Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gospelizing the Word

 4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city [1] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city. (Acts 8:3-8 (ESV)
The persecution sends the believers out evangelizing the word. Of course it opens the perfect opportunity for evangelism. As the believers dispersed to their new lodgings people would be curious as to what has brought them to their town, the conversation would naturally turn to Christ. There are occasions in our life where the Holy Spirit throws a soft ball to us on a slow pitch like this, where people are generally interested in what it is we believe and why. It doesn’t always result in a new believer but it does give us opportunity to rejoice.
Philip too  goes to Samaria to preach and proclaim Christ. There is actually a difference in the words that are used. In verse four the word translated preach (and somewhat oddly I might add) is evangelizing. Here you have the verbing of a noun. They are gospelizing. The sort of informal preaching (if you will) that happens among friends and Christians. But the early church always recognized that the apostles did something slightly different. Their proclamation carried authority for one. The apostles had been trained and commissioned by Christ to preach his word, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. Not all Christians carry this commission in the same way, though in a manner they all do have it. People could understand if the congregation members didn’t have all the answers they were looking for. Of course, no Christian upon being forgiven of their sins and coming to believe in Christ would not understand his or her responsibility to tell others when opportunity presents itself. They are often consumed with a desire to do so, with such enthusiasm that they could hardly think of gospelization as a duty. They would rightly see it as a privilege and one that should never be robbed of a Christian by an overzealous pastor trying to justify his position with words like authority.
Phillip proclaims with the authority of one commissioned to speak for Christ. He goes to Samaria as Christ had told them to. He teaches of Christ in a public setting on behalf of the church. So it is that crowds are listening to him and unclean spirits are being cast out. And the gospel is followed by great joy in the city. Joy, not anxiety, fear, and burden. The fruit of the gospel is joy. It’s the forgiveness of sins! It is Jesus dying in your place that death cannot hold you. It is the promise of eternal life and the approval of God, peace with your Father in heaven.

Sure, not every moment of a Christian’s life is going to be one of ecstatic bubbly joy. But the gospel does bring joy and even rejoicing. The tendency of many is to fake this joy. It is easily seen through and turns a person into one to be avoided in the office. Plastic smiles and stupid little clichés that don’t well hide the fear and anxiety lying underneath the delusions, as if someone commanded you to be happy or they will chop your head off. That I just bad acting that won’t get you a role in a B class community theater rendition of “Anny.” Rather the Christian joy comes naturally when you realize the burden has been removed by Christ, you no longer have anything to prove to anyone, you are even free to experience the emotions you have and not feel guilty for being sad at your mother’s funeral, or being concerned about your employment or the welfare of your child in the hospital with leukemia. Jesus himself has known all these trials and tribulations, who in his love for you and for all that is dear to you went to the cross and died for your sins, and rose again from the dead overcoming this world and all of its tribulations.  And though we don’t always understand, and things don’t always go the way we would like, we know he is in control working all things for good and delivering to us the kingdom of heaven. 

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