Tonight we come to the last of the sermons in our 40 Days of Purpose programme. This week's purpose (Purpose 5) is: "You were made for a mission". So our theme is Evangelism. If you look into the latest edition of the Oxford University Press' huge World Christian Encyclopaedia you will find that Western Europe is one of the areas of the world most in need of evangelism. Spiritually it is now a desert. This is, therefore, a vital subject for every Western European believer present tonight. But on this World Mission Sunday we remind ourselves that it is also a vital subject for every other part of the world. Every believer, therefore, needs to remember that they were made for a mission.
I hope you are reading the short daily chapter of the Purpose Driven Life. If you are a bit behind hand, do make sure you read today's, tomorrow's and the day after's chapters entitled Made for Mission, Sharing your Life Message and Becoming a World-class Christian. They are about world-mission and evangelism. And so is our memory verse for this week. Do you know what it is?
Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (Colossians 4 verse 5).
At the very least that says you have to think about your relationships with non believers. You have to "be wise". Then you have to "make the most of every opportunity". Literally, that can be translated "buy up every opportunity". It is like desperately wanting something and the shops have not had it in stock. Then one day you are in a shop and there it is on the shelf. So you grab it. You buy it up as fast as you can. The bible says, "treat evangelistic opportunities in the same way."
That is why these opportunities at JPC are so important - Advent Carols, Philip Hacking's visit, the other events associated with that week, then Carols by Candlelight and the Christmas services. They won't be there in January. Undoubtedly there will be some people that God is preparing for you to invite to these opportunities. That is why you need to pray and then actually invite friends. Even it you find it hard talking to people about your faith, you can pray and invite people.
What, then, is mission? Mission comes from the Latin word for "sent". The simple fact is that Christ sends us out into the world to work for him and to tell others about him and what he has done for us and for them. We had those words of Jesus in our Gospel reading:
As you [the Father] sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17.18).
Jesus said that just after the last supper. He is praying for the disciples. And in his prayer he makes it clear that while the Christian believer does not belong to the world, they, nevertheless, live in the world. They are to be spiritually separate but not socially separate. Jesus prays this in John 17:
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. [verse 18] As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
Jesus wants his followers to be in the world but protected from the evil one while they are there. And that balance comes from keeping God's word - verse 17:
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
That's why when you are in the world, as you should be, witnessing to Christ, you need to keep to the truth of the Bible. If you don't, you will become like the world.
I was doing a BBC Radio broadcast on Friday morning. I was debating with another clergyman who was so pleased that clergy could now remarry divorced people in church, if the clergyman agrees. I said I could never agree because of the bible's teaching. And he said, [words to this effect] "Oh! we are not bothered with the Bible." But if you are not bothered with the Bible where you discover the teaching of Jesus, you will become just like the world and absorb its values, morals and ambitions. So with that caution Jesus says:
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17.18).
Like Jesus you are to be out there in the world. You are neither to withdraw from it, nor be conformed to it, but sent into it protected by God and relying on his word. Jesus is crystal clear. We once had a visit from Chappo. His real name is John Chapman. He is a great Australian evangelist. He gave us a talk on evangelism. I can remember him saying that Jesus' teaching on this subject was "more difficult to do than to understand." That is so true. Well, with all that in mind, tonight I thought it would be helpful if we looked together at 2 Corinthians chapter 5 (we read from that as our epistle). I want to be very simple. So my headings will be first, THE IMPORTANCE OF MISSION, secondly, THE MESSAGE OF MISSION, and, thirdly, THE METHODS OF MISSION.
First, THE IMPORTANCE OF MISSION
Let me give you four reasons why your mission is important.
First, it is because your mission is a continuation of Christ's mission on earth. Believers are now the body of Christ. Christ is risen and ascended. And you are to do his work in the world. Last week in The Purpose Driven Life you should have read about some churches in China. They welcome new believers by saying:
"Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with."
So you are now "sent" out into the world by Jesus as he was sent into the world by the Father. And what is that sending or mission for? Rick Warren summarizes it like this: God wants to redeem human beings and ...
"... reconcile them to himself so that we can fulfil those five purposes he created us for: to love him, to be a part of his family, to become like him, to serve him and to tell others about him."
Look at 2 Corinthians 5.18:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
God planned (it is from God); Christ came (through him God reconciled us to himself); and we now have to exercise "the ministry of reconciliation" which is evangelism.
Secondly, your mission is important because it is a wonderful privilege. Look at verse 20:
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
We are standing in for Christ. Think of the British Ambassador to the United Nations. Well, we stand in relation to Christ as he does to the Queen and the UK Government. We are the agents of God almighty. What a privilege! When we share the gospel it is as though God himself were speaking through us.
Thirdly, your mission is important because telling others how they can have eternal life is the greatest thing you can do for them. Look at verse 17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Myra Hindley died last Friday. I wonder if when the judgment day comes, we will discover that someone, somewhere, at sometime could have said a few words about Jesus Christ to her before she met and was infatuated with Ian Brady. Perhaps those words could have changed her life. If she had become a new creation, what terrible things might have been avoided. Too often opportunities are missed.
When I was a student someone suggested I ask someone along to an evangelistic event. I didn't because I thought he was the least likely person to want an invitation. However, after I had left the University out of the blue I met a clergyman. He told me that this man, when a student, used to cycle out to his vicarage regularly on Sunday afternoons to talk with him. Look at verse 16:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
You need spiritual eyes - not only to see that Christ is the Saviour of the world, but also to see the reality of people's lives. People put on appearances. So many people have problems they never reveal. They appear so confident. But they are wanting help, and questions answered, and forgiveness for the things they feel guilty about. Even if they feel self-satisfied, the reality is that one day, sooner or later, they will face God's judgment seat. What then? God won't be interested in the fact that they felt confident in this life.
So, fourthly, your mission is important because it has eternal significance. Look back to verse 10 of our chapter:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
There is going to be a judgment when Christ returns. For those who do not trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord it will be terrifying. For those who do trust him there will be no condemnation. They are safe. Romans 8.1 says:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But Jesus (and then Paul) taught that there will be an assessment of believers. This is a question of accountability. It will be a matter of commendation and evaluation, not a matter of salvation.
Look up sometime Jesus' Parable of the Talents and also Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3. Paul there tells the Corinthians that even on the foundation of Christ, some could build with their lives what was substantial, while others could build a house of cards. All would be saved. But the commendation or reward would go to the substantial builders. Nor is God wanting to trip you up. Yes, when Christ comes, he tells the Corinthians in 1 Cor 4.5,
he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
So God wants to praise you, if you are one of his people. Judgment is a mystery. But the outlines are clear enough. Salvation for eternity is through faith in Christ alone - you are justified, to use a biblical term. And you are secure for ever. But then you need to live for Christ. Here is Paul Barnett in his good little commentary on 2 Corinthians:
"Whatever our ministry from God, it is sobering to note that what each one of us has done will one day be made manifest at the judgment seat of Christ. How faithfully have we used our time? How well have we pursued opportunities? How single-minded have we been in our Christian service? The teaching about the judgment seat before which all must come, believers included, reminds us that we have been saved, not for a life of aimlessness or indifference, but for a life of serving the Lord."
And for Paul the judgment seat was a great motive in evangelism. Look at verse 11:
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.
It is not just that men and women without Christ will suffer a lost eternity in hell. It is that he, Paul, and you and I will be assessed as to our stewardship of our time and talents and our evangelism. Let's move on.
Secondly, THE MESSAGE OF MISSION
The heart of your mission is suggested there in verse 19:
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.,/i>
Yes, as Christ's ambassador you are to show his love and kindness.
On Wednesday we thought about the Good Samaritan in terms of our service in the world and to those outside the Christian fellowship. But the greatest service is to give people "the message of reconciliation". That is Your great mission - to help convey that message. It takes some bottle being an Ambassador. You get up in the morning and you have a confidential message from your Foreign Office saying that your own Government doesn't like this or that in the policy of your host country. And you are the one who has to pass that message on. You may be in for some tense conversations. But being an Ambassador for Christ is much easier. It is good news that you are trying to pass on, not bad news. It is the news that God, the true and living God, is wanting to accept men and women who by nature and desire have rejected him; and in consequence they are in a mess. When they go their own way they end up in a mess. From God's perspective they are unpleasant in their sin. Most don't see how unpleasant they are. But on the judgment day God, as we heard, is going to ...
... bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.
And that will not be a pretty picture. But the good news is something like this. Imagine you are someone like Myra Hindley was, when she was languishing in Durham Gaol. And you are there because Home Secretaries think your crimes were so terrible that the only fair penalty is imprisonment for the whole of your life - no matter how reformed you might be. But then some kind visitor, like the late Lord Longford, comes along one day and says, "You are free! Because someone else is going to be imprisoned for life instead of you." Now you may not fully understand it. But you are going to be so grateful and get out as soon as you can. Well, that is something like the Christian good news. Look at verse 21:
God made him [Jesus Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
On the Cross, that is to say, Christ took the condemnation for our sin, so that we might be free. That is why we have these communion services. To remind ourselves of this great act of God's love in Christ. And the world needs to hear this message. Your mission is to help people hear the message, "be reconciled to God".
Thirdly, THE METHODS OF MISSION.
You say, "but how do I help get that message out. Am I supposed to buy a loud speaker and repeat the words 'Be reconciled to God'?" Well, not usually. Rick Warren refers to your life testimony and your life lessons. What are they? Well, your testimony includes how you began a relationship with Jesus Christ. You tell people what it was like before you became a Christian, how you became a Christian and what difference that makes now. It is sometimes good to write all that down, if you have never done so before. That will be at the back of you mind for conversation. And your life lessons include what God has taught you from failure - from the hard experiences of life - from lack of money, family problems, illness, disappointments and so on. In the opening chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of ...
... the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
So as you talk with your friends you can tell them of your experience of God. They will find that hard to argue with. And as you share your testimony and your life lessons, you can tell them of God's love for them in Christ. You can certainly invite them to some of these events that are soon to take place, where they can hear others telling them about Jesus Christ.
I must conclude Is there anyone here tonight who needs to be reconciled to God? Like Myra Hindley was, you are still in gaol - spiritual gaol. Christ offers you freedom. Why not say, "thank you Lord for dying for me; help me now, by your Holy Spirit, to live for you." Look back to verses 14-15, and with this I close:
Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.