June 10, 2018
Sales people must be thoroughly familiar with their company’s products. If a sales person continually says, “I’m not sure about that. I’ll have to find out about that,” you don’t feel very confident about the company or the product. This is why salespeople go through training and they practice their presentations. They learn how to present the product in the clearest way that will enhance the product’s strengths.
We are witnesses of Jesus. Wouldn’t it have been helpful if the New Testament writers had included a very clear, concise presentation of the gospel? Then we could memorize it and practice presenting it. Unfortunately we don’t find that in the New Testament. But this morning as we look at Lk.10 my hope is that we will gain insight for how we can be effective witnesses of Jesus. From Lk.10 I see that there are three essential foundations for being an effective witness for Jesus.
I. A CHRIST-PREPARED UNDERSTANDING. Lk.10:1-4
In v.1-4 Jesus is preparing 72 people to be witnesses. Imagine that you happened to be one of the 72 selected by the Lord to participate in his mission. You are not one of the 12 apostles. You are just an average follower of Jesus. Suddenly you feel out of your element because you have never done this before. So as Jesus gives instructions you are carefully listening. You want to be as prepared as possible. You are a little relieved because you hear Jesus saying that you are going to be traveling in pairs. Great! This isn’t a solo mission.
But then you hear Jesus’ first instruction in v.3. “Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” “Wait! What did you just say, Jesus? ‘Lambs in the midst of wolves?” Let us not be under any illusions about what witnessing for Jesus entails. We never quite know what we might encounter. In fact, we might encounter wolves who want nothing more than to devour our lives and the gospel message. All the powers of hell want nothing more than to keep people from Christ. In our country we do not fear outright persecution yet. But many do experience various kinds of opposition. It is an ever present reality. As followers of Jesus we can expect to be treated no differently than Jesus was treated. So when we embrace Jesus as our Lord and King, we are signing up for potential persecution.
In v.4 Jesus gives another instruction. He says, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals.” In other words, this mission is grounded in faith. From my reading I learned that it was common for traveling preachers and teachers to carry a knapsack. It allowed them to be a bit more independent. But the mission of Jesus is not meant to be independent. Jesus intends for us to be dependent upon God for all things. This is one reason why he sent the Holy Spirit. As witnesses for Jesus we do not rely upon gimmicks and rigid methods. We rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us and provide what is needed. We never know when the opportunity to witness for Christ is going to come to us. So we go in faith every day, asking the Lord to lead us.
Again in v.4 Jesus says, “and greet no one on the road.” Why would Jesus give this instruction? It seems as if he is telling his disciples to be rude. But that isn’t the point. I believe Jesus is teaching us that the mission of being his witnesses in the world is urgent. It’s not urgent in the sense that we must be rushing. Rather it is urgent in the sense that the gospel is concerned with matters of life and death. The many beautiful people that we know, family members, friends, co-workers, all need Jesus.
Not everyone who professes to know Jesus has this sense of urgency. I don’t know why that is, except that many of us are just as caught up with the things of this world as the people of this world are. There are professing believers who do not understand that Jesus has commissioned all of his followers to be his witnesses. They do not think of Jesus as their King and so there is little sense of the need to be obedient to their Lord and King in this matter.
Before we take the first step on mission with Jesus, these are things we need to keep in mind. We are his representatives in the world. Through the Holy Spirit he will guide and direct us as we are dependent upon him. This is a matter for prayer every day. “Lord help me today to be aware of the people around me and to be ready to speak a word for you. Amen”
II. A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE. Lk.10:5-9a
Believers were first called Christians at Antioch. The term basically means “Christ follower.” The name caught on. After all, that is what we are. We are followers of Christ. Presumably this means our lives reflect the character and teachings of Jesus. When it comes to living and witnessing, our overall character and conduct is important.
In v.5 Jesus gives instruction on how we are to present ourselves to the world. He says, “Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
Do you remember how Jesus introduced himself in Nazareth? In Lk.4 Jesus was in the synagogue and he read from the scroll of Isaiah. He read verses that applied to him and after reading Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The very next verse says, “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” Jesus presented himself in a gracious way, the way peace.
When it comes to witnessing for Jesus we are to be people of peace. We are people who are filled with the God of peace through the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to see that in the New Testament the gospel is always referred to either as the “gospel of God,” or the “gospel of Christ.” Once Paul called it the “gospel of your salvation, and once he called it, “the gospel of peace.” Believers are people of peace. We are not people of violence or coercion. We are people of peace. And as people of peace we seek to speak peace to others. When we are in conversations we want to bless others with the presence of Jesus who is present in us. In your reading of the gospels, note how Jesus approached people. As David Fitch writes, “Presence proceeds proclamation.”
If our peace is received it will bless the person we are with. If it is not received our peace, our blessing will not rest upon that person. I take it to mean that we then move on until we find someone who receives our peace.
In v.7-9 Jesus says, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it.” This is interesting because Jesus seems to be teaching that we should take a posture of submission and service. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are guests in the world. We are to be open to relationships as they unfold. We are not in charge. We are not in control. Christ is Lord and is already present. As we read these verses, we don’t get the sense that Jesus intended his disciples to go knocking on doors. He says, “Do not go from house to house.” Witnessing takes place in the context of relationship. And relationships take time.
In v.9 Jesus tells us to heal the sick. We are people who seek to have ministry among unbelievers. I wish I could heal the sick, but I have never had that kind of ministry. If God has given that ministry to you. Use it! But let me put it this way. We are to be people who use whatever ability, talent, or skill that we have to serve others in the name of Jesus. Is there a good you can do? Do it. Do what leads to peace, to wholeness, and reconciliation.
Of course all of this implies that we are people who reflect Jesus in our living. Witness is not just about proclamation. Proclamation is framed by a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
III. A CHRIST-FILLED MESSAGE. Lk.10:9b-12
In v.9 Jesus continues by instructing us to say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Let me ask: Is this the way you begin when you share the gospel? Do you say, “Hey I want to tell you that the kingdom of God has come near?”
James and the Apostle Paul are the earliest writers of New Testament documents. Paul’s expression of the gospel message reflects the way that the early church presented the Gospel.
What I want for us to see is that when Paul and others communicated the gospel, it was focused on Jesus. I point this out because we often make the gospel message about ourselves. We usually begin a gospel presentation with the fact that we are sinners. We have a sin problem and from there we move on to talk about how Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. If we believe in Jesus and pray the sinner’s prayer we will be saved and go to heaven. But that is not how Paul shared the gospel. You see, the gospel is not about us. The gospel is about Jesus. It is the good news about Jesus.
In Rm.1:1-5 we read, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”
When Paul talks about the gospel he situates it in the Old Testament. He focuses on Jesus and does not reduce the gospel message to our sin problem and the death and resurrection of Jesus. He includes the ascension, the fact that Jesus has been declared to be the Son of God in power.”
In his book, “Salvation by Allegiance Alone,” Matthew Bates identifies eight events that comprise the gospel of Jesus Christ. 1) Jesus preexisted with the Father. 2) Jesus took on human flesh, fulfilling God’s promises to David. 3) Jesus died for sins in accordance with the Scriptures. 4) Jesus was buried. 5) Jesus was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 6) Jesus appeared to many. 7) Jesus is seated at the right hand of God as Lord, and 8) Jesus will come again as judge.” In his book Matthew Bates shows how this outline is found in Paul’s writings, and in the life and teachings of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There is only one gospel message.
So the point here is the gospel message, the good news is not about getting my sins forgiven by trusting in a plan of salvation. No. The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, who lived, died for the sins of the world, who rose from the dead and who now reigns as Lord and King, reconciling all things to himself. When we present the gospel, we tell the story of Jesus. Faith is our response of trust and allegiance to King Jesus. Justification is a result of placing this kind of faith in Jesus.
Because the gospel is about Jesus and how we can enter into a saving, life-giving relationship with Jesus, it is not a message that we should try to rush through. We are not like insurance salespeople, trying to sell a plan. We are followers of Jesus seeking to help others become followers of Jesus. So the better we understand who Jesus is and the more we cultivate being in relationship with Jesus and his people, the better we will be able to be his witnesses.
My goal in these last few messages has been to help us see that being a witness for Jesus is more about who we are as followers of Christ in this world. It has more to do with presenting Jesus than trying to convince others that they are sinners and need to pray a certain prayer. Our spoken witness is to flow out of our relationship with Jesus and knowledge of Jesus rather than a memorized presentation. We are presenting a person, not a product. My hope is that if you are a follower of Jesus you will make it your aim to be his witness. Amen