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Monday, September 5, 2011

Power and Authority for Ministry (Luke 9.1-6,10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 4, 2011
Some Music Used 

 Prelude : "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" (Martin)
Song of Praise: "Days of Elijah" (Robin Mark)
The Word in Music: "Accepting His Call" (Billy Howell)
Song of Response: "Fill Me Now" (Hansen/Peppin)
Offering of Music: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (Sanborn)
Hymn of Sending: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (CORONATION)
Postlude: "Menuet Gothique" (Boellmann)

The Word in Music
Accepting His Call - by Billy Howell

O I know I could do so much for you
Telling the world about, the kingdom that you made
Saving the lost you called, believers to share your name
Give me strength to be, a brother to the weak
Out on the streets, Is where we belong, Sharing bread, Like Jesus would
I know we all have someone
That needs to hear about the Good Lord
Stand up, Save the lost unknown
That need to hear about the Good Lord
O help me, Jesus, to reach for hands in need
Pulling them in to you, showing love and grace for you
Feeding the soul of those, who need to know your face
Give me the strength to be, a brother to the weak

Power and Authority for Ministry
Text: Luke 9:1-6,10

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

For the last two weeks we have looked in Luke 8 at stories about Jesus’ power and authority. We saw his power and authority over the natural powers of this world when he calmed the wind and the waves with a word. We saw his power and authority over the spiritual kingdom of this world when his presence drove the demons from the man in the tombs. We saw his power and authority over health and holiness when he healed the woman with a flow of blood and publicly declared her clean. And we saw his power and authority, even over life and death, when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead as if simply waking her from sleep.

It is easy to simply see those as isolated stories of healing and help, which are miraculous and fantastic enough. And we surely should pray for help in trouble, sickness, spiritual struggle, and as we deal with death. But over and above, around and through, and under and beneath, those four stories all resounded with the single mind and faith-stretching theme that God the Father has bestowed all power and authority in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth upon Jesus the Son, so that the scripture from Philippians 2:9-11 might be demonstrated:
For this reason [his humble obedience], God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Last week we were called to the same point as the disciples in the boat during the wind and the waves… not praising Jesus for the answer to prayer (to calm the storm), but “fearful and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?’” (Luke 8:25)

Reminded of Jesus’ comprehensive power and authority over all things, it is startling to read the very next passage. The next thing he does is what is recorded in today’s text. Jesus “called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and heal diseases… and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (Luke 9:1-2) Do you hear the connection and can you guess where I am going? Jesus, the one with all the power and authority, gave some of that same power and authority to his followers so that they could do ministry in His name. So also, Jesus has empowered and authorized us, as His followers, to engage in ministry in His name.

I want to look with you at the specific nature of the ministry which He authorized, and also at what it means to minister with the power and authority of Jesus. 

To Proclaim the Kingdom of God

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority. Now interestingly, the wording in verse one doesn’t line up exactly with the task he sent them to do in verse two. He gave them power and authority “over all the demons and to heal diseases.” (v. 1) And he sent them “to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (v. 2) So the healing parts line up, but what about the first part? What does authority over demons have to do with the Kingdom of God?

Well we talked about that two weeks ago. When Jesus stepped onto the shore and encountered the man with the demons, it wasn’t just about casting them out, but about a conflict of kingdoms. Jesus came to announce the coming the Kingdom of God, and he represented the vanguard or first tangible presence of that Kingdom breaking into the kingdom of this world. Though I don’t doubt that Jesus gave the disciples the ability to cast out demonic spirits, it is helpful to understand that behind that miraculous and unfamiliar action is the powerful declaration that “Jesus is come” and “this one belongs to him.” The power wasn’t magic power that resided in the disciples, but the power of Jesus’ name – the name at which every knee will bow. THAT is the authority to which demons would yield and that is what “power over all the demons” represents. That is why “proclaiming the Kingdom of God” equates with “power and authority over all the demons.” They are one and the same.

I remember being a child and being very afraid of Satan or demonic spirits. And my mother comforted me with the very truth contained in this verse. I didn’t have to have any special power of my own, but simply to trust and rest in the power of Jesus over the whole spiritual realm. If I trust in Christ, I belong to him and his kingdom, and Satan cannot have me. 

To Perform Healing

While authority over demons might have sounded like the more exotic power at first pass, it is actually the healing of diseases that is harder to understand and relate to today. And yet, Jesus also sent the disciples out with the power and authority to heal diseases. Does this still happen?

I believe it does, but healing has been confused by at least three things. First, it has been falsified and abused, especially for the sake of manipulating fears and profiting. Secondly, I think we often lack the faith to either experience or recognize God’s healing, and the first issue (of fake-healing) only increases the skepticism and doubt. Thirdly, I would remind you of the connection between this text back and the preceding chapter. There Jesus healed the woman with the flow of blood when she demonstrated extraordinary faith… but her healing was not the focus of his ministry to her, but the restoration of her humanity and holiness. Our misplaced emphasis on GETTING from God may cause us to miss the point and perhaps the healing as well. Which is more important – the healing of disease or the healing of our soul? May we hear and receive the Good News of the forgiveness of sin and not turn healing into a sideshow or distraction from our deeper spiritual need.

Having said all that, and even in the face of modern science and rationalism, I have heard stories of healing which I have no reason to doubt, and I have prayed for healing for people and believe those prayers to have been answered, not in any “I see bones suddenly knitting together” way, but in nonetheless miraculous ways. 

Whose Strength?

The next part of the text (vv. 3-5) is interesting. Jesus gives them some further instruction about how to go about this ministry. “Take nothing with you… stay in houses… shake the dust off if some don’t receive you.” What stands out to me is the disconnect between being granted the greatest power and authority in the universe and being sent in such poverty and dependence. But that’s Jesus, right? That same glorious passage in Philippians that describes the power and authority bestowed on Jesus flows out of a description of his humility and obedience to the Father.
“…although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men…. [and] He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
That great contrast between the power and authority granted and the humility of spirit and person is also the key for us understanding this text for ourselves.

We read about healing and demons and even about proclaiming the Kingdom of God and think, “No way I can do any of that stuff!” And that is PRECISELY the point and the truth. Neither you nor I can do any of those things on our own power or authority. What a picture of the mission-focused church is here! Is it gather a crowd, build a budget, construct a building, make a name for yourselves, and people will come from far and wide? Not at all! It is “Go out with nothing but Jesus!”

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s later letter to the Corinthians:
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
So where do I think we will see the power and authority of Jesus in Charlotte, 2011?

I think we will see it when ordinary Christians are willing to speak and act in the name of Jesus in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and daily life. I think we will see it as we seek to be a church that focuses on being a good neighbor more than making a name for ourselves. I think we will see the power and authority of Jesus – to declare God’s Kingdom and bring healing to people’s lives – the more we turn our gaze outward and upward to those in need all around us.

Do we need a lot of money, fancy buildings, the latest technology, or anything else impressive? No, all we need is the Good News and the power and authority of Jesus Christ. And we have that with inexhaustible measure! 

Called and Sent and Back Again (vv. 1,2,6,10)

Finally, I want to point out all the action words in this passage.

Jesus CALLED (v. 1)
Jesus GAVE (v. 1)
Jesus SENT (v. 2)
Jesus SAID (v. 3)

The disciples were described as DEPARTING, GOING, PREACHING, and HEALING (v. 6)

And then in v. 10 we read that the twelve RETURNED and GAVE AN ACCOUNT (v. 10).

Jesus not only gathered, equipped, and sent them out, but gathered them in again.

This is our pattern for church. We desire to gather you for worship, equip you for service, send you into mission, and then repeat the cycle. We miss this crucial pattern if we only gather to worship once a week and it doesn’t bear on the rest of our lives. We miss this crucial pattern if we try to be lone-ranger Christians or otherwise don’t seek out gathering in worship with others. We miss this crucial pattern if we aren’t giving you the tools and training to serve God in the world. And we miss the crucial pattern if we only think of ministers and missionaries as those who are sent to serve the Lord.

You are the church – you, the people of God. And just as Jesus did with his disciples, God has called you together into this place that you might be equipped and sent back out.

So we will gather at the Table, having been fed by God’s Word and then the Sacrament. And then God will send you out – each of you – with the power and authority of Jesus Christ to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God: Jesus is come, full of healing, grace, and truth. All we have is Jesus; all we need is Jesus! Amen.

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