Investing in the Primary Mission of the Church

“Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20, NIV)

All my life this passage has been thrown at my face. This very section is what we call The Primary Mission of the Church. Sunday School has taught me that I need to spread the Good News: that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us, paying our debts, washing away our sins, and we may be born again in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-10, 2 Corinthians 4:16,..the list can go on). The problem with this lesson was that I wasn’t really taught how. I am not saying that my Sunday School teachers didn’t teach me well, they are actually people that I look up to spiritually. The true problem is that we allow fear to come inside and we hesitate and draw a blank when it comes to speaking to anyone who doesn’t know the Lord. How do we take on this task? What do we say? How will they respond?

This has been on my heart for a long time now. There is someone that I deeply care about who doesn’t know the Lord and I regret each time I see this person because I am afraid to speak my mind. I am afraid that this will affect our relationship not in a good way and that they will respond in disgust. I shouldn’t let Satan tempt me with fear, for that is not the way we should respond to what God calls us to do. I have prayed about this time and time again and I know now that I need to stop dancing around this and face it straight on.

“Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

A good example of being a witness of what Jesus has done in us and for us is none other than the book of Philemon. You’re probably thinking, ‘Philemon? You mean the smallest book in the Bible? What does that have to do with your point?’ Trust me, we will get to the point I am trying to make.

First off, let me give you a little background on the story of Philemon. Philemon is a man of strong faith and is a well respected Christian leader, according to the apostle Paul. Philemon was also a master of a slave named Onesimus. Slavery was widespread in the Roman world at this time. If a runaway slave was captured, they had to be returned and given severe punishment as an example to other slaves. At this time, apostle Paul is writing this letter under house arrest in Rome being always monitored, but he was allowed visitors. Well, Onesimus ran away from Philemon, possibly stole a few items, and stumbled upon Paul. Paul has Onesimus return back to his master and writes this letter to Philemon encouraging him to not punish him and to instead welcome Onesimus as a beloved brother in Christ. Even though Paul needs Onesimus more than Philemon because the runaway slave has been helpful in spreading the Gospel, Paul’s desire of reconciling Philemon and Onesimus was more important to him.

One of Paul’s missions was to see people’s hearts changed by the gospel of Christ. And this letter to Philemon illustrates how attitudes and relationships are transformed in Christ. Notice also here in this letter in Philemon that Paul wanted the relationships between master and slave to be transcended to brother and brother in Christ. Regardless of economic class, societal reputation, race, ethnicity, or gender, we must show Christ’s gracious love to EVERYONE. So, what are the themes in this letter? Forgiveness: Philemon forgiving Onesimus for running away (Colossians 3:11, 13-14), Transformation: Onesimus was born again with the help of Paul (2 Corinthians 5:17), and Sacrifice: Paul giving up Onesimus’s help and also mentioning paying any debts of Onesimus’s former wrongdoings.

I see Paul’s letter to Philemon as an analogy to reveal how far God will go to set any captive in the slavery of sin free. Paul’s investment in Onesimus encouraged and strengthened Onesimus’s faith in Jesus Christ. If we put that much investment like Paul did in someone’s life to open their eyes to the grace of God, imagine the results of changed lives. Think of something valuable to you that you put a lot of time. Now imagine putting that time in fellowship, in the lives of people who don’t know Jesus.

My grandfather is a man of extreme faith. The wisest and strongest man I know. He truly is a man of prayer and dedication to Jesus Christ. He walks up and down the streets with a life-size cross and a crown of thorns, spreading the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness for us, changing the lives of everyone around him. Because of his great love for God, the Holy Spirit works in his life for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I will not be giving you an exact answer to how you should spread the news to Jesus Christ. But I will say this: take baby steps. Don’t jump to it right away and scare people away, put time and effort into these new relationships. But make sure they know right away that you are a Christian. When you share and summarize the Gospel, I encourage you to use these keywords I learned from the Bible and Gospel class: Need, Grace, Sacrifice, Union, Transfer, Restoration.

I now challenge you to read Philemon all the way through. Don’t worry, it will only take you a minute to read it. But I also want you to highlight anything that Paul says or does that remind you acts of Christ. Think about the meaning of this letter and how you should be a light and an example to others. Think about the steps you are going to take when spreading the love of Christ to others. I leave you with this:

“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.” – Jim Cymbala

“His voice leads us not into timid discipleship but into bold witness.” – Charles Stanley

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