"To make Christ known" by Rod Bayley, 31 January 2011, Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:1-8

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Mar 5, 2011, 12:53:39 AM3/5/11
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
On Wednesday night I saw a documentary on TV about Australian Olympian
Peter Norman. Peter who you might say? Norman (15/6/42 - 3/10/06)
was an Australian track athlete best known for winning the silver
medal in the 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
His time of 20.06 seconds still stands as the Australian 200m record
over 40 years later. He was a five-time Australian 200m champion.
But he is more famously known for being in the medal ceremony where
two Black American sprinters made a famous gesture. The gold and
bronze medalists in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics were Americans
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, respectively. On the medal podium,
during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," Smith and Carlos
famously joined in a Black Power salute. What is less known is that
Norman, a white Australian, donned a badge on the podium in support of
their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). It was the
height of the civil rights movement in the United States, and the two
Americans wanted to make a social statement and the inequalities
between black and white in the U.S. After the race had been run,
Carlos and Smith told Norman what they were planning to do during the
ceremony. As a friend recalled: "They asked Norman if he believed in
human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God.
Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, said he believed
strongly in God.” What they were going to do was far greater than
any athletic feat. Norman said, “I'll stand with you."

However, Norman paid a high price for his stance, as did the two
American athletes. Australia's Olympic authorities reprimanded him
and the Australian media ostracised him. Despite Norman running
qualifying times for the 100m five times, and 200m 13 times during
1971/72, the Australian Olympic track team did not send him, or any
other male sprinters, to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the first modern
Olympics where no Australian sprinters participated. More recently,
Australian organising authorities did not invite Norman to be involved
in any way with the 2000 Olympics held in Sydney. However, when they
heard that his own country had failed to invite him, he was invited by
the Americans and went.

Today we are considering the second half of our mission statement, ‘to
make Christ known.’ To make a statement, to proclaim the gospel of
Christ’s death and resurrection, is to announce a message that many
today don’t want to hear, and it may come with a real cost. It
certainly does in many parts of the world today, and the good news is
not always received positively here either. But just like those
sprinters in 1968, we are called to take a stand. And it is stand
that is not simply for human rights, as important as such issues are
which flow out of the equality of all humans who are made in the image
of God. It is a stand for the salvation of humanity and it is a
message which must get out.

This brings us to the first point on your outline: ‘The scriptural
basis of world-wide mission.’ Notice again what is stated in Luke 24,
from verses 44 to 47, as Jesus addresses his disciples following his
“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with
you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law
of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ 45Then he opened their minds
so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, ‘This is
what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the
third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached
in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
This is Luke’s equivalent to the Great Commission recorded in Matthew
28, and what is striking here is how Jesus emphasises that it is a
plan that begins in the Old Testament. Both the good news of Jesus,
and the spreading of that news are grounded in the Law, the Prophets
and the Psalms, which were the three divisions of the O.T. used to
summarise the whole. Proclaiming God’s salvation through His Messiah
has always been the agenda, as the whole of Scripture has a mission
theme - the nations will hear. For example, we read of the suffering
servant, the promised Messiah in Isaiah, one of the major prophets.
And side by side with the four servant passages in Isaiah 40-55 that
explain that the Christ will suffer and die, is the concept that God’s
covenant people will be a light to the nations. And so we read in
Isaiah 49:6:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the
tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will
also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my
salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Again, in Isaiah 66:19-20 we read:
“I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who
survive to the nations ... that have not heard of my fame or seen my
glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20And they
will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy
mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord.”
Though the nation would often fail to be a clear light, to spread
God’s message of salvation, the servant or Messiah would be the true
light when he came, and the promised flow of the nations to Israel
would occur as they came to Jesus by faith, who was the true Israel.
But this would occur as the good news went out. And so as the first
readers of Luke 24 came to Christ’s words about preaching the gospel
to all nations, Jesus’ message does not stand alone as something new,
but comes within the whole context of the whole OT scriptures. The
Great commission is not an isolated command imposed upon Christianity
- it is the logical summary and natural overflow of the character of
God. God’s aim is to gather a people to Himself for His glory.

And so not only does the great commission begin in the OT, but to make
Christ known is a gospel imperatve. That is, the gospel is not a
statement that can be left on the shelf - it is not simply a concise
summary of the purpose of Christ’s life, that he died and rose on
third day for the forgiveness of sin. It is a mesaage to be
proclaimed to all people - “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be
preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Notice
that the movement of people has been reversed by Jesus - instead of
the nations being drawn to Jerusalem which was the dominant flow in
the OT, now Christ’s disciples are to take the message out to the
nations. ‘Repentance’ had been a key term in the gospels from the
commencement of Jesus’ public ministry - ‘repent and believe for the
kingdom is near.’ It will also be a key term describing the
appropriate response to the offer of salvation in Acts, as the church
takes the gospel out. It means to change one’s mind, and so in the
context of the gospel to stop rejecting Jesus - to admit you were
wrong to act as King, and to submit to Jesus as Lord. To get off his
throne, and let the rightful ruler sit on it.

I went and saw the movie ‘The King’s Speech’ with Christine the other
week, which tells the story of how King George VI came to the throne
in England in 1936 following his older brother’s abdication. The
movie focuses on George VI’s stammer and his efforts to have it
corrected through an unqualified Australian. But there is this very
interesting scene in Westminster Abbey where they are practising for
his coronation, and Geoffrey Rush who plays the Australian speech
therapist Lionel Logue, sits on the coronation throne. Colin Firth
who plays King George, who has been facing away from Logue turns
around to see Lionel on the throne and nearly has a fit on the spot.
He shouts: ‘Get up! Y-you can't sit there! GET UP!’ Lionel Logue
replies calmly: ‘Why not? It's a chair.’ King George VI responds less
than calmly: ‘T-that... that is Saint Edward's chair.’ To which
Lionel Logue replies provocatively: ‘People have carved their names on
it.’ ‘L-listen to me... listen to me!’ King George bellows. The
idea of taking it upon yourself to sit on the King’s throne can be
seen as the height of arrogance, the height of offence, even in human
terms. And yet that is what we do when we think we rule our own life
and push God out of his rightful place. When we understand what we
are doing, whether it was deliberately or out of ignorance, we wil
begin to grasp the offensiveness of our sin and the need to repent.
We must talk about the need for repentance as we share the gospel.

‘Forgiveness’ is another key term in Luke’s gospel summary here, which
will be preached to all nations. Throughout Luke’s gospel the word
‘forgivness’ is central to the content and the experience of
salvation. It will continue to be a crucial term in Acts, as the
disciples take Christ’s message to all people ‘in his name.’ Although
Luke’s summary of the gospel here is just that, and far more can be
said, and was said by the disciples, it’s worth reflecting on how
central this word ‘forgiveness’ is in evangelism, and how it cuts
across all kinds of cultural barriers.

In 1977 an American missionary writer George Peters interviewed an
Indian evangelist Bakht Singh. Peters wrote, “As we talked about
evangelism and a message for India, I asked: ‘When you preach in
India, what do you emphasise? Do you preach the love of God?’ ‘No,’
he said, ‘not particularly.’ ‘The Indian mind is so polluted that if
you talk to them about love they think mainly of one’s sex life.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘do you talk to them about the wrath of God and the
judgment of God?’ ‘No this is not my emphasis, they are used to
that. All the gods are mad anyway. It makes no difference to them if
there is one more who is angry.’ ‘Well, what is your emphasis? Do
you talk to them about eternal life?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘If you talk to
them about eternal life, the Indian thinks of transmigration. He
wants to get away from it. Don’t emphasise eternal life.’ ‘What then
is your message?’ asked Peters. ‘I have never yet failed to get a
hearing if I talk to them about forgiveness of sins, and peace and
rest in your heart. Soon they ask me how they can get it. Having won
their hearing I lead them on to the Saviour who alone can meet their
deepest needs.

Notice again the remainder of Jesus’ words in verses 48 and 49 of Luke
24, where we begin to grasp how this mammoth commission could be
“You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my
Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed
with power from on high.”

God’s message requires God’s power, and Christ promises that his
disciples who are witnesses to the good news that they will proclaim,
with be clothed with power which he will send. They have already had
their minds opened by Christ’s explanation of the fulfilment of the
Scriptures in the events of his death and resurrection, and now.
Although Luke will not make it clear until Acts 1 that the power from
on high that will be sent is the Holy Spirit, we know from the rest of
Scripture that he is making a direct connection between their service
as witnesses and their reception of the Holy Spirit.

This brings us to point two on your outline: ‘Going to the ends of the
earth.’ Notice again what is stated in Acts 1, verses 4 to 8:
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this
command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father
promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized
with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy
Spirit.’ 6So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you
at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He said to
them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set
by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in
all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Here Luke makes clear in verses 4 and 5 that the gift of power from on
high that was promised in Luke 24, is indeed the Holy Spirit. In
verse 5 he is recalling John the Baptist’s words from Luke 3,
indicating the fulfilment of the promised baptism in the Spirit. In
fact the book of Acts is the account of how the church, through the
power of the Spirit, took the good news of the risen Saviour to the
ends of the earth.

The coming of the Spirit was associated with the Day of the Lord and
the arrival of the kingdom of God in the OT (eg. Joel 2:28-32), which
led to the question of the disciples in verse 6. They didn’t
understand that there was a gap between the coming of the Spirit and
the final judgment, the last days. Jesus dismisses such concerns
about the timing of the end in verse 7, and returns to the task before
them that must precede the end - the gospel going to all nations. And
so he outlines the three-step missionary program - gives a blueprint
for the church’s evangelization of the world. The verse is actually
the blueprint for the book of Acts as well, acting as the summary
verses which sets the agenda and structure of all that follows. The
gospel is firstly to be shared in Jerusalem and Judea. As even Paul
would constantly state, the man who was the apostle to the Gentiles,
the gospel is first for the Jews, than the Gentiles - and so he would
go to a town and first try to reach the Jews in the synagogue and then
turn to the Gentiles. Secondly, the gospel was to go to Samaria -
that is the half-Jews, the Samaritans who were the remnant of the
northern kingdom that was smashed by the Assyrians in 721BC, and who
intermarried with non-Jews. Then thirdly, the gospel was to go to the
world, to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. Notice how Luke uses that
phrase from Isaiah 49 - to ‘the ends of the earth.’

This brings us to the third and final point on your outline: ‘What on
earth are we doing?’ The application for ourselves today as
individuals, and for us collectively at WBC as a church, is what are
we donig in the continuing great commission? It is a mammoth task
with over 6 billion people on planet earth now. It’s easy to be
discouraged, thinking that we’re weak and what can our words to
another accomplish.

Coming back to the movie ‘The King’s speech,’ there is a scene where
King George VI whinges about the lack of power that he has, despite
the title. He says, “If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare
war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all
authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them.”
The irony was not lost on him given his speech impediment, but
surprisingly his regular radio speeches during World War II arguably
had a great influence in keeping the nation calm and inspiring
confidence. He actually was able to speak for them. Words are

We shouldn’t underestimate the gospel message, which as the apostle
Paul stated in Romans 1:16 “is the power of God for the salvation of
everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” More
than that, as we’ve seen in Luke 24 and Acts 1, we’ve been empowered
by God through the gift of His Holy Spirit. And so we’re not to lose
heart, though it’s just as tough as a war, because it is a very real
spiritual battle. So, reach out to those friends and neighbours, and
share the gospel. If you feel ill-equipped to give an account for the
hope that you have, then get trained. Like every year, as a church we
will be providing training in personal evangelism, so that we can each
get on with our unique opportunities.

Well, you might say, that’s all very well, but how can we reach our
city of Wollongong - my conversations with my neighbours are not
enough for everyone to be reached. Why it’s probably a bigger task
than one church can achieve. Well, people are reached one at a time,
so never underestimate your conversation, but I agree in the sense
that we need to work with others to reach Wollongong. That’s why part
of our two year vision that was adopted last November, is to work with
other like-minded churches to run evangelistic events and try things
that we couldn’t do on our own. On March 27 we will be launching
‘Gospel for the Gong,’ or G4G, at a combined 7pm service at the uni.
Already we have agreed to work closely with St Michaels, St Marks,
City Central Presbyterian, ECU and FOCUS, and we’ll be looking to add
others. We plan to run a joint event in the second half of this year.

But as a church, we don’t just want to reach Wollongong as great as
the needs are, we have a vision for reaching many people around the
world. We are part of something much bigger, and we want to do our
part by supporting missionaries serving overseas, and sending more.
There is dramatic growin in some parts of the world. It’s estimated
that there are 80 million Christians in China, and Christian growth in
Africa is nothing short of astonishing. There were 9 or 10 million
African Christians in 1900; there are 360 to 390 million African
Christians today; and projections estimate almost 600 million African
Christians by 2025. Today more Presbyterians worship in the African
nation of Ghana than in Scotland, and more Anglicans worship in
Nigeria than in Britain.

We need a kingdom perspective. That is why it is so helpful that week
by week we are hearing of mission work around the world through our
mission spots and in our bulletins. We can reflect on what God is
doing in PNG, and Thailand, and Lebanon, and Bahrain, and Bangladesh.
We need to continue to work at our global focus. That’s not to say
that our local outreach is unimportant or that it doesn’t have global
effects also - we know it does through the many international visitors
we have at the uni and who come here to work short term. In fact, our
appreciation for God’s work across the globe should spur us on in our
mission to our local community. There’s plenty of work to be done -
it’s obvious that there are tens of thousands in our own community who
are yet to respond to the gospel of grace. Christ’s kingdom has grown
and will continue to grow, and you’ve been commissioned as a partner
with God in His work. So let me ask you: What on earth are you
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