Isaiah 6: 1 – 8
Daniel 1: 8 – 9, 18 – 19; 4: 27; 6: 3 – 15
Matthew 10: 1 – 15
On Monday I was running so late I ate lunch at 4.45pm and had just finished when there was knock on the door.
There stood two Jehovah’s Witness ladies who then proceeded to promote both their organisation and a bit of Jesus to me. They did a slightly wooden but fairly good job and I give them credit for that. But what was strange was that only 3 days after the Christchurch massacre, they didn’t mention it at all.
The most they did to contextualise their message was to refer to Jesus speaking about floods, earthquakes, wars and rumours of war as a precursor to his return. Floods, earthquakes, wars and rumours of war have been a feature of every generation from the time of Jesus until the present day. They are not unique to this time.
Neither is the idea that Jesus is about to return, a motivation for the average person to respond to the Gospel. I am constantly amazed at the hardness of people’s hearts to the Gospel as they get very old. If it were me and I were 92 years old I would make sure I was right with God. Not the case with the average person outside the church. That I can tell you from experience. People don’t care.
And yet we know that it will be very serious for those who do not respond.
Threat of judgement doesn’t do it for people. When you sing the old song, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, King said, ‘In the fire you go!’ do you remember the words that follow? Very few people do. The image of judgement (fire) is so strong, most of us stop there.
A threat of judgment is not good news. Yes, I know that the threat of judgement is going to be followed by the good news that there is an escape from judgement in Jesus but people don’t hear that. Once the Gospel is presented as an escape from the wrath of God, they turn off.
The Christchurch massacre is a good way to introduce another dynamic to the Gospel that speaks of something different from God’s judgement. Not because it’s current news, but because It speaks of a judgement that is not God’s, but our own.
What do I mean by that? When you can explain that there is an inherent logic to what happens when people do not respond to Christ, people sit up and listen. By that I mean that when people are not controlled by principles that are good and great, then things are going to go wrong with society – very wrong.
You see I am better able to understand that excluding a loving God from life can result in awful circumstances than I can that a loving God will punish us with awful circumstances if we do not conform to his ways.
The Good News is that the Kingdom of God has come – that in Jesus God is visiting us for our good and saving us from ourselves, from the consequences of rejecting his loving ways. That is a judgement we inflict upon ourselves and the events of the past few days, for example, illustrate that all too well in the person of the Christchurch killer.
What did Jesus arm the Twelve apostles with before he sent them out to preach the gospel? Stories of judgement? No! Verse 10 tells us, 10Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
He gave them goodies! He gave them genuine good news things to accompany the Good News – healing from oppression: in spirit, in soul and in body.
You mean Jesus is going to give me the ability to heal people from oppression in spirit, soul and body to accompany my sharing the Good News? How do I get that?
Well I can tell you, you won’t get them sitting in front of your television or any other self-indulgent activity. You won’t get them by simply wishing for them. You won’t get them from any religious how-to course.
The first part of Jeremiah 6: 16 says, This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
It is no state secret that the ability to access the power of God comes from well-established practices, what God tells Jeremiah are the ancient paths.
- Fervent prayer
- Personal study of the Scriptures, and
- Frequent coming together with other Christians
These are the things that draw us closer to God, that enhance our relationship with Jesus. These are the things that create within us a kind of spiritual mana, that causes people to listen to a loving Gospel.
Yes, there is judgement. Jesus spoke of it, but only after people had rejected him. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. (Luke 10: 13)
In conclusion: you and I have a responsibility:
- To arm ourselves with the good things that accompany the sharing of the Good News with people (and they come by prayer, Scripture and fellowship)
- To faithfully share that Good News as the solution to our self-inflicted situation here on earth
And here’s the sobering one …
- To shake off the dust from our feet as we leave those who reject Jesus.
That last one makes perfect sense. When we take God and our ministries seriously, we will not pander to the vacillations of those who are not serious about God. Your ministry is too precious to waste on those who have no intention of following God. Jesus said leave the ninety-nine sheep and seek the one sheep that is lost. He didn’t say spend your energies on chasing a reluctant sheep who does not want to be found. There is a big difference.
We are all of us called and sent with the Good News, the Gospel.
- Let’s make sure we are armed with the good things that accompany the sharing of the Good news; and these are gained in prayer, in Scripture and in fellowship.
- Let’s make sure we share the Good news, not judgement. In the words of our Sentence this morning: 7As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 10: 7). Not the kingdom of hell, the Kingdom of heaven.
- Let’s be discerning with our time, pursuing those who show signs of responding, and not be led into alley ways of irrelevance, nor pandering to people’s selfishnesses.
Ours is to grasp and share the Good News. The consequences of our not doing so, or of people not responding to it, are up to God.
We, like the disciples of old, are a sent people. We gather here to gather strength for the main task which is outside: an intentional sharing of the Gospel.
That is both scary and exciting; and it is the Christian’s main purpose.