The Divine Mandate

Bible Book: Romans  12
Subject: Vision; Mandate, Divine; Purpose, Church; Ministry

Did you know that these are tremendous days of opportunity? I cannot imagine being alive at a more exciting time in all of history than now. I believe that God has set before us an open door. I believe we have the opportunity of moving forward or settling down to what may very well become only a maintenance kind of ministry.

This is what Shakespeare said. He said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voids of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

Now, what Shakespeare is saying is this: You take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves or you ultimately reduce your destiny to mediocrity.

But let me tell you something about opportunity, dear church. When God writes opportunity on one side of an open door, he writes responsibility on the other side. And opportunity often goes around disguised as hard work. And that’s why so many people fail to find it.

But I believe this is a time for us to think big. This is a time for us to trust God. This is a time for us to seize our opportunity.

Now, this morning I want to try to challenge you to think big. But at the same time I want to keep it as simple as possible. No man has ever seen things as big as they could have been or kept them as simple as they might be. Sometimes we do well in one area at the expense of the other.

I heard about the little boy on the corner with his flop-eared pup. A salesman passed the corner each day, and after a week he began to pity the boy who was striving to sell his puppy. The salesman knew the boy didn’t see it big. He stopped and said, “Son, do you really want to sell this dog?”

The boy replied, “I certainly do.”

“Well, you’re never going to sell him until you learn to see it big. What I mean is, take this dog home, clean him up, doll him up, raise your price, make people think they’re getting something big and you’ll sell him.”

That noon the salesman came by and there was the boy with a puppy that was groomed, perfumed and beribboned alongside a big sign:


The salesman gulped and realized he had forgotten to tell the boy about keeping it simple. That evening he stopped by to tell the boy the other half of the formula, only to discover that the boy was gone. The puppy was gone, and the sign lay therewith “SOLD” written across it in big letters. The salesman couldn’t believe it. This kid couldn’t have sold the dog for $5,000. His curiosity got the best of him and he rang the boy’s doorbell. The boy came to the door and the salesman blurted, “Son, you didn’t really sell that dog for $5,000, now did you?”

The boy replied, “Yes, sir, I did. And I want to thank you for all your help.”

The salesman said, “How in the world did you do it?”

The boy replied, “Oh, it was easy. I just took two $2,500 cats in exchange.”

Now, I want us to think big, but I don’t want us to forget to keep it simple. And I want to use Romans chapter 12 to present this message on our ministry statement. What is to be the ministry of our church?

Last Sunday morning we talked about why we exist. We exist to glorify God. This morning we want to think about what we do – what we do as a church. What is our purpose? What is our ministry? “We desire to lead people to become devoted followers of Christ through worship, love and personal ministry.” Now, I want us to break that down as simply as we possibly can.

First of all, I want us to observe that our main focus, our purpose, our goal is to lead people – lost people, irreligious people, unchurched people – to become devoted followers of Christ.

Listen to what Paul said. He said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22)

And I want you to hear what Paul said to the Galatians. He said “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19)

Now, that statement from Paul will give you some idea as to how impassioned he was to lead people to become devoted followers of Christ.

You know, when our three children were born, husbands did not go with their wives into the delivery room. We had to go to a waiting area. And we paced the floor, and we wrung our hands, and we kept a vigil until someone came to tell us about the birth of the child. And I could only imagine the labor and travail and the pain and the difficulty that a mother would have in giving birth to a child.

When our granddaughter was born, I was still not permitted to go in the delivery room. And quite frankly, I’m not really sure that I wanted to. But I stood at the door and I was in earshot of everything that was taking place. Our daughter’s epidural was ineffective and it was not relieving her of pain. And what she experienced was virtually a natural childbirth. From my vantage point at the door I could hear my son-in-law coaching my daughter as she travailed in pain. I could hear her cries of anguish. And I did not go through the pain. But O how I prayed, and O how I suffered with her as she went through the valley of the shadow of death in order to give birth to our granddaughter.

Paul says that birthing people into the kingdom of God is like that. It involves labor; it involves travail. But Paul willingly experienced all of that in order to see souls born into the kingdom of God.

You want to know how much Paul wanted to see people saved? Listen to what he said in Romans 9. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not. My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Do you know what he is saying there? He’s saying, “Dear God, I would be willing to experience separation from Christ; I would be willing to be alienated from Christ if you would only save those who are a part of my Jewish family.”

Now, folks, that’s passion. And that is what we must have if we’re going to see our community and our city and our country turn from darkness to light. May God grant us the desire to lead people to become devoted followers of Christ. This is the sob of God. This is the anguished cry of Jesus as he weeps over a doomed city. This is the cry of John Knox as he said, “Give me Scotland or I die.” My heart is filled and running over with the sense of urgency for this business of reaching people for Christ. There’s not place for mediocrity in this. We either evangelize of fossilize. We either succeed or fail. We’re either concerned or unconcerned. We either care or we are complacent.

Now, I’m not just talking about making disciples here. I’m talking about a thing that is cyclical. We not only make disciples, but we make disciples who are disciple-makers, who in turn are able to make disciples who become disciple-makers who are able to make disciples who become disciple-makers.

Now, how do we get there? Well, the cycle begins with us. It begins with us becoming devoted followers of Christ.

I. Through Worship

Now, let’s look at our text. Look in Romans 12 verse 1. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” But, you see, some translations substitute the word “worship” for “service.”

Did you come to this place today to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God? If you did, the Apostle Paul calls that “reasonable service.”

Now, many of you did not think in those terms. And do you know why? It’s because you think of worship as coming to church in order to get something. And some of you will go home after this service and say, “Well, you know, I didn’t get anything out of church today.”

But worship is not getting, it’s giving. It’s not coming to watch a performance. It is to come together to experience God and then respond to his love and grace and majesty and mercy by giving to him the very best that is within us.

You see, the world is not waiting for a new definition of the gospel, but for a new demonstration of its power. Christianity’s greatest impact was not made by the content of its doctrine, but the consecration of its disciples. As leaders and workers of the church, our first concern must not be to prepare the message to deliver, but to prepare ourselves to deliver the message. We cannot lead men to consecration if we are not ourselves consecrated. We cannot lead men to give of their best till first of all we have done out best. People will fill the church as fast as God fills the people in the church.

Philosophers of old thought they knew the way of humility and life. Socrates said, "If you would find life, know thyself." The Stoic said, "If you would find life, control thyself." The Epicureans said, "If you would find life, enjoy thyself." The modem philosophers say, "If you would find life, express thyself." The scholastics say, "If you would find life, educate thyself."

But Jesus the Son of the living God says, "If you would find life, lose thyself— Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). God give us the grace to surrender our all to him. This is real worship.

II. Through Love

In Romans 12 verse 10 Paul says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in, honour preferring one another.”

Now, there is no doubt about it. We must love one another. The Bible says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love. Unfortunately, I believe that the world has looked at our denomination for a number of years now and questioned our Christianity. We have become known in the secular press as the "battling Baptists." And you know, folks that fight with their employer all day and fight with their spouse all night and fight with their neighbors all weekend don't want to come to church for another fight.

So we're going to have to prove to the world that we love each other; that this place is a place of tranquility in a world of turmoil; that this is a place of peace in a world of panic; that this is a place of harmony in a world of hostility; that this is a place of calm in a world of calamity.

But do you know something? It's not enough for us to just love each other within the family. We've got to start to venture out. We've got to begin to build new relationships. We've got to open up our homes to the people in our neighborhoods. We must begin to build bridges.

Do you know what Jesus said? He said, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?" How long has it been since you had a dessert party in your home for the people in your neighborhood? How long has it been since you invited an unchurched family into your home for a meal? How long has it been since you've taken an unredeemed business partner to the ball game with you?

Now, I know what some of you are saying. You're saying, "Well, I don't have anything common with my neighbor. I don't have anything in common. Those people at work; we just don't share the same interests." Well, I just want you to know that that person who seems to be so out of sync with you; seems to be so different and perhaps so unlovable, has the potential of becoming your brother or sister in Christ, and has the potential of becoming your best friend.

I heard a story about a man and a woman who had been corresponding solely by mail. They fell in love with one another. They agreed to meet at the airport. Since they had never seen each other, they devised a plan that would help them recognize each other. She was to wear a green scarf and a green hat and have a green carnation pinned to her coat. When the man got off his plane, he immediately began looking for her. Suddenly he saw a woman with a green scarf, a green hat and a green carnation. His heart fell. She was one of the most homely women he had ever seen in his life. He was tempted to get back on the plane without approaching her. Nevertheless, he walked over to the woman, smiled and introduced himself. Immediately the woman said, "What is this all about anyway? I don't know who you are. That woman over there gave me $5 to wear these things." When the man looked over at the woman mentioned, he realized that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. The man approached the woman who later explained, "All my life men have wanted to be with me; to be my friend because of my beauty. They consider me beautiful. I want someone to love me, not just for my outward appearance, but for what I am inside."

You see, we have the responsibility of loving people and caring for people and building relationships with people, not on the basis of their outward appearance, but on the basis of their spiritual need. You see, we live in a world of lost people. Only 46 percent of the people in Marietta have been defined as born again Christians. It means that the majority of the people in our city are lost. And yet somehow we have managed to isolate ourselves from them.

A man was trying to read a serious book, but his little boy kept interrupting him. He would lean against his knees and say, “Daddy, I love you.” The father would give him a pat and say rather absently, “Yes, son, I love you too.” And he would kind of give him a little push away so he could keep on reading. But this didn’t satisfy the boy. And finally he ran to his father and said, “I love you, daddy.” And he jumped up on his lap and threw his arms around him and gave him a big squeeze, explaining, “And I’ve just got to do something about it.” That’s it – as we grow in love, we aren’t content with small-talk or pat-on-the-head love. We want to get involved and “do something about it.”

And, you see, the only way that we can fulfill our purpose in ministry is to first worship; present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God which is our reasonable worship, and then love. Love one another. And then begin to build relationships outside of the family of faith, demonstrating compassion and concern and interest.

III. Through Personal Ministry

I want you to know that genuine worship and compassionate love will find expression in personal ministry. Let’s go back to Paul and his letter to be Romans. He speaks of personal ministry. In verse 11 he says that we should be "Not slothful in business; but fervent in spirit; serving the Lord." In verse 13 he says that we should be "Distributing to the necessity of saints; and given to hospitality." In verse 20 he says "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink...." You see, in these verses he's challenging us to a personal ministry.

In his earthly ministry Jesus was limited to one human body. But now the body of Christ is made up of millions and millions of human bodies stamped with his image — his followers. That includes you and me, for Jesus prayed for us that last evening, not just for the disciples who were with him. He said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." What an astounding thought. Jesus ascended, but his spirit descended to empower his body – the church – to do more than he could accomplish as one person.

In his book, The Body, Charles Colson tells a story that comes from Richard Halverson who recently retired as the chaplain of the United States Senate. Before his service as chaplain to the Senate, he was pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. He had been pasturing this church for years, when suddenly he saw his church clearly for the very first time. He was flying into Washington one day at dusk. Since the approach path to Washington’s National Airport happened to pass directly over Fourth Presbyterian Church, Pastor Halverson pressed his face against the window to catch a glimpse of the building from the air. But everything on the ground was shrouded in the shadows falling over the city as the sun set. He could not find his church. So he leaned back in his seat, watching the fast approaching Washington skyline. As his eyes followed the Potomac River, he could see the skyscrapers of Rosslyn just across Key Bridge from Georgetown. Then in the distance to the left, the White House, the lights of the Labor Department, the distant glow of the capitol dome. As he stared out the window, he began mentally ticking off the names of members of his congregation who worked in those office buildings and government bureaus; disciples he had equipped to live their faith. And suddenly it hit him. "Of course!" he exclaimed to the startled passenger in the next seat. "There it is, Fourth Presbyterian Church!" The church wasn't marked by a sanctuary or a steeple. The church was spread throughout Washington in the homes and neighborhoods and offices below him; thousands of points of light illuminating the darkness.

And that is the way the church should look in the world today. The people of God - one body with many different parts - spread throughout every arena of life 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ministering; doing even "greater thing?' than Christ himself.

Now, I'm just going to say it. Some of you are already there. You know what it is to worship God. You know what it is to present your body as a living sacrifice which is your reasonable worship. You know what it is to love, not just those within the body of Christ, but you know what it is to build bridges of relationship. You know what it is to reach out to others. And you know what it is to have a personal ministry.

And that personal ministry needs to have this objective. And please hear me well. It needs to have this objective. Your personal ministry needs to be geared to leading people to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ through worship, love and personal ministry so that they in turn become equipped and prepared to lead people to become devoted followers of Christ through worship, love and personal ministry who will do the same thing. And the cycle is repeated over and over and over again.

I guess what I am saying, folks, is this. Don't just go to church. Let's be the church - a vibrant, living, dynamic church empowered by the Holy Spirit to change our community and our culture. Now, that sounds big and that sounds grandiose. And I said we were going to think big, but we were going to keep it simple.

Now here's the simple part. Jeff Lawrence, I don't expect you to change the world. May I ask you and challenge you to carry out this divine mandate on your street. And Eddie Frost, will you begin to touch the life of your next door neighbor. And Fred Borders, will you begin to build relationships with the people on your cul-de-sac. I don't think God expects you to bring the light of the gospel to the whole world, but you can certainly brighten the comer where you are. Amen