And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Jesus left us with the great commandment to love God with all our hearts(Mark 12:30) and the great commission to take the message to everyone on the planet. Both of these apply to every believer, not just those to whom He appeared that day or to pastors in churches today. If you’re a believer, these statements are written on your job description. How’s it going so far?
Too often, we treat the good news of Christ as if it’s the news that our favorite team won the big game. We’re excited, but it doesn’t change how we live each day. The great commission, though, is about life and death, heaven and hell. It’s about sharing the best news ever announced, and those entrusted with it have the unspeakable privilege and heavy responsibility to get the news out to every person.
Jesus was very clear: Those who believe will be rescues from sin and death, but those who don’t will experience God’s righteous judgement. He could have chosen a different way to get the message out, but He chose you and me. We can see it as a burden, or we can see it as the greatest privilege anyone has ever received. God calls us His ambassadors to a lost world(2 Corinthians 5:19-20). We represent the King of kings, and we can be both proud of our role and humble that He would entrust His venture to people like us. Our primary motivation comes, though, from remembering that we, too, we’re lost, but now we’re found. Each of us must start from where we are with what we have and go from there. Then God will take the knowledge we have, expand it, and use our witness to claim others for Himself.
The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.
Here are the statistics according to a Georgetown University bioethics study:
In the United States, 2.6 million die each year. That is 7123 each day, 297 each hour, and 5 each minute.
We don’t know how many of those die without Christ but the latest poll indicates that around 60% of the US population are non- Christian. That means that 3 out of 5 people die without Christ every minute, 178 each hour and 4,274 each day. Let those numbers sink in for a moment. In the meanwhile statistics say that the vast majority of the US churches have plateaued or are declining and in the next ten years many will close their doors.
None of this has to continue to be true. I realize this is heavy for some of us to think about but it is the reality. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus makes a declaration about the intentions and desires of God and Himself:
“for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
The setting of this story is unique. Jesus is walking along with the disciples and the multitude and teaching about the kingdom of God. A little man, a Roman tax collector, by the name of Zachaus hears about Jesus and being short of stature and desiring to see Jesus runs ahead and climbs up a sycamore tree. What a story! A wealthy, business man forgets his dignity for his empty heart cries out for help. This is where the story gets interesting for Jesus stops at the foot of the tree and calls Zachaus down and invites Himself home to dinner with Him. The disciples and the crowd are indignant. They literally hate this man and after all they have a good cause. He is not only working for their oppressors but he is also cheating his own countrymen by adding a little extra to their taxes for himself. Surely, they reason, this person has no place in the kingdom of God, and how they must have been surprised with Jesus’ response to a tax collector. But even more notable was the tax collector’s reaction to the grace of Jesus. Giving away half his wealth and restoring 4 times anything he had cheated someone for tells us that there was indeed that day a changed life. To answer the question as to why He would eat dinner with a tax collector, Jesus gave us the mission of God and our commission: “Seek the lost and tell them they can be saved.” In Acts 1 as Jesus is getting ready to leave His followers, He gives them the following orders:
“But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
The desire of God is that none perish but unless they hear how shall they believe? Hear what Paul says about our missions in his letter to the Romans:
“But what does it say? “ The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “ Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].” For there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; for the same Lord is Lord over all [of us], and [He is] abounding in riches (blessings) for all who call on Him [in faith and prayer]. For “ whoever calls on the name of the Lord [in prayer] will be saved.” But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (messenger)? And how will they preach unless they are commissioned and sent [for that purpose]? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “ How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
For whatever reason, God has chosen you and me and every Christ follower to be the ones who carry and share the good news. That’s right, no other method other than one found person telling another lost person how to get home again. It’s one beggar sharing his food with another beggar. It’s somebody who has received the love of Christ loving another sinner just as someone loved them enough to tell them the Good News. Only those who can turn a cold heart toward the lost, broken, hurting sinners who will die without Christ unless someone tells them about Him, can find justifiable reason to be silent.
Love is the most powerful force in the world. People will do things out of love that no one could pay them or force them to do. It was the powerful love of God that caused Him to send Christ into the world and it was love that caused Christ to hang on the cross and it will be our love for God that will move us to obey His commission. Furthermore, it will be our God-given love for fallen humanity that will motivate us to give the Good News even though we feel afraid or insufficient. That love will override any objection. It will not let us excuse ourselves by thinking that someone else will carry out the commission. We will be aware that those who die in their sins are lost for all eternity. We will work with urgency to seek the lost so that none perish. We won’t be content with being an ineffective, declining congregation when we become aware that all around us are broken, hopeless, sin-bound people that need the liberation that only Christ offers. We won’t sit down, shut up, quit trying until everyone we know has had a conversation with us about their eternal destiny. We can’t keep singing “Oh, how I love Jesus” and continue to disregard the very thing that makes His heart glad. Listen to what Christ said about what makes God glad:
“So He told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost, [searching] until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he gets home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins [each one equal to a day’s wages] and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her [women] friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I found the lost coin!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents [that is, changes his inner self—his old way of thinking, regrets past sins, lives his life in a way that proves repentance; and seeks God’s purpose for his life].”
I’m inviting you to join the team and let’s seek the lost, tell them the Good News, introduce them to Jesus and celebrate with God as He rejoices over the sinner who repents and seeks God’s purpose for His life. We have multiple openings and there’s always room for more. Let join together and gladden the heart of our Savior who delights in us and enjoys seeing us enjoy His blessings. Other than giving God our own hearts the greatest gift we can give God is our faithful, passionate, purposeful giving the Good News to everyone we can at every opportunity we have. And when one of those lost sheep hear the Gospel and repents, we give God an opportunity to dance around the throne for great joy.
Dr. John Thompson