Focus on Mission

Acts 20;24

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Gospel – Good News

  • G – God’s
  • O – one and
  • O – only
  • D – declaration for
  • N – North
  • E – East
  • W – West
  • S – South

Paul’s stated mission was “to testify of the grace of God.”  Grace is at the center of our mission.  The essence of the Gospel is the declaration of God’s free grace to a guilty world.

God’s amazing grace had swept Saul of Tarsus (Paul) into fellowship with the Christ he had sought so hard to discredit.  It was also God’s amazing grace that brought each of us into the fold.  Do you remember where you were when God’s amazing grace rescued you?

We are appalled when we look at the sins of the world.  But as inventive as he is the devil has not invented one new sin since you and I were redeemed.  The mission of the church is rescuing sinners from the depths of sin and from the wrath of God’s judgment.  This is the immense message of the Gospel to the entire world.

We focus on sins; God focuses on grace.  We focus on success; God focuses on obedience. We focus on competition; God focuses on unity.  We focus on independence; God focuses on interdependence.  We focus on money’ God focuses on mission.

Do we really know our mission?  Do we really know what God has called the Church to be?  Do we really know our role in it?  What does it mean to be a church community?   Do you know why your church is here?  Why you are here?

Do you know what your church’s mission statement is?  “Mission”, not as in missionaries and exotic lands, but “mission” as in job, task. 

God’s mission for the church is to ‘win the lost at any cost” and the “good news of the grace of God.” 

The church is not built in one generation.  It requires the passing of fortitude and faith from one generation to another.  How well are you and your church doing?

The good news cannot be passed to the next generation in a weakened condition.  The future of the church depends on how well we finish, and how well we hand off the baton to another generation.

Perhaps we have been too preoccupied with whether our churches are growing, when we should have been preoccupied with whether our mission is dying.  We are a missionary fellowship.  Without sustained mission, there will be no lasting fellowship.

Our calling is to reach the lost and disciple believers!  Nothing is more useless than a church that has lost its mission.  It is a poor substitute for mere entertainment.  God’s Word says “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Matthew 28:19-20.

Thomas Aquinas said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.

My greatest fear is that we will lose sight of our mission and move into insignificance.  I fear we may use our energies and resources to fine-tune our programs, trim our organizational edges, put higher steeples on our churches, deeper padding on our pews, and more stain in our glass windows.  I fear that in the process, we will fail to pass this mission on to a new generation.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me and hear me well.  If we violate the purpose for which we have been called, we will not survive.  And what’s more important, we should not survive.  Some people have paid a high price to bring the church to where it is today.  We cannot stop at mid-course.  Where do we go from here?  The choice is ours.  Do we continue business as usual, or do we make a move toward greatness?

We are either facing our finest hour or our most disappointing failure.  The choice is ours.

Sydney Harris said, “People are fond of saying ‘the past is dead,’ but it is actually the future that is dead – and we make it come alive only by applying what we have learned from the past to the present.’

Hebrews 12:1-2 – we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Win the Lost at Any Cost

Mark 16:15-20

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

As I was leaving the hospital after a visit to see a patient not too long ago, I saw a lady getting out of her car.  She had her hands full including a McDonald’s sack and a drink.  The receipt blew out of the sack and she started for it as I did, but both of us decided that the wind was faster than we were and we both let the receipt disappear in the wind.  I spontaneously remarked, “If that had been money, you would have had it.”  We both laughed and we continued on our way.  However, there was some truth in that statement.  We do what is important to us.  The receipt had simply not been that important.  If it had been a five or ten dollar bill, there might have been a sprint by one of us to catch it.

WE DO WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO US AT THE MOMENT.

Three things that cannot be reclaimed:

  • Time
  • A lost opportunity
  • The spoken word

Several years ago there was a popular song titled, “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”  That seems to be our thinking many times about doing what God has explicitly told us to do.  Tomorrow, tomorrow.

NOW IS THE TIME TO WIN SOMEONE TO CHRIST.  TOMORROW MAY BE TOO LATE.

Born in Scotland, John Geddie was brought by his parents to Nova Scotia, Canada in 1816.  He began ministry as pastor at Cavendish on Prince Edward Island.  In 1846 he went as a missionary to New Hebrides (now the island nation of Vannatu), where he served for over twenty years.  When, after twenty-four years of toil, he answered his Lord’s final summons and left the earthly scene, December 14, 1872 a tablet, prepared in Sydney, was placed behind the pulpit of the church in Anelcauhat where the beloved missionary so long had preached.  On it was the following inscription:

“In memory of John Geddie, D.D., born in Scotland, 1815, minister in Prince Edward Island seven years, missionary sent from Nova Scotia to Aneiteum for twenty-four years.  When he landed, there were no Christians here, and when he left there were no heathen.”

Always share your faith – and sometimes you can use words.  We are never at a loss for words.  So if we are to witness we need to speak up  NOW.  Someone’s eternal destination is at stake.  If it is at all possible, and it is in most cases, turn the conversation toward God.  It used to be that witnessing meant going door to door.  Now we have phones, blackberries, twitter, Facebook so we are really out of reasons not to witness.

I honestly do not believe that anyone wants to see another person go to hell, but we fail to be the witness we are called to be because of a multitude of reasons.  All of them probably invalid.  You could say the reason you do not witness is that you are out of peanut butter.  It makes as much sense.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 – We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He says:  “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Jesus at the age of twelve in the temple told His earthy parents that “He must be about His Father’s business.”  That was His example to us.

We too “must be about our heavenly Father’s business.”  We simply have other priorities and we must realize that “NOW is the day of salvation, NOW is the acceptable time.”  We so often think of that statement as pertaining to the sinner and it does, but it also pertains to us, the witness, the Christian, the follower of God.  We have a mandate from Jesus Himself to do so.  The sinner needs to turn from their sin, but the Christian needs to be the witness.

In the text, Jesus was speaking to His disciples.  I ask you, are you and I a disciple?  Then we must get busy.  Be obedient.  Do what it says.  There have been no exceptions listed anywhere in the Bible to not be included in this command as far as I know.  In fact, within this command is also your biblical degree.  Did you know that you have a PhD?  Christ gave all His followers a PhD.  Therefore you are equipped to do what He said.

Now I suppose you want to know what that degree means.  Your PhD stands for PREACH  – HEAL – DELIVER.

Let me ask you another question.  When was the last in-depth conversation you had with someone about their eternal soul?

New York City – 1985 (young man on the street who had never heard the story of Jesus Christ.)

The responsibility to win the lost is clearly within your expertise and you are responsible to fulfill the great commission as much as anyone else.  That is exactly what Christ called all of us to do.  Not just the pastors and teachers, evangelists, deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc.  We all have been given instructions to GO AND WIN THE LOST.  If the church took that command serious, there would not be an empty seat in any Bible believing church.  The command He gave was all inclusive.  For you and you and you and you and you and me.

Matthew 9:37-38 – Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Acts 28:30-31 – Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Harold Wilmington of Liberty University said of Paul the Apostle, “Everywhere he went he was either causing a riot or a revival.”

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Luke 10:2 – Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Jeremiah 8:20 – The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!”

Let me ask you a question:  How many would want to raise your hand and say, “I’ll be responsible for not witnessing or not praying and therefore send two, five, ten or twenty to hell?”  When you think of the great commission in that way, we find that it is a really awesome responsibility, not a suggestion.

Is Christ’s return imminent?  All we have to do is look around.  Signs are everywhere.

If we really believed Christ’s return is as near as we profess, we would be busy praying, equipping ourselves and going forth with power and authority to win the lost.  Time is wasting.

WIN THE LOST…

Souls are crying, men are dying.  Won’t you lead them to the cross?

Go and find them, help to win them.  Win the lost at any cost.

Go out and win, rescue from sin; day’s almost gone, low sinks the sun.

Souls are crying, men are dying.  Win the lost at any cost.

What If I Doubt?

Mark 16::14-18

“The Great Commission” – Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Before sending out the disciples to share the Gospel, Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.  In order to be obedient they needed to have a firm belief in the resurrection of Jesus. 

In Scripture the heart is used often to describe the whole person – the place where a person thinks, feels, and plans.  To have a heart that is hard is to ignore, reject, refuse to believe in God’s Word. 

Unbelief hinders obedience.  Jesus is not limited by unbelief as some teach. They refer to the scripture where it says He could not do mighty works in Nazareth, his hometown, because of their unbelief.

 Yet we see many times when Jesus perform miracles in spite of lack of faith. 

Martha lacked belief that Jesus could raise Lazarus, yet he did.  We see one father who brought his son to Jesus for healing and asked for help with his unbelief. 

Mark 9:23-24 – Jesus said to him, “If you believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus did not mighty works in Nazareth not because their unbelief weakened or destroyed His power.  One of the main purposes of Jesus’ miracles was to bear witness to His claim to be the Son of God.  Since the people of Nazareth had rejected him, there was nothing He could do to make them believe.  They had hardened their hearts against the very revelation they needed. 

John Calvin says, ” Unbelievers, as far as lies in their power, bind up the hands of God by their obstinacy; not that God is overcome, as if he were an inferior, but because they do not permit him to display his power.”

 So when one refuses to even entertain the thought of a miracle or of the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God, one has hardened their heart.

I am so thankful that while Jesus rebuked them, He clearly reached out to them and gave them proof of His resurrection.

First, to Thomas.

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

To many others

1 Corinthians 15:5-6 – He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

They clearly saw and believed Jesus was alive!  And thankfully they were then able to obey the Great Commission so that today we have the truth.

So what do you do if you have sometimes have doubt?  Do as the father did who brought his child to God.  Confess you struggle to believe.  Be honest with God.  This idea that we cannot express doubt or God will not hear us is so wrong.

He knows our heart, He knows when we doubt.

Be honest and cry out to Him to help you.  

Do not let moments of doubt keep you from reaching out to Him.  He is able to handle your questions.  

Walk as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:8-10

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

Melody Shick, dressed as a rag doll with a teddy bear in her arms and a display of stuffed animals all about her, sat for 5 hours, 43 minutes setting a new record for the Guinness Book of Records.  Previous record was 5 hours, 32 minutes.  As this young lady sat motionless on a circular rotating display, numbers of people questioned whether she was a manikin or was real.  Imagine 5 hours, 43 minutes. 

Some church people have that record beat. The world is watching them.  They look like Christians should look.  They talk like Christians.  They even go to church, but there is no real fruit or evidence.  The world wonders, are they real or just a life-size replica of what a Christian is supposed to be.

  • Jesus has called us to be the light to the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Philippians 2:15-16 – that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

  • Jesus gave us the Great Commission

Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 

Sharing the gospel requires us to be a witness.  What is a witness?

  1. A witness is one who knows something.  We cannot share what we do not know ourself.  That is why it is so important that we study God’s Word, that we experience ourself of His love and presence.

Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 2:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  • A witness is one who is something.

Ephesians 5:1 – Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Colossians 3:1-6 – If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.

  • A witness is one who tells something.

Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.