Lord, church is simply your people. That's what we are, we're yours by creation but especially yours by redemption. And Father, we have gathered to worship, we call this a worship service. And our worship doesn't end with music, it simply transitions from talking to you and singing to you by song and now listening to what you have to instruct us with from your word. And we give you Lord our attention because we give you our hearts. We present our bodies as living sacrifices and pray that we would be all that you want us to be. Amen.
From 1966 to 1973 every week on ABC network was a show that became very very popular, so popular that years later it turned into three full-featured films. It's called "Mission impossible." Mission Impossible was about a small group of secret agents, it went by the initials IMF that stood for Impossible Missions Force. They were assigned to go against crime lords and evil dictators and they had amission somewhere in the world. And the episode started the same, just about every week, they would gather together in some public place, locate their instructions via a reel-to-reel tape (that's how old it was) and they would listen to the instructions that started like this, "Your mission should you decide to accept it..." And then the instructions were given and at the end of the message it said, "This tape will self-destruct in five seconds." That group, the IMF, Impossible Missions Force was sent on a mission somewhere in the world, and they could accept it or they could not accept it.
We're on a mission. Your mission should you decide to accept it is the Great Commission, given to us by Jesus Christ in Mark's gospel, chapter 16 verse 15, "Go into all the world nad preach the gospel to every creature." "Go," he said. You can't take the word go out of the word gospel. Go is in the gospel. That's what missions is. Now I don't know what comes to your mind when you heard the word missions but perhaps if you were raised in a main-line Protestant church it doesn't sound all that exciting. Maybe you have memories of those long mission services as you'd watch slide after slide after slide after slide and a middle-aged couple droning on about new food nad how hot those places are. And learning that language. And here' syet another slide and another slide and your parents forced you to go to those things. My mind conjures up something totally different being raised in the mid 60s in Catholic schools. When I hear missions, I think of the Pagan Baby program. A lot of you have never heard of that. But back then the classrooms of these schools were called upon to raise money and ten dollars would save a pagan baby and they had little Pagan Baby boxes you put your coins in. And so you'd save up ten dollars and you would sponsor or save a pagan baby. You would even, with that ten dollars, get to name the pagan baby. Not that they didn't already have names, I don't know what that was about, but you somehow renamed them. So that's what missions conjured up in my mind. But after I was saved, I went to the mission field. I spent several months in the Middle East living and I discovered missions is adventurous, exciting. It's like, "How come nobody ever told me about this before?" And then after I was married, the first year I think it was, with Lenya, we went over to India for three weeks. And my whole view of God's program was so different. You see before I actually went overseas, my view of the world was very tight and very narrow. Being from California, I always thought of God as an American God, who spoke California slang and smiled down on granola and guitar music. But going out and seeing the world and seeing the big view and the huge embrace that God has for the world made a difference.
Now we call it missions but Jesus called it fishing. He said, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." My dad was a great fisherman, I can't really say that I am in any sense of the word a fisherman. Though he tried to get me to do that, I just never really formed an interest or got good at it but I did have a friend later on who made it his goal to change that in my life. He took me fly fishing. And we scrambled through the backwoods, the difficult terrain in the most hard-to-get-to place in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, to go fly fishing. And I did it. And actually, it must have just been beginner's luck, but I caught the biggest fish, much bigger than my friend who was the expert, I think I made him angry for like months after that, because he caught like some little tiny thing and I caught this huge fish. But I discovered something about those who really love fishing. Those who really love fishing, if you were to ask them, "Okay, would you rather fish in a lake that has been fished over day after day, month after month, year after year by thousands of people climbing over each other to fish in the same waters; or would you rather go to an out-of-the-way place, difficult terrain, hard-to-get-to, it's hot when you get there, you have to camp outside, etcetera? Oh, but the fish, boy do they bite over there. It is the most amazing fishing place. I think the fisherman would say, "I'll take option number two way over option number one." Well in effect that's what missions is. I've never yet met a missionary on the field who didn't have an absolute love for being there because of the results they saw and how God was using them. So, you've seen that bumper sticker, "I'd rather be fishing." God would rather have you be fishing too. But fishing for souls, fishing for men.
So today, let's look at that. Let's look in Acts chapter 1, principally in verse 8, and to get some background let's read verses 1 through 8 in Acts chapter 1. "The former account that I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. To whom he also presented himself alive, after his suffering, by many infallible proofs being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father which,' he said, ‘you have heard from me. For John truly baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' Therefore when they had come together they asked him saying, ‘Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And he said to them, ‘It's not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit 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 morning I basically have two closing points in this series on the church about missions. Our mission is global and our mission is possible. It's global and it's possible. And I'm going to give you a few reasons why it's global, why our vision for evangelism should be further than just our family and our city and our country. It's global for four reasons. Number one because of the character of God himself. You can't read the Bible without discovering that God is a missionary God, he sends people. I think of Isaiah the prophet twenty-seven centuries ago, when he heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Who will I send and who will go for us?" And Isaiah said, "Here I am, lord. Send me." And the first missionary in the Bible is probably Abraham. Remember what God told Abraham? He said, "Leave your family. Leave your home and go to the place that I will show you." And so he went. Now what was the purpose of his going? Well, according to God in Genesis chapter 12, "So that in you all of the families of the earth may be blessed." Now that is the purpose of missions right there in that verse. The purpose of missions, the ultimate purpose is to bless the world through Jesus Christ, Abraham's descendant. God has just sending God, furthermore Jesus Christ himself was a missionary. Right? He left heaven and came tot his earth with a purpose, to seek and to save those who are lost. And his mission by the way was a cross cultural mission. You know, we complain if we leave America and go to India. Imagine leaving heaven and coming to the earth. That's a cross-cultural mission trip. Jesus himself left the comforts of his heavenly home to come to this earth on a mission and to fulfill it. Robert Speare of the Student Volunteer Movement said, "If you want to follow Christ you must follow him to the ends of the earth for that is where he is going. We cannot think of God without thinking of him as a missionary God. So the Father and the Son were both involved in missions, and the holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, sixty-six times mentions the Holy Spirit who's sending people, through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." And the book of Acts follows that pattern. In fact, Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 was largely a missionary event as people from all over the world convened in Jerusalem, heard the gospel, were changed and went back to their culture bearing the good news.
So, because of the character of God, having that global vision and sending people out, and Jesus coming with the global intent of saving the world, because of the character of God, our mission is global.
There's a second reason: Because of the condition of the harvest. The condition of the harvest, the world. The condition of the harvest is that people are soul-sick searching without hope, that's how Paul described it, without God in this world. Do you remember when Jesus was at the Sea of Galilee and he looked over this crowd of people that had gathered? And the Bible says, Matthew 9, "When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd. And then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is truly plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into his harvest field.' Jesus saw there's a lot of people and they are weary and scattered. Or as one translation puts it, "They were exhausted by their troubles and their long and aimless wanderings.' Today there's 6.7 billion people. 6.7 billion people and of those 6.7 billion people so many of them are lost. I told you before that if you were to line up all of the unsaved people, they would form a line that would go around planet Earth thirty times. Thirty times. And the line is growing twenty miles longer every day. Because of the character of God and because of the condition of the harvest, the church must never turn inward and become one giant "Bless Me" club, where all of the activities are just for the members of the club. Our vision must be outward and it must be global.
The third reason that our mission is global is because of what Jesus said and this is really all the reason that we need. Because of the commission of Jesus. You see, it was Christ who said, "Go. Go into all the world and preach the gospel." And in verse 8 of Acts 1, "To the uttermost parts of the earth." Or as my version says, "And to the end of the earth." That's where they were to go.
Now there's an argument that's been floating around for some time against missions, largely by unbelievers, sometimes by liberal so-called Christians. And the argument goes like this: "Well the gospel and Christianity is a Western religion." Really? Huh. In my historical research I've found that it's a Middle Eastern religion and it went from there to over here, to the uttermost parts of the earth. But granted, let's just follow your thinking and say it's a Western religion. And this is what they say next, "It's a Western religion and we have no right to impose our Western religious values on another culture." So missions is largely out of vogue, out of favor, and hostility is growing toward it because preaching the gospel through missions is incompatible with the spirit of tolerance, being tolerant of everyone else's belief, it's an infringement on their culture. One of the spokespeople for this view was none other than rock musician from the 1960s Frank Zappa who became very active against this. And he wrote, "Missionary evangelism is the height of cultural arrogance. To go to someone else's country and attempt through trickery, food, or medical treatment to capture souls for Jesus presumes that the guy with the travel budget and the hypodermic needle has the spiritual edge over the native that he is going to save." Well that may sound very politically correct but it is spiritually incorrect. The gospel message according to Jesus was for the whole world. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son." And when the angel first showed up in Bethlehem to announce Jesus' birth, do you remember what he said? We talk about it every Christmas. "I come to bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all people." Not just Westerners, not just Americans, all people. All people. And here's why: When a person has a disease, treatment for that disease is the same no matter what culture. You take Hanson's Disease, aka leprosy it was called. When the cure was found they discovered you could give that cure to a person living in America or Argentina or Africa. It would work no matter where they lived, no matter what culture. If a person has a heart condition or a lung disease and they require treatment or vaccines, it is a universal application. So it is with the gospel, the cure for sin is universal, it's Jesus Christ, it's for all the world. And the doctor says to us, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel."
So because of the character of god, because of the condition of the harvest and because of the commission of Jesus; and here's a fourth reason it's global: Because of the coming judgment. Now here's something that even Christians often fail to be reminded of. There is a coming judgment, there is a time when evangelism will no longer be possible because God will ultimately and finally judge all of the world. I want you to look at Acts again, verse 9, where we left off in verse 8. The next verse says, "Now when he had spoken these things, while they (the disciples) watched, He (Jesus) was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they watched steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.'" Can you picture the scene? Jesus had died and then he was resurrected. And when he was resurrected, those hopeless disciples were so totally stoked. "He's alive." And they never wanted him to leave. But he spent about a month, month and a half, and they took him to the Mount of Olives one day and they just watched as (whhhzzzsh) and they stood there going, just dumbfounded. And then two angels have to come and just kind of tap them on the shoulder and go, "Uh, ahem. Excuse me. Don't be so distracted with this, just like you were distracted with the kingdom coming to Israel (a few verses back) but this same Jesus that you saw leave will come again in like manner." Question: What will happen when he comes again? What will he come as? A savior? A baby in a crib in Bethlehem? Oh no. He'll come as a judge. The second coming of Christ at some point in the future is when Jesus, Revelation 19, comes as the judge on the white horse, his eyes aflame of fire. A sword comes out of his mouth which is the word of God. His vesture or robe is dipped in blood. "And," the Bible says, "In righteousness He will judge and make war." So in between the first coming and the second coming is this little hiatus of history where we can preach the gospel to all the world because there's coming a day when He'll come again. When He comes again the world will be judged and it will be all over.
Now when he comes again, do you know what the Bible calls that, that time of judgment? Harvest time. Harvest time. That might be different for your thinking because traditionally you have thought of the harvest as the present age when we're sowing seeds and reaping the harvest of souls. But actually the biblical metaphor of the harvest isn't the present but the future. It's the time of future judgment Jesus said in Matthew 13, "The harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as tares are gathered and burned in the fire so it will be at the end of the age." Well no wonder Jesus when he saw the crowd coming toward him in Galilee was so emotionally compassionate for them because he not only saw their present condition, weary and scattered, but their ultimate condition, the harvest. That's why he said, "The harvest is great, the laborers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers out into the field." Jesus could foresee the ultimate consequences of people not trusting in him. And so must we. We're going to take this thing globally if we really believe that. If we could just see the world the way the Bible sees the world. Here's the precarious position that the unbelieving world is in. It's sort of like being on a cruise ship. Now imagine people being on a cruise ship, the ship is sinking but the people on board don't know it. The captain knows it but the people don't know it. That's exactly the position the world's in. So the captain says to the people on the ship, "Hey if you guys are in second class, you can get a free upgrade to first class, absolutely free. And anybody who wants to go to the bar, booze is also free. Have all you want, it's on me. And by the way, if you want to play football or soccer go ahead and play it in the dining room, I don't care. If you break a lamp or something, no big deal. We just want you to have fun on this ship. Now the people aboard that ship are going to think, "This is the coolest captain ever, because he lets us do whatever we want whenever we want." And so the world, like people on that cruise ship, a sinking ship, those people on the boat don't know they'll be dead in ten minutes, they just think they've got a cool captain. The people in this world are like that. And Satan, the captain of the ship, the captain of this world, the Bible calls him the god of this age, the god of this world; feeds people whatever they want to hear so people will think, "Forget about God, we've got a cool captain," not knowing judgment is coming and they will allsoon perish. So God's vision of the gospel is much bigger and wants our vision to be much bigger. We have such tight narrow vision, like mine was for so many years. My career, my job, my home, my family, my deal. And God is saying, "I want you to see my deal. It's global. I loved the world and I still do."
So our mission is global. The second thing, our mission is possible. Mission Impossible was all about the IMF, the Impossible Missions Force. But you're on God's team, you're part of the PMF, Possible Missions Force. This is possible. This global adventure is possible. Now you might be thinking, "Skip you just painted a very dark picture of the condition of our world, 6.7 billion people, unsaved people lining the globe thirty times, the line is growing twenty miles longer every day; how is global evangelization possible? Well, there's two requirements. The first requirement is the filling of the Holy Spirit. Look verse 8, don't miss the prerequisite, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to me." Do you see the relationship between being a witness to all the world and being filled with the Holy Spirit to be able to do that? You see this is not a human endeavor. This is not some human earthly undertaking. This is a spiritual undertaking and it requires spiritual equipping.
You ever wonder how those first disciples could make such a dent on their culture? How do you get a bunch of fisherman to make an impact on spiritual Judaism and secular paganism in a short period of time? It must be the power of the Holy Spirit. That's, by the way, the theme of the book of Acts. Sixty times, I mentioned, the Holy Spirit is mentioned. And I want you to look at just a couple of verses, turn to chapter 4. Just indulge me for a second. I'll only take you to two of the sixty passages.
Acts chapter 4, the church is in trouble, the leaders are arrested. Verse 8, "Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.'" And he gives a very articulate gospel presentation. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Who's doing it? "Peter. Peter, is that you? Is this the same Peter who a few weeks before denied Jesus, even denied that he even knee Jesus?" ‘I don't know who he is, I'm not a follower of his.'" Now Peter is giving a bold and articulate message. So what's the difference between that Peter and this Peter? It says, "Peter filled with the Holy Spirit." Now go to verse 31, this is the whole church, got together and had a prayer meeting. Verse 31, "And when they prayed the place where they were assembled together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they spoke the word of God with boldness." That's the necessary equipment. You would never expect, you would never expect a soldier to go out into battle unless you gave him the right equipment. You give him a gun, you give him protection, then you send him out. You don't send him out to do that without that equipment. You don't send a mechanic to fix a car unless he has tools. You don't ask a surgeon to perform an operation unless he has the equipment. And you don't ask a Christian to go out into all the world unless you have that Christian filled with the Holy spirit. That is the right equipment.
I remember my first encounter with witnessing with somebody. I was a brand new believer and there was one thing I told the Lord I could not do. I said, "Lord I love you but don't ask me to speak for you. I don't have that in me. I'm not equipped. I don't like talking to people about you. I mean I love you and everything but I can't, I can't do this witnessing thing. Other people can but I just, I'm not equipped." My biggest fear was was witnessing and telling an unbeliever about Jesus Christ especially. And I worked at Art Adam's Chevron station in California. And I had a guy who was my supervisor, he was also the coolest guy in our high school class, his name was Angus MacIntosh. I know you're thinking, "How could a cool guy ever be named Angus MacIntosh?" But trust me, he was the cat's meow, he was super cool. And I was afraid of him, I was intimidated and especially now that I was a Christian and I was working with him. But I so wanted to witness to him. Then I read the book of Acts. And I read where Jesus said, "You'll be filled with the power fo the Holy spirit to be my witnesses." And I thought, "That must be it." So I went to work the next day and I simply prayed, "Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, because I want to witness to Angus MacIntosh." And I prayed that. I didn't feel any surge of power, I didn't feel any great empowering or boldness. But I decided to take a step of obedience and just start talking. And as I talked, something happened that had never happened before. I was thinking clearly, scriptures were coming to my mind, I was able to boldly and articulately represent Christ as his witness because of that experience.
That is prerequisite number one, when filled with the Holy Spirit our mission is possible. Second, when followers become fisherman. Now let's go back to that metaphor that Jesus used, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." Okay, so those disciples, those apostles, those twelve, what were they before they were disciples? They were fishermen. But, in the spiritual sense, what were they? They were fish. Jesus came, threq his net out, caught them, "Follow me." Now they were saved, now they were following him, they were spiritually fish but Jesus said, "I will make you become fishers of men." And when followers of Christ become fishers for Christ, or another way of putting it, when the saved become the sent, filled with the Holy Spirit, this mission is possible. That's God's plan: Save them, turn them loose. Turn them loose filled with my Holy Spirit in whatever culture or situation they happen to be in, at home or abroad, and it's possible.
I'm going to bring one little scripture in at this point that I think will be helpful. It's one of those scriptures that you probably have read and said, "Huh?" Thinks that make you go, "Huh?" would be this scripture. John 14 verse 12, "Most assuredly," Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also and greater works than these will he do because I go to my Father." "Huh?" I read about the works of Jesus, he just said, ‘I'm going to do them and I'm going to do greater works.' Now what does that mean? Does that mean miraculous physical healings we're going to do? I've heard that preached. That Jesus did miracles and healings and we too if we're truly following him are also going to." Really? So I've read the gospels before and I've counted about forty different miracles that Jesus did including walking on the water, turning water into wine, raising the dead, feeding five thousand. So I would ask you, when was the last time you raised somebody from the dead? And when Jesus promised we're going to do greater works, did he mean we're going to raise more people from the dead than he did? Did he mean we're going to jog on the water whereas he walked?" He turned water into wine, do we get to turn water into Pepsi or whatever drink we fancy? No I don't think he means that at all. Because as I read the Bible, I believe the greatest work is not physical healing but salvation. What if a person is physically healed but never receives Christ? And he dies and spends forever in hell healthy? What good was that? The greatest work possible is that of salvation. And when Jesus said, "Greater works." He must have meant grater in extent. Now follow me here, when Jesus was on the earth, he had very limited ministry. He preached only to the people of Israel with maybe a couple exceptions: Tyre and Sidon. But basically he preached to the people of Israel. After he ascended into heaven, within thirty years the gospel through his disciples went from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Ethiopia, Greece, Macedonia, Iraq, and India. Now he has representatives all over the world, offices in every country. And think of the world evangelization that has taken place since then. That's why Acts 1 begins by saying, "the former account," this is Luke writing, "the former account that I made, Theophilus," this is referring to the gospel of Luke, "of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day in which he as taken up." See I wrote the gospel of Luke tot tlel you what Jesus started. Now I'm going to give you the sequel, this is what Jesus continues to do now that he has ascended and given his Holy Spirit to these men and women called the church. Now the gospel gets out. So "greater works" must mean works quantitatively not qualitatively because Jesus is multiplied in us all.
SO, your mission should you decide to accept it, is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. But will you accept it? Maybe you'll say, "Well I'm just not cut out for that." And maybe not, maybe that's true, maybe your goal given to you by God isn't to go but to see send people who are goers, to support them financially, to pray for them. But we can all do something, we can all partner.
The other day I was in a doctor's office with my wife and I spent an hour, hour and a half, two hours in the waiting room. There was a woman who was there with her daughter. And the woman who brought her daughter, the woman had a physical disability. She moved very slowly, she had to bring an oxygen tank with her. But she ws a Christian. I knew because I heard the conversation that she had with her daughter. And when her daughter went in to see the doctor, and when this lady was left alone, I saw her very simply discreetly close her eyes and begin praying. And I was close enough that I could hear her pray for this person and for that person in that place and that person in that place. And she was doing god's work traveling on her knees, or in her seat. And then another lady walked by and this sweet gal said, "You know you have a beautiful blouse on." And the lady stops and goes, "Oh, well thank you very much." And then this lady said, "Hey do you mind if I pray for you?" And the lady goes, "What?!?" She never heard that in a doctor's office. What?!? She goes, "I'd like to pray for you. I believe the Lord put you on my heart, I want to pray for you." And so she prayed for her and then witnessed to her about the Lord. And I was so inspired, I went over, introduced myself, gave her a big kiss on the cheek and I said, "You know what, you're God's witness." This physical disability was not going to keep her from praying and dong what she could wherever she was. That's taking this seriously. The mission is the great commission.
In 1963, it took the world two hours to hear of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In 1999, it took the world two minutes to hear of the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Jesus Christ two thousand years ago stepped out of heaven, came to earth and died for the sins of mankind and half the world hasn't heard. So we got to ramp this thing up a little bit, like Coca Cola. You know Coca-Cola said years ago their goal was to have everybody in the world taste Coca-Cola by the year 2000. Now they didn't achieve their goal but you should know that ninety-seven percent of the world has heard of Coca-Cola, seventy-two percent of the world has seen a can of Coca-Cola and fifty-one percent of the world has tasted the product of Coke. Do you know how long Coke's been around? About a hundred years. We've been around two thousand years. And Jesus said, "Go, into all the world." That's our mission. We're on a mission from God.
Heavenly Father, we pray that as your church we would never turn inward, that we would not make everything about our programs and our comfort and our Bible studies and our worship services, but about your global vision. Certainly one thing is not to be neglected over another, all of these are important. But your vision is so large and you loved the worl andyou told us to go from the place where we are and spread it around even to the end of the world. Thank you Lord tthat we have radio and television and prnt material and all of that, but more than that men and women filled with the power of your Holy Spirit, becoming fishers of men. We ask Lord that you'd empower us and go out today in our community and be a witness. In Jesus' name. Amen.