Church OF Christ: Part 8

  • Read Isaiah 61 here and Luke 4:16-21 here and Luke 7:22 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (4 July), you can listen to it here.
  • Follow the rest of this discussion here.

This week’s thesis is, The Church of Christ must adopt the Mission of Christ.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

At his baptism, Jesus received an anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit commissioned him and sent him into the world with the tasks he describes in this passage.  Luke places this quote early in Jesus’ ministry so that it can function as a mission statement for the months and years to come.

Some of these tasks he accomplishes literally but others he only ever fulfills figuratively.  Jesus certainly preached good news to the poor, and healed the blind.  But Jesus didn’t go to any gaols and lobby for the release of prisoners.  We must understand that while this mission statement has a literal application, there’s also a spiritual undertone to each of these points

The Church of Christ (along with many other churches) has often emphasised the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18.  (One reason churches of Christ emphasise this passage, in addition to its inherent importance as the last words of Christ, is because of the central role it gives baptism.)  Both accounts stress the continued presence of Christ, the importance of teaching, and the importance of belief and baptism.  Matthew summarises the process by instructing the apostles to “make disciples”.

While the Great Commission must retain a position of utmost urgency within the church, we should not regard it as our only commission.  The only methodology it describes of convincing people to believe and be baptised is limited to preaching and teaching.  However, the church can learn much from the example of Jesus in addition to his words.  Therefore, The Church of Christ must adopt the Mission of Jesus which Luke lays out in 4:16-21.

As Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 (and perhaps 58), he provides insight into both his methodology and content.  On a literal level Jesus spends a lot of time with the poorer members of society, he does heal the blind and other diseases, and he proclaims the inbreaking of the kingdom of God.

From a spiritual perspective Jesus’ message of good news provides freedom for those in spiritual bondage (whether to demons or sinful lifestyles).  He provides freedom and hope for those who see only hopelessness.  Of course, he could also offer spiritual freedom to those who were literally slaves and prisoners.

Christians who, like Jesus, receive an anointing with the Holy Spirit at baptism have also been sent into the world with a message of good news.  We are baptised, not just to be saved, but also to be sent.  Our message then is not just “Repent and be baptised”, but a message of forgiveness, hope and freedom.  If we adopt Jesus’ mission statement then The Church of Christ will ensure it cares for the poor, the sick and the prisoners, while not ignoring those better off members of society.  We will reach out to those in bondage with the consequences of sin, addictions, and hurtful habits.  Jesus preached a message of eternal consequence, but he also met people where he found them.

July 4, American Independence Day, fell upon a Sunday this year.  So as I preached on this topic I concentrated on the message of freedom.  I suggested that while the Good News of forgiveness through Christ frees us all from sin and the consequences of sin, many of us (perhaps even most, or all of us) also experience freedom in a practical, short term way.  I asked the congregation to answer the question “What freedom has God given you?” Here are the responses:

  • Free to see every day as a good day and to see God as central in all of my life.
  • Freed from guilt.
  • The freedom to go forward.
  • God freed me from myself!  He freed me from selfishness – to realize that I am not my own because Christ bought me with His blood that he shed upon the cross.  (1 Cor. 6:20)
  • Freedom from worry about tomorrow.
  • The freedom to experience and share his love.
  • I’ve been freed from a task-driven life to enjoy the relationships God has given me.
  • Mostly freedom from sin, but also: Freedom to choose; freedom from doubt, fear, & insecurity.
  • God’s freedom healed me from self-doubt.  I know that his love and grace directly touches me.  I am free from legalism and know that God is not waiting around the corner for me to do something wrong, which I will do.  He created me, loves me and has set me free.  Someday through his grace I’ll take my place with Him.
  • Freedom from a perennial, neverending feeling of guilt.  Of not being “good enough”.  Guilt comes when I fail God but leaves when I ask for grace.  Thank-you Father!
  • Freed from worry about things like excess possessions and status.
  • I have received freedom from Loneliness – God gave me wonderful friends.  Complacency – He gives me opportunities to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Inadequacy – my value comes from Christ, and I am “good enough” because of His love.  Feeling lost and without a purpose.
  • God gives me freedom from despair over guilt and has give me purpose and hope, as well as a desire for more understanding of His will.
  • Freedom to join a church where I can grow spiritually and find the purpose of my being.

I hope you find the experiences of others encouraging for you.  Please leave a comment and encourage someone else.

  • How have you experienced freedom in Christ?
  • Do you agree with the statement “We are baptised, not just to be saved, but also to be sent.“?
Advertisements

7 comments

  1. K. Rex Butts

    I realize that there is a danger in selecting any statement of Jesus over other statements as a mission mandate. However, it seems it must be done.

    With that being said, if we would understand our call to mission as beginning with Jesus declaration and invitation in Mk. 1.14-17 then it seems we would understand that our call is to follow Jesus (do and say as he does and says) and that our purpose is about seeing the Kingdom of God break forth over the land. Understanding that mission is about the Kingdom of God would seem to recognize the role of both preaching/teaching and ministry or another way of putting it, both evangelism and serving. Neither would be seen as serving the other, as though it is a means to the end of the other. Instead, both tasks would be seen as necessary to the inbreaking of God’s kingdom.

    Perhaps an example would suffice to make my point. When we were in Memphis at Berclair (I think you had already moved on at this point) Shawn Griffith and I met a man named “Bobby” who was homeless. One of Bobby’s many problems was alcohol. So what did Bobby need? He needed to be both taught and served if God’s kingdom (reign) was going to break (rule) upon his life. He needed to be served with food and housing so that he would not remain hungry and homeless. He needed to be served so that he would know that him status in the social caste system did not dimish his value as a human created by God. Yet he also needed to know the truth…that the lie he was living called alcohol was destroying him…that it was his master but Jesus was waiting to be his master so that (in keeping with the ending of your post) he could be set free from the demon of alcohol and whatever other demons were enslaving him.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

    P.S. I would also add that Jesus Christ alone has given us political freedom too…the powers of this world just don’t want to admitt that lest they have to surrender their power to Lord Jesus.

    • K. Rex Butts

      BTW…Bobby was baptized into Christ and had started attending AA meetings. He did not want public housing (for whatever reason) and eventually left the congregation for another (but that is another…sad…story).

  2. ozziepete

    Rex, we’re making the same point here. We can’t preach a message of spiritual freedom while ignoring crippling effects of sins in people’s physical lives. I believe Jesus practiced the basic principle of addressing people’s physical needs so they’d listen to him address their spiritual needs.

    Jesus’ quote should first be taken on face value, but then also understood from a spiritual perspective.

    The temptation we all face is to overemphasise one perspective at the cost of the other.

    • K. Rex Butts

      Actually, I guess we are disagreeing on this point. I would not agree with your statment “I believe Jesus practiced the basic principle of addressing people’s physical needs so they’d listen to him address their spiritual needs.”

      I don’t think Jeuss saw the physical and spiritual as two separate catagories the way Westerners tend to view them as. I believe Jesus addressed the needs of life so that people lives would come under the kingdom (reign) of God – the gospel Jesus proclaimed and lived. Addressing the needs of life involved activities such as feeding the hungry and healing the sick as well as preaching the truth to those deceived by lies. But one did not serve the other…both served the kingdom mission he was living out.

      If you are interested in reading a book that makes this case, go buy Christopher J. H. Wright, “The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative,” Downers Grove: InterVarsityPress, 2006. Not only does the author make the case for what I am trying to say (he is not the one who convinced me of this though) but the book is biblical theology at its finest. The author’s primary objective is to argue for a mision motiff/hermeneutic as the basis for reading and interpreting scripture. The book is not difficult but it is long, so it will take some time to read but IT IS worth it…it is full of ideas for preaching and teaching.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  3. eirenetheou

    When the other disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus in Matthew 11 and Luke 7, they ask, “Are you ‘the one who comes,’ or do we look for another?”

    Even in Matthew, Jesus does not quote a prooftext, but asks them to use their senses. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor are hearing good news, and happy is the one who is not scandalised by me.”

    Jesus has been walking through Galilee, preaching, teaching, and healing. This is truly a “fulfillment” of the promises in Isaiah 61. Whenever the Body of Christ is truly present in our world, wherever we are, this is what we hear and see. It is the mission of Jesus. When we “restore” the presence of Jesus in the world, then we are truly the Body of Christ.

    God’s Peace to you.

    d

  4. ozziepete

    Thanks for commenting guys. “d”, I did look at Luke 7 in my sermon. Certainly a relevant text for this discussion. It’s sad to think how many churches could only demonstrate their status as the “true” church by pointing to their statement of beliefs, not their interactions with those around them.

    Rex, I understand that the statement of mine you quoted sounds as though physical and spiritual needs are two distinct issues. I have not argument with the way you expressed the relationship between the two. They can’t be separated.

    I admit I don’t quite have the same theological framework on this issue that you have, I don’t think I’ve thought about it as much. But I think practically we’d be doing the same thing. I don’t detect that either of us wants to see preaching in a vacuum or expressions of love and compassion without a word from God. (Yes, both may happen on occasion, but shouldn’t be the model.)

    I’ll add the book to my wish list. 😉

    • K. Rex Butts

      “I don’t detect that either of us wants to see preaching in a vacuum or expressions of love and compassion without a word from God.”

      Amen! I wholeheartedly agree. And even when we may disagree, we can still be bretheren.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s