'Twas The Night Before Outreach

Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 16-20
Subject: Christian Living; Evangelism; Missions

'Twas the night before outreach and throughout the church walls,

Not a creature was stirring to the preacher's altar calls.

The people were nestled all snug in their seats,

In hopes that he'd finish, so they could go home and eat.

Outside a community on a straight course to hell,

Inside a community unwilling to tell

That Jesus has risen and all who are lost

Could come and have life, without money, without cost.

But like walls on a prison that are heavy and stout,

The Christians stayed in and the lost stayed out.

"For who has built this inseparable wall?

And who is the one resisting His call,

To go to the fields where the harvest is white

And shine in the place where He made us a light?"

While the preacher was pleading to get out of the pews,

And into the fields where we could be used.

Aren't you glad that one day, you too were helped by someone and that someone made a difference in your life. I don't know who it was or when it occurred, but it was a divine blessing when someone cared enough to share the good news with you.

We are Easter people. Because we are Easter people, we have assignments to be fulfilled. After Christ was resurrected He spent time with His disciples. Part of His post-resurrection teaching to His followers was the Great Commission. Turn with me to Matthew 28:16-20.

This morning we will focus upon the assignments that Christ has given us, our Easter assignments. Some of these assignments will come from His post-resurrection teachings, but others will come from His clear teachings to His disciples prior to His resurrection. No matter the timing of the teaching, He encourages all people who are energized by the resurrection power to live lives that are very different. I believe our first resurrection/Easter assignment is to reach our world for Jesus Christ.

Isn't that why we exist as a church? I hope so. It must be our wholehearted purpose as a body to win the lost to Jesus. One writer stated it clearly when he said, "Evangelism is a fellowship of reconciled and forgiven sinners feeling a personal responsibility and concern to make real to all men everywhere the reconciliation and forgiveness of God." D. T. Niles put it another way . . . he defined evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Jesus spoke to this quite clearly in the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14:15-23. In this parable about a marriage feast, He describes our father in terms of His being a generous and gracious host who has prepared a great feast for those who will respond to His invitation.

There are several truths that we need to learn today from this great passage.

I. God Himself Has Issued The Invitation

His banquet is ready and He has opened the doors. His kingdom is open.

Did you ever arrive home to hear your wife or mother say, "Dinner will be ready when the rolls are done." The banquet God has prepared is always ready for those who are willing to respond to Him by faith.

A. God's invitation is the most extensive invitation that has ever been extended.

We are to go out not only into the highways and hedges, but we are to go to the uttermost parts of the earth with the good news of God's love.

B. God's invitation is the most inclusive invitation that has ever been extended.

Everyone is included. Everyone can respond.

C. God's invitation is the most intensive invitation every extended.

Throughout the Bible we are invited to come to God that we might enjoy all of the blessings that the Creator God prepared for us. God in all of His fullness, the angelic hosts, and the whole Christian world would like to see each individual respond to this gracious invitation.

D. God's invitation is the most expensive invitation that has ever been extended.

When an invitation is extended, there is always expense involved. You may invite someone to have a soft drink with you. Some expense is involved. When God extends His invitation, we need to remember that the banquet has been prepared at the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is to the great redemptive banquet of God that we are to invite people.

Out of a heart of love, the Father Himself comes to you and me with an invitation.

Oz and Mary Quick were in a church for an annual foreign missions presentation during our Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions. He told a story that was haunting in its convicting power.

A child was killed in a hit-and-run auto accident. Predictably, a crowd quickly and noisily gathered around the fallen child. A worried-looking mother whose child had been playing in that area only moments before hurried to the scene. When she got there she said these words: "It's okay; he's not mine."

That understandable and human response is the exact opposite of missions.

Our commitment to missions arises out of the scriptural testimony that God is not willing for even one person whom He has created in His image to perish (II Peter 3:9) and that we are indeed our brothers' keepers and therefore responsible for our neighbor.

"It's okay; he's not mine" is not the way God thinks and feels about persons as they perish in unbelief.

"It's okay; he's not mine" must not be the way we look at the billions of non-Christian persons in our world. (Dale A. McConnell)

II. God Has Chosen Us To Be His Servant-Inviters

We are like the one in v. 17 who was sent forth.

It was his task to not only issue the invitation but also to present the intent of the Lord, the Master. That is what v. 23 means, " . . . compel them to come in." It is not compulsion in a forceful sense, but an "insistent hospitality." The KJV and NASB here convey the intent, unlike the NIV.

We cannot coerce a person to come to God. We cannot trick others into coming to God. We must not over persuade others to make an insincere commitment to God.

While we are to seek to persuade people (II Corinthians 5:11), we must never violate their individual freedom. Jesus never coerced people to come to God in the sense of violating their autonomy and their freedom.

  • Ours is the privilege of being spokespeople for God. We are to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
  • Ours is the responsibility of inviting others to come to Jesus Christ. This is not optional for one who is a true follower of Christ.
  • Ours can be the joy of conveying God's invitation to needy people.

It is the birthright of one Christian to be able to help another person become a Christian.

We need to go out quickly because of the swift passing of opportunity. Time does not stand still. Yesterday is gone. Today is all we have. We must seize our opportunities quickly.

Time does not wait for us to extend this invitation on behalf of God. The night will come when no one can work (John 9:4).

The night will come when no one can respond. There is no invitation extended for a response to be made tomorrow.

The prophet said, "Come now" (Isaiah 1:18). The apostle said, "Behold now" (II Corinthians 6:2). No, it isn't always easy to be a servant-inviter. We are so afraid to risk loving and sharing.

Why do some go. . .and others will not? Why do men and women leave home and homeland to spend their lives in a foreign country? Why would a skilled physician invest his life in a foreign country as a medical missionary to earn only a fraction of what he would earn at home? Why did Southern Baptist pioneer missionaries George H. Lacey and his wife return to give the rest of their lives to Mexico after losing all five of their children in fifteen days to scarlet fever contracted on the mission field? Why did William Carey, that great English Baptist, go in 1792 to India? Why did Lottie Moon go?

There is a story in the annals of the British Navy which tells that on one occasion a destroyer was lying in a harbor of the West Indies, where five other ships of various nationalities were anchored. Suddenly a furious storm descended, with a wild, terrifying wind, and great waves sweeping right into the harbor. What did the British captain do? He weighed anchor and steamed straight out to sea in the very teeth of the storm. Two days later he returned, battered but safe--and there were the other five ships lying piled up, wrecked upon the shore. It was their very refusal to face the seas and the storm, their clinging to security, which had been their undoing. Only the ship that ventured everything came through.

III. Because Of God's Personal Invitation, He Expects A Response

God has issued to you today a personal invitation. We've talked about that. Do you realize the gravity of the situation?

Without Christ, people exist in the grip of spiritual death (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1). They are in the grip of the enemy of God and the enemy of their own soul (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

The God of this world, the devil, has placed blindfolds on their minds lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine in so that they could be saved.

They live in the state of nonbelief and noncommitment. Excuses are commonplace, v. 18.

They will remain in this sad condition if they are never invited and persuaded to respond to God's gracious invitation to the banquet that has been prepared.

We live in a world of unsaved people who are helpless and hopeless apart from the witness and the testimony and the help of those who already know God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Don't put off Christ. Yes, I know you have an excuse. I've heard it before, as has the Lord. In vv. 18-20, we see some weak ones. One man "must" go see a purchased field he probably had seen before  he bought it. The second excuse (v. 19) is as worthless as the first; would anyone have bought oxen without examining them? In both instances materialism gets in the way. The third excuse (v. 20) wasn't much better. Marriage wasn't an abrupt decision and could hardly have occurred between the first (v. 16) and second (v. 17) invitations. It was simply a deliberate personal snub ... insult.

We can make any excuse ... call it by any other name ... it is still a personal insult to the Lord. God expects a response to His invitation. What will it be?

Out of the compassion of God's heart, He commands us to go out and say to those about us that a feast has been prepared. The reasons are many why we do not ... the reasons are many why we must. What will your response be?

Today we begin studying a new Life Principle: a life of Serving. Life Checkpoints:

What would my service look like if it were all about serving Christ? As I serve others, do I realize I am serving Christ?