Jack Graham - Go Tell It on the Mountain
We have been talking about the ministry of the dear Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christmas. Now I just wonder, how many of you are experiencing not a spirit-filled Christmas, but a stress-filled Christmas. Well, apparently a lot of people, it's a stress-filled Christmas. In fact, one poll found the following: 88 percent of people feel stressed during the holidays. Fifty-six percent of people bite their lip with family members during the holidays. The top three topics avoided with family members during the holidays are politics, personal matters and religion. By the way those are three very important topics but maybe not dinner at Christmas. Or the average couple has seven arguments during the holidays. That's called the fight before Christmas.
Eighty-five percent of people overeat during the holidays, can I get a witness? Add to that, along with our weight, 42 percent of people unbutton their pants after a holiday meal. Well, it's our prayer and certainly God's promise to the believer that you experience not a stress-filled, but a spirit-filled Christmas. He is our Emmanuel, God is with us, God is for us, His love is for each one of us, and God is in us. And this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came at Bethlehem; the Father sent the Son to Bethlehem and He also sends you and me to the world. As Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, so do I send you". And this is the work and the witness of the Holy Spirit in our life. Verse 8 of chapter 1, from a mountaintop in Jerusalem, in fact, many times we've been on this mountain. It's called the Mount of Olives. It overlooks the city of Jerusalem.
It's amazing to stand at the very place where Jesus ascended and gave these words we're about to read, and one day will come again. Because the Christ of Christmas is coming again. And when He descends, He's coming to the Mount of Olives, that very place. But before His ascension He gave these words to His disciples and His followers for all generations. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end (literally) to the extremities of the earth". Jesus said the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. In fact, He guided those disciples to wait in the city of Jerusalem until the Spirit descended, and then to go. And five times in the New Testament, in the Gospels, in the book of Acts, Jesus gave His church our marching orders, our Commander-in-Chief has told us exactly what we're to be doing and that is to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel, and to baptize believers in Christ, and then to teach them, disciple them in the word of God and how we ought to live our lives.
We're calling this message "Go tell It on the Mountain". Jesus spoke these words from a mountain, and we are to go to every mountain and every valley, everywhere proclaiming that Christ is born, that He lived, He died, He rose again, He ascended and He's coming again. This is our message from the mountaintop. Go tell It on the Mountain is actually an African-American spiritual, a folk song from the 19th century. You probably realize that many of these great spirituals of yesteryear were passed from generation to generation, from slave to slave, and plantation to plantation. What a message of hope the Gospel gave to people living in slavery, in the despicable slavery that engulfed America and other parts of the world. Thank God for the freedom that we have in Christ and the freedom we now have in our country from that. But from those slaves, from those deep valleys came this mountaintop song.
"Go tell it on the mountain"! Can't you just hear them singing it! "Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born"! And let the echo of that song reverberate in this room and over the airways and online, that we are to go and tell! The message isn't so much to come and hear, but as believers, we are to go and tell! Jesus began with His birth and life, what He did on the cross, when He rose from the dead, He began a worldwide revolution! A Jesus movement! A Jesus revolution! This became the mission of His people. And from a small band of believers, just a few on that mountain so many years ago, from just a few in Bethlehem when Christ was born to a mountain outside of Jerusalem; now the whole world is hearing the message of the Gospel of Christ.
Let's talk for a few moments about the subject of our witness. "You will be witnesses unto Me". In case you're wondering, what am I supposed to say when I tell people about Jesus, just start with what Jesus has done in your own life. Start there. Because a witness is someone who simply tells what he's seen, heard, experienced. And if you have seen, heard and experienced Jesus in your life, the life-changing power of Jesus in your life, then like the apostle in the book of Acts you will say, "We cannot help but speak of those things which we have seen and heard". And what we have seen and heard is Jesus Christ in our life! It is the Gospel! It's the same message the angels announced on the hillsides of Bethlehem when the glory of God appeared and they said, "Peace on earth to all men"! The message of the Gospel is for the entire world! "Good news of great joy which shall be to all people"!
This is the good news of Jesus Christ, that God has become one of us. The theological term, of course, is incarnation. God in the flesh, Deity in humanity. And when God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, lived a pure and sinless life, He gave Himself on the cross, rose again. This is the Gospel. That we have sinned and broken God's commandments; we are broken upon them. We live in a broken world. Never seen as much brokenness as we're seeing in our contemporary culture. We live in a broken world, broken by sin. But Jesus came to be the Savior! There's hope in Jesus Christ! Amen? And He is the subject of our witness. Just point people to Jesus. Why did the Holy Spirit come? Not to introduce Himself to us, but to introduce Jesus to us and to the world. Jesus said, "The Spirit will testify of Me".
Any movement that has the Holy Spirit leading the parade is not a Jesus movement. The Holy Spirit introduces people to Jesus Christ. In fact, I like Bill Bright's definition of witnessing. He said, "Witnessing is sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God". So it is the work of the Holy Spirit within us to empower our witness that we would tell people about Jesus. And if you are a spirit-filled Christian, you will be telling people about Jesus. I'll let that just lay there a second. If you are full of the Spirit and every believer, remember, every believer is commended to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And when we are, we will be telling people about Jesus. We don't all do it the same way. You can't do it like I do it, and vise versa but we all can tell people what Christ has done for us. How He has changed our heart. It's as simple as a testimony and the truth of who Jesus is.
Christianity is Christ. This good news is too good to keep, right? The good news is too good to keep. If simple shepherds could run, as the old King James said, "They made haste"! If they could run with the message of the good news, that Christ is born, then we are to run with that message as well! The subject of our witness is Jesus. The strength of our witness is the Holy Spirit. Because we may say I can't do this. But God says yes, you can. My Spirit will embolden you. You need courage? The Holy Spirit will give you courage. The Holy Spirit will give you love for people, and ultimately, it's a burden for lost people that propels us and compels us to share the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit, his love is shed abroad in our heart, poured out in our hearts.
You need love? You need courage? You need boldness? You need character? The Holy Spirit produces the character of Christ in us. Love and joy and peace, the fruit of the Spirit. And the filling of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit then call us to the telling of the Gospel. Go tell it on the mountain after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. He said you will be endowed with power. And the Holy Spirit infilled those Christians and indeed propelled them with the Gospel. And they turned the world upside down. Jesus said go into all the world. They didn't even know most of the world existed. They'd barely been out of their hometown! And yet Jesus said, "You will be full of the Spirit and you're going to take this message to the ends of the earth".
There's an impossible task. There's so much of the impossible in the message of Christian faith, isn't it? Supernatural. It's a supernatural birth, that Jesus was born of a virgin. And it's a supernatural resurrection that Christ was resurrected, reborn out of the grave. And then that the Gospel would be carried around the world, from just a few at first but ignited by the Holy Spirit. When on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit descended, it appeared that these disciples, 120 of them gathered in the upper room, became like human candles. The fire of God rested upon them! And that fire spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and to the extremities, to the ends of the earth. That's the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let me remind all of us here in our wonderful church that what God has done here is that He has chosen to partner with us and to give us His Spirit that we might to His glory accomplish the Great Commission in our generation. The Holy Spirit is the strength of our lives. Every spiritual gift that we've been given is in order that we might be enabled to take the Gospel to our neighbors and to the world. And did you know for the most part... you're going to like this. For the most part the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been spread to the world through laypeople. This is what we do. Churches that are alive are empowered with the Spirit that we may be witnesses to the world and that is you. Whatever you do is your platform to share the Gospel. If you're a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker.
One of the problems in churches is that too many people said let the preachers do it! Well, the preachers aren't getting it done for the most part. I tell you who's getting it done; spirit-filled Christians like you who take seriously the call and command of Jesus to go into all the world and share the Gospel of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? The evidence is you're sharing Christ in a normal, natural way in the daily traffic pattern of your life. God empowers you to spread the good news. And the Holy Spirit will be the witness within you. He'll give you the words to say. He'll give you open doors of opportunity to share the Gospel if you will pray and ask Him. D.L. Moody said, "There's not a better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit". And you know that there are people in your life, people that you know, God the Holy Spirit is opening their hearts to the Gospel and God wants you to be there to share this good news with them.
The strength of our witness is the Holy Spirit. And finally, the strategy of our witness, the scope of our witness. The strategy is clear. Jesus said begin in Jerusalem, then to Judea, Samaria, the outer regions, across cultural barriers and boundaries. And then to the ends of the earth. To your neighbors as we say, and to the nation and to the nations. This is God's strategy. And this is our strategy as a church, to start with our Jerusalem and, of course, our Jerusalem is right here where we live, right here in north Texas community. God has placed us in the heart of one of the great places on earth to live.
There are 7.5 million people who live in the Dallas-Ft Worth area, 7.5 million people. And many, of course, though this was formerly known as the buckle of the Bible belt, many, of course, of the nearly 8 million people who live right around us, do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have a consensus religious opinion. They have a cultural religious experience. They have a church. But remember, the message is not the church; the message is Christ and the Gospel! And of the 8 million people that live all around us, so many people are searching for answers in their lives. They need Jesus!
And in case you haven't noticed, and I know you have because you've been praying and you've been staying alert, but when it talks about going into all the world with the Gospel, God's bringing the world to north Texas. And in our neighborhoods people from around the world. In our own church here, through Prestonwood Espanol we have nearly 20 Latino nations represented right here in this church, and, of course, in the community. Indian people, people from Asian countries and Middle Eastern countries and India and Africa, all around us! God has brought the world to our doorstep! So this is our Jerusalem. Through mission partnerships including Southern Baptist Convention and Prestonwood Network, our network of churches and partnerships with our own mission organizations that God has raised up out of our congregation. We are reaching out to the world. PowerPoint Ministries.
I love to think of something, look, I'm preaching right now. It won't be long till this message will uplinked to a satellite dish and that satellite, I mean, who 40 years ago had even heard of a satellite? Unless it was Sputnik and if you do remember Sputnik, you're old. I mean truly. It amazes me that we could bring a message, I could preach a message like this and it won't be long that will be uplinked and downloaded and I don't even know how it happens but it goes through a satellite and then it bounces back down to earth and the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the ends of the earth. That's PowerPoint! That's our air-raid on the world. God has given us opportunities to reach the world with the Gospel. Amen? Yes!
And we're taking advantage of technology! There's never been a better time to preach the Gospel of Jesus than right now! Right now! So, we can take the Gospel to the world, and then our Judea and Samaria. Here's the strategy: not only our own world, Jerusalem right here, our own neighbors. We've all got neighbors and friends and family members who need Christ. Your neighbor next door, the neighbor down the street. You're going to be with family members at this Christmas season; many do not know Christ. And I agree, you know, it's probably not a good thing to discuss politics or religion at the dinner table over Christmas, but you better tell your family members and friends about Jesus. Read the Christmas story, talk about Jesus. Let people know who He is in your family before they walk out your door.
So, we have opportunities all around us. The rapid growth of our population, our neighbors. But then I believe Samaria and Judea represent crossing cultural and racial barriers with the Gospel. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews and vise versa. But Jesus said take this message across the barriers, across the boundaries. That takes compassion, that takes some courage, that takes some creativity, that takes some consistency, staying with it. But thank God that Prestonwood like other churches we know, but I can only reflect on what you are doing, and that is we're taking the message across those lines and breaking down barriers. We're doing it through our pregnancy center, we're doing through our ministry in Bonton. We're doing it through Prestonwood Cares. We're reaching the poor with the Gospel of Christ. We've opened up a pregnancy center in southwest Dallas. It's in the parking lot, right across the parking lot from one of the largest abortion providers, Planned Parenthood in Texas. We're going right into the belly of the beast with the message of life.
That's cross-culture and it takes some courage, but we're going! And we're not just saving babies; but we're telling people about Jesus and how they can know Him. And saving babies is good enough, great enough, but it's even greater to know Jesus. Our Life Recovery ministry. So many hurting people, so many people ravaged by mental and emotional struggle in this area, drug addiction and alcohol addiction. I mean, that's crossing the barriers. Churches are not holy huddles, self-righteous spiritual country clubs! We're to cross over and when we cross over, take the cross over and tell them about Jesus.
So, we're called to do that. And then "to the ends of the earth, to the uttermost parts of the earth". To march off the map, through our giving, through our going. Everyone of us can pray, we all can give, we all can go to some extent and we can all send others to go. Let our light shine bright. You know, a fire cannot spread unless it's bright and hot in the middle. Right? A fire burns out. That's what happens to so many of these churches that are burned out. They lost the fire at the heart, at the center. God help us, church, to never lose the fire! May the Holy Spirit of God emblazon and embolden us to go tell it on the mountain and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born and He is Lord! Amen.