Today we’re going to talk about what we’re supposed to be doing. I think we should talk about it for two reasons. First off because Jesus talks about it in today’s Scripture. But also because not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing stinks.
I didn’t fully appreciate this until I got my first real church job as the “Assistant Pastor” at a church near my seminary. “Assistant Pastor” for a seminary student often means youth ministry and then a sampling of everything a pastor does. I showed up for my first Monday in the office, arranged the things on my desk, turned on the laptop and…
And what? What was I supposed to do for 14 hours a week? I had no idea. I don’t remember them handing me a job description; instead, they gave me a lot of love and encouragement and set me loose to “assistant pastor,” whatever that meant.
But before long I found myself pretty busy. People needed visiting, youth retreats needed planning, Sunday School needed teaching, sermons needed writing, United Methodist Women’s events needed attending… And then I found myself faced with a different but similar question: What I am really supposed to be doing? 14 hours get filled really quickly. Am I spending them doing the right things?
As our lives reopen after pandemic, there’s a good chance you’re also wondering what you’re supposed to be doing. Maybe your schedule is wide-open and you’re eager to fill it with the right stuff. Or maybe your schedule has already, somehow, over-filled itself again – and you’re questioning whether you’re using your one, precious life to do the right things.
Well – good news! Wonder no more – because when Jesus left his disciples he gave them the very thing I wanted as an assistant pastor:
A solid job description.
What – you didn’t hear that in today’s Scripture? The job title, the qualifications, the basic responsibilities?
Oh, well – let’s go back and look at that again, then.
Today’s Scripture is essentially like a good job summary, the kind of opening paragraph you’d put at the top of a job description:
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).
From this, we get the title of the job: “Witness.” We also get the basic duties, which I’m tempted to dive right into. That’s what we’re hungry for right – some direction, a better understanding of what we’re supposed to be doing?
But wait: before the duties comes the qualifications. And for good reason. If you’re applying for a job and you see “Four years’ experience in experimental physics” as a requirement and your only previous employment is in a flower shop, then you probably need not apply. So let’s see what’s required to be a witness of Jesus Christ:
- Knowledge of Scripture as it relates to Jesus Christ
- Belief that Jesus died and rose from the dead
- Experience in repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name
So as much as we want meaning and purpose and direction for our lives – if we want to be “employed” by Jesus, first we need to ask ourselves if we’ve got the basic qualifications. The good news is that anyone and everyone can be qualified. Anyone and everyone. Remember Romans 5:8? “…while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Christ has done the hard work for us; we just have to accept it and live into it.
First – a knowledge of Scripture as it relates to Jesus Christ. This can be an intimidating one, because it implies that you need to know everything about the Bible. As one who has studied the Bible a lot – in the classroom and out – let me tell you: I don’t know everything about Scripture, and yet God still uses me to be a witness. That’s because Scripture is double inspired: inspired when written, and inspired when read. Even if you don’t know this book inside and out, even if you don’t know Greek or Hebrew, even if you don’t understand every single part, the Holy Spirit can still work through it as you read it to teach you more about Jesus.
But, as they say, grace is not contrary to effort. If you’re not spending any time reading Scripture, then the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a chance to speak to you through it. If you need a place to start, remember that we have daily suggested Scripture readings (with some questions to prompt reflection) to go along with each worship service. You can start this week by setting aside 10 minutes each day to dig into this first basic qualification for being a witness of Jesus Christ.
Second, to be a witness of Jesus requires a knowledge that he suffered and rose from the dead. This is a pretty incredible event. Scripture tells us that there were plenty of eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection – but we’re still living 2,000 years removed from the original event. Knowing this about Jesus will mean believing it, feeling its truth in your gut.
Have you ever had to sell something you didn’t believe in? I worked at an outdoor store for a while, selling snowboards. I’m pretty passionate about snowboarding, so it was pretty easy to get other people excited about it. I liked my job. Every now and then they’d be short handed in the mountain bike department and I’d have to sub in over there. I did not like my job on those days. I didn’t care about mountain bikes, didn’t know much about them. It was almost impossible to sell a product I didn’t believe in.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is like that. If you don’t know it – know it in your gut, believe it to be true – then it’s going to be hard to “witness” about it to anyone else.
If you feel stuck here, you’re not alone. It took me a while to really believe an event so miraculous. I had to spend a lot of time asking questions and seeking answers. I spent a lot of time praying and wrestling with God about it. Eventually I started to feel it. I still had some doubts and questions, but it I also had this gut feeling that Jesus truly did rise from the dead. That this was real.
So if you’re wrestling with whether Jesus really was who he said he was – keep wrestling. Jesus can use you before you come to 100% confidence, but know that this is an important point. Keep praying and asking and seeking.
Finally, we get to a most important qualification: previous experience in repentance and forgiveness.
This is the heart of the matter. It’s what Christ offers us that unlocks a whole new way of living. In other words, it’s the good news itself. And if we don’t have a personal experience with it, we can’t very well witness about it.
It’s like if I got accused of a crime and I asked a friend, “Hey, would you be a witness that I was home by myself on Friday night?” Well – no. That wouldn’t work. As they say, that won’t hold up in court. Or how about this: let’s say I asked a random person, “Hey, would you go tell other people about the lifechanging experience I had at summer camp when I was a kid?” Well, no – that won’t work either. To be a witness, you have to be there.
So the same is true for us: if we want to be Jesus’ witnesses, then we need to have actually seen the repentance and forgiveness that Jesus offers. We need a personal experience of it.
It might help to know what to look for, so let’s break it down for a moment:
Repentance is making a 180 degree turn away from one thing and toward another. You’re turning your life away from the bad and toward the good. Turning away from what is life-killing and toward what is life-giving. Turning away from the sin that keeps us from God and toward God revealed in Jesus Christ. When we’re able to make that kind of turn – to unlock ourselves from sin and lean into the freedom of serving Christ – it feels like a miracle. Because it is.
At the center of that miraculous 180 degree turn is forgiveness. It’s what makes it possible. It’s what breaks the hold that sin gets on us. Instead of thinking, “Well, I messed up, I’m doomed forever” – we get to claim that Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice that covered this. We can turn away and walk away from our old lives because we’re forgiven. That sets us loose to walk into what is truly – no exaggeration – our best lives ever.
That is good news. And if we’ve experienced it, well – how could we not tell others about it?
Essential Job Responsibilities
- Be a witness of:
- Jesus Christ as the Messiah, written about in Scripture
- Jesus suffered and rose from the dead on the third day
- Repentance and forgiveness of sins
- Be a witness to:
- Everyone, everywhere
- Starting where you are and reaching out to others
This is what we’re made to do – to spend our lives as a witness to what Jesus Christ has done for us. To be a witness not just with our words, but our actions that reveal that we’ve made that 180 degree turn. To experience the joy of living with Christ and share that joy with everyone.
Because we weren’t qualified to begin with. It was Jesus who made us qualified.
That same Jesus has made the whole world qualified.
Shouldn’t they all know?