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FIRST-PERSON: The Gospel ripple effect

EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)–The Christian Gospel began with the life, death and resurrection of one man nearly 2,000 years ago. Since that time, the Gospel message has been embraced by hundreds of millions of people. You and I are beneficiaries of the ripple effect of the Gospel. Those of us over whom the waves of the grace of God have washed are responsible for sharing the Gospel and causing the ripple effect to continue.

We don’t have specific words to this effect in the Bible, but it appears that there was a ripple effect present in Jesus’ own ministry. The disciple John seems to have had the closest relationship with Jesus. John’s wave of influence spread to Peter and James (John’s brother), as the three of them formed an inner circle within the twelve. Next was the larger circle of twelve disciples who traveled and ministered with Jesus for three years. They then formed the core of the larger post-Resurrection group of 120 who gathered in Jerusalem to await the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8, 15). As a result of the “pebble” Peter tossed from the pulpit into the sea of Jews gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost, the waves of the Spirit washed over 3,000 souls, a number which shortly grew to 5,000 men (and undoubtedly many more women and children; Acts 2:41, 4:4).

There was one disciple, then three, then twelve, then 120, then 3,000, then more than 5,000 … and the rest, as they say, is His-story. Following Jesus’ own instructions in Acts 1:8, the waves of the Gospel then left Jerusalem and washed over all Judea and Samaria, then Damascus and Antioch (modern Syria), Galatia (Asia Minor), Macedonia (Greece), Rome (Italy), and from there possibly into Spain (Europe; Romans 15:24, 28) — all at the hands of a John-like central figure, the Apostle Paul.

“Yes,” many Christians say, “I can well understand the impact of John, Peter, James, the twelve and Paul. They were apostles! But my life will never set off those kinds of ripple effects.”

But what were these people before they were apostles? They were like you and me — commoners of the most ordinary sort. They were people whose names would never have garnered a footnote in history had they not responded to Christ’s call.

How would history be different if a plain man named Andrew had not gone to find his brother, Simon (Peter), and said, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:40-41)? What if another plain man named Philip had not sought out Nathanael and told him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45)? What if a fisherman named Peter had not responded to the request of a Gentile named Cornelius and gone to his house to share the Gospel (Acts 10:1-48)?

What if martyrs and Reformers like Polycarp, Ignatius, Hus, Savonarola, Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer had recanted the faith in the face of the flames? What if an unknown Sunday School teacher named Edward Kimball had not pursued a recalcitrant lad named Dwight L. Moody, ultimately winning him to Christ in a Chicago shoe store?

You and I have salvation today because of ripple effects set in motion by the faithfulness of others. But what of those who have yet to hear the Gospel? Who will speak the words and do the works that will set in motion the events resulting in their salvation? By God’s grace, and through our obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, you and I will set those ripples in motion.

The question for every Christian is not whether our lives have a ripple effect on history — but what kind of effect we are having. I challenge each of us, at the beginning of 2006, to ask God for a year of powerful ripple effects for the Gospel. You may not see the shore on which the wave lands, but the shore where you stand at this moment is where the wave must begin.
David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College). For more information on Turning Point, visit www.TurningPointOnline.org.

    About the Author

  • David Jeremiah

    David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.

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