Bob's Sermon for Sunday, December 31, 2017


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“What mission do you need to fulfill?”


Matthew 3:13-17, 


(Matthew 3:13 NIV) “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.

(14) But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

(15) Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.

(16) As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (17) And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."


     Completing the mission God gave us is our highest calling. If I asked you today, “What mission has God given you?” how would you answer? Do you know the main task that he’s assigned you? How would you answer the question about your mission or calling?


Board Chair to the Minister: Why did you fire your secretary?


Minister: She couldn't spell. She kept asking me how to spell about every other word while she took dictation.


Board Chair: I suppose you couldn't stand the interruptions.


Minister: No, it wasn't that. I just didn't have time to look up all those words.[1]


You wonder if either the minister or his secretary was on the right mission.


     John the Baptist and Jesus are the subjects of our text today. Each had a clear mission. John was Jesus’ advance man. He taught people to repent for the Kingdom of heaven was approaching. Once they repented and confessed their sins, he immersed them in the Jordan River.


     Jesus had a much greater mission than John.

·         God gave him a long to-do list.

·         He had to complete every task that God gave him.

·         One of those assignments was to have John immerse him.


You and I are baptized for the remission of our sins. But Jesus had no sin. John the Baptist realized Jesus’ innocence. That’s why he balked., "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"


     So why was Jesus baptized? Jesus was baptized as an example for us.

(15) Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus was saying to John, “We both have a mission to accomplish here. Let’s get this done.” If the Lord spoke to you at this moment, what godly mission would he ask you to complete?


     Bob W. Ireland crossed the finish line on Thursday, November 6, 1986, as the New York City Marathon's 19, 413th and final finisher. He was the first person to run a marathon with his arms instead of his legs. Ireland was a forty-year-old Californian whose legs were blown off in Vietnam seventeen years before. He recorded the slowest time in the marathon's history: 4 days, 2 hours, 48 minutes, 17 seconds. When asked why he ran the race, he gave these three reasons:

1. to show he was a born-again Christian;

2. to test his conditioning;

3. and to promote physical fitness for others. He said,

"Success is not based on where you start, it's where you finish, and I finished."[2] Whether that’s what God wanted Bob Ireland to do, only he and the Lord knew. But I have a feeling that you know that there’s something the Lord wants you to accomplish, and you’ll never be at peace until you complete it. 


     Do you know what things God wants you to get done? With some us, there’s no question what our mission is.


          1.      Let’s say you’re a Father: All fathers have a specific mission. What does the Lord expect from us?


(Eph 6:4 NIV) Fathers . . . bring them (children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord.


     A lot of guys think that it’s the wife’s place to teach the children about God.  A mother does that when the children are young, but the ultimate responsibility is the dad’s. It’s great to see younger fathers here attend with their families. I can tell from Christmas Eve services, when the families come back, that most of you older fathers were great dads, too. It’s evident in the affection that your families have for you. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see all the good fathers in this church. We rarely saw that in Los Angeles.


     Something occurred to me this past week that I’d never thought about before. It has to do with mothers in the Bible. I’m amazed by how little instruction the Bible gives mothers on how to rear their children. There are several sets of instruction for fathers. There is almost no direct admonition for mothers.


     Has that ever occurred to you? Maybe it’s because women know almost innately how to care for little children. We hear from time to time about negligent moms, but they are newsworthy because they’re exceptions. Most moms care wonderfully for their infant kids.


     Have you noticed Paul’s descriptions of his dealings with the new Christians in Thessalonica, Greece? “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. (8) We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7 NIV).


     Someone likened Paul’s care for those new Christians to a mother caring for a newborn—nursing and talking baby talk. I recall how Norma did that from the first with our kids. I am the one who had to be coaxed, persuaded, and cajoled into parenthood. I am not talking about the biological part. I refer to accepting my responsibility as a dad.


     Paul gave us another wonderful illustration from child-rearing in 1 Thessalonians 2. How people conclude that Paul was a fanatic, heartless, woman hater, I do not know. Listen to this illustration of parenting: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory (Verses 11, 12).


     Dads, if you have any doubts about what your mission is, let me read it again from the Living Bible: (11) “We talked to you as a father to his own chil­dren-don't you remember?-pleading with you, en­couraging you and even demanding (12) that your daily lives should not embarrass God, but bring joy to Him Who invited you into His kingdom and into His glory.”


     Fathers, we need to be totally committed to this mission: Carl A. Boyle, a sales representative, was driving home when he saw a group of young children selling Kool-Aid on a corner in his neighborhood. They had posted the typical hand-scrawled sign over their stand: "Kool-Aid, 10 cents." Carl was intrigued. He pulled over to the curb. A young man approached and asked if he would like strawberry or grape Kool-Aid. Carl placed his order and handed the boy a quarter. After much deliberation, the children determined he had some change coming and rifled through the cigar box until they finally came up with the correct amount. The boy returned with the change, then stood by the side of the car. He asked if Carl was finished drinking. "Just about," said Carl. "Why?" "That's the only cup we have," answered the boy, "and we need it to stay in business."[3]


     That’s singleness of purpose, isn’t it? Fathers need that same commitment. “Some of you remember Steve Largent. He was a U.S. congressman from Oklahoma. He formerly played for the Seattle Seahawks as a receiver and set many pass—catching records. He and his wife noticed that the cartoons their kids had been watching didn’t always have Christian principles so they turned off Saturday A.M television and substituted “Doughnut Day.” On Saturday either Largent or his wife would pick up the kids’ favorite doughnuts and they’d sit down with the kids eat doughnuts and visit with them.”[4]


     As a Christian father, Steve Largent wanted to encourage his children in the Lord.


          2.      Children also have a mission: Nearly all kids are on a mission to grow up-to mature. It may not seem that way to their parents at times, but that’s what most kids want.


The problem is they take round-about routes. Some kids have their lives so complicated by the time they’re out of high school, that it takes years to recover.


     I’m very thankful for the young people here. The Lord has a mission for young people, too. Keeping that in mind makes life simpler and better.


     “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise-- (3) "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth" (Ephesians 6:1 NIV).


     We met Jerry Avakian through one of the Hollywood church’s outreach programs. Jerry was probably six or seven at the time. He, his mother, and his sister attended services for awhile, but then stopped coming. When Jerry was in high school, he came to me and wanted to talk. He had been thinking seriously about God. After we studied awhile he wanted to be baptized into Christ.


     But there was a problem. Jerry’s grandfather, patriarch of the family (Jerry’s mother was divorced and lived with her parents) was an atheist. He forbade Jerry to be baptized. We advised Jerry to delay his baptism, and in the meantime be a loving obedient son and grandson. We advised him to keep his room clean, make up his bed, and to be helpful in every way. It wasn’t long before Jerry’s grandfather commented, “I don’t know what’s happening with Jerry, but I like it.” Not only did Jerry’s grandfather grant permission for his baptism, he attended and gave his blessing. 


     If we disobey our parents, we’re not fulfilling God’s call in our lives.

So does every believer. Our mission is to tell the world about Jesus.

     Every one of us has that mission.


     Why is it so important to tell people about Jesus? Remember what it’s like to know forgiveness? Think of the man caught in the Tsunami who had to choose whether to keep his wife alive or to try to save people who were floating helplessly by him that went to their doom. He’s going to have a hard time finding forgiveness.


     It’s great to feel forgiven, isn’t it?

Only Jesus can forgive us.

Only he’s the son of God.

Only he could pay the price.


     Have you given thought to your hope of heaven? Without Jesus, that isn’t possible either.


Without him, there is no forgiveness.

Without him there is no hope of heaven.

There is only fear and hopelessness.


Bob and Jackie Harp were missionaries for many years in American Samoa. Jackie wrote the following in 20th Century Christian:


     “Working busily at my desk, I heard a small noise and looked up to find a pair of large, liquid black eyes looking into mine. "What can I do for you," I asked the student stand­ing before me. It was a still, humid day and small beads of perspiration glistened on her upper lip like miniature pearls, reminding me of my own discomfort, a result of the oppressive weather.


     “Her answer came in a near whis­per. ‘My ankles hurt.’ ‘Why? Did you fall or jump hard on them?’ I inquired. The dark head shook from side to side in response. ‘There must be some ex­planation,’ I continued, trying to conceal my impatience, for I had work to do. Earlier in the day her friend had complained of a painful finger. Perhaps they had fought and injured each other, not an unusual occurrence.


     “The girl shifted her weight from one foot to the other and with a sign began to tell me her story. It seems that as she and her friend walked along the mountainside to school that morning they came upon a large, old grave. (I could visual­ize the large slab, once white­washed, now blackened by the elements of the tropics that corrupt and corrode with such haste.) She had walked on the grave and her friend pointed at it, which was very foolish. Tears swelled up in her eyes and shimmered there. Now they both had had pain and didn't know what to do.


     I had known of the superstition concerning spirits of the deceased. It was not something to be taken lightly but a serious matter to the large percentage of the local popu­lace. ‘Do you think the aitu (I-ee-too, ghosts) are responsible?’ I asked. The brisk nodding of her head caused the waiting tears to streak down her face, dropping to her faded dress where they were quickly absorbed.


   “What could I tell her? These people knew about God and Christ, they attended worship services and yet some of them were still haunted by the ancient fear of the unknown. The fear of spirits kept them from walking alone at night or frequent­ing some of the loveliest spots on the island where spirits were known to live. On occasions people died from common ailments as a result of the superstition.


   “Knowing about God hadn't been sufficient, for he had not become vital enough in the lives of these people. For too many he still dwells in clouds, thousands of light years away and is far removed from everyday life.


  “How great is the need to bring God down from the sky into the view and lives of men everywhere. How compelling the necessity to make him real, so real we might hear the whisper of divine footsteps in our lives.


   “Now the girl was the impatient one, standing anxiously awaiting an answer, a solution to her problem. Would she understand the psy­chology of fear? Probably not. The answer had to be practical, perhaps the beginning of a new awareness. The only solution I knew came to me instantly. ‘Why don't you pray to God to help you not to be afraid? He has more power than all the aitu in the whole world, you know!’


   “A smile brightened the smooth, brown face like the sun emerging from behind dark clouds.  'I'll do it,’ she said eagerly, and our con­ference ended as abruptly as it be­gan.”[5]



     We preach and teach about Christ so that people can overcome superstition and fear, so they can have hope, and enjoy better families.


     That is the mission God gave us in Christ. 


     "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."



[1] World’s Greatest Collection of Church Jokes, p - 13


[3] From sermon, “WHERE ARE THE LABORERS?”

[4] From Fundamentalist Journal 1989.

[5] "My Ankles Hurt,"20th Century Christian BY JACKIE HARP, American Samoa



Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014




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