You know God has you here for a reason, don’t you? The Bible talks about us believers in Jesus in a special way. God calls us the body of Christ. Think about that. You are a body part. It’s not the same part as I am or your neighbor or your friend, but it is an important part. If you’ve ever injured one part of your body, you know how much the rest of the body suffers to compensate. Now — here’s the question — are you doing the part of your body part, or are you asking others to suffer to compensate.
Just the whole fact that God would use us as his body is a little mind blowing. But it’s true. The Bible says it. Jesus was here on this earth to show the world God’s love and to let us see God — but now — he uses us as his body for that same purpose. We have the purpose of Christ. So today, I want to look at a passage of Scripture, where Jesus describes his purpose, our purpose:
“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."
Notice a couple of things in there. First of all, we see Jesus calling out to the islands, the distant nations — this is a message for more than just the few of us reading this here in Covington.
Then we see him describing how he would be used. He was the one who would reveal God to those people far and wide. Through him God would display his splendor. He was the one the whole nation of Israel was there to produce — and through him God would give his word. You see the picture of the sharpened sword, that living and active word that cuts to the heart of what we need to hear. God would use him. And of course, we know how God did just that.
Now think about this. Now that Jesus has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father — he accomplishes that same task through his body here — us. This is why every part of the body is so important — that we can work together to do what one of us could never accomplish. It might be tough for you to effectively shout out to all the nations on your own, those islands and distant lands. So God puts us together in this body of believers. And together we support with our prayers and offerings the mission work around the world. How cool is that.
Together we show the world God. Together we are bringing the light to the gentiles, to those who don’t know him. And I know, there are times we’re less than eager to share our Savior — either in our own lives, with our own lips — or through others with our regular prayers and willing and generous offerings. Somehow deep down, we tell ourselves that we’re OK so who cares about those others. We’d never say it out loud, but somehow we rationalize that there are things and relationships more important than sharing Christ. Our hesitance and refusal make us completely the opposite of the light to the gentiles God wants to make us.
So thank God that for all of our refusals, Jesus came to pay the price and to live perfectly in line with his mission so that we could get his credit. Remember all the times he reached out to the outsiders, to the foreigners, to the scum of the earth. From birth to death and resurrection, God’s heart was on display. He completed his mission. He defeated my sins and our death.
Look at what he says about himself and his work in our text. Verse 4: 4 But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” And all those images of his preaching that was rejected and his love that was spurned come rushing into our minds.
We might think that the sacrifices a missionary makes and the frustrations he feels are too much. But consider the sacrifices our Savior made. Consider the agony of hanging on the cross as those you’re dying for are mocking you while you try to save them. So he says — “I have spent my strength in vain.” But then notice — he comes back to the fact that God will take care of it.
And he has. Jesus came for us. He came to bring us salvation — that forgiveness of sins and the peace that we can only know through him. He came to make us what we were not — his children. And now he even uses us for his work — because he came, not just for us but even for all those around the world. So don’t stay off on your own. Come and be your part of this body of Christ and fulfill your purpose.
In Christ, amen.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.