March 11, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
I want to invite you to write down 6 words. The first 3 words are: Finish the Mission. Write that down. The next 3 are: In our Lifetime!
Finish the Mission in our Lifetime!
Here is what those 6 words are communicating to you. We are the first generation in human history- Calvary Baptist Church and Jesus’s church universal is the first generation in history that has the ability to finish the mission of God. We call the mission of God the Great Commission. We can finish this in our lifetime, and if we can finish the mission of God in our lifetime, we must finish the mission of God in our lifetime, and if we don’t, we’re the only ones to blame for it. It’s not God’s fault.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been around here for 6 days or 60 years. Let me tell you about this church. This church exists to do one thing. It’s called the Great Commission. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28. We’re not going to turn there, but you can summarize that entire statement in Matthew 28, verses 19 and 20 into only 2 words. If you’ve been around here before, you’ve heard me say this. What are the 2 words that communicate everything you need to know about the Great Commission? -Make disciples.
Today I’m going to start a 3-week sermon series describing for us not just what are we supposed to be doing as a church, but how are we going to do that? We have 3 words. I’m going to give you some Calvary Baptist Church math today. The first sermon is: Reach out to 3 people who don’t know Jesus. Open your life up to them, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, maybe they’ll become followers of Jesus. Reach 3 people.
Next week’s sermon is: Build into one person. Go really deep with one person and build into that one person until they are trained up and ready to go and ready to do this with 3 more people.
The third sermon in this series: Send that one person out. You and that one person go out, and you start doing this with other people until you become 2 unstoppable people for the Kingdom of God. Here’s the entire sermon series for 3 weeks: Reach. Build. Send.
Now, I want everyone to understand that when we talk about making disciples, we are describing not just what we are going to do, but we’re describing how are we doing that as a church? How is any church (not just our church) supposed to be doing that? But here’s what sets the stage for this whole sermon series. Here’s what sets the stage for everything that you’re going to hear from me today: Everyone -everyone in the Chattahoochee Valley, everyone in America, everyone on Planet Earth- deserves to hear what Jesus Christ did for them 2000 years ago on the cross. Everyone deserves to hear it. The problem is, many people are stuck in this swamp of sin, and they don’t have that message because nobody’s come to them and shared that message with them. Nobody’s reached out to them right where they are. Everyone deserves to hear what Jesus did for them, until there’s nobody left to tell. That’s when the mission has been finished, and I’m convinced we can do it in our lifetime.
What we’re going to do for the next few moments is, we’re going to talk about the people who are not here today. We’re going to talk about people who don’t go to church, don’t know Jesus, have no real interest in what we’re doing. If you look at the banners outside of the worship center in the welcome center, you will see what we’re describing today is the overwhelming majority of the Chattahoochee Valley (this is 60,70, probably more like 80% of the people who live in our neighborhoods). This is where they live.
I. They are spiritually clueless
I’m going to give you 4 statements that the Bible makes that will help you describe what it’s like before somebody introduces you to Jesus. What is life like if you don’t know Jesus Christ personally? These 4 statements come naturally out of the Bible. Here’s the first statement. Write this down. People who don’t know Jesus personally, don’t go to church (and we can call them unchurched; we can call them de-churched, meaning Mom and Dad took them to church when they were a child, but the second that they got a chance to stop going. When Mom and Dad stopped making them go, they checked out of church altogether, and they want nothing to do with it), folks who aren’t here today because they don’t want to be here today, they’re spiritually clueless.
Now, I want you to understand what this phrase means. I’m not saying that they are atheists. There are a few atheists in our community, but very few. Most of these folks we’re talking about today are very spiritual people. They are hungry, and they’re longing for something. They just don’t know what the answers are, which is what makes them clueless. I’m not saying just that they’re clueless. I’m saying that they’re both spiritual and clueless at the same time, which makes them spiritually clueless. So, we have to help them understand something, explain something to them that they’ve never heard before, or maybe it’s just never sunk in before. Here’s how the Bible refers to these people who don’t know Jesus personally. Here’s how spiritually clueless they are. Romans chapter 10, starting in verse 14:
How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
I love this verse because it’s so simple. Here’s what it says: People don’t know, and they don’t believe because they don’t understand, and they don’t understand because nobody has gone to them and helped them understand. And how can somebody go to them and help them understand unless they’re sent as a preacher? It’s saying, of course people are spiritually clueless. They’re clueless because nobody’s helped them understand the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them.
Now, I owe it to you to tell you, if you go out there and look at those banners, you check out Russell and Lee County, Alabama, if you go out there and see the spiritual condition of Harrison and Muscogee County, Georgia, you’re going to see a lot of people in our community fit this verse right here, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Jeff, there is a church on every corner. They can just get up and go to church if they want to hear about Jesus.” Yeah, they can, but they’re not going to because that’s not the age that we live in anymore. That was the way our country functioned 50 years ago, but we don’t function like that anymore. People don’t get up and go to church to get answers. It’s time for us to bring the answers to them.
But I want to go back to something that you just saw in the Bible a second ago. See this word preacher? Don’t make the mistake. This is not the office of pastor. In fact, it’s a very different word the Bible is using here than pastor or the preacher that we use in our vocabulary today. Here’s what this word literally means in the New Testament: It means I herald. -somebody who just explains the news. If you were to ask, “What’s the modern-day equivalent of this word?”, it would be a news broadcaster, and basically a preacher is anybody who’s explaining the good news, just making public what they already have heard or what they are already aware of.
You see, the whole system in Romans chapter 10 is based on this. If you don’t go preach, nobody can understand the truth, and nobody’s going to follow Jesus if nobody is going and nobody is preaching. And the preaching that we’re talking about is just simply telling people what Jesus did inside you. That’s what it means to be a herald or a messenger of the good news.
Now, I almost did this today. I almost asked everybody in the first service, “Hey, take your shoes and socks off, and put your feet in front of the person next to you. I want them to see your feet, because the Bible is saying for us today, it is beautiful, the feet of somebody who came to you and brought you the good news.”
I’ll be honest with you. Anybody who is sharing their faith with somebody else, anybody who has been part of a miracle of God (God used you to take some man or some woman from dead in sin to alive in Christ), you know exactly what this verse means, because most of us who have been part of this process have had the thrill of seeing somebody bow their knees and surrender their soul to Jesus Christ, and being part of that process is almost as awesome as the moment you bowed your knees and you surrendered your soul to Jesus Christ. It’s awesome to be a messenger of the good news, to be a preacher with beautiful feet sharing with somebody else your story of what Jesus has done for you.
II. They have been tricked
What I’m trying to tell you from the Bible today is, we who know Jesus Christ personally, we have an obligation to tell people who don’t know Jesus about him. This is what we mean as a church by reaching out and by sharing the message of Jesus. -because here is the truth: Not only are people who don’t know Jesus spiritually clueless; they’ve actually been lied to. They’ve been tricked, and here’s the lie. If you get practice regularly sharing your faith, you’re going to hear this, because some people around us believe, “Well, I believe in God but I believe that God is a good God, and he wouldn’t ever send somebody to Hell. I mean, a good God would never do that, right?”
Or they’ll say something like this: “Maybe God sends people to Hell, but he only sends the worst people there like Osama bin Laden or Adolf Hitler. Those guys are going to Hell, but I’m a pretty good person. I’m going to go to Heaven because I’m not nearly as bad as those people.” And when you get involved in a discussion with them, here’s the lie that the they end up believing. The discussion is going to end up sounding something like this: “I’m a pretty good person. My good deeds are going to outweigh my bad deeds at the end of my life, and because I have more good deeds than bad deeds, God is going to let me into Heaven, because of my good deeds, right?”
Those of you who know the Bible, is that accurate? No! That is a lie straight from Satan that will send somebody directly to the pit of Hell. Here’s what the Bible teaches: There is no amount of good deeds that will get you to Heaven. You do one bad deed one time and for the rest of your life do nothing but good deeds, it doesn’t outweigh the bad. Somebody is going to have to die for the bad deeds that you’ve done. Those are called sin, and the payment for sin is death. That’s the only acceptable payment.
So, now who’s going to die on your behalf? You or somebody else. You or Jesus. Most people who don’t know Jesus personally have been tricked into believing this lie: “If I’m better at the end of my life, if I’ve done more good than bad certainly God’s going to let me into Heaven, right? That lie will cause people to end up directly in the pit of Hell. That lie is what’s described for us in 2nd Corinthians chapter 4. These people who have been tricked into believing a lie, here’s what the Bible says:
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. 2 Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. 3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
You see what the Bible is saying? Lots of people don’t understand the truth. They’ve been tricked, and in fact, the Bible will describe how they’ve been tricked in verse 3.
The Bible is saying here, when we go talk to people, we’re not talking about us; we’re here to talk to them about Jesus, and a really powerful way to do that is to just simply say what Jesus has already done inside of us, and not only has he done that inside of us, but he can do it for them too. This is just sharing your story and telling people how Jesus is changed you. Your story is very powerful because no one can look at you in the eyes and say, “That never happened.” They may not believe it can happen to them, but they can’t look you in the face and say, “Yeah, that never happened to you.” That’s one of the things that makes this story so powerful. That’s why 2nd Corinthians says, when we go talk to people, we’re not commending ourselves; we’re not making ourselves look good. No, we’re going to talk to people to make Jesus look good.
We are to commend Jesus. The Bible describes this as a ministry of reconciliation. It’s reconciling sinful man to a holy God, and that is only possible through the death of Jesus, and that’s the ministry that we’ve been given by God. We’ve been given it because he showed us mercy. He’s given us grace, and he wants us to show mercy and give grace to people who are in need, and you do this by proclaiming. If you don’t proclaim, nobody hears.
I almost didn’t use this passage today because there’s been some really bad teaching that’s infiltrated Jesus’s church for hundreds of years, and this passage is where some of that train has derailed. It actually started a long time ago with a Catholic priest by the name of Francis of Assisi, and one of the things that St. Francis of Assisi said was, “Preach always. When necessary, use words.” Hey, I get where he’s coming from. In fact, I totally understand the thought behind this phrase, but he’s wrong. That’s not what the Bible is teaching. What Francis is saying is, you’re supposed to show people by the way that you live that Jesus is real, that he really has cleaned you up, that he really has changed you.
Of course, people need to see that, but it’s not good enough just to see it. You also need to say it, and where this thing went wrong is, many people believe, “Well, if I just show people that Jesus is my Savior, they’ll stumble into Christianity. They’ll just kind of fall into it face-forward.” But that’s not what the Bible’s teaching. It’s saying, “Show it and say it. Show people that Jesus is real because he’s changed your life, but you also have to proclaim it. You also have to say it. You also have to make it very clear.”
Here’s what I would tell Francis: Preach always, and always use words, but use your life at the same time. See, people who don’t know Jesus, people who don’t care about Jesus, they are spiritually clueless. They don’t know, because nobody’s explained it to them. They’ve been tricked into believing a lie.
III. They are primed to be plucked
Here’s another thing that’s true about them: They are primed and ready. They’re low-hanging fruit in the orchard ready to be plucked, and somebody just needs to go to them and to explain the message to them. This is not a program at Calvary Baptist Church. This is just you naturally going through your day and sharing who Jesus is, opening your life up and sharing who Jesus is with people who are part of your circle already. By the way, this is how Jesus told his disciples to go do the Great Commission. In Matthew chapter 9, he was sending them out, and he reminded his disciples, “Hey, God is already at work in front of you. He’s already preparing people’s hearts ahead of time, and you may not even possibly understand how they’ve been longing and struggling and wanting answers, and when you show up, God’s already got them ready. All you need to do is be faithful to explain the message. Matthew 9, verse 37 and 38:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
The harvest that Jesus was talking about are people’s souls, and he said they are ready. They are willing. They are waiting. The problem is, there’s not enough workers going out into the vineyard, into the orchard, to harvest the work that God is already doing.
In Jesus’s day, this was supposed to be very normal, very natural. As you go to work, as you’re going to school, when you’re hanging out with your hunting buddies, when you’re going to the gym with the ladies, just share with them what Jesus has already done for you, and just share it very naturally. And by the way, don’t be surprised when they ask you how they can have that too, because God’s been working in their heart maybe for weeks or months or years, and you’re the first person ever to answer some questions that they’ve been looking for a long time, and you have the privilege of seeing them bow their knee and surrender their soul to Jesus Christ. God’s already doing this in their life; you’re not doing it. He’s doing it. It’s the Holy Spirit who’s already working and your job, my job is to just go out there and to be faithful to share the message.
IV. They will listen to your story
Just reach out to the people who are already in your life, because here’s the bottom line: When you do this by the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m 100% convinced they’ll listen to your story. I didn’t say that they will all receive Christ. In fact, that’s not what the Bible teaches. But every one of them will listen, and some of them, I am convinced, will become followers of Christ if you’ll just simply share your story.
In the Bible, there’s this extreme case of racism. It’s Jews in the South who absolutely hate a race of people from the north called the Samaritans. They hate these people more than they hate the Roman Empire that’s oppressing them, and the Jews want nothing to do with the people who live north of them in this land of Samaria. So, in John chapter 4, Jesus decides to tell the disciples, “Hey, pack up a lunch. We’re going to take a road trip, and we’re going to go up north. We’re going to go to Samaria.
And when he gets up there, Jesus sends his disciples to go buy some food, and it’s hot. Jesus is thirsty. He goes and sits down by a well in this town of Samaria. A woman from the town comes to sit down by the well. Jesus just simply starts to have a natural conversation with her, and the conversation goes from talking about water and talk about this well, to talking about worshiping God, and in the process, this woman, this Samaritan woman, becomes a Christian. I want you to notice what she does next. Look, the best that we know, she’s been a Christian for 15 minutes, and she goes back and starts telling people in town about Jesus.
Did you hear what I just said? It means she doesn’t know any Bible answers. She hasn’t memorized any scripture. She doesn’t have a whole plan of salvation memorized in the back of her mind. She’s just so fired up about what Jesus did for her, she wants everybody else in town to know what Jesus did for her. John chapter 4, starting in verse 39. It’s fascinating what the Bible says about that town because of this woman. Here’s what the Bible says:
Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of what he said. 42 And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”
They haven’t met Jesus personally. They’ve never heard that men preach. They’ve never had a chance to see him cure the sick. This woman goes back to her neighborhood, and she starts telling people what Jesus did, and many people come to faith in Jesus because of this woman who’s been a Christian for about 15 minutes at this point, and here’s why: They’re seeing a miracle happen right before their very eyes, because they know this woman. They know the kind of lifestyle that she’s lived, and now they’re sitting in front of her. That’s radically different. Something happened to her. Maybe it can happen to me too. And people start to believe in Jesus before they’ve even seen him with their own eyes because this woman is just simply sharing her own story with them.
Look at what it says. Jesus is not just the savior of the Jews, not just the savior of a small group of people. This is the savior of the Samaritans. This is the Savior of every race and every nation and every color of skin. We just realized, that guy’s here for us too, and we realize that because this lady who had known Jesus for about 15 minutes started to do what’s just natural after you give your life to Jesus. You just want to tell everybody how awesome it is, and it’s only natural. This woman just simply does something very natural. She just simply shares her story, and she tells other people about Jesus.
Everyone in this room who knows Jesus personally, you have the exact same story that you can tell. You can do this on the escalator at the Peachtree Mall. Here’s how long it takes: “This is who I was before I came to know Jesus Christ personally. This is what Jesus did for me, and he can do the same thing for you. It takes about 30 seconds to tell somebody what Jesus has done for you, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s a very powerful witness, because as I said, no one can argue with your story. They may not believe it. They may not think he can do the same thing for them, but they can’t look you in the eyes and say, “Yeah, that never happened to you.” That’s what makes your story so powerful.
I’m going to try to wrap up today with a story. I may have told y’all are this already. I don’t remember, but I’ll tell you about a time when I was in Central America in the country of Panama, going down there to do some training. I was trying to become an expert on fighting in the jungles. I was a sergeant in the Ranger Regiment. This is a million years ago, and they sent us down to the country of Panama, me in a small team of Rangers, to go down there and to learn how to fight on any battlefield anywhere in the world, to include the jungle.
So, we went down the Panama to learn how to fight in the jungle. Here’s what I learned down there: They’ve got killer bees, they’ve got poison arrow frogs, they’ve got cutter ants, and they’ve got the bushmaster snake. Everything in the jungle wants to kill you, not to mention the people who may be trying to kill you.
One of the things that we went down there to do is to learn how to walk through the jungles and how to fight in a triple canopy jungle. Well, there was a part of the map that everyone, even the local experts, said, “Don’t go in there. Nobody goes in there. They call it impassable terrain, which means it’s impossible to pass through that terrain. Do you know what happens when you tell 6 Army Rangers, “Don’t go into terrain like that, because nobody goes in there”? Do you know what they’re going to do? Of course, they’re going to go in there, and of course they’re going to try to see if they can make it through there. And you know what? The experts are right, because this Mojinga Swamp in the country of Panama is a mangrove swamp, and a mangrove swamp, in this case, is where the roots of the trees grow above ground, 3 or 4 feet above ground. And no human being goes through that kind of swamp.
Here you have these 6 arrogant Army Rangers who decide, “We’re going to try to move several hundred yards through this mangrove swamp, and we’re hours into it right now, and we move a couple of yards (maybe 100 or 200 yards), and we are totally lost and in trouble. Now, I’m at this time the team radio telephone operator, and I got the radio, and our team leader says, “Jeff, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to call back to our commander.” This so embarrassing; Rangers hate to do this. “We’re going to have to call back to the commander and tell him we’re lost, and you know what everybody’s going to say about us when they hear this, right? So, stop what you’re doing, and put your radio in operation. Call the commander, and tell him we’re lost. And tell him we need help.”
We’ve been walking for about 3 or 4 hours and never touched the ground. 6 grown men with 100 pounds worth of lightweight equipment and never touched the ground because we’ve been walking on the roots of this mangrove swamp for hours. I call back to our commander and I say, “We’re lost, and we’re in the Mojinga Swamp and we’re in trouble.” And I could hear them on the other end of the radio saying, “You went where?! Why did you go in there? You’re crazy! What were you thinking?”The bottom line is, the commander sends folks to come get us, and it takes a lot of people and a lot of time to get these 6 arrogant Rangers out of the Mojinga Swamp in Panama.
I want you to hear something. These are some of the best- trained warriors on earth. We’re carrying some of the greatest equipment available to man. In fact, we’re carrying some prototype equipment that nobody else has access to. If a person or equipment can get you through that swamp, we would’ve made it through on our own, and we can’t get through it on our own. So, our commander has to send somebody in to get us and to bring us out.
And I’ve been using language all day long today on purpose, but your friend, your next-door neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus personally, they’re stuck in the swamp of sin. They can’t get out on their own, and they need somebody who will go in there with them and help them find their way out. There’s only one way out of the swamp of sin. It is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and God is calling us, all of us in this room who know him personally to go to your next-door neighbor. He is calling you to reach out to your co-worker, to talk to your classmate, to the lady you go to the gym with, to your hunting buddy, to whoever it is, and to share with them what Jesus has done for you. You don’t have to memorize a program. Just simply tell them who you were before you found Christ, what he did for you and how he can do the same thing for them. If you’ll be faithful, you can be part of the generation that finishes the mission of God in our lifetime.
• I realize that Jesus went to the cross for me. Today, I surrender my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I have been keeping the most important message a secret lately. Pray for me to be more open about my faith tomorrow at work or school.
+ I will open up my life to _________, __________, & ________ this year.
- Who first shared with you what Jesus did on the cross? Was that the moment that you surrendered to Christ?
- Is it possible that someone can live a lifetime in our city and never hear the Gospel? (Explain your answer.)
- What tools does Satan use to keep people spiritually clueless in our day?
- If the fields are ready to be harvested, why aren’t more Christians doing the harvesting?
- Read 2 Timothy 4:5. What does it look like to “do the work of an evangelist”?
- Why is “your story” such a powerful tool for the Gospel?
- Pray that God will give you a burden for people who don’t know Jesus.