The same person, the incarnation of God Who could be touched, Who walked the earth as a common man with a comforting yet confusing message and undeniable power, this same Jesus is coming again. There is no doubt to this assertion unless, of course, Jesus was a liar. He alluded to His resurrection by saying that He would rebuild this temple in three days (a puzzle to the hearers), was taunted as He hung on the cross to save Himself (which He refused to do for our sakes), but then came back from the grip of death itself as a glorified human. Hundreds witnessed it, and naysayers even in our day cannot disprove it. He still ate, talked, touched, and walked, but with additional capabilities. He could walk through walls, disguise Himself from His listeners, appear from thin air. Yet His heart and mission embodied the same love, care and call to His closest followers as before. This reminder was on His lips even as He was ascending into heaven, promising His return. Imagine that scene! What an impact it had on the witnesses! Afterwards they gathered to pray, facing the prospects of obedience in the face of a hostile culture that had just brutally murdered their leader who conquered death and made a spectacular exit back to the Father.
He tasked them, and us, with the proclamation of the kingdom. We share the same message He did: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We struggle against sin to be worthy light-bearers (not to be saved), and we sit at His feet as Mary did, listening for His direction. We are charged to invite all we can to meet our amazing friend, and as they become followers we undertake their shepherding. “Feed My sheep”, words spoken to Peter spill into our lives as well. He sends us forth to make disciples, followers of Himself, not doctrinally correct theologians. One day soon He will gather us, as He did His apostles after He sent them out to preach, and listen to the accounts of our kingdom exploits. What will we tell Him?
The message is the same, the call is the same, His teaching is the same. But our response is much different than our predecessors. They went out boldly proclaiming that their master had risen from the dead and desired to share that victory with all who would listen. It cost many of those first proclaimers their lives! Nowadays we seem to have privatized our relationship with God. We are constantly taking our spiritual temperature, stuffing our minds with sermons, seminars, and podcasts. This is all good, we do need a renewed mind. But are we so busy with church like the priest on the road that we can’t stop to help the wounded traveler? Where is the witnessing – the going out and proclaiming the good news of rescue and redemption? That seems so radical, and we have so many reasons not to, fear being near the top of the list. In this particular era it is eminently easy to embrace the thought that ‘it is not my job – my money supports evangelical organizations’. Or maybe your church hired a guy to do that for you. That pacifies our conscience and excuses our silence! It is undoubtedly risky to tell someone about our faith – religion is one of those taboo topics! We could be vilified, dismissed, ridiculed, or politely ignored. But it is more risky not to – for them anyway.
I am persuaded that there are people in your life for whom you are the evangelist. You have been kind, demonstrated integrity, shown caring love and would be a trusted messenger of the reason for the hope within you. (If not, then that’s a good place to start.) There must be an intentional mindset, a determination set by conviction. Paul said “knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men.” As dual citizens of heaven and earth, we can see beyond the present age, and it is love which warns and persuades oblivious souls. Cowardice disguised as reason dooms our neighbors to a dismal future. Your words may be the only lifebuoy they encounter. Your life opens doors, and your care is crucial, but remember “it is by the foolishness of preaching” that people are saved. Words have the power of life and death.
Unless some closely held (and erroneous) doctrine excludes you from Jesus’ call to action, be moved not by guilt, but by a faithful reminder that it is an honor and privilege to speak the words of life to your friends, coworkers or neighbors who may be ‘without God and without hope’ in this present and quickly passing age. Jesus will be here in the blink of an eye, and we want to help as many people as we can to be ready to meet Him.
What I say to you I shout to me! Lord have mercy on our fearful reluctance and grace us with conviction! Preaching begins with prayer! Let us listen in to that first gathering of believers facing menace and imprisonment: “So now Lord, listen to their threats to harm us. Empower us, as your servants, to speak the word of God freely and courageously …” Let’s go and do likewise! Team up with a couple of other believers and commit to help one another in this endeavor – starting with fervent prayer. Remember what happened? “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.” What stories we will have to tell Jesus when He comes! The angels are watching! “You Galileans (fill in your town), why are you standing here staring up into the sky? This same Jesus who is leaving you and ascending to heaven will return in the same way you see Him departing.” Acts 1:11
People get ready Jesus is coming! A little musical bonus –