The Inspired Bible for Mission
Topic: Missions & Evangelism Passage: Luke 24:44–24:47
Sermon from Luke 24:44-47 and selected texts by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Series: To the End of the Earth (Part 2 of 4)
Global Missions Emphasis Month
Delivered on Sunday, September 14, 2014
As many of you know, our focus in preaching for September is global missions. Wes took us there last week from Isaiah 54; I’ll go there today from Luke 24. In fact, Luke 24 will be our launching pad the next three weeks as we navigate a host of other passages that will help us understand global missions in relation to the Bible, the Trinity, and the Church. We’ll look today at the inspired Bible for mission. Next week we’ll look at the triune God of mission. And then the last week of September I want us to consider the empowered church on mission. So that’s where we’re going, Lord willing.
Why a Missions Emphasis Month
We make it a point each year to set global missions before you very explicitly, because we don’t want anything we do here locally to lose sight of what God is doing globally—to win for himself worshipers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We never want our local ministries to become so inwardly focused that we lose sight of God’s ultimate goal of being worshiped among all 11,235 people groups of the world—over 3,000 of which still have no access to the gospel and, therefore, cannot worship God rightly and will perish forever if they don’t hear of Jesus and believe in him for eternal life. All our various labors in Care Groups and DIG and Women’s Retreat and benevolence must serve the onward march of the gospel to all nations.
The Story We Ought to Live By
Our local disciple-making efforts must equip to serve global disciple-making efforts, because God intends to get glory in saving a people for himself from all nations. We’ve got to be on board with that and make the right adjustments wherever we’re not on board with that, because that’s God’s plan for the world. At least, that’s what Jesus tells us is God’s plan for the world when he opens the disciples’ minds to understand the Bible. Let me read it to you beginning in verse 44.
44Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Three days before we get these words, the disciples have witnessed Jesus die a bloody death (23:44-49). The Romans dashed to pieces their hopes and dreams when they nailed the disciples’ Master to a cross (24:21). As Luke describes the situation, all seemed lost and at best confusing for the disciples. Even when the disciples hear that Jesus’ tomb was now empty, it amounts to a ‘tall tale’ (24:11). Some of them even check it out for themselves and see Jesus missing from where they laid him; and yet they remain sad (24:17). Despite all that Jesus had told them before so plainly—“that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (9:22)—despite the story Jesus was telling them, they chose to live by a different story.
Even with the tomb now empty, the stories they were telling themselves kept them from living in accordance with reality. The disciples needed their eyes opened to a different story, the story of God’s mission to save the world through a crucified and risen Christ. So Jesus comes as resurrected Lord, and he teaches them. He opens their minds to the truth of God’s plan revealed in Scripture. And it’s in his teaching them the Scriptures that their minds change, their joy rises, their passions transform, their lives alter.
The same is true for you and me. We often live out of step with reality, because the stories we’re telling ourselves simply aren’t true. Whether that’s the story of the American dream or material prosperity or rugged individualism or the false assumptions we make of others or alarmist conspiracies—we live by the stories we tell ourselves. And like the disciples, our stories are often rooted in unbelief. We don’t fully believe the story of the world God has given us.
God's Plan in Scripture
But if we are to know Jesus rightly—and if we are to live in light of the truth—Jesus must open our eyes to God’s plan in Scripture. He must lift us out of our self-absorbed stories, and center us on the God-centered story of the Bible. He must jolt us from our complacent world with a vision from his heavenly word. In fact, I hope Jesus’ words do just that for all of us. It would be to our eternal detriment if they did not. So, let me note just three points about God’s story, God’s plan in Scripture, and then see where that meets us in terms of global missions.
1. A Sovereign Plan
First of all, God’s plan is a sovereign plan. Look at verse 44: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Notice the little word, must—“everything written about me…must [Gk. dei] be fulfilled” (cf. 9:22, 44; 13:33; 17:25; 18:31-34; 22:37; 24:7). God’s plan in Scripture cannot be thwarted. It’s a matter of divine necessity and determination. God reveals what he plans to do, and this is what’s going to happen, period.
Nobody in this room or in this world can write down their plans with such authority and certainty. We make plans all the time. And they get cancelled or interrupted or turn out different than expected. That’s because we are not God. When we make our calendars, we don’t have infinite knowledge of all things at all times, or infinite wisdom in governing all things at all times, or infinite power to control all things at all times, or absolute rule to decree effectively whatever will be. Only one possesses such sovereignty, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” And in Isaiah we see he declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa 46:9-10). God doesn’t just predict the future; he creates the future. His plan is sovereign. The culture around us may say there’s no such thing as one story that defines all reality, but the Bible says otherwise. God’s story determines the outcome of all other stories. His plan is sovereign.
Whatever is written in Scripture of God’s plan for the world, cannot and will not fail. In fact, the disciples witness this certainty of God’s plan unfold even as Jesus connects for them his death and resurrection to all that’s written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—which brings us to another observation about God’s plan.
2. A Plan with Christ at the Center
Secondly, God’s plan is a plan with Christ at the center. Look again at verses 44 and 46: “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses [What have we got there? Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy] and the Prophets [Now we’ve got Joshua through Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, all the Twelve] and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.’”
All the Old Testament anticipates Christ. His person and his work is its focus (cf. John 5:39). Jesus wants them to get, and so he gives them a bit of a lesson in how to read their Bibles (24:27). We may not have been there to hear Jesus teach the disciples how to read their Bibles, but we do have their inspired writings (cf. John 15:26). We call it the New Testament. And if these writers aren’t giving us examples when Jesus applied this or that Old Testament passage to himself, they’re modeling how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament for us.
So take Jesus’ sufferings. The Old Testament anticipates the Christ to suffer in several ways. It reveals patterns like deliverance through the death of the Passover Lamb (Exod 12), or atonement through the sacrifices (Lev 4-7), or victory through the sufferings of God’s anointed king (Pss 22:1, 18; 69:21; 118:22-26). Each pattern anticipates God’s ultimate provision for our sins in the suffering of Jesus Christ (John 19:36; Mark 10:45; Matt 27:46). The Old Testament also makes promises like with the Servant in Isaiah 53: “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53:5, 12). Both Jesus and Peter tell us that refers to Jesus (Luke 22:37; 1 Pet 2:22-25).
Or take Jesus’ resurrection. The Old Testament anticipates Christ rising from the dead. When God speaks to Moses from the burning bush: Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the living, and not the dead (Exod 3:6; Luke 20:37-38). Later in the Prophets, Jonah becomes a picture of Jesus rising from the dead on the third day (Jonah 1:17). Jesus himself says, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (cf. Hos 6:2). And then Ps 16:10 sets forward a similar expectation: God wouldn’t abandon his anointed King to Sheol, or let his holy one see corruption (Acts 2:27; 13:15).
The point is this: God revealed his plan in the Old Testament to drive his people to Jesus. The Spirit inspired all these words to magnify Jesus as the centerpiece of all God’s purposes in creation and redemption. And when we pour over these words, we see Jesus as God wants us to see Jesus. So take advantage of your cross-references. When the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, take the time to look it up, and begin piecing together God’s plan for the world in Christ. He means to transform you with the truth of his unshakable plan to keep Christ central in all things.
An Example: God's Plan in the Two Adams
So for example, when we pour over God’s plan with Adam as head of the human race, and we trace that line through the Old Testament to Jesus Christ, we have our eyes opened to something glorious about Jesus. Adam was created to bear God’s image, and alongside his wife they were to reflect in their marriage the relationship between Christ and his people. But with Eve, Adam forsook God’s word and trusted the schemes of the devil instead. The result was a humanity guilty in sin, separated from God, dead beneath God’s wrath, in a world full of pain and the scheming traps of the evil one—as the rest of the Old Testament proves.
But when we get to Jesus in Luke 3, we find Jesus in a genealogy that stretches all the way back to Adam. He too is the Son of God, but he is far greater than Adam. Not only has he been conceived by the Holy Spirit (1:35-36), but he doesn’t give in to Satan’s temptations like Israel did in the wilderness and Adam did in the Garden. Jesus overcomes the temptations by trusting God’s word (4:1-15). More than that, he causes the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dead to rise, and the darkness to flee, all of which stand as signs that he comes to reverse the effects of Adam’s rebellion (Luke 4:17-19; 7:22; 11:20).
Even more, he deals with our guilt on the cross (Luke 22:20), undoes the devil’s power (Luke 10:18; 13:16), and rises from the dead to show it has no hold over him or over anybody he represents (Rom 4:25). That makes Jesus the new and greater Adam. He comes to lead a new humanity—those who trust in him—out of sin and into life (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:22, 45; Heb 2:5-9). He restores God’s image to those who once marred it (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). The access to the tree of life that God cut off from Adam, Jesus gives it in full to all peoples who come to him by faith. We see it in Rev 22:2-3.
That means Jesus is the only answer to all of humanity’s problem of sin and to our problem with sin. That message applies to every people group on this planet: “There was a man, and because of his sin, everybody is born guilty before God. But God sent a second man, Jesus, and he never sinned; and everybody who trusts in him receives forgiveness and eternal life.” That’s what we tell the nations about Jesus. But we only get that message when we see Jesus as the centerpiece of God’s plan from beginning to end.
And that’s just one connection to the Old Testament story of hundreds more that Jesus and his apostles make—he delivers us from the coming wrath like the ark delivered Noah in the flood (1 Pet 3:20); he fulfills God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his offspring (Gal 3:7-9); he delivers us from bondage to sin in ways patterned after God freeing Israel from Egypt (1 Cor 5:7-8); he meets the Law’s demands as Israel’s faithful representative (Gal 3:10-14); he brings all the sacrifices and priestly duties to their appointed end and opens the way of forgiveness to God’s people (Heb 8-10); he ascends to David’s throne as the supreme, universal King, and rules over the nations with righteousness and peace (Luke 1:32; Rev 5:5; 22:16).
From the beginning with Adam through God’s purposes with Israel to the final day when all nations bow to worship Jesus, God’s plan has Christ at the center. He’s the only Son who can accomplish all God’s purposes in creation and redemption.
3. A Plan with Missions as the Overflow
But there’s one more point about God’s plan that’s married to this one, and we’ve got to get this down: God’s plan is a plan with missions as its overflow. Everything in the Old Testament has anticipated the day when God’s Son would come and deal with sin, lift the curse of death, and vanquish Satan’s stronghold. But the Old Testament also anticipated what the results of that victory would mean for the church and the nations.
Verse 24: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and [please get this] that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” Do you hear what he’s saying? He’s saying we cannot read our Bibles apart from him being the center and missions being the overflow of that center. He is the fountain of life and there are ripples of his life going to the ends of the earth. The risen Christ and global missions are linked. In as much as the Old Testament envisions a Christ suffering and rising for the nations, it envisions a church laying down their lives to win the nations. There’s no such thing as a risen Christ who does not win all the nations he died to save.
The bloody cross and the empty tomb mean there’s a multitude of people from all nations who will repent and follow Jesus when they hear Jesus proclaimed. Our missionary mandate is as necessary to God’s plan in winning the nations as the cross and resurrection of God’s Son. If we read God’s word with an agenda that’s contrary to treasuring Christ and conforming our lives to his mission, we do not read God’s word rightly. The whole Bible, Jesus is saying, promises missions to the nations in as much as it promises the Messiah dying for the nations.
We see it expected in the Law of Moses: “in you [Abraham] all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3); the number of your offspring will be like the stars of heaven (Gen 15:5). We see it expected in the Prophets. Wes took us there last week from Isaiah: the Servant achieves God’s work, extends his rule to the ends of the earth, and all the nations rejoice as a result. His servant would be “a light for the nations, that [God’s] salvation might reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49:6).
And we also see this missions overflow expected in the Psalms. The clearest example is probably Psalm 22. In Psalm 22 we see an expectation for God’s anointed King to suffer for his people. His sufferings are so great he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—something we know Jesus cried out on the cross when he bore God’s wrath as our substitute. And yet in light of this King’s sufferings, Psalm 22 breaks forth with this final song: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Ps 22:26-27).
Summary and Application
So what have we got from Jesus to open our eyes? We’ve got a sovereign plan centered on Christ with missions as the overflow. That’s why the Bible exists. The Bible exists to reveal God’s sovereign plan in Jesus Christ and to fuel world-wide missions in light of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures exist, because God is a missionary God. He wants the world to know that despite its rebellion against him, he’s gathering worshipers through his Son for their everlasting joy. He’s so jealous for your joy in worship, he sent his Son to deliver you from all that hindered that worship. And he’s done the same for countless multitudes from all people groups of the world. And he’s gathering them now.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, and the floodgates of salvation have been blown wide open to the nations. The plan of God to gather the nations is now! And this is where God’s plan in Scripture meets us in terms of global missions.
Life is about conforming our lives to God’s plan
Life isn’t so much about how God fits into the story of our individual lives, but about how our individual lives fit the story of God’s mission. One thing I fear for us and for the broader evangelical church is this: I fear that many Christians look to God’s word to find therapeutic comfort for a life they would have lived anyway without Jesus. Jesus’ words right here tell us that if that’s the way we’re using the Bible, then we’re abusing the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself and his sovereign plan with Christ at the center and missions as the overflow.
Meaning, when we read the Bible, we’re longing for two things to happen in our souls—a deeper treasuring of Jesus in all his kaleidoscopic glory and a greater passion to see the nations worshipping him. Those two things have got to grip us in everything we’re about. It’s what gripped the early church. Philip teaches the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus dying for his sins from Isa 53 (Acts 8:32-35). James justifies the preaching of the gospel to Gentiles using Amos 9:11-12 (Acts 15:13-19). Paul supports his mission to the Gentiles using Isa 49:6 (Acts 13:47).
Paul even bookends his longest theological letter—Romans—with God’s plan to win the nations. You know, we often jump into Romans for its rich theology—original sin, justification by faith, unconditional election, perseverance. But sometimes we do it not realizing the entirety of Paul’s theology is set in the context of mission. The whole impetus of writing the letter isn’t just to equip the church in doctrine, but to ensure that doctrine moves them to get him to Spain. He isn’t giving them a systematic textbook to read in their Lazyboy; he’s giving them a theology that will help them die to see Spain come to Christ. His whole letter is framed by two things: Christ and the obedience of all nations to Christ (Rom 1:5; 15:18; 16:26).
God’s plan means theology is for missional impact
Our theology has got to do the same, Redeemer! If our theological foundations are truly biblical, then they will drive every part of our being into God’s mission. God’s plan means theology is for missional impact. God-centeredness should make us long to increase the volume of his worship on earth. Total depravity should fill us with compassion and compel us to preach to those who’ve never heard. Election should fuel our passion to preach to all peoples without distinction, since God can save whomever he wants. Christ’s globally particular redemption means people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation will stand before the throne, and gives us hope for evangelism. Theology exists for missions. So, Redeemer, dig the foundation of your house deep in Christ; and then preach with great hope that God will fill the house with the nations.
God’s plan assures a life for Christ isn’t a wasted life
Also, when we’re gripped by this sovereign, Christ-centered, missions-driven plan, we won’t be wasting our lives. Remember, God’s plan is a sovereign plan. If we’re on board with what he’s doing among the nations, we can live with assurance that our lives will not be wasted. Our lives will be full of reward, the reward of God’s presence.
Even if we experience setbacks or rejection—Right? Some of you know where I’m going—the Big Idea on Sunday nights. Some of you have worked your tails off to tailor a dinner and Bible study for our neighborhood for three months, inviting hundreds of people to come. And you’ve seen very little to no response to your invitations. Some of you have proclaimed repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the people in your neighborhood and at times been rejected. But if God’s plan is sovereign, we can rest assured that God is in control and working all things for his glory and our good. More than that, we can be confident that if we’re about his business of winning the nations, he’ll give us wisdom in coming up with new strategies to reach the people around us.
That might mean more of us move into the neighborhood. It might mean others of us move in to the apartment complexes and win the trust of difficult cultures. It might mean some of us lay hold of Christ in new ways and adopt a family for a weekly Bible study. We won’t hesitate to equip you and set you up with folks we’ve already met. And as we pour into those around us locally, let’s never lose sight of equipping each other to make disciples globally as well. For some of you, that will mean you eventually move to another land to reach one of the 3,000 peoples who’ve never heard. Others of you simply need to open your eyes to the mosques going up in your neighborhoods, or the Hindu temples cropping up in the metroplex. Andy and I visited three last weekend while we were learning how to reach unreached peoples who are here. If we live to reach people with Jesus, God’s plan assures our lives won’t be wasted.
God’s plan challenges us not to waste our lives
But God’s plan also becomes a challenge for us not to waste our lives. God’s plan isn’t going to ‘peter-out’ because of our disobedience. If we choose to sit on the sidelines, ignoring the fact that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations, Jesus doesn’t lose, we lose. Christ will remove his lampstand from us and he will finish the mission with hundreds of other churches in Palestine and Samoa and South Korea.
The Center for the study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell released a study last year that showed—in terms of missionaries sent per million church members—Palestine comes out on top at 3,401, followed by Ireland, Malta, Samoa, and South Korea. The United States, with all its wealth and resources and thousands of churches, ranks ninth at 614. And get this as well: the country that received the most missionaries from other sending nations was the United States with 32,400—and that’s not mere immigration. They’re coming to make disciples, because they see the need here. And they likely see the darkness better than we do. So, this sovereign plan reminds us not to waste our lives, and assures us that if we’re living for God’s mission, then we won’t be wasting our lives.
God’s plan teaches us to ask the right life-questions
Here’s another place God’s plan meets us—and this comes from Christopher Wright in his book, The Mission of God. He says this:
[This vision of reality] turns inside out and upside down some of the common ways in which we’re accustomed to thinking about the Christian life and the kinds of questions we’re inclined to ask…It constantly forces us to open our eyes to the big picture, rather than shelter in the cosy narcissism of our own small world (533).
He goes on,
We want to be driven by a purpose that has been tailored just right for our own individual lives…when we should be seeing the purpose of all life…wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole creation. We talk about the problems of ‘applying the Bible to our lives,’ which often times means modifying the Bible somewhat…to fit into the assumed ‘reality’ of the life we live ‘in the real world.’ What would it mean to apply our lives to the Bible instead, assuming the Bible to be the reality…to which we are called to conform ourselves…I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission (534).
He’s saying when we come to the Bible—or better, when the Bible confronts us—it’s defining reality for us. It’s reorienting our lives on God and his agenda in Jesus. It forces me to ask the unsettling questions. Instead of “How do I squeeze making disciples into my schedule?” it asks, “How is my schedule going to serve making disciples?” Instead of “Am I going to have enough margin for Friday Netflix and Saturday football and Sunday golf if I make this commitment?” it asks “How will all the time the Lord does give me contribute to the spread of his fame?” Instead of “How much room should I leave in my budget for my hobbies?” it asks “How will the Bible shape my giving to save people from eternal torment?”
The Bible shapes the life-questions we ask. It doesn’t begin with our values and then leave us to determine how Christ and his mission fit into those values. It tells us what is valuable—Christ!—and then challenges us to conform ourselves to the truth. Even when you think you know whatever this or that truth is in Scripture, every time you come back to it you’re met again with ways you don’t fully believe it yet.
You’re like Peter—you know the tomb is empty; you just need your eyes opened. But get this: the same cure for Peter is also available to you and me. Jesus still stands risen from the dead to teach all who would repent and trust in him. We still have the same Scriptures. And he’s alive to help us understand them—to open our eyes too, to change our values too, to transform our passions too. How do I know he wants to do this? Because of his cross. He didn’t die to leave us as we are. He died to change us into what we should be.
Keep reading God’s plan in Scripture
So, Redeemer, here’s what I’d encourage you to do. Very basic—keep reading your Bibles to treasure Christ more deeply and to engage in mission more passionately. If the word isn’t part of your life or your family life, set a goal to open it tonight or at least sit down with your spouse to plan when you’re going to open it. If you’re single, find a brother or sister to discuss what you read in the word and make it part of your steady diet. Jesus didn’t ignite the disciples’ passion apart from Scripture. He did it by helping them understand the Scriptures. They were written to reveal God’s sovereign plan with Christ at the center and missions as the overflow.
Then let that plan shape all you are and do; and pray for God to open your eyes to the steps you need to take to get you there. One small step Rachel and I are taking more recently is evaluating how many little treats we purchase, whether from a fast-food place or Starbucks. And we’re doing so, with the hopes that it will free up more funds to help support her sister and brother-in-law to take the gospel to people in the Congo in addition to our first commitments here.
Some of you will have opportunity to bring this vision in the Bible to bear on your pocketbook even today. Jansen is looking to raise support to go to England to strengthen a church-plant. How might the risen Christ and God’s world-wide purpose for the nations lead you to give generously to her? It might mean you put a home project on hold, or buying a new car on hold. It might mean you don’t buy your wine and chocolate for six months.
Others of you are in school, sort of coasting along just to check off the next box in the curriculum. How might this word correct your view of education, so that every subject helps you think harder and more critically in getting the gospel to all peoples. Your education is for compassion to the nations, not just to get you a job. The same is true of your vocation. What does Eph 4:28 say? Labor, doing honest work with your own hands, so that you might have something to share with anyone in need.” Work is for mission.
We’re all in different places. But we all possess the same inspired Bible which awakens us to Christ’s glory and makes us competent for mission. The question we should all walk away with today is not a matter of “If I should be involved in global missions?” but “How?” God already thrust you into the mission when he saved you. And he will walk with you to show you how to participate until he comes again.