Going Out in Mission

June 18, 2017

Norwalk First United Methodist Church

Our Vision

2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Going Out in Mission

Colossians 4:2 – 6

          After many years, I have now come to a very profound realization of the obvious! Being a Christian requires a lot of hard work! I mean, after you declare your faith in Jesus Christ, then the work really begins. I have to be on my best behavior. I have to strive to look like the face of Christ to others. I need to love God and to love my neighbor. I have to study my Bible, pray, worship in community. I need to tell people about Jesus. I need to strive for holiness and perfection like John Wesley wants me to do. Sometimes, it’s exhausting! What about you? Do you find that being a Christian is hard work? Sometimes, to know God’s plan, we have to do some work. We have to sweat a little.

First of all, if Jesus were standing right here today, would you pledge your allegiance to him? Secondly, if Jesus were standing right here today, would you do what he commanded you to do? Listen to Matthew 28:18-20:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Isn’t this great! Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations! We are to go out in mission. How many of us are evangelists? Shouldn’t we all be? This is what Jesus commanded, isn’t it?

Are you making disciples? Well, why not? Didn’t Jesus say you are supposed to be in mission for Him? Didn’t Jesus say you are supposed to be spreading the Good News?

Now I kind of led you into this corner! I didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but I am frustrated just like you. You know why? Because maybe like you, I am also guilty of not doing what Jesus commanded. However, I bet you are more of an evangelist than you may think. After our time together today, I hope to help you understand and to feel a little bolder about talking about the salvation story. I would like to give you a practical way to spread the Good News of the Gospel right where God has placed you in your work, your family, and your community. You see, God wants you to share the Good News right where you are. He wants you going out in mission. Let’s pray.

Prayer

Many times well-meaning Christians, including evangelists, fail to communicate the Good News, the Salvation Story, to emerging Christians because they use terms with which the unchurched are not familiar, or they use the terms in a different way. Listen to this dialogue as an Evangelist approaches a store clerk.

Evangelist:          Are you a member of the Christian family?

Store Clerk:        No, they live two miles down the road, the white house on the left.

Evangelist:          Let me try again. Are you lost?

Store Clerk:        No, I’ve lived in this town for over thirty years now. I know right where I am.

Evangelist:         Let me put it this way — are you ready for the Judgment Day?

Store Clerk:        When will it be?

Evangelist:          Could be today, could be tomorrow!

Store Clerk:        Well, when you know exactly, be sure to let me know. My wife will probably want to go on both days.

The way in which we communicate the Gospel to others can have a great effect on them and on their understanding of the Salvation Story!

So, how are we to communicate the Gospel? Paul gives us some guidelines concerning prayer and evangelism and our attempts to help God bring people to Christ in Colossians 4:2-6:

2“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

You see, this passage tells us that spreading the Gospel involves two important actions: prayer and evangelism. They go hand in glove. In the first three verses Paul explains the importance of prayer in making disciples while in the last two verses he talks about the act of evangelism and going out in mission itself. God doesn’t just call us to evangelism without first giving us instructions. He fills us, he prepares us, and then he thoroughly equips us for every good work we are about to do.

In verse 2, Paul wants us to be vigilant or watchful in our prayers. You know, maybe Paul was thinking back to the time that the disciples fell asleep during the Transfiguration of Christ. Or maybe he was thinking about the way the disciples fell asleep while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our mission prayers require us to always be open and awake to the Holy Spirit who may send a lost person our way.

Now look at verses 3 and 4. Paul tells us to pray for three things:

  1. that God may open a door for our message.
  2. that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ – the Salvation Story.
  3. that we may proclaim the Salvation Story clearly.

Look at the work God can do through you and me! Prayer can be a powerful thing where mission is concerned. It was powerful for the disciples as they were all meeting in prayer together on the day of Pentecost. It was to the Acts 2 church that the Holy Spirit brought the wind of new life and opened the door for God’s message. It was to the Acts 2 church that the tongues of fire came upon each individual to give them the ability to proclaim the Salvation Story. It was this fire which purified the disciples and purifies us now to proclaim the Gospel message clearly. It is the Holy Spirit that helps us in our mission.

So when you pray for the lost and for the unsaved, pray that their hearts will be opened to the message you are going to bring. Pray that they will know God’s love for them. Pray that they will recognize all the blessings God has already given them. Pray that they will receive God’s gifts that he has for them. Pray that you will deliver the Salvation Story clearly and fully and that you will be a witness to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit have done in your life.

As we look at verses 5 and 6 Paul gives us our three instructions about evangelism and mission itself. First, be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. A Christian must be sensitive toward those who are outside the church. We must use wisdom and tact and know when and when not to speak to others about our Christ-centered way of life. We must not give the impression that as a Christian, we are superior or that we are criticizing the beliefs of others. You can not argue a person into knowing Jesus. Most of the time, it is through the way you live your life that you will attract people to the Gospel. Show Christ at all times in your daily life and people will want what you have.

Secondly, Paul tells us to make the most of every opportunity. You and I do not make the opportunities for evangelism. Let me repeat, you and I do not make the opportunities for evangelism. God does. And when God gives us those opportunities, we must use them to witness for Him. Your daily life and work will continually offer you opportunities to witness to and influence people for Christ. Remember, you prayed that God will open doors for you to be a witness. When he does open those doors, you must be ready with your salvation and witness story to make the most of each of those opportunities. There are many people in churches today who deliberately refuse the God-given opportunities to serve and to spread the Gospel.

My wish for each of you is that God will prepare you and give you opportunities to share His Good News! As Rick Warren says, “As long as there is one person in your community who isn’t in the family of God, your church must keep reaching out.”

And lastly in our Scripture, Paul tells us to let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Wow! Christians must have a bit of charm seasoned with a dash of wit in their speech so that they may know how to give the right answer in every case and to everyone when asked about the Good News of Jesus Christ. You see, Christianity and evangelism do not have to be dull and depressing. The message to others should be filled with joy and hope.

Peter, in 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” “Actually,” Rick Warren says in his Purpose Driven Life, “your personal testimony is more effective than a sermon, because unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a ‘satisfied customer,’ so they give you more credibility.”

So here in Colossians, God gives us instructions for spreading the Gospel through prayer and evangelism. Remember the Great Commission from Matthew that we read earlier? Well listen to this news from the business world! “Coca-Cola has fulfilled their own version of the Great Commission many times over. They have virtually put a bottle of Coke in everyone’s hand. If they can do it with a soft drink, we can certainly do it with the gospel.” But now you might be asking, what exactly is the Salvation Story and how do I spread it right where I am?

The Salvation Story can be told using just four words: God, Us, Christ, You. “God has done for us through Jesus Christ what you could not do for yourself.”

Using the Bible as an example, Genesis, Chapters 1 & 2, this is about God. They tell us of God’s purpose. God is without beginning or end. God made all of creation. God had so much love that he wanted to establish a community on earth just like the one he had in heaven. God wanted us and all of his creation to live in perfect harmony with him. We had a completely accessible relationship with God. But God also gave each of us free-will and that is when we come to Chapter 3. This is where we really mucked it up! You see, man and woman wanted to assume the sovereignty of God. We wanted to replace God’s will with our will. Sin is the dismissal of God and His will. Sin is when we pull ourselves away from God’s community. And that brings it to Us.

Genesis, Chapter 4 to Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. This is Us. All of this is Our Problem! All of this is God continually calling us back to him! God’s love has never stopped for us. Over and over again, God sent prophets and leaders and teachers who tried to help a lost people reconcile themselves with God. But the people would not listen! We would not listen! That brings us to Christ.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is the story of God who came himself to earth in the form of Jesus. This is about Christ. This is God’s Remedy to the Us situation! This is God’s love for us; a love so powerful and so unconditional that He would send his only Son to die for us on a Cross that all the world’s sins would be forgiven. This is about a Son that would rise from the dead three days later to demonstrate his power over the bonds of death; a Son that would give us eternal life with Him if only we profess our faith in Him. God is so unbelievably good and loving! And now the final part of this Salvation Story.

The books of Acts through Jude. This is the story of You. This is the story of God wanting us to grow in our relationship with Him and one another. God sent his Holy Spirit to provide us help, guidance, and counseling in growing those relationships. You and I must decide how we are going to grow those relationships. You and I must decide whether or not we are going to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We can not achieve perfection and eternal life with God without going through his Son, Jesus Christ. We must confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. (Romans 10:9) John 5:24 tells us that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.” You must decide. Those whom you tell about the Salvation Story must decide. So, what is your relationship with God? With Jesus Christ?

This is the Salvation Story. God has done for us through Jesus Christ what we could not do for ourselves. This is the message you and I need to take into places both inside and outside of our families. We need to be evangelists in mission right where we are. Right now I am sure you can think of at least three people whom you would like God to turn their hearts away from darkness into the light of a relationship with Him. Pray for these people. Pray that God will put someone in their path to lead them to Christ. That someone may even be you. You see, you are an evangelist in mission for Christ. Through your prayer and through your modeling the lessons that Jesus taught us, you can lead others to Christ. We must be bold about our faith!

Jesus commanded us to spread the Good News. Shouldn’t we be doing what he commanded? After all, God has done for us through Jesus Christ what you and I could not do for ourselves. My friends, let’s go out in mission!

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