Welcome to week 7 of this 8 week series covering the biggest question of life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
Week 7 of 8 – almost there! For almost two months we have been focusing on the biggest questions in life and specifically what is our purpose. We looked into God’s Word and discovered that there are FIVE purposes for each and every one of us that call Jesus our Lord. We’ve covered four of them and now we are going to cover the last, but certainly not the least.
Just a quick recap first:
First a reminder that the ultimate purpose in life is to prepare for eternity. This life is a temporary assignment. Training ground. Practice for the real life in heaven that is going to last a whole lot longer. So, while we are on this earth God has five purposes for us to live for to get ready for the life to come.
Purpose 1: Planned for God’s Pleasure. Worship is a way of life, not a song set.
Purpose 2: Formed for God’s Family. Fellowship is Fundamental.
Purpose 3: Created to Be Like Christ. Character over comfort. Discipleship.
Purpose 4: Shaped to Serve. Saved to Serve. Ministry.
And that brings us to today, Purpose #5: Made for a Mission.
But before I get into this, let me make a request of all of you. During this next week, I would like to hear from you telling me how this has impacted you. What have you learned? What changes in your life do you plan to make? How has this changed your perspective? Has your life changed from this experience? I may use some of your stories in next week’s talk, but I will keep it anonymous. You can just email me at email@example.com.
Ok, so back to Purpose #5: Made For a Mission
Jesus said, ‘In the same way that You gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.’
Circle “in the world.”
This is the difference between a mission and a ministry. A ministry is to believers. A mission is to unbelievers. You need a ministry in the church and you need a mission in the world. If you’re going to be a balanced believer you need both. You need a ministry to the body of Christ, the family of God and you need a mission in the world.
Your mission is both customized and common. There’s a custom part that’s unique to you – your life mission – your calling – that nobody else has. And there’s a common part that you share with everybody else, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.
As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.
What are we sent to do? What’s our mission? Paul sums it up here in Acts.
The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to tell people the good news about God’s grace.
That’s our mission.
My fifth purpose in life is to share the good news. (fill in)
- Once I know that God made me to love me,
- once I know that my life’s not an accident,
- once I know that He has a purpose for my life
- and He wants to keep me with Him forever in eternity
- and He sent Jesus to die for me
- and all the many wonderful things we’ve talked about the last many weeks,
- once I know all that, God expects me to pass it on.
- Somebody told you.
- You’ve got to tell other people.
- We’re to pass it on.
There’s a word for this. It’s the word “evangelism.” Most people hate this word. Most Christians and non-Christians hate it because they misunderstand it. When I say, “evangelism” you think of evangelist – a guy on TV with big hair saying, “Send me your money.” But that’s not what evangelism is at all.
Evangelism comes from the Greek word “εὑαγγέλιον” which simply means “good news.” It later came to mean THE good news, the Gospel. The news that we are no longer slaves to sin and that we don’t have to try to earn our way to heaven. That’s really good news, and we are to tell others about it.
You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
What’s a witness? Have you ever been in a courtroom or seen one on TV? Then you know what a witness is. Jesus did not say, “You are My defense attorney.” You don’t have to defend God. He did not say, “You are my prosecuting attorney.” You don’t have to force people to accept Him. He didn’t say, “You’re My salesman.” You don’t have to try to sell God. He says, “I want you to be My witness.”
What does a witness do? A witness tells their story. “This is what I saw… This is what happened to me…” It’s sharing with others what God has done in your life.
You don’t have to be an expert at theology, Soteriology, or Eschatology, or even know what those words mean. You don’t have to be able to debate creation vs. evolution or explain all the nuances of the trinity, God’s omni’s, or the dual nature of Christ.
All a witness does, and all you need to do is tell your own story. You are the only expert on your life story. I can’t witness for you. No pastor, no priest, no clergy is better than you as a witness. Because you are the expert on your life. You are the authority on your life. God is not asking you to go be a salesman for Him. Or a prosecutor for Him. Just go out and tell people, this is what God’s done in my life. Anybody can do that.
The greatest witness is a changed life. All the bible knowledge in the world will not convince a skeptic, but a transformed life is hard to argue with.
That’s what a witness does.
Where are we supposed to do it? Jesus said “In Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria and in the ends of the earth.” When Jesus said this to His followers do you know where they were? They were in Jerusalem. He was saying, START WHERE YOU ARE. There are people right where you live who need to hear about this. Start here.
Then He says I want you to go to Judea and Samaria. Those were the areas right next door. Like Chesapeake and Portsmouth to us. He was saying to not stop with where you are. Branch out. But even more than locationally – branch out to people who are not like you. Samaria to the Jews was practically enemy territory. The Samaritans and Jews had hated each other for centuries. That’s why the story of the Good Samaritan had such impact. Jesus was saying, don’t just tell the people you like and the people you are comfortable with. EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW!
Then, just in case they were thinking too small, Jesus ups the ante – “to the ends of the earth.”
Why did Jesus say this? Because it’s the purpose of history.
Remember what we’ve been talking about? The whole reason we are alive is to be loved by God and to love Him back. That He created us to be with Him forever, but He gave us a choice whether we wanted that or not. And when we chose to do our own thing, instead of just leaving us to our fate – Jesus came to earth and paved the way for us in his own blood. Why? For the JOY SET BEFORE HIM HE ENDURED THE CROSS!! And He wants you and I to tell everyone about it so that all of His creations can become His brothers and sisters, just like us.
And this wasn’t some kind of backup plan. This has been the plan all along.
This was God’s plan for all of history which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
And He uses us to complete the mission.
Some may wonder why God doesn’t just appear in the sky or make angels appear to people or do a bunch of big miracles to get people to believe in Him. Well, He did. Several times. And if you read your bible you will see that it didn’t work.
But you know what did? The changed lives of the original apostles. That motley crew of seemingly witless men made more impact for the kingdom than all the miracles in the bible combined. And we are a result of that. You know why? Because a changed life is the greatest and most compelling miracle in the world – and there are dozens of them sitting in this very room. And certainly one standing on this stage.
And God didn’t change our lives only for our own benefit. We must share. We are made for a mission.
There is no plan B.
If we don’t tell them, they won’t know.
So, how do we do it?
1. I must share with those in my world. (fill in)
Those who are around me. Share with those in my world.
Jesus once cast a legion of demons out of a man. Afterward the man begged Jesus to let him follow him around, but Jesus responded:
“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Jesus Christ says the same thing to you and me. “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Now, here is where I break a little bit with what Rick Warren teaches in his book. Not that I don’t fully agree with telling others about Christ, but I tend to go about it a different way than he suggests. As you will read this week, he will suggest that at the moment you become a believer you should start telling every single person that crosses your path. This is not a bad thing. And if you are a super extroverted kind of person, that may very well be exactly what works for you. But what about us introverts? What about those of us that are not very comfortable telling everyone we meet about Jesus? Or even telling our closest family or unbelieving friends? Or even talking to people in general?
What if at the end of today’s talk I challenged all of you to go tell 15 people about Jesus and even asked all of you to stand up and promise that you would do it. Would you? Or would you likely not come back next week? Why? Probably because if you are anything like me – the thought of cold calling fifteen people and trying to sell them Jesus makes me break out in a cold sweat and feel sick to my stomach. And I’m a pastor!!!
Am I ashamed of Jesus? No.
Am I afraid to talk with people about Christ? No.
Do I not know enough bible verses and such to make a compelling argument? No.
In fact, I’m probably rather qualified, but I’ll be honest with you, I have a VERY hard time approaching people that I know or don’t know and asking something like “Do you know Jesus?” And I imagine many of you are the same way.
If you are a super evangelistic type that thrives in that way. Good on you. The world needs people like you and please keep doing it. But if you are more like me and this is a challenge, let me talk with you for a minute.
While I did say it is a challenge for me to do the traditional kind of witnessing. I did not say that I never witness to people. My personality just subscribes me to an alternate method that is not often preached from the stage of a church.
Did you know there are two major methods of evangelism? They are referred to as the Roman and Celtic methods. This isn’t something you will find in the Bible. It’s more of an observational truth that has been put into words. The Roman method is the “traditional” method employed by most of the evangelists you’ve probably heard of. The Romans, as they were taking over the world would come into a village and allow them to join the Roman state, but if they didn’t do it voluntarily they would conquer them and force them to. Once they were conquered or joined voluntarily they were invited into the Roman empire and given all the same rights and responsibilities and no longer treated like enemies, though they were expected to adopt the Roman culture.
Thus, Roman style evangelism basically equates to: Get them saved, then treat them like family. It’s also very up front – make a decision now – kind of approach. This approach does work and has resulted in many Christ Followers through the years. But it’s not the ONLY way to do it.
The Celtic approach is effectively backwards from the Roman method – It BEGINS with fellowship. Invite them to participate. Let them see for themselves what it is like. The longer they stay, the more they will notice that this Jesus stuff is actually pretty awesome, and when the time is right you are given an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.
What this looks like for an individual is that you get to know someone first. You become a friend, maybe invite them to church but don’t be pushy about it. You show them with your life and the way you act that something is different about you…you actually care. And as the Holy Spirit also works on them, there will come a time when they ask the question. And you must be ready.
1 Peter 3:15
Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.
And why will they ask? Because they have seen something different in you.
The greatest witness is a life transformed. And it’s not something you can fake. If you truly have the Spirit of Christ in you, there will be no hiding it and people will notice.
So, whether you use the Roman or Celtic method. The important thing is that you recognize that you are on a mission and it is not an option to sit the bench.
2 Peter 3:9
God does not want anyone to be lost but He wants all people to change their hearts and lives.
God wants EVERYONE to come to faith in His son, and He uses you and me to let others know about Him. One way to do it is the direct approach, and many are very good at this. Our former pastor, Steve, was amazing at this. I literally saw him many times strike up conversations with guys in line at Chick-Fil-A or other places and eventually bring the conversation to Jesus in a single sitting. And sometimes he would even get a decision. So, I’m not saying that we should NEVER do it that way.
I’m simply saying it’s NOT THE ONLY WAY. I imagine many of us cannot bring ourselves to do that and we feel guilty about it. Well don’t. That’s just not your way. Your way is the Celtic way. You need to invite them into your life and into your church and work on them for awhile before you “make a move.” That’s fine and good and works.
BUT DO IT!!
Don’t let your non-Roman style become an excuse for not being intentional about establishing relationships with people for the end goal of showing them the Good News and getting them into the family.
We MUST share this Good News with the people around us. Those in “our world.” One way or another.
But we can’t stop there…
2. I must dare to reach beyond my world. (fill in)
I MUST DARE TO REACH BEYOND MY COMFORT ZONE.
2 Corinthians 9:22
Whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.
As in President Kennedy’s famous speech: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breath the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. We are all mortal.”
Touching words that remind us that we are all people. People that need Jesus! But he did have one thing wrong in that statement. We are not all mortal. We are actually immortal – made to last forever, though not in this body. Which is why our mission is so vitally important.
So how do we connect with those outside of our comfort zone – outside of our world?
Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens and so complete Christ’s law.
What is Christ’s law? It’s love your neighbor as yourself. How do you do that? He says, stoop down, reach out to those who are oppressed.
This is how we share the good news with those who are not like us. You and I. We are middle-class America which means we are among the top five percent wealthiest people in the world. We are so rich it is disgusting. So, the people that are not like us are the poor and destitute. Those without homes, without food, without all the various creature comforts that we take for granted.
Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father is this: Reach out to the homeless and the loveless in their plight.
They need Jesus…but guess what they need first? It’s really hard to hear about Jesus on a very empty stomach OR when you’re shivering from the cold.
Elsewhere James says:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
My friends, there is a universal truth that we must understand and embrace if we are to truly make a difference and bring those not like us into the family:
People do not care what you know until they know that you care.
Jesus always cared about the underdog. If you read the Bible you’ll find He’s always hanging out with the outcasts of society, the people everybody else wanted to ignore. The poor, the imprisoned, the rejected, the powerless, the hurting. He cared about the aged, the orphans, the mentally ill. He hung out with people who had leprosy, who were rejects. If Jesus were here on earth today He’d be in an AIDS hospice, helping the people that most of us want to totally forget. He would be with those who are hurting the most in our world. And he wouldn’t just be with them, he would do something to meet their needs. Jesus was good at healing people. We may not be able to do that but we can at least feed them, clothe them, talk with them. Show them that we indeed love them with the kind of love they will not find in the world.
Jesus made it clear what we are to do for Him:
I was hungry and you fed Me. I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.
“Inasmuch as you’ve done it to the least of these My brothers and sisters you’ve done it to Me.”
EVANGELISM IS NOT JUST PREACHING AT PEOPLE.
MEET THEIR NEEDS FIRST.
THEY DON’T CARE WHAT WE KNOW UNTIL THEY KNOW THAT WE CARE.
It’s not enough to post a bunch of Jesus memes on Facebook. Or quote some bible verses at someone. Or stand on a street corner with a sign that says “Jesus Loves You.”
JESUS LOVES ME?
Then why does my life suck and you’re not making it any better?
SHOW ME – DON’T JUST TELL ME!
SHOW ME WHAT THAT MEANS WITH SOME KIND OF ACTION THAT DOES SOME GOOD IN MY LIFE.
And don’t just do the bare minimum. Don’t just do what’s convenient for you. If you really want to make a difference, it’s going to cost you. No one ever saved the world doing what was easy.
We have to get out of our comfort zone.
Go where it’s unfamiliar.
Give what seems unaffordable.
We must CARE AT ALL COSTS!!
And when we do that – when we abandon all self-will and give of ourselves for the mission we are called to – Our God is so amazing – He rewards us.
When was the last time you were rewarded for doing what you were told to do?
I remember from my time in the military that the standard reply to requests for rewards for hard work was “congratulations you did your job.”
But our amazing God actually promises reward for doing our job.
Jesus replied, ‘Let Me assure you that no one has ever given up anything for the love of Me and to tell others the good news who won’t be given back a hundred times over.’
100 times over!! Wouldn’t you invest in the stock market if you knew you would get that return? Of course you would. Well, God has guaranteed your investment of CARE. Whatever you give up for Him. Whatever you sacrifice for Him to spread the good news, you will be rewarded 100 times over in Heaven and even some here in this life.
But the greatest reward will be the lives that you touch. The lives that will be changed because you cared. Because you DARED to reach beyond your comfort zone to reach those not like yourself.
And we have an opportunity to do that this week as we feed the homeless..
AND THE JCOC AND PIN
AND THE CPC.
So, we must share this good news in our own world.
We must dare to share it outside of our comfort zones. But we can’t stop there…
3. I must care about the whole world. (fill in)
It’s not enough to only care about our little corner of the world. Just the places we can easily drive to. Especially in today’s world where we can literally travel or communicate with all parts of the world – God wants us to care about the needs and salvation of every human on the planet.
For God so loved the WORLD… the whole thing.
Jesus said to His followers, ‘Go everywhere in the world, and tell the good news to everyone.’
He didn’t say this to missionaries. He didn’t say this to pastors. He said it to followers. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Then God expects you to care about the whole world.
I imagine this felt like a daunting task to that small band of followers who had likely never travelled outside of Israel. And maybe that seems daunting to you. It certainly does to me. But that does not excuse us from the task.
We MUST care about the whole world and do OUR PART to reach it. We are not called as individuals to literally reach the whole world on our own. We are a BODY. The BODY of CHRIST and we have a PART in the WHOLE. But that doesn’t mean that our part is easy. Many hands do make light the work, but the work that needs to be done is so tremendous that no matter how many hands are helping the weight is still quite heavy.
AS YOU WILL SEE SOON ABOUT A GLOBAL EPIDEMIC THAT WE ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT.
This is why we must all be sold out on this mission. We must all be willing to give everything for the sake of the cause of Christ.
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Jesus is not talking about dying for Him. He’s talking about denying your self will and following Him with your whole heart to the point of abandoning all the hopes and dreams you had for your own life. Because ultimately you recognize that it’s not YOUR life.
You and I only exist for God’s purposes no our own. And God’s main purpose is to expand his family, his kingdom, and you and I are the tools he will use to do it. And a tool is only useful if it is fully disposed to the master’s service. If a tool in your toolbox started having a mind of it’s own and doing it’s own thing, would it be very useful to you? If it resisted every time you tried to use it for something, would it be a very good tool? No.
God wants to use us for His mission of spreading the good news to the entire world, but He won’t force us to do it. We must choose to deny ourselves and follow Him.
And the great and amazing promise of God is that when we do that, when we give up our lives, THAT is when He gives us the true life.
Remember from a few weeks ago – the Glory of God is a Human Being Fully Alive. And then purpose 3 told us that a human being fully alive is one who resembles Christ. Well, Christ was all about mission. All about caring about others and pointing them to himself so that he could redeem them. And if we want to be fully alive. If we want to be like Christ. Then we too must give our lives in service to the mission and spreading the good news by any means possible.
There is a lost and dying world all around us. And there is still room in the boat.
Our mission, whether we choose to accept it or not, is to do what others did for us – tell them the good news about a savior that died for them but rose again so we could be with him forever!