When I was a kid, I wanted everyone to know Jesus. I loved Jesus so much I couldn’t imagine that everyone else wouldn’t want to love Jesus, too. When I was in high school I went to an evangelism conference. Looking back on it, it was not the best approach to teaching young people and it was pretty extreme. In fact, I would not recommend it today. But I went because I wanted to learn how to introduce other people to Jesus.
At this conference we had classes on apologetics and how to start conversations. We learned the ‘Romans Road’ and the Four Spiritual Laws. I mean, we were indoctrinated. And then we were partnered up and sent out on the streets in Chicago.
We were given a little questionnaire… a starting point for discussion. It had questions like, Do you believe in heaven? Do you believe in life after death? And then we were supposed to ask if they believed in Jesus, and would they like to learn more about Jesus? Which would open the door for us to talk with them about Jesus… Well, I went straight for the sick and lost, I found a homeless man in the park and we began to ask him the questions and pretty soon we realized that he was very unwell and he was following us around the park, he wouldn’t leave us, he kept trying to hold my hand and was saying that he was going to marry me. I mean it was intense. I was 14.
We did manage to settle in with more people from our group and the man left, but, I walked away feeling very uneasy about this evangelism process. I knew that I wanted to invite others to know Jesus, but I wasn’t so sure that this was the right way.
Digging Deeper – Matthew 10:40-42
Last week we began this series on how to be invitational… making ourselves ready to invite others to know Jesus We have talked about inviting. The important work of actually going out and making disciples of all nations, we talked about embracing the call.
Today’s scripture talks about the work of the prophet. This passage begins with Jesus sending out the 12 to begin their mission. Listen to Jesus’ words…
Read Matthew 10:1-8 This passage continues to say that this is not easy work. People won’t like you. People will reject you. People won’t understand. It will cause divisions in family and communities. But keep going. Keep going because those who welcome you, welcome me. Keep going because I am sending you.
Today we are going to talk about asking some good questions. When we go out to invite, we need to know what we are inviting others to do. Last week we read the ‘great commission’- “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, son and holy spirit and teach them to obey all my commands.”
Do we really know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus? Do we really understand our baptism? Do we really know all that Jesus has commanded? These are good questions, important questions, especially if we are going to invite others to do the same.
But the first question, we need to ask ourselves, is “Why do people need Jesus?” Have you thought about this lately? Why do people need Jesus?
This is the fundamental question. Why Jesus? Why not some other deity? Why not just positive thinking? Why not the order and power of the universe? Why do we need Jesus?
We need Jesus because Jesus is the answer to all of it. When God broke into humanity, taking on human flesh, he overcame every temptation. He felt every pain. He experienced our deepest heartache. And when he went to the cross he carried it all… all of it. He carried the sins from which we have repented, and those that we have not. He carried our disobedient hearts, our selfishness, our anger, our jealousy, our lies, our lust… He carried everything that we have done, that I have done, you have done… But he also carried everything for which there has been no repentance, the bigger, heavier, more evil in the world, too.
With each nail as he was crucified, he carried the crusades, genocide, holocaust, war, Isis killing Christians in Iraq, fighting in Israel and Palestine, girls captured in Nigeria by Boko Haram, children sold into slavery, racism in our country, police brutality, abused children… Jesus carried all of it. Held all of it. Felt all of it. From his place on the cross, Jesus took the punishment for all of it.
Why do we need Jesus, because Jesus already paid the price for all of it. And there is hope for everyone. Jesus didn’t just come for us ‘sort of sinners’ who do mundane ‘small sins.’ He came for every sinner and he died for every sinner. And he suffered for every sin. And as a result there is the possibility for redemption from every sin. Because not only did he suffer death, Jesus broke the curse. When he rose from the dead, Jesus conquered every horrible, evil sin in the world and he separated life from death. He left death in the grave and took life into heaven, so that anyone who is with him, anyone who call on the name of Jesus, can leave their death in the grave and join Jesus in their new life!
And the beauty of it all, is that this is about eternity, but Jesus did this so we can begin to experience glimpses of life here and now. Glimpses of Jesus in each of us, because when we call on Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to counsel us. Why do we need Jesus? Because Jesus is the answer to all of it, every deep, difficult question in the world.
When we invite others, when we embrace the call, the invitation is bigger than simply knowing and following Jesus, we are to baptize them, help others to embrace the church.
There are a lot of people in the world, perhaps you are one of them, who gets a little uncomfortable at this point.
The second important question is; Why do we need the church?
We need the church because Jesus made the church. It was not our idea. It came from Jesus. Jesus made the church. When Peter finally had a realization of who Jesus was, when he really understood that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus responded and told him, that he would be the beginning of the church.
Now the word church does not actually exist in the Bible. The word used to describe this thing Jesus was creating is Ekklesia. Ekklesia meant a gathering of people for a common purpose. It was a group, a community, it was different than any other religious group of the time. Jesus was careful not to use religious language to describe this group because he didn’t want it to be confused with the Temple or the Jewish system. This was something new that Jesus was creating.
We need the church because the church is the body of Christ, the physical incarnation of Jesus left here on earth to carry out the work of Jesus. We become the body of Christ. Let that sink in for a minute. We are the ones to carry the load and invite others to new life.
We don’t need the church because we need social hour. We don’t need the church because our parents and grandparents went to church. We don’t need church to satisfy our own guilt from the week. We need church because Jesus made the church and said that we would be the Body of Christ, the physical incarnation of Jesus here on earth so that others may know Jesus. That’s it. We need the church so that others, so that we, may know Jesus.
Which brings us to a more sensitive topic. Why do people need this church? We can assume that the previous statement applies. People need this church so that they can know Jesus. So this begs the question, is that what we are doing here?
This body analogy is explored later in Paul’s letters. We can’t all be hands or feet, or eyes… we are part of the body. We have a specific function. A specific job. So why do people need Little Prairie UMC. It was founded more than 150 years ago as a place to worship because there was no place closer.
But what about now? Why do people need this church? Do we tell people to come because it’s a historical building? Or because it’s a quaint country church? Or is it because people here are like family? These are all good things, but none of them speak directly to our mission.
Jesus didn’t create a building when he made the church. And if you read the entire chapter 10 in Matthew you would see that it’s not about family, Jesus is clear that he would cause divisions in families.
The question for this church is are others coming to know Jesus in this church? Are people coming to know Jesus because of this church? Are people becoming disciples of Jesus, are they being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Are they learning the teachings of Jesus? Why do people need this church?
I will leave you with this question as you go into fellowship and lunch… Why do people need this church? And we will continue to discuss this question over the next couple of weeks.
This isn’t about going to the park and standing on a soap box and preaching hell fire and damnation. It’s not about having a fake survey in a park to trick people into a conversation about Jesus. This is about recognizing that this church has a call. A church is not a building, but a people who become equipped and then go out to invite others to know Jesus and come to the church to be equipped so that they may go out and invite others to know Jesus. Who then come to be equipped and go out to invite others, to be equipped to go out and invite others... Jesus who offers life, freely to all who would ask.
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