The Great Commission 5/3/98

Matthew 28:18-20
Page 1460 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, made numerous appearances to His beloved followers in the forty days following His miraculous bodily resurrection. As He does for us through His word He encouraged them. Promises were made to them and to us. It was a time of equipping and motivating.

The fact of the resurrection itself is reassuring to all believers. Thereby followers of Christ are given assurance of life beyond the grave, an eternal home, and the gilded edge promise of His abiding presence with us daily. The consolations consequenting from the resurrection are numerous. As He gave the Eleven the gift of His presence so He has bequeathed to us the promise of presence and power to work in us and for us. If you are a believer in Christ you are a benefactor of the resurrection.

We like these facts of “What’s in it for me?” That is our modern mentality. What is in it for us is incomprehensible. However, let’s not let our absorption with our benefits crowd out our awareness of our responsibility.

It was the resurrected Christ who met with the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee and spoke in their hearing a commission applicable to each of us. To us He said, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18 – 20).

That is the Magna Charta of the church. It is an imperative for every believer.

The Eleven obediently believed Him so fully they zealously responded in such as to be referred to as “these who have turned the world upside down.” They evangelized with such passion that they revolutionized their world. Their society was more corrupt and perverted than ours. They were hopelessly outnumbered and without resources. Their one asset was obedience. With abandonment, they went out as men whose lives were immortal to share the good news resulting from the resurrection. Happily they obeyed their Master. Hear the roll call of faith:

MATTHEW, the author of the first gospel, was slain by the sword in Ethiopia.

PETER was crucified upside down, unworthy of being crucified like His Lord.

JAMES, the oldest son of Zebedee, was beheaded in Jerusalem.

JAMES THE LESSER was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and then clubbed to death.

ANDREW was crucified in the Greek city of Patrae, and SIMON THE ZEALOT in Persia.

JUDAS, not Iscariot, died of an arrow wound.

PHILIP was hanged in Asia Minor.

THOMAS was run through with a lance while praying in India.

NATHANIEL was flayed alive in Armenia.

Only one, JOHN, died a natural death.

Yet, in their brief lives they spread the gospel from Spain to India.

They were compliant with the Commission of our Lord.

Biographers are waiting to write of the response of this present generation. Our Lord has put at our disposal the personnel and financial resources to reach our generation for Him. Technology makes it possible to fulfill the commission in our time. Consider:

We are assigned the task of calling people from one sphere into another: from death to live, from darkness to light, out of the world into the church. If you are a Christian that is your responsibility.

Only when the enthusiasm inside the church exceeds the indifference outside the church are those outside the church going to want to come into the church.

The joy of the Lord was their strength. How strong are you? Is Jesus simply your ticket to heaven, a rabbits foot to be used when luck is needed, a spare tire for breakdowns, or a parachute when you need to bail out of difficulty? OR, is He your Master?

Is He your Commander in Chief? If your answer is “Yes,” then obey Him.

John Roberts, the Scotsman, told of a time in primitive Scotland when there was a village in which there was no fire. Fire was found in one small home. It was distributed from house to house until shortly every home in the town had fire. Is there spiritual fire in your home? If so share it with a spiritually cold culture.

There are over 250,000,000 Americans, one-third of them are non church members. One half have not been to church this year. Many are waiting for a warm hearted personal invitation to come to Christ. Will you dare be their personal living invitation?

A satisfied customer always makes the best salesperson. Are you satisfied with Christ?

In a quaint small town lived two mischievous brothers, Billy and Tommy. The two were blamed for almost everything that went wrong and were responsible for most of it. Their mother, very concerned wanted to correct this. She made an appointment for the boys to visit with the pastor who was known as a good counselor.

Upon arrival at the pastor’s office Billy was asked to wait in the outer office as the pastor visited with Tommy. Using his best pastoral skills the pastor sat across the desk from Tommy and sought to build conversational rapport by asking a simple question with a given answer. “Tommy, tell me, where is God?” No response.

After a moment of warm friendly remarks the pastor asked again, “Tommy, come on, tell me, where is God?” Still no answer.

With a broad friendly smile the pastor persisted, “Come on Tommy, you can tell me, where is God?” Operation Deep Freeze was in full operation. No reply.

Several such probes resulted in silence. Finally, the pastor blew his cool and pounded the desk demanding, “Tommy, where is God?”

Tommy jumped from his chair, bolted out the door, and ran toward home with brother Billy in hot pursuit. They ran in the house, up the stairs, into their room, and Tommy ran in the closet and held the door closed tightly.

Billy stood outside pounding on the door pleading, “Tommy. Tommy, what’s the matter?”

“Run Billy, run and hide. God’s missing and they are trying to pin it on us.”

Look around. God’s missing. He is missing from the media, from public education, from government, and from many churches. God’s missing and they are trying to pin it on us. Is that proper? If not, why not? Could it be our failure to comply with the commission of the resurrected Christ that caused this crisis?

The sphere includes the whole wide world, but it also encompasses the lovely community in which we live. In our local county 67% of the population is unchurched. The only solution rests in the hands of the 33% under the mandate of Christ to share His love with others.

To think of changing the world one person at a time may be a great act of faith, but to think of changing it any other way is a greater act of lunacy. Share His love!

You are at this moment in a discipleship class.

We call it “church” or “a worship celebration,” but when God’s Word is taught it is above all else a discipleship class. You are being taught to disciple others.

The Sunday School is the church organized for evangelism. If there is a breakdown in making disciples it is at this point. Every Bible study unit must be mobilized to reach out to others. If not the church merely “good times” itself to death.

Those of you who work with children and youth have a weighty responsibility.

At about the age of 12 or 13 a change occurs in the way children think. About that age they begin to think abstractly. Up until then everything is either black or white. At this stage they begin to say, yes, but there is some grey in between there. Thought patterns change.

Of those children not reached for Christ by the time they leave high school 66% will never be reached. God has given youth workers a golden window of opportunity.

The strategy is simply illustrated by a seminary class on preaching. The homiletics professor assigned a young minister to preach before the class. Privately he begged not to have to but the professor insisted.

As he stood before the class he said in halting words, “You all know what I am going to say.” They shook their heads negatively. He said, “Neither do I,” and sat down.

The professor insisted that he come back the next week and preach. He demurred but the professor insisted.

The next week as he stood before the class he said, “You all know what I am going to say.” Classmates all nodded their heads yes. He said, “Then there is no need to say it,” and sat down.

Not to be outdone the professor insisted that he come back the next week and preach. The student begged but the professor demanded.

The next week he stood before the class and said, “You all know what I am going to say.” Half shook their heads yes and half no. He said, “Very well, let those who know tell those who don’t know and let’s stand for the benediction.”

Evangelism is simply those who know telling those who don’t know.

Many conscientious people say I am reluctant to share because I am afraid I will fail. You might. However, if you don’t try you have failed. Don’t fear failure. One on my former friends in ministry used to say, “Where are you going to scare them into hell #2?”

Each of us is mandated to share the gospel. It must however be run through the final filter of our own personality and unique temperament. Doubtless you will find a Biblical model suited to your style.

Peter was a straight shooter. He had no problem with confrontational evangelism. He was bold and aggressive. He even tried to correct Christ on occasion. It is little wonder that our Lord chose Peter on Pentecost to tell the people they had crucified the Son of God and needed to repent.

As a thinker and analyzer Paul used reason and well-structured logic to share profound truths. In Athens he started with an unknown Greek idol and quoted their poets to reveal Christ as the resurrected Messiah. (Acts 17)

An unidentified blind man was given his sight by Jesus (John 9). When taunted by persons who wanted to engage him in a theological quarrel he did not use the confrontational approach of Peter or the intellectual approach of Paul, but used his testimonial method: “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.”

Matthew the tax collector used his business contacts. He threw parties for them and in the social setting shared (Luke 5: 29). Compassion and empathy were his strong points.

This woman was a most unlikely but willing witness. In her culture she had three strikes against her. She was a woman, she was a Samaritan, and she was living in adultery. When she met Christ at the well in a life-changing experience she simply went and extended invitations to others to “Come and see.”

A number of townspeople came and heard Jesus. At their invitation He spent two days in their town. Upon leaving the people said, “Now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world (John 4: 42).

The Bible describes Dorcas as a woman who was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). She loved others and provided for their needs according to her ability. She made clothes for the needy and shared Christ as she shared clothing.

Neither of these is better than the other. Each has its strength. Unfortunately the only one related most often is the confrontational approach. It is good but it alone is not good. As there are different styles of sharing so there are different needs on behalf of hearers.

Stylize your method of sharing. Let Christ empower your strong points. Personalize your witnessing style.

Christ said, “All authority is given unto Me, in heaven and on earth.”

He is the one through Whom the mediating power of God is manifested. He is our Mediator King.

One of our sons-in-love had an old pick-up truck with a straight shift. While visiting with them he offered to let me drive it. Not having driven a straight shift for some time my reflexes were rusty. I put my feet on the clutch and brakes, fired it up, and shifted into reverse. Looking over my shoulder I took my foot off the brake and depressed the accelerator. The motor raced but there was no response. I shifted again to be sure it was in gear. It was but as I pressed the accelerator again there was no response.

Then it dawned on me my other foot was still depressing the clutch. Only when I took my foot off the clutch did the accelerator and gears work and the truck respond.

Our Lord has “all power” and the only way for it not to be released is for the church to be sitting with one foot on the spiritual clutch. We alone can keep the power from being released.

The “spiritual clutch” is prayer. We are instructed, “Pray you the Lord of harvest that He will send forth laborers into the harvest.”

That is a dangerous prayer because the first laborer He is likely to send is the prayer. Who is better prepared. Let’s join in praying for Him to manifest His power.

This is the near equivalent of “Immanuel,” God with us.

The focus of the commission is not the lost world, BUT Christ. Evangelism must be subordinate to preoccupation with Christ. When it is it becomes spontaneous.

When you love people and you have had a pleasant experience with Christ you want to share the Christ of that experience so others can have a good experience with Him.

He is with us when we go for Him. You don’t go in your strength, but His.

A reporter for the New York Tribune sat on a ridge overlooking what was the battlefield at Cedar Creek. The Confederate forces were on the verge of annihilating the Union forces.

He wrote: “I am witnessing the awful destruction of the United States of America.”

General Phil Sheridan was some distance away in Winchester when informed the battle had been enjoined. He rode at full speed to join his forces. As his horse charged onto the battlefield with him carrying his banner he shouted: “Come on! Here is Sheridan. Sheridan is with you. Follow me and we will save the Union.”

They did —- and they did!

Jesus Christ has said, “Follow Me….” If we do great spiritual victories are to be won. He who said, “All power is given unto Me….” Also said, “You shall receive power…” And of the gospel He said, “It is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.”

Let’s remove our feet from the clutches and let the power move us.