Me? A Missionary?
Series: WWLD? (What Would Lottie Do?)
Sermon: Me? A Missionary?
Ricky Powell, Senior Pastor
December 6, 2009
It has been great to learn a little about Lottie Moon this morning. For some of you, all this talk every year about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has made you question, “Who is this Lottie Moon and when will we ever pay her off?”
I am beginning a new series today called, “WWLD? What Would Lottie Do?” All through the month of December we are going to learn about Lottie Moon and the lessons we can learn from her life. Go ahead and open your Bible to John 20.19-23. We will read this passage in just a moment.
Lottie Moon—the namesake of the international missions offering—has become something of a legend to us. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today’s missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so her people group could know Jesus.
Lottie later recounted that she felt her call to China “as clear as a bell” in February 1873 after a Baptist pastor in Cartersville, Georgia preached about missions. Lottie left the service to go to her room, where she prayed all afternoon. Then and there she surrendered her life to being a missionary. When she set sail for China, Lottie was 32 years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead.
For 39 years Lottie labored, chiefly in Tengchow and P’ingtu. Some of the people feared and rejected her, but she refused to leave. She came up with an ingenious strategy in those early days for building a relationship with the people she was trying to reach; she baked cookies. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies drew people to her house. She shed her Western style of dress and culture and adopted traditional Chinese dress, learned China’s language, and adopted many of their customs. She did all of this and more just so she could relate to and reach the wonderful people of China with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lottie didn’t just serve the people of China; she identified with them. Many eventually accepted her and her Savior. Citation: adapted from LOTTIE MOON: A SHORT BIOGRAPHY, by John Allen Moore (www.maxsons.org/pdf/BiographyOfLottieMoon.pdf)
Aren’t you grateful for missionaries like Lottie Moon who are willing to accept the call of God on their lives to reach certain people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Aren’t you grateful for missionaries who will risk everything for the cause of Christ? Aren’t you grateful for missionaries who die to their personal preferences and customs without compromising Scripture in an effort to identify with the people they are trying to reach?
Do we have any missionaries here today? Will all of the missionaries please stand?
Why are you not all standing? Go ahead and stand up. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ then stand and remain standing. If you are a Christian please stand. You see, if you are a member of the Body of Christ then you are a missionary. If you are one of the saved then you are also one of the sent. I am looking at a room full of missionaries. Those whom God saves He sends. Most of us have not been called to go to China or some other foreign country. But we have each been called to serve as missionaries right here in our own community and culture. That’s right…Christ has sent each of us to reach our culture with the Gospel! As a church, we have been commissioned to reach this community with the message of salvation!
Do not take my word for it. Listen to what Jesus said in John 20.19-23 to His disciples after His resurrection. READ PASSAGE
Did you hear that? “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.”
If you are one of the saved then you are one of the sent. Let’s take a look at the process He uses to make us missionaries. Please be seated.
The disciples of Jesus had assembled after the arrest, scourging, crucifixion and death of their Lord. The fearful disciples locked themselves inside the upper room. They hid behind locked doors fearful that the same Jewish authorities who had their Lord murdered might also come after them. You can only imagine the fear that filled the room as they huddled together, wondering if the next sound they heard would be the footsteps of their executioners. The risen Lord Jesus arrived on the scene and performed three gracious acts for them. These are the same three gracious acts He performs for us today. First, He emboldened them with His presence, and He does the same for us.
I. Jesus Emboldens Us With His Presence (John 20:19-20).
"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20).
After the crucifixion of their Lord the disciples were not thinking about being missionaries to their world. They were worried about being martyrs! They were at Ground Zero where their Lord had been executed.
His sudden appearance did not help matters much. His appearance in a locked room shook and frightened the disciples. They thought they were seeing a vision or a spirit (Luke 24:36-37), so Jesus invited them to investigate and touch His wounds. Here’s a good Bible trivia question for you: What are the only man-made things in heaven? The wounds of Jesus, the nail prints in His hands and feet, and the scar in His side. They were still there when Jesus was resurrected.
The first thing Jesus did was prove that it was really Him. He showed them His wounds. In doing so, He wanted to turn their fear into faith. Can you imagine how dramatic it would be to see a loved one back from the grave standing before you? Jesus probably moved around to each of them, allowing each one to see the wounds. He wanted them to know they were not looking at a ghost or apparition. His scars were the defining marks of His identity. In short, the scars of the Savior convinced them that…
A. Jesus Is The Christ of Calvary.
"…He showed them HIS hands and HIS side…" (John 20:20). While the disciples had deserted Him, John (and probably Peter afar off) had witnessed the crucifixion. They had watched as their Lord and Friend was nailed to the cross on the wind-swept hill of Golgotha. They had observed as the spear was plunged into His side. They had seen Him die and along with Him their hopes of a better day. Now the Jesus of Calvary was standing among them in His risen power, showing them His hands and side. He invaded their grief and fear and unbelief with infallible proof. But He is more than the Christ of Calvary.
B. Jesus Is The Christ of Victory.
"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you'" (John 20:19).
No one but a Conqueror could say such words. Indeed, twice over He declared, “Peace to you!” (John 20:21, 26).
It has been said, “How often the contemporary church finds itself behind closed doors, fearful and ineffectual, living on the wrong side of the resurrection. The problems are so vast and the enemy so overwhelming and all the talk about Jesus seems futile. What can be done but hide in the sanctuary discussing how desperate the situation is?” (Citation: Roger L. Fredrikson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, vol. 27, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 27 : John, Formerly The Communicator's Commentary, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985), 275.???
- We are afraid that the world will overtake us.
- We are afraid that change in how we do church means we must compromise the Word of God.
- We are afraid to get out of our comfort zones to reach people with the Gospel, so we retreat behind our traditions and preferences.
- Instead of being a church of risk-takers, we become caretakers and undertakers.
- We are afraid that the world condition is too far gone and that the best days of the church are behind us, not before us.
This same Jesus stands before us in all the power of His resurrection life and speaks peace to us. We cannot mistake Him or escape Him because the scars are self-evident. Thank God, we can know the reality of this transforming experience because of the scars of the Savior.
When we become fearful at the prospect of going out in our world with the Gospel let us be emboldened by His Presence. He is in our midst. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Greater is He who is in us than the Devil who is in the world! Lottie Moon wrote of Jesus, “He ‘went about doing good’; in a humble manner you are trying to walk in his footsteps. As you wend your way from village to village, you feel it is no idle fancy that the Master walks beside you and you hear his voice saying gently, ‘Lo! I am with you always even unto the end.’”
Even after Jesus appeared on the scene they disciples were still in danger of being arrested and executed. In fact, almost all of them eventually died by execution. But Jesus said, “I can give you peace IN THE MIDST of your fears. If you live on the wrong side of the Calvary then you will be fearful. But if you will focus your gaze on the risen, victorious Jesus, you can experience His peace. There is great advice in the song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Jesus Emboldens us With His Presence (John 20:19-20). But there is a second gracious act He performs.
II. Jesus Employs Us In a Mission (John 20:20-21).
"…He showed them His hands and His side…Then Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you'" (John 20:20-21).
It has been rightly said, “God had only one Son and He made Him a missionary.” Those scars in His hands and side were the indisputable evidence of a completed mission. Throughout His life and ministry our Lord spoke of doing the Father's will and of finishing His work. When He was a young boy, Mary and Joseph unintentionally left Him behind at the Temple. When they realized that He was not with the other family members in the caravan they retraced their steps and found Him teaching in the Temple. He said to Mary and Joseph, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” (Luke 2.49) Jesus knew from childhood that he was on a mission to do the Father’s will. That is why He cried out from the cross when He completed His mission. “It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30) The mission Jesus had from the Father was to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus was a man on a mission.
Jesus had completed His mission when He died upon the cross for the sin of the world. The work of Calvary is complete, but the WORD of Calvary is not complete. There are untold millions yet untold! “…All authority has been given to Me…Go…make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:18-19). Out of His authority Jesus commissioned His disciples to their own mission. Fort Caroline Baptist Church, hear your pastor well. We have a mission from Christ. Our mission is not to be a country club for comfortable Christians! Our mission is to be a lighthouse in a darkened world, a lifesaving station on the seas of sin, and a hospital for the hurting. God has called us to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium! Every decision we make as a church must be motivated by a desire to fulfill our God-given mission to reach the lost! George W. Truett, the late pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas used to say, “A church that is not missionary does not deserve the ground upon which its buildings stand.” (Citation: Building An Evangelistic Church, Paul Powell, p. 65).
Church, please hear my heart. I know that I do not always make decisions that please all of you. I have never intentionally tried to antagonize you or change things here for the sake of change. I do not want to be trendy. I am not trying to make our church like some famous pastor’s church. Every decision I make as your pastor is motivated out of a deep desire to lead our church to fulfill our mission of reaching the lost. I know that you will not always like my methods, but at least you can appreciate my motives! A lady once complained to D.L. Moody, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like your methods.” Moody reportedly replied, “Well, my dear, I don’t care for some of them myself. What are yours?” She replied, “I don’t have any.” Moody then responded, “In that case, I like the way I’m doing it better than the way you are not doing it.” The point is, if I made all my decisions based on what I like or only on what Christians like then things would be a lot different. We would never change anything. We would do things like we used to in the good-ole days. But Christ has not called us to turn inward and do things only for ourselves. He has turned us outward towards a lost and dying community! I am trying to reach your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your family members and your grand-kids. Help me as I follow Christ on this mission! Oh church, may we never lose sight of the scars of Calvary the Lord Jesus still bears in His body. They are the evidence of His authority to employ us in this mission.
A. Through His Scars He Shows Us the Results of Service.
"…As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
The disciples could never divorce those words from the wounds in the Savior's body. They could never separate those scars from His service. They knew that the scars spoke of His undeviating obedience to the Father's will. Three of them may have heard the Savior pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, "…Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39). Now He says to them, "…As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21); or, "As I have obeyed the Father, so I expect you to obey Me. As I brought Myself under My Father's sovereign authority so I expect you to come under My sovereign authority. Look at My hands and side, and then do as I tell you.” (Citation: Stephen Olford. Expository Preaching Outlines.)
Church, serving Jesus and sharing His Gospel is not always easy, convenient, comfortable. Serving the Lord by fulfilling our mission to take the Gospel to our community will often be costly, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. We are going to have to choose to die to our selves, our preferences, our traditions, our comfort zones, and our lives if necessary if we are going o fulfill our mission!
A niece asked Lottie Moon years later if she ever had been in love. “Yes,”Lottie replied, “but God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no question about the result.”
The disciples must have felt something of this when the Lord Jesus showed them His hands and side and commissioned them for service. Jesus, you laid down your life for me. You have first claim upon my life. I will serve in your mission no matter the results, no matter the cost.
B. Through His Scars He Sends Us into the Realm of Service.
"As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
One aspect of His work was over, but now a new stage of God's redemptive mission was being launched. This is why Luke opens up his Acts of the Apostles with the significant words, “The former account I made…of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Observe that word “began.” Jesus was still working, but now He works by the Holy Spirit, through His apostles, and through you and me. Therefore, those words uttered over two thousand years ago are as relevant today as when they were first spoken: "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Just as Jesus was sent to a time and a place for His mission, so we have been sent to a time and place for our mission. God has sovereignly planted this church here so we can reach this community with the Gospel!
In the courtyard of a quaint little church in a French village there stood a beautiful statue of Jesus with His hands outstretched. One day, during World War II, a bomb struck too close to the statue, and it was dismembered. After the battle was over, the citizens of the village patiently gathered the broken pieces of their beloved statue, then reassembled it. Although the scars on the body added to its mystical beauty, one problem remained: the hands were no where to be found. “A Christ without hands is no Christ at all,” one citizen lamented. “Hands with scars, yes. But what’s a Lord without hands. We need a new statue.” Another citizen offered the best solution. A bronze plaque was affixed to the base of the statue, which read: “I have no hands but your hands.”
Years later a poet saw the inscription and wrote these lines:
Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in word and deed;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred? —Annie Johnston Flint
God has no other method than men. As we look at the cross and gaze upon those wounds, may it impel us to engage all our powers in the task of worldwide evangelism beginning right here with our neighbors.
Jesus Emboldens Us With His Presence. Jesus Employs Us In His Mission. There is a third gracious act Jesus performs for us.
III. Jesus Empowers Us With The Spirit (John 20:22-23).
"And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" (John 20:22-23)
We can never think of the scars of the Savior without thinking also of the sufficiency of the Savior. He was in fact communicating to them resurrection life. This was a foretaste of Pentecost. He wanted them to know that the Holy Spirit would empower them as they fulfilled their mission. Church, we must realize that we are desperately dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s work. One of the reasons we are not more effective in reaching our world with the Gospel is because we are not depending upon the Holy Spirit to fill us. There are two basic works of the Holy Spirit that He performs for us.
A. He Gives the Sufficiency for Holy Living.
"…He breathed on them, and said…to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). Dr. Stephen Olford wrote, “Before there can be mighty preaching there must be holy living. We must be saints before we are servants. A study of the New Testament makes it evident that the fruit of the Spirit has more emphasis in the writings of the apostles than the gifts of the Spirit. What we are is more important than what we do. If what we are does not conform to the standards God expects of us then what we do is virtually worthless. God wants us before He wants our service. To Him it is more important to be a devoted father and husband in the home than to be a famous preacher. It is more important to be a sweet, loving mother and wife than a conference speaker or a Bible Class leader. It is more important that children be obedient and helpful than football stars on the field, or debaters in the classroom. Paul says, "[Be ye being] filled with the Spirit" (Ephes. 5:18), and he immediately adds instructions concerning loving husbands, submissive wives, and obedient children. Do you know the Holy Spirit dominant in your life? You won't until Calvary is a reality to you. The Holy Spirit will never reign or rule where He is grieved or quenched. The only thing that will deal with the hindrances to a Spirit-filled life is a dynamic experience of the cross. Only when we are dead to sin can we be alive to God.”
B. He Gives the Sufficiency for Mighty Preaching.
Jesus said, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:23).
Jesus was saying that based on His authority and the power of the Holy Spirit we can preach the Gospel and call men everywhere to believe. If they believe then, based on the authority of the Gospel, we can declare their sins have been forgiven. If they reject the Gospel then they are still in their sins and bound for Hell. The same idea is found in the closing chapter of Mark's Gospel, where Jesus said, “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). To some people our message is one of salvation; to others, it is a message of damnation. Where people respond to the message of the gospel sins are remitted; where they reject the claims of Christ sins are retained.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost they were fearless in their preaching. For example, Peter who cowered and cringed at the giggle of a girl on the night of the Savior's betrayal could now face the murderers of Jesus and declare, "…let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). This is mighty preaching! No wonder people were convicted and 3,000 souls were converted on the Day of Pentecost!
Lottie Moon knew that she could do nothing without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. In one of her letters back home she wrote, “I feel my weakness and inability to accomplish anything without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Make special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in P’ingtu, that I may be clothed with power from on high by the indwelling of the Spirit in my heart.” (Allen, 160).
In 1912, during a time of war and famine, Lottie silently starved, knowing that her beloved Chinese didn’t have enough food. Her fellow Christians saw the ultimate sign of love: giving her life for others. Weighing only 50 lbs., Lottie was placed on board a ship bound for the United States by her missionary friends who were trying to save her life.
The ship docked in Kobe, Japan to take on coal. On Christmas Eve 1912 she opened her eyes, smiled and looked around. With her last remaining strength, she raised her fists together (hand over fist)—the fond Chinese greeting. She must have been greeting her Lord, for in that moment her spirit went out to meet Him.
Miss Lottie Moon died at age 72. Following her death fellow missionaries came in possession of her Bible. On the flyleaf words were found which she had penned. “O, that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to his service forever; O, that I could give myself up to him, so as never more to attempt to be my own or to have any will or affection improper for those conformed to him.” (Allen, 139). Lottie lived out the truth that God sends those whom he saves. If you are one of the saved, you are one of the sent.