To the Ends of the Earth

#3 in the series: “Ripples of the Resurrection”

(preached at Brook Hill United Methodist Church, April 26, 2015)

Acts 1:1-8    1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (New International Version)

Matthew 28:16-20  16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (New International Version)

My wife Connie teaches at a small preschool in Germantown. This year her class of 15 students has just two children who speak only English.

Connie has three children of Indian descent, one of Syrian descent, one of Chinese descent, one of Puerto Rican descent, one African American child who speaks Spanish because her nanny speaks Spanish. She has five children of mixed descent, with one parent from the USA, and the other from Bolivia, Columbia, India, Poland or South Africa.

Other students in this small preschool have parents from Argentina, El Salvador, Ghana, Liberia, the Philippines, South Korea, and the Republic of Georgia.

It’s a vivid reminder of the small, small world in which we live, and a reminder of the open doors before us, the opportunity we have to share Christ’s love with friends from around the world. All within 25 miles of Yellow Springs.

Today’s message is part of a series called “Ripples of the Resurrection.” If Jesus really rose from the dead (and we believe he did) there is some urgency that we share his life with our children, and beyond that to our immediate spheres of influence, then ultimately to all the world.

Today I ask a question: How can we work with other Christians to take the message of Jesus to every person on earth?

In the scriptures which were read, Jesus told his followers they would receive power to be his witnesses everywhere, from the city where they lived to the whole world. He commissioned them to make disciples of all nations. Then he ascended into the heavenly realms, where he lives today.

Soon afterward came the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. 120 Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit.

They were filled with tremendous spiritual power. They told the story of Jesus to thousands of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem from many nations.

They talked powerfully about Jesus. And they communicated in several foreign languages they had never learned. That day 3000 new believers in Christ were baptized.

Within 30 years there were Jesus-followers throughout the Roman Empire, north to Britain, south to Ethiopia, east to India, west to Spain. Soon there were Christian disciples in Ireland and Afghanistan and China.

Friends, the Story of Jesus is the Story of God’s love for every human. It has four chapters:

1) It is a story that begins with God creating us in His image.

2) It is a story that continues with our first parents disobeying God, so that human relationships with God became broken and damaged.

3) This story of Jesus continues with God coming to earth as a man, and potentially rescuing all of us by his death and resurrection.

4) And the final chapter of this story involves us putting our faith in Jesus, learning to obey him, and sharing his story with a broken world that has lost its way.

Today’s question: How can we work with other Christians to take the message of Jesus to every person on earth?

When I ask this question, I assume that we want to obey Jesus’ command. I assume that we want to share God’s love and message with others. I assume that we want to start spiritual conversations with neighbors and co-workers, that we want to help them to meet Jesus and know him as their Master.

FIVE WAYS WE CAN BECOME GLOBAL CHRISTIANS:

 1. Some of us can become full-time missionaries.

God calls certain people to this type of work. My friend Clarice Strong went to the Tigwa Manobo tribe in the Philippines. She lived with them. She learned their mother tongue. They had no written language so she developed one for them. She translated much of the Bible into that language and began to teach them how to read.

This morning, what young person at Brook Hill might hear God’s call to a similar adventure?

We need full-time missionaries right here in our country. Joshuaproject.net says there are still 78 unreached people groups in the USA. And 33% of Americans are identified as “irreligious” so there are many opportunities right here.

So some of us can become full-time missionaries. If God speaks to you, will you say, “Here I am, send me?”

2. Many of us can support the witness of Jesus through international short-term mission trips.

Most of us are wealthy. We cruise or vacation in distant countries. For $1000, we could spend 10 days supporting Christ’s body in Guatemala or Nicaragua or 100 other places.

In Nicaragua, we support the work of Ministerio Messias. In less than 15 years our friend Roberto Mendieta and his team have planted over 180 churches and 275 feeding centers. They minister to 25,000 people weekly.

So, second, many of us can support the witness of Jesus through international short-term mission trips. If God speaks to you, will you say, “Here I am, send me?”

3. All of us can reach out to people from other nations who’ve come to Frederick and nearby places.

8% of Frederick County residents are Hispanic or Latino. 4.4% of Frederick County residents are ethnically Asian.

You probably have neighbors from other ethnicities who would become your friends if you took the first step. Begin a conversation with them! Invite them to a restaurant or a summer barbecue.

Also, more than 800,000 international college students study in USA each year. Many of them are here in the Baltimore-Washington area. Maryland missionaries like my friend Bernie Beall reach out to these international college students in the D.C. area.

So, third, all of us can reach out to people from other nations who’ve come to Frederick and nearby places. If God speaks to you, will you say, “Here I am, send me?”

4. If we will, we can pray for the spread of the gospel around the world.

Paul the Apostle asked friends to pray for him as he communicated the truth of Jesus everywhere he went. In the same way, we can pray regularly for modern-day missionaries as they tell the good news in places where God has called them.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” I believe that prayer can change people’s hearts, and alter the course of nations.

We have at least three prayer options:

  • Pray daily for missionaries we know by name.
  • Pray daily for one nation or one entire continent.
  • Pray daily for the spread of the gospel in places we hear about in the news.

Recently we’ve heard of Christians beheaded in Libya, of Christian college students murdered in Kenya, of girls were kidnapped from a Christian school in Nigeria. There’s unrest in much of the world where Christians and Muslims live near each other.

But Muslims are not our enemies. Jesus loves Muslims. Please pray for the spread of the gospel among Muslims.

A year ago (April 22, 2014) christianitytoday.com posted an article titled “Why Muslims Are Becoming the Best Evangelists”.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april-web-only/why-muslims-are-becoming-best-evangelists.html

In this article, Christianity Today interviewed a missiologist who traveled 250,000 miles to interview 1000 former Muslims who are now followers of Jesus.

He says that Muslim-background believers are leading Muslims to Christ in large numbers in their own home countries, hidden from almost everyone.

He asked those whom he interviewed: “What did God use to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ? Tell me your story.”

This missiologist has documented 69 Muslim movements to Christ which are happening today, each of these with at least 1,000 baptisms or 100 new church-starts in the past 20 years.

In one unnamed Arab nation, an Islamic book publisher named Nasr came to Christ through satellite radio. Nasr believed God was calling him to evangelize. So he began a local ministry and baptized 2800 new believers in less than a year.

So, fourth, we can pray for the spread of the gospel around the world. If God speaks to you, will you say, “Here I am, send me?”

5. We can give to support those who are actively telling people about Jesus in distant places.

There are many options. If you’re wondering who or what to support, please have a conversation with me. Email me and we’ll get together.

Our posture toward God should always be one of availability. Are you available for God’s use when he calls your name?

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah heard God ask a question. He heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” And Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Are you available? What holds you back from obeying God whole-heartedly? What keeps you from enjoying the Greatest Adventure of your life?

Say no to your fears! Say yes to Jesus Christ, the Master and Commander of the Universe!

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