Exeter Temple Message notes
Sunday 17th August 2014When we ask what is at the heart of mission we have to begin by saying that it is a heart, the heart of God. The first missionary is God himself.
1 John 4 V 9 “This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Christ’s coming had nothing to do with God seeing and responding to some signal of love from us. You and I have no love for God. He loved us. Therefore he moved.
Somebody has written, “Christ’s sacrificial blood offering for sin grew out of God’s relentless pursuing, giving, grace-driven love. Love meant God could not leave us as we were. With no reciprocation, with no possibility or response from us he loved us. You and I owed a staggering debt that none of us could pay and Jesus paid. From God’s vantage point you were worth the life of his only Son.”
Stemming from this source there are other things to think about regarding the heart of mission.
1. A Mess
At the heart of the mission of Jesus is the recognition that however much religious people and others try to deny it, human beings have a problem which results in messy and dysfunctional lives.
Bible Reading: Matthew 9:10-13
“Our society is involved in an epidemic of selfishness. Our whole post-modern way of thinking says that we decide what is right and wrong for ourselves out of our own experience; that we as consumers are the ultimate answer to what is right and wrong. It is a manifesto for rampant selfishness. Is there one of your friends who has not been damaged by someone else’s selfishness? Are not marriages breaking down and children being abused because of selfishness? Are not nations at war because of selfishness?What is the answer to this epidemic?
We can have confidence in the gospel because it has an answer for the deepest sickness in our society. Let us not rely upon the gospel of comfort where we promise that Jesus will meet all our needs and rescue us from every situation. While this is true in one sense this message plays straight to our post- modern view that our comfort and ease should be our central concern. Let us instead preach a gospel of power to break selfishness as we decide to put Jesus first and make him Lord of our lives. Let us work together to enable our friends to hear the good news that through Jesus there is a way to break free from the selfishness that can now be seen to be the curse of our families, communities and nations.”
Definition of a witness
“A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen and heard without being deterred by the consequences of his action.”
One of the tasks or ministries that Paul included in his list of spiritual gifts and ministries was that of evangelism. It goes alongside being an apostle, prophet or a pastor or a teacher. Unfortunately many therefore conclude that that evangelism is to be left to the professional but whilst not all of us will have a ministry of evangelism, all Christians are witnesses.
If there was an accident in a crowded street there would be some people who would have a particular role. A doctor would know what to do for the injured assisted by people around him perhaps, a policeman would come and take control of the situation, a fireman to free people trapped inside vehicles, a garage mechanic to come and remove or repair the damaged cars. But if you were not fulfilling any of those roles but you were there, there is one thing you can be and that is a witness.
A witness has a first-hand experience. In our case it is of Christ. We know him.
A witness must be able to express in words what they have experienced. Although we may witness through our lives, our work, our relationships, our attitudes, our suffering, even our death we must still tell as we have seen.
1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.”
A witness has compassion for those who are spiritually lost.
When it comes to mission God’s method of getting the news out there about what Jesus has accomplished and what people need to do about I, the best people to do that are those who are truthful, passionate and convinced because they have personal experience of its authenticity.
Do you feel the same as Jesus does about your friends and family who do not know him?
Do you know a passion to reach people with the gospel or do you realise that you think very little about it.
We are often apathetic and fearful of witnessing. Some of this is due to misunderstanding the task. Too many of us think that being a witness means that we have to be able to answer difficult theological questions or we have an image in our minds that witnessing has to mean initiating conversations about faith with complete strangers.
Although a good evangelism workshop might address these kind of issues it won’t make a lot of difference unless we sort out whether we have a real passion for God and for lost people.
Much of our unwillingness to be a witness for Jesus or our fear s about it can be overcome by the igniting of passionate love in our lives.
“When the Holy Spirit comes in and Jesus become all and in all to us, the blessing become too big to contain. It just bursts out and overflows through
the life, the looks, the conversation, the very tones of the voice and gladdens and refreshes and purifies wherever it goes.”
(Samuel Logan Brengle)
That kind of quote is music to the ears of some but to others it just highlights for them the difficulty they have with love. It either all sounds mystical or for the saintly few or there is a guilt trip because yet again there is something you are not doing right. They know they don’t love God enough or themselves enough let alone other people.
If you have a problem with loving God or others enough it will do no good at all to try and summon it up. Loving God comes from the realisation of how much he loves us and receiving his love.
In life we will never have truly loving relationships whilst human beings act like human beings. There is only one being who loves perfectly and that is God. The New Testament states that we are to love God as God loves. If we are ever going to have the same kind of love in our hearts for the lost as God does then we must have the very nature of God in us.
“The love of God is ours through the work of the Holy Spirit”. (Oswald Chambers)
Key verse: Romans 5:5 “And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
As in the current advert the Bible also suggests that we: “Rise and shine, get up and go.”
But as you go, don’t forget that along with the command of Jesus to go and engage in mission outside of the base camp of the church is a promise of passion and power.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)