“Christians are Part of God’s Mission”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. When you became a Christian, you perhaps were given some material to study that would assist you in your spiritual growth. There might have been a great resource as you began to learn more about your life as a child of God. You might have also been encouraged to share your newfound faith with other people and had some ideas on how to do that. Well, those things were important, as you began to live out your faith in Jesus. As you began to do so, you might have felt a little bit intimidated about talking to others in regards to your faith. You were hesitant to share with your friends or family. And if that was the case, you probably were not alone. We have all felt uncomfortable about telling others about something which is so personal. As important as it may be, however, it does not have to be difficult or challenging. There is no need to be embarrassed about our faith in Jesus. In fact, it can be done in a very casual and informal way. In today's lesson, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will look at some stories in the Bible about how other people did that, and how it flowed quite naturally. Living as a Christian and sharing one’s faith in Jesus does not have to be uncomfortable. Rather, we can do it with joy and with gratitude. It can even be a part of our daily interactions with those who do not know Jesus. I hope you will stay with us for the next few minutes as we study about our role in God's mission field. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible as we study together.
In my travels representing the work of “Key to the Kingdom,” I have the opportunity to get acquainted with other mission efforts, and they too are sharing the story of God's love and salvation in various places. In visiting with those people, two primary questions are usually asked: What are the best ways to do mission work, and what work should we support? And the answer typically comes back as we are to be part of what God is already doing in this world. We are to go where He is working and to join in that effort. Well, that leads to another question: What is God doing in this world? There are many people who have a better answer to that question than I do, but here is something that is important to know. For a long time, the growth of Christianity has been outside of the United States of America. God is at work in places like Africa and India. God is at work in places like Honduras and Brazil. The message of God's love and salvation is even being shared and received in Iran and China. And that might be news to some of us. We may focus only on the specific area or the nation in which we live. However, we can never forget, God is at work everywhere. Now, no matter how many times we travel throughout the United States, or to places halfway around the world, our perspective can never be the same as God's perspective. He understands what is happening throughout His world far better than we can understand it. He knows things we will never know. And with that in mind, we recognize a great truth. We cannot measure what matters the most; and what we can measure really does not tell us all that much. That simply means God is at work in ways we may never know this side of eternity. And the results that we measure may not be the results that God is measuring, because He knows what truly matters. Well, here is something we do know. God is on a mission and He wants us to be part of it. We are partners in God's mission field and He invites us to be part of the solution He is bringing to this world. The missionary passage of Scripture we refer to most often is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28. Jesus is preparing to ascend to His Father's right hand, and He is leaving a final message to His disciples to carry on His work. We find these words beginning with verse 16 of that chapter. <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. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”> We take those words from Jesus and we apply them to ourselves. As this was the commission Jesus gave to His disciples then, so it is our commission today, that we preach and we teach on these words. We think about how we can become involved with world missions. I realized something not long ago; that those words from Jesus apply to people and to nations everywhere. They are not just for the people in the west or in the United States, but they are for people living in places like Africa and Brazil and India. Yes, the Great Commission from Jesus in Matthew 28 is for all who are interested in being a part of God's mission in this world; that we can take part in what He is already doing. We might even say it like this: We are to teach and to baptize and to make disciples wherever we live and work. And in that sense, we are all missionaries, and opportunities to share the story of God's love and salvation are always before us. God places the people before us who need our time and our attention, but sometimes we may not even be aware of them. But we are to be in tune with how God is working, not only in our lives but also in the lives of the people around us. In other words, we get to work where God is already working. I want to share a couple of stories from the Bible where we see that very thing happening. In John chapter 4, we find that point illustrated quite well. Beginning with verse 1 of that chapter, Jesus and His disciples are going from Judea, in the south, to Galilee in the north, but they travel through Samaria, which is between those two countries; and that was a very perilous thing to do. Often times when the Jews would want to go from Galilee to Judea, or back again, they would cross over the Jordan River and they would travel on the eastern side of that river and then come back into Israel. And no doubt Jesus had done that before. On this particular occasion, however, He convinces the disciples to travel right through Samaria, going north into Judea. Well, the disciples were concerned for Jesus’ well-being. The people of Samaria did not like the Jews, and the Jews certainly did not like them; and that is to put it mildly. In fact, they hated one another, or they despised one another. Well, as Jesus and the disciples traveled north into Samaria, they stopped at a place called Sychar. Jesus sat down at Jacob's Well, which was located there. It was noontime, the 12:00 hour, and He was taking rest. The disciples then went into the village to buy some food for them to eat. While Jesus was sitting there, a woman from that village came out to draw water. Now being a Samaritan woman, and Jesus being a Jewish man, He struck up a conversation with her, and no doubt that put her at some kind of uneasy situation. But Jesus comforts her and He began to share with her various things. In fact, Jesus even asked for her to draw a cup of water for Him to drink. And she was amazed at that; not only that He was speaking with her, a Samaritan woman, but He had nothing with which to draw water or even to take a drink. And that led to a discussion about Jesus being the source of living water. And how that if someone drank from Him, that it would bring about eternal life. Well, they talked about other things, and then Jesus said, “Why don't you go call your husband so we can finish this conversation?” And she said, “I don't have a husband.” And immediately Jesus responded by saying, “Oh, I know. You have had five in the past, and the one you have now is not even your husband.” Well, with that, she went back to her village and she began to tell other people about what she had experienced there with Jesus. Some wonder why this woman was traveling alone. I don't know for sure. Perhaps she was embarrassed to be with the other women, early in the morning, because she had had five husbands in the past; but the women would go out to the well and they would gather the water they needed for the day while it was still cool, in the morning, and this woman came at the noontime hour, when it was so hot. Maybe she was embarrassed about her past. But yet, we keep in mind the time and the culture of that particular day. Women had no right or authority to divorce husbands, but the husband could divorce the wife for most any reason. And so with that in mind, perhaps this woman was simply a victim of some bad relationships. Well, the woman went back to her village. The disciples came back to where Jesus was, with some food, and that gave Jesus the opportunity to share a message with His disciples. We drop down here in John chapter 4 to verse 35, and we begin to read what Jesus shared with them. <"Don’t you have a saying, ‘It is still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And because of His words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”> The woman had gone back and she shared part of what Jesus had shared with her, there at Jacob's Well, and the people were believing in Jesus, and they came out to see for themselves. They even invited Jesus to come and stay with them for two days, and that's exactly what He did. And we notice what Jesus told those disciples; that things are happening in this world and you are reaping the benefits of it. And no doubt that was true with what happened here with Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Good things were happening in the village of Sychar, even as Jesus came into their presence. Well, I want to focus on two things here in the story. Number one, the woman had credibility to do something in her village. Even though she may not have felt comfortable with some of the other women, she still had an influence on some of the other people; and they responded to Jesus, even recognizing Him as the Savior of the world. The second thing we notice is that God was working behind the scenes. God was at work in Sychar, even before Jesus showed up. God was ripening the fields long before He sat down at Jacob's Well. God was preparing the hearts of those Samaritan people, even to the point they realized He was the Savior of the world. Yes, God was at work and Jesus showed up. We can believe, today, that same kind of thing is still happening. God continues to be at work in His world, in ways we cannot even imagine. He continues to work behind the scenes. A great myth many people believe is that God created this world and He is no longer involved in its daily operations; that He is simply allowing things to unfold and He really has no interest in what is happening. Well, that is not true. God has always been, and He continues to be, involved in His world. He not only created, but He sustains His creation. Well, here is another story about God working behind the scenes, and it, too, demonstrates how God continues to be active and involved in the lives of His people. Let's notice a story that begins in John chapter 1. In this story, we read about John the Baptist, the one whom God selected to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, His Son. We are introduced to him in chapter 1, beginning with verse 6. <There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.> John was what we might call the forerunner to Jesus Christ. He came to prepare the hearts of the people to receive Jesus. In fact, he even baptized some for the forgiveness of their sin, and now they were ready and prepared to receive Christ the Messiah and the message that He had to share with them. Well, we continue on here with the story of John, in chapter 1, as we read verse 19 and following. <Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”> John wasn't holding anything back. He freely confessed that he was not the Messiah. Instead, he was the one preparing the way for the Messiah. He was making the path smooth. He was eliminating the rocks in the road, if you will, and allowing the people to be ready to hear from Jesus Christ, Himself. In the words of John, he even said, “I am decreasing and Jesus is increasing.” You know, John knew very well the purpose for which God had sent him. He recognized his role in four specific ways. He pointed to the light, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am not the light of this world, but rather the One who comes after me is the light.” He also prepared the way for God to show up, through Jesus Christ. He prepared their hearts and encouraged the people to change their lives, and God was at work in that. Thirdly, he testified to the One who was coming after him. He diverted any kind of attention or praise for his own work to Jesus. And after all of that was done, he then got out of the way and he allowed Jesus to do His work. Yes, God had a specific plan for His servant John to fulfill, and John did exactly what God called upon him to do. Well, that is no different for any of us. We may not fully recognize God's role for us, as John recognized his role, but we do have one. Yes, God has a purpose for you and for me as we become a part of His mission in this world. With that in mind, we recognize that in one way or another we are all missionaries. Someone who is deeply involved with missions came up with this terminology, ‘The myth of salt-water’. Now that simply means, some people believe that if they are to be a missionary, they have to travel over salt-water, or over a big body of water like the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. And if they want to be a missionary, that's where they need to go, that's what they need to do. Well, that's very difficult for some people to do. Oh, obviously there are some who are called to do that, and they do a good job of traveling overseas to share the Gospel with people in those places, who have never heard about Jesus Christ. Yet, that does not happen for everyone; and so, we are to be aware of the opportunities that God puts before us, right where we are. God's plan for each of us does not have to be the same for all of us. One might be like the Samaritan woman, or someone else might be like John the Baptist. We are to point to prepare for and testify to the light of Jesus Christ. And then we get out of the way and we trust God to bring about the increase. No matter what our role might be, we are to do what John did and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are to do what the Samaritan woman did and to tell other people about the Savior of the world. A number of years ago, many people wore a bracelet around their wrist with the letters WWJD. Perhaps you remember that. And those letters stood for, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’. And that was a regular reminder, as we looked at those bracelets. What would Jesus do? What would He say in the various situations in which I find myself? Perhaps we could say it like this: Those letters could also represent what would John do, in regards to mission work. Let us remember today God is on a mission everywhere before we go anywhere! And God is preparing us for the work He wants us to do. And at the very same time, God is preparing other people, even before we show up. But God wants us to show up. He wants us to be involved in His mission field. And so, therefore, we are to be aware of those opportunities God puts before us, and then to recognize them and do something with them. I would invite and encourage all of us, today, to think about how we can be a part of God's mission in this world.
Many of you watching this message are focused on faithfully following Jesus Christ as you're Savior. You think about every day things you can do to honor Him and to live in a way that is pleasing and acceptable in His sight. And no doubt those are good things to do. You might also be thinking about how it is that you can share your faith with other people. You think about people who are missionaries, who perhaps have traveled overseas, who are doing that very thing. And then you look at a globe, like this one, and you think about where it might be that you could go. You consider whether or not God is calling you to do mission work somewhere. The reality is, however, many of us will never be able to go overseas and to do mission work. Oh, we are thankful for those who do, but most of us will not. And yet at the same time, there are many opportunities to tell other people about Jesus right where we are. We don't have to go somewhere around the globe in order to do what God is calling us to do, even right where we are. We might think about where we are today, in a city park; people there might need to hear about Jesus; those with whom we work; people living in our neighborhood; maybe some friends or family members. We have the opportunity, simply, to share with them, in the normal activities of life, who Jesus is and how much He means to us and what He has done for us. As we think about being a part of God's mission in this world, let us think about the people and the opportunities God puts before us every day, and then follow through and take advantage of the opportunity to tell others about Jesus Christ.
Thank you for joining us for today's message. The title is, “Christians are Part of God's Mission”, and it can be found on our website. If you would like to listen to or view it again, go to keytothekingdom.com. This lesson, along with many others, can be downloaded in several different formats. It will not cost anything to do so, and there is no obligation attached to it. Two minute inspirational messages and one minute devotional thoughts might be of interest, as well. They are designed to bless you in your daily walk with the Lord; and they too are found on the website, and are free to access. Facebook® is another media tool through which you can access our ministry. Take a moment to find us there and to view the messages which are uploaded every week. Or, you might want to download the free app, which is designed for smart-phones. We provide a variety of ways through which you can be involved. It is our pleasure to share all of these messages with you, and I do hope they are a blessing. You are always invited and welcome to tune-in each week, on this channel, as we seek to learn more about God's love for all of us. Consider joining us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”