28. August 2010 2

Expressing the love of God

My first sermon in english. Thanks, Andy and Iris for the corrections. At the lighthouse in Antwerp.

Hello everybody. As I have only a brief time to my disposal and we are going to spend half of it on the translation, I will cut short the intruduction. My name is storch and I work as a pastor in the german city of Remscheid, which is located near Köln. We are a group of people called the Jesus Freaks, a movement about which you have probably heard of Ernsti. I am married since 1998 to Alex, no children so far.
The topic of my sermon is expressing the love of God. This works in both directions: I will mention three ways God expresses his love to us, but these are also three ways in which we as believers communicate God´s love to a world in desperate need for God. It is a very edifying topic and I hope sincerely that I am not going to bore you with it because it is so very hard to make use of humor in a language that one is not used to speaking.

The Apostle Paul was a guy in the Bible who wrote quite a bit of the New Testament and was busy preaching the gospel at the end of the earths. He did a lot of traveling in his life and was always driven by the desire to introduce the heathen (as they were labelled most politically uncorrectly) to Christ. In his epistle to the church in Rome, he shows us two principles and three ways which he used in his ministry to reach the unreached.
Although his hints are obviously old, I find that they still work today and are therefore worthy of consideration.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: „Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.“ (Rom 15:18 NIV)

Principle #1: the testimony

First of all Paul tells us of his experiences. Today more than ever we live in a world that is interested in experiences. People don’t look for theories and nicely put words, they are interested in things that work. So the christians ought not to let the theologians do all the preaching for they will get us in a big mess understanding the gospel. We need people with first hand experience of a loving God.
Everybody who has experienced God must not be quiet but tell others of his or her experience. Our experience will lead the way more than anything else. That is not to diminish the worth of the bible or theological scholarship. But christianity is mostly about experience, not thinking.
This also puts a responsibility on the church. Churches should become places of experiences where nonbelievers can experience God’s power in prophecy, healing, worship and the like.

Principle #2: breaking ground

The second principle is not to build on grounds that have already been built upon. To reach people with the message of God we need of course previously unreached people. That seems to be self evident if one reads it in the New Testament, but it is in fact quite a revelation if you look at the church of our time. Much effort today is spent on the fellow christian more than the world. Some of our biggest churches in germany are big because they got believers from other local churches. This happens so often that the english language even has an expression for it: sheep stealing. I suppose that it is just the same with Belgium but this is just a supposition as I don’t know Belgium in any way expect for the great pralinés.
It is certainly more easy to reach the reached than to reach the lost. But it is more fun and worthwhile to reach the people our God wants to reach the most. So if in fact we have to invest effort to reach the reached, why not spend that and a little extra effort on the otherwise lost?
Let’s have a look on the ways Paul used to reach people.

Way #1: speak

The first way is to speak. That is obviously easy and self explanatory. The gospel can be expressed with the use of words. One can even be talked into the kingdom of God. The kind of religious speaking we are talking about is commonly spoken of as preaching. It is part of the great commission which Jesus left us as a legacy, to preach the gospel to the whole creation and teach them to live in Jesus’ ways.
That is not all about the work of the pastor. Every Christian should preach in the sense that he or she should share what they know about God and share their experiences. You can do this by all forms of talking and arts: Preach on a box, share with your friends, sing in a gospel choir and so on.
But you will soon discover that mere words are not enough and that there ought to be more.

Way #2: do

Paul not only said, he did something. This part is the most difficult to understand. You can „do“ a lot. So have a closer look at the greek. The original word has a similar wide use as the english or the german word. I suppose that the dutch word has also a very broad meaning. The same greek word is used in acts 9,36 where Luke tells us of a woman named Dorkas who “was always doing good and helping the poor.” I interpret Romans 15 in the light of this verse. The deeds of Paul were deeds of mercy, he helped people and showed them the love of God in a very practical way.
The New Testament exhorts this principle on several occasions. The clearest examples are given in the epistle of James who clearly states the fact that it is not enough to just serve words to people who need help. James proposes that if some naked folk came into the service and all they get is the good advice: “Go ahead and cloth yourselves”, that this is just cheap talk and it helps no one. Faith has to become practical at some point as love is practical. There is no such thing as theoretical love and if there was it would profit no one. If God’s love was mere theoretical and Jesus hadn’t died on the cross the way to heaven would still be sealed. So it would be if our proclamation of the gospel was only a theory. We need to add works to the speech.

Way #3: perform

The third way is in no means the last way. It is my favourite way, the one I have dedicated the last years to explore. It is a way mostly forgotten by most churches in the west, but deeply incorporated into missions in africa, south america and asia. It is the way of signs and wonders.
I came to know christ as a young man of 21 years. Before God showed me that he is real I was deeply suspicious of the existence of anything supernatural and despised religion as a whole. I especially saw no way of telling which of the manifold religions of the earth would be true. When you have several options to choose, by which criteria do you make the distinction? Everybody finds himself in the same position as I was in these years ago. If you go through the main shopping street of any western city, you get the whole variety: christan churches stand next to the mormons next to some weird New Age Cults next to political parties selling their social gospels next to mobile phone companies next to etc.pp.
The only way to know who is right is when God himself backs us up supernaturally. It is easy not to believe our words. But what about prophecy and healing? Jesus needed the supernatural for his preaching – how much more do we need it today?
The church ought to mature in all three ways and of course both principles. It’s not a matter of choose and pick but of growing in what God offers to us. Every believer will have an area in which it is more easy for them to show god’s love. That is perfectly alright, live what God himself wired you to be. The mission is after all, reaching the world by all means.

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2 Kommentare

  1. oh, wann warst Du denn in Antwerpen?

  2. am 18.07. war das

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