Telling Like Jesus
October 23, 2005 | Brian Bill
We’re going to begin a bit differently this morning. As I thought about our challenge last week to “dare to care” every day for 40 days, I got excited as I imagined several hundred of God’s sheep spread out in a 30-mile radius of this building participating in a conspiracy of kindness on a daily basis. The entire character of our community should change as we continue to practice acts of caring and compassion for the next 33 days. I’d like to hear from several of you about what you saw God do in response to what you did. As you cared for others, how did Christ show up? I’ll pass around the microphone so people can hear you as you give the glory to God. Let’s follow the ABCs of sharing as we prime the pump for our Thanksgiving Eve service:
- Keep it audible
- Keep it brief
- Keep it Christ-centered
I know in our small group last Sunday night that we were all eager to take part in this challenge. It’s my prayer that this will not just be an adventure that we do for a period of days but that it will totally transform the way we look at people. It was J.R.R. Tolkien who once said: “An adventure is something you decide to go on and then you come back. A quest is something you’re called to and you may never come back from it, but if you do, you never come back the same.”
Let’s share how our quest for caring has changed us this week. Who would like to go first?
Time of Sharing
In this series we have studied the message and model of Jesus in order to see how the Savior has challenged us to make an IMPACT for Him. This morning, we’re going to camp in the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel as we focus on the need for telling others the gospel.
Let’s set the context. At the end of chapter 9, three individuals indicate that they want to follow Jesus, but they want to do it on their terms. Jesus summarizes the call to wholehearted commitment in verse 62: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” According to a harmony of the gospels, it’s October, and Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s only a matter of weeks before His death. Chapter 10 is introduced with this phrase, “After this…” In contrast to half-hearted discipleship on their own terms, Jesus now calls some others to some serious business.
1. Bear the Message (1a).
Look with me at the first part of verse 1: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them…” The word “appoint” means “to show forth, or display.” Jesus is giving them a job to do, and their primary purpose is to show Him to others. This can only be done if He is on display in their lives. I find it interesting that Jesus was able to find 72 faithful followers, other than the disciples. The twelve were sent out on other occasions, but here Jesus is entrusting the good news to a large group of people. Don’t miss the fact that they are anonymous and ordinary and offered no excuses. We don’t know their names at all or even if they were all that special. What they were was available and obedient.
These men are “sent” by the Savior for a specific task. The word “send” comes from the verb form of apostle, which literally means, “a sent one” and is a very strong word that conveys a sense of urgency: “to drive or thrust forth.” Likewise, we have been given a message to bear, and like this group of anonymous and ordinary individuals, we have been thrust forth with a message from the Messiah.
2. Pair up with a Partner (1b).
The second half of verse 1 shows that we not only are called to bear a message, we are to pair up with a partner to deliver that message: “…two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” One of the best ways to minister is to do so in tandem with another person. This helps provide both accountability and encouragement as Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Friend, do you have a ministry partner or are you trying to do everything alone? I encourage you find a mentor or an accountability partner to not only talk to, but to also minister in tandem with. I’ll never forget my college roommate’s friend who came over one night to talk to me about how to become a Christian. Looking back, I now know that my roommate sensed that he needed some help because I certainly wasn’t listening to him! I didn’t accept Christ that night but I did a couple weeks later.
These teams of two are sent “ahead of Him” to every town and place that Jesus was going to visit. Their job was to prepare the way for the one who is the Way. Sometimes Jesus sends us for a certain task because He is going to do some work after we leave. That should really encourage us that we don’t have do everything. Do what you can and leave the rest to Jesus. Like John the Baptist, who got people ready, so too, sometimes our role is to simply make people thirsty for Jesus.
I read an interview this week that featured a missionary in Cambodia who has experienced a lot of difficulty. Here’s part of what he said, “I don’t get discouraged…I believe in the significance of mustard seeds…our excitement comes from being part of God’s larger vision. He was at work here before us, and he will be at work long after we’re gone…” (Leadership Journal, Fall 2005, page 17).
3. Prayer for More Workers (2-4).
When the harvest is ready, there’s a sense of urgency
Jesus next lets them in on how he views the world. He wants them to go but he first wants them to pray for more who will go in verse 2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Many of you are farmers and can relate to this. I understand the harvest wasn’t huge this year but maybe a little better than what we all thought earlier this summer. When the harvest is ready, there’s a sense of urgency, isn’t there? You want to get the crop in before a bad storm comes or we have a season of Wisconsin weather. When the harvest is great, the urgency is even greater. And when there’s not enough help to gather the grain, then some of the harvest can be lost. The seventy-two can do their part but many more workers are needed and so Jesus entreats them to ask for more workers to be sent out.
It strikes me that one of the reasons we don’t pray for more workers is because we don’t see the harvest like He does. If we truly saw people who are just waiting to be brought into the kingdom, we would do more ourselves and we’d pray with passion for God to raise up more workers. Notice that God is looking for laborers, not loafers. That reminds me of two men who passed by a “No Help Wanted” sign in a window, when one said to the other: “You should apply—you’d be great at that.”
Prayer is a powerful force in the proclamation of the Word. The message multiplies when messengers magnify the Messiah. It was Andrew Murray who said, “We need three times more men, four times more money, and seven times more prayer.” It’s OK to pray for the harvest itself, but it’s even more strategic to pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up more harvesters. This shows the wonderful balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. God does the sending, but He does so in accordance with our prayers. It’s His harvest, but He uses harvesters to bring in the crop.
In verse 3, these men become the answer to their own prayers: “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” This is a command from the Lord himself. He is with us as we go, but as we go, it will not be easy. The picture here is of abject helplessness and extreme vulnerability. In his book called, Roaring Lambs, Bob Briner argues that while we are lambs, we must also have a roar. He writes: “Sheep can be the bravest, most assertive creatures when they feel secure in the care of the shepherd.” Having said that, our job is not to tame the wolves or fight them. We must stay on task as we bear the message and team up with a partner. Vance Havner used to say, “Any man who takes Jesus Christ seriously becomes the target of the devil.” We are being sent out into tough territory with predators on the prowl but since we are sent by the Good Shepherd, we are safe in His arms as Isaiah 40:11 says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” The only thing a lamb has on its side is the shepherd.
The environment will be hostile and therefore they must have a sense of urgency in verse 4: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” The idea is for them to travel light so they could move quickly. The less stuff we have, the more focused we can be. This is similar to what David said in 1 Samuel 21:8: “I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s business was urgent.” Nate Saint, who was martyred in Ecuador by the Auca Indians fifty years ago, wrote these words in his journal before he was killed: “If God would grant us the vision, the word ‘sacrifice’ would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short; we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ.”
In that culture when you saw someone on the road, you would bow and embrace repeatedly. According to one source, sometimes people would “repeat not less than 10 times the ceremony of grasping hands and kissing” (Barnes). There was an expectation that you would ask an endless number of questions and answer as many as you were asked. If you passed someone engaged in business, you would stop and enter into the discussion and give your ideas on the topic at hand. One reason why these men were told to not greet may have been because there was a certain amount of insincerity and flattery that took place. All of this would also waste time. This reminds me of what Elisha said to Gehazi when he was given a critical task to accomplish in 2 Kings 4:29: “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer.”
At first glance this seems rude, but the principle is this: Don’t let nice possessions or nice people keep you from the primary task of reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus. Some of us have so many things and so many Christian friends that we are not prioritizing our time for those who still don’t know Jesus. In our setting on Sunday mornings, that means all of us should be more geared to our guests than we are to just talking to people we already know. And when we’re out in the community we must look for ways to interact with people we don’t know and not just hang out in our holy huddles. In his book called, “Outbreak” Greg Stier writes: “Early Christianity was viral. It spread like an epidemic. It infected the general populace so quickly that no one was safe…today the virus has been trapped within the walls of our quarantined churches…in other words, with few exceptions, the epidemic has been fully contained” (pages 24-25).
4. Care for People (5-9a).
Before you think Jesus is telling us to not be kind, let’s look at verses 5-8: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.” This greeting of “peace” is more than just a friendly hello. Those who go with the gospel of peace are literally bringing peace to people: Peace with God, peace with others, and the internal peace that passes all understanding. The principle here is to go to a place that is ready to receive them. If they find people who are open, they are to stay with them, not searching for a better place to stay or for a better menu. It’s through the receiving of hospitality that they can then hone in on helping others make Christ at home in their hearts.
Friends, when we go to someone’s house we must go knowing we are bringing peace and we must make sure we are polite and not picky. This would be a stretch for them because as Jewish men they would be in homes of Gentiles who would serve them food considered to be “unclean.” They were to keep in mind that Jesus shared a meal with Matthew the tax collector as well as with Zacchaeus. Count Zinzendorf founded “The Order of the Mustard Seed” with three guiding principles: “Be kind to all people, seek their welfare, and win them to Christ.” Are you kind to non-Christians? Or, are you angry with those who sin differently than you do? When you minister to their sickness or other needs, they’ll be more open to listen to you. As you commit to caring, you’ll be in a position to do some sharing.
5. Share the Gospel (9b-16).
Jesus is near but He must become dear to them if they want to be saved
Notice that the first part of their message is found in the last part of verse 9: “The kingdom of God is near you.” This phrase is also repeated at the end of verse 11 and conveys the idea that Jesus is ready to rule and reign in hearts if they will but open themselves and reach out to Him. Jesus is near but He must become dear to them if they want to be saved. This is the good news.
The bad news is that it’s not a trifling matter to tune Jesus out as verse 12 states: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” In verses 13-15, Jesus pronounces woes upon three cities that had multiple opportunities to respond to Christ because He spent a lot of time ministering there: Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Jesus says that pagan cities like Tyre, Sidon and even Sodom will fare better at the judgment than those who had heard the gospel but had never repented. Helping these ambassadors see that they represent Christ, Jesus says in verse 16: “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Since they represent the Redeemer, when people reject them they are really rejecting Jesus.
Friends, we are entrusted with the good news of the gospel and the bad news of coming judgment. As we learned last week, there are only two categories: sheep and goats; and only two possible destinations: heaven and hell. Our message must contain commendation for those who commit themselves to Christ and condemnation for those who don’t.
6. Dare to Rejoice (17-21).
When we bear the message, pair up on a team, pray for more workers, care for people, and then share the gospel, we can dare to rejoice. Look at verse 17: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” Their task was no doubt difficult but they focused on the fruit they saw. Their mission went much better than expected. And they were careful to give the glory to God when they said the demons submitted in “in your name.” Jesus joined in their jubilation by saying in verse 18 that he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Whenever the gospel is preached, the strongholds of Satan are loosened. The evil one takes a hit every time someone commits themselves to the kingdom of God. The devil drops when he falls from the thrones of people’s hearts.
Author Tedd Dekker, who has written 12 spiritual suspense novels, has just released his first non-fiction work called, “The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth.” In an interview with Christianity Today, Dekker writes: “One aspect of Christianity that’s always bothered me is that Christians don’t tend to be happier than non-Christians. So the question arose for me: Does Christianity make us happier?”
Jesus reframes their excitement in verse 20 by reminding them that the real source of joy must come as a result of knowing that “your names are written in heaven.” This is in the perfect tense which means, “They have been written and they stand written.” We should have joy over what Jesus is doing through us and we should have joy over what He has already done in us. The first can vacillate with our emotions but the certainty that our names are inscribed in the Book of Life should give us constant jubilation. The power that makes us children of God is more potent than any other power. Notice also that Jesus is filled with joy when he sees His sheep share the gospel with people in verse 21: “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit…” This literally means that he was “thrilled with joy” and is the only place in Scripture where this word is used to describe the emotions of Jesus. Do you want to make Jesus joyful? Then dare to share with someone.
Here are four closing comments related to the importance of telling like Jesus:
1. We need a wider vision for a world-wide harvest.
We must see the need for more workers and then pray that God would launch more laborers into his harvest fields, here in this community and to the ends of the earth. We will pray for what matters most to us. Let’s pray that God will send more missionaries, and while we’re praying for others, let’s make sure we are ready to go ourselves. Related to this, let’s continue to support our multimedia team as they make spiritual resources available to the world through our web ministry.
2. Spend time with lost people.
As I said in my very first sermon here: Evangelism is what spills over when you bump into someone. Some of us are not in any position to present Christ to people because frankly we’re not close enough to Christ and to lost people in order to allow the gospel to spill out of our lives. Elton Trueblood once said, “Evangelism occurs when Christians are so ignited by their contact with Christ that they in turn set others on fire.”
3. How people respond to the gospel is God’s responsibility.
Remember that Jesus is “the Lord of the harvest” and our job is simply to go where He’s already been and where He’s still coming. It’s He who brings people to Himself. Some will be upset, others will be interested, and still others will come to Christ. That’s up to Him, not us.
4. How I respond to God is my responsibility.
It’s important to have the right methodology when telling others about Jesus, and this chapter gives a number of ways that we can do this. It strikes me however, that our problem is really not insufficient methodology but inadequate motivation. Put simply, many of us just don’t care about lost people.
Here’s a suggestion. Whenever you talk to someone, ask yourself this question: “Where is this person at spiritually and how can I have a part in bringing him or her to the Lord?”
I’m challenged by the covenant D.L. Moody made to witness for Christ to at least one person each day. One night, about ten o’clock, he realized that he hadn’t talked to anyone about Jesus so he went out into the street and spoke to a man standing by a lamppost. Moody was pretty direct in his approach as he asked: “Are you a Christian?” The man flew into a rage and threatened to knock Dwight into the gutter. Three months later, Moody was awakened at the YMCA by this same man knocking at the door. This is what he said, “I want to talk to you about my soul.” He apologized for his behavior and said that he had no peace ever since that night Moody shared with him. He then prayed to receive Christ.
I was with my teammate Beth one night this week and watched her share Jesus with someone. I prayed for her as she shared and added a few things myself. When we came home and talked about it, I encouraged her and mentioned how joyful she was as a result of taking this opportunity. Beth then said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. Here’s what she said, “It’s just time. It is time.”
I wonder if there are 72 people here today who are willing to make a commitment to not only care for people, but to also share with them. It is time. If you’re ready to do this, would you simply stand to indicate that Christ can count on you to be a worker in His harvest?
As you stand I’d like to read Philemon 6 as our closing benediction: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”