Offer Christ (Offering H.O.P.E.)

by Jacob Juncker

These thoughts were offered at Franklin United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 21, 2018. This message was based upon a reading from Acts 8:26-38.  This  message is part of a stewardship/discipleship series entitled “Offering H.O.P.E.”
     I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here.

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The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world.  The fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world is the vision Scripture holds before us.  Jesus’ words in the gospel of Matthew provide the Church with our mission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:19-20), and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (22:37, 39).[1]

The mission—our mission—is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  I think its important to note that our primary task is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  It is not to transform the world.

So often we get that mixed up.  We turn the sentence around.  We can get so caught up in doing good and seeking justice that we forget that our primary task isn’t to collect food for the food pantry or go on mission trips or any other noble cause—these things should be important to us, but they are not our primary task, our fundamental mission.

We are called to make disciples; and, as we proclaim the good news of God’s grace and exemplify Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor the world is transformed.  The transformation of the world occurs not because we do good things, but because we make disciples of Jesus Christ who, with changed hearts and lives, live into God’s reign here and now.

It sounds like such a daunting task—make disciples.  And, it is.  Ultimately, it is not we make the disciple.  It is not by our doing that a person becomes faithful to Christ, that’s a decision each person must make on their own.

We don’t make disciples by guilting people or forcing them to do certain things.  We “make disciples” by simply offering Christ and allowing people to choose for themselves.

No doubt we can drudge up countless problematic examples of what it means to offer Christ to another.  I’m not convinced we’re faithful in offering Christ by shouting from a street corner or by handing out tracts that say if you don’t repent today and pray this prayer you’ll burn in hell.  I’m not convinced that we’re fully living into our mission as we wear our crosses or display our Jesus fish on the bumpers of our cars.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). While I think it is largely true that in our post-Christian culture the vast majority of people are not “looking” for Jesus; I do think people are looking for a way, the truth, and a life. These are things l think we all yearn for. So, while people may not be looking for Jesus per se, they are looking for what he has to offer.

Jesus is the way through which our relationship with God is restored. This restored relationship leads to the reconciliation of all our other relationships.  Jesus is the Way to peace with God and all others.  Jesus is the Truth.  In him we see and experience the truth of where Jesus’ way leads—a perfect, peaceful union between the fullness of humanity and the fullness of God.  Jesus is the life.  As our relationships are healed, death and destruction are no more, and we begin to experience the life that truly is life now and into eternity.

If we really want to fulfill our mission.  If we really want to offer Christ to others, we don’t have to be eloquent preachers, or extroverted evangelists.  You don’t have to scare people or tell them to pray a certain prayer.  All you need do, is invite and journey with people along the way, so that they can discover the truth and find life in Jesus name.

We offer Christ by walking the Way and inviting others to do the same.  We offer Christ—we make disciples—as we bear witness to the things we’ve seen along the Way and invite others to join us that they might see too.  For, in the words of the eunuch from our reading for today, “How can a person see and understand unless someone guides them?” (see Acts 8:30).

 


[1] Adapted from ¶121. Rationale for Our Mission in The United Methodist Book of Discipline: 2012 (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 2012).

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