Why Do The Lost Seem So Far Away?

Audio of This Message is Found HERE.

There are at least two senses in which it is true that the lost seem so far away. Most of us who grew up going to church heard about missionaries in far away worlds. Occasionally there would be letters posted on the bulletin board with fuzzy pictures of baptisms in muddy rivers. I grew up hearing about Godson Anyanwu in Nigeria and Nehemiah Gootham in India. For decades Central in Pascagoula has supported K. Joseph in India, who is now elderly and his son is training ministers. These are just a few among thousands of individuals that many of us only hear about through a letter. They are real people who are doing work in extraordinary circumstances … in their home country. They are winning the lost in a life setting that offers very little hope for a change in circumstances. a World Missions are important – missionaries should feel confident in their work with our consistent support. It’s true that the lost world seems very far away.

But I’m not sure that has a lot to do with Jesus’ commands we call the “Great Commission”.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

There is another sense in which the lost seem so far away, but not in distance. They seem … out of reach. While I hope we never outgrow international or domestic missions, I think we need a reminder that we can never overlook the mission in our back yard. Step outside and take a look around.

When we see our city with spiritual eyes we see those left behind after sin has ravaged their lives. We see those who belong nowhere – who have no family – who walk around in a sense of crowded loneliness. We see children all around who are growing up without Christ, without the church, without God’s truth being taught to guide them through the treacherous waters of our culture. Even though they are within shouting distance, they still seem so far away.

Perhaps that is because we have never really viewed our own community as a mission field. What would a missionary to our city do? If you were from another country and came to this city to be a missionary for Christ, what would you do? When we answer that question honestly, then we will know what we should do.

Missionaries walk into an unfamiliar world. No matter how much you study and prepare, walking onto the terrain is a new experience. It never was acceptable for churches to remain cloistered away from the lost – having given up on people that even God still believes in. What universe next door is awaiting your arrival with the greatest news ever told? Go into all the world…

Missionaries look for open hearts nearby. It’s easy to find people who do not care about Jesus. It takes more effort, greater insight, wiser observation to discover those who have open hearts and who are ready to receive Christ into their lives. Go and make disciples…

Missionaries are available to God’s leading. We are mistaken if we think that we are in this alone. There are people who are asking God to show them the way … to help them find their way to Him. You are His answer to that prayer. Preach the good news to all creation…

Missionaries are able, through preparation, to share the gospel. Do not get hung up on this point … so many think that if they do not have a library of doctrinal information memorized that God cannot use them. But on the other hand, do not neglect study and devotion. You cannot share what you do not have.

Missionaries view all people as needing the gospel. If we follow God’s lead and open ourselves to those who indicate an interest, we may reach people who are very unlike us. That is not a problem to God. Our backyard mission takes a look around this city and notes that there is much diversity here. Does our church reflect that diversity? Make disciples of all nations

Missionaries are consumed with the message. It would be easy on the mission field to adapt the message so that it might be received more readily. Without supervision on the mission field a missionary might import some of his favorite traditions from home into the field. This is a gigantic mistake we have all made at times: trying to recreate our kind of Christian. The Bible only knows one kind of Christian … but today there are any number of traditions and interpretations that have splintered believers of all stripes. Yes I attend a particular kind of church … and yes we have some peculiar traditions … but those traditions are not our message. We dare not infiltrate the mind of someone who has opened his heart to us by planting our human preferences and traditions along with the gospel. Our message is how the weak can become strong, the poor can become spiritually rich, and the lost can find their way home. Worship styles, version preferences, and denominational put-downs do not represent the gospel. And they frankly shouldn’t be discussed on the mission field. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations”.

It does seem that the lost are so far away. The truth is that they are very near … within reach. And it is very likely that someone you know would like to escape the talk about church and our ways … and talk about the Savior and his ways. The promise of Jesus is that He is very near. I am with you always, to the very end of the age…

The lost are not far away at all. Have you been praying and asking God to show you how to fulfill this great command in your life? He’s beginning to answer.

John

The Perfect Bible?

I would guess that most people reading this post have several Bibles in their possession. Which Bible is your favorite? There are various kinds of Bibles for various purposes. I’m not asking today about versions. I have a shelf in my office with several versions available. I’m thinking more about the physical book.

Since I’m a preacher and I’m very dependent on that book when I’m actually preaching, I try to keep a Bible that has certain qualities. (If I were Trey Morgan I would initiate a ten-point list here. But I’m not.)

I need large print. I actually have a prescription for bi-focals but I haven’t filled it yet. I can’t afford to wait for my eyes to focus on tiny print during a sermon. The larger the better, actually. But I also want a Bible that is a good size … not some 20 lb. giant brick of a book. I’d like to comfortably be able to pick it up and hold it while preaching without losing my balance or throwing my back out trying to lift it. Often I just want a New Testament. I have some with small print that are easy to manage, but not that easy to read. And I want it to look nice.

Recently I was with my friend Danny Dodd and we were looking at Bibles in Barnes and Nobles. We were having this conversation about Bibles. Danny confessed to rolling his Bibles up and folding them in half while preaching. He then complained that his Bibles just don’t last! Imagine that! I do not need a Bible that can endure that kind of abuse … just a Bible I can read that isn’t huge.

So I’ve been looking for the perfect Bible to use in class and preaching. I’d like to have two. One, just a New Testament, large print. The other, just a Bible, large print but not a gigantic book. Too much to ask? Yes. Because it is hard to buy JUST the Bible. I’m not sure publishers publish JUST Bibles any more. Every Bible I pick up has a theme with notes … hundreds of notes… adding to the bulk of the book. Notes for women, men, military, hunters, children, teenagers, those in recovery, archeology, general study notes, apologetics , life applications, and more. Then there are the personality driven Bibles from people like Max Lucado, John McArthur, John Maxwell, Thomas Kinkade, and Joyce Meyer. It seems to me that if I needed information from these various authors on these various subjects I could buy other books.

My favorite study Bible is a Thompson Chain Reference Bible that James Guy got for me after the storm as a gift. It has both sentimental value and exceptional study tools. But for preaching and teaching, it’s too big. So do you have the perfect Bible to teach and preach from? Tell me about it!

A few personal notes:

*I found my parents yesterday in good spirits … feeling fairly well. I enjoyed my too-short visit with them.

*We have a big weekend at Forsythe planned this weekend and I’ll be sharing that here.

*Goodbye Kristy Lee Cook from American Idol. She’ll have a country CD out before long I’m sure.

*Gary Kirkendall is blogging again. That’s good news.

*Our house is now on the market with an official “For Sale” sign in the front yard.

*Please pray for the family of Joe Wrape. Joe was formerly the preacher for the Nichols Street Church of Christ in Bay City, Texas – where my brother and his family attend. A few years ago the Wrapes moved to North Georgia. Last night while preaching the final night of a revival in Bay City, Joe suffered a fatal heart attack. Please pray for his widow and and their grown children. Joe was a passionate preacher … one of those plain spoken preachers that didn’t leave you wondering what he was talking about … yet filled with the grace and love of Jesus. One of Joe’s slogans that appeared on the church bulletin was: Our Only Limitation Is The Size of Our Faith. He lived this slogan. This was a shocking event for this sweet and active church … say a prayer for all of them.

Thanks for reading.

American Idol Tuesday Night

Before we get to the American Idol videos, here’s a little political humor I couldn’t resist!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLSWudoqtWE]

Hillary Boy

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=CNHW8NYhxs8]

David Archuleta’s Fantastic Performance from American Idol last night. How can anyone else win this competition?

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=FwJ6b5AH0-4]

Brooke White’s Moving Performance from American Idol last night. She looked and sounded marvelous!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVAs2zmb0ig]
David Cook … the judges thought it was one of the best of the season. As I heard it on television I thought it was terrible … but giving it a re-listen I think it was pretty great!

What was your favorite performance on American idol last night? Have you changed your mind on the eventual winner?

Tuesday on the Coast

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyhIBXNfqMA]

A Little Political Inspiration and Humor

Tuesday finds me back on the Coast. I didn’t expect to be here today but I’m glad to be here to help Maggy with some needs she had and to visit with my kids. We plan to get over to visit my parents tomorrow.

I want to point you to a few posts you may not know about. Jim Miller has spent much time in singles ministry and he has started a new blog devoted to that subject located HERE.

I think a very needed discussion is taking place at Danny Dodd’s blog. As a divorced minister he is becoming a part of a growing population in Christianity – those ministers who have left behind one marriage for either singlehood or another marriage. Join in the discussion at THIS POST.

Other great posts are listed on the Hot Posts page!

Also my newest sermons are now available on A NEW PODCAST PAGE HERE, and you can also subscribe to them via iTunes on that page as well. Thanks to those who inquired about that!

Thanks for reading,

JD

Why Does ‘Go’ Seem Like Such A Big Word?

AUDIO OF THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE.

Everybody who’s been a Christian any length of time knows what is meant by “The Great Commission“. In fact it is so common that we might even begin to lose interest as soon as those words cross our ears. I don’t know how many Christians would be crass enough to say it out loud, but I think many (if not most) have given up on the idea that they can ever go, teach, or baptize. At the same I think most Christians would identify The Great Commission as a key teaching of Christ for the ages.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

A question arises as I contemplate the words of Jesus. Why does “GO” seem like such a big word?

GO is such a big word because it implies something about us. It says that we have had an experience with Jesus in our own lives and it has impacted us in such a deep way that we would want to share that with others. But how many of us can articulate how Jesus has changed us? Can we say in words what it means to us to live for Jesus? Have we contemplated our own experience with Christ and been able to put into words how his love has managed to win our hearts? Songwriters and poets have tried for centuries. Maybe we’re trying too hard. Simple concepts expressed simply are best. Jesus loved me so deeply and completely that he was willing to be killed on the cross to take upon himself the guilt and shame of my sin. After three days He was raised from the dead, demonstrating his power and ability to keep his promises. I’ve given my life to Him, though I do it imperfectly. As someone who has devoted himself to Jesus, I am to love what He loves: people. I am to be committed to His commitments: God’s will reigning on earth. I am to do as he asks: Go. It’s a big word that implies something about me.

GO is such a big word because it contains a big purpose. I’m told to go ‘make disciples‘. ‘Go’ is a simple word. ‘Make disciples’ are simple words. So how does ‘Go make disciples‘ become such a complex issue? For some, sin has had such a reign in our hearts that we often do not feel strong enough in our spirits to think of ourselves as disciples … as if that is some form of exalted super Christian. The deceptions of our Enemy have caused us to doubt ourselves and to feel the weight of guilt that Jesus came to take away. For others, there is no intention of making disciples. The decision has been made to disobey Christ’s will in this area. I think it’s not so much complex as it is big in purpose. We are, after all, to tell people about the Good News of Jesus, the desire He has to take away their sins and give them a new life. There is no grander purpose … and we are to be consumed with this purpose. One reason why churches have so much time to argue (and even split over) a thousand issues is that the grandest and biggest purpose is yet unfulfilled. When I think about the purpose of the Great Commission, ‘go’ seems like a big word.

GO is such a big word because it is an open-ended instruction. I’m never through ‘going’. And I haven’t been told HOW to go. Maybe there are a million ways to ‘go’ but how do I find the one that is right for me? I would encourage you to contemplate the Great Commission passages for several weeks. Read them. Memorize them. In your prayer time ask God to show you how He wants you to go. I believe after spending some quiet time with God, you will know the answer. Out of the thousand ways to share the gospel, there is a way that will be natural to you … and will take advantage of opportunities already in place in your life. ‘Go’ is such a big word because it can take us in a lot of different directions!

GO is such a big word because of what we are asking of others. ‘Make disciples’ is not a command that can be performed in a factory. We are talking to real people with real lives … real opinions … real experiences … and that is an awesome responsibility. Simplistically, we are talking to people about Jesus and showing them His love, power, and offer. We are also making disciples by living out the Kingdom message day by day before them. We are asking people to give up their lives for the One who gave his life for them. Just like we did. And we need to be sure we have given our life to Christ. Because that takes us back to the first observation … when we ask people to take a look at Jesus, we are implying that we have already done so and have said ‘yes’ to Him.

GO‘ seems like such a big word because it is.