The Eternally Glorious Sacrifices of the Great Commission
December 01, 2019 | Andy Davis
Church History, Missions
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse by verse expository sermon on Luke 24:44-53. The main subject of the sermon is the sacrifices of God's people that lead to the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
- Sermon Transcript-
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 24. And as I mentioned in my prayer, this is the time of year that we focus on unreached people groups, on missions. We have something called The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering named after a woman named Charlotte Moon, shortened to Lottie Moon, who was a missionary that served in China for many years, 39 years. She ran a school for girls in Tengzhou and also in Pingdu, and she burned with a strong passion to reach girls, those girls for Christ and women, to bring them to faith in Christ and anyone that she could talk to about the gospel. She regularly baked fresh cookies, and the aroma, as it would waft from where she lived, from the kitchen would be attractive to people. You talk about the aroma of Christ, it was initially the aroma of cookies and it brought people in. But as she would share those cookies, she would also share with whoever partook share the gospel.
She was especially known for writing moving and passionate letters to Baptists in the US to support missions. That more people would go out as missionaries, that those that didn't go would support with more money, and her letters home detailed China's hunger for truth and the struggle of so few missionaries taking the gospel to almost half a billion at that point, Chinese, in her day. And so she pleaded for more workers and for more money, and she once wrote home to what was called the Foreign Mission Board at that point, "Please say to the new missionaries that are coming that they are coming to a life of hardship, responsibility, and constant self-denial.” A life of sacrifice, disease, turmoil, lack of co-workers threatened to undo Lottie's work but she gave herself consistently to the work of the Lord, and she worked with others to help lay a foundation for a church of Christians in China that is really uncounted. We don't have any idea how many Chinese Christians there are, but we will know on Judgment Day what her labors, her sacrifices, and that of many others have done in the lives of the Chinese.
She died as a direct result of her self-denying, self-sacrificial life, as there was a famine in that part of China at that point, and she denied her own food to the point where it was beyond help as people knew that she was dying, but they knew it too late. The Woman's Missionary Union started The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 1918 to honor her sacrifices and to move Southern Baptists to similar sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering makes up more than half of the annual budget of the International Mission Board, so every dollar that we give to The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goes directly overseas to winning lost people.
Now, FBC's goal this year is $150,000. And it's our desire that every man, woman, and child, as a member of this church or involved in this church should weigh carefully what God is calling him or her to do, that we would pray about it, think about it, what level of sacrifice. It's easy... It's kind of out of sight, out of mind. It's easy for us to forget about missionaries, and it's easy for us to forget about people like we just saw in the video, who have no access to the gospel. They're living in countries where it's very, very hard to hear of Christ and we are called on to be people of faith. Who see invisible things and they press on our minds, we see not only those folks who are in different parts of the world, but we see ahead in time to what Judgment Day is going to be like, and we yearn that people be made ready to stand before God, having been cleansed from their sins through faith in the blood of Christ.
And so, our desire is to focus, and what I wanna do is root this Great Commission in the Scripture that you just heard Bob read for us, that we would understand that this is not some new thing that was thrown together, but it's been going on not just for 2000 years, but even before that, as Jesus says in Luke 24, it was founded on the Old Testament Scriptures. And so we're gonna walk through that today, and I want you to see how it's rooted in Scripture, and to understand the sacrifice, the central sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it's the center of the gospel. But then the lesser sacrifices that are essential to the spread of the gospel that our brothers and sisters have done who are willing to suffer and deprive themselves and go through difficulties so that lost people may hear of the gospel. And then thirdly, that each of us would weigh our own involvement in that and see what God is calling us to do.
I. Central Sacrifice of the Great Commission: The Death of the Christ
So let's zero in this morning as we begin on the central sacrifice of the Great Commission, the death of Jesus Christ. Now, the Great Commission is found in five different places at the end of each of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; each has their own version of the Great Commission. So he gave it multiple times slightly different language, and then again in the Book of Acts, that the disciples are responsible to move out from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth with the gospel. But we're gonna look at Luke 24 and look at verses 44-47, “And he said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled, that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written, that Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
So the centerpiece of the Great Commission, the centerpiece of the gospel is the death of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Now, picture in your mind this powerful poignant scene there in the upper room, Christ had died on the cross, the third day he came to life again. The women had just come back from the empty tomb. And they had declared it to be empty, they said that they had had an encounter with the resurrected Christ, and Jesus had told them to go to report to his brothers what they had seen and that he was risen, and they did so. The upper room where they were meeting together was the place where Jesus had had the last supper with his disciples just days before that. And so they were there in the Upper Room in Jerusalem with a tiny church, and now they were assembled there in fear and bewilderment. John's Gospel tells us that they were in there with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. So they were afraid of dying, they were afraid of being arrested, they were afraid of suffering the same faith that Jesus had being crucified.
Now, in Luke's Gospel, the reaction is emotional and powerful. Look at verses 36-43. “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, but they were startled and frightened, thinking that they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? Why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet, it is I myself. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see, I have’. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence.” So Jesus is offering them what Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, in Acts chapter 1, many convincing proofs that he was alive. And why did he have to do this? Because they couldn't seem to believe their eyes. It was too good to be true. You ever heard that expression before? It's just too good to be true.
You realize how essentially pessimistic that is. I mean, anything really good can't be true, but that's effectively what the text says. They could not believe it for joy. I mean, joy means it can't be true. “Friends, let me tell you something. Beyond your wildest dreams, God is gonna lavishly bless you for eternity in the new heaven and new earth. It's going to be greater than anything you can possibly imagine. In one sense, you could say the whole thing is turned around, it's too good not to be true. That's how good God is.”
" God is gonna lavishly bless you for eternity in the new heaven and new earth. It's going to be greater than anything you can possibly imagine."
But they couldn't believe it, and so he's got to give them all these convincing proofs. People just don't die and come to life again. It just doesn't happen. When somebody's dead, they stay dead. And so he's got to do all these things. He says, Look at my wounds, touch me and see, look at my hands, look at my feet. Do you have anything here to eat? So he eats some broiled fish. All of this physicality to prove that he had really physically been raised from the dead. That's the centerpiece. His death and his resurrection from the dead is the centerpiece of the gospel.
And then Jesus explains all of this and roots it in the prophetic writings. He roots it in Scripture. And why is that? Because none of us can touch him and see. We don't get to watch him chew and swallow broiled fish. We don't get to put our fingers in the nail marks. We're going to get it from Scripture or we're not gonna get it at all. And what Jesus shows us is that the Scripture's predated his birth. These things have been predicted, they'd been written about in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms. This was not new, any new thing, but the Lord had told ahead of time what he would do. Look at Verse 44, he said, “This is what I told you while I was still with you, everything must be fulfilled about me that is written in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.”
Now, without the direct work of almighty God on their minds and on yours and mine, we'll never believe it. We'll never believe it. Our hearts are so hardened in sin. We are so far from God. We are so, so corrupted and twisted, but because of our sins and the sins of the people we live around, it's hard for us to believe God's Word. We need him to work directly on our hardened hearts. And so look what it says in verse 45, what a marvelous verse. “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” I think that's something we should pray about as we have our quiet times, don't you think? As we go before the Lord and we open up the Bible, say, O God, through your Holy Spirit, would you just open my mind that I might understand the Scriptures? Help me to see what's written here so it's not just some empty words that don't mean anything to me. He opened their minds, and isn't it marvelous that he has that kind of power?
He actually has access to your mind, he has access to your heart, and he can open it up to his working through the Word of God. And so, he then roots his atonement in Scripture. Look at verse 46, “This is what is written, that Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” So all of this thing had been predicted in Scripture, God had planned it before the foundation of the world, but he had begun to pay out the truth little by little, right from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, how the serpent came and deceived Adam and Eve, and God cursed the serpent. And in Genesis 3:15, he said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you'll bruise his heel.” And so that was the prediction of how Jesus, by his death, would crush Satan who held the power of death. Genesis 3:15, that's right from the beginning, and then right after that comes the animal sacrificial system. Even that same day, as their eyes are open, they realized they were naked, God clothed them with animal skins so that in the next chapter, Abel began offering animal sacrifice. And so throughout the Old Testament, we have animals sacrifice, the blood of bulls and goats and sheep offered under the command of God, but all of them as a picture of Christ's blood sacrifice on the cross. And the lessons are very plain and clear. All sin deserves the death penalty. The death penalty can be paid by a substitute, but the substitute can't be an animal. It's just symbolic. Those were the lessons of the animal sacrificial system, but it was all written there in the Law of Moses.
And we have the story, of course, of the Exodus. Remember the 10 dreadful plagues that persuaded Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go out of bondage into the freedom of the promised land? And the last plague was the most dreadful, the most terrible, the plague on the firstborn. And God commanded the Jewish people that they should sacrifice the Passover Lamb, they should kill the lamb and paint its blood on the doorpost and on the lintel of their doors, and the angel of death would see the blood and pass over and would not bring the righteous judgment of God on the sinners inside that house. For all have sinned, the Jews had sinned too, but God had provided for an atoning sacrifice.
And so that taught a very important lesson, and it's important for the Great Commission, that our salvation comes in two basic steps: Redemption accomplished and applied. The redemption is accomplished by the blood sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world once for all, never to be repeated. Never needs to be repeated. That's why it's different than the animal sacrifices that had to be repeated endlessly year after year. But Jesus once for all died in our place. That's redemption accomplished, and Jesus said, It is finished, and that's it. Nothing more needed.
But then step two, the blood has to be spiritually painted on individual sinners, the redemption has to be applied, and that happens by the Great Commission, it happens by evangelism and missions, by people who have the message of the gospel traveling, it might be just across the office, it might be across the street in evangelism, or it could be to the ends of the earth in missions, and take that message of the gospel and apply it so that people hear it and believe, and the blood gets spiritually applied to us and we are forgiven of our sins. And he said All of that was predicted in the Law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms.
II. The Great Commission Stated Plainly
You heard the text that Jason read, Isaiah 53, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him, on Christ, the iniquity of us all.” That's written seven centuries before Jesus was born. So Jesus lays out these Scriptures for them. Everything that was planned and then written about in the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. And so that is the deliverance of the world from sin, the shedding of the blood of Christ once for all, and then the application of that message to the Great Commission. And the Great Commission stated plainly, look at verse 46-48, he told them, “This is what is written, that Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
So Christ has entrusted to his disciples the proclamation of the gospel message. Look carefully at the words, repentance, and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations. There is one Savior, one redeemer, the Christ whose blood alone atones for sin, but this one message of the one redemption has to be taken to distant parts of the earth. And Jesus says, You are witnesses of these things. Now, witnesses, they were eyewitnesses. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there in the upper room with the early church. And I think a lot of that information we get that we... This time of year, as we read in Luke chapter 2 about the birth of Jesus probably came humanly speaking through Mary, as she shared the experiences that she had as a virgin, bringing the only begotten Son of God, fully man, fully God into this world. You're witnesses of these things, of how he lived a sinless life among them, and how he did great signs and wonders. There was no healing he could not do, there was no... Nothing too difficult for him.
He gave great displays of power like stilling the storm and feeding the 5000, all these incredible miracles. You are witnesses of these things. You saw them with your own eyes, and you saw me die on the cross, you saw me dead, and you saw me now, you're seeing me now physically raised from the dead. You are witnesses of these things. These facts are essential to the gospel, and repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. Oh, what glorious good news that is for all of us. All of us, if we repent of our sins, turn away from darkness, turn away from wickedness and turn to God; if we repent of our sins, forgiveness of sins will be ours through faith in Christ. Not by works, but by simple faith. That's the gospel, and that message will be preached in his name to the ends of the earth. That's the Great Commission.
Now, the Great Commission was written in the Old Testament, not just that Christ would die, but that the message would be carried by messengers from Jerusalem through Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. That was predicted too. From the original call of Abraham, where God says, I will bless those who bless you. I'll curse whoever curses you, and through your offspring, all peoples on earth will be blessed. Peoples means nations. So from the calling of the Jewish nation, God had intended to bless all nations on earth. And then Psalm 2 in verse 8, “Where God the Father says to the Son, Ask of me and I'll give you the nations as your inheritance. The ends of the earth, your possession.” That's in the Psalms.
And then at the end of Isaiah 66. I love this verse. This is one of these Great Commission verses. Listen to this, Isaiah 66:19, "I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive," some of the remnants, "to the nations, to Tarshish," that's in Spain, "to the Libyans," North Africa and Lydians, Central Asia, famous as archers, to Tubal and Greece. And listen to this, "to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. And they will proclaim my glory among the nations." Isaiah 66:19, the Great Commission was written. Jesus said, "This is what is written, repentance and forgiveness of sins we preached to the ends of the earth."
So only as this gospel is proclaimed can people in those distant lands, like we saw in that video, hear the Gospel message and believe. But the power of the Great Commission always has been the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We wouldn't have moved... As a church, we would not have moved out of the upper room if it weren't for the power of the Holy Spirit. Even after seeing evidence of Jesus's conquest of death, a week later, they're still in the upper room with the doors locked. And Jesus said, "You must stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high. You're gonna receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. Again and again, our brothers and sisters that have stepped out in faith and have traveled through the centuries to distant lands to share the gospel have testified it was only by the compulsion of the spirit in their hearts that they left behind their friends and family and went to dangerous places.
III. The Subsequent Sacrifices of the Great Commission
The Spirit moved them. Now, you may say, "I don't feel like I'm called to be a missionary." Maybe you're not. Not many are called to actually go to cross-cultural settings and do that, not many, but some. But we are, all of us, called to travel from point A to point B. Like I said, it could be across an office to an unsaved co-worker. And you may feel, "I don't think I can do that." Well, it's the same feeling. It's the same fear. It's the same Holy Spirit that enables us, driven and compelled by love to share the Gospel with people. You receive power, and you'll be my witnesses. Since that time, it's been a river of sacrifice. Brothers and sisters have been willing to lay it on the line to take the Gospel from Jerusalem, through Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. They've been willing to sacrifice.
It's amazing, Jesus was a prophet. He made predictions. And he said, "This thing here, 120 in the upper room, is not gonna stay here. It's going to go to the ends of the earth." Now, a prophet has to be vindicated by his predictions coming true. Well, that prediction has famously come true. There is not a political nation on earth represented at the United Nations in which there is not a church of Jesus Christ with people assembling to meet and worship Christ. There are hundreds of millions of Christians spread all over the Earth. His words have come true. It's not done yet, but His words have come true. His prediction has happened. In every generation, the Holy Spirit sees to it that Jesus's name is the most famous human name on earth. There is no more famous human being than Jesus in every generation. The Holy Spirit sees to it. Better than any PR department getting the name of some rock star out, that fades like grass within two or three generations. Every generation, Jesus is the greatest name because the Holy Spirit sees to it. This has happened.
Now, when I look at the prediction of the distant islands, I thought, "I wonder what the most distant island is." So bear with me for the next few moments as I Googled, "Where is the farthest place from Jerusalem on planet Earth?" Remember, it's a globe, so if you go around too far, it goes back the other way. So I've asked numbers of friends. Some of them said "LA" for a lot of reasons. Others, "Alaska," different things. Well, are you ready? The most distant island on planet Earth are the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. The Pitcairn, you say, "What is that?" Have you ever heard of "Mutiny on the Bounty"? It was a movie. And some mutineers went and they overthrew Captain Bligh, and they took over. And they knew that they were gonna get hunted down by the British Navy, and so they were looking for someplace.
They stumbled upon some uncharted island about 1500 miles southeast of Tahiti. It is 11,305 miles from Jerusalem. Now, you'd say, "Well, that doesn't count, Pastor, there were no people there when they landed." But they landed there, and they had some battles within themselves. There was some murder that took place. And the few that were left repented of their sins and started reading the Bible and set up a flourishing, strong Christian community that's still there. And a whaler came 18 years later, just saw this uncharted island, went ashore to see if there's any water, and found a church and Christians there praising God.
You just say, "Alright, but that was inhabited. What about any habited islands?" Yes, New Zealand is the farthest inhabited island. And the history of the Gospel in New Zealand is fascinating. How it was first discovered by an explorer named Tasman, and he eventually gave his name to Tasmania. And he prayed over those islands, that God's purpose would be done there. James Cook came over a century, more a century and a half later, prayed about the same prayer. Eventually, God sent some missionaries. And they took on the fierce Maori people, who were war-like cannibals, and won many of them to faith in Christ. A marvelous story. And so you have Christ's church there in Auckland and those areas. That's as far as it gets from Jerusalem. And God's Word has been fulfilled.
Now, in every generation, the church has advanced the Gospel at very high cost. It's been a trail of blood, brothers, and sisters, a trail of blood. And Paul saw it coming. It was already happening in his own life. In Colossians, Chapter 1, Verse 24 and 25, he said, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness." That's my commission. And he's fulfilling it by writing the letter to the Colossians. But he had not been there. He didn't plant that church. And he said, "I rejoice in what was suffered by the men and women that did come with the message of the Gospel. And they suffered, and I rejoice in that suffering. And I'm filling up in my flesh what's lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body."
What does that mean? Careful of blasphemy here. There's nothing lacking in redemption accomplished. It was accomplished once for all. But what's lacking is the second step, it has to be applied. And that takes suffering. And Paul says, "I rejoice in that suffering. I rejoice in it."
Now, the Gospel spread. Initially, the persecutors were unbelieving Jews who had not yet crossed over to faith in Christ, and so they kick people out of their synagogues, and they wouldn't buy and sell from them. They arrested them, even beat some of them. Read about it in the Book of Acts. But then the Romans took over and began persecuting. And for a couple of centuries, there was on and off persecution by the Roman emperors and by the Roman authorities. Even spilling our brothers' and sisters' blood in the sands of the Colosseum until at last that ended with Constantine's conversion, hope it was genuine, in 312. And Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Remarkable proof of the spread of the Gospel. Whether he was genuinely converted or not, he saw it at least politically expedient to declare himself a Christian. Incredible, in a very short amount of time. But the Gospel didn't stop there. It continued to spread among the barbarian tribes, tribes of Germania. They're terrifying, militaristic. And missionaries went out and were willing to suffer and even die to bring those Germanic-speaking people to faith in Christ. And up to the islands of what we call the British Isles, Britannia, and again, the fierce peaks in the Scottish Highlands, being willing to take on courageously tribal chieftains that would have and were ready to slaughter them. But they won many of them to Christ. This has been going on in every generation.As it says in John 12:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit."
And so that has been the principle, Christians willing to lay down their lives, willing to die for the spread of the gospel. Now, for me, I love missionary hero stories. I just love reading about people like Lottie Moon or others. I especially like stories I haven't heard. So that's hard to Google. "Stories Andy Davis hasn't heard yet on missions" came up empty. But there is one book I was reading recently of a number of missionaries I had never heard of. And one of them, amazingly, was a man named James Gilmore in the 19th century, who was a missionary to Mongolia.
I really believe we just saw mission work among the Mongolians. They just said Central Asia, they didn't say exactly, but those yurts are Mongolian style. And I wonder if those brothers and sisters are from Mongolia. I don't know for sure, but I know this, that James Gilmore, a Scottish missionary to Mongolia, suffered as much as any, just the physical deprivations of working in such a hostile land. The land itself is vast. It's about the size of the American West. And this man just went on foot, sometimes walking, hiking up to 40 miles a day on foot. He originally began as a missionary in China, but then went into the northern regions, to the Mongolians. And they're very spread out. They're herdsmen, and they move around. Their yurts, their tents travel.
And so he went from place to place. It's a cold land. Sometimes the temperatures plummet as low as 40 degrees below zero. He endured long spells of hunger and thirst on his treks. His target people, the Mongolians, dwelled in filthy, vermin-infested yurts. They were very nasty places. And he would go in there, and he would share the Gospel. He would seek to win them from animism and Buddhism, Lamaistic Buddhism. And they were very... A lot of them struggled with drunkenness, with violence, with thievery. And as he would witness to them, he would do rudimentary medical care, basic medical things like extracting bad teeth and other things like that. He was not a trained medical worker, but he knew some basic things, and people would come and he would care for them. And he would share simple Bible stories and the simple life of Jesus, His death on the cross, His resurrection.
And he was there for four years of diligent sacrificial labor, James Gilmore. In 1874, he could not count a single convert, and he went beyond that. There was not even a single person that he felt was interested in the Gospel. Imagine doing that kind of work for four years. But he was concerned that no Mongolian he ever talked to did not come to faith in Christ because of a lack of clear, passionate proclamation of the Gospel. That's what he said. He wanted to be certain no Mongolian would be justified in pitching into us for not pitching into them more savagely. Listen to that, pitching into them savagely, for not, in fact, taking them by the cuff of the neck and dragging them into the kingdom.
Sounds a little like a frustrated missionary after a while, but sharing the Gospel, it's like, "I'm gonna drag you into the kingdom." But there's no physical place to go. It has to be by hearing and believing. And after four years, no response. He left for a short time and then came back in 1884. And he finally won his first convert. He was in a dirty Mongolian tent. There was a fire in the center of the tent. There's generally smoke in there, but this was unusually bad because an outsider came in and started stirring up the smoldering log, filling the yurt with noxious smoke. And so he was getting as low as he could to just get some air in the tent. But then out of the cloud... He couldn't even see the man. Out of the cloud, this man spoke, "I have for months been a learner of Jesus Christ, and now I am ready to trust Him."
Gilmore said of that moment, "The place was as beautiful to me as the gate of heaven, and the words of the confession of Christ from out of that cloud of smoke were as inspiring to me as if they had been spoken by an angel from out of the cloud of glory." They left the yurt. They walked together for 23 miles, talking about Christian theology. You have a 23-mile walk with a man, what are you gonna tell him? So he did basic Christian follow-up. They hugged each other. They knelt together and prayed. And then as far as I know, James Gilmore never saw that man again. Gilmore continued to travel in native fashion. He walked everywhere. He ate porridge. He lived on equivalent of about six cents a day. During one eight-month stretch, he preached to almost 24,000 people, sold 3000 Christian books, saw about 6000 patients with rudimentary medical treatments, distributed 4500 tracks, traveled almost 1900 miles, spent about $200 on himself for his own needs, and reported that in all of that, only two individuals came to faith in Christ.
So as I look at that, I think, "Pastor, couldn't you have chosen a more triumphant story?" There are many more triumphant stories, but do you not see the grace of God in that? His relentless commitment to share even if he doesn't get the response. That's all we're called to do. You can't grab someone by the scruff of the neck and drag them into the kingdom, but we can, at great cost, be willing to take the message to them. He reminds me of what it says in that hall of faith in Hebrews 11:37-38, "They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground."
IV. The Heavenly Celebrations Awaiting These Sacrifices
Now, I believe when we get to heaven, we're going to celebrate brothers and sisters that sacrifice like Lottie Moon and like James Gilmore. We're gonna celebrate them. And you have, and so do I, a massive education waiting for you on the history of missions. And you're not gonna be bored at all because I really believe God's gonna not just tell you about it, but show it to you. And you're gonna get to know them, these heroes, and all of them are going to testify that whatever glory they have for their sacrificial service belongs to Christ. And they're going to lay their crowns before Jesus.
As I was doing leaves a couple of days ago, I was thinking about these hero stories and brothers and sisters and the honor that's gonna come in heaven to them. But I was also thinking about that song "God and God Alone" by Steve Green. And I was thinking, "All the glory goes to him." And these heroes and heroines are gonna say that. They're gonna cast their crowns, all of them, before the Lord. And I thought about that scene in Revelation, chapter 5, where the scroll is in the right hand of God Almighty. He sits on the throne. And a search is made in heaven and earth and under the Earth, and no one is found who is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, except Jesus.
And so we're gonna celebrate and honor the sacrifices that were made. We're going to rightly celebrate them. We're gonna learn. We're not gonna feel jealous of them. We're gonna honor them, even if they are greater sacrifices than our own. And many of them will be greater than our own. And they'll have a greater place of glory than we do. But all glory goes to Christ, so there is no one like him, and his alone is the glory of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone had the right to take the scroll and open its seals.
Now, I read other stories, and they're exciting. You wanna hear some of them? Come to me afterwards, and I'll tell you more. One particular man in Japan left during the period in the middle of the 19th century, when it was illegal for Japanese to leave Japan. They couldn't leave their own country. He had come across the track, had become a Christian. He wanted to get theologically trained. His name is Joseph Nisima. He was in the bottom of a boat that was a junk, that was traveling to China, and he hid under some ropes. And he eventually went to Andover Seminary, right near where I went to seminary, was theologically trained, went back to Japan and set up a school for boys, and led hundreds of Japanese boys to faith in Christ. I can't wait to meet him. I was a missionary, my wife and I were missionaries in Japan. And it's hard work there, very slow, not a lot of converts.
Then there's George Mackay, who worked in Formosa, now known as Taiwan, among some headhunters who collected the heads of their victims. This guy went up into the mountainous regions of Formosa, Taiwan, and shared the Gospel in tents in which their heads strung together, all around there. And they liked him because, like James Gilmore, he was good at extracting bad teeth. So that's very painful, and so he's able to pull it out and alleviate their pain, they're willing to listen to the gospel. And he led a number of them to faith in Christ. So those were sacrifices that have been made. People that are willing to go into dangerous places and share the gospel. The question that's in front of us now, this month and really year-round, not just because of the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, but because we're Christians, because we read the Scripture, we see it. We can feel what it was like to be in the upper room. What are we called to do?
V. A Call for You to Sacrifice for the Great Commission
And it always must begin with prayer. Start by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice and saying, "Lord, what am I to do for unreached people groups? What involvement do you want me to have?" One of the benefits we have of being in this church is we have a number of friends that are serving amongst unreached people groups right now. If you wanna know their names, come to any of the elders or church members, we'll tell you who they are and what people groups they're working with. You can pray for them. And in this day and age, we can even stay in contact with them and ask how we can pray for them this week. The home fellowships have adopted missionaries. Be faithful in praying for them. Find out what their needs are, so we can be praying and lifting them up. You know how Paul says that we should join our brothers and sisters that are in prison as if we were in prison with them. Well, I think the same mentality, we can join people in their struggles for missions as if we are fellow missionaries with them through prayer.
“We can join people in their struggles for missions as if we are fellow missionaries with them through prayer.”
Secondly, financial giving. I'm very well aware that a couple of weeks ago, I urged you to consider your involvement in the More than a Building campaign, and that continues to be a need. We borrowed money, and we're going to pay it back at interest. The sooner you can give, the less money and interest we'll pay. It'll be better for the Kingdom. And that's still true, but I think we have enough bandwidth, don't we, to also think about missions. We have enough bandwidth to say, "There's that, but there's also unreached people groups." And we have the chance, as Southern Baptists, to give money directly to brothers and sisters that are gonna go and serve into the distant most parts of the earth. We can share through them financially in giving. So just go before the Lord and say, "Lord, what do you want me to give to unreached people group missions?"
And then finally, go. So what does this mean? It means look for opportunities to go. We have a mission trip going to Taiwan. I don't know if there are any openings on that, but we're gonna be regularly going overseas on short-term mission trips. But there may be some of you that God may be calling. No matter what stage of life you're in, it's amazing how many opportunities there are, how many pathways there are to go and serve overseas. One family, the Hausons, were sitting in pews just like you folks. He had a successful consulting business, consulting job, and was doing very well, but God called him out of that to go do business missions in North Africa. And he's serving now. I talk to him every other week and get prayer requests from him. God called him out of a situation just like you guys are in, sitting there in the pew, to serve in cross-cultural missions. So what is God calling you to do? What will you be glad that you did when you get to Judgment Day? What will you be eternally glad that you did in heaven? What can we celebrate for the glory of God? What sacrifices are you willing to make?
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the Word of God. We thank you for what it does in our hearts and our minds. Thank you for how the Great Commission is a timeless work. It is something that you planned before the foundation of the world, that Christ would be slain for the elect. From before the foundation of the world, that plan was made. And now, the call on us, that central sacrifice has been once for all made, now you're calling us to other sacrifices, that the gospel might be applied to those who, right now, as I speak, are not yet Christians. And so I pray, O Lord, that you would please call us to willing, cheerful sacrifice for the spread of the gospel. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.