When God is Big… is a sermon series examining what happens when you have a bigger vision of who God is. Mission is the greatest joy — When God is small, sharing your faith with others can seem scary or risky. But when you understand who Jesus is, and you know that your name is written in heaven, then talking about him is the most fulfilling purpose we could possibly enjoy. Recorded on Oct 3, 2021, on Luke 10:1-20, by Pastor David Parks.
All year, we’re focusing on The Greatness of God. And today, we’re continuing a sermon series called When God is Big… Way too many Christians have way too small a view of who God is. And when God is small, not in reality but in our minds/imagination, even though we might believe in God, other things can become big that shouldn’t be so big. Your circumstances, emotions, and failures can not only become big, they can become all-consuming. Well, in this series, we’ve been considering how a bigger view of God changes our values of worship, community, ministry, and mission. Next week, we’ll start working on how a big view of God can change our struggles as well, including struggles with fear, identity, and addiction. But today, we’re finishing out our values by considering how a bigger view of God changes our mission in life. Did you know that God has a mission? Did you know that God has called you to join this mission? Well, my goal today is that you would see that when God is big…joining the mission of God is the greatest joy. Please open your Bible/app to Luke 10, starting with v. 1.
Luke 10:1-3, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Ok, let’s pause here. So Luke was a doctor who became a Christian through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. And Luke did a careful investigation into the life and ministry of Jesus by interviewing eyewitnesses and then writing down what he discovered. And here, Luke records a time when Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples with a particular mission/purpose. Now, this wasn’t the first time Jesus did this. In the previous chapter, Luke records when Jesus sent out the twelve, who would later become his apostles. But here, Jesus widens the scope of those being sent, to include the seventy-two. As he sends them, two by two, he tells them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Jesus is talking about the harvest of salvation, the God-given fruit of the work of the gospel. But there’s a problem. There’s more work to be done than there are workers to get it done. What do we do? Jesus says, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The word ask is more often translated in the Bible as to pray or even to beg. There’s a desperate quality to this prayer. “God, we need more people to work in this field! Please send more workers!” So the mission of God begins with prayer. But also, Jesus is emphatic in his sending. In v. 3 he says, “Go!” Go now. Go without delay. This wasn’t just a nice option for some of the followers of Jesus, but only if they weren’t busy. This was an authoritative commission. You will go. But how will they go? Jesus says, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Being a lamb among wolves means to remain innocent, pure, and hopeful, even among the painful brokenness/darkness of this world — not becoming cynical and not using the ways of power or coercion which are the ways of the world, but as little lambs. You see, to Jesus, how his disciples were to fulfill their mission/purpose was as important to him as what they accomplished. So the mission of God must be done God’s way, using kingdom values. Godly ends never justify ungodly means. Jesus gives them specific instructions for how they are to do this (v. 4).
Luke 10:4-12, “4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” So Jesus sends out the 72 to the towns ahead of where he’s going to go next. But he does so in such a way as to make his disciples totally dependent on what? On the provision of God. Don’t take a purse or bag or (I think he means an extra pair of) sandals. I don’t think Jesus is telling them to go barefoot, but rather just without a ton of extra stuff. In other words, “I don’t want you thinking that you’ll be good or effective/fruitful on this mission because you have all your stuff with you.” As they are sent out, the 72 must rely on God to provide for them. To provide what? To provide people of peace for them along the way who will share with them and will take care of their needs. So they’re traveling light and they’re looking for people of peace who will welcome them into their homes. What are they supposed to do then? In v. 9, they are to “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Now, everywhere in the Bible, physical healing is a sign of spiritual healing or reconciliation with God. And this is the goal of the mission of God. The healing ministry of Jesus is given to the disciples to authenticate the message of the kingdom of God. This is why ever since, wherever there are Christians, there are hospitals and clinics and clean water initiatives and things like that. Because caring for those in physical need both reflect God’s heart and is a picture of the gospel. Unfortunately, Jesus tells them that not everyone will be ready to receive them or their message. Maybe they’re the wolves he mentions. Jesus unpacks this more in the parable of the sower in Mark 4. There are several reasons why people fail to receive the seed of God’s word when it is scattered. But some people will be ready. Some people have been made ready by God so that when the 72 get there, they will gladly open themselves and their lives to the good news of the kingdom of God and receive it by faith. But to those who reject the message of good news, there will be a greater debt against them on the day of judgment. Why? Because they heard the truth more clearly than anyone ever before, about who God is and what he has done to save them, but still, they reject it in the hardness of their hearts. This is what Jesus goes on to say in v. 13.
Luke 10:13-16, “13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” This is a very serious thing for Jesus to say. Now, I had the honor of officiating a wedding last week. And when I give my opening statement on marriage, I always say that in light of the unconditional commitment of the marriage covenant, of two becoming one, marriage shouldn’t be entered into thoughtlessly or carelessly. So there is a seriousness under the great joy of the celebration of the wedding day. There’s a seriousness, too, under the joy of seeing people come to faith in Jesus, as well. There’s a seriousness under the joy of seeing people experience the transforming power of the gospel in every area of their life. And that seriousness is the fact that some people reject the gospel. Jesus says, “whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” For those who reject the message of the gospel, they aren’t simply choosing a different way to live out of many viable ways to live. According to Jesus, this represents a rejection of God himself. So the stakes couldn’t be higher. So let’s recap quickly. Jesus takes seventy-two of his disciples, sends them ahead of where he’s going to go, makes them totally dependent upon God, tells them that they will represent the kingdom of God, however, they will do so with the very power of Jesus to heal and to save. Well, what do you think would happen? Let’s find out what in v. 17.
Luke 10:17-20, “17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” So how did it go? Luke says they returned with joy! They were amazed at the authority they had. They tell Jesus, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” There is power in the name of Jesus, amen? They actually found people of peace, just as Jesus had said, and were welcomed into their homes. They had stayed with them and built a relationship with them and ministered to them by praying for healing and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. And people believed and were healed. Wouldn’t you return with joy? Wouldn’t you be amazed?? How do you think you’d feel when you realized that you were seeing the harvest coming in from the harvest field when all you had was the news and a demonstration of the power of Jesus? How does Jesus respond? (V.18) He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” All the powers of darkness, all the spiritual forces of evil in this world, even Satan himself, is no match for the power of Jesus. He is not intimidated by them, Jesus is the Lord over all. It’s not even a close match. And the authority of Jesus is given to his disciples as they are sent out on his mission. If Jesus isn’t the Son of God, what kind of lunatic tells his people that he will guarantee their safety. “Nothing will harm you.” But no, this is Jesus, the one who can heal the sick and raise the dead. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are ultimately safe in his hands, no matter what we might face.
But Jesus does give his disciples a little correction in v. 20. “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” Jesus says, your true joy shouldn’t be in the results of the mission, of the spiritual power that you have in Jesus’ name or even of the joy of seeing people come to faith and grow in their faith. The true joy, the true reason to rejoice, is that your names are written in heaven, that you are known by God and will be found in the Lamb’s book of life in that final day of judgment. Rejoice not at the power of God if you fail to marvel at the reality that God knows you and loves you first. For the Christian, and I think especially for the pastors and ministry leaders, it’s always tempting to be more impressed by or drawn to the power of God or the blessings of God than to be delighted by the person of God and your relationship with God. You think it’s awesome that the demons submit to my name, but what’s even crazier is that I know you by name, and you know me.
Of course, the sending of the twelve and the sending of the seventy-two prepare us for what was to come after the resurrection of Jesus, when Jesus sent all of his disciples, every single one, out into the world with the fullness of the message of the gospel. Not only that the Kingdom of God would come near, but that Jesus was the king of the kingdom. And not just that he was now demanding our allegiance, but that he had died on the cross for our sins, making a way for us to be forgiven and freed from the power of sin, and has been raised alive from the dead, breaking the power of death once and for all. After this triumphant work, Jesus sent out all of his disciples with this great mission/purpose. So just as we said last week that every member is a minister, so today, we discover that every single Christian is also a missionary. Every member is a minister. And every member is a missionary — one who is sent out with the good news of Jesus to share with people of peace in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, work, and everywhere that God sends us in life. Our big idea today is this: When God is big…mission is the greatest joy. We see that here in Luke 10. The disciples return rejoicing at what they had seen. Now, I know it might seem scary to think that God would give us the responsibility to carry his message of life and peace and reconciliation into the world. After all, the stakes couldn’t be higher. But remember how Jesus sent the 72? Two by two. They were never alone, even as they were sent out. And neither are we alone today. We’re not called to the harvest field by ourselves but as a whole church. And we too are sent under the providential care of God. He will provide for our needs. And he will lead us to people of peace who will be receptive to our message about Jesus. Now, when God is small, talking about Jesus, inviting someone to church, or sharing some aspect of the gospel can be seen as either a waste of time or as something that just isn’t worth the social risk. But when God is big, and the blessings of the gospel are real to your heart, and you know that your name is written in heaven, and you have all the confidence that comes not from your eloquence or your great skill, but simply in the power that is found in the name of Jesus, then sharing good news is the highest calling and the most fulfilling purpose we could possibly enjoy. Every member is a missionary, and when God is big, then mission is the greatest joy. This is the great heartbeat behind Appleton Gospel. This is why we started. This is why we are all about planting churches — because we believe it will take all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. This is our mission and purpose: to be people who share the good news of Jesus with a world that is lost without him. May we be a people who see ourselves as sent and take great joy as we go together.