The Great Commission—Going to all People
This morning we sang the chorus to a contemporary hymn entitled, “People Need the Lord.” The inspiration for the song came to Steve Green while he was sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville, TN. In the second stanza, Green reminds us that we have the “words of life” that lost sinners need to hear:
We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost for
Sharing life with one who's lost?
Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life
Only we can share
This morning, I want to preach the third of five messages on becoming a Great Commission Church. Each sermon is based on one of the five passages where the Commission is found. So far we’ve looked at the Great Commission from Matthew and Mark’s Gospels. This morning we will examine the commission found in Luke’s Gospel.
Luke 24:45-49 "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
I. The Third Great Commission: WE ARE TO GO TO ALL PEOPLE
- ILLUS. Most of you have probably heard of a religious group known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. However, you probably know them better as the Shakers. They were originally known as “shaking Quakers.” We know them today primarily for their beautiful furniture of simple design, straight lines, and sturdiness. At their zenith in the mid-1800's they numbered about six thousand adherents. Their’s was a simple and uncluttered life-style. They were an evangelistic faith and ardently sought to win converts. Today, however, their numbers have declined dramatically to a mere three adherents—all of whom are very elderly women—who live in one small community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Barring a miracle or some unexpected resurgence of interest, (unlikely since their primary spiritual discipline is celibacy) we are witnessing the last generation of Shakers. When the last three believers are dead, no more Shakers will remain unless someone chooses to resurrect their beliefs. The death of this religious group has a reason. The reason is reflected in a statement made by one of the remaining Shakers a few years ago. In a television interview she said, “ ... no one asks to become a member. No one seems interested.” Her words are prophetic for churches today.
A. WE MUST GO TO ALL PEOPLE BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL NOT COME ON THEIR OWN
- we dare not wait until people come to church to ask us about Jesus
- we cannot wait for the unconverted to ask us about Jesus because the vast, vast majority of lost sinners do not seek after God and will not ask us about Him
- “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV)
- “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10–18, ESV)
- whether it’s a Muslim raised under Islamic fundamentalism or a Baptist raised under the Christian gospel—without Jesus in their life, both love darkness rather than light, both are spiritually discerned, neither seeketh after God, both have become unprofitable, neither doeth good, neither are righteous, and neither seeks for God
- both need a saving relationship with Jesus who is the Christ
- both need to be told about a Savior who died for sinners
- both need to repent and confess that “Jesus is Lord”
- because man has—since very soon after his fall into sin—sought to satisfy his spiritual nature with religious rites and personal righteousness rather than serving the true and living God
- religion actually becomes a means of keep people away from a knowledge of and relationship with God
- and friends – that’s even true of Christianity
- ILLUS. One of the great calamities of American culture is that vast majorities of our nation’s citizens have been inoculated against the power of the Gospel. We have given them a little dose of Jesus—just enough to make them think that they have the real thing, but not enough to bring them to repentance and faith.
- there are thousands of churches across America and around the world, where congregants may occasionally hear the story of Jesus, but they never hear the Gospel of salvation
- the scandal of the cross has become too scandalous even for some churches
WE MUST GO TO ALL PEOPLE BECAUSE THE SPIRIT IS DRAWING MANY PEOPLE TO THE FATHER
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— ” (John 6:44–45, ESV)
- we must never forget that the Spirit of God is at work in the lives of sinners
- His primary function—according to John 16:8—is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment
- God does not leave the salvation of sinners to our persuasive efforts alone
- but he does involve us!
- one of the means by which he accomplishes that conviction is the preaching of the gospel
- “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!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:13–17, ESV)
- “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16, ESV)
- your Christians responsibility in this world is to sting and shine
- the sting comes when we challenge our friends and family and co-workers and school mates with the Gospel—that they are sinners who need redemption that only Jesus can provide
- the shine comes when we live a life that backs up what we say and models a Christ-like life before them
- the result is that they will glorify God in heaven
- how will they glorify God in heaven?
- by believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6)
C. WE MUST GO TO ALL PEOPLE BECAUSE GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS
- in the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John reminds us that the blood of Jesus will ransom men from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation
- as if to make his point, the Apostle tells us that three different times
- “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9, ESV)
- the Apostle Paul wrote "For there is no respect of persons with God," (Rom. 2:11)
- what this means is that, when it comes to salvation, God is blind to nationality, ethnicity, race, or social standing
- this is sometimes hard for us because frequently we are given to respect of persons
- we are to witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the farthest reaches of the earth because in every nation there are lost sinners whom the Spirit is drawing to the Father and they need to hear the Gospel and see a Christian witness
- that means we begin in Linn, and then, as we are able, we go out in concentric circles of evangelistic influence from this place
- ILLUS. We must, in the words of one of our hymns, “ ... bear the news to every land, climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward, ‘tis our Lord’s command, Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves.”
- do you understand this morning, that God is seeking to save people everywhere – even some you don’t like?
II. Our Third Priority Shift: WE NEED TO SHIFT OUR THINKING FROM SELF-CENTEREDNESS TO OTHER-CENTEREDNESS
- ILLUS. Dr. James Stewart, professor of New Testament at the University of Edinburgh, described what he thought is the greatest threat to the church. He said, "It is not communism, atheism, or materialism; the greatest threat is Christians trying to sneak into heaven incognito without ever sharing their faith."
- how do we shift from self-centeredness to other-centeredness?
- let me suggest two ways ...
- First, you must perceive everyone you meet as one whom the Spirit seeks to bring to Christ
- there are four ways we can fundamentally treat the people we meet in life
- we can idolize them
- this is what we often do with entertainers, sports personalities and the rich and famous
- we put them on a pedestal and admire them and lavish attention upon them
- when we idolize people we don’t think they need the Lord
- we can demonize them
- it’s so tempting—it’s so easy—to consider people different than us as inferior to us
- when we demonize others, it is easy to use them as scapegoats and—at the worst—persecute them, and—at the least—ignore them
- when we demonize people, we don’t care if they know the Lord
- we can utilize them
- this is perhaps the great sin of the church today
- we see people as resources to be used rather than as people to know
- when we utilize people don’t bother to find out if they need the Lord
- we can humanize them
- this is the very best way to treat people – as the unique individuals they are
- when we humanize people we know they need the Lord
- Jesus always personalized his treatment of people
- ILLUS. The contrast between our Lord’s encounter with the woman at the well in the 4th chapter of John’s gospel and his conversation with Nicodemus in the 3rd chapter reveal how Jesus tailored his approach to people. The difference between these two individuals is striking. Nicodemus is a Jewish man, she is a Samaritan woman. Nicodemus is an individual of high moral character. Her reputation is dubious. The woman is one of society’s ‘down-n’-outs’ while Nicodemus is one of society’s ‘up-n’-ins’. Nicodemus is a teacher of Israel, she is an uneducated peasant.
- ILLUS. R. A. Torrey—a Baptist preacher of an earlier generation—said, “Prayer is the key the unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.
- prayer has the power to not only change our own lives, but to change the lives of others
- prayer can change the lives of those we don’t know in far away places
- prayer can change the lives of those we do know who live across the street
- prayer can change events and move people to unknowingly do God’s will
- if we really believe that prayer makes a difference in our own lives ...
- if we really believe that prayer makes a difference in the lives of those we hardly know in far away places ...
- if we really believe that prayer can change events and move people to unknowingly do the God’s will ...
- if we really believe that prayer makes a difference in the lives of those we do know who live across the street ...
- why don’t we all pray more often, more consistently, more fervently, and with more energy and force?
- ILLUS. George Mueller was one of the great evangelists of the late 19th century. He was also known as a great intercessory prayers. In his memoirs, Mueller relates that he began to pray for a group of five personal friends. After five years one of them came to faith in Christ. In ten years, two more of them came to the Saviour. He prayed on for twenty-five years, and the fourth man was saved. For the fifth unconverted friend, he prayed until the time of his death, never seeing his friend won to Christ. But within a few months of Mueller’s death, that friend, too, came to Christ. For this last friend, Mr. Mueller had prayed almost fifty-two years!
May God grant us a spirit of repentance from our self-centeredness and may we truly become Christians who are intercessors for the lost. Brethren, let us pray.