St Paul's UMC
Sunday, May 29, 2022
  • He Is Exalted
  • What He's Done
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 47ESV

      • Acts 1:1–11NIV2011

  • Focus: The mission of Jesus continues through the Church
    Function: Clarify the Mission
    Think for a moment where you were 3 years ago. Memorial Day Weekend 2019. Pre-pandemic. Now think about what has transpired in your life since then. In the past three years, some of you have experienced some big milestones - maybe you graduated, or started a new job, or retired. Some have experienced the loss of a loved one. Some have experienced the joy of the arrival of new life (child or grandchild or great grandchild.) We all have our pandemic stories and how we managed to move forward in such a time.
    I ask us to think about the last three years because that is roughly the length of time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. From his baptism by John in the Jordan River to his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Three years.
    Luke 3:23 (ESV)
    Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age...
    It is pretty incredible when you consider that he did not begin with any form of name recognition. He did not come from a powerful family, he was not the up and coming star of some school or political group. He was the son of a carpenter from a no name town that no one had heard of, except for cousin John, until he stepped into the waters of the Jordan.
    From that moment on, He was a man on a mission. He knew his purpose and everything he did, every word he spoke, every action he took, was done in pursuit of His mission.
    What was Jesus’ mission?
    To answer that question, we may start with passages like John 3:16-17
    John 3:16–17 ESV
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
    We may also turn to Luke 19:10
    Luke 19:10 ESV
    For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
    These passages help us understand the mission - or at least the desired outcome. Mission accomplished means lives saved.
    But by what means does Jesus pursue this outcome? As we read the gospels and observe what he says and what he does, His mission becomes pretty clear.
    Luke 4:43 (ESV)
    but he (Jesus) said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
    Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God and back it up with demonstrations of power so that people will not perish.
    Mark 1:15 (ESV)
    “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
    That leads to another question: What is the Kingdom of God?
    Broadly speaking, it the rule of God over all of Creation.
    Psalm 103:19 ESV
    The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
    In a more narrow sense, it is the spiritual rule of God in the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to his authority. Those who rebel and defy God are not part of His Kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom and entrance to the Kingdom comes through repentance.
    Jesus’ earthly mission was to awaken people to the presence of the Kingdom of God, demonstrated by miracles and exorcisms which bore witness to HIs authority over this world, and to call all people to repent and believe.
    Justice demands that sin be paid for - so Jesus offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice, giving his body for the atonement of sin, so that all who would repent and believe would inherit eternal life.
    Lastly, death could not hold him. Sin paid for, he descended to the realm of the dead and proclaimed the good news.
    1 Peter 4:6 ESV
    For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
    Having defeated death, he rose from the grave and presented himself to His disciples over a period of 40 days - proving to them that He was very much alive.
    This brings us to the pivot point in the mission of Jesus Christ. The ascension.
    Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father.
    The Ascension brought an end to Jesus’ earthly ministry and inaugurated his heavenly ministry.
    As one commentary, The Message of Acts by John Stott, explains,
    Jesus’ ministry on earth, exercised personally and publicly, was followed by his ministry from heaven, exercised through his Holy Spirit by his apostles.
    The mission continues. In today’s reading, from the beginning of the Book of Acts, Luke begins the second volume of his historical book. The first, the Gospel of Luke, captures the words and acts of Jesus Christ while he walked on earth. Now he continues the story with the words and acts of the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, carrying on the mission of Jesus.
    We hear of Jesus’ final instructions before ascending. The disciples ask if the time has come for kingdom of Israel to be restored - and Jesus lets them know that is not to be their focus - they were to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
    That is the mission of the Church.
    Matthew 28:19–20 ESV
    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
    In other words, Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit so the people will not perish.
    That is our primary mission. We must not take our eyes off our mission. There is a place in the life of the Church for us to come together, to strengthen one another internally, to enjoy fellowship - but never to the point where we are not fulfilling our primary mission which is always outward focused.
    Go therefore and make disciples...
    In the meantime, what is Jesus doing? Well, we already know He present. He says “I am with you always” - his position in heaven paradoxically means that he is present with all believers in all place at all times.
    He is still working. According to author Stephen Seamands, “Christ’s ascension to God’s right hand thus means that he has been given all power and authority. That means the power and authority to carry out the work of redemption and to bring it to full and final consummation have been placed in the hands of the One who sits at God’s right hand!” [Stephen Seamands, Give Them Christ]
    The full and final consummation of the Kingdom of God will occur when Jesus returns in glory. We are located in the time when all things are being brought into submission to God’s sovereign rule.
    Quite often in the New Testament, the writers will quote or reference an Old Testament passage to build their case, or to highlight the fulfillment of a prophecy, or simply retell the story of God. Do you know what OT passage is most often quoted in the New Testament?
    Psalm 110:1 ESV
    The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
    This is a Psalm of David. David, the king of Israel, the one that Israel at the time rightfully called ‘Lord’. In their eyes, there was God (YHWH), then there was David (Lord) since he was God anointed here on earth. Yet we hear in this Psalm David, mysteriously, describing the Lord (YHWH) saying to my Lord (David’s Lord) - sit at my right hand (God’s power and authority), until I make your enemies your footstool.
    Who is David’s Lord? Who is worthy of sitting at the right hand of God?
    Jesus himself pointed out this mystery to the teachers of the Law in Mark 12. And after his Ascension, the Apostles refer to this passage when instructing the people who Jesus is.
    Hebrews 10:12–13 ESV
    But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
    Do you get frustrated waiting for the enemies of Christ to be made a footstool for his feet?
    Right now, it is clear that many of his enemies refuse to acknowledge his Lordship. They fight against him and act in spite of him.
    His enemies include the difficulties we face, our own sin, failures, diseases, as well as false beliefs, corruption, greed and demonic strongholds.
    Jesus does not passively sit by on his throne and wait. He intercede for us.
    Hebrews 7:25 ESV
    Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
    He fights on our behalf. He stands in the gap.
    And one day, as we are told in Phil 2:10-11
    Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
    Until then, he is still seeking and saving the lost. And He uses us to reach them and bring all things into submission.
    Because He intercedes for us and for the world, we join in with him and become intercessors as well.
    Jesus invites us to take on his burden for the world - to know and feel his compassion for the lost and the broken, and to assume a “stand in the gap” posture for them - in our prayers and in our words and actions.
    I’m sure you are all feeling a great burden for the families who lost their children in the Texas shooting. Your burden is probably for all young people today and the culture in which they are living in.
    Stand in the gap. Pray for our country. Pray for Jesus’ enemies to be brought into submission. Speak up and demand change. Fight the good fight and go and make disciples. The transformation that we need to see is spiritual, but we need to deal with the physical as well.
    In closing, with a nod to Memorial Day, I want to share with you two dates.
    June 6, 1944
    The day Operation Overlord commenced with Allied Forces storming the beaches of Normandy. The cost was high - 4,414 Allied deaths. But it marked the decisive turning point of World War II.
    May 8, 1945
    The final victory in the war as Germany unconditionally surrendered its military forces to the Allies.
    D-Day in God’s redemptive story occurred at the resurrection. Jesus defeated the enemy. The Kingdom of God advanced.
    V-Day will be when He returns and fully establishes His Kingdom.
    The war may not be over, but it is already won. If you belong to Christ, you are a victor. But the mission continues and we do not want to leave anyone behind.
    Please join me in prayer.
      • John 3:16–17NIV2011

      • Luke 19:10NIV2011

      • Psalm 103:19NIV2011

      • 1 Peter 4:6NIV2011

      • Matthew 28:19–20NIV2011

      • Psalm 110:1NIV2011

      • Hebrews 10:12–13NIV2011

      • Hebrews 7:25NIV2011

  • Awesome God
      • 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17NIV2011

      • Revelation 5:12–13NIV2011

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