Definites To Define A Disciple - Part Two
Scripture: Matthew 10:5–23
Definites To Define A Disciple-Part TwoMatthew 10:5-23
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Pastor Randy Smith
Most everybody has a system of values. Most everybody has a conscious standard by which they judge what is right and what is wrong. That is a given, but what is uncertain is how everybody goes about determining his or her deep convictions.
Option one - emotions. "I don't know why. It just feels right to me. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a different opinion." Option two - trouble. Cheating on your income tax forms is fine as long as you can get away with it. To paraphrase the popular 80's movie, "Son, I did the same things you did but at least I never got caught." Option three - popularity. Our convictions change with popular opinion. Twenty years ago homosexual marriage was unthinkable. People are now considering polygamy. What does the wave of redefining marriage hold for us twenty years in the future?
Notice anything in common? In each case human reason is the determining factor. None of them are based on an absolute standard. None of them are based on an eternal truth outside of us. According to the modern mind it lies completely within to determine what is right and what is wrong. Everything is subjective. Everything is open to revision.
I assume this philosophy would be acceptable as long as there were no Creator (side note: no wonder so many people are proponents of evolution). But if there is a Creator, there is a divine standard. And if there is a divine standard, it is one that is eternal like our God. It is based on His character, and it is one He expects His creatures to follow. He has revealed it to us. It is found in a book we call the Bible.
I pick up where I left you four weeks ago. I mentioned in Part 1 that God has specific definite to define our relationship with Him. He clearly tells us how we can know Him. And He clearly tells us how He expects us to live once we enter this wonderful relationship with Him. None of it is based on feelings or popular opinion. Everything is based on what God has revealed to us in the Bible. These are the definites, the absolutes as to how we are to live our lives.
This message contains six definites that define a disciple or follower of Christ. I will briefly review the first four from Part 1 and then present the final two in Part 2 this morning.
1. A DEFINITE TARGET
Number one, a few weeks ago I mentioned that Jesus had given His disciples a definite target. In verses 5 and 6 He said, "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
These men were called to initially reach the Jews in Galilee. After the Resurrection that calling changed. Church history tells us that Andrew took the gospel to Scythia (modern day Russia), John to Ephesus, Philip to Asia Minor, Bartholomew to Armenia, Thomas to India and Simon to the British Isles. Each man had a specific calling.
To do anything well we too need an organized and unified effort. We love all those without Christ, but to make any deep impact we need a concentrated effort at the Grace Tabernacle to reach Central Jersey. Like the disciples, we must have a definite target that receives the bulk of our expenses and energy.
2. A DEFINITE MESSAGE
Second, Jesus gave the disciples a definite message. Look at verse 7, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
God has devised a way to reconcile sinners with Himself through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Though once alienated, the kingdom of heaven is now at hand. We can enter on the basis of faith and repentance. Proclaiming this message without any alterations is our primary purpose as a church.
3. A DEFINITE ATTITUDE
Third, we see Jesus call His followers to have a definite attitude. And this attitude is seen in the heart of the miracles spoken of in verse 8. Originally given to the Apostles to validate their credentials before the Scriptures were composed, the miracles portray a heart of compassion. You and I may never raise the dead, but we can and must as Christ's servants love other people through our deeds and words.
4. A DEFINITE FAITH
And for the fourth definite we learned that we must have a definite faith. In verses 9 and 10 Jesus sent the disciples out on their first short-term missions trip with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. This was a training trip for the twelve in preparation for their ultimate role to take the gospel to the nations after our Lord's resurrection. This huge responsibility awaited them in the near future. So these men needed to learn to trust the Lord to provide.
We too need a definite faith when serving the Lord. Seldom are we treated in a way we desire or appreciated in a way we like or witness spiritual fruit in a way we expect. Apart from a definite faith we will never start or persevere with Christian ministry.
A definite target, a definite message, a definite attitude and a definite faith. Let's conclude this message with the final two new points: A definite standard will be first followed by a definite expectation.
5. A DEFINITE STANDARD
So for the fifth point we must have a definite standard.
Starting in verse 11, Jesus said, "And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city" (Mt. 10:11-15).
In these verses we see how the apostles were to be supported. They were to live with the people whom they were ministering among. God would provide their room and board through the hospitality of these individuals.
But what I really want you to see in these verses is the expected attitude of the disciples toward those who receive and those who reject their message. If a house were to welcome them, they were to give that house a blessing of peace. If a house rejected them, they were to shake the dust off their feet.
That act was common among the Jews when they returned to Israel after having walked through pagan lands. Shaking the dust off your feet was a symbolic departure from any traces of paganism and spiritual defilement.
What you cannot is the clear line that has been drawn in the cement. Everybody is in one of two camps. Each camp is treated in an opposite way. No gray, everything black and white. A definite standard is established as it pertains to the message - bless them or warn them.
Why such a definite standard for the apostles? Does it all sound quite severe to you? Actually, it is quite loving - loving because these men were a direct extension of our Lord. They brought His message accompanied by His miracles. To welcome them was to welcome Jesus. To reject them was to reject Jesus. It was not about being mean. It was about giving people a clear understanding of where they stood with God. Peace to those who receive. Judgment beyond that which was experienced by Sodom and Gomorrah (because of the light of revelation they were exposed to) for those who reject.
To give people assurance when they were still lost? To leave people wondering about their eternal destination? Now that would be most unloving indeed!
Though our methods are different, we too must carry this definite standard with our actions and words when sharing with an unbeliever. Jesus is the only way to salvation (cf. 10:32-34). Come to Him and you will have blessings unimaginable. Reject Him and you remain under the wrath of God. It really is as simple as that! No wonder Paul said that we are either the smell of life or the smell of death (2 Cor. 2:15-16). There are two clear camps: those who accept and those who reject the message.
A great parallel verse is found in the small epistle of 2 John. Here is the premise: "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." Here is the practice: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds" (2 John 1:9-11).
6. A DEFINITE EXPECTATION
Let's move to our sixth point.
If you, as we learned last week, love God with all of your heart you will stand out. The world will take notice. And according to Jesus, we should not expect their compliments. We should expect their opposition.
This is a difficult section of Scripture. This is not the pep talk we would have expected before Jesus sent His people on their first missionary trip. But Jesus was not into false marketing or a soft cell. Jesus told it as it was. He spoke the truth. He wanted His God-loving disciples to have a definite expectation as to how they would be treated by a God-hating world.
Jesus wants us to be equally prepared as well. So let's break this section down by answering five key questions.
How will the world treat us (16a, 22a)?
First question: How will the world treat believers? Answer: persecution. Look at verse 16. Jesus said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves."
One of the highlights of my Christian life was when the Lord gave me the opportunity to lead a Bible Study for Junior High students in the public school at 6:45 in the morning. Without any help from the faculty or administration, we had nearly 40 students coming out on a weekly basis. Fellow teachers were perplexed. Frankly, many were both jealous and offended.
Yet this small nucleus of kids faithfully attended and by the grace of God lived out their Christian life in the school surrounded by opposition on all levels. Their affiliation with the group and their identification with Christ in a sea of unbelievers made them easy targets.
When in my classroom they were in a safety zone (like the "cities of refuge" I read about last night in Joshua). When they departed at the opening bell, they were sent out as I often reminded them, as sheep in the midst of wolves.
The imagery is fairly self-explanatory. Send a defenseless sheep out into a pack of wolves and you can imagine the result. Up until this point the disciples were fairly sheltered under the direct presence of Jesus. Those times would now be changing. They would go out, and it wouldn't be long before they were devoured.
This teaching comes as a surprise to many in the modern church. It is a surprise because they are either not confronting the culture as salt and light, or they are too busy fighting other believers in the church. My friends, this is the sanctuary. But the moment we cross the threshold of that door we enter our mission field. And as Christ lives His life through us, we should expect a conflict to erupt in Satan's domain. They cannot get Him anymore, so now they want to get us.
Can verse 22 be any clearer? "You will be hated by all because of My name." Because we take the name of Christ on our lips and stand for the definites of His Word, Jesus says "all" will hate us (not necessarily "every" person, but all types of people). They should not hate us because of our attitude, but if we bring His message of righteousness to an unrighteous world, we should expect persecution.
Yet as difficult as this is we must not forget our Lord's assuring words five chapters earlier. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Mt. 5:10-12).
Who are the people who will persecute us (17-18, 21)?
Question number two: Who are the people who will persecute us?
We see three groups of people identified in this section. Again, this explains the "all" from verse 22 expressing the universal content of the persecutors.
In verse 17 we see religious persecution. "But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues." In the context this was persecution from the Jews. Paul in 2 Corinthians spoke of how he received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes on five separate occasions (2 Cor. 11:24). Read the book of Acts and study church history and it won't take long to realize that the bulk of Christian persecution came from the hands of religious people; from the Jews to the state churches in Europe to the Muslims today, believers tortured and murdered times beyond number simply because they profess to follow Christ. Recorded in John, Jesus said, "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God."
In verse 18 we see secular persecution. "You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles." At times the very people appointed by God to establish peace and protection (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:2) become the church's greatest enemy. Not mob violence, but judicial action. Our country is sliding in this direction very rapidly. But as Jesus said it is not because they hate us but rather because they hate Him (Jn. 7:7). And far from our persecution in being in vain, believers will stand before leaders, not unlike Paul in Acts (Festus, Felix, Agrippa), says Jesus, as a testimony before them.
And in verse 21 we see family persecution. "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." Perhaps the saddest of all three. Persecution by blood relatives, a practice well known by professing Christians in the Middle East. This tragic point is repeated by Jesus in verse 34-37. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
How should we act (16b, 23)?
Third question: How should we act? Jesus gives us two directives.
First in verse 16 He says we should "be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." Be shrewd, have wisdom, the right words at the right time, the best means to achieve the best goal. Don't get persecuted for stupidity. Don't pick a fight. We should expect persecution when it comes, but that does not mean we should be looking for it! Be shrewd. Also be innocent as doves. Suffer for the right reasons. Put them to shame for their attacks because nothing negative could be found against you (1 Pet. 2:19-20; 3:17; 4:15-16). It is the Romans 12 mentality of heaping burning coals on their head (Rom. 12:20). Be like Jesus, "Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 1:22-23). Before His accusers Jesus was innocent and as gentle as a dove.
Be shrewd and innocent. Second, flee persecution when possible. Verse 23, "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes." When you study Paul's journeys in Acts, he often stayed in a city until treats on his life resulted. Then he moved to the next city, often finding himself always one step ahead of his persecutors. Don't just stand there and take it when you can remove yourself from the trouble without denying Christ. Though general application for all of us, verse 23 is specifically directed toward the Apostles in that they would flee from town to town and not finish covering Israel until Jesus came with judgment in AD 70.
What help is available (19-20)?
Next question: What help is available for us? Look with me at verses 19 and 20. "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
In the first century, the believers in Asia Minor were experiencing tremendous persecution under the hands of the evil Roman Emperor, Nero. The Apostle Peter wrote to them and said, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
If we have learned anything in this section it is that persecution is to be expected for the true believer and that God has a purpose in the persecution. God could easily prevent it, but He at times chooses to allow it. Christian persecution is not because we are unrighteous and God is disciplining us. Christian persecution is because we are righteous. And when we are choosing righteousness at our own personal expense, God is pleased with us as we stand for His name. So if God is sovereign and completely in control of the situation and we are suffering for His name, are we to believe that He would abandon us in our most desperate time of need? Absolutely not! He will be there for us and He will give us the courage and wisdom, and as we see here in verse 19, the words through His Spirit during these situations.
Why should we persevere (22b)?
Last question: Why must we persevere and not give into the persecution? Look at verse 22. "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."
The hallmark of genuine salvation, the truest sign of God's elect, is always perseverance to the end. True converts will stay faithful to God until the end.
"The Slough's name was Despond. Covered with mud, they wallowed in it for some time. And Christian, because of the Burden on his back, began to sink in the more. 'Oh , Christian, my neighbor!' Pliable cried out. 'Where are you now?''To tell you the truth, I don't know.' Christian answered. Hearing this, Pliable became offended and angrily scolded his companion. 'Is this the happiness you have told me about all this time? If we have such terrible misfortune here at the beginning, what are we to expect between here and the end of our journey? If I can possibly get out of here with my life, you can possess that wonderful Country for you and me both!' With that, Pliable gave a desperate struggle or two and was able to get out of the mire on the side of the Slough that faced his home. So away he went and Christian never saw him again" (John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress).
Why would anyone ever subject him or herself to suffering for a cause in which they really do not believe? Persecution has that ability of weeding out imposters of the faith. I am not implying that we are saved because we endure hardship. But if we are truly saved we will endure hardship regardless of the cost. We will by the sustaining grace of God persevere to the very end. No sacrifice is greater than our commitment to Jesus Christ. The thousands who would rather suffer than renounce their faith in Christ is an unmistakable testimony of this truth.
We have covered it rather quickly, but we cannot deny that our God has given us clear expectations. We are to have a definite target of those we are to reach for Christ and a definite message of salvation as presented in the Bible and a definite attitude of love and compassion and a definite faith of unwavering trust in God and a definite standard of what it means to be saved and a definite expectation of enduring through persecution.
The world develops its convictions in a variety of ways. No wonder there is so much confusion. But as servants of the living God we are under a divine commission to follow His instructions as He has revealed them to us in the Bible. God has made it clear for us as His disciples. And He is pleased when we find it our pleasure to do as He says. Then our paths will be straight and our lives will be blessed as we hold fast to these definites of discipleship.