Date: December 9, 2018 Audio: Transcript:
An 1872 list of rules for teachers posted by a New York City principal included the following:
- Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and scuttle of coal for the day’s sessions
- Male teachers may take an evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings if they go to church regularly
- After ten hours in the school, the teachers should spend the remaining time in the evening reading the Bible or other good books
- Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool halls, or gets shaved in a barbershop can be reasonably suspected of lacking good intentions, integrity and honesty
Friends, though you might think some of those would be good rules for teachers to follow, I think most would agree it is a rather outdated job description.
Yet, it kind of parallels questions often raised about our text today – Luke 9:1-9 (page 866). In these verses, Jesus gives some instructions to His twelve disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, etc. These men are also known as the Twelve Apostles.
The question is – how are these instructions relevant to followers of Jesus Christ today – 2018 in northern Minnesota? All of us who are believers need to figure out that answer for our own lives. Let’s pause and pray the Lord would use this portion of His Word to help us to more closely follow the Lord Jesus.
Let’s begin by reading Jesus’ instructions:
Luke 9:1-6 – Summoning the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for the road,” he told them, “no staff, no traveling bag, no bread, no money; and don’t take an extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. If they do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that is not my typical work week. There is nothing about preparing a sermon, visiting someone at the hospital, and typing up the agenda for the board meeting. Yet, in the back of my mind I wonder, as a Christian, a follower of Jesus, should I be doing what Jesus commissioned Peter, John and the gang to do? Should I be traveling from town to town telling people about Jesus?
Some folks say no – these are words to Jewish disciples and they really don’t apply to Gentile Christians like us. They claim the only parts of the Bible which we have to directly apply are the letters of the Apostle Paul.
Others respond – wait a minute, these are not words from a school principal, but words from the Creator and Sovereign of the universe. If it is in the Bible, it is God’s Word for us today. If Jesus told His disciples to do something, we better get out there and do it. So, who’s right?
Well, I think both views kind of miss the mark:
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
Though the Apostle Paul was referring primarily to the Old Testament, the gospel of Luke, including chapter 9, is certainly included. We cannot look at a passage and think, “Hey, Jesus was talking to the apostles so this has nothing to do with me,” because this is part of the “all Scripture” which is profitable for our souls.
As I frequently say, the Bible is written by a particular human author to particular people living at a particular time. However, these are also God’s words, for all people, at all times, including those of us in this room today. The apostles are models for us of what it means to follow Jesus. Yet, following their model doesn’t mean our lives are to be identical copies of theirs.
As a pastor, one of my models for ministry is Charles H. Spurgeon. He was a 19th century Baptist preacher in London. He was a man used by God in great ways, but I don’t think I should do anything exactly the same way as Spurgeon. It would be silly of me to travel by horse and carriage instead of Hyundai Sonata. I have no desire to smoke cigars like Spurgeon did. Trying to replicate the ministry of the apostles, who lived about 2000 years ago, is not always appropriate either. Why?
1) Some of the instructions Jesus gives to the apostles are clearly of a temporary nature.
In Matthew 10:6, for example, Jesus sends out the apostles and tells them to confine their ministry to Jewish people. They were not to share the good news with Gentiles, people like us. Fortunately for us, that was a temporary command. Later, Jesus would tell those same disciples:
Matthew 28:19a – Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.
Or all peoples, more literally all ethnicities. Some of the instructions Jesus gives in our text today are clearly temporary because He later revises them. Jesus says:
Luke 22:35-36 – “When I sent you out without money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” … “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one.”
Even the apostles were not always supposed to follow the instructions in our text today.
2) We should not try to replicate the apostles’ ministry because it was totally unique.
Christianity is based upon the authority of these twelve men. The New Testament is the apostles’ testimony concerning Jesus. Books were included in the New Testament only if they were written by an apostle or an associate.
I might receive a letter from John Piper which is insightful, inspirational, eloquent and full of wisdom. It would not, however, be on the same level or have the same authority as the New Testament because John Piper is not an apostle. The Lord called the Twelve Apostles to a unique role; thus, our role as disciples today will be different.
So, how do we know whether we are supposed to follow the instructions Jesus gives to the Twelve in our text today?
Well, one thing we can do is prayerfully go through the rest of the New Testament and see how Jesus’ instructions to his apostles were applied by the early Christians. As we do, we will see that sometimes these instructions were followed very closely; other times it is the principles behind what Jesus said which are applied. To sort this out takes some time and a willingness to study, but it is all part of being a disciple, and knowing and doing whatever the Lord desires.
OK, this has been a long introduction, but I hope it will be helpful as you read and seek to apply what the Lord says to us through the gospel of Luke. Now let’s turn our attention to our text and see how these words apply to believers in and followers of Jesus today.
#1 Like the twelve, we are called to communicate the great news of Jesus Christ to people around us.
In verse 2, Jesus instructs them to proclaim the kingdom of God…
Luke 9:6 – So they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news.
The content of our message is a little different. At that point, the Twelve focused on what the coming of the Messiah and kingdom meant. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, the focus of the apostles’ message changed.
1 Corinthians 2:2 – I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
In other words, Paul’s message is all about Jesus, about His death and His resurrection and what they mean. And folks, that is what our message needs to be about – Jesus, His death and resurrection and what that means for us today. That is the content of the gospel.
Now, there are a variety of ways to communicate this message. I think one of the best ways is to ask people good questions. Rather than telling people what they should believe, it is often more effective to ask them what they believe about Jesus and why they believe it.
Incidentally, if you have not read this book, Tactics, by Greg Koukl, put it near the top of your reading list. It has some great practical suggestions on how to talk to people we know about the gospel.
And remember, telling others about Jesus is not just the job of pastors. Every follower of Jesus, every Christian, is to be sharing this message. Now, some people seem to be able to do this easily with pretty much anybody. That may not be you, and that is OK. Yet, I am convinced the Lord wants all of us to be telling our friends and family members about Jesus.
“But, Pastor Dan,” some of you might be thinking, “I share my faith by how I live. Like St. Francis said, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.’” Well, there is not much evidence St. Francis actually said that, and if he did, I think he was wrong. Yes, how we live our lives is, indeed, part of our testimony. If you are a kind, honest, generous person, people will be more likely to listen to you than if we are arrogant and obnoxious.
Yet, it is not enough to be a nice person. There are a lot of nice people in the world who are not Christians. Some of us choose not to drink alcohol, but Mormons and Muslims don’t drink alcohol either. And we need to remember our goal is not to get other people to think we are nice people, but to help them see that Jesus is a great Savior!
And that almost always means we need to open our mouths, use words, and tell people about Jesus. Now, I know this often seems like a kind of scary thing to do, but the Lord promises to help us do just that.
Incidentally, I was just reading how people are three times more likely to accept an invitation to attend church if they are invited by a lay person – that’s you, than by a pastor – that is me. I don’t think that is because you folks are nicer than I am, though some of you are. Rather, I think people are more likely to accept your invitation to attend church because you can say, “Would you like to come to church with me?” A lot of people are uncomfortable going to church by themselves and not having anyone to sit by. If I invite a neighbor to come to church, I can’t sit by him/her. You have an advantage. Use it. I think bringing someone to church is a great step in helping people get to know Jesus. Friends, it is our job to tell people the great news about Jesus Christ, just like the Twelve Apostles did.
#2 Part of the instructions Jesus gave to the Twelve was to heal people.
They were to (verse 2) proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick.
Luke 9:6 – (The disciples were) proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.
They were to help people find eternal life in the future and to find wholeness in life here and now. Friends, the Lord wants us to bring healing to the people around us as well. Now, the healing ministry of the apostles was unique. God enabled them to perform miracles, signs and wonders as proof that they had been chosen as Jesus’ representatives.
We don’t have the same calling. However, I do believe the Lord wants to use us to bring healing to a very hurting world. That includes helping people who are sick experience God’s healing power. Our instructions are found in…
James 5:14-15 – Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
I also believe that the healing ministry to which God calls us involves people whose bodies may be healthy, but whose souls are wounded. We live in a world, in a community where people’s lives have often been ravaged, not by disease, but by sin. Sometimes it is their own sin. Sometimes they have been sinned against by other people.
Alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, infidelity, divorce, abuse (sexual, emotional or physical) all can do a lot of damage. Attitudes like bitterness, anger, lust, greed and envy also contribute. Oh, sometimes people look fine on the outside, but there is deep pain on the inside. And frankly, those wounds of the soul don’t usually heal very well on their own. They tend to get opened up over and over again by the bumps and bruises of life.
Yet, as followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to bring healing and hope to these broken lives. What “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” cannot put together again, the Lord Jesus can. Oh, we don’t have a magic wand to wave that will bring immediate healing and wholeness to people’s lives. Often that will require walking a long road.
What we can offer people now, today, is hope. We can help people see that life doesn’t always have to be the way it is. It is our privilege and responsibility to share this part of the great news with people around us.
However, this will usually involve more than speaking words. Helping others experience the Lord’s healing can take time, our time. When people are hurting, suffering the consequences of either sinning or being sinned against, they often need someone to stand beside them, someone to cheer them on, or someone to provide practical help when needed. Sometimes this requires considerable patience.
I was recently talking to my friend, Doug Birkmaier. Doug and Laura were an active part of the ministry here at CBC until they moved to Ishpeming, MI about eighteen months ago. They are now involved in a Baptist church there, and sure enough, Doug is already the leader of the children’s club, just like he was here.
Doug said, “Pastor Dan, the kids here are not as well behaved as back in Chisholm, and some of them really try my patience. I started thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Until I remembered, this is why I am doing this – I want to help troubled kids find the healing in life that only Jesus Christ can give. The Lord wants me doing this precisely because of the kids who stretch my patience.”
Friends, Doug is right. When the Lord calls us to help people, He doesn’t promise it will always be easy. If it was easy, they probably would not really need our help. Jesus does, indeed, want us to help people who are hurting – just as He wanted the Twelve to do a couple of thousand years ago.
#3 Part of the instructions Jesus gives, both in the 1st and 21st centuries is to rely on the Lord when doing ministry.
Luke 9:3-4 – “Take nothing for the road,” he told them, “no staff, no traveling bag, no bread, no money; and don’t take an extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.”
Now, I don’t think the specific instructions necessarily transfer to our day. I recommend that all pastors or missionaries take an extra shirt when they travel. The point Jesus was making still does apply, however. Those who are doing the Lord’s work need to depend, not on themselves or their own resources, but on the Lord.
Friends, this is true for pastors, Sunday school teachers and church greeters. We want the Lord to enable us to do the work He has called us to do. I think one verse all of us should memorize is:
1 Peter 4:11 – If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything.
One way the Lord enables us to do His work is through the Holy Spirit and the gifts He provides. A second way highlighted in our text is through His people, the Church.
The reason the Twelve did not need to bring food, money or an extra shirt along on their journey was that the Lord would provide everything they needed through the people who would be their hosts. These people were also followers of Jesus, or at least were sympathetic to His ministry. As the Twelve focused on proclaiming God’s Word and healing and helping those in need, these folks would provide meals, a bed in which to sleep, and even a clean shirt.
Though these might not seem as glamorous as preaching to a big crowd or performing a miraculous healing, making a meal for one of the apostles was an essential part of God’s work.
So, what does this mean for Christians today?
1) Providing financial support for those involved in certain ministries is part of serving the Lord.
If you are giving money each month to support missionaries such as Chris and Steph Klay, that is part of serving the Lord. If you contribute money to this church, part of which is used to pay my salary, I think you are serving the Lord.
Now, often people involved in ministry provide their own financial support. The Bible endorses that, as well. The Apostle Paul made tents so that he was not dependent on other Christians for food or a new shirt. Other churches pay people to be a youth director, music minister or church treasurer, but at CBC, those roles are filled by volunteers, or we might call them tent-maker ministries – working other jobs to support themselves and families, but their focus in life is serving the Lord.
2) It reminds us of the importance of support ministries in the church.
1 Peter 4:11 talks about those who speak God’s words – pastors, missionaries and Sunday school teachers. This also includes those in the worship team or choir. Peter then speaks of those who serve. In our context, that includes greeters, ushers, those who work in the kitchen and nursery, those who shovel the snow, mow the lawn and take care of flowers and a whole bunch of other people who are a part of the ministry of CBC.
This is a church which has three pastors and many, many ministers. And friend, if you serve in the way the Lord has called you to serve, and you do so with the strength He provides, you are bringing glory to the Lord in whatever aspect of ministry you are involved. This is also a reminder that all believers in Jesus are called to be part of some aspect of ministry. The Lord calls us to be a team, working together for His glory.
And friends, on this team no one is supposed to be sitting on the bench. All of us are called to active duty. And friend, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, the Lord wants you to be involved in ministry in some way. If you are not, you and I should have a conversation. Because no matter what situation you are in, no matter if you are young or old, a Packer of Viking fan, there is a place on the team for you. If you are not sure what this is, I would be glad to try and help you figure that out.
Friends, today we looked at instructions Jesus gave His disciples almost 2000 years ago. They still apply to those of us who trust Him and seek to follow Him. May the Lord give us the grace to follow His instructions today.