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Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian (OLD)

Why Be On Mission With God?

Matthew 4:18-22

Jesus seemed to know that there is a difference between the Christian crowd and a gathering of believers on mission with God. Not every crowd is like the one Jesus challenged that day. Some crowds have accepted his challenge and are on mission with God. It was this second kind of gathering that made up the 120 believers described in the first chapters of the Book of Acts. They were waiting in an upper room, waiting, praying, fasting, eagerly seeking the Holy Spirit to come and lead them in the first steps of starting this brand new thing called church. They were ready to surrender everything necessary to join the mission of their risen Lord.

What would make people be so committed to following Jesus? It turns out, there are three things. Three reasons why people give up everything for something new. We see it in the Bible but we see it in life as well. Usually people who live life this way are called heroes, or fools.

In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton left his family, country, safety and security to lead the Endurance Expedition to Antarctica. It was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Ultimately, the expedition was a failure. He and his crew never made it off the ice to begin the trek. His ship was destroyed by ice flows. Shackleton had to lead his twenty-eight men through months of freezing, near starvation survival. He had to get in a 22 foot lifeboat and cross 800 miles of open sea, freezing, tumultuous, arctic sea, in order to send rescue back for the rest of his men, ultimately saving them all. Why? Why would he or any of his men risk such danger and hardship? For significance. The South Pole had already been discovered and reached. Crossing it by land was the last way for him to make a name for himself, for him to plant a flag in history. In fact, even in failure, Shackleton’s effort is considered the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

That is significant on a global scale. Most of us will never aspire to anything remotely like that. But, significance, making a difference, having a purpose greater than ourselves, is a motivating factor in human beings and in Jesus’ disciples. Let me take us to a familiar passage in Matthew 4, 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

For those two fishermen, their nets meant their livelihood, their identity, their community and their family. They left them an invitation from Jesus, an invitation to significance. That term “fish for people” has always been problematic for me. I’m not sure what about it was so motivating to those two men but clearly, they welcomed a life more meaningful than what they had spent their life doing so far. They could look into the future and see a life of sameness in one direction and significance in Jesus’ direction and they chose Jesus.

We have the benefit of watching the lives of those fishermen, from the first moments when they are called to leave their nets, until after the resurrection of Jesus, when they are boldly proclaiming his message and establishing the church for thousands of miles around Jerusalem. When we see the passion in those followers, their enthusiasm, courage, and purpose, and we compare it to the crowds who turned away from Jesus, who just got taught and fed, with God, passing by them, briefly touching their lives then leaving and going home unchanged, is it hard to see who is better off? Is it a service or a disservice for a church to teach, care, meet needs but not challenge? I’m first in line to be comfortable. I’d much rather turn on my favorite TV show than an exercise video. But, when really am I better off?

Significance is a powerful motivator. There is another.

During the California gold rush of 1849, a family started from their home in Illinois, for the gold fields of California. They were literally going to cross 2,000 miles in a covered wagon. So much had to be sacrificed, so much had to be left behind, physical possessions as well as community, safety, the known for the unknown. Was it all just for the prospect of wealth and the comfort that comes with it? Not for the mother. One of the things she had to leave behind was a small chest made of southern pine, which she had brought from her own home in the south. It contained her most precious personal treasures of a lifetime– including some love letters and a pair of shoes worn by the baby she was leaving behind in a little grave yard. She was leaving everything for hope, for a chance for something to be different for her remaining children.

Hope is the second reason people might leave everything to be on mission with God. Hope is the possible if not the probable. Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ― Diary of Anne Frank. That is hope for something better.

In the first chapter of John, the author records an encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus. In verse 29, John says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The story goes on to say in verse 37, W hen the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Two who followed John turned to follow Jesus because he offered hope; he promised change for the whole world.

Some people give up everything to follow Jesus because he offers significance for their lives, others because he offers hope.

And there’s a third reason. My mother in law, Lillian, passed away the day before Easter a couple years ago. She was in her eighties and had plenty of physical challenges. Ultimately it was cancer that took her but if not that, it would have been something else. The last few days were filled with fast and slow. At first, Carolyn and I ran around fast, looking for the right kind of facility and services when the diagnosis was for more weeks or months of increasing care needs. Then, doctors and paramedics worked fast in the hospital as soon as there was a diagnosis of cancer in the spine and Lillian said she didn’t want treatment. They were so fast to move her out of the hospital and into a nursing facility. Then things got slow as we waited with her by her bed. Carolyn and her brother were there around the clock. When it became clear that her passing was inevitable and close we had to move fast to get her granddaughters home from San Luis Obispo and New York City.

Looking back, it seems to us, that nothing was holding her here, keeping her alive, certainly not her body. Nothing but her will to stay alive until she saw her girls, our daughters, together again. Her pastor had said that in these last days she would live in two worlds, like two rooms of a house. There was the room we were in, where she was in pain, fear, and discomfort. And there was the room, just over there, where her husband and family who had all passed away were standing, waiting to greet her, along with Jesus whom she had known for all her life.

Lillian wanted no significance. She had never wanted any attention to come her way. She didn’t need more hope; she had rested in her faith for eighty years. For her last few days, she gave up the comfort of the next world, the reunion with her loved ones, the release that death would have brought her, for one reason, because she belonged to these two granddaughters. When they both arrived from long flights and drives, they took her hands and sang the songs they had played for her on the piano as little girls in her home. Songs they sang in children’s choirs and in our living room on Christmas morning. They sang, they loved, they belonged to her one last time, and then she walked into that other room and we all stayed in ours.

Matthew sat at his tax collector stand at a dock on the Sea of Galilee. He was, like all tax collectors, hated and shunned by his own people. He had no friends. His employer, the Roman government, cared nothing for him, in fact, forced him into his position that caused his countrymen to brand him a traitor and collaborator with the enemy. Jesus got off a boat, walked down the dock and in Matthew chapter 9 we read in verse 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

He gave up all he knew, risked the wrath of the Romans because Jesus invited him to belong. For those who don’t belong, it is an overwhelming and intoxicating invitation. The very next verse says, 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. Why? Because they belonged. Jesus must have seen them the way science fiction writer Orson Scott Card describes in one of his books. He could see the hunger in their eyes. Not the regular hunger, for food, but the real hunger, the deep hunger, for family, for love, for belonging.

Significance, Hope, and Belonging. Do you resonate with one of them? All are valid. All are deep human needs. These are the reasons disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus, to ultimately, be on mission with God. It’s because they were in search of what only God can give. You may have been pursuing one of these three for years. If Jesus offered it to you and you really believed he could give it to you, in abundance, would you pursue it? Of course, it’s not just these things he wants to give us. He offers us himself and promises that they come in the bargain. “Follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” They dropped their nets and followed. If you would follow him, why not tell him right now? You can simply say to him, Lord, you have put a desire for significance, hope, or belonging in my heart and I have been pursuing it, for better or worse. I know I will find all three in you. I want to pursue you. Show me what net I need to drop and give me the strength to drop it.

There is not a single example of Jesus saying to any fishermen, stay in your boats and I will bring you what you want so you can be happier all by yourself because you are the extent of my mission, don’t you worry about anyone else. Being on mission with God gets us out of the boat. The folks on our Cascade team who are helping us be on mission with God like to quote this phrase, “It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a church in the world.” I’ll say it again, “It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a church in the world.” We are not here just for ourselves but to be a part of what God is doing in the world.

God uses us to bring his good news to the world. The very needs he meets in us, for significance, hope, and belonging, he has us help meet in others. 2 Cor. 1:4 tells us, 4 God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Of course. What will you be most interested in and passionate about but the thing that made the difference in your life? It is a divine renewal process. God connects with us at our needs, meets it, and then sends us out to share that very thing we have become most passionate about. If nothing is resonating with you, you might ask yourself what need you have allowed God to meet in you, if any.

I said there were three reasons why people surrender the important things of life to follow Jesus. There is actually a fourth response. If we posed the question this way, what would be significant enough for you to leave your nets, your security, livelihood, self-identity, there is a fourth response. Nothing. Nothing would make me give up or surrender what I have. That was the response of much of the crowd when Jesus challenged them. What about you? Are you satisfied to be part of the crowd we call RBCPC? Or do you long to belong to something bigger, to make a difference in all that you do and in all that you are, to have hope that change is possible for you and others? What challenge is God is giving you? What net is He inviting you to drop? Most of us will never sell everything and become a missionary somewhere far away. But, every one of us can commit ourselves to Jesus Christ, experience the meeting of our deepest needs, and give ourselves to being on mission with God.

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