Jesus’ Missionary Methods

Sermon from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10

In reading this Gospel passage, I’m struck by how different the missionary methods of Jesus were from how we in the modern day Church engage in the mission of the Gospel. So I’d like to highlight the missionary strategies of Jesus we see in this passage, and compare them to how we often engage in mission.

1. Jesus grounds the work in prayer.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Luke 10:2

Although we do pray today, we don’t allow it to give us the eyes to see the harvest field the way Jesus did. What Jesus says highlights a missionary problem, and compares it to a relatable problem for the missionaries He was sending out. Imagine a farmer seeing a beautiful field full of ripe grain ready to harvest, and that sinking feeling of knowing you don’t have enough workers to bring in the harvest before it goes to waste. All that value and potential gone to waste! It’s even more dire when we realize that the harvest the Lord says is ready is not grain, but it’s souls. When we earnestly pray the way the Lord did, our eyes are opened to the urgency of this missionary problem. Mission begins with prayer. A prayerless Christianity is a powerless Christianity, but Jesus gives us new eyes to see.

2. Jesus eliminates dependence on the flesh.

Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.

Luke 10:3-4

Modern mission has become more about distribution of resources than it has about distribution of the Gospel. Jesus sent out His missionaries with ONLY the Gospel, in what seemed like weakness and unpreparedness. But that meant what they were giving was only the MOST important thing. Anything else is just a distraction.

3. Jesus’ mission is based on hospitality.

Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.

Luke 10:5-7

Jesus’ mission and ministry was always based in homes. Every place He went, He started a home group! Modern Christians think that the work of God is done in church, but Jesus took the mission of God out of the church building and took it to where real life was happening every day. Consider opening up your home to become a missionary outpost of the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter where you live or what your home looks like. What matters is the heart you use to reach out to those around you, and the message of the Gospel that you offer there.

When the seventy-two that Jesus sent out in this passage used Jesus methods, they had thrilling results!

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

Luke 10:17-18

God is turning this world upside-down through His people when they step out in faith and engage in the mission He is calling them to with the methods He calls them to use.

Keeping Freedom

As we approach Independence Day in the United States, I like to think about the Declaration of Independence and the inalienable rights that it acknowledges God has endowed for all people. The founding fathers of the United States placed their emphasis on freedom. Even continuing to today, it’s still somewhat of an experiment: Just how free can a people be? The concern is, of course, that when people have too much freedom, it results in anarchy. Just look at a room full of uncontrolled children to see how freedom can go wrong!

Our Scripture passage from Galatians also speaks to this tension. The body of Christ at Galatia had Gentiles coming into the fellowship, which is good, but they were bringing their unregulated lifestyles with them, which was introducing chaos into the body. In a case like this, humanity’s first instinct is to start making rules, setting laws, trying to bring the unruly members under control. But Paul says, this isn’t necessarily the answer. He challenges the Galatian church that it’s not about rules and laws, but rather about freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

There’s a one-two punch to the Gospel, the coming of Jesus Christ. The first punch is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which deals with sin and judgment and wipes our slates clean. Through this, we are set free from the fear of judgment and condemnation (Romans 8:1). And this is wonderful, but it can’t stop there. We don’t just leave it at freedom. “Woohoo! Eat, drink, and be merry! Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!” No, unmitigated freedom results in licentiousness, which is a problem. We may try to combat the licentiousness with law, but that is trying to introduce an external force to solve an internal problem. The problem of licentiousness is in the heart, and that can’t be solved through regulation or governance. It never has worked, and it never will.

This is where the second punch comes in. God deals with the internal problems of the heart through the infusing of the heart of every Christian with his own Holy Spirit. The fundamental solution to all of the problems in our society and world is not a legal or political one, but rather an internal transformation that comes by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit inside each believer. This is how a people and a nation can be transformed and live in a state of harmony.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:16-18

The law and the flesh feed off of each other. If you really want to go to war against the flesh, you don’t do it with law, you do it with Spirit.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:24

This is the urgency of the mission of the Church in our day. We don’t need more political solutions. We need the Gospel to spread throughout our nation and world. We need the Spirit of God directing people to live together in righteousness and peace.

Each of us are individually called to apply to our own lives the one-two punch of the Gospel — to live in the freedom that comes from being forgiven, and to walk in the Spirit of God and bear his holy fruit. If we can get that into our own hearts and the hearts of our children, the strong hands of rules, laws, and government become unnecessary. Instead, we will have a taste of heaven on earth. This is what the Lord is offering his Church, both now and forever. Accept it today.

The Spirit of Truth

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

On this Trinity Sunday, when we consider the unfathomable truth that our God is three persons in one, I’d like to spend some time thinking about the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. The wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit came when Jesus went to go be with the Father. Jesus was on earth for a little while, but then when he ascended back to be with the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to be his representation on earth.

Jesus is at the right hand of God advocating for us in the heavenly realms, but that’s not a close enough relationship for God. He wants the Holy Spirit here on earth to not only dwell WITH us, but to dwell IN us. How amazing!

In John 16, Jesus told his disciples that they wouldn’t be able to bear all the things he needed to tell them at once. So he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his people into all truth, and teach us all that he wants us to know.

I love the name Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit in this passage: The Spirit of Truth. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the author of our written record of God’s truth – the Bible. (See 2 Peter 1:21.) The Scriptures teach that there is a direct connection between the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

When Christ came to earth, the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), but then after Christ departed the earth, now in these last days, God wants to pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17). That means WE, the carriers of God’s Spirit, are now the Word made flesh. What a privilege!

Compare the words of Paul in his letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians:

…Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always.

Ephesians 5:18-20

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16

Do you see the similarities in terminology there? Paul seems to be saying that being “filled with the Spirit” and letting the “word of Christ dwell in you richly” is the exact same thing! We are the embodiment of the Word of God when the Spirit of God fills us. We manifest the glorious nature of God.

The glorious Trinity is one of the greatest mysteries. God is one, but God is three. Our Godhead is a glorious fellowship of worship and love. No person of the Trinity is focused on himself, but they are continually loving and lifting up each other. And into this marvelous and mysterious communion, God has invited us. It’s breathtaking!

This is not merely a future reality. God has brought us into that fellowship today. The overflow of the love that the Father has for the Son and the Son has for the Spirit and the Spirit has for the Father, has also been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Set your hearts to dwell on this gift that has been given to us not just for a season, but for all eternity!

All These Things

At the end of the Gospel of Luke, the phrase “the things” is used several times to refer to all of the events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In Luke 24:18-19, Jesus is speaking to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and the events of the week are referred to as “the things.” Later in the chapter, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and says to them, “You are witnesses of these things” (verse 48).

“These thing” are wonderful things, and a lot is contained in them! It can be overwhelming and too much for us to take in, but like the disciples, Jesus can “open [our] minds to understand” (verse 45).

When we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, let’s consider two things. First, the departure of Christ from this earth, which took place at the Ascension, means that his power is distributed to all those who believe in him (verse 49). This occurs through the sending of the Holy Spirit, which took place at Pentecost. Through his departure, Jesus gives both the responsibility for his mission and his power to complete it to all those who believe in him. This means it’s not just pastors or priests who are the ones doing the work of Christ – it’s all believers!

Second, when Jesus ascended into the heavenly realms, he brought humanity into heaven to dwell beside God forever. Through the fully divine and fully human person of Christ, God and man were brought together FOREVER. Both the prophet Daniel (chapter 7) and the apostle John (Revelation, chapters 7 and 19) were given visions of a multitude of humanity worshiping God forever in heaven, with a human – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man – sitting on the throne at the right hand of God!

The practical implication of this for us is phenomenal. We can bring all of our hopes, concerns, challenges, and difficulties to Christ, where we find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. As the Son of Man, he can understand and sympathize with us. But as the Son of God, he grants us the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and enable us to overcome all difficulty and accomplish his work in this world.

The Sheep Know Their Master’s Voice

Sermon from John 10:22-30

The Feast of the Dedication mentioned in our text is referring to Hanukkah, a celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from a tyrannical ruler. So the people of Jerusalem at that moment had freedom on their minds as they pondered the unwanted rule of Rome at the time this story takes place.

The Jews in the temple expressed their dissatisfaction when they approached Jesus in an unfriendly way: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (verse 24). It seems as if they are blaming Jesus for their unbelief, as if their lack of faith is somehow His fault.

But He had been telling them plainly for a long time who He is, and He replies to them with that very truth: “I told you, and you do not believe” (verse 25).

Jesus goes on to say that it’s not because of His lack of truth-telling or His lack of demonstrating His power that they do not believe, but it is because they are not of His flock. He says that sheep know their shepherd, so if these people were of His flock, they would know Him.

In our culture today, most of us don’t have the chance to see a real shepherd in action to be able to envision how sheep follow them, but we can draw comparisons with our pets. My own dog, Walter, is a great example of how an animal will obey their master but not someone else. When we moved into a new home a couple weeks ago, Walter got loose and was running around the yard. One of the movers was trying to help by calling him to come back in, but Walter completely ignored the stranger. However, when I called, “Walter, come,” Walter came immediately, and he obeyed my command to go in the house. What a good dog! And this is a picture of how the sheep will obey only their shepherd and not a stranger.

The sheep of Jesus’ flock know their Shepherd. They recognize His voice, and they follow. Why? Because of the intimate relationship between a shepherd and his sheep, between the Lord and his people. He is, amazingly, both a mighty King – the Son of David, the Divine in flesh – AND he is our beloved Shepherd.

He says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (verse 28). What a wonderful promise! What blessed assurance! We are perfectly safe in our Shepherd’s hands. All we must do is hear His voice and follow Him.