Divine Mission

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Introduction:

In the last couple weeks together we have heard the call of Jesus to shed our grave clothes and stop wandering around the empty tomb. We have heard His call to repent, to follow Him, and to love Him so that we can fully embrace His mission for us in this world as His disciples.

There is a lot of preparation that has to be done. Jesus poured into his disciples for 3 years. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus questioned whether or not the disciples could really do what he desired. Some denied him, betrayed him, disobeyed him, fell asleep on him, fled from him, doubted him, and questioned him.

Yet Jesus continued to lead them and shepherd them towards the divine mission he was setting before them – to go into all the world and preach the Good News.

Last week we celebrated our annual Faith Promise weekend. Thank you to those who were able to be a part of it and for your commitment to give sacrificially for global and local missions. That is a great way to be involved in God’s mission in the world.

The previous week we touched on the call to repent, to love God deeply, and to make ourselves available to step out into what God wants for us. For us to make ourselves available to God then we must create margin in every area so that we can be quick to obey him when he calls.

So today, Jesus is leading us as we pursue and live out His mission in the world. As we learn what it means to love Him and our neighbor more, we are being sent to embrace His call and to be the light in our world. To Breathe Out.

The scripture from two weeks ago ended with 3000 confessing Christ as Lord in response to Peter’s call to “repent and be baptized”. But what happened next? How did these new believers actually embrace this faith in Jesus and live as new creations?

We pick up the text today in Acts, chapter 2:42-47.

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[b]— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Movement 1:

Take a look at this video: 1972 Olympics

I ran track in High School and this moment is something that you dream about – coming around the last curve in front of the grandstand hearing people scream and shout and cheer you on as your legs and chest are burning as you gut out your kick in the stretch.

Dave Wottle did an amazing thing in this video. He did something in that moment that he would not have been able to do without a lot of preparation and training.

I am sure in that training there were times where he wanted to go back home and crawl into bed and watch TV. He was tired, he was burned out. His body was hurting.

Dallas Willard says “the most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.”

Dave Wottle was committed to who he was becoming over time so that at the end of the race he had what it took to win.

The comparison to our spiritual life is clear – even scripture uses the analogies of “running the race”. What I want to focus on today is how who we are becoming, leads to living in such a way that impacts our world with the Gospel.

First, in verse 42, we read that “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer.”

This is the routine of life for believers. They devote themselves to learning.
They devote themselves to community. They devote themselves to sharing meals. They devote themselves to prayer.

When they devote themselves to these routines and patterns of life, it bears fruit.

“A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

God used them and performed miraculous signs and wonders – these signs and wonders were not why they met but they were an overflow of meeting and spending time in communion with Jesus.

46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[b]— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

They enjoyed being together and they experienced true community. I’m sure it wasn’t without hardship or conflict but they praised God and He brought them together in unity.

Because of this, the routines and patterns of their lives aroused not only curiosity but admiration. Unbelievers and seekers were drawn to Christ and the fellowship of believers.

The LORD added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Jesus saves. We do not. As we are faithful to seek God and be obedient to live our lives as He guides, Jesus will use us. But it is God who saves, not us. We are called to love and serve Christ and one another.

Evangelism is a natural by-product of authentic worship, authentic relationship with the Triune God.

Movement 2:

So the life that we are called to, this routine and pattern has 3 important components of sacrifice and worship.

First, God desires our time. He wants to have a relationship with us. Just like any relationship, it takes time to build and to sustain.

The time God desires is for us to spend with Him in private worship through prayer and reading of scripture and communal worship through times like this morning.

The time God desires us to spend is in the fellowship with others. We are a community and we need each other. We need to laugh and cry and play together.

The time God desires us to spend is in serving one another and others. It’s the small things like helping someone move, taking them to a doctor’s appointment, and taking a meal.

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”

Second, God desires our stuff. We have a lot of stuff, don’t we? We fill up our houses, our garages, our cars, our sheds, and a storage unit and we still don’t have enough space to put what we have somewhere.

44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

The saying goes, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” I think more accurately is, “one person’s excess is another person’s need.”

God blesses us in ways that we have no idea how it will eventually bless others. We have been on the receiving end of that. I don’t know where we would

be if it wasn’t for friends who had kids before us passing along their tubs and tubs of baby and toddler clothes. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the random – “hey we have this we are going to throw away or take to Goodwill, would you use it?” I also don’t know where we would be without people freely giving of their monetary resources to help when we didn’t know how things were going to get paid.

Our lives need to be marked with generous giving of what we have been given.

Third, God desires our money. Whoa, hold the phone! Did you just say that?? Yes.

God doesn’t need our money of course, but he desires it because of what giving it does to us. As Andrew McNair states, “Money can buy you a house, but it won’t buy you a home. Money will you buy you a bed, but it won’t buy you a good night’s sleep. Money will fill the offering plate, but it won’t fulfill you or save you.”

A part of living in Christian community and being generous is freely giving of our financial resources through tithes and offerings.

1 Corinthians 16:2:

“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” This passage brings out four points: we should give individually, regularly, methodically, and proportionately.

Billy Graham comments, “The matter of your giving is between you and God, and He always takes into account our circumstances. He knows when they are beyond our power to direct and control. The important thing is that we see giving as a privilege and not a burden. It should not be out of a sense of duty, but rather out of love for the Lord and a desire to see His kingdom advanced.

2 Corinthians 9:6-10 (NLT)

6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[a] 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor.

Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”[b] 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity[c] in you.

The deeper question, you see, is this: What has priority in our lives? Is Christ really first—or do we put ourselves and our own desires first? Make sure Christ is first in your life, and then ask Him to guide you.”

Tithing comes from the Old Testament Jewish law which required it of all members of the Nation of Israel. This ritual guideline is not found in the New Testament. We know that Christ came to fulfill the law.

However, what we do see is that giving of our financial resources through what we call tithes and offerings is an act of worship. It is a proclamation of thanksgiving for what God has provided to us. It is honoring the provider of these resources, and it is surrendering what can become an idol in our lives to Him and allowing Him to be in charge.

When we are obedient and generous, God will honor that. When we step out in faith, it allows us to be open to the greater work of God through us.

Conclusion:

In his book, The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark argues that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire so rapidly because Christians did the kinds of things described here— they cared for each other and for those they encountered in need.

God desires for us to honor him with all that we are – our whole selves. As we see today, we need to honor God with our time, our possessions, and with our money.

I hope you have had a chance since last Sunday morning to read over these boxes that are all around the platform. As I mentioned last week, these boxes have written on them ideas of how we can serve our community and the world in the name of Jesus. These ideas are from you, things that God has placed on your heart.

As you reflect on all of these, I wonder how we can sense the heart of God as a community and use our time, our possessions, and our money to…

Pick up boxes as examples.

For the early followers of Christ, evangelism or sharing Christ with their community was not a planned event; it was a natural overgrowth of a healthy relationship with Christ. The early believers took everyday situations and turned them into opportunities to share the Gospel.

Reaching people with the love of Jesus is not a planned event. It is the natural overflow of our relationship with Christ and with one another.

Can you imagine with me, what God can do through us if we spend time with Him, with each other, and live sacrificially with our stuff and our money?

Imagine what it would be like to have the community like that in Acts. Wouldn’t that be amazing? We can.

Dallas Willard says, “The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”

I am sure Dave Wottle ran that race in the 1972 Olympics wondering if his preparation was going to pay off. Would he be able to persevere and catch up? He stayed committed to the long-term formation of his body through daily routines and trusted that they would give him what he needed in the moment.

Are we willing to daily do what Christ calls us to do – those routines – so that we are formed into His disciples?

Will we learn? Will we grow? Will we love Christ and spend time with Him? Will we love others? Will we live generously with our time, our possessions, and our monetary resources?

May our answer always be yes, Lord. Have your way. Because God doesn’t really want our time, our stuff, and our money. He wants our hearts. And when our hearts are captivated by Christ, we will freely give all those things and more.

Our divine mission that God is calling us to begins by our constant and abiding relationship with Him and with one another.

Through that foundation then we are sent as beacons of light into our community.

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all
things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,

Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours.

So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.

Breathe Out
Breathe Out
Breathe Out