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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 3, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS:
It's a Great Job to Have!
Luke 10:1-6

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Today we will meditate on the Word of God in Luke chapter ten, beginning with verse one, as follows:

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2 Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 "Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4 "Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 5 "But whatever house you enter, first say,`Peace to this house.' 6 "And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. This is the Word of God.

In the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Who Himself is our Peace and has commissioned us ambassadors of peace, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

In "The Art of Advance," political campaign expert Ben Donohower describes how important the so-called "advance team" is for every successful political candidate. The advance team are the people who show up a day or two ahead of time in every town where the candidate is scheduled to speak. They take care of all the details, like checking out locations, organizing volunteers, and lining up media appearances. The most skilled advance teams are able to anticipate problems and eliminate them before they ever occur. The public simply sees a polished looking candidate at a successful campaign event. What they don't see are the many advance team members working behind the scenes, making sure that things go smoothly, and that their candidate has an opportunity to shine. Do you think you'd be good at a job like that?

You'd better be! Because as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you're a member of His advance team whether you realize it or not. Jesus does not materialize bodily before the eyes of people to whom he wishes to bring His message of salvation. That's not how He has chosen to work. He works through the Gospel - a message of peace that is carried to the world by ordinary people, people like you! You Christians are His ambassadors, His advance team, bringing the good news to people you know and meet and work with. Our text for today will tell us a lot about carrying out this important job for our Savior. Join me in considering the theme:
ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS:
It's a Great Job to Have!
I. The companionship is great.
II. The need is great.
III. The danger is great.
IV. The urgency is great.
V. The message is great.

Jesus was about to embark on His final, great journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. It would be His death journey, at the conclusion of which He would offer His life on the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He sent His disciples ahead of Him into the region of Perea on the east side of the Jordan. They were a sort of advance team for the Savior. And BEING ON THE ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS IS A GREAT JOB TO HAVE! Why? First of all because the companionship is great. How did Jesus send out His disciples? He sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. He does the same today. Jesus is constantly coming into the hearts of believers by faith. We're the advance team, we get there first with the message about Jesus. That's our job. But it's not a lonely job, because God gives us companions for the journey. Friends we can rely on who will accompany us, whose mission is the same as ours. Look around at the other believers sitting with you this morning - they're your companions! Your successes are their successes, and vice versa. Your sorrows are theirs as well. They'll pray for you and encourage you and support you, and you'll do the same for them. That's one reason why we assemble here at least once a week - to encourage one another and to build each other up. That's why the writer to the Hebrews says, [Let us not forsake] the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. --Hebrews 10:25.

Why is BEING ON THE ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS SUCH A GREAT JOB TO HAVE? Another reason, Jesus says, is because the need is so great. Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. If you look carefully at Jesus' words you realize that He's not just saying the field is great. We know that. The field of our endeavor is the whole wide world. Jesus is saying that the harvest is great! There are many, many souls who are ready right now to be saved! People who feel their sin, who realize their lost condition and are ripe to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and believe. I read a story about two shoe salesman years ago who were sent to the darkest interior of Africa. Soon, one of them sent a telegram back to the U.S. that said: "Get me home, nobody here wears shoes." The other salesman sent a telegram that said: "Send me all of the shoes you have, nobody here wears shoes!" Which kind of salesman are you? Do you know that the Seattle-Tacoma area is the second-least-churched area in the country (after Portland)? Only 34% of people here are members of a church. What a great place to be a missionary! Where could the need possibly be greater? In another passage Jesus said, "Do you not say, `There are still four months and then comes the harvest '? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." -Jn 4:35-36.

It's true that BEING ON THE ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS IS A GREAT JOB TO HAVE. The rewards are great. But lest we think there are no risks involved in this job, our Lord reminds us that the danger, too, is great. "Go your way; He said, behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. We know that the world in which we live is a hostile place, hostile especially toward those who proclaim the gospel of Christ. Just in recent months the hostility of the world toward Christians, and Bible-based morality, has particularly been on display. Jesus doesn't pull punches, He presents this dark picture of the terrible danger we Christians face in this world - He sends us out "as lambs among wolves." Well, who would do that? Who would send defenseless lambs into the midst of vicious wolves? Jesus our Good Shepherd would, and that's the key to this whole passage. Yes the danger is great, but our Good Shepherd, the one who protects and cares for us, is far greater. We are weak, but He is strong! The great preacher Charles Spurgeon had a wonderful comment about this:
As soon as I say, "The Lord is my Shepherd," I am safe! The sheep is not safe because it says, "I am stronger than the lion," or, "I am able to escape from the bear," or, "I shall always be able to avoid the wolf." Silly sheep, what can you do to protect yourself from your foes? Yet the sheep might feel safe enough if it knew that the shepherd was near, to snatch it out of the jaws of the lion, or to rescue it from the paws of the bear. And, beloved, we know that our Shepherd will never let any of His sheep perish! He has owned us too long and bought us too dearly-and loved us too well to ever let us go. You remember that He said to His disciples, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
- That is the security that Jesus gives to the members of His advance team!

Yes, BEING ON THE ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS IS A GREAT JOB TO HAVE. The next point Jesus emphasizes is that the urgency is great. Because that's exactly what's implied when He tells His disciples, "Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. The point here is not that they were to go barefoot or unclothed. There is no intrinsic virtue in Christian poverty or self-deprivation. No, the point here is quite different. The disciples were not to carry any extra supplies with them, they were not to wait until they had a wallet full of money and a knapsack full of extra gear. The task before them was too urgent for that. There was no time to waste! Greet no one along the road, Jesus said. When you're on the advance team for Jesus, there is no time to stop and chat along the way. You are an ambassador of the King, sent with the message that means the difference between life and death. Your task is urgent! 17th century preacher Richard Baxter conveyed some of the urgency of our task as ambassadors for Christ when he said, "I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men!" You're a preacher too, and your task is urgent! Every chance you have to share the gospel with a friend, a relative, a coworker, may be the last chance you ever get. It may be the last Gospel that person ever hears. Can you afford to waste that opportunity? No! The urgency is too great!

The companionship, the need, the danger and the urgency - for members of JESUS' ADVANCE TEAM, each of these is great. But greatest of all is the message we proclaim! That message is summed up in our Lord's instruction to His disciples: But whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house.' 6 "And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.

Maybe your first thoughts on hearing those words were the same as mine: it sounds like a standard greeting. But it wasn't. In Hebrew, the standard greeting was shalom alekem, "peace to you." This is something quite different, shalom labayet hazeh, or "Peace to this house!" This is a substantive message, a message of peace. And one of the meanings of the Biblical word for peace is "a state of reconciliation with God." As in Acts 10:36: "The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ-- He is Lord of all. As a member of Jesus advance' team, what you have to give people is something real and substantial. They can be reconciled with God. Your whole mission is to bring people this precious message of peace and reconciliation, as Paul tells the Corinthians: Godů has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ --2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

Ambassadors for Christ - what an awesome job! We get to tell people that despite their sin, despite their failures and shortcomings, despite all their guilt, there is STILL a way to be at peace with God, simply by trusting in Jesus. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved! Jesus gave up his life on the cross, the innocent for the guilty. He was the lamb of God who died to take away the sins of the world. Through faith in him we have peace with God. Peace of conscience, in knowing that our sins are forgiven. In the ultimate peace of knowing that we shall spend eternity in paradise with our Savior!

That's the peace we have to offer! That's the precious treasure of the gospel that we carry around in our frail human bodies, like carrying coins of pure gold in cracked old clay pots. What a precious gift you have to give when you, as an ambassador for Christ, say "peace to this house!" Now the person to whom you're speaking may receive this good news or he may not - that's really no business of yours. Paul said, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. --1 Corinthians 3:6. Your work is simply to proclaim the message of peace through Christ, like scattering seed on a section of ground. God will see to it that the Word you sow bears its intended fruit.

"Every army needs a general," writes political expert Amelia Chass in her article, "Winning the Advance Game." A candidate can have a great advance team and dozens of volunteers, but things will still go badly wrong if there isn't someone in charge, someone who is clearly in authority. We Christians don't have that problem. We know who's in charge. For Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. --Matthew 28:18-20. BEING ON THE ADVANCE TEAM FOR JESUS IS A GREAT JOB TO HAVE. The companionship is great, the need is great, the danger is surely great, but the urgency is great as well. Most of all, the message itself, the message of peace with God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, that message is truly great. God grant that we may fulfill our calling as bearers of that message, and members of our Lord's advance team! AMEN.