Telling the World

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What part does God want you to play in order to get the good news about Jesus to everyone in the whole world?

For the last few weeks, we have been working our way through a series of sermons on themes based on our mission statement. In case you're not familiar with it, our mission as a church is to obey 3 direct commands from Jesus:

1) "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" - that's live Godly lives
2) "Go and make disciples of all nations" - that's grow the church and
3) "love your neighbour as yourself" - that's change our nation.

Live, Grow, Change. This is a summary of what we believe the Bible teaches should be our purpose as a church.

But it also a summary of how a disciple of Jesus should be living. What does it look like for individual spirit-filled Christian to live, grow change? That brings us to our next diagram.

How do we live Godly lives? By trusting in Christ and Obeying the Word.
How do we grow the church? By serving the church and telling the world.
How do we change our nation? By caring for needs and contending for truth.

This is a good guide to the steps involved in becoming a grown-up or mature Christian. But no matter how long you've been a Christian these are areas that we all need to keep working on, all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tonight we focus on 'telling the world'. It's a phrase that can be taken in a variety of ways. The way we are using it here is in the broadest sense of the process of getting to grips with the Lords long-term purpose for you in the service of his kingdom. We've sometimes also called that 'calling clarification'. In other words: What part does God want you to play in order to get the good news about Jesus to everyone in the whole world?

It's not an easy question to answer. There are at least two reasons for that. The first is that we are taking a long-term view here. I remember once at the Globe Café that we help run for international students sitting next to a student that I had never met before. We introduced ourselves and within minutes and with virtually no prompting I was asked why I was a Christian and what I believed. It was pretty obvious what part I was to play. I told my story of how I had come to trust in Christ and we looked at the Bible together. He agreed to meet up regularly to read the Bible together. But ask that same question looking over the whole of your life and it's not such an easy question to answer.

The second reason it is not an easy question to answer is that it's not primarily about gaining a skill (like learning to explain the Bible to someone who's not read it before) or growing in knowledge (like understanding that every part of the Bible teaches that it is God's plan for the whole world to hear about Jesus). It's primarily about guidance. What is God's specific will for my life? Answering that is a process and it's not simple. It involves prayerfully reflecting on what we know to be God's will as revealed in the Bible, taking into account our own unique set of gifts, abilities, personality and circumstances. It includes seeking input and advice from our Christian brothers and sisters. It often involves stepping out in faith.

So that is the question in front of us: What part does God want me to play in order to get the good news about Jesus to everyone in the whole world?

I have two points to help us consider that question.

First - we'll briefly look at what the Bible says is true for the church as a whole which is that Jesus commands the church to take the gospel to all people.

Second - to help us consider what that might mean specifically for each one of us we'll look at Paul's ambition was to take the gospel to all unreached people.

So first,

1. Jesus Commands the Church to Take the Gospel to All People

There are so many places we can turn to in the Bible to see this but let's start with the reading we just heard from Luke 24 on p885. v45 says,

Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

There are verses like that in all four gospels. Jesus gave clear instructions to his first disciples and to all disciples since. The task of the church throughout the ages has been to take the good news that forgiveness of sins is now possible only through Jesus to all the peoples of the world. Not just to as many people as possible around them, but also to every different group of people so that everyone might know the good news.

What is that good news? It is that, by what his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus offers a world full of people condemned to death for their rejection of God forgiveness for their sin and eternal life. This is the only way. He is their only hope. Acts 4:12, talking about Jesus, makes this very clear. "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Jesus commands the church to take that gospel to all people. So how is the worldwide church doing with this task? I want to show you something. that helps answer that question, 0:22 - 02:34 of this video.

The rest of that clip goes on to explain that only 1% of money given to God's work is spent on reaching that 29% who have never heard of Jesus. It also gives the shocking statistic that more money is spent each year by Americans on Halloween costumes for their pets than the entire global church spends on reaching those 29%! Two billion people have never heard of Jesus and have no way of hearing about him. yet only 3% of overseas missionaries are sent to them. It's very challenging and the church worldwide needs to consider what we can do to change that. How does that impact our strategy? How does it affect how we spend our money? How does it affect how we pray?

But it's not just the worldwide church that needs to respond. We all need to play our part. Chris Wright ends his book 'The Mission of God' like this:

'We ask, "Where does God fit into the story of my life?" when the real question is, "Where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?"

'We want to be driven by a purpose tailored for our individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.'

Grasping God's plan for the world will change the way we view our daily lives. Think through your week and the places that only you go to and the people that only you meet. Are you there by accident? Not at all! God has put you there. If someone is going to tell those people about Jesus it is going to be you.

But back to the question of what God's specific long-term will might be for my life. To help us think about that a bit more let's move onto my second point.

2. Paul's Ambition was to Take the Gospel to All Unreached People

Paul was one of the first leaders of the church. He went from killing people who believed in Jesus to giving his whole life to telling people to believe in Jesus. Turn back to page 949 and have a look at what he says in Romans 15:20:

I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation...

Paul probably wrote Romans when he was in Corinth which is in Greece. Look down to v23 where he explains one of the reasons he is writing the letter:

But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul helped lead a church in Antioch, which is in Syria. That church had sent him out and supported him to take the good news to those who did not have it. For many years he travelled extensively to the west of Syria telling those he met about Jesus and started new churches in major cities in the region: 'from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum' as he put it in v19.

There is no way that everyone in that area had become Christians. A significant start had been made and churches had been planted. However, as Paul prayerfully reflecting on what he knew God had instructed the church to do and as he took into account his own unique set of gifts, abilities, personality and circumstances he reached the conclusion 'I no longer have any room for work in these regions' v23.

His attention was now focussed on Spain. A region that had no known believers and he knew he had to do something about it. He had to go and tell them the good news about Jesus. But he needed help, so he wrote to the church in Rome, which was an obvious church to support and send him out into Spain to enlist their help.

Paul knew that not everyone had the same part to play in what God was doing in getting the gospel out to everyone in the whole world. But he had a clear idea what role God was calling him to play as he reflected on what he read in the Bible. Reaching people who did not worship the true and living God gripped Paul. And he wanted the Romans to play their part in helping those who have never heard of Jesus to hear about the gospel.

v20 again:

... thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written,
"Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand."

The whole of Paul's amazing letter to the Romans was written to those who were already trusting in Christ and obeying the word. They knew the gospel. But Paul wanted them to reflect on the implications of the gospel and to live more and more in the light of it. His reason for writing was to pave the way for them to get involved in his mission to Spain.

Paul reminds them that the whole world - including those in Spain - were condemned to death for their rejection of God and were lost. And he also reminds them that God has made a way for the lost to receive forgiveness for their sin and eternal life through Jesus dying on the cross to take the punishment they deserved. That is why it is essential that they joined him in his mission to Spain. The whole world needed to hear the news - or else they were lost. In Romans 10:12-15 he says to them:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"

So much for Paul. What about us? Might be possible that the role God wants you to play is similar to Paul's. Might God want you to deliberately move somewhere so that those who are not currently reached can hear the good news about Jesus?

That will not be for everyone. I know that. And those who do this are not more important or more spiritual than those who don't. But it is an important question to ask it because one of the things the church can and should do in response to those unreached people groups is to help identify, send and support those who God is specifically calling to invest in a lifetime of cross-cultural work.

That may be by making the most of the incredible opportunities we have in the UK to reach students and others from across the globe many from unreached people groups. Or it may be by strategically moving to live and work in a part of the world where there is no Christian witness. Or perhaps helping start a new church in a different part of our city that is certainly not overrun with churches or Christians.

So as you think and pray about the role God wants you to play in getting the good news out to the whole world you may - like Paul get that sense that 'I no longer have any room for work in these regions'. Maybe you too have a burning ambition to 'preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named'.

If so, please talk to and pray about with others. Come and speak to me. It's not too late to join the team going to start St Joseph's, Benwell. Consider joining one of the short-term teams visiting and supporting some of our mission partners. Joining a team like this is costly in terms of time and money but can be really helpful in working out if this is a way you can play a part in helping spread the good news of Jesus to the whole world long-term. There is an information sheet about this at the display at the back of church. or why not consider joining one of our teams working with international students?

What part does God want you to play in order to get the good news about Jesus to everyone in the whole world?

It won't look the same for you as it will for others - God has gifted us differently and at different stages in life we have different pressures and opportunities. But can you answer that question?

When Paul writes to the Romans he asked them to pray for him. In that way they too join his team and play their part in God's plan. v30:

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf...

Don't underestimate the power of prayer! It's part of our church culture that every time we meet on Sundays or in home groups we pray for God's work across the globe. It could also become part of your own prayer life. So, if you don't do this already, start praying for the world! Operation World is a helpful book that can help you begin to do this. There are also many website such as 'operation world' or 'prayercast' to help you do this. If you don't already have one, pickup our new leaflet 'serving the world' which list people and organisations we support as a church. Make contact with one or two and pray for them regularly.

As well as praying, you can also give financially. In v24, he says 'I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you'. That help would have included giving money.

The Bible encourages us to give regularly a proportion of our income for God's work and our suggestion is to give half of that to JPC and half to world mission. Your money can help to spread the gospel to all the world. Why not start with giving as you are able to our special gift week which this year supports the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship; Barnabas Fund and more locally St Oswalds church, Walkergate.

One final brief lesson from Paul's example before we end. We need to remember that all of our plans sit under God's plans. We've learned that a few times already with the St Joseph's project haven't we!

As far as we know Paul never made it to Spain. And when he did get to Rome it was as a prisoner. So as you think about how you might play your part in getting the good news about Jesus to everyone in the whole world remember that even when things are not going according to your plans, God is still working out his plan.

And what God has promised will happen, v21:

"Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand."

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