Sunday, May 16, 2004

Missions 1-2-3

Intro: I am firmly convinced that everyone is called to serve. 1.That does not mean that everyone is going to be n the pulpit 2.That does not mean everyone will provide leadership to a local church 3.That does not mean that everyone - or even anyone - will be responsible for doing it all 4.It does meant that everyone will be serving Christ with his or gifts, talents, and passions 5.That is not new - it has been an unspoken theme of much of 2004. 6.But I want to add something new today - something that I have only mentioned in passing during the year-and-a-half that I have been here. 7.Though every Christian is expected to be involved in ministry, effective ministry has certain prerequisites. 8.Today we want to look at three of those prerequisites Read: Acts 1:1-8 Pray Tran. Paul is generally known as the first missionary. Yet he was not the only missionary from the early church. Paul's letter to the Romans was written sometime before he every visited Rome. Yet, the most theological of Paul's letters was written to an existing body of believers - somebody had taken the good news, the gospel, of Jesus Christ beyond the boundaries of what we know today as the Middle East. Some unknown disciple had taken the message of salvation to Rome - so they were able to read and understand Paul letter when it arrived. What makes for an effective ministry? How is an individual able to effectively present the claims of Jesus to a broken world. T.S. Effective ministry - whether at home or around the world - entails the prerequisites given by Jesus in Acts 1:8. I. Prerequisite # 1: Recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit A. Something happens when we place our faith in Christ. B. At that point in time we belong to Jesus Christ (Ill.) I have a friend who is trying to buy a house. Part of that process is signing a contract. Now, I suppose, that my friend could fill in all the blanks on the contract and submit it. But until he puts his signature onto the form, it is means nothing. Once we have signed the document, included a deposit and it is witnessed by a Notary Public, the deal is said to be sealed. C. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that seals our relationship with Jesus Christ: It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free--signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. [Ephesians 1:13 MSG] (Appl.) You know those times you are driving along and all of a sudden you are aware that God is there. Maybe it was something from nature, maybe a song on the radio, maybe just a thought. The Holy Spirit is present in the life of each Christian - it is part of what defines us as Christians. II. Prerequisite # 2: Being controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit A. But the the presence of the Holy Spirit is not enough (Ill.) Most of us have known Christians who are members of the church, but their Christian life seems to go nowhere. They never seem to accomplish anything for God - even though they say they have faith. B. They are living the Christian life on their own. They are trying to be obedient to God using everything that they have - but it is never enough. (Ill.) I remember one night when I was living in Santa Rosa. I was driving home from my employer's home at Christmas time. And my car ran out of gas. I am usually pretty good about keeping enough gas in my car. But that night I ran out. I had to push my car into the parking lot of a nearby gas station - except for one problem, the station was closed. I had to call my room mate, who was supposed to be my best man in my upcoming wedding. He was also the other guy in my fianc�'s life. Until I got the proper help - first my friend and, the next day, gas, I had to do it all myself. C. Jesus promised power. But too many Christians try to live the Christian life without that power - just as I did that night 31 years ago. 1. "The thief comes only steal and kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." [John 10:10 NIV] 2. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." [Matthew 28:18 NIV] D. Methodist spoke of this power as a "second blessing." Our Baptist brothers call it "Being filled with the Holy Spirit." But until we are willing to trust Christ to give us the power promised by the Holy Spirit, we are in danger, every Christian is in danger of trying to live the Christian life under his or her own power. E. And that is going to be tough. So how do we do it? Let me suggest three steps - 1.Believe what Jesus says 2.Ask him to complete his promise in you 3.Believe that he is willing and able to do so. III. Prerequisite # 3: Being in the place that the Holy Spirit puts you. A. "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth." To us these are small points on a map. Each location raises a whole series of emotions in those that follow Jesus: 1. Jerusalem - the place where Jesus was crucified. I mean, would you want to place you faith on the line in a location that had already turned their backs on the one you want to talk about? 2. Judea - Maybe a bit safer - Most of the early disciples called Judea home. But you know how hard it is to say, "I am a Christian and I think ..." to the people who know you best? 3. Samaria - Samaria is well-known as being unfriendly to the Jews. Think about the woman at the well in John 4 - she did not trust Jesus, after all he was a Jew. And the story of the "Good Samaritan" is so powerful, because the protagonist, the good guy in the story, is a Samaritan who is not expected to spend time or money helping a Jew. But he does. But that does not mean that Samaria has changed - there is a great deal of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Nope, I certainly would not want to go there. 4. "...the uttermost parts of the earth." Whoa, just wait a minute. I have no idea where that may be. I mean, if I take this literally, I may have to go to Greece or to Rome. B. No way - I expect that most, if not all of the disciples had a good idea of how Jonah felt when God originally said "Go to Nineveh." Now, we have to realize all this was said before any of the disciples experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, that would happen at Pentecost. C. But you need to realize that they could not be as an effective a witness until they got to where God wanted them. D. And they went - John stayed in Judea and Samaria. He was eventually exiled to Patmos where he received the prophesy we know as the book of Revelation. Peter went to Rome where, tradition tells us, he was crucified upside down on a cross. Thomas went to India. Another, we are not sure which, began the Coptic church in Egypt - which still exists today. Conclusion: I do not know the plans God has for you, but I do know that as a believer, you will be involved in ministry. Whether it is waiting tables (like Stephen the first Martyr) or traveling to the uttermost parts of the earth (like Thomas, Peter, and Paul). And I know the prerequisites for being effective: 1. Acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit 2. Be controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit 3. Be in the place God wants you to be