Sermon, Mission Day 2012,
Dr Steen Olsen, SA/NT District Mission Director
St Petri, Nuriootpa 4/11/12
Sent with Good News!
11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
Have you ever felt pressured to witness to your Christian faith?
When I was at Auckland University in 1970 I felt that pressure.
We had been trained to use various methods to witness and eventually the guilt of doing nothing became too great and I decided I had to find someone to witness to looked in the main quadrangle – not too intellectual looking and not in a group! Finally I spotted a likely victim and I approached him. I unloaded my witness and asked if he was interested. I think we were both relieved when he said “no” and we could move on.
As I reflected on that I decided that there has to be a better way!
1) Our text makes it plain that we have been sent with good news. At least I got that bit right!
Many people today will never come anywhere near a church, even if we have the best programs in the world, even if we work really hard to make them feel at home.
And they won’t come to faith in Jesus Christ by communing with nature or even by working hard caring for their families and serving community
St Paul puts it well: v14-15a
14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?
People used to say, “Build it and they will come”. I doubt if that ever worked in Australia and it certainly doesn’t now unless we go to them they will never hear and unless we understand that we are sent to them we will never go
2) That means building relationships with people on their turf, at work, at the club, down the street – wherever people gather. We are sent to be who we are – salt and light for the world. We are not to hide our light under a bushel
but neither are we to accost people and ram the gospel down their throats. I got that badly wrong, didn’t I!
As we get to know people and love them as Jesus loved people the Lord will open opportunities to share good news. We are open about who we are as Christians as we don’t try to force it on others people become curious
when things go wrong we can ask if they mind if we pray for them. As they get to know us they will want to know what makes us tick, but remember we don’t love them on the condition they listen…
3) When we get the opportunity we tell them about Jesus, not just what we are doing at church. Even if people ask you why you go to church, don’t mumble something about friends or that you feel good. Tell them that you meet Jesus there – it is all about Jesus.
Our text talks about proclaiming Jesus, believing in J, calling on Jesus. It is all about Jesus! Not the Church. Not me.
When people have heard about Jesus and are coming to believe in him, and are calling on his name and so have been saved, then you can talk to them about Church. The point is people are far more interested in Jesus than in the church
Non Christians tend to like Jesus, but not the Church. So work out ways of talking about your relationship with Jesus, not church.
4) We are bringing good news, not a new or better set of rules. Paul paraphrases Isaiah 52 (verse 7):
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”
He says not all have ‘obeyed the good news’ – a strange phrase…
Earlier in Romans he gives us a clue when he talks of “the obedience of faith” [1:5]. The emphasis is not on obeying a set of rules you can put up on the wall but on believing God’s promises and receiving the gift of Jesus.
“Faith”, Paul says, “Comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ”
The Scriptures point us to Jesus Christ. They bear fruit in the lives of those who hear them. That fruit is faith or trust in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.
5) The fundamental problem is not just that people do bad things, but that they are believing false promises. If you like, they trust pseudo-good-news – false good news.
Let me give you some examples of these false promises:
the consumerist promise (buy this and you will be happy and fulfilled);
the cosmetic surgery promise (a little nip & tuck and eternal youth – and happiness – is yours!);
the wealth promise (money can buy anything!);
the security promise (invest and insure and nothing can hurt you!);
the status promise (take this job and you will get the recognition you deserve!);
the religious promise (sincerely try to be a good disciple of Jesus and obey him and God will be pleased with you!)….
The problem with these false promises is that they don’t deliver!
By God’s grace at some point in their lives people sometimes discover that even good things, healthy things, let us down. When we trust them to deliver purpose and satisfaction there is nothing wrong with being insured or having good investments but when we begin to place our trust and hope in them they become a problem. When we try to get our satisfaction and purpose in life from these things we end up being disappointed
6) But we have good news!
Jesus has died to set us free from all false promises he himself is the promise of the Father, and because of his death and resurrection for us we are forgiven and discover we are part of God’s purpose for his world. That gives our lives meaning. What we do has eternal significance, even the little acts of kindness are important they are part of what God is doing in another person’s life.
We know that he loves us unconditionally (he died for me), so we don’t have anything to prove. We can therefore rest in his care and be at peace. We have ways of dealing with the situation when someone hurts us we don’t have to lash back. We can remember we have hurt others and God and been forgiven. And when things go wrong or we lose our job or some money, we still know that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
It is not that these things aren’t important – they are. But we also know that we can still move on secure in God’s love. All this is good news for the people of our world
We have been sent into our world with that good news. It is the most natural thing in the world. As we share life with others – the ups and the downs, that we also tell them about our friend Jesus and the difference he makes to our lives
as they ask and we see the opportunity. You don’t have to be rude like I was all those years ago, but we can still give a reason for our faith and hope because we have been sent with this good news.