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The Gospel in Europe, and Now the World

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The Gospel in Europe, and Now the World

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The Gospel in Europe, and Now the World

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How important is The Great Commission to you? Is it something you think about, or are you one of the 51 percent of churchgoers who have never heard the term? This message takes a look at the gospel going to Europe in the first century and then compares it to the gospel in the 21st century—two millennia later.

Transcript

[Peter Eddington]: Let me ask you a question here today. What is the Great Commission? Please raise your hand if you’ve heard of the term of the Great Commission. Very good. About two-thirds or so, right? That term was a common phrase in Christianity in general for many decades. We’ve used it ourselves in the church, in particular, in the 20th century. We haven’t used it as much in the 21st century, I don’t think, by us or other Christian denominations. In March of 2018, Barna Research released the results of a survey about this very topic. And here’s what they found, 51% of churchgoers don’t know of the Great Commission.

And here’s a quote from their March 27, 2018 report, “Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 [18] And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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is the most well-known biblical record of what is commonly referred to extra-biblically as the Great Commission. But despite the significance of these and other verses that call Christians to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ a surprising proportion of church-going Christians in the U.S. are generally unaware of these famous words from Jesus.” When asked if they had previously heard of the Great Commission, half of U.S. churchgoers, 51%, say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who knows the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is just 17%. Meanwhile, the Great Commission does ring a bell for 25%, although they can’t remember what it is. The data indicates that churches are using the phrase less, which may reveal a lack of prioritizing or focusing on the work of the Great Commission. That may also indicate that the phrase has simply fallen out of favor.

Well, many of us who have attended church for decades will recall the term the Great Commission. It was used regularly in our literature, television programs, and in our church services. But I haven’t heard it much myself lately either. Matthew 28, let’s turn there for a moment and read those three verses. Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 [18] And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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contain the scripture upon which the term is based. My Bible here actually has a subheading right here, it says the “Great Commission.” Maybe yours does too, right above this. So, Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
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, “Jesus came and spoke to them saying all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. So, go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I’ve commanded you. And I’m with you even to the end of the age.”

This is the job given to us, Christ’s modern-day disciples, by Jesus Christ. The mission statement of the United Church of God is based on this passage. It’s a very important aspect of what we do. We are to preach the gospel and make disciples in all nations. And it’s actually a huge undertaking when you think about it. It’s a big commission. It’s a great commission. Preaching the gospel started out in a very, very small way. Beginning actually at Jerusalem, but it gradually spread beyond the Middle East, eventually going to Asia Minor, the Mediterranean, and then beyond Europe to the rest of the world. Let’s turn to Isaiah 66. Look at this prophecy from Isaiah because it shows how the Hebrew Scriptures and the Aramaic Scriptures look forward to a time when God’s way of life will not merely be in one nation. Not just sent it in one ethnic group, the Israelites, but would spread around the world. So, Isaiah 66:19 Isaiah 66:19And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
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. There are many prophecies about the gospel eventually going to all nations. In fact, the use of the Aramaic language itself back then was a bridge towards a non-Israelite world.

So, Isaiah 66:19 Isaiah 66:19And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
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, “I will set a sign among them, and those among them who escaped I will send to the nations, to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal, and Javan.” Javan were the Greeks. “To the coastlands of far off who have not heard My fame will see My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.” And there are a number of prophecies about the gospel, the truth leaving Israel and eventually going to all nations. Javan, the Greeks, of course, the ones who preserved the New Testament for us, and we could read further through here. The rest of the passage is rather inspiring. But what this shows is there’s been a vision among God’s people that His way of life will eventually be a model for the entire world. The good news, the gospel would eventually be preached globally. How important is the Great Commission to you? Is it something you ever think about? Or you’re just one of the 51% of churchgoers who have never heard the term, or even less who don’t know the scripture upon which it’s based?

Today, we’re going to take a look at the gospel when it first goes into Europe in the first century, and then we’ve got to compare it to the gospel in the 21st century, two millennia later. I’ve titled the sermon, “The Gospel in Europe and Now The World.” The gospel in Europe and now the world. And I’ve divided the message into three parts. And part one is simply “The Gospel Goes to Europe.” In the first century, the gospel went to Europe with the goal of accomplishing the Great Commission. You’ve heard of the area of Macedonia, right? It’s a very interesting part of that area’s history. Young Alexander the Great began his conquest from Macedonia. And his father, Philip II, had taken a Greek city whose name meant fountains, but he renamed it after himself, Philippi. Philippi is in Macedonia in the northern part of Greece. And it was the beginning of God’s work in Europe, in terms of the New Testament Church.

The preaching of the gospel began in Southwest Asia in a very strategic place, the land of Israel where Europe, Asia, and Africa all come together. The eastern Mediterranean, that’s actually why we call it the Mediterranean. It’s at the center, the medi of the earth where those three continents all come together. Well, it all began in the Holy Land, but then it was to spread even as Jesus said it would. And so let’s look at Acts 1. It sets the stage where we’re going with this message here today, and read verse eight. Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
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, Jesus who was about to return to the Father after He was resurrected said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirits come upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, yes, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” So, once again, a prophecy of the gospel going to all nations was not just gonna stay in Jerusalem.

And at that point in history, the gospel was not at the end of the earth yet, but many gentiles were starting to come into the church. You’ll recall from Acts 15 that the understanding came the gentiles did not need to be circumcised. Circumcision was part of the Old Covenant, a part of the physical identity of the Israelites. It’s a physical act. Gentiles do not need to try to become physical Israelites. Instead, they become spiritual Jews, spiritual Israelites without circumcision. Now, look at Acts 16. This is Paul’s second evangelistic tour. And here we have Paul heading out to preach the gospel. And this time on the second journey, he brings Silas with him. It’s very likely 50 A.D. And the decision has been made to make it easier for gentiles to become church members because the men don’t have to worry about circumcision. It’s still a serious commitment, but without that physical act, that physical aspect of circumcision.

So, Acts 16:9 Acts 16:9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
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, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night. And a man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now, after you’ve seen the vision, immediately we...” so the author here is Luke of the book of Acts. So, we’ve got Paul and Silas and actually Luke as well because, “Immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” So, Paul and Silas, and Luke are technically still in Asia, but they’re about to go to Europe now. The gospel going to Europe. Verse 11, “Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi.” Philippi is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia. A colony it’s actually a colony for Roman soldier veterans is what it was. Philippi was a colony for Roman soldier veterans. And we were staying in that city for some days. So, now, Paul and Silas and Luke are in Europe, in the area of Greece. And verse 13, “On the Sabbath day, we went out of the city to the riverside where prayer was customarily made, and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.”

Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, Philippi was named after Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II. And later, the Roman government made it a colony for Roman soldier veterans. They were able to live there and evidently had certain perks if they moved there and developed the area, developed the economy. It became a kind of a Roman-era model of society, a Romanized city even though there were a lot of or mostly Greek people there. The women Paul met there are evidently Sabbath-keepers. And in those days, there were more and more gentiles taking on the beliefs of the first five books of the Bible, especially women. Why? Women didn’t have the issue of circumcision to deal with. A lot of women became spiritual Jews, believers before the men did. The women still had to commit themselves to obey God’s commandments, of course, and live God’s way of life and actually then submit to water baptism. But obviously, not the circumcision part. The men had that third hurdle to overcome. So, often, women came into the church first until, of course, Acts 15 when things changed.

You find in the history of the church itself, often congregations began with a woman. The church in the Bible is pictured as a woman. We’re all pictured as the bride of Christ. When Jesus was resurrected, to whom did He first appear? Mary Magdalene. Women played a key role in the church in those early days. My mother actually came to church before my dad did. So, you see the pattern here from time to time. Now, verse 14, “While we’re there on that Sabbath day, a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira.” So, she had moved there from Thyatira, who worshiped God. “The Lord opened her heart to heed things spoken by Paul.” So, God was calling her. “And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us saying, ‘If you’ve judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So, she persuaded us.”

So, what we see here now is the gospel is being preached effectively in Europe in 50 A.D. And the women, obviously, evidently knew the Scriptures, believed, and were baptized. But things are working really well for Paul up to this point. But now we come to see some challenges. Enter evil spirits into the story. Verse 16, “Now, it happened as we went to pray that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” Verse 17 “This girl followed Paul and us and cried out saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God who proclaimed to us the way of salvation.’” Sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s what’s they were doing. We have to avoid the world with wicked spirits. We know that. And that world does exist. There’s a power there. We’re told to resist the devil and who flee from you. No need to fear it, but we avoid it. Sometimes people can say what’s right, like this possessed slave girl, but in such a way that it actually brings discredit to God.

We have to be careful how we represent God’s way. We must do it in a way that brings glory to God’s name, not a desecration. She was telling the truth but being a nuisance for many days. Look at verse 18, “And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out of her that very hour. But when a master saw that their hope for profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.” So, she was a slave girl. Paul had actually done this woman a favor. Probably though, now she was no further use to her masters. No doubt she’d get her freedom, but even if not, at least she was of sound mind again. At least now she wasn’t possessed by a wicked spirit. She had her sanity back and hopefully her freedom.

Look at verse 20. “And so the crowd brought them to the magistrates and said, ‘These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city.’” A little bit of antisemitism happening here, right? “And they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Us Romans don’t believe in the Sabbath. Verse 22, “Then the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.” So, the gospel is in Europe, but it’s getting a little hairy now. “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them in the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

This was something that should not have been done according to the laws of that area, especially in a Roman colony. Somehow, Paul could confirm that he was actually a Roman citizen himself. And if you did claim to be a Roman citizen then it was false, the punishment was very severe. So, it would not be something a person would claim unless he could back it up. So, Paul and the others are put in stocks in prison. And if not abusive, this is at least an overreaching use of authority. And to say the least, a very dramatic beginning to preaching the gospel in Europe. Verse 25, “But at midnight, Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” This is a very positive, uplifting attitude on Paul’s part. He can’t even walk around, his feet are tied to the floor. “Hey, let’s sing some hymns, guys.”

And suddenly, verse 26, “there was a great earthquake. So, the foundations of the prisons were shaken, and immediately all the doors were open and everyone’s chains loosed. And the keeper of the prison waking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we’re all here.’” They didn’t run off. God did this as a sign, and nobody left the prison. And it sure was a sign to the jailer. It had a life-changing impact on him.

Notice what happened next in verse 29, “Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So, they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him.” So, now they instructed him about what that really meant, and to all who were in the house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes and immediately he and all his family were baptized. And when they brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. So, now we have, because of this miracle in the jail, another family, another gentile family in addition to Lydia and her group of women being baptized and converted. This man had a very responsible position too, taking care of the prison.

So, Paul and Silas were suffering. But look at what was being accomplished. A core group was developing for a congregation in Philippi. Verse 35, “And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers saying, ‘Let those men go.’ So, the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul saying, ‘The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now, therefore, depart and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them, ‘What? They beat us, uncondemned Romans, and threw us in prison, and now they just want to secretly let us go? No. Let them come themselves and get us out.’” Paul is throwing a little chutzpah here, I guess. But I guess the magistrates figured, “Okay. We’ve given them a lesson, now they can leave. We’ve taught them a lesson. We locked them out for the night, now they can leave.”

But actually, Paul felt there was a lesson the magistrates needed to learn. Verse 38, “The officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.” The magistrates had broken the law. “Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out and asked them to depart from the city. So, they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia. And when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Paul took advantage of the opportunities he had under the rights of a Roman citizen. So, now with this all having happened, perhaps magistrates couldn’t be so hasty next time around. Maybe the rulers would be more positively inclined to the early church forming here in Philippi for a while. Perhaps the Christian would be a little safer after this lesson was taught to the leadership in the town.

So then, Paul left Philippi and he continued his journeys in cities such as Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, all throughout the southern part of Europe, and then back to Macedonia and Philippi again, later at the end of the journey. If you go over to Acts 20:6 Acts 20:6And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them to Troas in five days; where we stayed seven days.
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, you’ll see that he had returned to Philippi for a while. He was there until the following Days of Unleavened Bread. Acts 20:6 Acts 20:6And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them to Troas in five days; where we stayed seven days.
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, “But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread. And in five days, joined them at Troas where we stayed seven more days.” So, Paul goes back to the city where he was imprisoned. And he later wrote a letter to the church at Philippi that we have right here in our Bibles. And by this time, I would assume the congregation had grown a lot larger than it was when he was first there. Philippi is where the gospel began in Europe.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians later on include some very positive scriptures, so very uplifting passages. Evidently, even though the church was persecuted in that city, they had a very positive attitude. Remember, Paul and Silas were singing hymns in prison in Philippi, entertaining the prisoners. The personality of this congregation had a positive outlook in spite of trouble. Look at Philippians 1. Let’s just read a couple of verses from the beginning of this letter that Paul later wrote to the church at Philippi. This is where the gospel began in Europe. Philippians 1:3 Philippians 1:3I thank my God on every remembrance of you,
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, he says, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” He had very, very fond memories of this group of people, Lydia, the jailer, the whole congregation. “Always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” So, every prayer he had every day, he thought of these people and with joy, fond memories. “Joy for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” They were very faithful.

Verse 6, “Being confident of this very thing that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ, just as it is right for me to think of you all because I have you in my heart. And as much as both in my chains,” he was in prison, right, in stocks, “and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” It’s like they’re his best friends. Almost brings a tear to your eye as he writes his letter, how much he missed them. And like the church at Philippi, God is working with us, guiding us as we too have made a commitment, a direct commitment to Him. He’s going to see us through until the day of Jesus Christ. He will complete His work in us like He said He would for the church in Philippi until the day of Jesus Christ, whenever that comes, and if we don’t live to see it, we’ll see it in the resurrection that way. And so, in the goal to fulfill the Great Commission, the gospel went into Europe began to spread around the world with the apostle Paul.

Part 2, “The Gospel Goes to the World.” So, we looked at the fledgling beginnings, right? The gospel was preached in Europe in the first century. Now I’d like to take a moment to compare it to the gospel in the 21st century, two millennia later, 2,000 years later, the gospel is still being preached in anticipation of the day of Jesus Christ. Ours is still a work of spreading the gospel around the world as we read earlier in Isaiah 66. God’s glory is being declared among the gentiles, among all the nations. We have a divine scriptural commission, often called the Great Commission, to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to as many people as we’re able. The message we have is the same as it’s been for 2,000 years and more. But many of the tools are different to what Paul had available to use back then. Back then, was papyrus scrolls, word of mouth, standing up on hills, speaking in the synagogues. But now we have not just the printed word and books, but the internet, recorded audio, nationwide television, and streaming video. Quite a difference.

Look at Mark 16. Because in addition to Matthew 28, here’s one of my favorite scriptures about preaching the gospel. Mark 16:14-15 Mark 16:14-15 [14] Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. [15] And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
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. So, this here in Mark 16 is right after Jesus Christ was resurrected from His crucifixion after being in the earth for three days and three nights. Mark 16:14 Mark 16:14Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
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, “Later He appeared to the 11 as they sat at the table.” Of course, Judas Iscariot was no longer with them, there was 11 disciples now. “So, He appeared, having been resurrected to the 11.” And they were just sitting around at the table just wondering if they should go back to fishing. “And He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” Lots of women came and said, “We saw him.” Oh, yeah, right. Who believes women? That’s what they said. And so, He rebuked their unbelief because He told them He was going come back. The disciples were ready to go back to their regular jobs. And He said in verse 15, “Get up off your butts, get up from the table.” Well, I’m paraphrasing just a little bit. He said, “Get up from the table,” basically. “Go into all the world, stop moping around and preach the gospel to every creature, to everyone in all nations, to every person.”

So yes, we are those disciples today. We got to get up from the table and get to work. And we’ve been given a divine commission that only time will tell how much of this huge goal we in the United Church of God will be able to accomplish in this time before the two witnesses eventually come and fulfill it and complete it. When all is done, one might ask, “What is this all about? What is it for?” And in the end, the answer is quite simple. And it’s found in a United Church of God vision statement. We have a mission statement and we have a vision statement. And our vision statement expresses what we see ourselves becoming, not what we’re doing now in our mission. A vision is what we see ourselves becoming and where we see ourselves heading and going. And here it is. Here’s the church’s vision statement, “A church led by God’s Holy Spirit joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God’s great purpose for humanity to bring many children to glory.” That’s from Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 2.

In our work, we are looking to change people’s lives. We are under God’s guidance leading people to repentance and baptism, as God calls them, just like the apostle Paul was doing. It’s the same job, the same commission, the same instructions. And so, we are now preaching the gospel through our “Beyond Today” magazine in 148 countries. We have almost 400 congregations around the world. We present our weekly sermons at Sabbath services. And Bible studies that we pray are motivating, relevant, and doctrinally sound each week. Each of us, our fellow church members, must be knowledgeable about the Bible, including our fundamental beliefs and doctrine. You must know what you believe so that you can tell others, teach others. We want everyone, the men, the women, the youth to be involved in our congregations, and in the larger work of the church.

Being involved in the work of the church includes prayerful support, faithful tithes and offerings to further the gospel around the world. It’s not just the Mediterranean or Europe any longer, it’s literally all nations. We now have global reach and universal access of the gospel through the church’s websites achieved through the worldwide web, the internet. Our ucg.org website received almost 12 million unique visitors last year and more than 12 million the year before. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the small size of our organization. 99.8% of our website visitors are not us, not our church members. 99.8% of the general public visiting our website. The church’s Beyond Today YouTube channels had 14.2 million videos watched. We have 64,300 subscribers there and we host more than 2,460 videos. One of our Beyond Today videos has been watched 2.3 million times. Another, 900,000 times. Our bi-monthly “Beyond Today” magazine is circulated worldwide, engaging readers with the truth of the gospel. It’s available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Italian, Russian. We produce 54 booklets in multiple languages. Our church newspaper, “United News” goes to 18,300 households, including to many of our coworkers who contribute to the work on a regular basis.

And to help leverage internet video streaming, we developed a number of apps for our Beyond Today video content. And this enables our viewers to watch us right on their TVs as before but through much more advanced and flexible means that it’s possible to just broadcast or satellite or cable television. And these set-top boxes, as you know include Roku, and Amazon Fire TV, Apple iOS devices, Android devices, and a host to smart televisions like Samsung and LG smart TVs. The idea is whenever a person buys a new TV at the electronics store or a set-top streaming device, they’ll be able to install our Beyond Today channel right on it. And we also have a UCG app. Not a Beyond Today, but a UCG app that’s available on Roku and on Amazon Fire TV for more church-related content like sermons and even this webcast here today. Our Beyond Today television programs streams across the internet from the website, from YouTube, and from the set-top devices. It also broadcasts on television in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. And this all eventually has a cumulative effect in preaching the gospel to the world.

Our job, like started in Europe, is to let the world know, to let all nations know of the Kingdom of God coming. Not exactly the day when it’s coming, but that will come. And to instruct people and give people some hope because these days, there’s little hope for many people. We have to work a worldwide work to all nations as we’re able. The avenue is open for participation that was not there before. The communication systems available are so powerful, and it’s a work of making disciples. God the Father is the one who will determine who the disciples are, but we have to sow the seed broadly, widely. And then God will determine where the fertile soil is. And at the same time, not everybody is going to respond in this age, we know. And so it’ll be a witness. It’ll be a witness of sin, a message of repentance, and the truth of the soon-coming Kingdom of God.

Look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1 2 Thessalonians 3:1Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
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. Interesting verse here that Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 2 Thessalonians 3:1Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
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, Paul says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.” Pray that preaching the gospel will have free course. We must not back away from the urgency and the drive to do the work of God. And that’s why we’re part of the firstfruits now. And this role must be taken seriously. We must pray for the gospel to have free course while it’s still day, before tonight. You’re familiar with the passages in Amos about that. We’re praying that God’s message will fall on fertile ground as readers and viewers receive our material and begin to read and digest the truth. May we each do our part in our daily lives to further the spread of the gospel. May we ask God to provide problem-free free course distribution of His Word. And so, in the goal to fulfill the Great Commission, we now preach the gospel, not just in Europe, but around the world, and literally to all nations through the power of the internet.

Part 3 I’ve called “Back to Philippi.” Let’s go back to Philippi for a moment, to the book of Philippians. As we start to wrap this message up, let’s take a look at the second chapter of Philippians. And as we do our part to preach the gospel, we must not forget our personal responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s go back to the church at Philippi, there in Macedonia. And the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians has some critically important verses in terms of the outlook we should have as Christians. So, as we preach the gospel, how should we be living our lives? Philippians 2:1 Philippians 2:1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
American King James Version×
, “Therefore, if there’s any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love being of one accord of one mind.” He’s talking about unity here. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself, that each of you look out not only for his own interest but also for the interests of others.”

So, Paul is saying be willing to defer to others, help them along the way. Obviously, you have to look out for your own interests too, but Paul is saying, basically, love your neighbor as yourself, which is the most frequently stated command in the Bible, by the way, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Stated more than any other command. Then verse five, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who being in the form of God, did not consider robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself with no reputation, humility, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became a beating to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” So, Paul is saying we have to have this mind of Christ. This is why we need the Holy Spirit of God. The Logos was divine, the Logos was and is God, yet the Logos, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us with no reputation. He started out as an egg fertilized in the womb of Mary, taking the form of a servant and the likeness of a man. He washed the feet of His disciples like a slave would. He was willing to be born, mature, and grow up, and then die for us. The kind of death He suffered, the kind of unimaginable punishment He endured was so that we don’t have to suffer that punishment.

When we become His disciples, when we commit to develop the personality and character of Jesus Christ, we then look forward to immortality. We look forward to being sons and daughters of God, we look forward to going from flesh to spirit. And Christ was a pioneer. As a man, He died and was resurrected. He was both human and divine. Verse 9, we read now in Philippians 2, “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on the earth, and of those under the earth.” So, I guess that’s everybody, right? “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus set the example being the greatest of all servants. So, now look at Philippians 4 and be reminded of how we’re to live our life. And look at how positive Paul is here again. You find a lot of positivity when he’s with the church at Philippi, or writing to the church at Philippi.

Philippians 4:4 Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
American King James Version×
, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So, Paul is saying when we focus on God’s plan of salvation, and our part in it ,when we focus on preaching the gospel, it’s a source of joy. And the church of Philippi had a number of trials they had to endure, but they rose above that. And were able to see the joy of the calling. Verse 6, he reminds us not to let down in our prayer life. When we pray, we’re entitled to make requests, but in the spirit of thankfulness to God for all He’s done for us, for who He is, and His plan of salvation for us. As we live this way of life, God’s way of life, the ethical side, the cultural side, we keep in mind at the center of it all, Paul says, is Jesus Christ.

And most of us have not had to go to jail for our beliefs, had our feet and ankles put in stocks or beaten and left for dead like the apostle Paul was. Many of us have it a little easier than that. It was 19 years from 31 A.D. to 50 A.D. when the church made this leap from Asia into Europe. And 19 years later, in 69 A.D., the church fled Jerusalem and was protected as the Jews revolted against Rome. As you recall, the city of Jerusalem was then destroyed by Rome the next year in 70 A.D. Now verse 8, Philippians 4, we’re given eight points to consider. And it’s more positivity, would you believe? Verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there’s any virtue, if there’s anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

That’s how we ought to live our lives in a noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy way. Once again, a lot of positivity as Paul writes to the church at Philippi. He seemed to have a special bond with this first congregation that he raised up in Europe. We have been given a job to do. The seeds we in the United Church of God are sowing will germinate and bear fruit at the appropriate time as God desires and wills. Millions of people are hearing the message, but they’re not reacting to it just yet. But we’re sowing seeds that God will be able to germinate at some point. So, please continue to pray for resources to accomplish God’s will on all levels. We have a goal to fulfill what has been called the Great Commission. We preach the gospel around the world to all nations. Let’s appreciate what we understand. Let’s appreciate our future and our relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Let’s appreciate the fact that we’ve received the Holy Spirit. We have God living in us.

Let’s live the way that brings honor and glory to God our Father. And if you’ve not yet been baptized, if you believe this, consider going down that road, beginning the process of baptism. The history of the gospel going into Europe, this epistle to the Philippians is fascinating, the relationship He had with those people. And now we are taking the gospel to the world. Let’s all get behind the work of God’s church to preach the gospel to all people. It’s the Great Commission.