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Series: Kingdom Evangelism
Sun am 16 November 2014 – Justus Swart
(Luke 9:57-62); Ps. 24:1; (Gen. 1); Eph. 1:23(MSG); (Matt. 5:13-14); Matt. 10:16; John 20:21; Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 3:20-21, 31-35; John 13.3-17; Isa. 52:7-8; Ps. 119:105; Rom. 16:20; Prov. 4:26-27
Jesus was able to discern and address very directly the particular concerns of each moment. He saw each person that He encountered as historical, emotional and concrete beings and they were all searching for some measure of truth. That is exactly what He gave them, truth, whether they liked it or not (Luke 9:57-62). We can see that Jesus never compromised on the truth. He gave it straight and He gave it plain and simple, but we never see Him replicating a response. Jesus was able to speak the truth because He walked with two basic and essential assumptions. The first one is found in “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). Those who believe God to be in a colossal battle with the devil in a cosmic fight for the souls of mankind clearly never actually read the Bible. The earth is the Lord’s, full stop! The Spirit came and hovered above the waters and He never ever left that place (Gen. 1). It’s His world. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence (Eph. 1:23 MSG). This places the Church squarely at the center of God’s plan for the world. It places all the more urgency on us as the Church to address the fact that we are so fractured. We do not have a corporate voice; we do not have a corporate movement among ourselves. We have to give attention and energy to that because clearly what God want to do in the world is going to be done through the Church. How can we be an effective instrument if we are too busy with our own agendas? He commissioned the Church and sent them into the world to be the salt and the light (Matt. 5:13-14). Just as Jesus was sending the twelve disciples He describes some of the characteristics of our sending. I want to look at the fact: where are we being sent from? Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). Jesus is saying we should not expect everything to be simple or to be solved by a cliché. We should be clever and real about what we are doing and have that innocence and authenticity which does not look at the world in judgment. We walk into the world with purpose and intention and we are not out of place when we are outside the church because the world is the Lord’s. Church is where I gather my strength, my focus and when I am out of church I am not out of place. I am exactly where I need to be and I carry church with me.
We cannot make a difference by simply being nice to people. Our moral compass is not the same thing as what God is trying to do. We must be careful not to confuse the voice of the heart for the voice of the Holy Spirit. I cannot place a limitation and say that being a good person is my ultimate calling. My ultimate calling is to follow the will of God to the end of my days. The news we carry should reorder the very set up of our society. It is only by the example of the Church that the world will come to know its divisions as arbitrary. For example racism and classism; if the world has no contrasting model to see how unusual these devises are, where else it is going to learn how to treat all men as God-breathed? God breathes into every created human being. He is involved in the working of your mind, of your heart, and is involved in everything. Every single person has to be viewed in that way. Jesus chose to be intentional in His time on earth by training the disciples who would be sent into the world to change it forever. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Then He breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-22). A huge part of our commission is that we do not go in our own strength but we are going in the spirit of ‘being sent’. We are going in the commission of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone, everywhere we go God has gone before us. We are being sent into the world not to condemn but to see all men reconciled to our wonderful God.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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” (Matt. 28:16-20). This is a Scripture we are very familiar with. In the mist of these people worshipping God, some doubted. But Jesus still sent out His clear command. After reading these few Scriptures we can see clearly that the Church has been sent into the world. It is clear that we are not to just collect ourselves together on a Sunday and then carry on with our lives. We are actually commissioned and sent into the world. But sent from what? Where are we being sent from?
This community known as Church is where we are equipped, discipled and sent from. What are the characteristics of this sending community? What do we need to look like in order to be an effective sending community reaching our community and touching nations? I believe there are two defining qualities of this type of community. Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-35). Jesus seems abrupt with His family. Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:20-21). Jesus was not interested in what they thought of Him, He was interested in one thing only; the will of God.
Our community, the one we are being sent from, is a community in which the will of God is discerned, practiced and encouraged. While the world may label you a weirdo or think something is wrong with you, the Church is a secure place where to seek and work out the will of God for our life. The will of God is assumed. How can we tell people about a God who changes and transform lives if we do not have a place where that is on display? How can we tell people about this God who is wonderful, generous, loving and kind and yet we do not experience that in our community? If we do not belong to a community which does the will of God, our gospel cannot be understood by anybody. We need to be a people who embody forgiveness, grace, love, acceptance, discipline, self-control, patience etc. If we do not belong to a community like that, we invalidate our own gospel. The gospel is not just about a one-way relationship with God, it is also about reconciling ourselves to man and people around us. Stanley Hauerwas’ definition of the kingdom of God is, “the outworking in human history of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” We are made into one family through faith in Jesus Christ, and it is from this family that we are sent into the world; a world that does not always understand our faith and sometimes mocks it or even condemns it. Unless we learn to be a community of virtues, we will continue to be misunderstood. As long as we are just talking about love and forgiveness and not showing that, why would they even come to church? How can you tell people about forgiveness if it is not even properly understood in our community? How can people comprehend reconciliation if we are not able to reconcile ourselves to each other? How will the world know about generosity if the Church is hoarding and greedy?
The first characteristic of a sending church is that it needs to be a place familiar with the will of God. As Jesus said, ‘My brother, sister and mother are those who do the will of My Father (Mark 3:35). Jesus set an example for his disciples (John 13:3-17). Jesus gets down and washes their feet. He humbled Himself despite being their Teacher and Lord and served them and set an example for all believers. Feet have a significant place in Scripture as a poetic and symbolic image (Isa. 52:7-8; Ps. 119:105; Rom. 16:20; Prov. 4:26-27; Matt. 10:14). As a sending community we need to be a place where we are served and serve one another. If we do not learn to serve one another how will we know how to serve the world? Serving is not pretty, nor glamorous; it is messy and can be painful, but it is the most rewarding and amazing thing you can do for somebody.
Jesus said you are clean yet in the church we constantly find people trying to clean other people, judging others, trying to change them. Jesus promises that He will clean us but we have the task of serving one another. Only He can transform us. The divisiveness, control or trying to manipulate and change people has to stop. That is not what a sending community is about. People make mistakes, but there is space for that; let me serve you anyway. That is the second characteristics of a sending community, a community that serves one another. Unless we have these two characteristics formed in our community we will not be able to reach the world as effectively as God wants us to. Jesus said now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them (John 13:17). Let us always remember that we are sent into the world from a place of grace.