Dr. Russ Blowers,
Senior Minister Emeritus,
East 91st Street Christian Church
Together the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts constitute about a quarter of the New Testament. Dr Luke was not presenting Volume One as the biography of the Son of God and Volume Two the history of the early church. He began by recording in his gospel the birth of Jesus Christ right up until His ascension, and in Acts he is recording the continuation of the ministry of Jesus through His church and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the opening lines of Acts Luke tells his friend Theophilus that in the previous writing he was telling all that Jesus began to do and to teach. His gospel could have closed with “to be continued.” Now Luke is going to tell the rest of the story about the birth of the church and how God sent it into all the world to preach the everlasting Gospel of life.
Whatever else Acts shows us, it reveals that God never gives us an assignment without equipping us for the job. And the job is awesome: Go and make disciples of all nations (ethnoi–people groups, races, cultures, countries), baptizing them and teaching them what the Lord Jesus said and did. “And I’ll be with you while you’re doing it” He says in the Great Commission And stay here in Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit. Don’t jump the gun and try to go out and win the world on your own. Wait for the Spirit! So they stay and pray for ten days. All of a sudden it’s Pentecost Sunday, and the Spirit of God comes on these 120 believers like wind and fire and turns wimps into warriors, doubters into persuaders, ordinary folks into linguistic experts, and a fisherman called Peter into a dynamic evangelist whose first sermon brought 3000 to the waters of baptism! And that was just the beginning. The rest of Acts up to the last verse is all about the missionary mentality of Christians who by the 28th chapter have spread out to Rome, Athens, Corinth, and other faraway places with strange sounding names.
Now, you and I are living in the 29th Chapter. I can just see Dr. Luke sitting at his PC with heavenly Windows writing this contemporary chapter. The question I’m asking you if you are a Christian is, how do you relate to it? Are you filled with the same Spirit, and are you being a solid witness for Christ at Milligan, and in Tennessee, and in America, and potentially to the ends of the world?
The cross which is highlighted this morning is also called the Crusader’s Cross. There is a lot of symbolism in it: the large cross in the center represents Christ, and the four smaller ones represent the four gospels and the four corners of the earth where the Gospel is to be made known. Godfrey deBouillon, the first ruler of Jerusalem when it was captured from the Moslems in the Crusade of 1099, wore it around his neck. It has always been popular in Europe and the middle east. Islam hates the term “crusade” because of those military expeditions which brought enormous bloodshed in the name of Jesus. To be politically correct we don’t use it anymore. Even Billy Graham’s recent California crusade was called a BG mission.
Well, that’s a good word. The Lord God sent the church on a world wide mission. Jesus didn’t send us out on a Crusade to whack off pagan heads. He sent us to bring life to the world through the Gospel. Whatever else we do while we are here, we are to communicate truth. He sends us out to be lovers and healers, to give life, not destroy it. We are deployed to preach by word and life a message that has real power to save souls, to reconcile men and women to God, and to offer the promise of life without end in His presence. As Peter said “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (I Pet. 2:9).
We are to do that, to evangelize humanity, not with the weapons of this world. It is true that nations have a right and responsibility to defend their people and execute justice. But terrorism will not be eradicated by smart bombs. Islam will not be changed by the military. Paul teaches us “though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The church of Christ must intensify its evangelistic passion at this historic moment when the Holy Spirit is opening windows of opportunity for evangelizing a terminal world that is going to be won to something.
Sunil Sardar is my dear friend. He is a native of India and former mayor of a great city. He was captured by the good news of Jesus Christ and was baptized and became a missionary to his own people. He left his wife and children in Indianapolis recently to return for a short term in New Delhi. There on November 4, at least 100,000 Hindu lower caste people will meet in a large open space to decide whether to become Christian or Buddhist. There are 1.2 Billion Indians, and 700 million of them are of the lowest in the caste system. They want out. They want to be human. They want to be free. Sunil is there to preach Christ to them. “I if I be lifted up will draw all men to me”, our Lord said. Pray for that drawing power to bring millions of those people into the Kingdom. (Nov. 5 update: The Indian government cancelled this assembly. But to quote the great philosopher Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over, and God is greater than puny politicians).
Brad and Christy are just a little older than you. They graduated from college last summer and I married them. They have the brains, the connections, the talents, the looks to whiz them right up some corporate ladder. But instead, the love of Christ constrains them, and they are on their way to Africa on assignment by the Lord, to Africa where AIDS is rampant, and bugs more lethal than anthrax are epidemic, where there are millions of nobodies waiting to hear some Good News.
This morning in Kabul there are eight young missionaries who went to Afghanistan to feed the hungry. They knew the Taliban made it a crime to even mention Jesus Christ. But like Peter and John when they were told not to speak in that Name,
they said “We cannot help but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). They were beaten and imprisoned for Jesus’ sake. And now they wait in hope for a decision by Taliban judges. Young people who count it all joy to suffer for their Lord (James 1:2).
Acts 29. It is being written even as we speak. Where do you fit in? I am a fan of your generation. I think the Christian kids of today have the faith, hope, and love to take this world for Christ. David Livingstone said “God had an only Son and He was a missioonary.” Robert Speer, who recruited young people for the Student Volunteer Movement in the last century: “If you want to follow Christ you must follow Him to the ends of the earth for that is where He is going. He is a missionary God.”
Will there be any volunteers from your class to go with Christ into all the world?
Even if you can’t go to the four corners, stay in this mission field and wherever you live and work tell the Story. The fields are ripe in a lot of places. If you stay home, be a conscientious voice for world missions in your home church.
Former Senator Sam Nunn told this story at a recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. A reporter from the USA was covering the Bosnian conflict, and one day he saw a little girl get shot by a sniper. He rushed to her where another man was holding her in his arms. He put them in the back seat of his car and headed for the hospital. The man, a citizen of Sarajevo, said “Hurry, my friend, my child is still alive!” A moment later, “Hurry, please, my child is still breathing!” And finally, “Hurry, O my God, my child is getting cold!” When they got to the hospital the child was dead. The two men went into a lavatory to wash up, and the native of Bosnia said “I have a terrible task. I have to tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken.” The reporter looked at the grieving man and said , “I thought she was your child.” And the man looked back and said, “No, but aren’t they all our children?”
Yes. All the children of the world are your mission field. They deserve to hear about your Jesus and become children of the living God.
Acts 29. You are a child of God. You are here for a purpose. You are called of God to be His witness here and over there. You were baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit. Like all the rest of us in the Body of Christ you have some special gifts. The world is waiting to here from you. Your name is already written in the Lamb’s book of life, and I rather think Dr. Luke is waiting to insert it in his final chapter.
PRAYER: Father, since September 11 thousands of young people have been deciding to become cops and firefighters. Thank you in advance for all these young lives at Milligan College who will sign on for an even more eternal assignment when
you ask, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.