Sermon title:  OUR ROLE AS CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVES TO THE WORLD

Luke 10:10-24                         Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, January 13, 2019

 

 

 

 

At Christmas time we were reminded

how the Lord sent the angel Gabriel

as his representative,

when he called Mary to be the virgin mother

of the Son of God.

 

And he sent angels to announce Jesus’ birth

to shepherds who were tending their sheep

in the fields outside Bethlehem.

 

God also sent Gabriel to the Jewish priest Zechariah,

who would become father to John the Baptist.

 

And hundreds of years earlier,

he sent the angel Gabriel

to the prophet Daniel.

 

On each of those occasions,

the angel had to start out by saying, “Do not be afraid,”

because an angel can be a fearful sight to us mere humans.

Many humans who encountered angels

shook with fear, became faint, or passed out from fear—

even tough Roman soldiers,

like those who were guarding Jesus tomb,

when the angel came down

and rolled away the stone.

 

So, as representatives of God,

angels can be fear-inspiring, and frightening.

 

People see them and turn pale and quake with fear.

 

It makes sense, then,

that God usually uses less-frightening representatives

to bring the Good News of the Gospel

to people who need the Lord.

 

In fact, he sends ordinary people like you and me.

 

We share the Gospel with others,

or invite them to church,

or tell them what a difference

Jesus has made in our lives,

and people aren’t frightened by our appearance,

the way they would be

if a mighty angel appeared to them.

 

This is the way our loving God has chosen to operate.

 

On that first Christmas so long ago,

he sent his Son

to begin the work

of calling us back to himself—

calling millions upon millions of people

to turn their hearts to God.

 

Jesus was born as a baby laid in a manger

in a quaint little town

where there was no room at the inn.

 

Hardly anyone noticed,

except for a handful of shepherds

who were alerted to the event

and a few Wise Men from the East.

 

For the most part,

the world was unaware

of the hugely significant event that took place.

When Jesus was 30 years old

and began his earthly ministry,

hardly anyone noticed that, either.

 

He was baptized by his cousin John

in the Jordan River

at a time when there were crowds of other people

coming for baptism.

 

Only Jesus himself and John the Baptist,

saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus

in the form of a dove.

 

The rest of the crowds who had come for baptism

didn’t know that Jesus’ baptism was any different from their own.

 

And when our Lord later

presented himself at the local Jewish synagogue,

read a passage from the book of Isaiah,

and announced that he had come

to fulfill that prophecy,

it didn’t appear to be an earth-shaking event.

 

He looked just like any other young rabbi

reading from an Old Testament scroll on a Saturday morning.

 

But, it all could have happened quite differently,

if God had wanted to do it more dramatically.

 

Our Lord Jesus coming to earth

could have happened with great pomp and circumstance

in a way that everyone would have noticed.

 

If God had wanted everyone to notice,

he could have had the heavens open with a thunderous roar,

and a golden staircase

descend from the skies,

with angels blowing trumpets on each side,

as Jesus glided down the staircase.

 

He could have staged a breath-taking miracle

with the earth quaking and the skies lighting up

all around the world.

 

He could have shown the Northern Lights 100x brighter than normal

along with constant flashes of lightning and thunder,

and lit up the sky with comets and screaming meteors,

seen all around the globe.

God could have put on an awesome heavenly display

that would make the light shows of modern rock concerts

look like keychain flashlights by comparison.

 

He could have got the whole world’s attention,

and then caused the whole world

to see the heavens opened

with millions of angels bowing before Jesus

as he floated down to earth on a red carpet.

 

God could easily have done it that way,

if he had wanted to.

 

But that’s not how God chose to do it.

 

He quietly sent Jesus to be born

as an ordinary-looking baby,

to grow up in a carpenter’s home,

as an ordinary-looking boy,

working the carpentry trade until he was 30 years old.

 

And then he had Jesus quietly begin

the work that he came to do.

 

First, Jesus went out preaching, on foot,

from town to town and village to village. 

 

Then, after that, he sent out twelve apostles to do the same. 

 

Next, he sent out 72 disciples, two-by-two. 

 

And, finally, he has sent all of us. 

 

As Christians we may look like

ordinary guys and gals working a job,

caring for a home, and going to church on Sundays.

 

But, in God’s eyes,

we are his appointed representatives to this world.

 

The Apostle Paul makes that clear

in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 5, Verse 20.

He said,

“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.”

 

The New Living Translation puts it this way:


So we are Christ's ambassadors;

God is making his appeal through us.

We speak for Christ when we plead,

"Come back to God!"

 

As Christians, we have this special assignment from God,

to reach out to the people around us in this world

and call them to "Come back to God!"

 

But we still look just like them—ordinary men and women.

 

We don’t float down the sidewalk

with our feet a few inches above the ground.

 

And we don’t walk around with glowing haloes over our heads.

 

We look just like everyone else,

but we’ve been sent on a mission from God.

 

So, we can learn from the earlier times

when Jesus sent other people like us

on a mission to represent him.

 

And that’s what we find in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10,[ OPEN ]

which we read from in this morning’s Responsive Reading.

Only Luke tells us about this episode.

 

It was some time after Jesus had sent out 12 representatives

into various cities and towns.

 

And now he is sending out 72

(or 70 in some newer manuscripts

and translations based on them).

 

Beginning in Luke 10:1, it says,

 

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others

and sent them two by two ahead of him

to every town and place

where he was about to go.

 

2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful,

but the workers are few.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore,

to send out workers into his harvest field.

 

Well, its 2000 years later now,

and the harvest is even more plentiful now,

and we are among the more workers

Jesus called for to be sent out into the harvest field.

 

But some things never change.

In Verse 3, Jesus says,

 

3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

 

Today’s world, too, is hostile to the Gospel message.

 

So, we today are still sent out “like lambs among wolves.

 

We need to keep our eyes on the Good Shepherd,

in order not to lose our way.

 

Next, Jesus instructed them,

 

4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals;

and do not greet anyone on the road.

 

5 "When you enter a house, first say,

'Peace to this house.'

6 If a man of peace is there,

your peace will rest on him; if not,

it will return to you.

 

7 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.

 

Now, whenever we see instructions in the Bible

we need to read them in context,

to see who the instructions were given to,

and under what circumstances—

to figure out whether or not

those instructions apply to us.

 

Some of these instructions that Jesus gave to the 72

applied only to them,

and only at that particular time.

 

Later on, at Luke 22:35, we read,

“Jesus asked them,

"When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals,

did you lack anything?"

 

"Nothing," they answered.

 

36 He said to them,

"But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag;

and if you don't have a sword,

sell your cloak and buy one.”

 

So, those were temporary instructions Jesus gave to the 72—

instructions for that particular time and circumstance.

 

They weren’t permanent instructions

like God’s moral laws

that teach us right from wrong.

 

Still, we can learn from those temporary instructions.

 

Jesus continued at Luke 10:8,

 

8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed,

eat what is set before you.

9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them,

'The kingdom of God is near you.'

 

Missionaries today can learn from that instruction

to “eat what is set before you,

to accept the hospitality of local peoples,

and not insist on American food

and all the comforts of home.

 

We today are not empowered by the Lord to “Heal the sick

but we can tell them about “The kingdom of God.

 

Back then, the kingdom of God was “near

in the sense that Jesus, the King of the kingdom,

was there among them.

 

Jesus’ instructions to the 72 go on

to tell them how to react

when the people of a town reject their message.

 

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed,

go into its streets and say,

11 'Even the dust of your town

that sticks to our feet

we wipe off against you.

Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'

12 I tell you,

it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom

than for that town.

 

Wiping the dust off your feet

when leaving people who rejected God

was a common Jewish custom—

a way of showing that

you didn’t want to be contaminated by them.

 

Acts 10:51 tells us that

when Paul and Barnabas were expelled from Pisidian Antioch,

they “shook off the dust of their feet

in protest against them.

 

Concerning towns that rejected the Gospel message,

Jesus added,        I tell you,

it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom

than for that town.

 

The wicked men of Sodom

who threatened God’s messengers

with homosexual gang rape—

--those wicked men hadn’t heard the Gospel,

so towns that heard the Gospel and rejected it

would be judged more harshly than Sodom

on God’s judgment day.

 

Then Jesus named some of the towns

where he himself had preached and performed miracles,

but whose people refused to repent of their sins.

 

He told those Jewish cities

that if he had done his miracles in the pagan cities of Lebanon,

those pagans in Tyre and Sidon would have repented.

 

13 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!

For if the miracles that were performed in you

had been performed in Tyre and Sidon,

they would have repented long ago,

sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

 

14 But it will be more bearable

for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment

than for you.

 

15 And you, Capernaum,

will you be lifted up to the skies?

No, you will go down to the depths.

 

Capernaum served as Jesus’ headquarters

throughout much of his ministry—

his home town after he left Nazareth.

 

But the people of Capernaum were destined,

not for heaven, but for hell.

 

Then Jesus went on, in Verse 16,

to state a principle that still applies today.   He said,

 

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."

 

When we speak for Christ,

sharing the Gospel message with them,

or giving our testimony of what Jesus has done in our life,

it’s as if Jesus is speaking through us.

 

Jesus says that those who reject us then

are actually rejecting him and his heavenly Father.

 

So, we shouldn’t take it personally,

when people don’t want to hear about our faith.

 

They are rejecting, not us, but our Lord in heaven.

 

Luke’s account continues,

 

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said,

"Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

 

18 He replied,

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

 

19 I have given you authority

to trample on snakes and scorpions

and to overcome all the power of the enemy;

nothing will harm you.

 

20 However, do not rejoice

that the spirits submit to you,

but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

 

I don’t have any personal experience

with casting out demons.

 

Demon possession seems to be less common

in this part of the world

than in areas where witchcraft, idol worship,

and other demonic practices prevail.

 

But we may see more of it

as Americans drift farther from their Christian roots

and, instead, look for spirituality

in the New Age practices of horoscopes,

Tarot Cards,Ouija boards,

fortune telling, Reiki, Yoga,

centering prayer and

Transcendental Meditation.

 

Those practices are all demonic

and open people to demon possession.

 

Most people who get involved with such pagan practices

are simply led away from the Lord.

 

Believing a lie instead of the truth,

they may find their lives messed up as a result.

 

And a few even come under demonic possession.

 

But, as Paul wrote at 2 Corinthians 10:4,

the Lord gives us power

to tear down demonic strongholds.

 

Paul said,

“The weapons we fight with

are not the weapons of the world.

On the contrary, they have divine power

to demolish strongholds.

 

We demolish arguments and every pretension

that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,

and we take captive every thought

to make it obedient to Christ.”

 

So, the Holy Spirit gives us power over the enemy—

power to release people held captive

by sin, superstition and false beliefs.

 

We fight falsehood, using as our weapon the “sword of the Spirit.”

 

Ephesians 6:17 calls the Bible, the written word of God,

“the sword of the Spirit.”

 

So, like the 70 or 72

who Jesus sent out performing miracles and preaching,

we, too, are endued with supernatural power.

 

We have the Spirit of God in our hearts

and the written Word of God in our hands

as “the sword of the Spirit.”

 

As our Responsive Reading’s next Verse, Luke 10:21, shows,

we don’t need great intellect or education

to accomplish great things for the Lord.

 

21 At that time Jesus,

full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said,

"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things

from the wise and learned,

and revealed them to little children.

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

 

Compared to the secular-minded intellectuals

at Harvard and M.I.T.,

we may be “little children,”

but we have something they don’t have.

 

We have the knowledge of God.

 

Jesus went on to say,

 

22 "All things have been committed to me by my Father.

 

No one knows who the Son is except the Father,

and no one knows who the Father is

except the Son

and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

 

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.

 

24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings

wanted to see what you see but did not see it,

and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

 

Our speech, conduct and way of life

all serve to draw people to Christ. 

 

And, when the opportunity presents itself,

we share the Gospel message. 

 

A few weeks ago,

this church actively reached out

to our immediate neighbors.

 

Letters were prepared inviting them

to a fellowship meal downstairs here at the church.

 

Some of you went up and down the street

delivering those letters to the neighbors

within a block of the church.

And out of 40-some-odd letters,

one individual who couldn’t come due to a previous commitment

sent a donation to help with the cost of the meal,

and 3 other individuals actually came, ate with us,

and heard the Gospel in an informal setting.

 

And we followed up with personal notes to the 4 of them.

 

That 10-percent response ratio was amazing.

 

Any marketing or advertising professional would tell you

that they consider 1/10th of 1-percent to be successful.

 

Yet we got 10 percent.

 

So, the church will be reaching out again

with postcards to a wider audience

in the wider neighborhood around the church.

 

The postcard says,

He took a bullet for you.

 That’s what Jesus did when he died on the cross,

taking on himself the punishment for our sins.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”-John 3:16

 

Jesus invites you: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”-Matthew 11:28-29

Sunday services 10 a.m. with Bible teaching and traditional hymns

IMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH, 195 WHITMAN ST, NEW BEDFORD  -  508-999-6802

Come, experience our fun-loving fellowship

ImmanuelBaptistNB.org  

--where people can learn more about the church

and can click links to hear our Sunday sermons any time 24/7.

 

So, everyone who reads one of these cards

will hear the Gospel message.

 

We’ll be mailing them to our neighbors,

but the cards can be handed out personally, too,

so feel free to take some

from the pile on the table in the vestibule.

 

And, if you’d like to share

in preparing cards that will go out in the mail,

we’ll be getting together today in the Fellowship Hall

immediately after this service

to stick on the address labels

and the self-stick postage stamps.

 

We have enough address labels and stamps

to send out around 400 today.

 

But we’ve had 1,000 cards printed up,

and we’ll send out more as the resources become available.

 

Other churches have found this sort of outreach effective,

and we’ll be praying the Lord’s special blessing

on our efforts, too.

 

It will be the Holy Spirit

who will be putting these cards into the right hands

and who will be opening hearts

to receive this message.

 

As Christians we may look like

ordinary guys and gals working a job,

caring for a home, and going to church on Sundays.

 

But, in God’s eyes,

we are his appointed representatives to this world.

 

And we’ll be doing the same work,

reaching out with the same Gospel through these postcards,

in the same Spirit and power

as the 70 Jesus sent out

into that community so long ago.