Theme: Go tell my people
Text: Amos 7:12-15; Eph. 1:3-14; Mk. 6:7-13
Life always follows a very basic pattern. It consists of first learning and then putting into practice what has been learnt. A baby first learns how to walk and then puts into practice what he or she has learnt by actually taking a few steps and after further practice runs with such speed that most parents are scared they would injure themselves. A child learns how to put on his clothes and shoes and after some time does it on his own without waiting for the mother’s help. The child grows up, goes to school, learns a profession and as an adult puts into practices what he or she has learnt to earn a living. It is the same with the tailor and the dressmaker, the caterer and the hairdresser, the mechanic and the plumber, the accountant and the lawyer, and it is the same with the nurse and the doctor. For almost every profession, after years of study and hard work, comes the day of graduation when one is conferred with a certificate or degree and given all the rights and privileges pertaining to that certificate or degree. To see if one has earned the degree, one must pass a series of examinations. In medicine for example, part of the degree programme is a series of clinical rotations where the student puts into practice what has been learnt. A student can learn many things from teachers and books and that knowledge can be graded but being able to put into practice what has been learnt is an entirely different matter. Part of the clinical rotation is to evaluate how the student is able to incorporate what he has learnt into actual practice as well as giving him the opportunity to learn those things that could not be taught in a classroom setting. In a similar manner the disciples had spent time in the classroom with Jesus and when the time came for them to put into practice what they had learnt Jesus sent them out with the command “go tell my people”.
Christ cannot send someone He has not first called and prepared through training. Jesus called His first disciples and trained them before sending them out into the world. The way Jesus dealt with His first disciples is the same way He deals with us today. He first calls us in order to establish a relationship, trains us and then sends us into the world. No one will send someone he has no relationship with to perform an important duty. In fact it would be foolishness to do so. The one who would be able to achieve the best results would be the one who is closest to you. Our relationship with Christ should be a very intimate one and this depends to a large extent on the time we spend with Him. The authority of Christ is only available to those who have an intimate relationship with Him and without His authority we cannot serve Him effectively if we are able to serve Him at all. How can you work using the name and the authority of someone you have no relationship with? As a medical student and as a houseman, I could only work in hospitals because of the authority given to me by my training institution and by my supervising doctors. In a similar manner the disciples could not go out into the world in their own power, they went out in the power and authority of God, given to them by Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ has called us to prepare us so that He can send us with the gospel into the world. When we heeded His call and became His followers the Holy Spirit marked us out for training. Christ then sent us with His plan for the spread of the gospel saying; "But you shall receive power when the HS has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." This plan is both simple and practical. First each believer is to be personally empowered by the Holy Spirit. Second, each believer thus empowered by the Holy Spirit, is by his personal testimony to win others to Christ. And finally, these others are in turn to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to win yet others to Christ. This way the testimony of Christ is to be extended outward from Jerusalem in ever widening circles of power until it has reached the end of the earth, until it has reached all nations, all races and all people. There is no alternative plan, which can accomplish the same result. Just imagine the world as a building about to be engulfed by fire and destroyed with everyone in it a prisoner in chains. There is no hope for those inside till the unimaginable happens. A miracle takes place and a unique person appears and enters the building. He overcomes the person keeping the prisoners captive and begins to set them free. Would those set free not be so grateful and thankful that they would help to set the others free? If each freed person would help free another person, it would be possible in a short time to set free all the occupants in the building. But if each person who is freed refuses to help free the others, many captives would perish in the fire. Christ has overcome the devil and freed us from bondage to sin. But He expects us to go out and free those who are still in bondage and are in danger of perishing. If we are Christ’s we will obey His commands since obedience is the test of a faithful servant. Are we obeying Christ’s command to go as His witnesses with the message of salvation?
The message of salvation is the most important message in the world. It is the first message that Christ Himself preached saying, "repent and believe the gospel". Repentance simply means to change one’s mind. It a very important decision all of us need to make. Many people, however, associate repentance primarily with emotion, with the shedding of tears and so on. It is possible, however for a person to feel great emotion and to shed many tears, and yet never to repent, in the true scriptural sense. Repentance is the sinner’s first response to God. In his own natural, unregenerate, sinful condition, every man that has ever been born has turned his back on God, His Father, and on heaven, his home. In this condition every step he takes is a step away from God and from heaven. The only way he can change the situation is to change his mind about God, change his direction, and turn back to God. Repentance is admitting we need help because of the consequences of sin. It is only when we admit we need help that we can respond to the gospel. The gospel, the good news, is simply that Jesus was delivered to the punishment of death on account of our sins, that God raised Him up again from the dead and that if we believe this record of the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf, we shall be justified, or accepted as righteous, before God. This righteousness is Christ’s own righteousness, a righteousness that had never known sin before.
In the parable of the prodigal son we find the perfect example of the effects of sin and what true repentance is. Here the prodigal son, as a result of sin, turned his back on father and home, and went off into a distant land where he squandered all that he had in loose living. He ended up hungry, lonely, and in rags looking after pigs, an abomination to the Jews. He had reached the end of the line. For a Jew you couldn’t fall any lower than that. But even then, and it is God who makes this possible, he came to his senses and realized his need. At this point he made a decision saying, "I will arise and go to my father". Furthermore, he immediately carried out his decision and arose and went to his father. This is true repentance. First the inward decision, then the outward act of carrying out that decision, the act of turning back to father and home. Without repentance it is impossible to respond to the gospel. This is one main reason why the experience of so many Christians today is unstable and insecure. They are professing faith in Christ but have never practiced true repentance. As a result, the faith they profess, procures for them neither the favour of God, nor the respect of the world. God has sent us to faithfully present the message of repentance and belief in the gospel so people will be saved. We are to make an impact on our communities and bring many people to Christ. Are we making an impact in our communities?
Faithfully presenting the gospel will always yield results. There are basically two different methods that can be used. In certain situations mass evangelism is very effective. This method of evangelism has over the centuries brought many people into the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom to the crowds. So did the apostle Paul, John Wesley and many gifted evangelists of many nationalities, some like Billy Graham are still preaching effectively to large crowds today. Not everyone, however, is gifted to spread the gospel through mass evangelism, but everyone is gifted to spread the gospel through personal evangelism. This is the most normal, natural and productive method of spreading the gospel. According to the apostle Peter, the Church is both ’a royal priesthood’ and a ’holy nation’. ’A royal priesthood’ to offer spiritual sacrifices to God, which is worship, and a ’holy nation’ to spread abroad God’s praises, which is witness.
Every Christian congregation is called by God to be a worshipping and witnessing community. Indeed, each of these two duties necessarily involves the other. If we truly worship God, acknowledging who He is, we will find ourselves wanting to tell others about Him, in order that they may also worship him. Thus worship leads to witness, and witness in its turn to worship. Every believer saved by the grace of God and given the opportunity to know God in all His glory is called to be a witness. He is to use his personal gifts and the opportunities available to him to live and to speak as one who belongs to and knows the living God. This witness is not performed in isolation. That is, the witness of every believer of the salvation that is to be found in Jesus Christ is the witness that he makes as a member of the church. God has entrusted us with a message and we have the responsibility to be faithful stewards of that message. In 2 Kings, the experience of four lepers in the time of Elisha is described. Samaria was under siege by the Syrians and the people were dying from starvation. Worse off were four lepers who were condemned to live outside the city gates and rely on the charity of others. Jewish tradition claims that these four lepers were Gehazi and his three sons. They assessed their situation and made a logical decision. They knew they were about to die from hunger. They were not allowed into the city and it wouldn’t even help because there was no food there. Their only hope was to go to the Syrians who could decide to kill them but it was a chance they decided to take. They entered the camp and found that the Syrians had fled leaving everything behind. After eating all they could, they were suddenly conscience stricken by the thought of the thousands within the city walls who were dying of starvation while food was within their grasp. "Then they said to one another, ’we are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.’" And with hearts grateful for the good things that had come to them, they decided to let the others know and saved the city. These four lepers had all they needed for the present. They had been starving and had been given food. They had been hopeless and had been filled with new aspirations. They had been sad and discouraged, and were now glad and happy. But what they had cannot be compared to what we have in Jesus Christ. Their salvation was physical and temporal, ours is spiritual and eternal. They had been freed from the pangs of hunger and we have been freed from the power of sin. The Good News of Jesus Christ must be shared too, for it is the most important news. We must not forget those who are dying without it. We must not become so preoccupied with our own faith that we neglect sharing it with those around us. Our Good News, like that of the lepers cannot wait until daylight. Today we can compare the spiritual situation in the world to the physical situation in Samaria at the time of the siege. Within the walls of Samaria were literally thousands of men and women dying of hunger. So serious was the situation that mothers were cooking their own sons that they might live a little longer. Their greatest need was food and the lepers knowing this decided to go and tell them where the food was. Likewise there are many men and women today who are perishing and need the Bread of Life, and we are able to supply their need. Surely we have something worth giving to others. Are we going to be selfish and keep it all for ourselves, or will we go and tell others? Every Church, which has heard the gospel, must pass it on. We cannot limit our witnessing to within the Church because most people who are not saved do not go to Church. We need to go where the unsaved are. Any fisherman will tell you that he does not go to fish in his bathtub. If he expects to catch any fish, he would go where the fish are, in the sea, river or lake.
For many Christians the local Church is not different from other clubs. The only difference between the local Church and the local golf club is that the common interest of its members happens to be God rather than golf. They see themselves as religious people who enjoy doing religious things together. They pay their subscriptions and reckon they are entitled to certain privileges. In fact they concentrate on the status and advantages of being club members, forgetting that they also exist for the benefit of the non-members, those outside the Church (John Stott). The primary responsibility of the Church is our worship of God and our mission in the world. The Church is a people who have been both called out of the world to worship God and sent back into the world to witness and serve. We cannot hope to spread the gospel if we do not go where the people are. Jesus did not limit His preaching to the Synagogues but took His message to the market places, to the street corners, to mountainsides, to seashores and to homes. Our greatest opportunity is to witness where the people are. There are millions of sinners waiting, desperate, hungry, eager and ripe for harvesting. All we need to do is to go to them and present the gospel and they will accept Christ and receive His grace and salvation. Some of the best opportunities to share the good news occur quite naturally in ordinary, everyday settings, on the way to work, at work, at home or just anywhere. We are to reach the unconverted that do not go to Church. We are to go to them in the slums, marketplaces, prisons, hospitals, resorts, beaches and homes. We cannot hope to spread the gospel if we do not go where the people are. Let us fulfil God’s will by sharing the Good News with those around us, the forgotten, hurting and unloved masses. Let us see them as Christ sees them. Let us see them as Christ saw us. The story is told of a man who had experienced God’s transforming power. One day he saw a drunkard lying in his own vomit in the gutter. This man instead of turning away was filled with thankfulness to God and compassion towards the drunkard as he said “but for the grace of God, there lie I.” If we also would feel the same way, we would have no problem witnessing to those who need salvation. Jesus came to save Sinners and they were His reason for being in the world and it should be the same for every Christian. To be Christ like means to do what Christ would do, witness to Sinners, cast out demons and heal the sick. Christ’s plan is our plan, His purpose our purpose and His mission our mission. His command to us is “Go tell my people”. As faithful stewards let us obey Christ’s command to witness and use the resources He has made available to us to glorify His name. Amen!