Our Mission from the Risen Christ: Evangelism Today

Our Mission from the Risen Christ: Evangelism Today May 5, 2024

Jesus commands us to go into all the world and create new followers of him.  You clearly can’t follow a dead person, so the Great Commission comes to us from our risen saviour!

As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. JOHN 20:21

Jesus was sent into this world to bring glory to his Father and to bring good news to a needy people. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Our risen Lord sends us into the world with the same task. We are to bring glory to Jesus through our worship of him, enjoying a personal relationship with him, living holy lives in a world that offers endless opportunities to sin, and sharing our faith with others. Having been formed and empowered by the resurrection, the church exists to declare and demonstrate this same power to a risen world. One of the key implications of the resurrection is that this is wonderful news that simply must be shared!

Jesus’ power is not merely for our enjoyment, but the Spirit gives us an infectious hope and joy. The wonder of sins forgiven and the wonder that comes from his Spirit being poured into our hearts will compel us to share. We did not accept Jesus to selfishly enjoy all the benefits of salvation. We have a job to do.

We need to be full of God in the sense that someone might be full of their new child, a new spouse, or, if you are a real geek like me, even the latest gadget. When we are genuinely enjoying someone or something, we can’t help but tell others. When a football fan watches his team win a game, does he not shout and celebrate? Can anyone stop him from telling all his friends about his victory? When we exalt more in other things than we rejoice in Jesus, we make them our idols. Many of us seem to show by our conversations that we are more excited about the latest iPhone than we are about Jesus. How many people who would never dream of clapping or raising a hand in worship would do both and dance at a gig by their favorite band? Why are we not thrilled in an even greater way by Jesus? Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains:

Once a man has the love of Christ in his heart you need not train him to witness; he will do it. He will know the power, the constraint, the motive; everything is already there. It is a plain lie to suggest that people who regard this knowledge of the love of Christ as the supreme thing are useless, unhealthy mystics. The servants of God who have most adorned the life and the history of the Christian church have always been men who have realized that this is the most important thing of all, and they have spent hours in prayer seeking His face and enjoying His love. The man who knows the love of Christ in his heart can do more in one hour than the busy type of man can do in a century.[1]

As we become excited about Jesus and begin sharing him with others, we will receive still more joy and satisfaction from him. This can be as simple as telling a stranger about the church we attend and leaving him an invite card, or it could be helping someone respond to the gospel.

When we fulfill our twin tasks—to worship Jesus and to share him with others—we will feel satisfied, rewarded, and complete. We will also find that we ourselves will understand the gospel better. As the niv paraphrases Paul’s slightly enigmatic phrase:

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Philemon 6)

If you are looking for a purpose in life, you will find it here. If you are looking for joy, there is no greater source. We are caught up in the mission of Jesus himself. Great celebration is ours when we are involved in helping others turn to him.

HIS MISSION

When Jesus sends us into the world, he says in effect, “This is what I did; now you do the same. God was with me; remember, I am always with you, too.” Surprisingly few words spoken by the resurrected Jesus are recorded for us. We should therefore listen carefully to these:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18–20)

This mission belongs to Jesus. He will accomplish it. But he will do it through us. Now he is risen, he has all authority, and he sends us out with a task. This is not an optional extra, nor a suggestion; rather, this is a direct command from the ruler of the universe. We ought to pay attention, and we would be wise to obey. Jesus is the Head of his church, and he will ensure that this task of world evangelization is accomplished: “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

This important statement made by Jesus two thousand years ago must have a radical impact on the way we do church today. We can be optimistic about the future, even when things look challenging. We should remember the Church belongs to Jesus. When called to do so, we can undertake brave projects that are so large, we will need miraculous assistance to complete them. What shall we do that would be impossible if Jesus was not alive?

Too often decisions are made by churches with little or no consideration of how Jesus wants them to proceed. He can become an afterthought or perhaps merely venerated, as if he was a long-dead hero, while the day-to-day business of church life carries on without him. “No!” says Jesus. “Human effort and wisdom won’t build the kind of church that can smash hell’s gates, but I can and I will.”

As members of this great global enterprise, the Church, we must not be in defensive mode, worrying that the Devil will defeat us. Jesus leads us on to plunder the enemy’s kingdom, pushing forward in eager anticipation of what God will do through us. Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we will be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. In the end, his purposes will prevail in the Church of which he is Head (Colossians 1:18). Jesus gives us the joy of partnering with him as he works through us to reach the world. He drives the mission; we simply follow.

HOW TO MAKE DISCIPLES

Our mission is not just to make converts, but to make disciples. A disciple is simply a learner or a follower.[2]In today’s individualistic world many people prefer to say, “I did it my way!” That is not the Bible way. Paul urged his readers to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This underlines the importance of discipleship but also stresses its boundaries. We are only to follow our leaders to the extent that they follow Jesus. To make disciples, we must first be disciples. Jesus calls us to live a life that is preoccupied by him: “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live
for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Disciples must be taught to obey Jesus. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). One of John Piper’s books, What Jesus Demands from the World, helps us by examining everything Jesus told us to do. If we want to follow Jesus, we must do what he says. The challenge is to avoid short-circuiting the process by only teaching people rules, perhaps adding a few of our own. We need to learn how to love Jesus more if we want to follow him. When we love him, his commandments will not seem burdensome but rather the loving instruction of someone who cares for us. Those who are involved in training other Christians need to train them to love Jesus, as well as showing them how to live their lives in light of the resurrection.

A disciple is usually first a friend. If we live lives of isolation that never impact other people, we cannot make disciples. People can sometimes be “won without a word” (1 Peter 3:1), by our lifestyle. But this verse should not be used as an excuse to avoid sharing the message since people must hear the good news to be saved.[3]

We need to be a people full of grace and joy whose hope is infectious. As I write this, newspapers are reporting that a member of the British government believes we are in the middle of the worst recession in a hundred years. By the time you read this book, you will know whether he was being unduly pessimistic or accurate. Christians have hope even as their savings disappear before their eyes. Our lives will prompt questions.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15–16)

Jesus wants us to be ever optimistic about his world: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). The eye of faith will recognize that some people are ready to respond if we will just tell them how. Often, however, we don’t really look, because we can become easily discouraged when we see that many people prefer their life of spiritual death. While not everyone will respond to the message, Jesus promises us that the harvest is “plentiful” (Luke 10:2). All we need to do is to be willing to obey the command to “go,” carrying out the mission to which he has called us.

Jesus urges his disciples to teach others “to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This would include this very command to teach others and make disciples. The strategy for building the church is very simple—find people you can train, first, to obey Jesus themselves and then teach them how to teach others to do the same. This makes it clear that this command not only applied to the original disciples but also applies to all disciples throughout the church age. If the disciples are to make disciples, and those disciples are to obey all Jesus’ commands, then the very command to make disciples is one of the commands they are to obey.

Jesus also commands that disciples are to be baptized and hence joined to a local church. Often we struggle with the simplicity of Jesus’ words and think of all kinds of reasons why we do not want to obey even this simple instruction. But how can we follow him for our whole lives if we fail at the first hurdle? Our baptism is meant to reflect the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and to mark the beginning of our new life as members of Christ’s church. Christians were “buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). The symbolism of identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is especially apparent when the believer is immersed. The Christian enters a watery grave and is rescued from it by the strength of another.

WHAT IS OUR MESSAGE?

The gospel is actually very simple. It is a message that is all about Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation of a person and what he has done for us. In almost every New Testament book we find a summary of this, which we can easily overlook but is remarkable in its consistency. In each case this short statement of the gospel announcement begins with God, who we are either told sent Jesus[4] or raised him from the dead.[5] We are called to respond to God in a way that as a result brings to us the benefits of salvation.[6] In these descriptions only rarely is the cross included, although of course it is a key part of the clearest summary of the gospel of all, which is found in 1 Corinthians 15. It is hard to see in any case how we can proclaim a resurrection without also reporting that the person had first died. Without the resurrection the cross is not good news, and without the cross the good news of the resurrection cannot be fully appreciated.

HASTENING THE LORD’S RETURN

Jesus prophesied that the gospel would be preached in the whole world before he would return (Matthew 24:14). He will ensure that this happens, but he also gives us the joy of being caught up in the mission. We each have a role to play. As we wait for the return of the Lord and perhaps wonder why it is taking so long, we must remember that we have a responsibility in “hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12).

A PEOPLE ON A MISSION

There is not enough space in this book to fully explore the changes that Jesus’ resurrection can make to our local churches, but I will address a few of them. We are a people carrying out the mission of Christ. One crucial implication of the resurrection of Jesus is that he now lives on earth through his body, his church. It is only together that we can reflect him adequately to the world. Jesus never intended there to be any such thing as “solo Christianity” where believers are not rooted and grounded in a community that is centered around the risen Christ. As Paul said, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Everything about our church life can be changed by the resurrection. If our focus is always solely on the death of Jesus and our sin, then guilt and sorrow will probably characterize the tone of our meetings. But if we also emphasize the resurrection, great joy will result. This is nowhere clearer than in our sharing the Lord’s Supper together. Although we are told to remember the Lord’s death, we are also told it is to be done with one eye on his future coming again (“until he comes,” 1 Corinthians 11:26). We remember his death, but we are also to celebrate that he is now in heaven, and we partake of his life-giving presence during those precious moments. Thus the Lord’s Supper does not always have to be a somber and sad event but can be a joyful occasion. During that time, we also discern together that we are the body of Christ on earth. We each have very different roles to play, like the organs of our physical bodies.

We are even described simply as “Christ” by Paul: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

The church is the only Jesus the world will see until he returns. Together we are to reach out and be Jesus to this needy world. Sometimes this can be as simple as a Christian introducing a work colleague to one of his church friends.

Jesus said the world will recognize that we are his disciples by the love we show toward other believers (John 13:35). In a world full of loneliness, we can introduce people to God’s family. Never underestimate the impact for anyone entering a room full of Christians who are enjoying each other’s company with laughter but without the need to be intoxicated by alcohol.

We must not imagine that we can leave the task of evangelism to the “experts.” Everybody is called to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Prayer support, financial giving, cooking food for evangelistic events, playing instruments, teaching children, pastoral care, and a myriad of other ways to serve all play an important part in fulfilling the Great Commission. Just being God’s people in his world and fulfilling whatever job we have for his glory has more impact than we will ever know in this life. Paul said, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Whatever your job is, do it excellently for the sake of Jesus. As Jesus urged, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8, niv).

Churches need to be involved in sharing the gospel directly with their communities. We should make sure our meetings are welcoming to outsiders and that the gospel is preached. We need also to reach out, and not rely on them to come to us. After all, Jesus said, “Go into all the world.”

We must not forget the works of mercy carried out by our forefathers. The abolition of the slave trade, ministering to alcoholics, feeding the poor, and many similar acts can all be part of fulfilling the Great Commission. The following quote from the late Simon Petitt, previously pastor of Jubilee Church, Cape Town, is a challenging reminder of our mandate to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10):

Whether it’s the church in Africa, or in Harrow, we need to get an understanding that when we care for the needy, when we preach good news to the poor, when we seek to develop the God-given creativity of poor people, when we equip people with the skills they need so they can make godly choices for themselves and for their families, when we promote enterprise with financial help, those aren’t just the work of aid agencies or the government; that’s part of the apostolic calling of the church of Jesus Christ.[7]

There is no doubt that God wants us to help those less fortunate than ourselves in practical ways. John the Baptist said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11).

We must also remember that the biggest act of mercy is to share the good news of salvation. The greatest need people have is to be saved, and it is we, the church, who have the most wonderful task of spreading this good news of salvation. As Paul challenges us:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14–15)

As Christians, we can easily become fearful of what others may think about the Christian message. We worry about what reaction we may get from others and act as though we are ashamed of the gospel. It’s easy to tell others about anything we are excited about. Why not the good news of Jesus? Paul’s example encourages us to act likewise:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17)

HIS PROMISE

It is in the context of our call to be missional that Jesus promises he will be with us to the end of the age. He is with us for a reason, which is to enable us to accomplish a specific goal. Only when we are aware of his power and presence with us can we fulfill the task to which he has called us. Conversely, if we are not fully committed to this work, then it is not surprising that we are not as consciously aware of Jesus’ presence as we might be. As my pastor, Tope Koleoso, said, “If you want Jesus to go with you, then go and make disciples.”[8]

Because Jesus is with the church, it can be described as having been built by him even though much of the work is apparently being done by believers. Christians teach and preach, they care for one another, and they plant churches. But as we have already noted, ultimately it is Jesus who is building the church.

Jesus provides the power we need to equip us for service. He tells us he is the one who is building his church, not so we can become passive but so that, knowing that we are on his team and under his authority and that he is ultimately responsible for the results, we will be extraordinarily motivated to complete the work. If we are conscious of Jesus’ power at work in us, we will be more zealous to see his kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Paul, being aware of God’s grace upon him, was able to say:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

The most energetic and active workers for the success of the church have always been the ones who are most convinced of the sovereignty of Jesus and his responsibility for the ultimate success of the church. When things are going badly, such people, while obviously examining themselves and their methods to see if there is any way they can improve, will take comfort in the fact that only Jesus can build his church. When things are going well, the lure of pride is less strong for those who know that it is only Jesus who has equipped them and granted them success.

In this chapter we have seen that there is a mandate on our lives. We are called to be witnesses. We obey Jesus because he is our Lord and out of gratitude for what he has done for us. Our gratitude grows into an intense desire to see him glorified by others. We want him to be celebrated, preeminent, and honored as God rather than defamed by having his name used as a swear word. We want others to join us in delighting in him. As Piper says:

Missions exists because worship doesn’t. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and the goal of missions.[9]

In other words, because we want to see God glorified more, we are eager to recruit others to praise him too. There is no conflict between the two key things we are called to do as Christians—worship and witness. If we love, honor, and glory in Christ, we will find that we want to talk about him with others. People like to tell others about their heroes and anything that they value and hold dear.

The risen Jesus gave his disciples a clear commission. Evangelizing the world is a task given and empowered by the resurrected Christ. The church is a resurrection people who are implementing something of the age to come in this present world. I can think of no better way to end this chapter than with this prayer from Ephesians 3:14–21:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.

READ MORE

Born Again Through Jesus: The Power of Resurrection

How to Become a Christian

Why I am still an Evangelical

Ten Things Jesus Did NOT Say

Send a Resurrection: Revival in History and Today

Explaining the Gospel in an age of Biblical illiteracy

REFERENCES

[1] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, An Exposition of Ephesians 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 247–253.

 

[2] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 609.

 

[3]Indeed, the context of the verse presupposes that the husbands mentioned have already heard the gospel since it says they do not “obey” it.

 

[4] Matthew 10:40–41; Mark 9:37; Luke 1:68–75; John 5:24; Galatians 4:4–7; 1 John 4:7–10.

 

[5] Acts 5:30–32; 17:27–31; Romans 10:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 2:4–10; Philippians 2:5–11; Colossians 1:15–29; 2:12–13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5–10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:8–15; Hebrews 13:15–16, 20–21; 1 Peter 1:18–21, 25; Revelation 1:1–2, 12–18.

 

[6] Adapted from Eugene Lemcio, The Past of Jesus in the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 115–117.

 

[7] Simon Petitt, “Remember the Poor,” Brighton Leadership Conference, November 1998;
http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/uk/resources/social-action-and-the-poor/remember-the-poor/.

 

[8] Tope Koleoso, “How to Be Missional Every Day”; http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/07/
sermon-how-to-be-missional-every-day-by.htm.

 

[9] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 162.

 

"Jesus also warned us that in this world we would have troubles. So there’s no ..."

Personal Prophecy: When is it just ..."
"John 16:23“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto ..."

Personal Prophecy: When is it just ..."
"I just think we have to be careful that we don’t make promises to people. ..."

Personal Prophecy: When is it just ..."
"Ezekiel 13 and Jeremiah 23 should inform any reckless "prophecy." Giving false hope through prophesies ..."

Personal Prophecy: When is it just ..."

Browse Our Archives