When we were kids, my brother and I loved watching movies with our dad. To my mother’s consternation, there were certain movies we liked watching over and over again. One of these was The Magnificent Seven, in which a Mexican village is continually attacked by a ruthless gang of bandits. So the villagers approach a gunfighter, played by Yul Brynner (the Eastern European gunfighter, a very big deal in the Old West), to defend them. The gunfighter then recruits a team of righteous outlaws to help him overthrow the forces of evil, men like Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but The Magnificent Seven is actually a remake of a Japanese film, The Seven Samurai. That same theme has been repeated over and over again in movie history; an elite team of heroes is assembled to use their various skills and cunning to rescue the helpless and destroy evil—think of The Avengers last summer. And so it was that when the God of the Universe wanted to rescue this world, He formed a team of His own. Only He could redeem us from our sins, but He chose twelve men to form the most significant movement in human history, an army who would take the saving message of redemption to the uttermost parts of the Earth. Luke 6 tells us that Jesus chose them after spending an entire night alone in prayer. This was no casual decision. He wanted only the right men on His team. Today, we know those men’s names well. We name our sons after them, as well as cities, universities, and hospitals. And we are part of the movement they began, a religion that claims up to 1/3 of the world’s population. Christianity has changed our world more than any other human movement. For a very simple example, think about what year it is: It’s 2013 years since the presumed date of Jesus’ birth. Christianity gave rise to concepts that are key to the way we live, such as the university system, public education, hospitals, and ideas like the responsibility of a society to care for the weak, and the full personhood of children. As Christians, we believe Christianity’s greatest contribution to mankind has been spreading the saving message of Jesus Christ so that millions are experiencing eternal life today; but even if you don’t believe that, you have to admit that the world is a better place because of what began with those 12 men chosen by our Lord.
But there’s still pervasive evil in our world. What is God’s plan? The plan hasn’t changed; He continues to assemble His team. In every generation, He seeks men and women who will follow in the footsteps of those original Twelve to penetrate the darkness with courage and compassion, rescuing the world for Him. That’s us. We are His elite team. Jesus is sending you and me out today to do what those first disciples did. Someday, each of us is going to stand in judgment before Him. And thank God, our salvation is not in question; that has been settled at the cross for all who believe. But as Jesus said in the parable of the talents, He our master has left us with certain opportunities, and when He comes back, He’ll want to know what we’ve done with those opportunities. I don’t want to be the one who buried my stuff in the ground and lived for myself. I want to represent Him well. That’s what I’ll be preaching about all this year: Representing Christ in a Non-Christian Culture. About mid-way through last year, when I started to think this was the direction we needed to go in 2013, I started asking you and some Christian friends outside of WBC “What are the main obstacles we face in trying to represent Christ well?” I got some great feedback. Then I spent the better part of a week alone in a house Carrie’s sister owns in the Hill Country. Brutally suffering for Christ, in other words. I spent those days studying the people in Scripture who represented the Lord well in times of moral uncertainty and rampant unbelief. What were the characteristics that God used in their lives to enable them to change the world for good? What do we need to do in order to live out those same characteristics, to live in a way that is compelling and transformational to everyone we see?
I came up with a preaching schedule for 2013 called Mission Impossible: Representing Christ in a Non-Christian Culture. This Sunday, we'll kick it off by looking at what Jesus required of His original 12 disciples...and what He still requires of you and me. Here's a basic outline of the rest of the year's schedule:
1-13: The Job Description that Changes Everything. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
1-20: When Moral Standards Are Collapsing, 2 Timothy 2:24-25, 1 Corinthians 6:19-21.
1-27: In the Marketplace of Gods, Acts 17:16-34.
2-3: When our Faith is Unpopular, John 15:18-21, 16:1-3, 1 Peter 3:15-16, 4:12-19.
2-10: When We Doubt Our Own Beliefs, Matthew 11:1-15.
2-17: When We Feel Weak and Discouraged, 1 Kings 19:1-18.
(Mid-February through March) Call on His Name: A Study of Prayer in the Names of Jesus.
(April through early May) Boldness: Storming Hell with a Water Pistol
(Late May through June) Irresistible Holiness: A Study of Colossians
(July) Unshakeable Faith
(August through early September) Hope: What the World is Looking For
(Mid-September through early November) Be the Church: A Study of Rev. 2-3
(Mid-November through Christmas)Wisdom: Being Good at Life