This is the fifth sermon in a five-part series written by Pastor Coons titled, “Living God’s Priorities.”
Living God’s Priorities
“The Priority of Mission”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 6, 2014
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Throughout these past four Sundays in Lent my goal has been to take you on a journey through some of God’s priorities for your life of faith. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I pray that you have been able to more faithfully live these priorities in your life and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.
So where have we been together over the past several weeks? We started with the Lord’s number one priority, that all people come to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord—the priority of faith (1 Tim. 2:4). Through Baptism, you and I have been called to saving faith in Christ and have received the gifts of Christ’s cross through the Gospel: forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. This gift of saving faith the Lord nurtures here in worship with His Word and Sacrament, giving to us His gifts and strengthening our faith so that we can stand up under the attacks of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. In our families, as parents and grandparents, we take up our responsibility of nurturing the faith of our children in our homes. Our Christian faith, by the working of the Holy Spirit, also bears fruit in love and mercy shown to others in Jesus’ name.
This morning we have come full circle with the priority of mission. As believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord calls us, whom He sustains in faith through Word and Sacrament, to share the message of faith with others so that they might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Mission is the very heart of God. Getting the message of His love, mercy, and grace into the ears and hearts of people is at the very heart of God. Jesus, the Son of God, came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) At one time, that was you and me. We were lost—not knowing God or His ways because of our sins. We were lost—separated from God, under His wrath and displeasure, because we are sinners. In the explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, you and I, along with Luther, rightly identify ourselves as a “lost and condemned person.” So we were what all people are from conception—lost and condemned sinners.
But God desires that all people be saved. God the Father sent His Son to find the lost and the condemned and then to rescue, redeem, and save them. How beautifully does Jesus illustrate this for us in Luke 15, “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’”(Luke 15:4-6 CSB) We are all like sheep who have turned astray and gone off into our own ways. (Is. 53:6) We have gotten ourselves lost in greed and selfishness. We have gotten lost in the middle of anger and hatred. We have found ourselves lost in the abuse of alcohol and drugs. We have been lost in the reckless abandon of lust and sex outside of marriage. Yet, it is God Himself in the person of the Son who came to us in our lost and condemned condition and found us by grace.
Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost and condemned by entering our lostness and by suffering our condemnation. Jesus willingly placed Himself under our very sentence of death. “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.”(Isaiah 53:5 CSB) Jesus willingly took our sins upon Himself and suffered God’s wrath because of them. Peter tells us “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”(1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
As a result of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross, Paul can tell us with all confidence, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”(Rom. 8:1 ESV) We, by the gift of faith, now confess, “I believe that Jesus Christ . . . has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”
Living under Christ in His kingdom and serving Him means that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live God’s priorities. We live the priority of faith, of worship, of teaching the faith in the family, and the priority of mercy. And we also live the priority of mission. God came in His incarnate Son to deliver the world from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. Now that the work of salvation is complete through Jesus’ death and resurrection, our Lord has commissioned us Christians to share the heart of God, the love of God in Christ to save sinners, with those who do not yet know Him. Since God is the seeking God who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, He sends you and me to lost and condemned sinners today with the life-saving message of Christ crucified and risen for them for the forgiveness of sins.
In Romans 10:13, Paul states the priority of faith in Christ. He writes by the power of the Holy Spirit, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then Paul leads us to the priority of mission as he asks us Christians, “How can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14-17 CSB) The expected answers are: people cannot call on Jesus if they do not believe in Him as their Savior. People cannot believe in Jesus if they have not heard about Him. They cannot hear about Jesus unless someone proclaims the Gospel message, nor can that message be proclaimed without someone sent to do the proclaiming! And the someone God sends is you, dear Christian.
Your commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘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.’”(ESV) You are the Lord’s “sent ones.” You are the ones whom Christ has called by the virtue of your Baptism to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior as you seek out those who are lost and condemned in their sins because they do not know and believe in Jesus as their only Savior.
As Christians who are living the priority of mission we must ask ourselves, “How will they hear if I don’t share?” You cannot assume “they” will. You may be the only person whom God has set apart to share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins with that person or persons. And if you don’t share Christ, they might remain lost in sin eternally. Let us not take that chance. So identify in your life those people who you know that do not believe in Jesus as Savior. They are the lost whom Christ bids you to seek out. Pray for them. Pray that God the Holy Spirit might use you and your Gospel words about Jesus to bring faith in Jesus into the hearts and lives of those whom you have identified. Pray God the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom that comes down from above to speak the Gospel simply and clearly to them. Then, in the power of Christ and His Holy Spirit, go and share the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life that is only found in Christ. As you share the message, invite that person or persons to come here and meet Jesus as the Lord Himself meets with you each week in His Word and Sacrament. Invite them to come and hear more about the Savior, about the God who sent His Son to save the lost. Invite them to know the joys of faith in Christ.
Just imagine the empty spaces in our pews with people whom you have shared Christ and invited to come into the Lord’s presence. Imagine the joy and the excitement of those people hearing for perhaps the first time, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What blessed release from a life of sin would be theirs! What blessed hope for life eternal with God, the God they would come to know who loves them without measure in His only Son, the God of comfort, peace, and strength for this life so that we may all be together in the new heaven and the new earth that our Lord will create for His saints. Just imagine—and then go make it a reality as you live the priority of mission.
With the blessing, strength, and power of the Holy Spirit at work in you through Word and Sacrament, live God’s priorities. Live lives of Christian faith in action in the words you share about Christ and in the acts of mercy that you perform in the name of Christ. Be ever more faithful in teaching the faith in your home and being a family together here in worship receiving the gifts of Christ. Your faith in Jesus alone is God’s gift to you. Give God all thanks and praise that He counted you worthy of such love and grace that Jesus would go to the cross and the grave to give you this immeasurable gift of saving faith in which to live the Lord’s priorities. Amen.