"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The last words of Jesus were a roadmap to global transformation. He gave his disciples the mission of taking the good news across the street (Jerusalem and Judea), across the tracks (Samaria) and across the world!
That same urgent mission of saturating the planet with the gospel is alive and well today. The baton of responsibility to accomplish this great cause, THE Cause, has been handed down through the ages and now resides firmly in our hands.
Just where were the disciples commanded to go with the gospel and how does it specifically apply to us? Let's break down this 2,000 year old quest into three bite sized pieces. Here are the three places we need to go to with the Gospel...
Across the street...
"you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea…"
Jerusalem and Judea were the stomping grounds of the early disciples and the early church. Jerusalem was ground zero for their spiritual activities until the action center for mission mobilization moved from Jerusalem (mostly Jewish) to Antioch (Jews and Gentiles) in Acts 12:25-13:3.)
Even the broader province of Judea was only 55 miles by about 25 miles or so. The disciples had traversed from city to city in this region toward the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. Luke 10:1 says, "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Because they were in twos there were thirty six groups that saturated the region of Judea with the good news of Jesus.
Before the ascension of Jesus into heaven he commissioned his disciples to make sure everyone, starting in this very region, understood the totality of the good news of salvation by faith alone in him based on his finished work on the cross! This global mission began with a local focus, saturating their community, their city, their people and their region with the Gospel message.
What does this mean for us? I'm convinced that "Jerusalem", for us, starts with our neighbors, co-workers, classmates and friends then cascades out to our city and state! We need to be witnesses to the people who are within our reach. We, too, need to start by reaching those within our own "stomping grounds" with the hope of Jesus Christ.
Across the tracks
"you will be my witnesses…in Samaria…."
To many of the Jews at this time Samaria was off limits. They considered the Samaritan people compromising half breeds (half Jew/half Gentile) and did their best to avoid them. That's why the Samaritan woman was shocked when Jesus talked to her in John 4:7-9. But Jesus shattered the racial prejudices of his time with a simple question and a powerful extension of grace to this promiscuous and curious Samaritan woman.
Jesus calls his disciples to do the same by taking the good news to Samaria. But, as my friend Derwin Gray pointed out to me, it took a persecution (Acts 8:1) to get the disciples out of Jerusalem and into Samaria. It took Acts 8:1 for them to take Acts 1:8 seriously.
What's it going to take for us? Yes, we need to reach our own communities but we also need to go "across the tracks" in some way to share the Gospel with those we aren't like and may not normally like. Racial prejudice, economic separation, etc are roadblocks that must be obliterated in light of the cross and empty tomb. Jesus died to obliterate them (Ephesians 2:14) and calls us to walk in the new reality he died to create.
I thank God for a church in the suburbs that reached across the tracks to the tough part of the inner city to reach my family for Jesus! The members of this church had a heart for their own "Jerusalem" but were willing to reach into their version of "Samaria" (my hood) with the message of Jesus!
Are you reaching across the tracks in your city in some way? Are you building relationships, serving the broken and sharing Jesus in your version of Samaria?
Across the world
"you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth."
You can do this in three ways: Pray, Give and Go! I encourage you to do all three! Pray for global missions in your family prayers! Pray for the persecuted church! Pray for the Gospel to saturate unreached people groups! Pray for missionaries!
Give financially specifically toward global missions! Make it part of your pattern and passion! This will keep missions on your radar and give you a bigger heart for God's global plan.
As my friend Dave Gibson always says, "If you have a heart to reach America for Christ you maybe have 5% of God's heart because his heart is for the world!"
And, finally, GO! Go on a short-term, evangelistically-focused mission trip and watch God break your heart for the lost. Some of you may even be called to go full-time into missions. This is a huge and amazing privilege and I am convinced there is no higher privilege than to take the good news to the ends of the earth. We need to re-heroize missionaries in the church, especially to the next generation.
So let's get going. Let's take the gospel of Jesus across the street, across the tracks and across the world!