“Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” - this last singing time began our final session of our outreach conference.
This morning’s Bible study was centered around the man from the Gadarenes country, whom Jesus delivered from demons (Luke 8: 22-39). Recalling past themes of this text, we noted that Jesus seeks the lost, and is focused on the Good News, revealing His glory to His disciples. Jesus is the leader of their ministry, showing them how to keep calm in the midst of a storm; indeed He is Lord of all nature and creation. Understanding the direction of Christ in our lives is very important to us. Jesus restores the man’s speech, mind and soul, bringing freedom to the once possessed, and consequently finds a gospel partner who will continue the message of freedom and life to others. So we also must go and tell what the Lord has done for us in our cities today. Then we were asked to give attention to the inductive study workbooks, which were given out at the beginning of the conference. They can come in handy in churches for small groups, Bible lessons and evangelism.
After watching a compilation video clip from the conference, Pavel Tokarchuk (Moscow) awarded three participants, who filled out their workbooks first. Then, Soslan Botiev (Mozdok) suggested recalling the topics of morning and evening messages.
GOSPEL POWER - Randy Johnson's sermon
The apostle Paul says, “So, that is before me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is the power of God for the salvation of every believer, first of all, to Jews, then to gentiles. The truth of God is revealed to him from faith in faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by unrighteousness.” (Romans 1: 15-18).
Even the child understands the simplicity of the gospel, and yet at the same time, we can study it all our lives and extract deep truths, finding it satisfying. This letter Paul writes in Rome, which is the center of power in the empire. The apostle is well acquainted with the political power of the Roman Empire, but he is more captured by the Gospel, whose power far exceeds the political.
What is the power of the gospel?
1. The gospel is God's power that has been manifested in the life of Paul and his preaching. Around us we can notice the action of different forces: electricity, the sun, the government. However, the power of God is much greater, and the gospel of Christ is the power of God’s salvation of every believer.
2. The gospel answers the most important questions of man. It shows that sinful people who often suppress truth and justice reveal God's wrath, which leads to death and spiritual separation from God. This problem can be solved only by the perfect sacrifice of Christ, who had to suffer incredibly and give Himself to atone for all sinners. Then Jesus was resurrected, and the same power of His resurrection today works in us. The sacrifice of Christ turned out to be more powerful than the power of sin, so the gospel carries confidence in eternal life.
3. The gospel shows us the love of God, through which we become part of God's people. Yes, we are beloved by God in Christ, and this was planned before the creation of the world. Let’s think how deep His love for us is!
Paul was ready to preach the gospel because he knew its power to bring sinners to salvation. Today, people around us are also desperate to see and hear the news of Jesus. Let’s think about how well we know Jesus, because our desire to bring the gospel to people who need to see his power in our lives depends on this.
As a segue, the results of the focus groups were summed up by their leaders, who announced the schedule for upcoming meetings and contact details for those wishing to participate in various training for evangelism.
After that, the whole team of forum employees was invited to the stage and the chairman of the Russian UECB, Peter Mitskevich prayed for God’s blessing on each of them. Special thanks were expressed to Vitaly Sergeyevich Moroz, who led the forum. Then came a recap of another message:
"JESUS SEND" - a sermon by Vladimir Miskevich, head of the Missions department for the UECB and head overseeing pastor for the Ivanovo and Vladimir regions.
Friends, it’s not by chance that you all came to the conference, but it is up to you whether you will leave as a practicing Christian or just receive additional information. “Jesus said to them a second time: Peace be with you! As the Father sent Me, so I send you” (John 20:21). A Christian always has the temptation to not evangelize, because it involves great effort.
Answering the question "Why am I not preaching the gospel?" The following answers were received: “not ready” (17%), “apathy” (20%), “not enough knowledge” (30%), “fear” (33%). Yes, it is fear that often disturbs us, but nevertheless we must remember that Christ had a mission that He now gives us: “and he said to them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) to be a natural way of life when we build relationships with people, and churches should be communities of people who are sent on a mission, rather than offering "religious goods." A living and preaching church will not go unnoticed, because the teachings of Christ are embodied there. If we communicate with others, they will ask: “Why do you live like this?” Yes, our mission begins with the fact that we become good neighbors and citizens, fulfilling the great commission of Christ, and our love for our neighbors opens the door for the gospel.
Once the Lord told me that I should go on a mission to Siberia and I was blessed for this service, despite various difficulties. I was 22 years old then, and I did not regret this time. We returned to Moscow after organizing 4 new churches. Then the Lord again called me to serve Him in central Russia, where I planned to stay for 3 years, but spent 19 years there. Recently, I accepted an offer to work in the UECB of Russia.
Friend, will you go? - The answer to this question depends on you, so reconsider your values and relationships with God. God expects real dedication and intimacy from you. Bless the Lord - go on a mission! Go ahead, amen.
FINAL WORDS from Viktor Levashov, Regional Leader of the Russian UECB for Southern Russia.
Jesus took pity on the people and sent His disciples off with a message: "Do not go to the Gentiles and do not enter the city of Samaria; but first go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; while walking, preach that The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 10: 5-7).” This message is in many ways different from the last message Jesus gives after His resurrection: “So, go and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep everything that I have commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen (Matthew 28: 19-20).”
The difference between these messages relates to the territorial restrictions. In the first case, the disciples went only to the Jews, and in the second letter the Lord equalizes this, and there are no longer such restrictions. In the first case, the disciples had great power over diseases and even over death, they proclaimed the approach of the Kingdom of Heaven, but still could not bring people into this Kingdom. It was a sermon of preparation.
Let us now imagine ourselves on that mountain from where Christ ascended. What do you think the gospel meant to the disciples then? Surely it was not just good news or a message that appeared in a book 300 years later. The disciples understood the gospel as a living process of inviting people to the kingdom of heaven. The key tragedy of man is death because of sin. How do we respond to death? Such news is always unpleasant and unnatural with our feelings. Death is the main tragedy of humanity, and the gospel is life itself, not just a book or news about life. Christ says: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh does not benefit at all. The words that I speak to you are spirit and life (John 6:63).” After His resurrection, Christ instructs His disciples to bring life to those around them. The one who believes receives not only peace, but salvation and eternal life.
Before the final prayer of our meeting, the pastor of one of the Rostov churches, Ivan Konovalov, asked to pray for their upcoming missionary trip to Africa with a team from Russia. After that, Viktor Levashov made the final prayer of the forum, for which he thanked the Lord for unending love and mercy, and requested strength to continue the ministry to expand the Kingdom of God in different parts of the Earth.
QUICK SUMMARY from Maxim Kalutsky (Kursk):
1. Over 700 attendees of people from all over the southern Russian region. This fact proves that such events with this kind of theme are very relevant for today's Christian world.
2. Organization of the event was one of the best I’ve seen. I would especially note the IT platform for registering participants, the welcome group and the coordinated work of all the other volunteers.
3. The whole program went on schedule, which once again shows the clear organization of the leadership.
4. The theme of the forum was the Bible verse Acts 1: 8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth."
5. At the center of any life that wants to live for God, there must be a deep understanding of the gospel. Therein lies tremendous power in him to change himself and others.
6. The gospel is when you understand who God is. He is holy and hates my disobedience to His holy character. And even for one such violation of his laws, I should be punished by God, and never see him again. But there is a way out. God sent Jesus to the earth, the one who died for my sins. He did this voluntarily because He loves me and all people. Three days later he was resurrected fulfilling His loving promise to save. This proves that God has forgiven me and brings me great joy! He also has forgiveness for anyone reading this message. You just need trust in Christ by grace through faith.
7. In the end, I was reminded once again that I must distinguish between the most important and secondary; what never dies and gives me the greatest joy. This is what I will strive for!