This morning we are wrapping up a series that we started at Christmas – four months ago. We called it the Real Jesus and we talked about the mission, and the message and we read about his interactions with all kinds of people – and we studied his death and burial and resurrection – and now we come to Jesus’ final words to his followers.
We’ve been using the book of Luke as our main source in our study of the life of Jesus. Luke is one of four books – along with Matthew Mark and John, that detail the life and ministry and death and burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Last week we looked at the resurrection and celebrated – and so now the question is – what happened next? This is exciting stuff. Let’s read how Luke ends his exciting gospel!
50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.
52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.
In fact – the ending of Luke is a little abrupt. Jesus ascended into heaven and everyone was left behind in Jerusalem. They spent their time in the temple praising God. It kind of leaves you with a – now what? feeling. What happened next? Is that the end of the story?
Thankfully – the answer is no – because Luke actually wrote another book. He continues the story in the book of Acts. Notice though – how Luke ends the story in Jerusalem. In the temple. In Jerusalem. If you read the book of Luke – it reads like a travel story – Jesus is always on the way to Jerusalem. Now it ends with the believers in Jerusalem.
Enter the second half of the story – the book of Acts. Guess what the book of Acts is? It is also a travel story. Except this time – the book is about how the message of Jesus – what we call the Gospel – which means the good news – the book of Acts is the story about how the Gospel traveled from a few disciples praising God in Jerusalem – to the very center of the capital city of the most powerful empire in the world. By the end of Acts – the good news of Jesus has travelled to Rome – and into Caesars palace.
By the way- the book of Acts is often thought to be the story of Peter and Paul – and how the early church got started – and yes – it’s true. But the book of Acts is about how the good news travelled throughout the Roman empire – leaving churches behind in every town it travelled through.
Listen to how the book of Acts ends – 30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
The end. And when you read it, you’re like – so what happened to Paul? Does he get out of prison? And the truth is – that Paul was not the star of the show – so to speak. The main character of the book of Acts is the good news – and so there – in the heart of the most powerful city in the world, sits Paul – waiting for his appeal before Caesar himself – boldly preaching the good news of Jesus.
And I will tell you, that the travel story of how God’s good news of forgiveness of sins and a fresh start in life has not stopped ever since. It travelled from that small group of people in Jerusalem – all the way to Rome – and Asia, and Africa and Europe – and it landed in America one day and made it’s way through time and space until the good news of Jesus travelled all the way to a gymnasium in Gretna Nebraska.
And from Gretna to Mali Africa and Togo and Haiti and the Dominican Republic and south Omaha and every neighborhood represented in this room and online.
How did the Good News of Jesus travel so far for so long? It’s because that was Jesus’ plan from the beginning.
Look at Jesus’ words to his followers in the first chapter of Acts. Luke puts these words – rather than the closing words of Luke, he sets up Acts by putting them as the first word in the book of Acts.
Acts 18 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Every city, state, region and continent – and every generation – should have the chance to hear the good news of Jesus. Jesus instructs us to tell people about him everywhere.
May I read to you Matthews account of what we call now, “The Great Commission.”
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
When Jesus began his ministry – he stood before a group of people who felt like misfits – people who had trouble feeling like they fit in anywhere – and Jesus made them a promise. I’m going to make you into the light of the world.
Jesus intends to fulfill that promise. Jesus’ Great Commission – as you go into the world – be sure to bring this good news of hope with you – and together – you and God – will change people’s lives for the good.
We just came out of an Easter week – where we honored the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. We remembered his death – and we celebrated his resurrected life.
He died for us – so that he can do this with us. He did all of that for us, so that he can walk with us – and become the kinds of people that others might one day look up and say thanks to God for bringing you into their life.
Jesus did all of that for us, so that he can walk with us now, and turn us into the light of the world. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – is living in you. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave – is alive – in you. You are alive for a reason.
Do you have any idea how important you? Did you know that God created you in this century – and placed you in your family and your workplace and your neighborhood – for such a time as this?
The world – and your world in particular – needs to know that there is a God. A God that is wildly better than they can imagine. Who paved a way for us to live a life where we fear nothing. Because the Lord is with us.
Who better than you to bring good news to your world. Who better than you to bring light into your world? And be sure of this – He is with you always.
It is God’s great desire that your friends who right now might not think that there is any room in their life for God – It is God’s desire that they be saved from the kingdom of darkness and rough into the kingdom of light.
Can I share with you a verse that talks about God’s heart desire.
1 Tim 2 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
This is God’s desire. And before Jesus went back to the Father – he said – even though I’m leaving – you can rest assure that You might not see me – but I’ll be with you – I will never leave you nor forsake you.
And together – let’s bring Hope to people who woke up this morning feeling hopeless. Let’s bring love to people who feel unworthy of love. Let’s bring light to people who, frankly are living in darkness. Let’s change the world.
Gang – I want you to listen to every word that is about to flow from my ruby red lips. You were built to count. You were created to live a significant life. You were created for far more than to grind your way through life trying to gather things and trying to avoid pain until you die.
All around us are people who seem pretty well put together but on the inside – when they lie in bed at night – they ask themselves – is this really all there is to life? And in this community especially – live people who live in the nicest houses, and drive the nicest cars – and have a great family – and they feel empty inside. There is something missing – and they know it – but they don’t why. They have everything that this world tells them they need to find happiness and fulfillment and yet – they are bankrupt on the inside.
Our friends deserve to know they are more than a collection of particles and protons. They are more than space junk that collided at just the right temperature and speed and – we are more than this and Jesus wants us to bring that message to them.
And – I speak to my friends here who might be the most avowed atheist – even if you are – I’m bringing you good news – you are more than finely aged primordial goo. You are a human being made in the image of God and you are deeply loved by God. And Jesus has done all the work to make it possible for you to be adopted into the family of God – and to begin living your life in a thoroughly satisfying adventure with God by your side.
The good news has travelled from Jerusalem through Rome and into your ears this morning.
Friends – You were built to count. You were created to life a significant life. You ARE the light of the world.
Now – sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming to read about this Great commission of Jesus to go into all the world and bring the good news with us. So let me throw out there just a few suggestions – some practical ways that we can fulfill the great commission together.
Now let’s get super practical – here are some ways you can make disciples of all nations.
- Pray for your friends who do not know the good news.
Take ownership of the people in your life who you think will never come to faith in Jesus. And when you pray – you’re saying – Lord – you put me in this person’s life for a reason. And so – I’m asking that you would work in the invisible places in their heart and soften them to the message of Jesus. Pray for them regularly – that they might come to know Jesus.
- Be ready to share your story. I know that not everyone listening has made the decision to become a follower of Jesus. But many of you have already decided that you think highly enough of Jesus to trust him.
Do you know why? Why are you following Jesus? What’s your story? Have you ever written it down? Have you ever worked on telling your story in a way that makes sense to someone?
Now listen – I’m not asking you to preach. No one likes to be preached to – except you all – I assume you love it. But that isn’t preaching. That’s just explaining how I came around to rethinking what God was really like. I discovered the real Jesus.
You want to hear my story? When I was younger, I figured there had to be a God, and I figured that if there was a God, he had to be mad at me – I just had this image of an angry mad God – and then one night I was invited to church and I heard something that totally changed my life. I heard that Jesus loved me enough – that if I were the only person in history to ever place my faith in Him – Jesus still would have died on the cross. He loved me that much. So I went home and prayed that night – if that’s true, then I want to be friends with you. Teach me what it means to follow you.
My guess is that if you are ready to share your story – you will be amazed at the opportunities God brings your way to share it. He is working in the hearts of every life we see. Be prepared to share – not why you come to Journey – but what happened that made you decide to think highly enough of Jesus to follow him.
Your friends deserve to have one friend in their life who is not afraid to address spiritual things. We are more than flesh – and feelings. We have a spirit – and Jesus desires to breath life into it.
Consider inviting a friend to come to Journey. Maybe there’s someone you can say – hey – we’ve been enjoying going to this church – we’d love for you to come with us if that’s something you ever considered.
Then leave it – no need to pressure – but I’m telling you that the worst thing they can say is – that’s not our thing, but thanks for the offer. Cool. No worries. Just thought I’d ask. And what if they said, you know we have been thinking about going to a church. And so, okay – I’ll come with you.
And if you are here this morning and your friends invited you – it wasn’t weird, right? The reason your friend invited you was to give you a chance to hear the good news and decide for yourself. And if you decide it’s not your cup of tea right now – your friends will be okay with that, I promise.
In fact- how many of you – show of hands – how many of you are a follower of Jesus right now because of the influence of a friend or family member?
Because someone at some point in your life – a friend invited you to come? It’s not weird, right? Gang – the number one story we hear from families that we talk to at Journey – is that we hadn’t gone to church since we graduated from confirmation class and didn’t have to go – but recently we thought – maybe we should give church a try. And here you are.
God’s always working in everyone you see.
- Adopt a country to pray receive the good news.
Parents – want to help your kids learn about the world? Adopt a country that needs the good news. Learn about a country. Choose a country where there aren’t many Christians. Pray for a country in the Middle East. Pray for Mali – where 97 percent of the country has yet to place their faith in Jesus.
Perhaps find a ministry, or a missionary, who works in that country bringing the good news.
- Support global missions. Jesus tells us to keep the world in mind – go into the world. Now there’s lots of ways to support global missions. Usually we talk about three ways – Pray – Give or go.
Pray for countries that have limited access to the good news.
You can support missions work in another country financially. We have a wonderful chance in life to turn a dollar bill into something that truly matters. Now when you give to Journey – we budget to spend $125k this year on work in Mali, and Togo, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Now Jody and I also support other missions and ministries that are near our heart.
Listen – you can go on a missions trip. You can go somewhere in the world. I’m going to the Dominican Republic with Amanda Temosheck and her family – I’d love to bring two more people with me to the DR. In June. It’ll be hot and it’ll cost you $1500 and you will be grateful for the memories and the ministry as we help a group of Dominicans start their own church. If you want to go let me know today.
And – by the way – some of you might be called into missionary service. God is telling you to move to another country to be the salt and light of the world. The person God used most in my spiritual life back in high school is a missionary in the Ukraine.
- Use your gifts.
Collectively – we all here are working together to fulfill the great commission here in Gretna through the ministry of Journey Church. God has given you gifts, talents and abilities that – when put into use, makes our church healthy.
Now this year – our opportunities to serve within the body here at Journey have been really limited. But guess what is going to happen in about 13 months? We are going to have to form a number – a large number – of new service teams. I want to encourage you to consider a way that you can serve within Journey Church.
It takes a lot of people to make Journey happen. And you will be hearing about many different kinds of opportunities to make our church healthy as we work hard to be the kind of church that people who are new to faith, or people who are renewing their faith, or people who are skeptical about faith – find a home here at Journey.
There are many places in the world and in the city – where your giftedness will bring health to a ministry. Find something to do that employs your abilities for the sake of the Kingdom.
- Parents – make disciples in your home. Now next week, and for the next three weeks – we are going to do a quick little three week sermon series on Parenting. And we are using the book of Proverbs to talk about parenting. And so – now you know what we’re doing. But parents- when you pray for your children before they go to bed- you are fulfilling the great commission in your home. When your kids see you reading your bible or praying together at meals – When you read great books of the faith – like the Chronicles of Narnia – you read that to your kids – you are fulfilling the great commission.
- Consider full time ministry. We don’t say this enough, I think. But the reality is that all of us have a role to play in the kingdom – but some of us are going to be called to a lifetime of service to the King in the realm of full time ministry. Students – I was 17 when I felt God calling me to be a pastor. Jim was in his twenties. I went to grad school with many a 40 something and 50 something who where going to school to get ready for a second career – this time in full time ministry.
God is at work in every person you know. And he has sent you into their world to live a life marked by gentleness and love. And at some point you can be assured that God will prompt them to ask – why are you different?
Close in prayer. How is God speaking to you? Will you ask him to bring to mind one person that you think doesn’t know about the good news of Jesus. They haven’t discovered the Real Jesus yet.