Hal West
Torchbearers  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Torchbearers Luke 11:33-36 INTRODUCTION: For some time now we have been looking intently into the concept of FIRE as it relates to the Power and Personality of God and the Personal Presence of God among his people. If we had time, it would probably be good to recap some of the things we have talked about, but suffice it to say that our purpose in all this was to develop an understanding our Vision and Mission, which share a common thread. Our Vision is: REKINDLING THE FIRE OF GOD’S PRESENCE and our MISSION is: TO BE TORCHBEARERS OF THE GOSPEL IN WALTERBORO AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. If you remember from last time, we looked at what happened to the Emmaus Road disciples who were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus when, they were suddenly joined by the Risen Lord. But they didn’t recognize him. But as they walked along, Jesus began to open up the Scriptures to them to understand that his suffering and death were a necessary part of the story of redemption. And when the Risen Lord suddenly departed from them, they looked at one another with amazement and said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And immediately they walked back to Jerusalem to find somebody to tell what they had experienced and learned from their time with Jesus. Why? Because their hearts were on fire for the Lord, and hearts on fire have a fresh experience to talk about, a testimony to share, and a witness to bear. When our hearts are set on fire by the living Lord, and we are empowered by the fire of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts, we become torchbearers of the Gospel, and this is what is missing in so many of our churches today – the Gospel imperative to carry the Gospel of love, life, and light into our dark world. If we would have God rekindle the fire of his presence, we should also carry the torch of the Gospel to those living in the darkness of sin and death. And so I want us to understand this morning that we are shifting our focus: FROM HEAT TO LIGHT: The Lord does not light our fire just to warm our hearts. He lights our fire to make us torch lights of the Good News. Becoming a torchbearer is taking the next step in our renewal as a New Testament Church. A rekindled fire is a source of heat, but it is also a source of light. Heat and light are both essential qualities of the fire of God’s presence. • Heat purifies – light penetrates • Heat refines – light reveals • Heat sanctifies – light glorifies • Heat is our worship – light is our witness • Heat is our ceremony – light is our testimony • Heat shapes – light shines. One way to look at the dual qualities of heat and light is through the lens of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. • In the Great Commandment, Jesus said: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39 NLT) Heat relates to loving God. Light relates to loving our neighbor. • In the Great Commission in Matthew 28, The Risen Lord commissions the church to go and make disciples. The end result of rekindling the fire of God’s presence in the life of our church is that, as a church, we go out into the world as: INDIVIDUAL TORCHBEARERS OF THE GOSPEL: Here’s the thing we must understand, and it’s absolutely critical to the revitalization of our church. I can’t emphasize this enough: What is to be accomplished in rekindling the fire of God’s presence if we don’t obey the Great Commandment and carry out the Great Commission? And let’s make this very personal: As earnestly as you want your church to experience the fire of revival, and as fervently you pray for the power and presence of God to be rekindled here, you as an individual must just as earnestly and fervently obey God’s command to love your neighbor and carry the torch of the Gospel to those who are living in the darkness of sin and death. It’s easy to embrace this challenge as a whole, but it’s much more difficult to embrace this challenge as an individual. As a Christian, I have a torch, and as a Christian you have a torch. But is my torch blazing with the light of the Gospel wherever I go, and is your torch blazing with the Gospel wherever you go? Maybe the idea of a torch is a little hard to get your mind around because it’s an ancient instrument, which is in little use today. It’s a very simple concept. A torch is basically made of three parts: a wooden handle, a piece of cloth or old rags, and olive oil. So the old rags were soaked in olive oil and wrapped around one end of the stick. And the torch was lit when fire from another source was put to it. And this is a great illustration of our lives as torchbearers. We’re instruments that God wants to use to light the world. We’re a stick wrapped in old rags – that’s all we are – until we are soaked in oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The oil is the spiritual fuel for all that God wants us to be and do. And when we’re exposed to the fire of God’s presence, we become blazing torches of testimony as witnesses for the Lord Jesus. So Jesus says to us in Matthew 5: READ MATTHEW 5:14-16 NLT. Becoming torchbearers of the Gospel is like the New Testament version of: RELAY FOR LIFE: We’re all familiar with the American Cancer Society’s communitywide awareness of and funding to fight cancer. Some of you are involved with that campaign and passionate about it because almost everybody has been touched by this disease as I have been. My son died with Leukemia. My wife is a cancer survivor. But what we’re talking about this morning is a matter of eternal consequences, and eternal questions of life and death. We’re talking about the carrying the torch of the Gospel to the next-door neighbor, the next person you meet, to the next neighborhood, the next state, the next country, and to the next generation. We’re all familiar with the Olympic Flame, right? We’ve probably all seen, at least on TV, the dramatic moment when the torchbearer runs up to the Olympic cauldron and with great pomp and circumstance ignites the cauldron with his blazing torch. It’s a profound international spectacle that millions of people around the world celebrate at the opening of the Olympic Games every 4 years. But are you familiar with the less seen and less celebrated torch relay that goes on for days before the last torchbearer reaches the cauldron? The tradition began in the Modern Olympics in 1936 when a torchbearer left Olympia, Greece with a lighted torch. That torch lit the torch of another runner, then another, and another until 12 days later the last torchbearer arrived in Berlin, the site of the 1936 Games. In the most recent summer games in Rio de Janeiro, there were 12, 450 torchbearers in the torch relay from Olympia to Rio. But if you think that’s something, think about the Light of the World – the Lord Jesus Christ – who lit the torches of 12 Apostles along with the 120 torchbearers in the upper room in Jerusalem 2000 some years ago, and just as the Lord Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends f the earth,” and that relay for life is still going on and must go on. If you are a born again Christian you must understand that somebody lit your torch. Somebody told you about Jesus. Somebody shared the Good News. Somebody loved you enough to explain the plan of salvation. Somebody shed the light of the Gospel on your life. A torchbearer did that for you. And, listen. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to try and guilt you about being a witness, or shame you into going across the street to knock on your neighbor’s door. I would rather just encourage you to let your light shine everywhere you go. Don’t hide it. As a Christ follower, let the torchlight of the Lord Jesus in you be a beacon of hope and a flame of faith for others. Listen to what Jesus says. READ LUKE 11:33-36 RESPONSE: The message this morning in a nutshell is verse 36. “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though you a floodlight were filling you with light.” You are a torchbearer of the Gospel. Let your light shine for your neighbors, your friends, your school mates, your co-workers. You can let your light shine as a witness in the things you do and the places you go. You can be a light across the street, across town, or across the world. As a church, we can see people once again coming to faith and being baptized. We can see our children and grandchildren – the next generation – on fire for the Lord, but not if we forget who we are and what God has called us to be as torchbearers of the Gospel. As a grandfather, I’m burdened for my grandchildren and my grandchildren’s generation. These verses in Psalm 71 have become my heart’s prayer in recent years. READ PSALM 71:17-18 NLT. Let’s remember – It’s the Relay of Life. If I’m just running the race to get to the finish line with my faith intact and my eternity secure, I’m forgetting that I’m a link in the chain. I’m forgetting that I’m connected to the links that came before me, but I’m also connected to the links that come after me. We can’t think of the race of faith as an individual race. It’s a relay. Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the ministry, “I have finished the race.” But he also passed the torch to Timothy, and he told him to pass it on to others who will pass it on to others. It’s a relay. You and I are torchbearers of the Gospel. Let’s pass it on!
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