Sunday Message, 6th November – The Octagon: Living a Mission-Minded Life
Luke 10: 1-11
Oh no, eight sides!! These shapes are getting more and more complicated! Reminds me of the Generation Game and Brucie introducing the eight we are going to generate! Scary things Octopuses don’t you think: once they get their tentacles around you, you are captured even captivated! But that’s how it’s always been with Jesus and me: He calls me, captivated by His Grace, to passionate life changing discipleship. I care deeply that people I know and people I don’t as yet know should not miss out on being introduced to Jesus and I am not prepared to live any longer being half the person I am in Christ.
Cut me open and you will find Jesus, the Gospel of Grace. It’s who I am. I believe that because of all He has done for me I am called to a passionate walk with Jesus and to exercise a passionate walk with Jesus and to exercise a passionate faith that spills over into everything I do. Hope is learning the music of the future, Faith is having the courage to dance to it today. I need to energetically pursue the Kingdom of God, minister with conviction to those around me and help anyone and everyone seeking Jesus to find Him.
When I first came to Trinity I spoke to you over a scripture: Revelation 3:8. “Behold I set before you an open door no one can shut”. Yes, it was a door to the High Street but that’s one step removed from you and me. In fact and more pertinently it was and is for every Christian a door to the Person of Peace – to the person God has given you uniquely to share Jesus with. Living a Mission-Minded life means seeing everything and everyone through the lens of Jesus. Jesus explains his mission to the disciples in Mark 1:38 as “the reason I have come”. He spoke of sending His followers as the Father had sent Him (John 20:21). He commissioned them as disciple makers (Matthew 28:19) and described them as His witnesses in continually expanding sphere until their message reached the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
So often we feel beaten up by the strategy of evangelism we take on, sometimes we try to hard to drag in rather than reach out . But Jesus taught his disciples a strategy of evangelism that didn’t depend on prgrammes or budgets or buildings or drawing a crowd. As Jesus commissioned the 72 disciples to go ahead of him, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God, he gave them direcrtions of how to proceed: “When you enter a house, first say, “peace to this house”. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. So Jesus tells his disciples – and, thus, is telling you and me today – that as we walk through life in this world, we should be on the lookout for a Person of Peace. Who is this Person of Peace, and how will we recognise the Person of Peace?
Very simple, a Person of Peace is one who is prepared to hear the message of the Kingdom and the King. The Person of Peace is ready to receive what God will give you to say at that moment. This should be our daily prayer: “Lord, bring unto my path today a Person of Peace, and give me the grace and courage to speak your words to this person”. Someone who is not a Person of Peace is ready to receive what God wil give you to say at that moment. This should be our daily prayer: “Lord bring onto my path today a Person of Peace, and give me the grace and courage to speak your words to this person”. Someone who is not a Person of Peace will not receive what you have to say. Don’t be obliged to press them, for Jesus then says to shake the dust off your feet and move on. You can be an expert in all the objections people have to Christianity and how to answer them. You can be ready with points one, two and three. You can be persistent because you really believe this person needs to know Jesus. But in th end, no amount of coercion on your part can make someone become a Person of Peace. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit; He alone can prepare a heart to hear the Gospel. Our job is to have our spiritual eyes open, looking for the person of peace to cross our paths. We must keep in mind five things when we look for the person of peace in our lives. 5 “t”s.
1. Time: Harvest is plentiful. It’s Time! God’s timing is crucial and perfect.
2. Team: At least two by two, if not Paul’s team of six (Barnabus, Silas, Timothy, Titus and Luke)
3. Target: Concentrate your effort. Your task is not to reach everyone – only those the Lord gives you to reach.
4. Task: Find Person of Peace. They will welcome, listen, serve and support you.
5. Trouble: all did not receive Jesus. You won’t be received by all either.
The Spirit of God will put people in your path who need to hear the Good News. You won’t need to look very far, but you do have to have your eyes open and be willing to turn your head from side to side. You do have to be open to your day taking a detour if an opportunity arises to share the kingdom news.
So to the first ‘P’ Person of Peace let’s add others and to follow Lorna’s humour like Engelbert Humperdinck it’s a case of ‘P’s release me!!
This like most good and effective evangelism happens unseen. It is when you and I simply model the life of Jesus before others: speaking as He might speak, acting as He might act, showing kindness and encouragement, being prepared to speak in a positive way when everyone else is complaining. Wherever you go, as a Christian you carry with you the presence of Jesus so be prepared at all times to speak about the difference He has made since He came into your life. The more mature and deep your relationship with Jesus – the sharper your witness will be.
3. Passing RelationshipsWe have passing relationships with all kinds of people: the man in the newspaper shop, the mum at the school gate, the postman dropping off your letters. You are probably not going to lead this kind of person into a personal relationship with Jesus in such brief encounters but God may use you to take the person closer to that point. Paul said that some people plant, some people water, and God gives the harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6). In a passing relationship, you may be called on to plant a seed or to water what has already been planted. Just because you do not see the end result does not mean you are not a vital part of the process.
4. Permanent RelationshipsYou have permanent relationships with your family and with your close friends. If a passing relationship is like a sprint, a permanent relationship is a marathon. You are with these people often, and for extended periods of time. It is important that you do not force the Gospel message on these people when they are not ready. You may have to wait a long time before he or she is a Person of Peace for you. Until that time comes, the person’s heart may not be ready to hear you. We often have the hardest time sharing our faith with those closest to us. Perhaps this is due in part to our impatience. We want so much for them to live the incredible kingdom life we are experiencing that we rush them towards salvation before God has prepared them to hear us. Pray, wait and watch. God is never in a hurry, and he is never late.
5. ProclamationYou don’t have to be a great orator – proclamation is not just for preachers. You don’t have to be a prolific writer – proclamation is not just for authors. Your audience doesn’t have to be large and no one is asking you to stand on the corner with a placard. To proclaim mean to give outward indication of something – to show others openly and publicly the kingdom life. We should all look for opportunities to proclaim the gospel to those who are not believers. It’s simply declaring the message that Jesus shared: Repent and Believe. This could be with one person you are talking with. By speaking a gentle word testifying to what Jesus has done in your life, you can use proclamation to identify a person of Peace. Does the person seem to respond to what you say? If so, enter into a relationship with this person, or connect the person with others who can walk with the person of peace in the initial stages of discipleship. This is what evangelism really is: inviting a person to walk the walk of faith, not just to pray a prayer.
6. PreparationPreparation is similar to cultivating soil and planting seed in advance of the harvest. Your words will be one turn of a person’s soil. Someone else comes along and, sensing an opportunity with a Person of Peace, turns the soil once again. The next week, the soil gets turned over one more time. Then yet another believer comes and plants seeds. A few more come and water the seed. None of these individual workers sees what the others have done, and perhaps none of them will be there for the harvest. But all had a hand in making a disciple.
7. PowerJesus often used the power of God in miracles to reveal the Person of Peace. Praying for the sick and seeing a miraculous healing may reveal a Person of Peace. That person may be the one who was prayed for, or they could even be someone standing watching what has happened. Our God is an awesome God. He will do things to create awe in those who have yet to commit their hearts to Him. We do not create these miracles, nor can we box God up and manipulate when and where miracles will occur. All we can do is to be ready when they do happen. The Person of Peace may be revealed at any moment and we should be ready for that time.
8. PerceptionSuppose you are in a presence evangelism setting while golfing with three other people you met on the first tee. As you complete your round and are shaking hands after the 18th hole, you ask yourself, “What is the temperature of the ‘soil’? Is it hot, warm or cold? If the temperature is cold – and none of these people are showing any signs of being open to your sharing the Good News with them – move on. Shake the dusk from your feet as it were, and wish them well. But if you sense any warmth in the soil, pursue a further relationship with that person. He or she may be a Person of Peace for you. Perceptions can be false and misleading. That is why you need to be constantly in contact with the Holy Spirit as you try and discern a Person of Peace. The point of this principle is to open yourself up to observation, to become increasingly aware of when the Holy Spirit is leading you and to understand how to respond when you do become aware.
In this series we have said more than once that Jesus was the wisest man who ever lived, as well as the best leader and teacher. It just makes sense that he would also be best at evangelism. Look at his interaction with the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10: Jesus was evangelising, but it sure doesn’t look like the way most people do it today. Even though it says Jesus loved him, he stood there and let the man walk away. Why did Jesus not follow him when he walked away? Why didn’t he try harder when this man seemed so eager? Why didn’t Jesus “get him saved’’ before addressing this difficult area of his life (his riches)? The answer has to be that Jesus didn’t run after the rich young ruler because he knew the young mans heart wasn’t ready. Jesus knew and let him walk. You see, Jesus never ran after anyone. Instead, he made himself available to those willing to wholeheartedly seek the way to God, the truth about God, and the Life found in God.
So Life shapes is about learning what Jesus does, then doing the same in our lives. Jesus did not try to force open doors – he looked for the people who had their doors open, then he entered their world with his radical and life changing call to follow Him. If this is how Jesus shared the gospel, so why should we do it any differently?
The Person of Peace is someone God has prepared for the specific time and circumstances in which you meet the person. It is no good trying to force open doors that God has not opened, and we must not be distracted so that we miss the doors he has opened. This really is exciting news. Even in the one task we have been given – the assignment to go and make disciples – God does most of the work. Our main job is to walk through life with our eyes and our ears listening to the Spirit as he reveals to us people of peace. Oh and as we do that, more and full local churches is the consequence.
November 6th 2011