We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel, and we have extra copies. If you didn’t bring one, and you’d like one to follow along, raise your hand up real high and somebody will come down the aisle here and get one to you so that you can track along with us in the text. After last week, by the way, which was wonderful, thank you to all of you who came to Easter Sunday and brought your friends and what a wonderful time it was together celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After Jesus died and rose again from the tomb, He gave his disciples what has come to be called the Great Commission. What does that term mean? What does it mean to you? How does it relate to our role with God’s mission in the world? And how does our understanding of God’s mission help define who we are to be as God’s people and Christ’s followers?
If Christians have been entrusted with the great news that God in Christ is restoring all of His creation, how should that impact the way we live out the Great Commission in a world that is bound by the darkness it seems to love more than it the light that it so desperately needs. So, we’re going to turn then to Matthew 28 and we’re going to read literally just five verses today, verses 16 through 20. I’ll remind you that as we’ve come through the Gospel of Matthew, its 28 chapters, we’ve studied 1063 verses so far. We’ve got five more left. So, there are 1068 verses, which is a trivia fact that only geeks like me really like to know about, but we’ve studied the person of Christ in Matthew one through four. We’ve looked at the principles of Christ, especially focused in on the sermon on the Mount there, Matthew five, six and seven.
The power of Christ, we studied 10 of the miracles of Jesus that are cataloged there between chapters eight and 28. And within the context of that as well, some of the parables of Christ in chapters 13 through 25. Now we come in this last segment, as we’ve broken it out here at The Village Chapel in our teaching schedule, our preaching schedule. We’re calling this “The Passion of the Christ,” Matthew 21 through 28. I know a lot of you are used to the passion of the Christ as a term referring to the suffering of Jesus in the week leading up to His cross, His death on the cross, and all of that. But I also would like to use the word “passion” to describe the goals, the mission, the purposes of Jesus. What motivated Him to do this? What was He so passionate about that moved Him to come?
He did not have to. He did not owe that to us. We did not deserve Him coming and dying on the cross for our sins. And so, in this particular pericope, the way we’ve broken out the passage, these five verses, we have what we call the Great Commission, and that’s what we’ll study for today. I want to read the text in just a moment if you’ll allow me a prayer for illumination: Father, as we open our hearts and minds to Your Word today, may Your presence be our joy and delight. May Your promises be our hope and our confidence, and may Your purposes become our passion and our mission as well. Give us, we pray, a clearer vision of Your truth, a greater faith in Your power, and a more confident assurance of Your love for us. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen, and amen.
So set your eyes on the page, just these five verses. And I realize we have a variety of different English translations here in the church, but I’ll try to make just a very few comments as we go through the five verses. The 11 disciples now are together, after they’ve been told that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus instructed, especially the women, we studied in Matthew chapter 27, that the Lord wanted the women to tell the disciples to go on Galilee, and there He would meet with them. And so, there’s a reference to that right here where the disciples proceeded the Galilee. That’s in the northern third of Israel. And when Jesus rose from the grave, of course that’s down near Jerusalem, in the southern third of Israel. In the middle, we have what we call Samaria. And so, they’ve moved toward Galilee.
The 11 disciples, remember Judas is gone, proceeded to Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had designated. I’d love to do a book someday, or have somebody do it, maybe it’s already been done a hundred times, called The Mountains of the Bible with all the events that have taken place on mountains. I love it that Jesus said, “Go to this mountain,” and He designated one. Was it the same mountain where He taught what we call The Sermon on the Mount? Or was it perhaps the Mount of Transfiguration? Or was it perhaps the area which is elevated where He asked, “Who do you say I am” to His disciples up there near Caesarea of Philippi? Don’t know which mountain this one is, but I love it that we’re given that kind of live body detail as we read what clearly is a historical eyewitness account here by Matthew. When they saw Him, verse 17 says, when these 11 saw Jesus, they worshiped Him.
And I have reflected on that all week long as well. Every time I think about getting a glimpse of Jesus, I think to myself, “That’s the proper response.” Because if we really see Him as He is, there’s nothing but awe and astonishment and wonder that overtakes our hearts because of who He really is and that He’s gentle and lowly, and that He came when He didn’t have to for us, for me, the sinner that I am. They fell down and worshiped Him. And then there’s this fascinating little phrase at the end of verse 17. Look there with me, if you will. “But some were doubtful…” Now, my last name is Thomas, and I’m encouraged by this fact. Maybe by verse 17, Matthew’s just summarizing and perhaps more than the 11 are there. I don’t know.
Jesus was certainly quite popular in the northern region. That’s where a lot of His earthly ministry took place. But some are there, and some are this mixture of, “Let’s bow down and worship Him.! Oh, wait a minute, could this really be Him?” Dead people don’t get up from the grave. It’s quite an unusual thing that He did. And some of them may have been in that process of kind of wrestling a little bit, asking some more questions. “Are we just seeing thing? Is this real? Could this be Him?” I don’t know. We’re not really told, but I do appreciate myself, maybe you do as well, that that at least it is indicated, that they’re worshiping Him, and at the same time they find themselves asking questions and kind of wondering. And if you’re like that, perhaps this verse will be one that will encourage you.
The way Jesus responded to honest seekers is so beautiful. His gentle and lowly spirit, His welcoming arms, His was not the disposition of heart of a wagging finger, but His arms were thrown open wide to receive those. And even when He came off the Mount of Transfiguration, the man that they encounter said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And so, a mixture like that, and perhaps you’re like that as well. I know that I am. I’m not always one hundred percent confident and ready to rock on everything. There are days when I wake up and I just go, “Lord, what’s wrong with this world? What’s wrong with me? When will You…” Just like the psalmist asking those same kind of questions. Jesus came up then and spoke to them. I’m glad it doesn’t say, right after saying, “Some of them were doubtful,” that Jesus came up and threw lightning bolts on them.
I’m really glad that’s not what it says. He came up and He spoke to them. And there’s a word of reassurance that’s going to happen here. When you think about what Matthew could have recorded as the last sort of word from Jesus to His disciples in His earthly ministry while He is here… Now, there are other accounts, and you can read at the end of the other three gospels, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as you can read the first chapter of the book of Acts, and you’ll find some additional information. They don’t contradict one another. They augment. They give us a whole picture of what happened as Jesus’ earthly ministry has come to close and He was about to ascend back.
But Jesus comes up and He speaks to these. And here’s what Matthew remembers so beautifully, that Jesus said this, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Just so much here. It’s only five verses, but we could go for a long time. I love the Word. We’ve talked about that here in this church. It’s a powerful three-letter word. And when Jesus opens the way He does here, and they’re sitting there having this kind of admixture; some of them of faith, and a little bit of doubt or questions, and He comes and makes this kind of a statement that’s just as if He’s read their hearts and their minds. He knows what they need to hear, and He says this. I love this ending of Matthew’s Gospel.
I’m always sorry to see a book go. It feels to me, as we’ve been studying it for a year, like we’re saying farewell to a friend, a good, entrusted friend, Matthew. But I’m looking forward to First, Second, and Third [letters of] John, which will begin next week, and I hope you will read ahead. Today is April 16th. On this day in 1521, the German reformer Martin Luther arrived at the Diet of Vermes. He was told to recant his criticisms of unbiblical church teaching and practice. Instead, he said, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.” I wonder in our own day and time, our post-everything world, it’s moved past the idea of wrestling now with just absolute truth. It’s now wrestling with reality itself and questioning reality.
No wonder we’re confused. No wonder we’re uncertain. No wonder our world gets shaken so often as we float around on the sea of uncertainty, slogging about through the mud of skepticism that assails our hearts and minds. Do you have trouble finding a place to stand? Is there a place that we can find that’s steady, a place to stand upon? What truths will we stand on, even in the face of popular resistance or social rejection or criticism? As Matthew closes out his account of what Jesus had done and what He had said and what He accomplished, Matthew records Jesus’ teaching. And as I was reading through it, I was trying to think of the different categories of what’s written here in the last few verses of Matthew’s Gospel. And it looks like a triptych to me in a way, a sort of a three-panel thing. There’s an indicative. There is a little cluster of imperatives, and then there is this beautiful promise. What’s the indicative? The indicative is Jesus saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”
He’s indicating something that is true, something you can count on. And once you stop and think about it, it’s such a bold claim to have been made by anyone ever anywhere. And who is this Jesus? This first-century peasant, carpenter’s son living in a pass-through nation that was under the oppressive rule of the Roman empire, says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” What does that reveal to us about the historical person Jesus and His own self-understanding?
A lot of people have been trying to tell us that Jesus was just one among many who started a world religion, just another rabbi, just another of many. Some would say His disciples, somehow or another, over the next couple hundred years, are going to concoct this whole idea that He was divine, and yet here we have Jesus himself in His own words, recorded by an expert record-keeper, a guy who was a tax collector. That tax collector, who’s really good with his pen, was keeping record, and he said, “Jesus actually claimed this, that all authority had been given to Him, in heaven and on earth.” That’s mind blowing. The imperatives are several, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
So, if the aforementioned indicative is true, that all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth, this makes a lot of sense. If the aforementioned indicative is not true, if Jesus has not been granted all authority in heaven and on earth, then we should dismiss Him and burn everything that was ever written about Him. But if He really is the one to whom all authority has been given, then this set of imperatives: Go make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded us, and then this promise. It’s so daunting. If you buy the indicative, if you embrace the imperatives, it becomes a bit daunting to think that we might be able to respond.
And yet here’s this promise: It’s not on you. It’s not on me alone. We have the presence of the One who gives us the command, and He is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth—His presence. I’m pretty convinced that I don’t really understand even a glimmer of the beginnings of His presence in my life, and perhaps in our life corporately. It’s one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason, why we gather each week. I know we don’t think about it necessarily when we’re walking through the door. We might be thinking more about, okay, I wonder what songs they’re going to do today? Or I wonder what the prayer’s going to be about, which mission organization? Or I wonder how long the sermon’s going to go. Is he going to go too long, ‘cause we got reservations at this restaurant, or whatever?
And you can come in here with so many different things on your mind, but is the Presence on your mind? Is the Presence part of what you’re thinking about when you enter? How do I enter into His presence in this room with these people? I am drawn to the quiet wisdom of those humble saints who have given their lives to studying God’s word and teaching others how to study the Bible and how to teach the Bible. And we have a good friend in England, Chris Wright, who is the global ambassador and ministry director of the Langham Partnership, an organization we all support as a missions organization through our missions team here. He had something to say about this very passage. It’s actually in a book that hasn’t come out yet called The Great Story and The Great Commission. And here’s what Chris Wright has to say about this passage.
“The whole Bible is implied in the Great Commission! It is a truly comprehensive statement and a colossal vista with which Matthew ends his Gospel.”–Christopher J.H. Wright, The Great Story and the Great Commission: Participating in the Biblical Drama of Mission
I think that’s brilliant. Because of the indicative of what Christ’s claim was about Himself, what Matthew bought, and himself embraced and believed and recorded for all of us—look at who Jesus is. And that’s what the Scriptures are all about, whether you go all the way back to Genesis and the first promise of the seed that would come and crush the seed of the serpent, or you go all the way to the Book of Revelation where we read that the Lion of Judah is also the Lamb of God. He is Jesus, the lamb who was slain but who will one day come back and set all things right. When you keep all of that in mind and you see that all of Scripture points to Jesus, Chris has got it right here, that the entire Bible is summarized in this kind of passage here.
But what does it mean to be on mission with the Lord Jesus and to respond to the Great Commission? It means several things. And I know that it could be articulated a little bit differently, but here’s just five things that I think mission involves. The authority of the One who sends it. Well, that’s pretty clear here, isn’t it, Jesus claiming to have all authority in heaven and earth? The obedience of the ones being sent. Well, okay. If God’s great commission is going to be accomplished, we need to respond in obedience, the mission tasks to become engaged. In other words, it’s not just to make it up as you go. No, the Lord Jesus wants us to do certain things. Enabling power to accomplish those tasks is also a part of it. The divine plan and purposes within the framework of God’s covenantal working of judgment and/or redemption. That’s what the Lord is doing with human history. He is bringing about His plan and His purposes, and they will be accomplished.
And as we read the book, this is one of the reasons why we’re so joyful about even His judgment. We’re not scared about that. Why? Because Jesus has paid the prize. Jesus took the wrath of God in my place and in your place. So, we point to Jesus. We encourage people to trust in Jesus. That’s where your hope is to be found. And that the Lord would come in His righteous judgment to set things right, means He will eradicate evil and everything that’s set against the plan and purposes of God. Therefore, I look forward to Him setting things right. I find joy in the message of Him setting things right. To do that, He has to remove what is wrong and reverse the curse of death itself, which He has done in the person and work of Jesus in His plan of reconciliation and redemption. Here at the Village Chapel, on our website, we have a mission’s page. You may or may not know that, but up on the website for the Village Chapel, on our mission’s page, we begin with a quote by John Stott.
“We are sent into the world like Jesus to serve. For this is the natural expression of our love for our neighbors we love. We go. We serve.”–John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World
And that just reminds me so much of the kind of rhythm and the kind of action that Jesus has called us to go to make disciples, not just converts, but to make disciples, and to serve them, to love them with the Gospel in word and in deed. It isn’t always easy. I know that. I can tell you that when I was a middle schooler… And I can actually remember that far back. Okay? But when I was a middle schooler up in Northern Virginia area, Kim and I actually met at this church. We both grew up there a long time ago. But the youth director used to take the middle schoolers, and it would be like once a year, and it’d be like he would get a box full of these things called Chick Tracts, right? And we get these Chick Tracts… Couple of you are smiling. You know where I’m going with this.
But these Chick tracts were always those kind of “turn or burn,” scare people to death, literally try to scare them into some kind of conversion experience or decision or whatever. But we, as you know, little middle schoolers, I literally weighed about 85 pounds. I know it’s hard to believe, but I literally weighed about 85 pounds, and I’m like this. And they give me a stack of these tracks, and they load us up on the youth group van, and they take us to Washington National Airport, which is now called Reagan National Airport. Then they would let us out and tell us to go and distribute all of these tracks to all of these big businesspeople that were adults and had briefcases and suits. And they really looked like they knew what they were doing, and I’m 85 pounds soaking wet with a tract, “You want to hear about Jesus?” And I’m trying to get… Kim was smarter than me.
She was younger too by several years. But to hear her tell this story, she used to go into the ladies’ room and put the tracks in the different toilet stalls and just leave them there and never have to encounter anybody. That’s pretty smart. But you just got to check in a box because this is the program that the youth director thought this is evangelism. This is what it is. And it’s so different now in our world. And that kind of approach. You can find ways of dropping them off in the trash can and the circular file or in the toilets or whatever, just so scared that you come back with only one having gotten distributed, and that was because Kim ran out of those in the toilet, and I gave her one of mine. That kind of thing. But when Jesus said go and make disciples and share the Gospel, it’s a little scary for some of us, for a lot of reasons.
And I have a little less of my top ten reasons why I think we don’t share our faith, what keeps us, why so timid. And I’m not going to put them on the screen. I just thought of these literally at 6:00 AM this morning.
- Lack of conviction about what’s at stake. I think we’ve gone soft on our conviction about what’s at stake here. Eternity is at stake.
- Lack of love for others. If I really loved these folks, if I really cared about them as eternal souls, I would actually want to share the Gospel.
- We don’t want to seem pushy. We’ve kind of bought the lie of our culture that you should compartmentalize everything that has to do with your faith.
- And we’ve kind of bought that and we sort of allowed ourselves to be silenced in a way for fear of personal rejection. And see, that really it kind of ties into the other stuff because it really means I love me more than I love them because I don’t want to be rejected. I love myself so much, I just don’t want to be responded to in a negative way.
- We don’t know how to start a conversation. Well, how about you start a conversation with a question. I think sometimes we’ve taken on this big burden thinking and we’ve got to come up with something really bold to say, but how about a question? You hear somebody say something about how dark the world is right now, and you ask them, “Why do you think that’s so? What is it that, as you look at the world, do you see would be the top two or three reasons why the world has gotten so dark? What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with the world?” And you begin to open up a conversation that way. Ask questions.
- The mistaken notion that it will be offensive to share your faith with somebody. I think that, again, is… I think there are people who are more ready than you realize to hear from you about the hope that you have in Christ. So don’t allow that thought that you think it’ll be offensive.
- I think we underestimate the power of the Gospel of grace. If you think that your job is to go push religion, it’s probably going to be hard. You’re right. But if you think that your job is to declare good news, that’s a different way of looking at it. That’s a whole different way of looking at it, see. And the great news of course, that God loves sinners like me. In spite of my sinfulness, He loves me more. His grace reaches me where I’m at. It doesn’t leave me where I’m at, but it reaches me right where I’m at. So, we sometimes underestimate the power of the Gospel of grace.
- For me, is to overestimate the sense of how well your life might testify. Raise your hand if you’re here today and you think you’re holy enough that you should just live your life and let that be it? Good. Y’all are smart. Well, that was a trick question. If anybody raise their hand, we always go, “No you’re not. Your life is not that holy.” It’s not, and I don’t think any of us are. The old go out in the world and preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary. Words are necessary. Nobody’s going to get it just by you being a good southerner. Nobody’s going to get it just because you attend church. So, use words. They’re necessary.
- You think the results of the outcome of your sharing your faith is up to you. It’s not. The outcome is not up to you. You’re not supposed to come back with some reward or tokens of having won the victory. I don’t think anybody ever came to the faith because they lost the argument. So, it’s not that it’s a battle between you and somebody else. It’s actually you loving them enough to share your faith with him.
- And then the last one for me that I could think of that sometimes keeps us, perhaps all of us, from sharing our faith is that there’s something going on in our lives that we know is completely inconsistent with what we want them to believe. Perhaps we’re living in some kind of sin. Perhaps we’re flirting with some kind of sin openly, repeatedly, and we just can’t seem to say these words. And yet that’s what puts us in the perfect position to be able to say to our friends, “I’m a sinner. I don’t have this all figured out. And yet there’s this beautiful thing Jesus has done. He loves sinners like me. He loves sinners like you.”
This is good news. See, this is not bad news. This is really good news. Because behind every person’s thoughts or questions about your faith and my faith in Jesus is that one question: Does the God you want me to believe in love me? Does the God you are arguing for in Jesus, does He love me? And man, what a great answer we have to that question. That’s what put Him on that cross. His great love for us. And on the cross, we see this intersection of the love of God for sinners like us, the justice of God actually punishing sin in Christ, the mercy of God, putting this grace on offer to sinners like us and the power of God to actually accomplish all of that on the cross.
It’s really quite a beautiful thing. So, is it hard? Sure, it can be hard, but we’ve got a great story to tell. Michael Goheen is a professor, at a couple different seminaries, but one of which is Covenant Seminary that most of us on staff are affiliated with and been trained at. He has a book on the ecclesiological missiology of the church. So, the idea of the mission of the church. And he writes,
“If we’ve been entrusted with the good news that God is restoring all of human life, how do we live in a culture with a very different story to the tell?”–Michael Goheen, The Church and its Vocation
How do we do this? It’s a great question. I love practical stuff. Maybe you do as well. I’m going to propose to you that in this text, we have these four traits that I think characterize Great Commission churches. First of all, they are marked by worship.
And that’s why Jesus begins by saying, “Here’s who I am.” In other words, here’s why you gather. Here’s why you are the church, because of who He is. See, without Him, we got nothing. Christianity without Christ is just tianity, and that’s nothing. So, Christianity is based, first and foremost, preeminently on Christ Himself. And so we begin, like these folks in verse 17, worshiping Him. They’re obedient because He said, “Go to Galilee.” They’re obedient. They’re doing that. They’re believing Him because they follow Him up on that mountain, whichever mountain that was. And some of them stumble there with their doubts, and yet it begins with their recognition of who He is. And so, I think the Great Commission begins with that. The opening claim of Jesus is just bodacious in verse 18. It really, really just continues to blow my mind the more I think about it, that we’re no longer taking God on our journey with us.
We’re no longer attempting to align God with our goals. We’re no longer attempting to get Jesus and the Holy Spirit to fit into our political viewpoints or sociological plans. We are actually seeing Jesus as the One that has all authority in heaven and on earth, and that’s all authority everywhere. Really, really important. Begin with worship if you’re going to be somebody who responds to the Great Commission. Piper says it this way,
“The essence of worship is the inner experience of treasuring the true beauty and worth of God.” I love that definition. “The outward forms of worship are the accidents that show how much we treasure the beauty and worth of God. Therefore, God created all of life as worship because he has told us, ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Do everything you do in a way that expresses your treasuring of God.'”–John Piper
Oh Lord, write that in our hearts. Help us to be mindful of whether or not in this moment I’m treasuring You or I’m just demanding my rights, or just demanding some earthly power and authority over others that they conform to what I want or whatever. It is hard being human and responding in this way that Jesus has called us to. That’s true. After Queen Elizabeth passed September 8th, I think it was of last year, the eyes of the world shifted onto her son, now called King Charles III. Some of you’ll know the name A.N. Wilson, he’s a Brit who’s a writer. On September 16th, the headline from A.N. Wilson was, “It’s too much to hope the king can save us from ourselves.” And that headline caught my eye. I was like… Yeah, that’s right. I got a little amen back there. I heard that. Yeah. It’s too much to expect this king to save us from ourselves. And you know what, that could be said of every single world leader that has ever lived.
It can be said of every pastor that’s ever preached. It can be said of each and every one. We can’t save us from ourselves. There’s really only one that can do that, and He has come. And He did die. He did rise again from the grave though, and He has promised to come back and to set things right. And the great news is that King Jesus indeed can save us, and that’s who we’ve been focusing on all through our study of Matthew. And that’s why when we think about the great commission, we want to bow down and worship Him because of who He is.
The second category that I really wanted to talk about is witness. He says, “Go and make disciples.” And so that is indeed going to require that we go—that is that we get up, that is that we move, that we engage with people. And raise your hand if you’re an introvert. We’ve been having conversations about introverts. I know. Even the introverts don’t like to raise their hand. Hey look, confession is good for the soul, and I want to help you.
It’s hard. My wife is more of an introvert. She has to function as an extrovert. We were talking about this with our family the other night, and it is hard sometimes to actually speak. But we’ve all had those moments when somebody would say something to us out of the blue and it really becomes a slow pitch softball moment when it comes to your relationship with somebody maybe that you work with, maybe somebody in your family, maybe a neighbor or something like that. And they say something, and you feel that tiny little nudge from the Holy Spirit. That “Go on. Here it is. Here’s your opportunity to say something or ask a question, or whatever it might be.” You just ran for the hills, right? And we’ve all done that. Every single one of us has done that. And I want to stress, listen, God is not limited to this clown.
Okay? So that really takes a lot of pressure off. I’m so grateful that He’s not limited to me, so He can get His message across. And I’m inconsistent. I’m not great at this. There are a lot of people out there that need more than just to hear, for instance, the judicial side of the Gospel. That is substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, all that stuff. Very important, critical, really important. But if they’re dying of hunger physically, and all we’re concerned about is that they can somehow or another re-articulate some principle that we go through each and every week when we do our catechisms, the questions and answers, or when we read a creed or something like that. No, we’ve got to learn how comprehensive the Gospel is, and we’ve got to learn that it’s word and deed. And I know this quote is credited as Spurgeon. I’m not sure if it is, but I’m going to go ahead and credit it to him, but he says,
“If you give a man the Gospel, wrap it in a sandwich. And if you give a man a sandwich, wrap it in the Gospel.”–C.H. Spurgeon
Because man, if the person is hungry and you just disregard their hunger completely, how in the world do you think what you have to say is actually going to be heard? It’s really important for us to be about the Gospel in word and in deed. Newbigin is big on this as well. He says,
“What God has done in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus is no private affair for a few. It is God’s decisive action for His whole family and for His whole creation. It is for all the nations. We cannot be silent when such a tremendous secret has been entrusted to us. We have to tell the world.”–Lesslie Newbigin
How many of you ever called somebody and said, “You won’t believe what they got on Costco today?” We’re all that way. Something happens to us and it’s good, and we want to make sure everybody knows. Man, there’s a 40 pack of those and you could get it for $4. And we tell people all the time about stuff we’re excited about. And somehow or another though, this great news of the Gospel fits into some different category and we find ourselves timid and quiet. The church that is a Great Commission church is a worshiping church, and it is a witnessing church. And it is word and deed. It is both. Jesus did the same thing. His words were confirmed by His works. Yeah. And His works also confirmed His word. And who He was confirmed and reaffirmed His identity as the One who has power and authority, like He describes here, over things like disease and death and disasters like storms, and even the demonic powers at work in the world.
Jesus has all of that, and we need to witness about Jesus. And I see here too: The Word, and that’s, again, the idea that we need to teach disciples. We need to be training the church, as we do every single week here, studying through books of the Bible, so that we can know God’s mind and learn about God’s heart. Then we can align ours with His and ask the Holy Spirit to do that good transforming work inside of us. Again, from Stott:
“The greatest single secret of spiritual development lies in personal, humble, believing, obedient response to the Word of God. It’s as God speaks to us through His Word that His warnings can bring us to conviction of sin, His promises to assurance of forgiveness, and His commands to amendment of life. We live and grow by His Word.”–John Stott, Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation
Look up there. Look up there for just a second. Are there warnings that you’ve read in the Scriptures or heard about in the Scriptures that you’re disregarding?
Are there promises that you find yourself doubting? Yeah. Are there commands that you’re disregarding completely? All week long I’ve been thinking about this quote. Stott was such a great Bible teacher, and I so appreciate the way he, as a pastor, asked those kinds of questions. I need to be doing the same kind of evaluation of my own spiritual life. Finally, not only is the Great Commission church a worshiping witnessing and word-centered church, but also there’s this sense of with-ness. Now on the website, when you look up the with-ness part of the four Ws, it’s going to be focused in on the horizontal with-ness, the community aspect. Very important. Huge, huge, huge importance. But as I was going through this passage, I was really impressed with that promise at the end, “Lo, I’m with you always.” And I thought more about the with-ness of Jesus and of His presence among us, going all the way back to the Old Testament and how God wanted to dwell among His people.
And so, things like the tabernacle, and then later the temple are built so that they can sort of symbolize the presence of God dwelling with His people. And then in the New Testament, of course, Jesus literally comes to dwell among us, and the Gospel of Matthew opens with his name Emmanuel. And what does that mean? Yeah, God with us. And the Gospel of Matthew closes with Jesus saying, “Yeah, I’m with you always.” And I thought, oh, that we would be inspired by that truth, by that simple but profound truth. It’s not just a unroll a scroll and here’s all the do’s and don’ts, go off there and see how well you can do. How many of those you can keep. No. He’s with me. He’s with you. He’s with us. When two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them.
And I’m so very grateful for that. When you go about your business tomorrow, whatever that might be, whatever work you do, whatever play you do, however you hang with your neighbors or interact with your family in your own home, please understand that Jesus is with you. His presence is among us. You might feel it more if you hike a mountain or walk the seashore, like a lot of us have when we go and we feel so small. It’s almost a luminous experience out there and you sense Him. Those of us have gone to Israel, you just have a sense this really happened here, all that sort of thing. But man, He is with us. Wherever we might be, wherever we might go. And to that end, we pray when we pray about missions and the Great Commission. We pray for those almost 30 million people that are caught up in human trafficking.
God be with them today, wherever they are. Lord Jesus, may Your Spirit, Your abiding presence of Your Spirit, be with them. And it’s really amazing to think of an infinite God being able to do that, that all authority in heaven and earth is His, that He can indeed do all of that. Richard Bauckham is a wonderful biblical scholar. He’s got a little book called Who is God? In that little book, I highly recommend, he says,
“In a life with God, his guidance, provision, and protection are important, as Jacob and the psalmist knew, but in all such experiences, the center and source is God’s presence ‘with’ us. To discover that God is ‘with’ us is probably the most important discovery anyone can make, for, once made, it colors all of life’s experiences.”–Richard Bauckham, Who is God?
If I know that God is with me when I stand up here, or when I just drive home with my wife, or when I’m going to the grocery store, or if you’re going to your office, whatever, God is with you. Do you understand?
I think I just need it pounded into my head more. Maybe you don’t, but I do. Christ is with me. In light of that, I want to be with Christ. And I don’t just mean leave this planet. I don’t have a death wish. I have a life wish. I have a life wish to live my life in the presence of Jesus, and to follow Him, to deny myself, to pick up my cross and to follow Him. Which means to be His apprentice, His disciple, to respond to all of life the way Jesus would respond to life if He were me, because I’m His disciple, because I’m His apprentice in life. Worship as a way of life. Witness as a way of life. Not just an event, get dropped off at the airport. No witness as a way of life.
Worship not just on Sundays, but worship as a way of life, studying the Word as a way of life. If you don’t have a One-Year Bible, I highly recommend you get one. We’ve been doing this for 10, 15 years. I can’t even remember how long we’ve been doing it, but it’s just like breathing to us. There’s not a question of whether or not we’re going to spend time in the Word. It’s going to happen. It’s a part of life for us. You need to make that decision too, to hear from God in His Word as a way of life. And then His presence is a way of life. I think these are four characteristics that describe a Great Commission church. And I’d like TVC to become more and more and more that way, responding to what Jesus has called us to.
And mostly, I just want us to continue to see Him as He is because it begins right there. And He’s done all the hard work revealing Himself to us, condescending to come from the comforts of heaven. This infinite Son of God becoming one of us—that’s amazing to think about. That He would do that is mind-blowing, eye-popping, heart-thumping. So, I would love for us to respond to Him, to be with Him in all that He’s doing. Let’s pray together:
Lord, may the good seed of Your Word find fertile soil in our hearts and minds. May the Holy Spirit cause our study of the Word today to take root and to bear fruit in our lives as individuals, in our homes, at work, and in our lives together as Your church. Lord, begin to live large and to love well through us. All the nations, no matter who You put in our path, Lord, that others would see Jesus in us, that they would hear the Gospel as it flows freely from our lips because we have such good news to tell. I pray this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen. Amen.
Edited for reading.