You Were Made For a Mission
November 15, 2003 | Brian Bill
Note: This sermon is based on a message idea by Rick Warren and is used by permission as part of the 40 Days of Purpose Journey.
I read about a legend in which the angel Gabriel approached Jesus after He had ascended to heaven and said, “Master, do people know and appreciate how much you did for them?” Jesus replied, “Oh, no! Not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Jerusalem know.” Gabriel was perplexed and asked, “Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love?” Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others until my story is spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of mankind will hear about my life and what I have done.” Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical because he knew all about humans. He then said, “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twenty first century people just don’t tell others about you? Do you have a Plan B?” And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them.”
Did you know that we’re going to continue living out the first four purposes of life in heaven? We’re going to worship Him, we’re going to fellowship with one another, we’re going to become like Christ, and we’ll be serving the Savior forever. The fifth reason for our existence is the only purpose that we will not be able to do in heaven: You and I were made for a mission. In fact, there are only two things we can’t do in heaven – we can’t sin and we can’t share the gospel with those who are lost. While we should avoid sinning now, we are called to accelerate our sharing while we still have the time to do so…because Jesus is counting on us.
In John 17:18, Jesus prayed: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” God is at work in the world and He wants us to join Him. We have been saved not only to serve, but also to be sent out. As we learned last week, everyone needs a ministry in the church to believers. What we’re going to discover today is that we also need a mission in the world to unbelievers. To put it another way, we are made to be messengers. Paul described His mission this way in Acts 20:24: “The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work the Lord Jesus gave me – to tell people the good news about God’s grace.”
Friends, our final purpose is to proclaim the good news. We can’t keep what we’ve learned to ourselves. Now, there’s a word for this, and just like the other words we’ve looked at each week, it’s often misunderstood. It’s the word “evangelism,” which simply means to share the good news.
Nobody can be a better witness about what you have experienced than you
Now, where am I supposed to share the good news? Before Jesus left for heaven, He not only gave us our mission in Matthew 28:19-20; our mandate in Acts 1:8 is to make Him known in our community, our county, our country, and on the continents: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “You will be my defense attorney.” He doesn’t say, “You will be my prosecutor.” And He doesn’t expect us to be His salespeople. All God wants is for us to be His witnesses. Witnesses simply report what happened to them or what they saw. Only you are the expert on your life. Nobody can be a better witness about what you have experienced than you. There is no other story like yours, so only you can share it.
Friends, here’s the amazing truth about God’s plan: He has chosen us to complete His mission. We are Plan A and there is no Plan B. Being on mission is the greatest privilege we’ll ever be given. Acts 1:8 tells us what we’re supposed to be (witnesses) and also tells us where we’re to do it.
- I must share with those in my world (Jerusalem). We must start with those who are closest to us.
- I must dare to reach beyond my world (Judea and Samaria). We’re also called to share the good news with those who are different from us.
- I must care about the whole world (Ends of the earth). We must never forget that God is a global God and He expects us to love the lost, and to go everywhere with the gospel.
Let’s unpack this passage a little further.
1. I must share with those in my world.
To complete my God-given mission, I must start in my Jerusalem by sharing with those closest to me. In Luke 8 we read about a troubled and tormented man who found freedom when he encountered Christ. After he was healed, He wanted to hang out with Jesus. Because he had experienced such incredible blessing, verse 38 tells us that he “begged” to go with Jesus. You would think this would be a good idea. After all, what could be wrong with wanting to be with Jesus? Surprisingly, he’s sent on a mission in verse 39: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Don’t miss this. Jesus wanted to reach this man’s network of relationships but He knew that could best be accomplished with the testimony of a witness who could tell how much God had done for him.
I love this guy’s response: “So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” He did exactly what He was told to do. He was a witness in His world. In a parallel passage, Mark 5:20 tells us that, “all the people were amazed.” They were amazed because they knew what this guy was like before he met Jesus. They could not argue with his story because they saw a changed life standing right before them. This reminds me of the woman Jesus talked to at the well. After putting her faith in Jesus, she became a fired up witness to those who were in her world. Listen to John 4:28-30: “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” Because of her witness, those who knew her best began to take steps toward the Savior.
Jesus says the same thing to you and me. Our mission must start at home, in our own neighborhood, and in our own community. He wants us to go to our friends, our family, our coworkers, our neighbors, and to anybody who crosses our path and be willing to say: “Jesus has changed my life. Can I tell you what He’s done for me?”
Let’s be honest, most of us wimp out on being witnesses. I can think of at least five reasons why we bail instead of being bold.
- We don’t think people are interested. Nothing could be further from the truth. Surveys show that Americans are more interested in spiritual matters now than they were ten years ago. George Gallup conducted a poll and discovered that 65 million Americans have no church home, but 34 million of them said they would attend if somebody would just invite them. Another Gallup poll revealed that teens would rather talk about God than sex, drugs or music. Your friends are more interested than you think they are.
- We don’t believe they’re lost. I wonder if some of us simply don’t contemplate the reality of the everlasting agony of hell. Maybe we secretly hope that “nice” people go to heaven. Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the only way to heaven and “good” is not good enough to get there on your own. If your friends have not put their faith in Him, they are lost in their sins and in danger of eternal damnation.
- We don’t want to be rejected. While you may not hold back because of your theology; you may fold up because of your insecurity. We’d rather be accepted than risk someone getting mad at us or hassling us because of our faith. And so we blend in, or just clam up.
- We’re not living the good news. One of the biggest inhibitors to evangelism is when our life doesn’t match our words. Some of us are silent because we know that our actions are speaking loudly for the wrong side.
- We don’t know what to say. I put this one last on purpose. Some of us think that this is the number one reason we don’t tell people about Jesus. I don’t think it is because a witness simply has to report what has happened. I really like 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” The most important thing to do is to submit to the leadership of Christ and then to live the Christian life in front of people. When they see the hope that you have, they will ask you for an explanation. We must then be prepared to give them an answer with gentleness and respect.
We should be prepared to tell “His Story” and “My Story.” I like to follow a simple outline when I tell people “my story.” First, I start with what my life was like before I became a Christian. Then, I spell out how I came to faith. Finally, I mention what my life has been like after this decision. I can give my testimony in under a minute or I can take an hour, depending on the situation and the interest level. I encourage you to take the time to prepare your testimony as well because you’ll never know when someone will want to know.
The only reason your heart is still beating after you come to Christ is because God wants you to share what you have with people who haven’t heard. If somebody hadn’t shared it with you, you’d still be lost. So God wants you to pass it on. My life verse is Jeremiah 20:9: “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” A survey was done some time ago to find out how people were brought to Christ.
Walked in to church 1%
Church programs 8%
Pastoral staff 10%
Family or friends 76%
If you want to be considered wise in God’s eyes, you’ll work at being the witness God wants you to be. Proverbs 11:30: “He who wins souls is wise.” 2 Peter 3:9: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” As long as there’s one person on earth who doesn’t know the Good News, God says we’ve got to keep reaching out. Do you want to know how much God cares about those who don’t know Him? This much! [Indicating with arms stretched out]. Jesus says, “This is how much I love the people who you work with. This is how much I love your relatives who don’t know me yet. This is how much I love the people next door.”
3. I must dare to reach beyond my world.
The next phrase of Acts 1:8 compels us to move beyond our comfort zones to people with different backgrounds, different languages, and dissimilar situations: “…you will be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria…” The apostle Paul modeled what it means to live out our mission to those who are different from us in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” In other words, we’re not just to hang out with people like us. Christians are called to build bridges, not walls. God expects us to make the first move. In fact, over and over again He says it in one word: “Go.” You can’t spell “God” without “go.” You can’t spell “Good News” without “go.” You can’t spell “gospel” without “go.” You and I have to go!
P.H. Welshimer preached at the First Christian Church of Canton, Ohio, for about 56 years. At one time, they had one of the largest Sunday Schools in the world. Speaking prophetically, Pastor Welshimer said, “If we don’t go, we’re goners. If we want them coming down the aisle, we’ve got to go down the street. They will not seek. They must be sought.”
We must be willing to go to people who are different than we are; and we must be Jesus to them. Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is Christ’s law? Love your neighbor as yourself. God says our actions are proved by our love. James 1:27 fleshes this out: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” Jesus always rooted for the underdog; the powerless, the poor, the left behind, the imprisoned, the orphaned, the widowed, the aged, the mentally ill, the social outcasts, the sick, and the lepers. Bill Hybels says, “You’ve never locked eyes with someone that didn’t matter to God.” If Jesus were alive today, do you know whom He would be hanging out with? He’d probably be at an AIDS hospice.
Jesus modeled how to reach beyond the comfort of our world when He crossed religious, racial, and cultural barriers in order to give living water to the thirsty woman. He also broke a geographical barrier when he ministered to the tormented man. Friends, our mission field is the next unsaved person we meet, but we must be willing to go where they are. Max Lucado gets to the heart of the matter when he writes: “The sign of the saved is their love for the least.” Chuck Swindoll puts it this way: “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat those who can do nothing for them.”
One day we’re going to stand before God and He’s going to administer an audit of our lives. He’s going to judge if we really learned to love or if it was just all talk. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
And Jesus says, “It’s as if you did all that for me.” By the way, all of these local organizations are represented at the Missions Fair in the Family Life Center today.
One day bishop Fulton Sheen was in a leper colony in Africa, and he was repulsed by the open and oozing sores all over the bodies of those lying in the dirt. As he came close to one man, he noticed that he not only had leprosy, but he had a bunch of other skin diseases too. And as Fulton Sheen leaned over to talk to him, the chain that he was wearing around his neck broke, and the cross on the chain fell into one of the man’s open wounds. This is how he described his feelings, “You know, for a minute I was just repulsed. I wanted to just kind of step back. And then all of a sudden I was overcome with love for this person who had nothing. I reached into the sore and I took up the cross.”
That is what Christianity is all about. It’s about taking up our cross and extending love to people in pain. It’s about healing broken, messed up lives through the cross. Now, I’m not going to kid you, if you get involved with people who are different than you, its going to cost you. It will break you out of self-centeredness and your comfort zone, and it’s going to cost you time and energy and effort and money and maybe even your privacy sometimes; but God has promised eternal rewards.
I must begin by sharing with those in my world, and then I must dare to reach beyond my world. If I’m going to be like Jesus Christ, there’s a third element to my mission.
3. I must care about the whole world.
Acts 1:8 forces us to move from our comfort to the uncomfortable to the continents: “…and to the ends of the earth.” This is going to take you to a new level of spiritual maturity. Jesus said it strongly in Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” God is a global God and He has commanded us to go into the entire world and be His witnesses so that everyone will have the opportunity to hear the gospel.
That used to be almost impossible. When He said this to His disciples, they had limited mobility. They had to hoof it, or ride on something with hooves. Today we can get anywhere very quickly and with the Internet, the world has even gotten smaller. Listen to this email I received:
I really praise the Lord for your website. I am Elizer P. Ovales, an associate pastor of a newly established church here in General Santos City in the island of Mindanao, Philippines. Our church began last August 3 of this year. We really are in need of resources and thank you that I happened to surf your website. I appreciate very much the sermon archive of Pastor Bill Brian. Reading his sermons look like I’m just there at Pontiac Bible Church (though I don’t have the idea where is it). I’m so blessed, especially the series on 40 days of purpose. How i pray that someday our church can have activities like this to bring more lost souls to HIM…I look forward to know more about Pontiac and its ministry. May the Lord bless you, as you unreservedly give yourself for His purpose.
Interestingly, we’ve had people from several different continents utilizing the sermons on our website. Several of our missionaries are participating in the 40 Days of Purpose Journey as they follow along online.
It has never been easier to fulfill our mission, and at the same time, it has never been more difficult. Instead of becoming “world Christians,” some of us are “worldly Christians.” We’re saved but self-centered. Warren writes: “God invites you to participate in the greatest, largest, most diverse, and most significant cause in history – his kingdom…nothing matters more, and nothing will last as long” (“Purpose Driven Life,” Page 308). He then suggests that in order to become world-class Christians, we need to make some mental shifts.
- Shift from self-centered thinking to other-centered thinking. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you think of the spiritual needs of people whenever you talk to them as you look for ways to bring them closer to Christ. Remember, the first part of Acts 1:8 establishes the fact that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to be wise witnesses
- Shift from local thinking to global thinking. That’s why our church gives about $40,000 a year to missions. We’re called not just to minister here, but to also be on mission everywhere. A church that is not a missionary church will soon be a missing church. Visit the missions that focus on the needs of the world. Begin praying for our missionaries and correspond with them by email. Pick up their prayer letters in the hallway and intercede for their specific needs. When you read and watch the news, pray for the advance of the gospel in the midst of the conflict or natural disaster, or whatever else is taking place. Pray for the several teenagers that are going to Panama this summer. In addition, the Student Ministry team is planning a mission trip and they could use some sponsors and some support.
- Shift from “here and now” thinking to eternal thinking. This will keep us from majoring on minor issues and help us distinguish between what’s urgent and what’s ultimate. Don’t trade your life for temporary things. Warren writes that while “we can’t take it with us,” we can send it on ahead by investing in people who are going to be there. Actually, one of the best ways to embrace an eternal perspective is by sharing your faith. Philemon 6: “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.”
- Shift from thinking of excuses to thinking of creative ways to fulfill your mission. If you are willing, there is always a way to do it, and there are agencies here today that can help you clarify your vision for God’s mission in your life. Perhaps God is asking you to go on a short-term missions trip. Someone has said that every heart without Christ is a mission field, and every heart with Christ is a missionary. If you’re not able to go right now, consider how God can use your resources to send someone else.
Here’s the test to know if you have completed your mission or not. Are you still alive? If you’re still alive, your mission is not completed. Now you can have four possible responses to this:
- You can be like Moses and say, “Who me?”
- You can complain like Jonah, “Not me.”
- You can question like Habakkuk, “Why me?”
- Or you can respond like Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”
Is anybody going to be in heaven because of you? There are a couple ways to answer this question. The first answer is NO. People will only be in heaven because of Jesus’ work on the cross and God’s grace. Jesus put it this way in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
But there is a sense in which the answer to the question is YES, or at least it can be YES. In His mysterious wisdom and sovereign plan God has chosen to use His people as His appointed ambassadors to communicate the good news of the gospel. Those on the road to heaven should not be content to go there alone. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity we have. Let’s say our memory verse together from Colossians 4:5: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
William Carey is known as the “father of modern missions.” More than 200 years ago, he tried to convince the leadership of his denomination that the Great Commission required them to go out into the entire world and make disciples. He was met with fierce resistance by one older pastor who said, “Young man, sit down. When it pleases God to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.” What this man missed was that when God pleases to do something on earth, He uses people. We are Plan A, and there is no other plan. William Carey was not dissuaded and went to India as a missionary. His zeal has inspired thousands to do the same. Around the world today, there are millions of people living for Jesus because God used some person – a missionary, a friend, a teacher, a family member, a coworker, a neighbor, or a classmate – to bring them the good news of the gospel (Ruth Tucker, “From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya).
Friends, if we care, we must dare to share Jesus with a lost and dying world
When I get to heaven, I’m going to find my college roommate, Bruce McNeil, and I’m going to say, “Thank you! You knew it and you didn’t keep it a secret. You passed it on.” Friends, if we care, we must dare to share Jesus with a lost and dying world. Will anyone run up to you and say, “Thanks for being a witness! Thanks for telling me!”
The most dangerous prayer you can pray is “God use me.” I dare you to pray it. Do you have enough courage to say, “God use my life”? It was shortly after I prayed and wrote in my journal that I was willing “to do anything, and go anywhere, at anytime” that God moved us from Rockford to Mexico City as missionaries. I’ve never regretted praying that prayer and I continue to pray it today.
As we close today, I’d like you to take the 40 Days of Purpose Response Card and fill it out during our final song. But let’s pray first.
“Father, more than anything else, I want to fulfill your purposes for my life. So today, I’m making your mission my mission. I want you to use me any time, any way, any place. I want to bring others to you. And I want to be a part of what you’re doing in the world. From this day forward, I want to build my life around Your eternal purposes, and I want to help our church do the same. Help me to reach one more for Jesus. In your name I pray. Amen.”