Global Challenge Sunday
Jesus: The First and the Best
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 4, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

 

How many of you watched World Idol this week? Shera and I had watched the competition on Christmas Day, so we were looking forward to seeing the result show on New Year’s Day. So we made sure we watched it. I actually expected Kelly Clarkson to win, but by the end of the competition, Norway's Kurt Nilsen was named as the first World Idol. One of the judges described Kurt and said he had the voice of an angel and the looks of a Hobbit. I thought it was a pretty accurate description and I was quite happy to see him win. But as I watched it didn’t even occur to me how incredible it was that this show was being watched by millions all across the planet.

Jump back about 50 years to June 2, 1953. A brand new age of television was ushered in with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The biggest undertaking by the BBC to that date included live coverage in 44 different languages being broadcast worldwide to an estimated 20 million viewers.

This was a first step, but it would be a long time before the emergence of our current Global Village. But over the past decade, the world has grown smaller and more connected with fax machines, cell phones, email, and (of course) the World Wide Web. In fact, I went on eBay this week and discovered that I could buy a snow globe from Germany, a Popeye ornament from New Zealand, a 1960s style hockey helmet from Sweden, and a set of used golf clubs from the UK.

In a lot of ways, the world has become a much smaller place. There’s even a saying that has become quite common in the business world over the past decade: Think Globally.
All this Global thinking is relatively new for most of the world. But the truth is that thinking Globally is a very old concept for the Church. In fact, it goes all the way back to the beginning of the Church when Jesus gave the newly forming Christian Church its mandate which we know as the Great Commission:

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Today we’re going to focus on how you and I can play a role in fulfilling this Great Commission. In fact, churches across our district and the entire Wesleyan denomination will be focusing on this Great Commission as part of something called Global Challenge. Every Wesleyan Church is being encouraged to devote one Sunday to discussing this. For us, it’s today.

Now, in the Wesleyan Church we don’t really have a Church Calendar or a Lectionary where every church has the same basic service and the same message. As a pastor, I have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing what to speak on from week to week. And I like it that way. It allows us to deal with topics and passages of Scripture that are more relevant and more timely for our particular church.

But I’m very happy to take part in Global Challenge, because it deals with what is possibly the greatest purpose of the Church. And it’s very relevant for us here at Sunrise if we want to be the Church that God wants us to be. Even our mission statement here at Sunrise is a restatement of this Great Commission. Take a look:

“Sunrise Wesleyan Church exists to introduce individuals to Christ and to help them grow…”

That’s our mission statement. Compare that to…

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

It’s been almost 2000 years since Jesus uttered those words, and they remain our mandate today. They are just as relevant for you and me in Charlottetown in the 21st century as they were for the disciples in the first century church based in Jerusalem. Our Global Challenge remains the same.
So this morning, we’re going to look at three pillars of Global Challenge… three things we must remember if we are going to truly be the Church and make a difference in our world. And then we’ll talk about how you and I can be part of Global Challenge today.

 

Three Pillars of Our Global Challenge:

 

1. Jesus Himself was a Missionary

We just celebrated this fact a week and a half ago. Jesus left His home to respond to His own Global Challenge. He being God left the comfort of Heaven to become a man who would be nailed to a wooden cross. He was a missionary. In what ways was Jesus a missionary?

  1. He went to a different culture

    He exchanged the glory of heaven for the gore of a backwater province under the heel of the Roman legions and their brutal justice… Justice which, in the end, would crush out His physical life in a grand design to provide us with eternal life.
     

  2. He went to a different people

    God became a man. The Creator became like the created. And He did it to bring to the created the promise of eternal life with the Creator.
     

  3. He went to a different reality

    From where He gave us life to where He would give His life – from being the Master to being mastered – from being served to become a servant – where He would experience death in order to conquer death. He left a place without time or boundaries and entered a world confined by time and space.

 

Jesus was in a real sense a missionary. And if He hadn’t come to earth as a missionary, we wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t be able to know God. We wouldn’t have any hope of eternal life. Now catch this: Jesus had all kinds of excuses to throw in the towel. But things that could have discouraged you and me couldn’t dissuade Him. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t allow the downsides to prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose as a missionary.
 

  • He could have stayed home where it was safe.
    (But He was willing to risk His life… even give His life… for you and me.)
     

  • He could have stayed home until He could really afford it.
    (I’m sure giving up the riches of Heaven wasn’t exactly an exciting prospect, but He did it. Makes me wonder, how often do we allow our financial situation to determine how obedient we’re going to be to the will of God? Just a thought.)
     

  • He could have stayed home because it would be too difficult to be separated from His Father.
    (But He considered us worth that personal sacrifice.)
     

  • He could have stayed home because learning a new language was too tough.
    (God had created languages… now this same God restricted Himself to Hebrew, with a smattering of Greek and Aramaic. The limitless God had to adjust to being limited.)
     

  • He could have kept the best for Himself and only given the leftovers from the margins of life.
    (How many of us give God the leftovers from our lives? He gave us the very best He had… He gave Himself.)
     

  • He could have stayed home because this venture posed a threat to His health.
    (But His attitude was “whatever the cost”)
     

  • He could have approached this assignment with an “I’ll try it and if it doesn’t work out, I’m coming home” attitude.
    (But He was in it to the bitter end. Total commitment to the total cause has always been totally required.)
     

  • He could have been driven by self- preservation, by His own “best interests”.
    "'Best interests' is a concept growing out of affluence. 'Kingdom interests' is a concept that evidences itself in praying, giving, and going."
    ~ H.C. Wilson
     

  • He could have been fearful of being considered a fanatic or a radical.
    (But being politically correct didn’t register on His radar screen of priorities.)

If Jesus had possessed the value system of the average North American, He would not have come and we would not be here today. We would still be lost in our sin with no hope of finding forgiveness and no prospect of eternal life.

Jesus set the example for us. He was a true missionary. And we call ourselves. “Christian.” The term “Christian” literally means “little Christ”. So if you call yourself Christian, you need to emulate Him and follow His example. If we want to be like Him, we too must possess a missionary spirit that moves us to pray, to give, to go

Anyone here know who Eric Liddell was?

PARTICIPATION

Eric Liddell was made famous by the movie, Chariots of Fire. Eric was actually a missionary to China. He won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics in 1924 and subsequently died at the hands of the Japanese in China in 1939. He once reminded us that,

“We are all missionaries. Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ.”
~ Eric Liddell

You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to be a missionary. Maybe God will call you to travel overseas and become a vocational missionary. If He does, then trust Him. But if not, remember that you can be a missionary at work, at school, at Razzies’, at Tim Hortons’… wherever you go, remember that you are representing Christ. Live your life in such a way that it points people to Jesus. That’s a missionary.

Our denomination, The Wesleyan Church, is named in honour of an 18th century priest in the Church of England. He once declared;

“The world is my parish.”
~ John Wesley

A fairly dramatic statement for a man only 5’6’’ – weighing in at 122lbs. Wesley was a remarkable man. He traveled about 8,000 miles (13,000 km) a year for over 40 years on horseback and preached 1000 or more sermons per year that entire time. That’s about three sermons a day every day for about 40 years. I can’t even conceive of that! Why would a man do that? Because the passion of Christ had gripped his heart. It’s very apparent that he was praying, giving, and going.

The founder of THE church, Jesus Christ, was a Missionary.
The founder of our church, John Wesley, was a missionary.

This idea of praying…and giving…and going is not a newly minted thought. It’s been with us since the beginning. It’s a part of our fabric. It’s a part of who we are. It’s a part of who we must continue to be.

 

2. Jesus Had Compassion on the Crowds

Matthew 9:36-38 (NIV)
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the Bible called it The Message puts it this way…

Matthew 9:36-38 (MSG)
“When He looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!”, he said to His disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”


I’m not sure that the people of Charlottetown could be considered “a crowd”. Charlottetown is not exactly a mega-city. I mean, it’s big by PEI standards, but throw in the rest of the Maritimes and Charlottetown become a mid-sized city. And then, from the perspective of the rest of Canada, we’re just a small city. Not much of a multitude… not much of a crowd. Especially when you consider that there are cities in this world with more people than our entire country. We actually live in a rather sparsely populated area.

But just because Charlottetown may not be “a crowd” does not make the people of Charlottetown unimportant to God. That does not make my family or yours of lesser value because by the accident of birth we happen to live in a relatively uncrowded part of the world. In a very real sense, “the crowds” include anyone outside the family of faith. Across the street. Around the corner. Across the continent. Around the world. Without Jesus, they are included in “the crowd”.

But the truth is that Jesus is concerned about “the crowds”… the high-population areas of the world. From what I understand, of every one hundred people in the world, only six live in North American and ninety-four live elsewhere. Sounds like a crowd to me! Jesus had compassion on the crowds, and the crowds are elsewhere. It’s the passion that moves and grips His heart, and it needs to move and grip our hearts, too.

Consider the teeming millions of the Philippians, the Orient, Pakistan, the African sub-continent, India – Jesus has compassion on these multitudes, and so must we.

Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them… There are two key components in that statement. You have the crowds, and you have the compassion. The crowds are important, but only because of the compassion. It was not just the presence of the crowds that led Jesus to give His life on the cross. It was His compassion… His love for them that led to Calvary and the Great Commission.

Jesus’ love led to Calvary and the Great Commission.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)
If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

Do you have compassion for others? Do you love others? If not, remember that the Bible tells us that God is love. Ask Him to fill you with His love so you can pass it on to others.

Pillar 1: Jesus Himself was a missionary.
Pillar 2: Jesus Had Compassion on the Crowds

 

3. Jesus Is the Message

1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--and I was the worst of them all.

Ephesians 2:12-13 (MSG)
…Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ… But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

That is our message... the message of Jesus Christ. The message that Jesus makes it possible for us to know God. The message that Jesus offers us forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven. Our message is who Jesus is. Our message is how to know Him. Our message is how to know Him better.

John of Antioch was born sometime between 344 and 354 A.D. He was raised by his mother, which is always a good choice. His mother was a godly woman, and raised him according to her faith. And when John grew up, he became a well-known preacher.. so well-known that his name was changed to John Chrysostom because Chrysostom means “golden mouth.” It was this fourth century preacher with his golden speech that reminded us:

“We have a whole Christ for our salvation, a whole Bible for our staff, a whole church for our fellowship, and a whole world for our parish.”
~ John Chrysostom (4th century)

 

So we have these three pillars:

Jesus Himself was a Missionary.
Jesus Had Compassion on the Crowds.
Jesus is the Message.

Jesus was a missionary to the multitudes with THE message.

Years ago, a man named William Borden went as a missionary to the Muslim community in Cairo, Egypt. Not long after arriving he contracted spinal meningitis and died at the young age of 25. Following his death, friends found what has become a well-known word from beyond the grave. His philosophy of life and ministry was wrapped up in these words penned in the flyleaf of his Bible…

“No reserve, no retreat, no regret.”
~ William Borden

I first heard those words when I was a teenager in High School, and I have often reflected on them. Borden understood an “arms around the world” kind of compassion for the last, the lost, the least, and the lonely. He didn’t know the term Global Challenge but he understood its reality. His heart was gripped by its passion.

In the words of Winston Churchill,

“Come then, let us to the task, to the battle, to the toil – each to our part, each to our station. Plow the land. Succor the wounded, uplift the downcast and honor the brave. Let us go forward together. There is not a week, not a day, not an hour to lose.”
~ Winston Churchill

 

Now, how about you. What role will you play in this Global Challenge? How will you help fulfill Jesus’ words in the Great Commission?

In your Sunrise Update this morning you would have found a slip of paper representing your opportunity to participate in the Global Challenge. You have three options…you may commit yourself to pray…or give…or go. And perhaps a fourth option is a combination of the three.

Don’t fill it out yet. Let me encourage you first to take a moment to ask yourself, maybe for the first time, “What is MY specific role in fulfilling the Great Commission? What am I doing to answer the call of Christ’s Global Challenge?”

Will you commit yourself to praying for missionaries and the work of God around the world? Will you share Jesus’ compassion for the crowds and pray for the crowds in far away places?

Or will you give? Will you financially support those who God has called to spread His message around the world? It’s a fact of life that things take money, so is God calling you to financially contribute above and beyond your regular tithes and offerings? Perhaps you can’t afford much right now. Perhaps even a small weekly gift would be a sacrifice. That’s okay. It’s not the amount that matters so much as your heart attitude and the discipline of giving. Right now at Sunrise, we’re supporting JM (Full name removed for security reasons), a missionary to a Muslim community in Central Asia. He’s from Saint John and will be back in the area for a while next year. I’ve already discussed with him about coming to share about what he’s doing there. If you would like to give to supporting his missions work, you can use the envelopes by the offering box and fill in the amount under “World Missions.”

Or your third option is to go. Perhaps you sense God’s leading to participate by going as a missionary. Perhaps that is the passion He has given you. That can mean a variety of things. It could mean that you go on a short-term mission trip for a period of 2-4 weeks. Either overseas, or right here in North America. Our district will be organizing several such trips about a year from now. Perhaps you could be part of one of those. A typical trip like this may take $2000-3000, so start saving now. I know some of you have already been talking about being on one of those short-term missions trip. Or it may mean that you go for a longer period… perhaps a year or two. Or it could mean that you go as a career missionary. I know that’s an intimidating thought. And I know there are lots of obstacles. But instead of getting wrapped up in asking “Why or How” questions, start asking “Why not” and “How soon” questions.

Let me add, if you don’t sense God’s leading to become a missionary in another culture, remember that we are all called to be missionaries wherever we are as we share the love of God with the people around us. That’s not what we’re talking about on this slip, but it’s an important thing to remember.

Now, take a minute to pray silently, then go ahead and fill out the slip. I’ll wait for a bit. At the end of the service, drop the top part of the slip in the offering box and keep the bottom portion for yourself. If you’re not prepared to commit to anything this morning, then feel free to drop in a blank slip, but if at all possible I would encourage you to fill it out here this morning.
 


 

 

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