Being a Missionary Christian
THE BIG IDEA: God has called us to be missionary Christians – people who focus on reaching others with the love of Christ.
“After fasting and praying, they laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them out. A praying church is a going church… Missions begins at home. It begins with seeing the shepherd-less multitudes at our doorstep.” (John Amstutz, Disciples of all Nations).[i]
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Three days after Jesus died on the Cross, He was raised from the dead. “During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3, nlt). Then, as He was ready to return to Heaven, He gathered His disciples together to share something very important with them. This was one of the very last things Jesus told them before His ascension.
If you knew that you were dying, or were going to be leaving your family and friends to embark on a very long journey, the last words you would share with them would be very important, both to you and them. This was also true of Jesus. He chose His last words very carefully. We call this the Great Commission:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
After three and a half years of preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and transforming people’s lives, Jesus passed the baton to His disciples and told them to go and do the same things He had been doing. Jesus sent them into the world to preach a message of peace, joy and hope. What Jesus called His original disciples to go and do, He calls us to do today. If you’re a Christian, then God has commissioned you to share the Good News with others.
I’m glad that our church is a part of the Foursquare Gospel Church family. The focus of the Foursquare Gospel is simple: To preach Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as the Savior, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Healer and Coming King. “From its beginning in the 1920’s, the Foursquare movement has been “dedicated unto the cause of inter-denominational and world wide evangelism.” The command of Jesus Christ to “make disciples of all nations” is the foundation of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.”[ii] (John Amstutz).
That statement should be the foundation of every Bible-believing church. We have a responsibility to share the Good News with other people. We can’t keep it to ourselves. Imagine that someone discovered the cure for cancer. What would you think if that person kept the cure to themselves and never shared it with anyone? What we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is much more valuable than the cure for cancer, because the shed blood of Jesus provides the cure for sin. The Gospel not only provides physical healing, it also provides spiritual healing, or salvation. The Gospel provides peace with God through Jesus Christ that makes it possible for a soul to go to Heaven.
Church, we can’t keep this Good News to ourselves. We have a God-given responsibility to the people in our world who don’t know Jesus and who don’t know the Good News.
Acts 1:8 is the theme for this entire book of the Bible: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Sometimes Christians focus on the first part of that Scripture and they say, “Thank you Jesus, I’m so excited, I want the power of God in my life!” The power is for a purpose, to enable us to do something. It’s not just so that we can have a “Holy Ghost time” on Sunday mornings at church. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses.
A witness is an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, spectator, or eyewitness, a person who gives a testimony.[iii] If you saw an accident happen, you would automatically be a witness. You may be asked to appear in court to give a testimony of what you had seen. In the same way, a Christian is a witness who testifies to the experience of God’s grace in their lives. Look at how the Apostle John described this:
“The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us. We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3, nlt).
You might say, “I can’t witness. I can’t evangelize. I can’t tell people about Jesus. I don’t know all of the Bible verses; I’ve never been to Bible College.” Don’t worry about that. A witness simply says, “Here is what I have personally seen and experienced.” What’s your story? Every Christian has a testimony. Tell people your story of what Jesus did for you.
Paul’s First Missionary Journey:
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:1-3).
We see here one of the recurring themes in Acts: Prayer. The church was praying. As they sought the Lord in prayer, God did what He loves to do: He started talking to them. He called two of the Christians, Barnabas and Saul (also called Paul), to go on a mission. He personally and specifically called them to go and share the Gospel with others. When God spoke, Paul and Barnabas responded with faith and obedience. They packed their bags, and the church sent them out on an exciting missionary journey.
Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement, was one of the believers who had “sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.” (Acts 4:37). Paul was the religious zealot who persecuted the church before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. “When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They thought he was only pretending to be a believer. Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus. Barnabas also told them what the Lord had said to Saul and how he boldly preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. The apostles accepted Saul, and after that he was constantly with them in Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:26-28, nlt). Now the Lord was getting ready to send these two men together on a mission trip. Let’s take a look at the beginning of their great adventure.
“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:4-10).
Whenever believers purpose to do God’s will and preach His Word, there will be opposition. There will always be people who will try to stand against it. When Paul and Barnabas preached God’s Word on the island of Cyprus, a false prophet named Elymas opposed them. He tried to hinder this political leader Sergius Paulus from believing in Jesus. How did Paul respond to this enemy of the faith? He didn’t candy-coat his rebuke. He called him a liar, a child of the devil and enemy of righteousness!
I admire Paul’s zeal and boldness – he was a passionate man. Before coming to Christ, he was zealous about serving sin and the devil. He would kill Christians for fun. But after becoming a believer, he was just as fervent about serving Jesus as he used to be serving sin. Many unbelievers are very enthusiastic in their lifestyle of sin – getting drunk, doing drugs, engaging in sexual immorality, wild parties and other sins. They aren’t ashamed to sin in public, and they openly celebrate their ungodly lifestyles. Then when they come to Christ, they become reserved and quiet about their faith, not wanting to offend anybody. We need to be as excited about serving Jesus as we were serving sin and Satan! If people can smoke and drink and swear in public, why can’t we praise the Lord in public? Why can’t we witness for Jesus in public? Why can’t we praise the Lord in the dance in public? It’s time to get inspired by this mighty man of God Paul, who wrote: “It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!” (Romans 1:16, msg).
Paul wasn’t willing to allow that sinful, rebellious false prophet to hinder the Gospel. He took a stand against him and declared, “And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” (Acts 13:11-12).
What was it about Paul’s ministry that amazed Sergius Paulus? Their preaching was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Preaching the Gospel isn’t just about using words. It’s not just a matter of talking. It’s about showing and telling. Demonstrating the power of God and sharing the Good News. God confirming the Word with signs and wonders following. Preaching the full Gospel.
In this Bible story, there were two different kinds of people. First of all there were Barnabas and Paul, representatives of God who were doing God’s work, being missionary Christians. The second kind of person we see is the false prophet, Elymas, who was hindering the work of God. People usually fit into one of these categories. Either they are doing God’s work, or they are hindering it. Most of the complainers in churches are those who aren’t doing anything. People are either doing the stuff, or they’re complaining about the way other people are doing it. Which category do you fit in? If you ever find yourself being bored in your Christian life, then it’s time to get out there and start doing something! When you walk with Jesus, and get busy fulfilling your mission, it’s very hard to become bored.
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] John Amstutz, Disciples of all Nations. (Foursquare Media, 2009).
[ii] John Amstutz, ibid.
[iii] witness. Dictionary.com. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: April 11, 2010).