Well, as he mentioned in the video, and what may surprise you today, is that the reason they do this is primarily because of a calling from God that is not unique to their family. Yes, God has called them to that specific place where they are. BUT, primarily, they are there because of a calling from God that is not unique to their family. In the Bible, some of the very last words of Jesus, after his resurrection, and before his ascension; that’s where we find this command, this commission for all Christians everywhere, which is the very command that took James and his family to where they are now.
Matthew 28:18-20. In the blue New Testaments, we’ll be on page 17. Jesus has some close-to-last words before he goes back into heaven, and while his immediate audience is his disciples, the context makes clear that this is a command for all followers of Christ. Let’s read it together. Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Three Absolutes of the Great Commission
- Jesus has ALL authority (v. 18).
Jesus makes it as clear as possible in verse 18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” There is absolutely no confusion here as to who is in charge. Jesus is in charge; he is the boss; he has all authority. In Philippians 2, we see another very clear explanation of this authority of Jesus. Verses 9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee will bow! That’s pretty exhaustive, isn’t it?
In fact, this authority that we see in Jesus is the fulfillment of the vision that God gave to Daniel in Daniel chapter 7, if you remember back to a few weeks ago. Daniel 7:13-14- “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Again, throughout the Scriptures we see Jesus as one with an authority that is unmatched by anyone else. The question for us, as Christians, is, “Do we see him and treat him as the one with all authority?”
It seems like the biggest reason people have, including myself in the past and even sometimes in the present, one of the biggest reasons we have in avoiding talking to people about the gospel, avoiding actually being involved in helping other people follow Jesus better, as believers. The biggest reason: We don’t feel equipped! Or, perhaps better put: We think, “Who am I? I’m not a pastor or a missionary; I don’t know all the answers.”
There’s a few responses I think are appropriate to this concern or this excuse that we use. First of all: It’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. He has all authority. He created and sustains all things. He was not only present at Creation; He was the agent OF creation! To immediately feel ill-equipped for this commission that God has given all of us, actually reveals we’re a bit too focused on US! That’s what it reveals! You have the God of the universe who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and we’re afraid because we feel inadequate.
It’s as if you’re walking into a smartphone convention, and you see the Samsung booth, whoa, the Samsung Galaxy. And then you look to the right and you see the Blackberry booth, whoa! The Blackberry KeyONE. Then a bit further, there’s the Sony Experia booth and lots of other booths representing smaller companies with names that do not demand as much respect and exude as much significance. After the main big companies, the others don’t seem to matter. But it’s as if you’re walking in afraid, thinking “Who am I?” when all the while you’re there representing the APPLE IPHONE!
People are there seeing you walk in with an Apple t-shirt and all the equipment for your booth, and they’re whispering to each other, “Whoa, he’s with Apple.” Even though you’re not the CEO, you’re not the authority, the one who’s presence demands respect. That’s not you. But it IS who you represent! Obviously, this analogy breaks down eventually, technically like every metaphor in the world.
But listen: the fact that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (which means everywhere, in case you were wondering), because of who He is, and because of the confirmation and victory seen in his resurrection just before this text in Matthew, because of all that, WE CAN HAVE GREAT CONFIDENCE! Not in ourselves, not in knowing all the answers, not in being perfect people, but simply because the One whom we represent is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul writes, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” We are his representatives on earth! We are the ones through whom God is making an appeal to the world. What is this appeal that he’s making through us? The last part of that verse: “Be reconciled to God.” That’s the appeal that God is making through us.
We can go and make disciples in confidence because we represent Jesus, and Jesus has all authority, and it is by that authority that he has declared salvation for those who will believe in Jesus. You see, we don’t go out into the world with the Gospel of Jesus crossing our fingers and hoping for the best! We go knowing that the Gospel will save! Not might save! It will! Sure, not every single person we speak to will be saved, but those whom God draws to himself will be saved. When Jesus was on the cross he did not cry out, “It is started.” Or “It is possible,” even. He declared, “It is finished.” With authority, and with the resurrection that was coming, he was able to say that the salvation of all of those who would believe in Jesus had been accomplished.
The Gospel will save. It’s a guarantee, because the One with authority has declared it to be so. God’s mission on earth will succeed, and his mission is primarily by what means? How will he accomplish his mission?! The church. His people on the earth. By the authority of Jesus himself, we can know that the church literally cannot fail. Sure, individual local bodies will shut their doors, but God’s mission through the church all over the world will not fail. Matthew 16:18- “And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.”
If you’re here and you’re not confident in yourself in sharing the Gospel and teaching others God’s truths, that’s a good thing! In fact, if you ARE merely confident in yourself, I’d encourage you to lose that confidence, and instead trust in Jesus. We have no authority, but He has all authority. No sin or power or demon or devil can stop those whom he chosen, those who come to him in repentance and faith, from being saved. I sure hope we see just how much that is good news. The 2nd Absolute of the Great Commission.
- Jesus commands ALL of us to make disciples (19-20a).
Verse 19 and the first part of 20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This commission is for every Christian who has ever lived. We are to be following Jesus in such a way that we, like Jesus, make other followers of Jesus. WE proclaim the Gospel so that people become saved by turning and trusting in Jesus alone. WE baptize these new followers of Jesus in the name of our God, who is specifically Trinitarian in nature—one God, three persons. WE teach these new followers and each other how to obey everything that Jesus has commanded! This isn’t merely the pastor’s job; this is all of our jobs! This is a command given to every one of us!
But here’s the thing: especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with other people, and teaching others how to follow Jesus, it is so prevalent to let our feelings determine whether or not we obey. I think it’s worth noting, right off the bat, that this is a command. I’ve heard some replacement terms for the Great Commission that are interesting: The Great Suggestion is one. The Great Omission is another, just straight up losing it all together.
And we may laugh at that, or think, “Yeah, that’s ridiculous, ignoring the Great Commission or naming it something different.” But, in our actions, in how we live our lives, is making disciples a real priority? Or do we, practically-speaking, think that this is to be relegated to pastors and missionaries and super-Christians. I think it should be a sobering thought here, that Jesus’ authority not only brings us confidence; but it should also bring us sobriety, an awareness! Jesus is saying, “I’m in charge; I have all authority—now GO!” The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, our Savior and Substitute has commissioned us to GO! To the people around us, but also all peoples on the earth.
This Great Commission is not just for us to go to the people around us and in our circles and cultures; it is for us to go to all nations. Literally, “all nations” (pante ta ethne), means all ethnicities, all peoples, all nations without distinction! When you read the Bible, it’s impossible to get past God’s desire for all nations to be saved. In fact, if you remember, again, part of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7, the text we just read a minute ago, part of verse 14 says: “All nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.” God’s desire, and what WILL happen, is to have every single people group on the planet represented before the Lamb in the throneroom of God.
Revelation 7:9-10- “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
Every single person in this room who is a Christian is called to make disciples of all nations. So, what does that mean for us? Does that mean we all need to move out of the country and into areas with unreached people groups? No, that doesn’t mean we all need to up and do that. But, honestly, I would agree with James in the video, that every single Christian should wrestle with whether or not God would actually have you up and go. I’m talking about a permanent relocation in order to reach the nations. I think every person in the room should seriously pray about whether or not God would have them go.
I know it’s easy to assume that that’s not for you. You don’t have the skills, or the personality, or the freedom, or the MEANS to do something like that. Let me just tell you: if God wants you to go, he will provide the means and the training and the clarity for you to go. Do NOT assume it is not you that God has called to uproot and move to a different city, state, or country.
For those of us who know that that’s not where God has called us, the question is, “How then do we makes disciples of all nations?” Well, first, we need to realize that because we do live in the United States, many nations are all around us. Our own neighbors are likely from all over the world. Share the gospel! Be bold in sharing what you’ve learned from God’s Word! And, also, support those who do go. As a church, we regularly support five missionary families, and also give toward a Bible School in Papua Indonesia. We’re actually going to have a page for you next Sunday with a list of all these missionary families, pictures, info, and even contact info. Some of the missionaries listed in today’s insert we support but that’s more for those involved in this Missions Week.
So we, as a church, want to support missions, and we have a very strong plan in the future to do much more with our finances, with long-term partnerships in one or two different locations where we actually go multiple times a year. We have lots of hopes and plans for that in the near and far future.
But as far as this week goes, why we’re doing a Missions Week at all. Most of us are not regularly updated or have even ever been exposed to what God is doing all over the world. And part of our goal with this week, as we have missionaries coming throughout the week, including next Sunday (and I really do hope you come to at least one thing outside of Sunday mornings. If you’re able to do more than that, please do! But I just want to encourage you to really commit to coming to one thing outside of Sunday mornings this week, every single person in the room). But part of our goal, to be honest, my primary goal, is to really wake us up to the fact that God is moving all over the world.
My hope is that with seeing people who have uprooted themselves and their families and moved to a different country, or meeting people who have done that in the past, will sober us up to the urgency of the gospel all around the world, and also in our own backyards. It is far too easy to be so comfortable in this life, and to have as our primary goals in life to be retirement, or success (however we define that), or even to have our kids grow up and well-rounded individuals who somehow give back to society.
My question with that, and it’s a question I’ve asked before, is this: How is that any different from anyone else on the planet? Why do we, as Christians, find so many things compelling and inspiring and motivational that don’t have eternal value? Because that, generally, is what our minds are consumed by. Except maybe for Sunday mornings, our minds are consumed by our own little worlds. Maybe by seeing what God is actively doing around the world, it will help us at least a little bit to step outside of our own little world for a moment, and see God grow in us a desire to reach people with the Gospel.
I’ve thought, multiple times, about what our evaluation should be of our church. What’s our primary goal as a church? How do we know we’re doing what God has called us to do as His body; how do we know we’re being who God has called us to be as His body, His church?
You can ask that to ten different people and likely get ten different answers. The church should be serving people. So true; I hope we are. But is that the main thing? We should be a praying church. Certainly, we should. But is that the main thing, or does that sum it all up? Impacting the community! I certainly hope so! Not necessarily in a primarily programmatic way, where we just plan a whole bunch of events to “impact” people, but more of we as people, in our spheres of influence, impacting the people we interact with. But even that, does it sum up what the church is to be according to the New Testament?
I think the best summary, the best evaluation of ourselves as a church is this: as new Creations and adopted children of God because of the work of Christ, are we pursuing sanctification? Are we pursuing being more and more and more a disciple of Jesus Christ? Are we living in obedience? Are we living holy lives? I know the word “holy” is usually only used in a mocking way, or as a caveat, “Well, I’m not ‘holy’ or anything…” The New Testament describes God’s children as holy, not only in His eyes because of Christ being our Substitute, but also because we’re new Creations striving to be more like Jesus forever!!! My evaluation as a pastor is, “How holy are our people?” And, “how can we, as elders, help them to live more and more within the reality of their new identities?” And we know the answer to that question, the question of how: the Word of God! Jesus himself, in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
So why am I bringing all this up when we’re supposedly talking about the Great Commission and missions, etc.? Because part of being a disciple is doing what Jesus did. In fact, that’s not really part of it, that’s it! That’s what it means to be a disciple, and to make disciples! We’re to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded. Part of what Jesus has commanded is what he just said! Go and make disciples.
We’re growing, numerically, as a church, and it’s exciting and fun, new problems we have to figure out, like parking, and space in here, having to add a few chairs. But please hear me: Don’t assume that more people means we’re doing what God has called us to do. Don’t assume that more people means we’re being who God has called us to be a church! If we’re not actively teaching each other to live more and more within our new identities in Christ, which includes making disciples, boldly sharing the Gospel with the people around us—if we’re not doing that, equipping YOU to go and share, then that means we’re not doing what God has called us to do, and perhaps our self-evaluation should be a sobering one from the Lord.
I don’t mean this to be a guilt-fest, I mean it to be a wake-up call. What are we DOING HERE?! Just living life, comfortable in every way? Physically, emotionally, socially (I just don’t want to push people away, and I think being bold is going to push people away). Listen, you can be successful at the end of your life at never pushing one person away from God, and also never bring anyone to the Lord! That can happen! I’m not saying go crazy, but I’m saying the Gospel WILL PUSH PEOPLE AWAY! It’s offensive.
God created everything and we’re accountable to Him. We have rebelled against a holy God; and we have earned eternal death in a real place called hell! That’s not PC in our culture! But that must be shared, because only when that is boldly proclaimed can we then reveal the unfathomable mercy of God. He sent his son Jesus to live a holy life, never earn death himself, and yet go to the Cross bearing our sin and shame, and then rising again three days later. If you turn and believe in Jesus alone for salvation, Jesus our Substitute and King, you are saved.
We need to wake up, and not only see the authority of Jesus which guarantees that the Gospel will save people, and not only see that God has called every single one of us to make disciples (if you remember Dr. George last week sharing the Spurgeon quote: Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter). We need to wake up and not only see these things, but also see our last Absolute of the Great Commision.
- Jesus will be with us ALWAYS! (20b).
Talk about confidence. Not only is One whom we’re representing the One with all authority in heaven and on earth, but it’s the very one who will be with us forever!
This isn’t about our abilities, but about His. This isn’t about who we are, but about who He is. I know it’s such a common way of thinking, this thought that asks, “Who am I to go up to any other person and say to them that their gods are false, and Jesus is the only true God, and that if they don’t repent and believe in Jesus, they will be saved?!” Who am I to do that?! Because that’s what we’re doing, even if those we’re approaching aren’t religious, they still have idols and gods. So, if that’s so offensive in our culture, then why would we do it? Because Jesus is with us, and telling the world of the gospel is the ONLY thing that makes sense, if it is all true.
God’s heart is for the nations. If you desire to see Jesus come, you’re heart should be on the nations as well. Mt 24:14- “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.”
We’re in a battle against the spiritual forces of evil in the world, and our commander will win. Our commander has already won! So don’t just sit around waiting to feel confident, or taking every possible class you can take on sharing the gospel and making disciples and reaching people of completely different people groups, though certainly take advantage of those! At some point, though, you have to just jump in.
The question for us this morning is, “Do our desires match God’s desires? Do we want to see people from every tribe, nation, and tongue come to know Jesus? What do you want most? Perhaps even more telling than that: What do you want most for your children? Do you want most for them to be successful by this world’s standards? Or do you desire most that they offer themselves as living sacrifices to God, becoming followers of Jesus who make disciples and who love Jesus more than anything? Are you, yourself, a disciple maker? Those in your world at work or school, are you an ambassador for Jesus? Even here at Raintree: are you investing into children and praying that they too would become disciple makers? If not, be sobered this morning by the absolute: Jesus calls us to go.