Christians must bear in mind Jesus handed the entire job of spreading the Good News around over to us right before He relocated to the heavenly realm. So it’s been “our turn” for a long time. His work on terra firma was over and ours just beginning. Every generation of followers since Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the heart and mind of every born-again believer, has known its primary task is to introduce everyone to Christ. Our Savior instructed, “…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Therefore each of us plays a pivotal role in God’s master plan of salvation. Every Christian is important. Dallas Willard wrote, “This aching world is waiting for the people explicitly identified with Christ to be, through and through, the people He intends them to be. Whether it realizes it or not. There is no other hope on earth.”
Five months ago I began writing about the life and teachings of Jesus. (Writing’s my way of digesting what I read in the Bible.) I’ve borrowed heavily from the late, great Scottish preacher/theologian James S. Stewart, tossing in his poignant observations often. 21 essays later I’m even more intrigued and amazed by Christ than ever before. I’ll alter a popular advertising slogan and say my Lord is truly “the most interesting man in the universe.” His is the authentic “Never-ending Story.” He defeated death. He’ll continue to live forevermore. Not one of the four evangelists who penned the Gospel accounts felt it appropriate or truthful to add “The End” to their book. At the start of Acts, Luke’s second tome, he expressed that his former contribution to the Gospels was “…about all that Jesus began to do and teach…” (Acts 1:1), implying (a) more work is necessary to save this fallen world and (b) we’re the ones commissioned to do it. Christ did the heavy lifting for us. The price of sin has been paid in full. The revelation of God’s redeeming love is available for all mankind to accept. Jesus completed in every aspect His mission on this planet. His notoriety is without peer. However, Christians must never allow our Savior to be pigeon-holed into being regarded as only a significantly influential “historical figure.” No way. Christ was the most unique person who ever lived because He is, in every respect humans are capable of comprehending, God. Nothing else explains how He transformed so many lives over the centuries.
Stewart said, “The fact of the matter is that the first volume of the life of Christ, the evangelic record, has been followed by a hundred others; and one is actually being written at the present hour wherever down the crowded streets of life the Master moves, seeking and finding the lost, binding up the brokenhearted, and driving out devils in the name of the Lord God Almighty. The story had not ended when Calvary and Easter were past. It had only just begun.” Nobody understood this better than the apostles. They didn’t see Jesus die, they saw Him ascend. Whereupon they dedicated themselves to accomplishing their assigned goal – starting and nurturing a movement that, in less than 300 years, would invade and conquer even the mighty Roman Empire that had approved/facilitated the crucifixion of the Messiah. Ponder for a moment what they accomplished against impossible odds. Brandishing but one weapon – love – they took on not only civilization’s firmly-entrenched secularist and materialistic mindset but the unseen “principalities and powers” Paul spoke of. They withstood the ever-intensifying scorn, ridicule and hatred continually heaped on them as society at large realized it had best take Christianity seriously. Nevertheless, because the followers of Jesus had the undiluted power that created the universe energizing them, the Gospel message prevailed. Yet they never called it their movement. It was Christ’s. He was alive in the hearts of those who bucked the trends; present in the lives of those who believed in what He was doing in the world.
The power the disciples possessed wasn’t imaginary or the fortunate result of fostering a positive attitude. Not on your life. This was a supernatural power, up till then an extremely rare commodity only a handful of humans had wielded, bequeathed to them by Christ. This power had many facets. It was physical. They had extraordinary stamina and determination that enabled them to carry on despite hardships, injuries and harsh persecutions. This power was intellectually stimulating. Most of the early missionaries were near-illiterate yet the life-saving message of salvation they broadcast was grasped by even the most educated individuals of their time. This power was morally uplifting. It had the ability to save the struggling ne’er-do-wells who thought they were beyond rescue from their hurts, habits and hang-ups and introduce them to the sparkling cleanliness of Christ’s blood they could wash their souls in. This power was spiritual. It changed the whole person in ways that earthly things never have and never will. The disciples actually performed bona fide miracles, healing the infirm and restoring life. They knew without a doubt where this power came from. It came solely from their Savior. As Paul humbly proclaimed, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). A new era had commenced with the soldiers of the Lord leading the steady advance of truth across the globe.
We are the adopted children of God who’ve been chosen to carry the banner of Christ into the 21st century. It’s not a suggestion but a direct order from the King of kings himself. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-19). There’s no question about what’s expected of us. We’re not to wonder where or when we’re to start ministering. If we’ve faithfully asked for God’s will to be done in our lives then we’ve been positioned precisely in the right spot and the right moment to make a difference in a lost person’s life. One of the things we emphasize in Celebrate Recovery is that we don’t have to clean up our act before we can be of use to God. Remember, the privilege of being qualified as ambassadors for Jesus wasn’t something we earned. None of us merited our redemption. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Thus what we owe our Savior is nothing short of 100% dedication to doing what He told us to do. Stewart wrote, “Christianity doesn’t mean complimenting Christ as genius or artist or teacher; it means bowing to Christ as commander.” One of the many things I love about my church family is that we sent out and support missionaries in Honduras, Lebanon, India, Estonia and Northern Africa. Some think we’d be better off spending that money closer to home because this country has turned away from Christ to its severe detriment. But that’s not what Jesus instructed us to do. Our job is not to question but to obey our Master explicitly.
That being said, Christians should be spurred to action by the urgency of the desperate situation the planet’s inhabitants are in. The wisest thing Jesus did was to refrain from telling us when He’s coming back. That way every believer must assume the world could end today and billions of folks would be left behind. If we knew the exact date we’d surely procrastinate because it’s human nature to do so! But all we know is time’s ‘a wastin’. Jesus said, “First the gospel must be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10). It has. With modern-day communication devices as abundant as they are it’s a safe bet it won’t be much longer till He returns. Civilization has lost its moral compass so we are the ones who must point it in the right direction. It’s our turn to shine. As Christ preached, “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). The world needs Jesus more than ever so we must openly proclaim Jesus as the only practical solution to all its collective and personal problems.
The truth is we should be chomping at the bit to share the glory of the Gospel message with whoever will lend an ear. The disciples? They couldn’t help themselves. What they had to offer the world was the greatest treasure they’d ever found. We should exude the same enthusiasm. All other religions insist, indirectly or otherwise, that the only hope sinful men and women have of escaping the wrath of God (or of being ignored by Him altogether) is to painstakingly pile up enough good works to outweigh their bad ones so they might gain a smidgen of favor with Him. Conversely, Christianity says “God loves you just as you are, not as you should be.” Other religions either portray God as a wholly unknowable entity or as a mean-spirited tyrant who has no need whatsoever for any of us. The Christian viewpoint is that God is a good, good Father who loves us unconditionally. No other religion presents the world with a savior. In Christianity the head of the Church is the anointed Savior of all who’ll simply believe in Him. How dare we withhold the most fantastic, liberating news of all time?
The fact that emboldened the disciples enough to risk life and limb to spread the Word far and wide is the same one that should goad us into doing the same – Jesus is Lord. The first post-ascension sermon, delivered publicly by Simon Peter, concluded with this statement: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). We need not wait around for another revelation, sign or miraculous event. The Lord of the earth has set us free from the burden of our own sinful nature. Our Creator has settled our debt forever. There’s nothing left to be done for us. It’s our turn to shine the light of our Lord outward like a beacon piercing the darkest night, beckoning the confused, distraught and befuddled to row back to the peaceful shores of home; informing them the merciful God we serve will meet them halfway. Christians acknowledge Jesus is Lord but perhaps we take it for granted everybody recognizes that. Yet to the disciples that divine distinction meant everything. The gentle friend/mentor they’d spent years learning from and being changed by was the very person God had promised to Satan would one day “…crush your head…” (Genesis 3:15). While the Jewish leaders continued to anticipate the Messiah’s arrival Christians proceeded knowing He’d not only come and gone already, but that He’d altered the course of the whole cosmos. Nothing remained the same.
While He had every right to assume by default the title of “Lord of all Creation” it’s notable Jesus didn’t do that. He paid the steepest price imaginable for it. It was bought with starvation pains in the wilderness when He rejected the devil’s temptations. It was bought with tears shed over the sins of mankind. It was bought with the blood-infused sweat that poured from His brow in Gethsemane. It was bought with the inhuman torture He suffered for our sake on the cross. It was bought with His uninterrupted love for us that refuses to relent for even a nanosecond. Jesus deserves His Lordship because He stooped to the unmatched level of experiencing life as we ourselves have to live it. How can we not pledge allegiance to a King who’s literally walked in our shoes? The least we can do for Him is to be His ambassadors. As Paul wrote, “You have been bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
If things transpired on my timetable Jesus would’ve already raptured His Church and I (along with my brothers and sisters in Christ) would’ve been “…caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But it’s not my schedule we’re on. It’s God’s. I have to trust that what He told us long ago is true: “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans” (Isaiah 55:8-9). The designation of being “Lord of All” belongs to Christ alone. He earned it fair and square with His human blood, sweat and tears. “As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Christ wears His crown already but the spectacular coronation ceremony has yet to occur and that’s when He’ll judge the world. Stewart wrote, “Already one figure is standing where the roads of all the ages meet; and to those who have once seen Him and experienced in their own lives His power, this above all else is certain, that a day is drawing near when every gate in the universe will be lifting up its head to let the King come in.”
So here’s the $64,000 question I and everyone else who identifies themselves as being a follower of Christ must answer: “Am I doing my God-ordained part in securing the salvation of lost souls wandering through this fallen world that Jesus died to save or will I be content to sneak into heaven ‘…only as one escaping through the flames’” (1 Corinthians 3:15)? It really is up to me. And you. There are so many people out there who don’t know the joy we know. It’s up to us, through our words and actions, to tell them about the drastic difference Jesus has made in our life. Willard wrote, “Only when those who really do know that Jesus Christ is the light of the world take up their stand with Him, and fulfill their calling from Him to be children of light where they are, will there be any realistic hope of stemming the tide of evil and showing the way out of that tide for those who really want out.” It’s our turn to shine.