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“Messengers of Grace” July 28, 2019

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,  Do you know what a mission statement is? A mission statement is a short phrase or sentence that summarizes why a certain company or organization exists. For example, here are some popular ones: Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The US Air Force: The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. Ikea: To be. TED: Spread ideas. McDonalds: To be our customer’s favorite place and way to eat and drink. Walmart: We save people money so they can live better.

What about you? Do you have a “mission statement” for your life? Whether or not you’ve actually formulated a mission statement for your life, the reality is, you’re living with one. Everyone is. Everyone is living for some reason, some purpose, some goal in mind. So, I want you to think about yours. Why are you here?

Whatever our sub-mission statements might be, there is an overarching mission that each one of us has as Christians. In fact, if you can’t think of any other reason or purpose or goal for your life, this mission gives your existence in this life absolute, incredible meaning and significance and worth. In fact, this mission, which is given to each of us by God is not over until He takes us home to heaven. So, since you’re all still here, still breathing, still have a heart beating, God has given each of us the mission to be His messengers in this world.

Here in our text Jesus commissions 72 people to be his messengers. From this text we see that Jesus gives everyone of his followers a mission, a message, and a motivation – the motivation is all important.

First, a mission. The word “mission” actually comes from the Latin word missio, which means “sent.” Notice what Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” This is what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus, Jesus calls you in, calls you to faith, brings you in to this close relationship with God through Christ, and why? To send you out. God only blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. He calls us in so that we can go into the world, not focusing on our needs, but on the needs of others. He calls us in so He can send us out to be the healing agents of this world.

To the degree that we don’t realize that we have full, complete, total salvation given to us as a gift already, to the degree that we are still searching for meaning or significance or identity or purpose in this life, we’re always going to be only busy with ourselves, trying to achieve this or that, trying to get this or that, trying to get ahead in life, or whatever. To that degree I’m not going to be focused on others, but myself, I’m going to be self-absorbed in life. But, to the degree that the gospel fills me, to the degree that I grasp the fact that in Christ I have everything, every longing that this earth could never fill has already been filled with the love, peace, and forgiveness of God in Christ my Savior, when I know that all my shame and guilt for past sins is gone, when I realize I have troves of treasures stored in heaven that I’ll never get to the bottom of in all eternity, to that degree I can get out, I can live for others.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You see, you’re not just on a general mission, but there are particular things, particular people for you to help, particular things for you to do, you’ve been shaped by God to be His instrument in the world, there are needs that God has specially shaped you to meet. Go. He sends you. You have a purpose. You have a mission.

Next, as Jesus’ messenger, you have a message. What is this message? There are a number of things Jesus tells them to say, “Peace to this house.” “The kingdom of God has come near you” “The Kingdom of God has come near.” “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me.” In other words, we have a message of peace from Jesus that the Kingdom of God, the reign of God has come near.

What is this “kingdom of God” that has come near? It’s God’s ruling with his grace in the hearts and lives of sinners. Jesus has come to win the peace of forgiveness for sin-troubled hearts. God has begun his reign of grace right in your midst. And this message is so decisive, so important that whoever listens to the message of the messenger is listening to Jesus himself, God himself. So this is a message eternal life or eternal death, salvation or damnation, heaven or hell. It’s a message of good news that is absolutely life-changing and history-changing.

In 490 BC there’s a moment when a messenger was sent to proclaim a message of good news that was history changing. In 490 BC, the Persians were advancing and going to wipe out Greece at the Battle of Marathon. Everyone thought the Persians were going to win and everyone back in Athens were in panic, because they knew that if the Persians broke through the battle line, they would be defenseless. But to everyone’s surprise, the Athenians won. After they won, they knew that this good news had to be communicated, so a runner ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens and his message was in essence: “Rejoice! We’ve triumphed!” And then he fell dead from exhaustion. He had a message of good news that was life-changing and history changing and he ran 26 miles to communicate it. We have a far greater message! In fact, to NOT take this message of Jesus to the world, would be incredibly unloving. Imagine discovering the cure for cancer and saying, “I’m only going to keep this to my family and friends, we’ll be fine, I’ll heal them when they get cancer, but I don’t want anyone else to know about this.” That would be incredibly unloving and wicked! We have so much greater message than a battle victory or a cure for cancer, the message of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus!

We have a mission, we have a message, but what about our motivation? Verse 17 says, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” And Jesus responds, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” In other words, yes, the gospel is incredibly powerful, in fact the gospel defeats the enemy, nothing can really harm you, yes, you may face peril and struggle and problems of all kinds, but with the gospel you can pass through all of those things with your soul unscathed.

However, Jesus said, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you.” “I don’t like your motivation, I don’t like what’s driving you and giving you the energy for doing what you’re doing.” Notice that they don’t say, “Wow Lord, we really helped people! People are free! Husbands and wives are back together! Children and parents are back together again.” What they say is, “Wow Lord, we are really something, even demons are submitting to us.”

But Jesus says, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” You see, having your name written down at this time was really special. They didn’t have a plethora of writing that we have today. If your name was written on the census or the roll of the city, it meant you were somebody, you were important. So Jesus says, you see what you’re finding your importance in, what you’re finding worth in? You’re finding it in your power, your gifts, your performance, your accomplishments and that can only lead to one place: pride. And that’s exactly what caused Satan to fall.

But the gospel tells us that our names are already written in the book of life. The most important book there is. And how could that possibly be? After all I’ve done? After all my offenses against God? It’s true God. God’s justice demands that he blot out of the names of his book all who have sinned against him, we deserve that. But that’s why Jesus came. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. So that his name would be blotted out of the book. To be forsaken by God, for you, for me, for all. Why so? So that my name might be written down.

That’s the secret to motivation in life. My name is written in the book of life- that guards me against becoming too depressed as I look at the world. My name is written in the book of life – that gives me the courage to share the message of eternal life. My name is written in the book of life – that guards me against anger and enables me to deal with others with gentleness. My name is written in the book of life- that gives me joy no matter the situation.

If you rejoice in anything that you do, one day it will be gone. If you rejoice in being a father or a mother, one day you won’t be. If you rejoice in being rich, someday you won’t be. The only thing you can rejoice in that will last, that will give you joy in any circumstance is that your name is written in the book of life. Amen.