Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Price the Gospel?

What Price the Gospel - 2 Cor 11

I have heard the saying that, "you can tell what a person cares about by looking in their checkbook." and I have found that this statement is a truism for our time. While today the 'checkbook' is almost an ancient relic, that saying remains true with a slight alteration... "you can tell what a person cares about by viewing their online banking history"

Granted our checkbooks or online banking histories will be filled with purchases of recurring items and monthly living expenses that are necessary for life, there are also those things we purchase that reveal where our true priorities lie... So with that thought in mind, I began to think, what priority do I place on the Gospel? What priority does the average Christian place on the Gospel? 

As believers, we KNOW Scripture tells us that we are Christ's witnesses and we are to 'go' into the world and take the Gospel message of Jesus to the world. However, what price are we willing to pay to get the Gospel to the world?  I know a man who has committed his life to the Gospel and has taken his wife and children into a land that is hostile toward the Gospel and in fact their very lives are at stake. His response when asked was that he wants to get another doctorate that focuses on the culture where they are, so that he can 'go into the belly of the beast' fully armed and serve God with all he is! WOW! That is dedication... THAT is someone willing to pay the ultimate price for the Gospel.

When I started thinking about this I began to think about our society (Christians included) and what we deem as important, what we think about, what we long for, or what we talk about at work or with friends, and I began to wonder, "Where is the Gospel on our life radar? OR "Where is the Gospel on our priority list of things to do for God?"

I then began to think about what I naturally gravitate toward in my conversations with friends and any other person I speak to... I also thought about those things I yearn to 'do' with my 'free' time... and then I had come to an extremely humbling conclusion about myself. My thoughts are not as focused on the Gospel as I know they should be. This realization was convicting and I have prayed for forgiveness and asked God to provide avenues where this can change. But this haunting question still remains, what price are we willing to pay to see the Gospel reach the lost? Am I willing to do what this man has done and take my family into harm's way to share Jesus with someone who is hostile toward the Gospel? The thing is that God does not call ALL of us to go across the sea to share His message, but He could call you to go across your street OR speak to someone across the room OR strike up a conversation with the person in front of you in line or behind you in line at the store.

With that in mind, my thoughts were on the believer in the pew? What are his/her priorities in sharing the Gospel? What price are they willing to pay to see the Gospel taken to the world? Taking a look at where we spend our money, for the most part, I believe that Southern Baptists (in general) truly desire to send the Gospel to the world. It is evident in that last year we received a record offering  ($154million) for International missions. However, does that record offering truly reflection of our willingness to pay the price for the Gospel? Is ministry from our wallet truly a surrender to God's calling to 'go'?

Vacations or attending sporting events or any other type of recreational expense on our part are not inherently evil. However, it seems as if many believers have elevated these things above their service to and calling from God. As a pastor, I have been offered tickets to ball games, I have been told of cross country trips, many have shared experiences doing this and that... BUT I yet to hear a church member come to me and say, "Preacher, I have been saving for a while and I want to go on a mission trip!" OR "Pastor, I have a week off next month, what can I do with you to share the Gospel in our community?" OR "Our family wants to take our vacation and do a mission trip this year!" I know that these things do happen, but I have yet to experience it in my ministry as of yet.

Season tickets to LSU or Miss State can run anywhere from $200/yr up to what you are willing to pay. Travel is expensive and costs are rising each year to do anything recreationally. This year Brazil is hosted the World Cup, and did you know that America was #1 in fan support. FIFA (the world Soccer Federation) reported that around 20,000 Americans traveled to Brazil to see the USAs opening match against Ghana, roughly about half the attendance for that game. Think about it for a moment, that means these fans were willing to take a 7hr flight (both ways) and put up the costs related to staying at least a week in Brazil and possibly 2 World Cup matches. The price ticket for this? About $6,600 per person... while, on the other hand, a week long mission trip to Brazil to share the Gospel would cost the average person around $3,500.

I am not one to say that people cannot do BOTH, but we truly need to ask ourselves that as believers, have we lost our objectivity and true sense of purpose in living for Christ. If we are willing to shell out countless dollars for OUR recreational time, but we won't give missions a 2nd thought other than placing money in an offering plate. Has our "free time" become the 'idol' that separates us from God?

Paul is a great example for us and he shares just a bit about his focus and attitude about how valuable he believed the Gospel to be AND how important it was to get it to the world. We can read in 2 Cor 11 how Paul was willing to support himself when going on his mission trips. On top of supporting his mission trips Paul endured great difficulties while taking the Gospel to the world. He tells us that five times he was beaten with the whip (39lashes), three times he was beaten with a rod, he was stoned and left for dead, and three times he had been shipwrecked spending over 24 hours stranded at sea. In taking the Gospel to the world, Paul was robbed, without food, without water, without shelter... BUT in all things Paul pressed forward with the task of taking Jesus to world! He believed the Gospel was so VALUABLE that it must be taken to the world, regardless of the cost. Paul got personally involved and took action!

The Gospel is still just as valuable and we are called to take it to the world just as Paul was... the question is how valuable do YOU believe it to be? How much are you willing to sacrifice to be obedient to God's call? I know I have been deeply convicted about this and am setting my resolve to change my thought process... Lord I pray that the Gospel become PARAMOUNT in my focus and a priority in my life. Whether I am going across the sea or across the street, let my calling from YOU to share the Gospel be the most valuable focus in my life.

Now, I want to say that I know MANY believer who do NOT fall into these categories or stereotypes I just spoke of... These people have been willing to serve God all over the world in places where the Gospel is NOT welcome, where resources are scarce, where success comes rarely and disappointment is a daily companion. The International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is currently fielding over 5000 missionaries and their families all over the world, and I know several personally. To these people, I give great respect and honor as they have shown a willingness to give 'all' for the Gospel. .

They understand and are willing to pay the price for getting the Gospel message to the world. How about you? What price are YOU willing to pay for taking the Gospel to the world?

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