I don’t know about you, but buying jeans has been a theme throughout my life. When I was a child, buying jeans was one of the most embarrassing things I would ever experience. My Mom would take me to the local men’s wear store, and one of the men who worked there would measure my waist and, that dreaded of all experiences to happen to a young boy in public, the inseam. Then he would set out some pairs for me to try on, which I did. I would come out of the change room and Mom would pull at the waist band on the pants and say, “Well, it looks like there is room for him to grow.” Then she and the clerk would look at my legs to see whether the jeans were too short, too long, or touching my shoes in just the right way. Practicality was key and no consideration was given for style at all. A pair of jeans would be chosen, Mom would pay for them and we would walk out of the store, all the while I would be looking around to see if anyone saw me in that store.
It was a great day when I was able to buy my first pair of jeans totally on my own. I was 17 years old and it happened in Kingsway Mall in Edmonton. I bought the most stylish pair I could find. They had a skinny waist and wide bell bottoms that flared out and perfectly covered my platform shoes. In hindsight, that is the time when I should have been looking around to see if anyone saw me in that store.
The point is that much of my adult life has been a quest for the perfect pair of jeans, and a few months ago, I finally found what I have been looking for. I picked up a pair of Kirkland brand jeans at Costco, and these things are amazing! They fit in all the places where I need them to fit. They stretch in all the places where I need them to stretch. And when you get older, comfort tends to be a greater value than style, and these things are comfortable. The other day, I put on a pair of pants that I used to wear all the time and they felt very uncomfortable in comparison to my Kirkland jeans. I love my Kirkland jeans! I like them so much that I tell others about them whenever I can. After hearing about these Costco jeans over and over again, Susan finally said, “I’ve got to go and check out those Costco jeans.”
We naturally want to tell others about things in our life that we are excited about. Ideally, that should also be true for us when it comes to Jesus. The difference that Jesus should make in our lives should be greater than buying a good pair of jeans. It should be as great as the difference between night and day. And when something causes that big of a change in your life, you naturally want to tell others about it. But we don’t. Why do we hold back on telling others about Jesus?
We Need to Address Our Fears
I think that the biggest reason that we hold back on telling others about Jesus is fear. And there are two different types of fear that we tend to feel. The first fear that holds us back is the fear of being inadequate, of not being up to the task. It is really a fear of failure. Many of us have seen or heard stories about gifted evangelists, people like Billy Graham, or our own Pastor Karl, have shared the Gospel with people and those people immediately responded in faith. So we think that that is what it should look like for us.
But what we miss when we think that is that God likely has a different way for us to tell us about Jesus. And the way that God has for us to go and tell others about Jesus will fit naturally with who we are and the gifts that God has given us, and it will naturally arise from the life that we have with Jesus. You see, a life spent being with Jesus will naturally result in us going into the world to share his love with others. That’s why we are having the Red Letter Challenge. As you grow in Being with Jesus, you will grow in Going with Jesus. But if our fears are holding us back, we will never step into those opportunities Jesus sets before us and we will never fully enjoy the richness and fullness of life that comes from knowing that we are partnering with Jesus as he grows his kingdom in this world.
The second fear that holds us back from telling others about Jesus is a fear of what other people might think of us. When I was serving as a pastor in Saskatchewan, we were having a conversation about sharing our faith in a small group and one man, who was a wonderful man with genuine faith, said, “I’m not going to do that. I don’t want people to think that I am crazy.” And that fear of what other people think is encouraged by an often shared idea in our culture that your beliefs are a private matter and you shouldn’t be sharing them publicly with others. Which, if you think about it, is bizarre because that idea is a belief that is shared publicly with others.
The way to overcome our fears is by growing in our faith in Jesus. So let’s start by evaluating the faith that we have. Is it a 110 volt faith, or is it a 220 volt faith? With electricity, 110 volts is the amount of electricity available at our household electrical plugs, and that will run our household appliances and charge up our phones. But if you want to run something more powerful, like a 20 HP electric motor or an arc welder, you are going to need to have more power, you will need 220 volts. It is the same with our faith. 110 volt faith is like that described for us in Galatians 1:10, Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
But the kind of faith that we really want, which is 220 volt faith, is described for us in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) That’s the kind of faith that we want to have. In order for us to have 220 volt faith, we need to address our fears. To help us do that, today we are going to look at: Luke 10:1-24. If you have a Bible or a Bible app, I invite you to turn there now.
The Sending of the Seventy-two
What we find here is that Jesus has gathered a larger group of his followers, and he is sending them out to do what he had been doing, that is, healing people and teaching them about the kingdom of God so that they could enter that Kingdom through faith in him. By sending 72 people to do what he had been doing by himself, Jesus created an exponential increase in the number of people who could go and transform lives for the kingdom of God.
And Jesus is able to do this because he had been using something called the Discipleship Square, something that we use in our church today. It starts off with “I do, you watch.” Then it turns a corner to “I do, you help.” Next an important shift happens and the process becomes “You do, I help.” And the final step in the process is, “You do, I watch.” Jesus had used this process to make disciples who make disciples and now the time had come for those disciples to go off on their own and simply do what Jesus had prepared them to do. That is exactly what we here at WGLC want to do as a church.
Before Jesus sends his followers out, he gives them some very important, and specific instructions. As we read in Luke’s account, 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. (Luke 10:2) We tend to measure things by what we see, so it is easy for us to look around and see that churches in our part of the world are going through tough times, as they are, and conclude that the opportunities for us to share Jesus with others are rare. But Jesus is encouraging us to look at the world through the eyes of faith and see that he is already continually preparing hearts to receive his life-changing love through us and others. Like an apple on a tree, some people are not ripe yet, but others are or soon will be. So it is very important for us to go out and work in God’s harvest field and help gather the harvest that he has prepared.
The second thing that Jesus says to his followers is both a command and a warning. He said, Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. (Luke 10:3) Jesus starts with the command to go, which is our focus for this week. We see this emphasis on “going” from Jesus in the last part of each of the four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–and in the first part of the book of Acts.
This second part of the verse sounds like a warning, which it is. When we go out into the world we are defenseless lambs going out among ravenous wolves who would like nothing better than to tear us apart and devour us. So let us not be naive or ignorant about what we will face in the world around us. This idea, that I know is in me and perhaps it is also in you, that the world is going to welcome us and our Good News message with open arms is not realistic nor is it biblical. We need to face the fact that, as we go into the world, bearing the cross of Christ, you and I are going to be attacked, ridiculed, marginalized and hated.
But Jesus’ words are also a reminder to us to remember who we are. The solution to our defencelessness is not to become wolves like the world around us and try to attack and harm others before they attack and harm us. No, Jesus is calling us to be lambs as we go out among wolves, and let our meekness and gentleness be evident to all. For we are trusting in Jesus to protect us and to make all things work out for good as he knows is best. We intentionally chose not to take matters into our own hands and fight first or fight back because the Master of our life is a lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world. We imitate Jesus so that his life-giving, sacrificial love will shine through us more clearly.
Third, Jesus gives his followers some unusual instructions about preparing for the journey. He said, “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.” (Luke 10:4-8)
Before our family goes on a camping trip, we have an extensive checklist that we print off and follow to make sure that we bring with us everything that we need. But Jesus is saying, “Don’t take anything with you and trust in me to provide for you through the people that you will meet as you go.” Jesus has already put in place, in the areas where we will go, people of peace who will welcome us, partner with us and support us as we do the work of sharing Jesus’ love with a broken and hurting world. So part of our task as missionaries, whether that is in our neighborhood, our workplace, or on the other side of the world, is to identify the person of peace whom Jesus has given us to work with. So here is a question that I am asking you to think about this week: Who is the person of peace that Jesus has put in place for you?
Finally, Jesus tells his followers precisely how they are to transform lives for the Kingdom of God. First, they are to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Heal the sick who are there… (Luke 10:9). That demonstration of the power of God’s kingdom will create openness in people’s hearts to become part of God’s kingdom. After demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God, they are to declare its proximity. The full instruction Jesus gives is “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:9) Demonstrate and declare. That is the way that lives were transformed for the Kingdom of God 2,000 years ago, and it is the way that lives are transformed for the Kingdom of God today.
Jesus’ last words to his followers before they leave are to remember that they represent him and his Father. He said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) Whenever Jesus followers go out into the world, we are Christ’s ambassadors, appealing to others to be reconciled to God as though God himself were making his appeal through us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20).
The Debrief After the Mission Trip
After the mission trip, Jesus and his disciples gathered to debrief, which is another very important part of discipling. The disciples were ecstatic over what they saw and experienced. Luke tells us, The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17) Note how Jesus responded. 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. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
So what is Jesus saying here? He is saying, “Keep your eye on what is most important. I have overcome the power of evil and nothing will harm the eternal life you are living before God right now in his kingdom. So don’t get caught up in the power I shared through you to draw someone else closer to me. You are a pipeline, not a storage tank. You are an electrical wire, not a battery. Instead, focus on your life with God. That’s where your spiritual power comes from. As Jesus said elsewhere, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
The Importance of “Demonstrate & Declare”
So what does all this mean for us? The principle Jesus has given us for sharing his love with others is “Demonstrate and Declare.” Too often, both as a church and as individuals, we tend to focus on the “Declare” part, the telling and teaching part. We think that if we just tell people about Jesus, that all we need to do to bring them into the kingdom of God. And sometimes that does work. But I think that we could reach more people if we could demonstrate the power of God’s kingdom first, because people would be more open to hearing about God’s Kingdom after they have seen its power.
And I think that this paradigm of Demonstrate and Declare is even more important in the skeptical, secular culture in which we live because people tend to be closed off to hearing about God. Without the Demonstration part, we are only another voice among the many clamoring for people’s attention and allegiance.
In our life with Jesus as individual followers, we can ask ourselves: What are the things in my life that have been transformed by Jesus’ power? The story of what Jesus has done in our lives can be used by Jesus to transform someone else’s life. touch the life of someone else. In our life with Jesus as a community of faith, we can ask ourselves (and this is especially important as we plan this year to start a new ministry next year to meet the needs of our surrounding community): What kind of ministry can we start that will demonstrate God’s power to our surrounding community? In the past, that has happened through Alpha and Freedom Session. What will it be in the future? That’s what we need to ask God in our prayers.
Whether it is as individuals or as a church, we need to take Jesus’ words and put them into practice. That means:
- believing that God has a plentiful harvest all around us, just waiting for to go into that field and help harvest it
- As we go to work in that harvest field, we remember who we are, we are lambs among wolves
- We trust in Jesus to provide everything we need
- We demonstrate the power of God’s Kingdom by applying Jesus’ love to people’s personal situations
- We declare the presence of God’s Kingdom by inviting others to become part of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ.
- We keep our eyes on Jesus, not what he is doing through us
An Example of God at Work
Earlier this year, one of the families that my daughter Leah babysits for shared that a friend of theirs was healed of depression after they went into a local church and the pastor there prayed for her. As Leah and the family worked through the details of what happened, they realized that the church their friend went into was Walnut Grove Lutheran Church and the pastor that prayed for her was me.
When Leah shared this story with me, I thought back to when it happened. There was nothing special about that encounter. The woman came into our building, we sat together in this room, she shared her struggles with me, and I prayed for her. It was very much the same as the many other times when I met with people and prayed for them.
There is nothing special about me. I am a broken, sinful, ordinary human being just like all of you are. And yet God chose to do something supernatural through an ordinary person who went and shared his love with someone else. I don’t have the power to heal, but God chose to use me as a pipeline to do his healing work. And God can do exactly the same thing through each and everyone of you. All that he requires of you is to go and be his person in his world.
The same God who did amazing things through his people in the Bible is still doing amazing things through his people today. As we come to the end of our Red Letter Challenge this week, I want to encourage you to keep taking Jesus’ words and putting them into practice. Keep Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving and Going. Keep being strong and courageous as you go into this broken and hurting world because the Lord your God is with you. You don’t need to be afraid of anything. When you have Jesus and the story of what he is doing in your life, you have all you need to make an eternal impact on the world around you. Amen.
(This sermon is based on one written by Zach Zehnder which is available at redletterchallenge.com. This sermon was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on April 10, 2021. For more info, please go to wglc.org.)