21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia,22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”
David Brooks, who is an American political and cultural commentator, wrote an article for the New York Times early last year, called “The Self-Reliant Generation.” He was, of course, referring to the millennials born between early 1980s and early 2000s. In it, he identified some characteristics of the millennials, one of which was self-reliance. He wrote,
Another glaring feature of millennial culture is they have been forced to be self-reliant and to take a loosely networked individualism as the normal order of the universe. Millennials have extremely low social trust. According to Pew Research, just 19 percent say most people can be trusted, compared with 40 percent of boomers. This leads to detachment from large entities. Just 32 percent of millennials say America is the greatest country on earth, compared with 50 percent of boomers. Millennials are very suspicious of organized religion. 35 percent say they are unaffiliated with any religious group, compared with 23 percent of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980).
Indeed, this is the reality. More and more teenagers are quitting church, believing that watching YouTube sermons is enough. Also, millennials have been brought up to think and judge for themselves rather than to go along with the established knowledge and tradition. They have been brought up in an individualistic society, where individual performance and satisfaction is more important than teamwork. Self-reliance became the norm of the millennial generation.
Nevertheless, millennials are hardly the first generation to introduce the concept of self-reliance in our society. In late 1820 and 1830s, just a few decades after the foundation of this nation, there was already a philosophical movement called Transcendentalism. Its core beliefs were that the people and nature were inherently good, that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individuals, and that people are at their best when they are left truly self-reliant and independent.
This idea may have propelled the nation to grow rapidly as a whole. Since the forefathers of this nation decided to have its independent country 241 years ago, people were expected to take care of themselves as free and independent citizens. Self-reliance became the standard. And because of this, it motivated people to seek a better life for themselves, and likely fueled the Industrial Revolution during that same historical period. Based on such culture, the result is that, today, United States is one of the most advanced nations in the world.
However, this idea of self-reliance and independence has a detrimental spiritual side-effect. The idea that people were inherently good reduced the need for repentance onto God. Pursuit of self-reliance meant less reliance on God. Pursuit of individualism meant self-centered life instead of a life that seeks after the good of others.
One of the intellectuals who led this Transcendentalism was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was one of the champions of self-reliance and individualism. He started out his career well by establishing his own school and being the schoolmaster. He even went to Harvard Divinity School, and upon graduation, was invited to serve as the junior pastor at Boston’s Second Church. However, when his wife of only 2 years fell sick and was dying of tuberculosis, he began to doubt his own beliefs. After his wife’s death, he began to have disagreements with the church, and then began to think that the profession of pastoring was antiquated. Consequently, he left the ministry soon thereafter. A few years later, he was invited to Harvard to deliver the school’s graduation address. In his address, he discounted biblical miracles and proclaimed that, while Jesus was a great man, he was not God. This obviously outraged the establishment and the general Protestant community, and he was denounced as an atheist and a poisoner of young men’s minds. It was intellectuals like Emerson who advocated for self-reliance and individualism.
Self-reliance runs contrary to the biblical principle to rely our lives on God like a child. The self-relying world encourages us to be self-sufficient, while the Bible declares that our sufficiency is from God (2 Cor. 3:5). The self-relying world tells us to trust one’s own instinct and understanding, while the Bible calls us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The self-relying world tells us to get ahead of others by whatever means necessary, while the Bible calls us to be humble and regard others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). The tension is clear between the self-relying culture that we live in and the God-relying principle that we are called to live.
This self-reliant culture has unfortunately affected the church negatively. Many ministries and missions rely on manpower and money rather than on God. There are often more Martha’s in the church doing work rather than Mary’s who humbly soaks in the word of Jesus at His feet. We sometimes see church volunteers who think that the church will come to a grinding halt if they ever step down from their service. Many of these well-intended believers operate out of such self-reliant and individualistic mindset of this world.
So, when Jesus was sending out his 72 disciples for missions, he made sure that they would have a God-reliant mindset. If you remember the sermon a few weeks ago, Jesus instructed His disciples in Luke 10:4, “Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals.” In other words, don’t be self-reliant; be God-reliant! And when the disciples returned with great joy in their success in missions, Jesus instructed them on having a humble, God-reliant mentality.
Let’s look at that interaction a little more closely. Today’s message is titled “Fulfill God’s Mission (Part 4)”, which is the last part of this series. We’ll look at how our attitudes should be as we engage and fulfill God’s Mission. In Luke 10:17, it reads, “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, ‘Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!’” You can sense a great deal of amazement and excitement from the disciples. The disciples were able to drive out demons from sick people in Jesus’s name, which is something they had never done before.
To be clear, when it says that the disciples used Jesus’s name, this is not about using His name as some kind of magical spell, but it is another way of saying “by the power of Jesus.” We know that using Jesus’s name merely as a magical spell does not work because of the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19. They tried to perform exorcism by invoking the name of Jesus without accepting Him as the Messiah. In response, the evil spirit said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” And then, the man with evil spirit jumped on them and beat them so hard that they ran away naked and bleeding.
On the other hand, when a believer truly believes in the power and authority in Jesus, the believer is able to drive out demons in the name of Jesus. I had a seminary friend who, upon graduation, went to a 3rd-world country as a full-time missionary. And as you may know, there are more demon-possessed people accessible in public in those countries as opposed to America where demon-possessed people are usually locked up in mental institutions. One time, this friend wrote us a letter that described his experience of exorcising a demon-possessed girl. (Mind you, we were trained from a Baptist seminary, and so we didn’t get much training on exorcism.) At first, the spiritist of the village was called in to exorcise the evil spirit out of her, but it didn’t work no matter how hard the spiritist tried. Then, my friend thought that maybe he should pray for her. So, he went over and prayed over her in the name of the Jesus that the evil spirit come out of her. He was hoping that her mind would calm down and get healed. Instead, the girl began to scream with an altered voice and convulsed on the ground uncontrollably. And then, all of a sudden, the girl returned to a normal, peaceful state of mind. I don’t remember exactly what he said in response, but I believe his words could be summarized in three letters: “O.M.G.” He never experienced such a thing, so he had to write that in a letter and send it to us.
We see this same excitement from the 72 disciples who experience the power of Jesus. They were ecstatic like children because of the miraculous work that they did in Jesus’s name! Church, I want you to know that you, too, carry that power in you. As Apostle Peter puts it, those of us, who have repented and got baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the same powerful Spirit of God that Jesus had, and it is available to us as well.
What does Jesus say in response to the disciples report? In v.18, Jesus says, “Yes, I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!” What Jesus saw in the spiritual realm was the beginning of the destruction of His enemy. Satan fell from heaven like lighting! This almost gives me the imagery of Thor hitting someone with his hammer so hard that the opponent gets flung miles down the road. Satan is not completely destroyed yet and he can still be quite annoying in our lives, but the path of his destruction is set in motion.
Jesus continues in v.19, “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.” Now, if you take this literally and try this out, you will most-likely end up in an Emergency Room. The reason why you don’t want to try this is because A) the Bible says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test,” and, more importantly, B) the snakes and scorpions refer to the spiritual enemies. Just like Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent, these snakes and scorpions also refer to the demons of the spiritual realm. That’s why Jesus said, “I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy,” not the power of poisonous creatures. The reptile is not our enemy; Satan is. Jesus promises that his demons cannot harm us, but rather we can crush them with the power and authority of Jesus.
Church, this encouragement of Jesus to His disciples is an encouragement for us as well, who has the Spirit of God indwelling. There is nothing - no spirit of fear, no spirit of anxiety, no spirit of evil – that can withstand the power of our Lord Jesus. And with His Spirit in us, we are invincible with eternal life and powerful to do the works that Jesus did. In fact, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
But before Jesus’s disciples got all puffed up for the powerful work that they did, Jesus gave them an important word of caution. In v. 20, he says, “But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” What is he saying when he says, “But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you?” He is telling His disciples not to get arrogant that the evil spirits obey them. Without the power and authority of Jesus, the disciples have nothing. So, in a word, Jesus is reminding them to be humble. There is nothing to brag about. We must be quick to confess what Apostle Paul confessed, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Jesus tells his disciples not to get puffed up, but he does say, “Rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” In other words, He says to rejoice for fact that they are confirmed to be part of the Kingdom of God. The fact that the power of God was manifested in the disciples’ ministry confirmed that they were legitimate children of God, and that was something to rejoice over. This doesn’t mean that a person is not saved if he/she hasn’t performed a miracle, but it is saying that the miracle work is a confirmation to his/her faith. So, Jesus’s cautionary words to His disciples were this: Don’t be cocky when God works through you. Stay humble and just rejoice in the salvation you have in Christ.
This message is very important for us today. In an individualistic world that we live in, we can easy become self-reliant in God’s ministry and self-promoting when things happen to go well. Jesus is cautioning us not to be like that. The Pharisees were famous for self-reliance and self-promotion. They would attempt to perform all the religious duties out of self-reliance for salvation and expect honor and esteem from others out of self-promotion. Jesus hated that. Instead, His instruction for us was, “When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” And when God works miracles through us, we must be quick to turn the attention to God and give Him the glory. Apostle Peter’s response to Cornelius should be that of ours as well. After the Pentecost, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and did great wonders in his ministry. So, when Cornelius met Peter in Acts 10, Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet in reverence, but Peter made him get up and said, “Stand up. I am only a man myself.” The lesson for us is the same: be humble and stay humble, especially when God works through you in amazing ways.
In the following section of the passage, Jesus lifts up a prayer of thanksgiving to His Father. Let me just go over the first part of it. He prays in v.21, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.” To be childlike doesn’t mean to be juvenile and immature, but means to be God-reliant, not self-reliant. It means to have faith in the power of God, not skeptical of His power. As it is written in Hebrews 11:6, “it is impossible to please God without faith.” In other words, faith is essential to please God. And, to have faith is to take risk and depend on God. That is a God-reliant mentality. And when we take that approach like a child, the work of God can be done through us.
Brothers and sisters, would you like to experience God’s power in your life? Would you like to be used by God to touch others’ lives in powerful ways? Then start by having a humble, God-reliant attitude. This afternoon, we’ll have our summer mission trip orientation, and the cost may be a little daunting, but again, have a God-reliant mindset. Fully trust that God can provide all your needs, and that He can powerfully bring about the good works He has planned for you and those you minister. It is my prayer that, as we humble ourselves and have a God-reliant mentality, God would bless us and bless others through us in unimaginable ways. And when God does some amazing work through us, I pray that we would be quick to say “To God be the glory!”
10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ 12 I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.
This coming Friday is Good Friday. It is a special day to commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus and His death at Calvary. It is a day to reflect on the enormous cost paid for our sins to be forgiven. But, before I go any further, let me first clarify a few things about this name, Calvary. It is the English name for the place where Jesus was crucified. It has nothing to do with cavalry or caviar. They just happen to sound similar. The original Greek word, Kranion (meaning “skull”) was translated to the Latin word, Calvaria, and from there, we get the English word, Calvary. This is the name Luke used to describe where Jesus was crucified. What about “Golgotha”? The gospel of Mathew, Mark, and John says Jesus died at the place called “Golgotha.” Is this place different from “Calvary?” No. “Golgotha” is derived from the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word, “Gulgata,” which also means “skull.” So, just like Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing, Calvary and Golgotha are the same place-name. It was the place where Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection from people – the people for whom he came to save as the sinless sacrifice.
Although it is unlikely that we, currently living an America, will face the kind of rejection and death that Jesus experienced, there is still plenty of hostility against Christians for the truth that we hold today. Whereas the world endorses tolerance and inclusivity, we uphold the truth that Jesus exclusively is the only way for salvation. Whereas the world promotes pro-choice and gay-rights, we uphold the biblical principle of pro-life and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Whereas the world is becoming more nationalistic and xenophobic, we uphold the biblical principle to care for the hurting, the poor, and the marginalized wherever they come from. Our Christian stance very much opposes the current trend of this world. So, it is no surprise that persecution against Christians is rising around the world.
You, too, will face rejection as you engage more and more in God’s ministry and His mission. If you are not facing any rejection from others because of your faith, it could be an indication that you are going along with the flow of the world. And going along with the world is not a good thing because, if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15). On the other hand, Apostle Peter says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:14).” It is an encouragement for us to press on and work hard in the ministry of God in spite of the fear of rejection of men.
Yet, the fear of rejection of others is not easy to overcome. Some fear that they would get ostracized just by saying the name of Jesus. Some fear to speak out the biblical truth when they see something that’s not right. And some have the worldly desire to blend in and seek approval of others. The Bible calls this the fear of men. Proverbs 29:25 says that “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” We are called to fear and revere God, not men, because the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Unfortunately, some Christians still fall into this trap of fearing the rejection of others.
This was probably no different for the 72 disciples who were being sent out to tell people to turn away from their sins for the kingdom of God is near. Just like Noah was probably laughed at and rejected by people when he was building the ark in the dessert, these 72 disciples of Jesus were also likely going to face similar rejections. After all, who would want to hear that they are sinners and must turn away from their sins? People’s rejection was likely. The disciples knew this and were probably nervous. Can any of you identify with these disciples? I’m sure many of you can.
But praise be to God! We have a good shepherd, Jesus, who understands our concerns. So, when Jesus was sending out his 72 disciples to fulfill God’s mission, he made sure to prepare them for the rejections that they will probably face.
In Luke 10, v.10-11, Jesus said, “But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’” What is this gesture of shaking the dust off the feet? It is a symbolic gesture that they will literally take no part of the town that is rejecting the gospel. It is similar to the gesture of Governor Pilate, who washed his hands in front of the crowd when giving up Jesus for crucifixion. As he washed his hand, he said, "I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility!" When facing willful rejection of the people, Jesus’s disciples were instructed to declare that the responsibility for rejecting the gospel is ultimately upon the rejecting people themselves.
What this implies for us as messengers of God is that we are not responsible for how people respond to God’s message. Once the message is delivered, it is up to the hearer to receive it. This should alleviate the fear of rejection when speaking of the Kingdom of God. When we share that the Kingdom of God is near, and that there is only one way to get saved from the judgement of God, it is NOT up to us to convince the hearer. We are simply delivering the truth as a messenger. As we all know, no one can be argued into heaven.
But Jesus’s instruction didn’t just end there. He told his disciples that, before leaving the town, they were to give one last warning again that the Kingdom of God is near. We see that Jesus wants to make sure that everyone hears the message. That’s why He tells His disciples to “go out into its streets,” i.e. in public, to proclaim this truth for everyone to hear. What we see here is not a harsh God, who wants people quickly thrown into hell, but a loving God who wants to give everyone a chance to repent.
From v.12 to v.15, Jesus declares that the wrath on the Judgement Day would be greater for those who should know better. In verse 12, Jesus says, “I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.” What he is saying is that the wicked city of Sodom would be better off than the town that rejects the message of God during Jesus’s time. Why is that? It’s because people in Jesus’s time witnessed Jesus’s miracles, which demonstrated Jesus as Lord, whereas people in Sodom in Genesis did not. The people in Jesus’s time should know better and repent more readily, compared to those who were in Sodom. However, because of their stubbornness and rejection of Jesus, the wrath would be greater.
Jesus continues in v.13-14, “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. Yes, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.” It’s uncertain where Korazin is, but based on the context, Jesus performed miracles there. Bethsaida was where Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Tyre and Sidon, on the other hand, were pagan cities. So, again, Jesus is saying that the people of Korazin and Bethsaida should have known better to repent and submit to God than the people of the pagan cities like Tyre and Sidon.
Note that when Jesus says in v.14, “Yes, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you,” it implies that there will be a different degree of wrath on the judgement day. In the same way that we will be rewarded differently in heaven according to what we have done here on earth, those ending up in hell will also receive different levels of wrath. As it is written in Romans 2:6, God will judge everyone according to what they have done.
In His third example, Jesus brings up the town of Capernaum. Capernaum was Jesus’s home base of ministry. It was where Jesus performed His first miracle. It was where everyone should have recognized that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. But as it turns out, the populace did not accept His messianic role. In v.15, Jesus says, “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.” The people of Capernaum thought that they were rejecting Jesus, but in fact, they were setting themselves up for the ultimate rejection by God.
For your enlightenment, let me say a few things about this “place of the dead.” Jesus calls this place of the dead “Hades” in Greek. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:23, the rich man is said to be “in torment in Hades.” Our biblical understanding is that when a person physically dies, a believer would immediately be with the Lord whereas others would go to Hades, or using a broader term, hell. Many atheists and even some theologians have often argued that any idea of hell as a place of eternal punishment is contrary to the concept of a God of love. In response, Dr. Arthur Travis, who was a Southern Baptist author, professor, pastor, and counselor, wrote the following in his book called, Where on Earth is Heaven?:
If [a man] chooses to relate rightly with God, then he becomes a child of God, and God is able to give Himself to man with all the joys of a happy life on earth and the blessedness of eternity in heaven. When a free human being uses his freedom to reject the truth of God, and to refuse to relate rightly with him, then there is no alternative except to allow him to do so. In making this choice, man becomes responsible for the results of separation from God. He lives his life in this world without God, and when he dies, God will not pick him up against his will and drag him into a place so drastically different from the kind of person he has chosen to become…
In other words, what Travis is saying is that God is not a cosmic rapist or a cosmic imprisoner, who would force love upon another person or hold the person captive at a place against his or her will. Although I agree with most of what Travis said, one aspect of hell that he seems to omit is the fact that you can’t change your mind once you’re in hell. You can’t just say, “Ok, hell suck. God, I’m sorry. Get me out of here!” In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it says that there is a “great chasm” that is set in place, such that there can be no transferring from one place to another. This hell is where those who reject Jesus would themselves be rejected by God for eternity.
Now, let’s go back to the example of Capernaum that rejected Jesus. The warning against Capernaum was not only for those living in Capernaum, but it is also for us as well. We must be careful not to become like those in Capernaum. People in Capernaum had so much exposure to Jesus, yet they did not repent of their sins and submit to Jesus. In the same way, there are some churchgoers who continue to lead a sinful life without any remorse, and think they’re saved because they grew up in a Christian family. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be one of them. And, just like the people of Capernaum, exposure to Jesus does not save a person. In fact, more exposure only demands greater submission and greater obedience. It is written in Luke 12:47-48, “a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” So, if you consider yourself a believer and a follower of Jesus, examine your life and make sure that your way of thinking, speaking, and living backs up your faith. Continue to strive for holiness as God calls you to be. As the saying goes, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” In other words, intentions by themselves are not enough for salvation. Being born of a Christian family is not enough. Being a regular church attendee is not enough. Even if you have all the good intentions, if they don’t manifest themselves in your actual life, it is little use.
In his final instruction, Jesus says in v.16, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.” In other words, you are only a conduit – a connector between God and men. If they accept the message, they are not accepting you so much as they are accepting Jesus. If they reject the message, they are not rejecting you so much as they are rejecting Jesus. So, as mentioned at the beginning, this releases you from the burden to convert a person. This also alleviates the hurt that comes from rejection. They are not rejecting you. They are rejecting Jesus and ultimately God our Father.
As a pastor, I also recognize that I am only a messenger of God. When someone in the church misses a Sunday worship service, I sometimes get a message that they are sorry for skipping church. My response is always the same: “Don’t be sorry to me. Be sorry to God.” We gather to worship God, not me. Of course, God would probably understand if something like sickness prevented you from coming to church. But if you willfully chose to do something else rather than to come to church and worship God on a day set apart for God, well then, you’ve just identified your idol that God hates. I’d encourage you to crush that idol in the name of Jesus. Remember, when you choose to keep that idol, you don’t offend me. You offend God. I am only a messenger.
In conclusion, many of us fear the rejection of men and will experience the rejection of men when we fulfill God’s mission. Although the fear is natural just like our sinful nature, we must change our perspective that their rejection is not against us but against God. And, although we may be quick to judge others of not accepting God’s message, we must also examine ourselves whether we, who accepted Jesus as Lord, are living according to the word of God. Good intentions are not enough. Actions matter to God. Jesus didn’t just intend to die for us. He actually did. So, let us not just intend to speak about the Kingdom of God, but actually do as disciples of Jesus. Let us not fear the rejection of men, but revere and honor the command of God to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
5 “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 6 If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. 7 Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.
If you remember last Sunday, after the service, we ran a quick survey of our church. The result was both encouraging and discouraging. It was discouraging because there were still slightly more people who would probably NOT promote our church compared to those who WOULD probably promote our church. In other words, there are slightly MORE people who are NOT proud of our church family compared to those who are. Here is the encouraging part: first, the difference was NOT that big between the promoters and the detractors. Second, compared to the last survey, the number of people feeling proud of our church family has gone up, so the trend is looking good so far. The common response from those who wouldn’t promote our church was that they wanted to have bigger community. It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. Does a bigger community produce more promoters of our church, or do more promoters of our church produce a bigger community? (Hmm… something to think about.) In any case, I was encouraged to see that you wanted a bigger community, because, if you were all satisfied with the current number of believers here, then we would have a problem. We serve a God, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Everyone! That certainly means more people than those who are sitting here right now! So, yes, I’d love to see our church family grow and multiply. It’s a good sign that you desire that as well.
Now, I have a hunch that the motivation to grow our church family might be slightly different between you and I. I’d love to see our church to grow because I want to see more people get saved, more people get develop as disciples of Jesus, and more people get deploy as agents of God to saves those who are falling into hell. I’d love to see our church become mission-strong. On the other hand, looking at the survey, somehow I get a feeling that some of you just want more friends here. Hey, there is nothing wrong with that. People are, in general, social beings, so it’s natural to seek more friends. So, if that’s your motivation to bring your friend here, by all means, bring them. I have no problem with that. But I hope, as you mature in Christ, you will seek to bring unbelieving friends into our church family because you genuinely care for the lost.
As believers and followers of Jesus, our mission in life is Jesus’s mission – to seek and save the lost. Just like how the shepherd goes out to seek the one lost sheep out of 100, we also must have a heart to seek those that are lost. To grow spiritually is to grow in the love of God, such that our love for one another and for all people would grow and overflow. This is why two of the purposes of our church are to evangelize and minister to others outwardly. Now, if you forgot about the purposes of our church, let me remind you again. We exist to WORSHIP God upwardly, DISCIPLE and have FELLOWSHIP with the believers inwardly, and, as mentioned, EVANGELIZE and MINISTER to others outwardly all in the name of Christ Jesus! You can find this information on our website, pinewoodcf.org. These are the 5 purposes of why we exist as a church. Are we worshiping God? Yes, we do that at least every Sunday. Are we being discipled and having fellowship? Yes, we do that every Friday and Sunday. But are we evangelizing and ministering to others regularly? In other words, are we engaging in God’s mission regularly? Perhaps, not as much. My hope is that as we spend more time outside of our church on Sunday afternoons, we’d have more opportunities to engage with others. It’s a good sign that you long for a bigger community, because reaching people outside of our church is the missing part that we need to improve on individually and corporately.
The big question is “how”? How do we engage in missions? How do we reach out to the people? Sharing the gospel is only one aspect of God’s mission. God’s mission for us is to reach out to others and make them disciples of Jesus. This applies to both foreign outreach as well as local outreach. So, when we’re in here, we need to know how to do missions in order to reach out to people you encounter in your daily life.
Well, thankfully, Jesus gave clear instructions in Luke 10 on how to do missions to the 72 disciples as He was sending them out to nearby towns. Two weeks ago, we studied the portion from verse 1 to 4, and we will pick up from there today. Jesus’s instruction up to verse 4 was that the harvest was great, but the workers were few, that we ought to pray for more workers, and that the mission is dangerous and urgent, but that we must not to take any supply with us because Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is with us.
The first step in missions that Jesus teaches to his disciples is to bless the people. In verse 5, Jesus says, “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ You might think it strange if a stranger came up to your door and said that to you, but this was a typical OT greeting and a form of benediction, a word of blessing. Jesus used the phrase “peace be with you” many times when He greeted others. Jesus was a man of peace. In fact, He was the Prince of Peace. The first thing that his disciples had to do was to bring Jesus’s peace to people’s homes. They were called to deliver God’s blessing. This is God’s calling to us as well. We are in the business of blessing others with the peace of God. We are not in the business of criticizing, condemning, or judging others. Whether it’s your classmate at school, your coworker in the company, or even a stranger waiting in line for something, we must have the heart to bless them with God’s peace. So, before you engage in any outreach, pray for blessing upon the person. Pray that God’s peace would be upon them, and don’t be shy to genuinely say “God bless you!” in your conversation.
In v.6, Jesus continues, “If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you.” A more literal translation like ESV would say “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” “The son of peace” refers to a believer or someone who God is pleased with (according to Luke 2:14). So, if such person was in that household, God’s peace, His salvation, and blessing would rest upon him. However, if the son of peace is not there, (and presumably when he shuts the door at you) Jesus says that the peace will return to the disciples. Isn’t that interesting? It’s like ping-pong. If you hit a ping-pong ball of peace to the other side, and the other person simply receives that ball, he has the peace of God. But, if you hit a ping-pong ball of peace and the other side hits back at you, then you get to receive the peace of God. In the same way, if you offer God’s blessing to a person, and the person rejects it, you get to keep God’s blessing. Your sacrifice and blessings are never wasted no matter how the other person responds to them. This is God’s interesting Kingdom economics – others’ rejection of your blessing becomes your own blessing. The implication is that if someone hates you, you would want to keep praying for them and blessing them, so that all the rejection that you experience from them becomes your own blessing. Are you afraid that you might be stepped on and become a doormat when you forgive and love your enemy? Well, you better believe in God’s economics. All that rejection becomes your own blessing. Do you remember one of the beatitudes? “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, and insult you, and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven (Mt. 5:22-23).” So, the first step in missions is to bless the people with God’s peace. Pray a prayer of blessing. Speak the word of blessing. And, don’t worry about rejections; rejoice instead!
In v. 7, Jesus continues, “Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.” What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is teaching His disciples to live with them. Don’t move around to different houses. Make that home your home base and eat, drink, and sleep there. Why is this important? This is because it’s great for building relationship. God’s work involves relationship. Remember how Nabeel Qureshi, a former devout Muslim, became a Christian? It was through a deep relationship with his college friend, who was a devout Christian. Why do we have lock-ins and mini-retreats, like the one we will have this weekend? One of the main reasons is for building relationship. There is nothing emptier than God’s ministry without relationship. Another advantage of staying at one place for ministry is that that house can become a church plant. As the disciples come in and out of that house during their ministry, you can imagine other new believers coming into that house and building relationship with the host of that house. A church can be formed organically out of that. So, for those good reasons, Jesus teaches His disciples to stay in one house and live with them.
How does this apply to you when you are living here locally in your parent’s house? The fact of the matter is, even though you are not staying at another person’s house, you are still living a big portion of your life with others. If you’re at school, you spend a big portion of your life with your classmates. If you’re employed, you spend a big portion of your life with your coworkers. The problem with most of us is that, although we encounter others all the time in our daily lives, we seldom engage with them for a meaningful relationship. It takes intentionality. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t live for ourselves, but for God and OTHERS! So, next time you converse with your classmate or coworker, think about how you can bless them and engage in a meaningful conversation. Live with them with intentionally.
Jesus also tells His disciples NOT to hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay. God’s principle to take care of God’s dedicated workers has been passed down since His Law was given in the OT. In Deuteronomy 25:4, the Lord said, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Apostle Paul repeated this verse in his letters to Timothy and to the church in Corinth to ensure that God’s dedicated workers are taken care of. In the same way, Jesus teaches His disciples NOT to feel bad to receive the generosity and hospitality of the host, because the Lord uses these people to take care of His workers.
I want you to know that as you dedicate more and more of your life to God and His business, God will take care of yours through ways you’ve never imagined. My seminary life was supposed to be a period of burning through a big chunk my savings. At the end of my 4 ½ years of seminary life, God has left me with more than what I had at the beginning, and he also gave me a wife and two kids as a bonus. Not bad! Of course, this is not an encouragement for everyone to become a full-time pastor, but it is a call for all of us to put God and His Mission as our #1 priority in life, and NOT to worry about your own life because God takes care of His workers. So, the encouragement from this verse is to live with others with intentionality, and when God provides for you and blesses you along the way, just receive it with gratitude.
So far, Jesus has instructed His disciples to bless others and live with them. What else do we see here? He said in v.8, “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you.” Jesus’s disciples were probably concerned about which food meets the Jewish dietary law, so Jesus declared once again that all food is permissible to eat. Today, however, that’s not the problem. The problem is that people not only eat too much, but they also complain about food that is set before them. I’ve seen some Christians (none of you, of course, but others that I know), who would complain about the food that’s prepared for them. Jesus teaches us to just eat whatever is set before you. Why? First, it’s given by God. Have some gratitude. Second, so many people labored for the food to be placed before you – from farmers to truck drivers, to grocery store clerks, and to the cook. Again, have some gratitude. Third, for most of the youth here, you’re not even making any money to buy the food that you’re eating every day. So, again, have some gratitude. My I add another reason? There are people of the same age as you on the other side of the planet who are struggling to eat ONE meal a day. Be grateful that you are living on this side of the world where there’s plenty of food. So, we will have several outings together this year, such as the mini-retreat and summer missions. Please try not to complain about food. As Jesus said, just eat whatever is set before you.
In v.9, Jesus says, “Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’” I love how Jesus simply says “heal the sick” without any further instructions on how to do that. It’s as if a mom tells her teenage son to brush his teeth before going to bed. No explanation required. Just do it. Jesus talks about such charismatic work of the Spirit as not charismatic at all. He makes the supernatural healing sound so natural. Supernatural healing is, in fact, natural to God because He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. For the creator God, healing and restoration is just part of his nature. Now, take a closer look: Jesus didn’t instruct His disciples to pray for healing. He simply told the disciples to heal. And, that’s what Peter said to the Lame man, too. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” It’s that simple. It is the childlike faith that heals. I believe that the reason we do not see much divine healing in America is because we tend to over-complicate the matter of divine healing, and we seek first Mr. or Mrs. Doctor before we seek God. But in places where God is the only option, He still does His miracles far more than what we realize. Jesus tells his disciples to boldly heal others as part of their mission, because of the powerful Spirit of God that is within them.
What does that look like for you? Are there people in your life who need healing? Perhaps, not so many. Most people just go to the hospital. But you know that there are still people who are hurt emotionally and spiritually, and needs healing. There is that lonely kid at the corner of the cafeteria who is having lunch alone every day. There is another kid you know who gets bullied all the time and others laugh at him. There is that coworker who looks depressed day in and day out. They are the hurting people that need healing. They are the people you need to look after. Just like the Good Samaritan, you must care for the outcast, provide for them, and heal them. Healing others of their hurt is part of missions.
Finally, Jesus said, “tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’” Believe it or not, sharing the message comes toward the latter part of missions. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s less important, but it does mean that there are other things to be done when delivering the truth. You first want to bless them, build relationship with them, help with their needs, and then tell them about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus instructed to tell the people “The Kingdom of God is near you now.” There are a couple implications to this message. First, it implies that there exists a different world that is distinct from this world. And second, that world is coming soon. There is this Kingdom of God, which is also called the Kingdom of Heaven, or simply heaven. Jesus used the two terms interchangeably in Mt. 19. In order to tell people about heaven, the reality of heaven must be real to you. D. L. Moody was one of those who saw a glimpse of heaven. He was born in 1837 in Massachusetts, and was one of the greatest evangelists in the 19th century. He was converted at the age of 18 and worked tirelessly for the sake of the gospel until he died at the age of 62. His son, William, was by his bedside when Moody was passing away. Shortly before his death, Moody said this, which became famous around the world: “Earth recedes; heaven opens before me.” William must have thought that is dad was dreaming, but Moody continued, “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” I can imagine a big and peaceful smile on Moody’s face as he was passing away. Church, this heaven is real! And the consummation of the kingdom of God is closer than ever before! So, there is no time to fool around. We must go and tell people, “The Kingdom of God is near you now.” Once you’ve blessed them, lived with them, and healed them, go and tell them this truth, “The Kingdom of God is near you now.” Tell them about the Good News of Christ Jesus.
So, in the passage that we’ve looked at today, we see that Jesus instructed his disciples on how to do missions. This instruction is very important for us because we are going on a mission trip this summer to Mexico. His instructions can be summarized in four simple steps: bless them, live with them, heal them, and tell them. The same applies while we are living here locally. We are called to speak and pray for blessing upon the people around us, build relationship with them, help them in their needs, and tell them the truth about the Kingdom of God. Again, bless them, live with them, heal them, and tell them. My hope is that, as we engage in God’s mission in our daily lives according to Jesus’s instruction, more unbelievers will come to faith, more will be baptized, and more will be discipled to become agents of God in our realm of life. Church growth and bigger faith community will just be a natural byproduct of that.
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. 3 Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
Today is March 19th. For our Catholics friends, this is a significant day because they observe it as St. Joseph’s Day. To be honest, when I first heard the name, I didn’t even know if this was about Joseph, who became Pharaoh’s second in command in Egypt in the Old Testament, or Joseph, the husband of Virgin Mary in the New Testament. As it turns out, it’s the latter. They commemorate Joseph because he was the foster-father of Jesus. Yes, he did keep Mary safe when they were delivering Jesus, and he raised Jesus up as a foster-father. However, the Bible doesn’t seem to assign any more significance than that to Joseph, so it is not surprising that we, Protestants, do not observe this St. Joseph’s Day.
What is notable about this day, though, is that it is the birthday of David Livingstone. David Livingstone was a Scottish pioneer and medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. On March 19th, 1813, Livingstone was born of “poor and pious parents” in Blantyre, Scotland. At the age of 10, he began working 14 hours a day at a cotton mill while studying in the evenings. He became a believer at the age of 12, and devoted himself to reading books on theology, travel, and missions. His profound spiritual awakening led him to pursue medicine so that he could be a medical missionary in China. Unfortunately, the First Opium War broke out in 1839, so he wasn’t able to go to China. Instead, he was given a vision through the influence of other missionaries to serve those in Southern Africa. In 1840, at the age of 27, he was off to Cape Town, South Africa.
The journey to and within Africa was ruthless. He experienced many debilitating illnesses, and there were many threats from wild animals and hostile tribes. Nevertheless, he persevered and never relaxed his self-discipline. He continued to document new observations and languages in his diary as he traveled. He also fought against slavery that was widespread in Africa. He became famous when his diaries got published. Nonetheless, he maintained his humility, writing “I will place no value on anything I have … except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.” He devoted his life to God’s mission in Africa until he was 60 years old, when he was found dead kneeling by his bedside.
You would be surprised to find out how many people got converted personally through his missions. He is recorded as having converted only one African, named Sechele, who was the chief of one of the tribes. And even though Sechele got converted and baptized, Sechele continued the practice of rainmaking ritual and polygamy. Nonetheless, a church was established and other missionaries were able to continue God’s mission after Livingstone’s death.
Today, Livingstone is regarded as “Africa’s greatest missionary.” On his tombstone, it reads in part, “For thirty years, his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa.” He leaves a legacy of being among the 100 Greatest Britons.
If David Livingstone was one of the greatest Britons in history, do you know the greatest person who has ever lived on earth except Jesus? According to Jesus, it’s John the Baptist. It wasn’t Abraham, who started the nation of Israel. It wasn’t Moses, who rescued all of God’s people out of Egypt. It wasn’t David, who conquered the whole region and established a powerful kingdom. Jesus said, “of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.”
What was so great about John?? He was just the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” He was just telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” He wasn’t really educated. He wasn’t particularly productive for the society. He wasn’t really making something great out of his life. His main thing was simply telling people of the coming of the Messiah. How does that make him the greatest man who has ever lived?
It is because he fulfilled the greatest mission of a person’s life: to make Christ known to others for salvation. The mission of John the Baptist perfectly aligned with that of Jesus, which was to seek and save the lost. John’s mission was 100% God’s mission.
Do you see the similarity between David Livingstone and John the Baptist? Both were regarded great because they completely devoted their lives to God's mission. This is not an easy thing to do. The flesh, the world, and the devil will continue to trick you into thinking that, in order to be great, you must get a good grade, go to a good college, get a good job, make good money, and prepare for a cushy retirement. They say it’s all about personal success that makes a person great. Well, not according to God! In God’s perspective, the person who puts God’s mission as his or her primary mission in life is the greatest person. The greatest person is the one who loves God and others by committing one’s life to Jesus and His Great Commission. Those who focus on God’s mission are great in the sight of God.
So, when Jesus was training His disciples, He made sure that they knew the importance of God’s mission. In the beginning of Luke 10, we see Jesus instructing 72 of his disciples to go out to all the towns to tell people that the Kingdom of God is near. Jesus was training His disciples for a mission trip. Jesus said in v.2, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” The harvest denotes those that should be brought into the Kingdom of God. These are more than just the people of the towns that the 72 disciples were going to visit. The harvest that Jesus was talking about was that of the whole world. Jesus said to His disciples in Acts 1:8 that His disciples will be His witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jesus was saying that the harvest is plenty both locally and globally.
But Jesus added that the “workers are few.” Oh, how true this is today! Looking at the recent numbers, there are about 400,000 foreign Christian missionaries of all denominations around the world, and there are about 4.7 billion non-Christians. That’s a ratio of about 1:12,000! Many Christians today don’t even do 1:1 evangelism, let alone 1:12,000. Indeed, the workers are few.
The challenge is daunting. So, what are we supposed to do? Jesus said to His disciples, “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” We are called to pray for more workers. And, yes, I believe God will send more workers as we pray, because it is in accordance with the will of God. But, don’t be misguided. Praying for more workers implies that the person praying is already working as harvester of God. Remember, Jesus was telling this to those who were already being sent out as His workers. It would be utter hypocrisy if a person who is praying for more workers is refusing to be one of the workers himself. Jesus instructs us to pray for more workers while we are being faithful to His mission.
And as Jesus was sending out his disciples, He warned them in v.3. He said, “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” He is warning that there will be threats. Some might heckle at your or even try to kill you. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. The same is true today. The moment you say the name of Jesus, you will likely offend quite a few people. I once had someone start hyperventilating when I talked about Jesus. She was into Buddhism. I wasn’t sure if she was going to yell at me or run away, or both. Thankfully, nothing dramatic happened. It is so strange that Jesus, who sacrificed His own life to save people for eternity, can come across as so offensive. Yet, that is the reality of this dark and sinful world.
So, since His disciples were going out to such a dangerous world, what did Jesus tell them to do? Carry some weapon for protection? Carry some money to bribe and calm people down? No, but rather the complete contrary. He says in v. 4, “Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals.” Jesus is basically telling them to go without any supply. This sounds absolutely crazy, but this is the way Jesus likes to operate. He is saying, “Yes, I am sending you out as lambs among wolves; it’s gonna be dangerous, but don’t worry. I will be your shepherd, who will guide you, protect you, and provide for you. TRUST ME!” Jesus wants our unwavering faith in Him. This does not mean that we should be lazy in mission preparation. We must be prepared when going out on missions, but the focus should be a spiritual preparation through prayer, not so much a physical preparation that we have a safe and comfortable trip.
Do you really believe that Jesus can guide you, protect you, and provide for you as you go in faith and proclaim the Kingdom of God? Can you trust the invisible God to provide for your physical needs and protection? Do you think this kind of missionary method is realistic? Well, believe it or not, there is a missionary organization that does exactly this today. They go out with only some changes in their pockets and go into towns without a place to sleep. They ask people if they could stay over at their homes, and if one of them accepts them, they stay there and do ministry in that town. The result is that the missionaries experience God’s guidance and provision in amazing ways. It’s a radical way of doing missions, and God responds in radical ways.
So, Jesus instructed His disciples not to worry about their physical needs, but he does tell them to hurry up and go. He says in the latter part of v.4, “And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.” This is not an instruction to be rude to people on the road. The point is that the mission is urgent. There is no time to stop and chitchat during the journey. We see this urgency in the story of Lot’s family coming out of Sodom in Genesis 19. Lot told his future sons-in-law, “Hurry and leave this city! The Lord is about to destroy it!” But they thought Lot was joking so they didn’t leave. Then the two angels of God urged Lot and his family to get out of the city, but they delayed. So, the angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife, and two daughters and got them out of the city before the city was destroyed with hell fire. That’s the kind of urgency that God wants us to have in saving people’s lives. God’s mission is urgent!
So, how will you apply Jesus’s instruction in your life? Is this a lesson to go out on foreign missions this summer? Sure, that’s a given. All of us must make it our priority to engage in foreign missions whenever there is an opportunity. So, I expect that all of us to on missions this summer as a group and as a church. But that’s not all. Remember, the mission that Jesus gave to us was not about going to foreign lands. The mission is for both local and global. It is both for the poor in 3rd world countries and the affluent classmate sitting next to you. For those who are working, the unbelieving coworkers need to be rescued as well. The mission is for every unbeliever around you. They are headed toward destruction fast and furiously. There is no time to waste. There is no time to focus on your personal success. Their eternal life is at stake, and God placed you right by their lives. Wha’cha gonna to do about it?
If Jesus’s mission was to make a way for salvation, then our mission is to show people the Way for salvation. The reason we are still left here on earth even after having been saved is because we are given a mission to make Jesus known. We are given a mission to reconcile man to God through Christ Jesus. It is the primary mission in our lives as believers, and we do it whether we like it or not. If our gracious Lord Jesus saved us out of the wrath of God by giving up His own life on the cross, then His love should compel us to obey Him.
In one of the greatest movies of all time, called Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) is given a mission to go behind the enemy line to find and extract Private Ryan, who was fighting against the Germans during World War II. He was sent out with a small team of soldiers to pierce through an unforgiving battlefield. A couple of his men died during the journey. It became so discouraging that one of his men that he wanted to dissert the group and abandon the mission. At this moment, Captain Miller said this:
“I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if -- you know -- if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife -- well, then, then that's my mission.”
Similarly, you may not know much about the unbelievers that you meet regularly. You certainly don’t know much about the unbelievers in other countries. And so, naturally, you may not care much about them. But if reaching out to them and sharing the good news so that may be able to go to the heavenly home, and if that earns you the right to be called the faithful servant of God, well, then, that’s your mission.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Pastor Daniel Kim