Text: Luke 10:1-3
We are progressing through this series "Go & Tell," where we are developing a biblical theology of evangelism and missions. As a church, we have studied the Bible's testimony that God does all things for His glory. That's why we exist as well. The problem in the world is that man has fallen short of His glory. We also looked at the future reality of the nations gathered around Christ, the victorious Savior, and how our present actions in this life bring that future reality. Last week, we looked at the Bible's teaching about what it means to be a Christian. At its root, following Jesus means embracing a death to self. We joyfully die to ourselves, because we know that's how we come to live. It isn't until we die to ourselves, that we will willingly obey Christ, despite the costs and persecution will come with it. Far from running from this cost, we step into it, knowing that only obedience leads to joy.
This week, we add another layer on to our study, and look at the reality that we as Christians are SENT people.
A recent Barna Study was conducted that showed 51% of church-goers had not heard the term "Great Commission." 25% of had heard of it, but didn't know what it was. Another 7% just weren't sure. So if you're doing math, 83% of church goers either had not heard of the term, or had, but didn't know what it was. So only 17% of churchgoers are confident in knowing what the Great Commission is. In the famous words of Apollo 13: "Houston, we have a problem."
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, "18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This is the Great Commission. Jesus gives his disciples (not just the 12, but all gathered - possibly 120 or even 500), the call to go. This going will involve their preaching, sharing, and bearing witness to the gospel. They are going to leave comfort and be heralds of a message. Their message is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah of the world. He died on a cross to pay for sin and rescue sinners, and rose on the third day. They are going to be witnesses that Jesus lives, and not only that, but that each person must reckon with who he is. To be forgiven of sins, and made right with God (both now and for eternity), they must put their faith in Jesus. That is the message. Christians, those who have come to not only believe, but follow Jesus in obedience, share this message.
Acts 1:8 shows Jesus before his ascension share the same thing, "8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This is the baseline mission of the Church and of Christians. These are the marching orders. And to imagine that 83% of Christians, who ACTUALLY ATTEND CHURCH, don't know this, is why the church in America is in such rotten shape. This isn't professing Christians who don't attend church regularly! This would be like the US Military in 1941 deploying to Nazi occupied Europe and Japanese occupied Philippines and not having weapons, but sitting around playing cards, without ever getting in the fight. What are you here for!? Your mission is to get in the fight, to liberate captive nations from these occupying forces. You goal is to defeat the enemy and win. As silly as it sounds for the military to not know its mission and purpose, how sad is it that the Church right now doesn't?
So 100% of those in this church would have to answer that they know the Great Commission, at minimum because I've told you already, but now the questions for us to look at today are: Why does He send us? What should we expect as we go?
Exegete Luke 10:1-3
vs 1 -- Jesus appointed, chose, 72 of his disciples to send out to do ministry. First, this shows us that Jesus had way more active disciples than jut 12. He has 12 apostles, but many more who followed him and were a part of his ministry. He sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to the towns and places he was planning to go.
Something important to catch about this: Jesus' mission, which was a rescue mission to save sinners, was intentional and purposeful. He wasn't just drifting about looking for something to do. He was working a plan. He was going to towns and villages on purpose. Remember in John 4 when he goes to Samaria and encounters the woman at the well. That was actually not the normal path people would travel to go from Jerusalem to Galilee, but he told his disciples he "had to go to Samaria." Why did he have to go? Because there was a woman there he was going to rescue and redeem. And through her, the town would meet Christ and hear the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus had crowds looking for him at some points, and his disciples would find him and say, "Everyone is looking for you." And he'd say something like, "We have to go. There's more towns to go to." So he wasn't just going where people liked him. He had plenty of chances to do that. He was working the eternal, sovreign plan.
So he sends them ahead. And this is what he tells them...
vs 2 -- "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." We are familiar with this passage. Jesus sends his disciples and tells them that the harvest is plentiful. Where is this harvest? Everywhere. It is all around us. It is in Lebanon. It is in Afghanistan. It is in China. It is in Mexico. It is in Nigeria. The harvest is all around. And it is plentiful (abundant and vast).
Now there are two ways you can see this passage. Either could be the case. Both produce the same outcome and response. One view is that the harvest is lost people ready to be brought into the kingdom, but there are a lack of faithful churches and faithful Christian witnesses to bring them in. We know the reality of this is true. In the United States, there is 1 church for every 300 people. The average church in America averages less than 89 people. So we have 1 church for every 300 people, but we know there are swaths of lost people here in America, and growing each day. 5,000-7,000 churches close their doors each year. But when you look at the unreached people groups of the world (over 7K), there is only 1 missionary for every 150K unreached persons. There is a harvest to be gathered, if we had willing laborers to share the gospel. In Sumatra (Indonesia), 40 million unreached live, but only 3-4 IMB families.
Another view of this passage is that the harvest is the coming judgment of God. This idea is that people are ripe for judgment. This potential interpretation comes into view through the prophet Joel.
Joel 3:12-14 --
12 Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow,
for their evil is great.
14 Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
in the valley of decision.
In the context of this passage, the harvest are the nations ripe for the judgment of God. "Multitudes, multitudes" it says. If this is what Jesus is saying, that the nations are ripe for judgment because of their evil, the action item is still the same: I'm sending you out to bear witness and preach the gospel. The laborers are few. This is both then and now. There were few laborers in Israel at that time. Not all who were descendents of Abraham were truly children of God. Jesus has said that in the Gospels repeatedly. Paul says not all of Israel is True Israel. But it is true today: many profess to be Christians, but there are not actually many laborers. This should be convicting. (Spurgeon: "Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.")
So what does Jesus tell them to do, even as he is sending them: pray earnestly (with fervency and sincerity) to the Lord of the harvest (the One who is sovereignly over it) to send out laborers into his harvest. Pray.
Pray. Because while Jesus sends us, he tells us to pray as we go that he would send more. Here's a question: why doesn't He just send more? Why tell us to pray and ask for it? He wants our hearts to be invested. He wants us to participate with His heart for the nations of the Earth. He wants us to be zealous for God to have His glory from the nations. Praying does that.
I have an app on my phone: Unreached Peoples (by Joshua Project). Each day a new Unreached People Group (UPG) shows up. On Monday, the Turks in Germany popped up. As I read about them, their number, their situation, their spiritual condition, and that 0.0% of them are reached, it weighed heavy. And it made me feel helpless to do anything about it. So you know what I did? I prayed. "God, raise up people who will go to the Turks in Germany." I can't go to each group that pops up each day, but the reality of the need burdens my heart to pray. That's where God wants me to be.
If you'd like to ramp up your prayer commitment to these things, here is a challenge: download the app. Then use the Connect Card QR code or fill out the paper version, and under "I want to be sent," select
"PRAY." We want to track as a church how many folks are praying during a given week. We'd love to see 500 of us each week fulfilling Luke 10:2.
Some more prayer options: 1. Next Sunday (every 1st Sunday of the month), in the Balcony at 10:30am, we have people gather to pray for the nations. 2. Set a phone alarm at 10:02am in light of Luke 10:2 to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest. It's His harvest. Salvation belongs to the Lord. It's not our ability or smooth talking tongues taht bring people into the fold. It is HIs harvest. We plant and water, but God brings the growth. That's why we pray to Him. He owns the harvest, but he calls us to reap. This brings confidence.
vs 3 -- Jesus repeats again, "Go." He is sending them to this harvest. But he warns them. "Behold." Take notice. Be aware. As you go, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Take a second to let that last statement hit home.
Jesus knows their are wolves lurking. He knows he's sending them out as those who are weaker and vulnerable to those wolves. Yet he sends them. He doesn't send them blindly. He tells them. But he sends them nonetheless.
What do you do with that (many of the apostles went to their deaths)? This crushes any illusions that God's highest priority is our comfort and safety. This squashes any theological beliefs that prosperity and ease are the markers of living under God's smile. Sure, God blesses us, even monetarily. But we should never confuse God's blessings with the idea of exemption from strife, struggle, and persecution. We should never conclude that God would spare sending us to where the wolves are. Friends, the harvest is all around, but so are the wolves!
Just so you know, and don't have any confusion. Wolves eat lambs for dinner. This isn't a friendly relationship. He doesn't promise tickle-fights and all-skates. He sends us into the land where all around enemies want to devour us. Yet he sends us anyway. This confronts us with inaccurate views of Jesus. Our culture has crafted a picture of Jesus who exists to keep life smooth for you, and so many don't know what to do with a Jesus that sends his disciples into the lion's den. Last week, we saw where John and Peter were beat for proclaiming Christ to others, and they left rejoicing and thankful Jesus allowed them to suffer for his name. They counted it as privilege to in some way share in suffering as Jesus suffered for them.
Polycarp, the disciple of John (we talked about him in the Cloud series a few years ago), said this as his life was threatened if he didn't deny Jesus.
"Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved Me?....I bless Thee for deigning me worthy of this day and this hour that I may be among Thy martyrs and drink the cup of my Lord Jesus Christ.”
After saying this, they went to fasten Polycarp to a stake to burn him. But he told them nothing would be needed to fasten him there, he would stay willingly. And he did. They lit him on fire, and he burned before the eyes of the onlookers, to the glory of Christ.
So the 72 are sent. And so are we. That's the heart of the Christian life. We are sent people. We've been sent among wolves. We've been warned. This is why we close our worship gathering every week with the phrase: Journey Church, you are....??? SENT.
The question is: Do we leave here living sent? (Saturday, September 18 at 9am - Evangelism training, and we're going to keep hounding everyone to sign up)
We are all sent. It doesn't always mean across the world. But I want to challenge you with this question: why wouldn't God send you across the world to bear witness to His grace? Why not you? Why not your children? Perhaps your job could be done internationally. Perhaps as a college student you should considering giving the first year or two years after graduation to international missions. Perhaps your at retirement time, maybe you could go spend 3-5 years on the mission field. Be open to God's leading in these things. The Connect Card has a way to show your interest in longer-term missions. (Inner lawyer: my kids, my life, my retirement...No! Our lives are not our own.)
But we are sent right here as well. We can engage with lost people here, but we can also engage with the nations here. We have Cumberland students that are internationals. Some of you have neighbors who are internationals. Did you know that Mt Juliet's population is at least 13.4% internationals in 2019, and has probably climbed. Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Franklin are 18.6% international population (350K in Middle TN). In other words, the nations are all around us. The harvest is everywhere. On September 25, our young adults will take a culture tour in Nashville, and on Saturday from 10am-noon our high schoolers will hear from international missionaries.
You can live sent by financially supporting the work of the church. Tithing from your income and giving to the work of spreading the gospel is one avenue for your participation in spreading the name of Jesus.
Jesus sends us. It isn't going to be easy, or comfortable. He doesn't prevent us from getting some bumps and bruises, scars or scares, pain or persecution. But he does promise us this: He is with us everywhere we go, and He will strengthen us and sustain us through it all. He sends us out as lambs among wolves, but He promises us that if we endure, we will inherit the crown of life (James 1:12).
Is He not worthy of our obedience? Isn't Jesus full deserving of our obeying His Words and commands to go? Should we receive at His hands eternal life, but not receive from His mouth His Word? Should we take from His hands forgiveness of sins, but not receive in His name slander and rejection? Should we take from Him the cup of salvation, but not take from Him the cup of scorn from the world?
Our Lord Jesus Christ was sent from Heaven to Earth to redeem us at the price of His life. And if we belong to Him, and have our sins forgiven, we too are sent here on Earth to help others find the hope of Heaven.
Have you received the free gift of grace from His hand? Have you trusted in Jesus' death to forgive your sins? Have you confessed your helplessness apart from a Savior and bowed the knee to Jesus to be that Savior? That is the most important thing in your life today. Trust Him now. Delay no longer.
If you belong to Christ, have you embraced, and truly come to see that you are no longer your own? Do you understand that as a Christian, you are sent. He calls us to be laborers for the harvest. This isn't something you can opt out of. There are not exemption wavers. This is what it means to be a part of the team. Even as lambs among wolves, we go. Because we are sent by our gracious Redeemer.