin destroys the baby while she's still in her mother’s womb.
Sin divides believers in Christ into denominations. Sin causes young people to drop out of school because of pregnancy. Sin takes the lives of the innocent on every street corner. Sin loads the welfare rolls with those too lazy to work. Sin kills the couple hit by the drunk driver. America’s problem is sin!
Only the Gospel has a solution. It is the Word of God and it alone that has the remedy for man’s rebellion against God. Repentance was the prescription given to the nation of Israel in the OT and it is the prescription for America today. “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
America needs to return to God. Adulterers need to go back to their wives. Politicians needs to once again be honest, business men need to throw off covetousness, homosexuals need to control their desires, abortionists need to lay down their scalpels. Denominations need to burn their manuals, disciplines, and catechisms and unite on the truth of the gospel, teenagers need to keep their hands and other body parts to themselves, murderers need to control their hate, the lazy need to get to work, and the drunk needs to put down the bottle. The solution to the ills of America, according to the Word of the Lord, is to return to God through Christ.
It is the Gospel that leads us to Christ. So we need the Word of God. It furnishes us unto every good work. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:15 that the Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation. They tell us about Christ, about the salvation that he offers the facts, threats, commands, and promises.
When we give our Lord our heart, with all its tender affections, we say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). To believe the gospel of Christ and to yield in humble obedience to it will make you happy, trusting and obeying. It will make your life richer and sweeter day by day along the way. It will make your home better and safer from the temptations of the evil one. It will enhance your chances for success in this world and give you the only hope to be had in the world to come.
That hope is found in Jesus Christ – 2 Tim. 2:10. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Jesus Christ says (John 14:6) – “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Only the Gospel gives us the answer to Job’s question – “IF a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).
The judgment of God is coming when everyone must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Then each of us will be assigned to either paradise, the bosom of Abraham, in the presence of God, or tartarus (hell), where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, where the smoke of torments ascend up forever and ever. Only the Gospel tells us these things.
Those then who possess the Word of God should be induced by these considerations to study it and to use it right. Neglecting the Divine Word today is proving just as injurious and disastrous as it was three thousand years ago with the Israelites. The word of God is as essential to spiritual life as bread and water are to the body. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” – John 4:14.
Not having God’s Word is a terrible tragedy. It has led nation after nation into rank idolatry and debauchery. Having it but not believing, appreciating, and obeying it is just as bad. The foolish man who built his house on the sand was different from the wise man in that the foolish man, when he heard the Word of God refused to follow. There’s not a greater foolish thing on earth to do, than to know the will of God, and neglect to obey it.
The worst kind of famine is a spiritual famine. It is a life void of divine direction and holy influence. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa. 119:103).
A better America starts with me. Am I right with God? His word informs me that I must turn from my sins (Acts 3:19), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and be immersed into Christ (Rom. 6:1-4). Then I must live faithfully according to the Gospel which is able to give us an inheritance among them which are sanctified (Acts 20:32) until we depart this life (Rev. 2:10). That’s the message we need to be sharing with those around us.
Take home message: If we want to have a better America, we must be preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ. It only is the power to change men’s hearts.