Monday, February 11, 2019

What is “Living Life on Mission”?

In AD 70 the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, never to be built again, just as Jesus had predicted would happen 40 years prior.

In response to continual rebellion, the Romans came and razed Jerusalem and the temple
to the ground.

While Jews still mourn that fact publicly at the wailing wall, God’s plan has not been aborted
for them or for any of us.

In fact, His plan was being fulfilled in and through the destruction of the temple.

You see, God’s plan from the beginning was to use the temple only for a time as a sign of
greater things to come.

It was a sign that God was indeed living in their midst, that He Himself was with them.

And then God actually came to live with us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Right before Jesus went back to heaven He told his disciples that this sign of the temple was
going to be fulfilled through them:

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  

So instead of a temple that people go to in order to find God and be in God’s presence,

God’s presence would be in us who believe, and we would go out into the world with it.

Jesus was saying, now I will ALWAYS be with you in the person of the Holy Spirit. Indeed,
you will be the temple of God’s Spirit, both individually and collectively.

In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Paul writes, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the
Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you
were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Today the entire body of Christ, or the church, is to go out into the world to reveal God’s
grace and salvation by the Holy Spirit’s power, for the glory of God.

This is an absolutely amazing gift to us who believe:

That we could be given such an amazing opportunity to join God in His unstoppable plan

and see Him work through us, even in our weaknesses, to reveal His glory!

God has called us His very own, and He is leading us in the absolute best ways,

so that we can participate in His great plan to bring His grace and salvation to
this world.

And so the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because there was no longer any need
for one.

But there remains a need for us to be a temple  - in other words, we are to live and
abide in God’s loving presence individually and as body

and then we are to bring His loving presence into an unbelieving world around us.

Just as Jesus humbled himself, and came to be with us in our sin and depravity, we are
now called to do the same for others.

We are to use our whole lives to communicate God’s grace, love, and good news to
those around us.

That is why we are here, and that is what I want to talk about today.

Our series title is, “Living Life on Mission: Walking in the Footsteps of Paul”.

In the past three weeks we have learned about Paul’s radical transformation, some
about the gospel he preached, and about the encouragement of his friend, Barnabas.

But the reason we are focusing on Paul is not just to admire him as a super saint.

Rather we want to learn from the ways God worked in him and led him so that we might
live out the gospel in a similar manner wherever God calls us to live.

On his second missionary journey Paul and Silas visited Thessalonica for three or four
weeks until they were forced to leave,

but Paul continued to pray for this new church until he could visit again.

He wrote to them, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning
you in our prayers,” (1 Thess 1:2)

So the first thing we learn here about missional living is that we are to give our time to
love and pray for people.

Let me ask, do you have individuals that you are continually praying for and communicating
God’s love to?

In all, Paul wrote at least two personal letters to encourage and instruct this church, and
these letters remain in our Bibles for our own encouragement and instruction.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, in chapter 2:7-8 Paul wrote, “But we proved to be
gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having
so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the
gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

In other words, Paul didn’t come just to pass out gospel tracts stuffed with information.

No, he and Silas came to tenderly care for people, to spend time with them, and
personally invite them into their hearts and lives.

Living life on mission basically means that we live in that same way:

We proactively use our entire lives (words, actions, and possessions) to express the
amazing grace and good news of Christ to those around us. (show this summary)

There is a gentle and patient loving of people over time as we give of our very selves,
even as a mother would give of her own body to care for her nursing infant.

If my infant cries for an hour in the middle of the night, and wets everything including my
lap, I do not give up on the child, but continue to take care of my baby over the long haul.

In the same way, we are to patiently welcome people into our lives and care for them

and not expect spiritual maturity before truly passing on the love and truth of God first.

Because, as Romans 2:4 says, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

Paul wrote here, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but
our very lives as well.” (v. 8) (NIV)

He loved to share his life with them, because God’s loving heart was inside of him.

And so we are blessed to live in the grace of God and joyfully share God’s grace in such
a way that those around us can clearly see that the Lord is good.

We give what we have freely received, and we love because God first loved us.

Today I want to look at Acts 17 and learn more from Paul about living missional lives.

Up until he entered Athens, Paul had always spoken mainly at the local synagogue of
each city he visited.

And so we see a lot of detail in his presentation because the Jews and converts to
Judaism already knew the Scriptures and only needed to be reminded of its contents.

However, when Paul gets to Athens, he is “deeply troubled” by all of the idolatry

So there, for the first time, he publicly addresses a completely non-Jewish culture.

Most Athenians were bound by cultural polytheism, even though many held to secular
philosophies that put little to no emphasis on God or gods.

Because of their great learning and developed culture, Athenians viewed themselves
as one of the most advanced and intelligent people in the world.

Concerning the God of the Bible, they were agnostics, and almost completely unaware
of the amazing ways their Creator had worked in history.

And so we see here a culture and a people that are very similar to Japan.

So what do you think Paul would do if he came to Japan today?

First, Paul doesn’t wait for the people to come to the synagogue or the church first.

He goes out to them, where they are.

He follows the command of Jesus to Go and make disciples of all nations”.

He remembers that Jesus has promised to be with him always.

As he spends day after day greeting and speaking to people in the marketplace, Paul
is invited to speak more publicly.

As we spend time with people, personally caring for them and speaking of God’s
goodness, we will be asked to share more of our lives and stories also.

Pastor Ken Smith, from New York, once saw a newspaper article written by a
homosexual feminist professor at Syracuse University denouncing Christians.

He didn’t just complain about the moral state of society.

He decided to personally invite the author, Rosaria Butterfield, to his home for dinner.

Rosaria decided to come, mostly to gather more information for her forthcoming book.

But, what she didn’t expect is that Ken and his wife would not talk about sin or the
gospel that evening,

but they did demonstrate the gospel of God’s grace to her.

They got to know Rosaria as a fellow human being and genuinely enjoyed her company
over a good meal.

She said, “They showed me that they didn’t view me as a project, but as a neighbor.”

After becoming a Christian two years later, she wrote this:

“I didn’t go to church for two years, but I was in their home every week. And what I learned
was that I could ask any question.”

“The way that they were living became a living breathing example of the theology that
they were teaching.”

She said that Ken never presumed that lesbianism was her biggest sin, but that
unbelief was.

Maybe you don’t feel as if you know enough of the Bible to share it well with others.

But whether you know a lot or a little, all of us can share the love we have received
from God, both in actions and in words.

The question is this: have we determined to open up our hearts, and lives

– even our homes – to love people, who need to know the love of Christ?

Or have we neglected the amazing calling God has given to each of us who are
called by His Name?

But maybe you say, “I don’t know what I would even say to my friend who knows
nothing about God.

Where would I even start?”

Well, what would Paul say if he came to Japan today and was given the opportunity
to share his heart with a group of non-believers?

Let’s read about that opportunity Paul was given to share in Acts 17:18-19.

Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And
some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to
be a preacher of foreign divinities” — because he was preaching Jesus and the
resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying,
“May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

We can see Paul was already speaking about the good news of Jesus and the

This was Paul’s focus - the good news of Christ from Scripture.

So, are we taking opportunities to lift up the good news that God is alive and still
at work?

Because of what Jesus has done for us, we can be the most thankful, deeply joyful
people on Earth.

Now at first most people won’t understand what we are saying.

The response to Paul from many was, “Well, that is just some foreign god.”

In other words, that news is not related to me.

And yet these people were curious, since Paul had good news that had filled his
heart and that he obviously wanted to share,

   and so they asked for more information.

My son Noah was sharing Jesus with his good friend at our home the other day
when the same argument came from the 10 year-old Japanese boy.

“But that is a foreign or western god,” his friend said.

How would you respond? Or how have you responded when asked about this?

Let’s see how Paul responds:

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens,
I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along
and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this
inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown,
this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it,
being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,

Paul first addresses the fact that they are religious and they have objects of worship.

And, really, all people worship something, even if they claim to be non-religious.

The point is, what are these things we focus on, and are they really worthy of our

Many people worship idols, not out of love for what they know about that god, but
out of fear of the unknown.

So Paul said, “What you worship as unknown, I will proclaim to you.”

In other words, the God who made the entire world has made Himself known, and let
me tell you about it!

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth
does not live in temples made by humans.

In other words, “I’m not talking about a god of any country - east or west.”

“I am talking about the One God who made you and me and who is Lord over all -
the west and the east, and therefore is too great to be housed in a temple or shrine.”

Notice here that for Paul the core of the gospel (the good news) is to know the true

Rosaria Butterfield, the former lesbian I mentioned earlier, said that, as she read the
Bible, she slowly realized that her main problem was not bad morality —

    it was her rebellion against God!

God has revealed Himself to us in His wonderful creation, but our rebellion has hardened
us and blinded us to His greatness.

Paul teaches in Romans 1 about how the root of all sin is the rejection of our Creator.

And so our main problem is not badness, but blindness to God’s greatness!

When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, He said this to Paul:

I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to
light and from the power of Satan to God. (Acts 26:17-18)

And so, what people need most is to have the eyes of their hearts opened to see
how good and wonderful the one true God is.

And by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can help others see God’s goodness and
grace through our lives, and through our words.

That is the goal of the gospel and salvation: to see, turn to, and embrace God for who
He really is.

So Paul continues to talk about God:

25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he
himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God does not need our service, as though he needed servants to help Him.

Paul is saying, “No, this God who made you, wants to love you and help you!”

And so people should see in our lives the same thing:

that we accept and love them before they do anything for us or for God.

We give because we want them to know the amazing grace and salvation that God
offers to all of us for free!
People need to see us as truly gracious people, so they can see God for who He
really is.

As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, we are to be caring spiritual mothers and fathers
to our friends and family so that they can see God as their loving Father.

Paul talks more about God as our good Father in v. 26-28.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of
the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling
place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find
him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move
and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are
indeed his offspring.’

So Paul is saying, God put us here today so that we can seek and know God, find
Him, and have a relationship with Him as our loving heavenly Father.

That is who God is. He is our Father.

As any good father of children, He is the one who provides the place where we will
live, and He is the one who guides our lives in the best way.

And because our Father God is good, He wants us to know Him and be near Him.

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like
gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The
times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people
everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the
world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has
given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:29–31)

God overlooked people’s sin, that is, God did not bring immediate judgment to the
world in previous times,

      but Paul warns of a coming universal judgement in verse 31.

God is not a tribal god, and He is too great to be housed in a temple or represented
by anything we can see.

He is greater and more wonderful than all we can imagine because He is God over
all, and therefore He is judge over all.

For now He is patient with us, but He now commands people everywhere to repent
of their idolatry and rebellion against Him.

Because one day those who continue to reject Him as Lord will receive everlasting

Paul said this in Acts 14:16:

16 In past generations [God] allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you
rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and

All people know something of God because they receive good things daily from Him.

And we are accountable to God because of that knowledge.

And now He commands all people everywhere to repent and turn to Jesus before
His righteous judgement comes.

Even these philosophers in Athens, even our friends and family in Japan will be judged.

And for those of us who have been saved,

the eternal suffering of sinners just like us, who don’t yet know Jesus and His love,
should attract more of our attention than any other kind of suffering.

That is why living life on mission is so vitally important.

God will use our prayers and efforts to reveal His grace and help people for an eternity!

What a wonderful privilege it is to be able to offer this hope to all because of Christ,

who died for our sins and was raised to new life for our eternal salvation.

As Paul said,

“[God] has given assurance to all by raising Him (Jesus) from the dead.”

So our assurance today of eternal life is given through the resurrection of Christ
in history.

At the capital of Greek wisdom and philosophy in Athens, Paul had something that
triumphs over all philosophy: truth.

Jesus was raised from the dead as was prophesied many times, and Paul and more
than 500 people personally witnessed that reality!

And God has given assurance of the truth of the resurrection to ALL people because
of this!

Death is the greatest problem that faces every single person that ever lives.

But in the resurrection of Christ, we find the solution and the victory.

So, did the good news that Paul shared convince everyone there?

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others
said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst.
But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the
Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

3,000 did not come to Christ that day, like they had when Peter spoke to the Jews in

In Japan also, most will not listen at first and many may quietly mock.

But by God’s powerful grace, some will say: “We will hear you again about this.”

He has promised to save people from every tribe, nation and language —

    and He will work as we simply share the grace and truth of Christ to those around

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, it is not about our great wisdom.

But God has chosen to use us so that we can be a part of His great work in this world.

May we trust Him in this amazing privilege and responsibility He has given to us.

What a blessing it is for us to join together with Him in His great work.

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord, we pray that even here today there will be some who say, “I want to hear
more about this,” just as those in Athens did.

We pray for our friends and family to begin to seek you also, as we extend your
personal love and the truth of the gospel to them.

We thank you for your promise that as we seek You with our whole hearts we will
find You.

Thank you that you have decided to include us and make our role significant.

We give you all the glory and the praise in Jesus’ Name, Amen.