My task in this lesson is to remind you why we are involved in mission work. That's why this sermon is entitled "Why Go?" Why do mission work? Why do local outreach or personal evangelism? Why spend the money? Why spend the time and the energy? There are lot of reasons but I've boiled it down to three reasons and we'll get into it right away.
#1. It's a Command
18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
- Matthew 28:18-19
Note the elegant simplicity as Jesus combines the three elements of pattern theology in two straightforward verses.
Briefly explained, pattern theology is a tool that we use to determine accurately the meaning of scripture in context in a consistent manner. In other words, we approach the way that we interpret scripture the very same way each time so that we can come to a conclusion consistently every time. We do this by observing if what is written in the Bible is a command, an example of a biblical concept or an inference leading us to a logical conclusion.
So in these two lines that (in context) deal with the making of disciples for Jesus, we have all three things:
A - A command - Do this!
- Go and make disciples - the end
- Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit - the means
B - An example
Throughout the gospels we have examples of the process of making disciples. First it was John the Baptist then Jesus and His Apostles baptized repentant believers.
C - Necessary inference
This is when all the information that we have in the passage points to only one logical conclusion. Here, when you put the repeated examples (people being baptized in order to become disciples) and the direct command, "Go and make disciples while baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" you end up with the necessary inference or logical conclusion that baptism leads to discipleship. No other conclusion is logical or follows the examples that we have.
So, why go? Number one reason, Jesus commands us to make disciples just as He commands us to love one another, forgive our enemies, have mercy on the less fortunate or to be pure sexually.
#2. People are Really Lost... Really!
I remember when I realized I had to leave everything and go preach the gospel. I hadn't been a Christian very long and I was on a noisy subway car in Montreal. Two girls sitting in front of me were talking over the noise so I could hear their conversation quite clearly. They were talking about which nightclub they were going to go to, their boyfriends, music, etc. One girl was discussing when her boyfriend of a month was going to move in with her.. and on and on it went.
It hit me at that moment - this girl is lost. She doesn't have a clue about what life is really about. And this is when I seriously began to think about becoming a preacher. She was so far from the truth, she didn't even know what she didn't know - clueless. Unlike like the rich young ruler in Mark 10 who sought out Jesus and who he thought he knew, but he didn't. He also came very close but he didn't have a clue.
But both the girl on the subway and the young rich guy they were equally lost. Nevermind the world "out there" is lost. We here in America, a supposedly Christian country, are lost but don't even realize it.
10 signs of lostness for a supposedly Christian nation.
- The USA is falling behind China (an atheist nation) economically, militarily and scientifically.
- We're going broke spending trillions of dollars that we don't have.
- America is being infested by the COVID pandemic.
- In many cases our children are being indoctrinated by a godless socialist education system.
- The media is confirming and promoting as normal the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. Recent survey found that 16% of young people between 15 and 25 identify as transgender.
- 60% of college graduates are women and that's a good thing, but it is creating a generation of males who are lost when it comes to their identity and their purpose in society.
- We have a society that values fame, beauty and wealth over character, integrity and intelligence.
- In the United States we are in the process of erasing our history and American identity as the populace accepts ideas from subversive, radical groups from the extreme right and left of the political spectrum whose only goal is division and anarchy.
- Because of the rapid development of AI (artificial intelligence) by unscrupulous entities in the future we will have to compete with machines for the right to survive.
- The fastest growing trend in surveys about religion in America is the increase in percentage of people who answer "none" when asked religious preference. The "Nones" are growing faster than the "Christians."
So all of this is observational and anecdotal but it reveals a trend and a character - our nation is in a downward trend not consistent with our national motto - "In God we Trust."
We are fast becoming a non-Christian nation whose salvation is not a political party or an economic theory, but a Savior and that Savior is not Donald Trump or some other politician, but the Author of salvation, Jesus Christ.
I mentioned 10 national crises but I could have focused on individual failings like moral failure, unfaithfulness, disobedience as well as pride, greed and lust and all the sins that send the soul to hell. The nation is in trouble, yes, but the saving of the nation takes place one citizen at a time. Why go? Because we have the "meta" solution that both heals the individual of sin and transforms a society into a people who turn to God for help in times of crisis. How do we turn our society around? Revival, not revolution. Only Christ can save us as a nation and as an individual.
#3. There are way too Many Gospels Being Preached
Have you actually heard what is spoken from the pulpits of the largest churches in the world? Have you listened to the gospel message spoken to millions on television, radio and online? I don't have the time to describe all the variations but I can summarize the two largest groups and what they preach as the gospel.
Roman Catholics of course identify as Christians. They teach that you are born with inherited sin called original sin which is eliminated based on the faith of your parents or your godparents who bring their babies to be baptized (sprinkled) by a parish priest. Later on, when the child is 10-12 years old, he or she goes through a ceremony called Confirmation where another Catholic clergyman, this time a bishop, touches the young person's forehead or cheek (laying on of hands) so that the young person can now receive the Holy Spirit.
Attending confession, going to mass and communion at least once per year at Easter maintains your place on the church rolls. My dad was a bookie for the mom and and went to mass at Christmas and Easter!
Of course, Catholics do many good works of charity. They operate orphanages and hospitals. They have been leaders of the pro-life movement. However, their preaching and the followthrough of the gospel itself is completely unbiblical to the point that if the Apostles Peter and Paul were alive today, they wouldn't even recognize it.
This includes mainline denominations as well as Evangelicals, Baptists and Charismatics. There are many differences in organization and practice between these groups, but they preach a similar message when it comes to the gospel. Basically, they're saying you're saved by faith alone. They also believe and teach that unless the Holy Spirit enables you to believe in Jesus you cannot be saved.
This is why their manner of preaching is to have people accept Jesus or receive Jesus through intellectual ascent. In other words, I accept what has been done for me by Jesus (on the cross) and the Holy Spirit (in my heart). This ascent they call faith alone, which is code for you don't choose, you simply receive.
Churches of Christ
The Catholic gospel and the Protestant gospel are similar in one important way - they both eliminate free will in the process of salvation to a lesser or greater degree. Catholics eliminate it altogether by situating the process of salvation at birth when a child cannot yet exercise their will. This makes growing the church easy since it's based on birth rate and not evangelism.
Protestants and others disregard free will, teaching that the change factor is provided by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit leads you to faith because without Him you could not choose Jesus for yourself. This is why baptism plays a secondary role, if considered at all, because baptism is a symbol of man's will and in their system man's will has no power and no say.
Jack Hibbs is a marvelous preacher. I was listening to him on the radio and he was preaching about this and that and you've got to obey God, it's important to obey God and I'm saying "that's right, amen brother, keep preaching it." Then he says, "Just as Acts 2:38 says," and I'm like, he's going to quote Acts 2:38, I've never heard an Evangelical preacher ever quote Acts 2:38. And he says, "As Acts 2:38 says 'repent and have faith and you will be saved.'" Huh? What? Acts 2:38 actually says:
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He's also quoting Isaiah and Habakkuk off the top of his head but he had misquoted Acts 2:38 because it didn't fit his Evangelical mindset.
This brings us to the Churches of Christ and how we are different. Not just that we don't use instruments or we practice male spiritual leadership in our churches - these are different, but this is not the crucial difference. The important difference or advantages between us and them is that in our preaching of the gospel, man's free will plays a crucial part in the process of salvation and does so because we believe that the Bible teaches that it does!
Yes, Jesus died to pay the moral debt for sin for all men; and yes, the Holy Spirit works to bring man face to face with the Gospel, but in the end each person must choose to believe and express that faith in obedience or not!
Why? Because God made man in His image and one feature of the Divine image is absolute free will. God's absolute free will led Him to create mankind with the same absolute free will. This means that God created a being that had the power to reject Him if he chose to do so (absolute free will).
Why did God give man absolute free will? He did that because this was the only way to bring into existence a being who could and would genuinely love God. Because without free will it is not possible to love God or worship him. On the other hand, God's absolute free will also permits him to bless with eternal life those who choose to believe in him and reject those who reject him. You see, free will cuts both ways.
Less we leave here thinking everybody else is wrong and we are right, I want to point out a serious mistake that we in the Church of Christ make in our proclamation of the gospel.
In simple terms, we preach the response to the gospel as the gospel itself. Here's what I mean by this. When you ask someone in the Church of Christ, what is the plan of salvation? The answer you get is the five-step plan of salvation - hear the gospel, believe the gospel, confess, repent, be baptized. I have seen this "plan of salvation" on billboards, tracks, I've heard countless sermons and soul-winning seminars promote these five steps as God's plan to save man - no wonder we're often accused of legalism.
This is not the plan of salvation, this is man's response to God's plan of salvation. These are expressions of faith.
The plan of salvation is that God the Father sent God the Son to make and to offer His life to pay for the moral price for man's sin. The plan to save man was called vicarious atonement.
7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us.
- Ephesians 1:7-8a
There's God's free will saving us.
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:6-8
Brothers and sisters, this is the plan of salvation, this is the gospel, this is the Good News! Now once we believe as true this good news, our response of faith is to repent of our sins, confess Christ and be baptized (Acts 2:38).
You see, there's no good news in confessing Jesus or repenting or being baptized. You could convince me that I have to do this, but there's no glad tithings here. These are things to do! This is legalism in its purest form (Do this and you get that).
The change we have to make is that we need to preach the gospel. Jesus died for your sins so you don't have to suffer condemnation and death for your spirit, Hallelujah! That's good news for me personally because I am a sinner - what do I do now?
- Believe in Jesus
- Express that belief and faith according to what Jesus and the Apostles taught, confess, repent, be baptised.
First, let's make sure we preach the gospel message because it's the power of God onto salvation.
Second, let's explain the response of faith because repentance and baptism have been the proper biblical response of obedient faith beginning with John the Baptist, through Jesus and his apostles to this very day and to the very end of the world when Jesus will return.
The 10 examples of believers being baptized in the Book of Acts trumps any arguments that baptism is not important for salvation.
Summary / Invitation
So, very quickly, why go? Why organize local evangelism, why send a missionary, why spend the money to send others, why remind everybody on the regular basis that mission work is important and worth the time?
The answer why go, three main reasons:
- God strongly commands it. It's hard to read the New Testament and not notice that it's important to preach the gospel.
- The world is lost and we will suffer because of it. It's good to help the poor, sick and those with no voice but saving a soul is more important in the scheme of things. Both rich and poor have the same time on this earth and both of them die. Their souls, however, are eternal and mission work deals with this eternal life or death outcome (Romans 3:23).
- The Bible has the answer but the world has corrupted even that in most instances. If we're so sure that we have the truth correctly discerned, then it's a sin if we don't proclaim it far and wide.
Once we answer the question "why go?" we each as Christians and collectively as the Church must answer the question, "Who will go?" I invite all congregations to seek out those who will say, "Here I am Lord, send me." Are you one of those? Is the Lord pulling on you to give Him the answer? Are you saying to yourself, "but I'm just a young person, what could I do?" The Lord calls the young and the old to do His will.
Have you decided to obey the gospel and exercise your free will by choosing to express your faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins and being immersed in water? Please do so without further delay.