Pastor Chris Tweitmann
I grew up in a world without the internet and streaming television. (SLIDE #1)
When I grew up, we had three major national networks,
three smaller local networks, and the PBS channel.
We had one television and what was on that television was dictated by my father.
As I result, I was forced to watch shows I didn’t want to watch at the time
but now ironically, are among my favorites to tune into as an adult. (SLIDE #2)
One of those TV shows is Mission: Impossible. Not the movies, though I do like those.
No, I’m talking about the old TV show with a catchy, memorable theme song
and the classic monologue that began “Your mission, if you choose to accept it…”
and that always ended with “This tape will self- destruct in five seconds.”
After this mission briefing what always followed was an intricate plot
that revolved around a critical situation where timing was everything
and everything was not always what it seemed.
I always complained whenever my Dad turned that show on but then again,
that show always kept me on the edge of my seat for an hour
as I tried to figure out what was going on and how it was all going to come together.
You and I, we have been given a mission from God, (SLIDE #3)
a mission that, in terms of its scope and parameters seems rather impossible.
More and more its perceived degree of difficulty has left most Christians
believing this mission can only be the work of a unique and special branch of the faith
– the so-called missionary.
But the thing is, the reason why so many of us have come to this flawed conclusion
is because we have never really understood the priority and urgency of this mission
and more importantly, we have overlooked or forgotten our greatest asset
– our leader, our guide in fulfilling this mission.
What is this mission? Who is this leader and guide?
The answer to both of these questions is found by going back to the very moment
when the first Christians were given the mission briefing in Acts, chapter 1.
Luke, a physician who became a believer in Christ, investigated Jesus’ life story, death, and resurrection – recording all his findings to someone named Theophilus (“friend of God”) in the gospel account that bears his name.
But Luke didn’t stop writing there.
Unlike Mark, Matthew, and John, Luke documented
what happened next in a book called Acts.
One of the Bible’s rare sequels, the book of Acts picks up
right where Luke’s Gospel ended. After a brief recap of all that’s happened before,
our mission briefing as followers of Christ is laid out. (SLIDES #4 – #8)
(SLIDE #9) We are in the midst of a sermon series aimed at increasing
both our awareness and appreciation of the person of the Holy Spirit.
Over these last few weeks, we’ve been looking in some detail
at the roles or three main activities of the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #10)
So far, we explored how the Holy Spirit gives us life
and how the Holy Spirit enhances or transforms our lives.
Today, we will reflect on the third & perhaps most important work of the Holy Spirit – sharing or extending life – the life of the risen Christ – to others.
As we’ve just read, Jesus outlines a mission to be accomplished. (SLIDE #11)
That mission is what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission, (SLIDE #12)
– for those who follow Jesus to be witnesses of the Gospel
through sharing and extending the life Christ offers us to others.
Lots of Christians view the Great Commission as something WE DO for Jesus.
Jesus did his part, all the heavy lifting, and now it’s time for us to do our part
– to spread the news far and wide about Christ.
But listen again to how Luke frames his understanding of our mission: (SLIDE #13)
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus
BEGAN to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”
Ours is not a new mission – something we do FOR Jesus.
Sharing and extending life – full, abundant, and everlasting life (SLIDE #14)
borne of forgiveness, grace, and love – is the continuation of Jesus’ mission
– something Christ started – and now purposes to continue to do through us.
This is the main reason why we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not just a personal life coach so we can each live up to
our potential, find contentment and satisfaction, and stop there. (SLIDE #14)
No, the Holy Spirit works in us in order to also work through us.
The Holy Spirit gives us life – this life and the life to come,
the Holy Spirit enhances and transforms our lives here and now,
not just for our own benefit, but ultimately for the benefit of others
To put this another way, the primary work of the Holy Spirit, (SLIDE #15)
the one that unifies all the others in one great purpose,
is to complete the mission of Christ
to share life where death continues to reign,
to bring light where the darkness still dominates,
to declare freedom by faith where bondage to fear still holds any in shackles,
to resurrect those who remain dead in their sins,
to extend life among those who are so preoccupied with death, they remain lifeless.
This is how the mission unfolds in the next chapter of Acts
as the Holy Spirit arrives and gives birth to the new, earthly body of the risen Christ,
otherwise known as the Church.
Only when the mission leader arrives on the scene, the person of the Holy Spirit,
can the Great Commission, the ongoing work of Jesus, resume through His followers.
The Greek word that translates into our English word “church” is ekklesia. (SLIDE #16)
Breaking this word down, “ek” means “out of” & “klesia” is from KALEO (“to call out”).
As the Church, we have been called out, we are being called out of
where we once were, how we once lived and our shared mission as Christians
is to get up and go – to follow Jesus, to follow the Spirit
in sharing and extending the Gospel, the life of Christ to others.
In other words, Church isn’t a place to visit or something to sit through. (SLIDE #17)
The Church isn’t an institution, the Church is a movement built around a mission.
Why is that so hard for us to grasp – to remember – to actualize?
Maybe it’s because we’ve stopped letting the Holy Spirit
inform & remind of us of what the mission of Christ actually is all about. (SLIDE #18)
If you were to ask the average Christian, “What is the mission of Jesus?”
the answer you’d probably hear – the boilerplate response – would be
“Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive our sins so that we might have eternal life.”
And while this is most certainly true, it is not the full story. Not by a long shot.
To be clear, all of history revolves around the work of Jesus Christ.
His death on the Cross and Resurrection accomplished the whole work of our salvation. There is nothing our human effort can add to that work.
However, in giving us the Great Commission,
through the person of the Holy Spirit, and without us deserving it or earning it,
Jesus graciously brings us into His work of salvation
– of sharing and extending his life to others.
And the parameters of this mission involve much more than
clearing the ledger of our past and securing the destination of our future.
While it is definitely all that, the good news doesn’t stop there.
Changing THIS present life that we are living also was part of the mission of Jesus.
For we are given a new identity thanks to Jesus.
For the world, and all of us in Christ, are being made into new creations in Christ.
The beginning of this transformation of our character and our habits,
our words and our actions – of how we live in community together
– of how boundaries are broken down and unity is achieved between us is
what unfolds in Acts, chapter 2 and continues onward through the end of the book.
It is not a coincidence that the Holy Spirit arrives on Pentecost.
Pentecost was the culmination, the celebration of the spring harvest.
The Holy Spirit is given on Pentecost to begin to harvest (SLIDE #19)
what Christ’s death had purchased – the fruits of His resurrection
– whole, full, and everlasting life for the world.
It is not a coincidence when the Holy Spirit preaches for the first time on Pentecost
all the nations of the known world at that time are represented.
It is also not a coincidence the Holy Spirit happens to speak simultaneously
in all of their various languages through the disciples of Jesus who were gathered there.
This reinforces both the message and the mission of the Gospel
as not merely as something for Israel but for all nations.
Jesus’ mission was never simply about getting individuals right with God.
Jesus’ mission always aimed to bring the reality of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is
in heaven and to gather all the nations and to restore all creation back to God.
Whereas once people had to come to Jerusalem to the Temple
to encounter the presence of God, and in the past,
encountering the presence of God could be too much to handle
– resulting in fear and death for humanity – even angels still cover their faces,
with the coming of Christ all that changed.
We could look into the face of God and not only live
but also find forgiveness, healing, and hope.
However, with the person of Jesus, the mission remained local
– wherever Jesus geographically was at that moment.
But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the mission became global,
as the presence of God goes to where the people are.
As through the Holy Spirit, we become together the living Temple of the Lord.
As the very presence of Christ dwells inside broken and weary people like us,
making us alive so we can bring life – His life – to others, to all the people of the world.
As we come to understand the full scope of the field of the mission
we have been given, it’s easy to feel daunted and uncertain about the task before us.
But again, we must always remember we do not work alone.
In moving people’s hearts back to God,
in reclaiming every square inch of creation as the Lord’s sovereign territory,
we are but followers of, witnesses to the person of the Holy Spirit
whose primary work is the completion of the mission of Jesus Christ. (SLIDE #20)
We need to take stock of how the Holy Spirit not only directs and animates us
in this mission but also equips us for every opportunity and challenge along the way.
How are we equipped for this mission? We are empowered through spiritual gifts.
The Holy Spirit gives to each one of us particular gifts (SLIDE #21)
as outlined throughout the letters of the NT.
If these gifts are completely unknown to you, I recommend further biblical study
about them (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 – 14, Ephesians 4)
and then talk with one of our elders or Pastor Jon or myself.
If you’ve heard of spiritual gifts before but haven’t much exercised yours,
my question for you is “What are you waiting for?”
Sometimes I find Christians get hung up on not fully understanding or sometimes even not liking the particular gift they’ve been given by the Spirit. (SLIDE #22)
Imagine we were all going to build a house together, say for a Habitat build.
We’d assemble our team and divide up the work.
Some of you would help deal with the cement and lay the foundation.
Others would handle all the framing and the drywall.
Some would deal with the plumbing and the electrical.
Still others would take care of all the trim, the painting, and the fixtures.
And some would ensure the landscaping is addressed.
Once it’s all finished, if we were each asked what our purpose was,
we’d each probably answer by repeating back whatever job we were given to do.
And we’d all be WRONG. The jobs we were given to do were our roles.
Our shared purpose was to build a house.
We shouldn’t get hung up on the particularity of the spiritual gifts
we have or have not been given. (SLIDE #23)
While each spiritual gift is different, their purpose is all the same.
They are united by one common objective: to point others to Jesus,
to share the life of Christ, to extend the Gospel.
How else are we equipped for this mission? We are empowered to prophesy.
One of the things Peter declares in the sermon he gives on Pentecost is
the Holy Spirit has been given to those in Christ to prophesy.
(SLIDE #24 – 25) In fact, what Peter actually says is the coming of the Holy Spirit is
God’s fulfillment of a promise to equip us in this way going all the way back to
the OT prophet named Joel – that sons and daughters, young men and old,
men and women, even servants, will be enabled to prophesy.
Now right away that makes most of us very nervous.
This is because we don’t properly understand what it means
to be equipped by the Spirit to prophesy.
We hear this word as a verb, and we misunderstand it
to mean the ability to predict the future. (SLIDE #26)
But actually, the Greek word translated for us as “prophesying” or “prophecy”
properly means to “speak forth” as in to declare the character and purposes of God.
Another way of describing this is speaking the truth of God to power
– in a revelatory way in a given moment.
It’s what Peter is doing in preaching this sermon through the Holy Spirit,
interpreting and declaring the will of God in light of what just happened.
Believe or not, each of us in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, are equipped in this way.
This is what Jesus meant when He spoke about the Holy Spirit teaching us what to say.
If that’s ever your worry when it comes to the mission from God we’ve been given, being at loss with what to say to another person, take stock in the fact
this is exactly what the Holy Spirit empowers us to do. (SLIDE #27)
The apostle Paul once put it this way in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom
but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” – 1 Corinthians 2:13
Even though we’ve been equipped for this mission by the Holy Spirit,
there are still a few obstacles we can face in actually engaging the work
to which we’ve been called. Let’s briefly review a couple of them. (SLIDE #28)
“I don’t have what it takes.”
Here is some encouragement for you. Neither did the very first followers of Jesus.
Sitting in that Upper Room on the dawn of the Day of Pentecost were
a bunch of underqualified, blue-collar workers, who were totally unprepared
and ill-equipped for what on the face of it looked to be an impossible mission.
But when the Holy Spirit showed up, filled them up, this group of men and women together became powerful prophets who turned the world upside down for Christ.
This mission doesn’t rise and fall on your personality or personal abilities.
This impossible mission becomes more than possible
when and as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.
The Spirit directs and empowers us for this mission
even as we are works in progress being transformed in Christ.
Jesus said with the Holy Spirit we are in a better position of influence
than John the Baptist was – and Jesus considered him the finest of all the prophets.
(SLIDE #29) Jesus said with the Holy Spirit in us, we would accomplish greater works
than even He had done before the Cross and the Resurrection.
If we’ve got the Holy Spirit, we’ve got what it takes to fulfill this mission from God.
(SLIDE #30) “Evangelism is not my gift.”
There’s something important we need to clarify here about spiritual gifts.
A spiritual gift is just a specialization in an assignment given to all followers of Jesus.
Just because some are more gifted at sharing the Gospel,
doesn’t negate that we all have been called to extend the life of Christ to others.
We’ve all been called to evangelize because we are all equipped to prophesy.
To push this even further, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not static, abstract deposits. These are gifts borne out of a relationship.
There is nothing to stop us for asking for a greater measure of any of the Spirit’s gifts.
Are we asking for that kind of help? Because God loves to answer that kind of prayer!
If the same Spirit was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead,
and now lives in and empowers us, then we don’t have to worry about
finding the right words when we share the life of Christ with others.
The Holy Spirit will teach us what to say when we need to say it.
(SLIDE #32) “I witness with my life.”
While certainly, we are to witness with our lives through good deeds
that shine so brightly others will praise the Lord, the Gospel is still news
– an announcement about what Jesus has done for us,
of what Jesus can do in the life of another person. (SLIDE #33)
In other words, living out of our faith in Christ is not a replacement
for sharing and extending the life of Jesus to others.
Having people see the fruit of the Spirit blossom in our lives is not the same
as telling those same people who gets the glory for the harvest.
We can’t live according the values, the character of Christ
but never mention the source of those values, of our character.
When we are walking humbly, acting justly, and loving mercy,
if we don’t speak up about Jesus, all we end up communicating to others,
is that we are trying to live as a good person.
If we never mention the WHY for how we live the way we do,
then the one who will get the credit will be us and not Jesus.
We must both speak of God’s reconciliation
and live as agents of reconciliation in Christ.
We must both show and tell others that God loves them so much
that He sent His Son to save them – to transform their lives.
Only when we both live and proclaim what God has done for us in Christ,
will others, through the Spirit, be prompted to let Jesus do the same in their lives.
(SLIDE #34) “I don’t have time.”
(SLIDE #35) We’re all busy. But then again, let’s not forget Jesus lived a busy life too.
The key difference, however, is Jesus was busy with people,
busy being involved in relationships.
Is that what we are busy with?
Or is our busyness centered around work assignments, personal projects,
or life experiences?
Is our busyness with all our work or play coming at the expense of the people
in our lives – our spouse, our family, our friends, our neighbors?
Having people all around us while we are busy doesn’t mean
we are busy actually relating with people all around us.
God created us, Jesus saved us, so we could be busy being in relationship with Him.
God created us, Jesus saved us, the Spirit empowers us,
so that we would be busy sharing life in Christ by being in relationship WITH people.
The mission Jesus puts before us is not one
where we have to go and find something to do.
It’s not simply a matter of taking on new ministries so we can be even busier for Christ.
The place in which we live, the people that God has put before us,
that’s our context for the activity of the Holy Spirit and fulfilling the mission of Christ.
It’s not about adding more to our schedules,
it’s about letting the Holy Spirit refocus how we schedule our lives,
so we are engaging the relationships right in front of us.
It’s about letting the Holy Spirit show us how every part of our life
– at work, at the school, at the gym, at Starbucks, at home,
is an opportunity for accomplishing the mission of Christ.
It’s about embodying the Gospel where we live, where we are planted
and sharing Jesus – the best person we know and the best relationship we have
with our family, our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers.
(SLIDE #36) “What if it gets awkward or worse, I fail?”
Isn’t it worth being occasionally uncomfortable in order to extend a lifeline
to someone who is living less than the life for which they were meant?
To someone for whom only death stands as the last word in their life?
Is someone had cancer but didn’t know it,
wouldn’t it be worth the difficult conversation to let them know they had it?
And if you had the ultimate cure, not just for that cancer but for all cancer,
how could any of us reconcile remaining silent even if the other person
was committed to some other form of treatment?
I think sometimes we forget the urgency of this mission we have been given
– that lives are at stake, that this is a matter of life and death,
that we have entrusted with the life of Christ not for our smug security
and general indifference toward the world but for the very sake of the world itself.
When the Holy Spirit fills us, we perceive, we feel, we experience,
what God desires for all creation. And what is the desire? John 3:16.
Do we have God’s heart for this world, for the people around us?
If we don’t, then maybe we are ignoring rather than listening to the voice of the Spirit?
We don’t need to be afraid to fail either.
Sharing Jesus with others is not about selling people on Jesus.
Getting people to come to Christ, the salvation of others,
doesn’t depend on us – that’s the work of the Spirit alone.
It’s the invitation to salvation, the witness of pointing to the love and truth of Christ
at work in our lives both in word and deed, that’s the seed we’ve been given to sow.
Our part of Christ’s mission is not winning arguments,
hitting people over the head with the Bible,
or trying to guilt and shame others with presumptions of judgment.
Through the Spirit and rooted in the Word of God, we are called to honestly share
our life, our convictions, our hopes, even our doubts and fears, with those around us.
Our part of Christ’s mission is as much about listening and caring as it is about sharing.
And it’s not our knowledge about Jesus that is as contagious as much as it is
our sincere, practical, and daily enthusiasm for the person of Christ in our lives.
Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot hope to succeed.
But with the Holy Spirit, we will never ultimately fail.
It’s been a couple thousand years since our mission briefing was first given by Jesus.
To ensure it wasn’t a mission impossible for us, Christ sent us His Spirit.
In the Holy Spirit, we are equipped, we are empowered for that mission.
Through the Holy Spirit, we are directed to live out that mission
in whatever part of the world we find ourselves
– somewhere across the globe but more often than not,
right across our street, our cubicle, our desk, or our table.
Our life in the Spirit and our devotion to the mission of Jesus Christ go hand-in-hand.
There is no question whether Christ wants us involved in His mission.
The only question is where and how we are to be involved. (SLIDE #38)
Where, to whom, is the Holy Spirit sending and empowering you?
Let us dare to answer that question today.
Let us trust and expect the Holy Spirit to show up with power and authority
at work both in and through us wherever we are being led.
For we ARE on a mission from God. Amen.