The Three Great Ends of the Church #3

Glorification of God, Edification of the Saints, and Evangelization of the World!

Isaiah 43:10; Acts 1:6-11

 

I am sure most of us have heard a version or another of this amazing story. The story is told about Jesus after He accomplished the mission the Father had sent Him for, He returned back to His glory in heaven. Jesus was received by His Father, by the angels in the heavenly realms, and by the Old Testaments Saints. Michael, the Archangel, bowed down before the Lord and approached Him and asked, “Lord, welcome back! Having accomplished your mission on earth, I assume that everyone on earth is saved now, right?” Jesus said, “No! Not really.” The Archangel asked, “How come?” Jesus answered, “I have left my Church to continue the mission.” Jesus’ statement very much summarizes the third great end of the Christian Church, namely, the evangelization of the world. Friends, Jesus left nothing tangible to mark His life on earth – no book, not even a letter, no monumental work of art or great composition. He just left a handful of men and women. He says to them, “You are my witnesses.” They, and all subsequent disciples, were to bear witness to Jesus.

 

Today we will wrap up a three-week series of messages we called, The Three Great Ends of the Church. My hope for each one of us is to be able to see their lives from God’s perspective. Believers are human beings with a purpose. As I mentioned before, Ecclesiology, the theological study of the Christian Church, tells us that the Church exists for three major purposes: glorification of God, edification of the saints, and evangelization of the world.   The last two Sundays we covered the first two purposes. This morning, I would like to cover the third and last one: the evangelization of the world. Let me highlight two important Scriptures as the Biblical foundation for thismissional bodywe call Church. Isaiah 43:10, the Scriptures says, “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” And in Acts 1:8 Jesus says the same exact truth, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Two important observations for today:

 

First: Something Happens When Christians Take This Commandment Seriously

Please listen to the words of the Scripture in Acts 17:6, “And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (ESV). That was the exclamation of a concerned citizen of the ancient city of Thessalonica. He said this in reference to the Apostle Paul and his ministry partner Silas. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Yet, these two men did not exercise coercion, violence, or manipulation as they “turned the world upside down.” They simply came with a message – “Jesus is King” (Acts 17:3,9). It wasn’t a message that was formulated in a vacuum either. Something happens when followers of Christ take the command to witness seriously.

 

The front lines of Jesus’ army today are you – faithful men and women who live ordinary lives in the world, attending school, making a living, raising families, participating in the daily life of our society. You are the ones who will reach the people whom we as clergy may never see – relatives, friends, coworkers, and in athletics, clubs and organizations. You will be placed in situations where you will be a witness to your faith – not by standing up and preaching – but by the way you conduct yourself as a Christian. In whatever you do, you are a Christian first – a Christian athlete, a Christian doctor, a Christian in business, a Christian parent, Christian teacher, a Christian friend. In whatever we do, we are Christians first.

 

In his book, Bread for Life, New Testament Professor Dr. Theodore Stylianopoulos writes, “God will provide many opportunities to the growing Christian for sharing with others his or her experience with the Bible. What better witness for the truth of the Christian faith than a solid Christian life nourished by Holy Scripture and radiating true Christian love at home, at Church and at work?” Friends, God will place you in situations to share your faith. There will be certain days when things fall into place and you feel that God is using the gifts that He has given you for His purposes. You will sense that He has placed you in a certain situation for which you are uniquely prepared. You will succeed and hopefully you will honor Him with your success, knowing that all that you accomplish has come from Him. As He called upon His disciples on the day of His Ascension, He has also called upon us today to be His witnesses “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

Second: What Does It Mean to Witness?

What does it mean to be witnesses to God’s love? David Lose, President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, once said, “We bear witness to things that are important to us all the time. We bear witness to the great movies or television programs we’ve seen and want others to enjoy. We bear witness to the accomplishments (or failures) of our sports teams. We bear witness to the important events in our family or work lives. We bear witnessthat is, tell someone aboutthe things that matter the most to us. Why it is different when we think about our faith, what happens in worship, in classes, in fellowship? Why it is different when we encounter the Lord?

 

Some of you may say, I just do not know enough to talk to others about Jesus. I don’t understand how resurrection is possible. I don’t understand how He walked through closed doors or ate fish after He had been crucified. There’s so much that even your minister doesn’t understand; however, the good news is we don’t have to understand. Jesus understands us. We do not have to understand Easter to experience Easter.

 

So when we are called to be witnesses it does not mean shoving our faith down someone’s throat or threatening them with eternal hellfire if they don’t believe like we do. It’s simply telling others where we sensed God or the Holy Spirit at work in our lifeat home or work, at church or school, through a stranger or a friend, a doctor or teacher or neighbor, even through ourselves. As David Lose says, “Bearing witness is nothing more than saying where you think God is at work in your life and the world.” For some of you it may still feel a bit scary to witness. It doesn’t happen overnight. One of my goals as your minister and teacher is to keep trying to be a good role model and show with words and actions how to answer the call Christ is still making for all of us to be witnesses. It is possible? Remember that Jesus promised His disciples and us that He would be with us always until the end of time.

 

Friends, we are simply called to be witnesses. That is our mission. Word it any way you want, but the mission is the same: we are to be witnesses, in word and deed, to what we have experienced of the risen Christ in our lives. It is a clear and present mission. And we begin right here, in our own Jerusalem. Let me add one last word of advice. You don’t have to convince your friends that they need Christ—only the Holy Spirit can do that. Just be a Christian! There’s a big difference between telling and selling. If you do the telling, the Holy Spirit can do the selling. You can’t do His work and He won’t do yours. My hope for the Elmer Presbyterian Church is to be a movement, not just another organization in the community. As a member of this body, pray that God would give you a chance to witness for Christ this week. Commit to speaking up when God gives you the opportunity you prayed for. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday March 22nd, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

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