The King's Commission
Scripture: Matthew 10:1–42
The King's CommissionMatthew 10
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
The year was 1990. I was just out of college and purchased a small home in Illinois located in the Wheaton area. At the suggestion of a fellow football coach, I ventured into his church located about a mile away - with great hesitation. On that day, by God's grace, everything changed.
Since I knew much more about the bar scene serving "successfully" as a bouncer on the streets of Chicago than I did the church scene, I felt very awkward. My friend attempted to make my first visit as comfortable as possible. He mentioned to me that everybody brings a personal Bible and if I had one I should bring it along. Unfortunately the plan backfired. I had almost never cracked a Bible in my life, and the only Bible I had was this (show big Bible). But not knowing any better, I brought it to church as suggested, even though I was totally unfamiliar with its contents and unprepared for the ridicule I'd receive.
You see, my goal was to blend in, but it would have been inconceivable as to how I could have possibly drawn more attention to myself! I'll never forget the stares. I'll never forget that wee little man who approached me after the service holding a tiny Gideon's New Testament. He said, "I get it, little guy - little Bible, big guy - big Bible!"
More than anything I remember what I heard that frigid December morning. The sermon was on Romans 6. The pastor was discussing the need to be a slave to Jesus Christ. Within no time the power of God's Word cut to my heart. I was overwhelmed as I was undeniably a slave to my sin. I needed the forgiving grace that comes only through Christ to set me free. The shackles were removed from my feet but also the chains where loosed from my mouth. Totally clueless, my only desire with virtually no biblical knowledge was to tell the world about my Savior.
This morning I would like to take a break in Genesis and talk about the need to share Jesus with others. Evangelism is about God creating worshippers for Himself through the regeneration of hearts enabling them to respond in faith to the proclamation of the Word. So what I'd like to do this morning is weave how God drew an unlikely person like myself to Himself through the power of His proclaimed Word, how He directed Julie and I to the least evangelized section of our nation to save people through the proclamation of His Word, and how He encourages and commands all of us to be used by Him in the process of saving souls by proclaiming His Word. We will look at six mandates found in various verses in Matthew 10.
Our Christian lives today are an ongoing legacy of God's grace. Others have come before us, but all of our testimonies trace back to the original apostles. Like us, Jesus called these men (spoken of in verses 2-4) to Himself and trained them to proclaim His message to the world. But in-between their calling and their ultimate commission (Mt. 28:18-20), our Lord sent them on a short-term missions trip - on-the-job evangelism training - the best kind! And just before they departed, verse 5 tells us He "sent [them] out after instructing them."
Right from the get-go Jesus said in verses 5 and 6, "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." The disciples were given a specific target to reach a specific population.
Mandate #1 - Define Your Target
Where has God called you to proclaim Christ? Is it across the seas or across the street or across the cubicle? Who are you passionate to reach for Christ? Can you name two people? Where are you targeting your resources to make the greatest impact? Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time!
When it became clear that we were being called to leave our beloved church in 2001, Julie and I committed the matter to the Lord. We were prepared to go wherever He might lead, but rather than throw a dart at a map, we sought wise counsel and bathed all of it in prayer. Soon we discerned our calling was to the northeast, arguably the most unreached people group in the United States.
Off we went. Two eager yet very naïve Christians loading their three young children into their first minivan saying goodbye to their family and joyfully whistling down I-80 to welcome their new home in the Garden State. We were given a target to proclaim Christ, and our hearts were fully behind it.
Of course a portion of our budget at the Grace Tabernacle is devoted to overseas missions, but the primary focus where we devote the bulk of our energy and expenses is the vision of reaching our own Jerusalem, the precious souls in Central Jersey and then equipping them to reach others for God's kingdom. That is our target. If I can borrow the slogan from John Knox, "Give us the Jersey Shore or we die."
As you know, our vineyard is unique. Almost twelve years of serving in our region, and I would conservatively estimate the born-again population around 1%. The Christians we have met outside of our church can be counted on two hands - a far cry from the culture we were accustomed to in Wheaton, Illinois! Yet by God's grace our small church started to grow. People were getting saved. The saved were maturing. And I can say with the utmost confidence that the source of that success has been the Lord Himself as He has regenerated hearts and drawn people through the uncompromised preaching of His Word.
You see, we refuse to compete on the world's stage. People don't need to come to church on Sunday mornings to be amused by a half rate story-teller or comedian. At best I'm only a man of average intelligence, and the only time I feel even remotely "cool" is when I walk through the check-out lines on Valentine's Day with four chocolate hearts! (Little do those stares of envy know those hearts are for my wife and three daughters!).
As for our first building - nothing impressive. Remember it? Almost every rule violated what the church-growth experts say is necessary for success. We had a nursery in the basement, spots for about a dozen cars on our property, three crowded services in an old building, wild animals that occasionally flew around our sanctuary during the service, and a toilet in the ladies' room that froze in the winter if the door stayed closed too long!
And as excited as I am about our music ministry, people don't need to come to church to be entertained by our acoustics either. They can go elsewhere for that. After all, the original church was on "F-Street." A few years back a kid named Bruce Springsteen started a little garage band on "E-Street." If they want the next up-and-coming Bon Jovi they can go 5 miles up the shore to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
We don't compete on the world's stage because we'll lose every time. Moreover, the world's goodies are only second-rate pleasures that can never satisfy the soul. People are suffering! They don't need a muddy cistern (Jer. 2:13) placed before them, well-manicured on the outside, but just as contaminated as the filth that got them into their misery to start with. They need to be directed to drink from the soul-satisfying springs of Jesus Christ in the Word of God. The Gospel - that is world's greatest message.
That is what Jesus called His apostles to proclaim. Look at verse 7. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" That is what we are called to proclaim today as well.
Mandate #2 - Deliver The Gospel
Our holy God has made a way for sinners to be reconciled with Himself and enter His kingdom. It is called the Gospel. Through the death of Jesus Christ the enmity has been removed and we can begin this relationship on the basis of faith and repentance. It is a relationship in which our guilt is replaced with forgiveness and our sorrow is replaced with joy and our anxiety is replaced with peace and our fear is replaced with courage and our despair is replaced with hope and our condemnation is replaced with mercy and our hate is replaced with love and our dead works are replaced with living grace and our hell is replaced with heaven. It is available! Through the Gospel, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," said Jesus in verse 7. Eternally pardoned on God's terms, and it is a message of grace. And we have been commissioned by the King to preach His glorious message and be used by Him in the process of saving souls. What an honor!
My friends, an eternal heaven or eternal hell hangs in the balance for an eternal soul as to what we do with this truth about Jesus. That is why the disciples were told in verses 11-15 to bless those who receive it and shake the dust from their feet to those who reject it. Not weird, actually loving! Jesus is just saying that the accurate Gospel presentation is tied to Jesus and Jesus is tied to salvation! For receiving the news from the missionaries was receiving Jesus. And rejecting the news from the missionaries was rejecting Jesus. As Paul said, when we bring this message we are the smell of either life or death.
Sadly, many in the world hate this message. They are jealous because the best they have to offer doesn't even come close! Three chapters earlier Jesus said most will reject it and prefer to stay on their broad road that leads to destruction (Mt. 7:13). They would prefer the prideful and useless attempts of earning their own salvation. They would prefer the false hope of trying to squeeze more pleasure from their sin. They would prefer the tin instead of the gold.
And the world's hatred for the message, a message that confronts their darkness with light, will be seen in their hatred for the messengers. That takes us to our third mandate.
Mandate #3 - Doubt Not Persecution
You see, the twelve disciples were fairly sheltered up until this point. Yet these God-loving individuals were now called to confront a God-hating world. Some would believe. Many would attack. So without mincing His words, Jesus shot straight with His friends. Verse 16, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." Verse 22, "You will be hated by all because of My name." The second half of verse 25, "If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!" If Jesus "went about doing good" (Ac. 10:38) and they called Him the devil, how much more will they malign His followers! As the disciple submits to his Master (verse 24 in its context), the disciple will suffer like his Master. Why are so many Christians surprised when they are harshly treated by the enemies of Christ? Jesus wants us prepared!
Persecution is never fun, but it is a sure indicator that we are confronting a dark world through our words and actions with the light of Jesus Christ. Didn't Paul say, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). We might not like it, but do we believe the words of our Lord five chapters earlier? "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. 5:11-12).
I suppose here is where the faith comes in - faith to believe I must share the Gospel for someone's greatest good despite knowing it might bring me pain in the process. Do I have that kind of biblical faith in Christ?
Let me illustrate biblical faith: Years ago a man strung a line across the Niagara Falls. To the amazement of the people he used a tightrope to walk to the other side pushing a wheelbarrow. The crowd erupted in applause. Yet when the excitement was at its highest, he asked an individual if he believed the stunt could be repeated. The man in the audience affirmed his talent and ability to once again cross the falls pushing a wheelbarrow. After the artist repeated his question a number of times, he once again said, "Do you really believe I can do this again?" The man responded, "Yes, I am absolutely positive you can perform the same stunt without falling!" To which the tightrope artist immediately replied, "Then get in the wheelbarrow and allow me to push you across."
Gospel proclamation takes true faith! True faith can walk without sight. True faith clings to the promises of God in Scripture. True faith trusts in the sufficiency of God's grace. True faith knows that God is sovereign and God is loving and God has a wise purpose for good in our suffering. True faith can get in the wheelbarrow that follows behind the Great Shepherd with total confidence even when we can't make sense of everything around us screaming to the contrary.
I'm sure when the disciples in chapter 10 heard about suffering that they celebrated! Yeah right! Like us, they were tempted to fear. So did Jesus tell them about persecution to scare them? Absolutely not - and I know that for a fact! After all, what was Jesus preparing His guys to do? Send them on a mission trip - the last thing He wanted was for them to be fearful! Someone told me Jesus' most frequent command in the Bible is "Do not fear!" This kind of fear was from Satan because Satan knows very well that fear stifles evangelism. Fear makes us like the Arctic River - frozen at the mouth.
So immediately after His three warnings about persecution which often produce fear, Jesus commands them three times to be fearless in the face of opposition. Interesting! And the golden thread that links all His reasons to be fearless is not based on human courage, a health club membership or the local gun club. All of the reasons are based on a right perspective of God's character.
Mandate #4 - Depend on God
Reason 1: God vindicates. Verse 26, "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." One day the Lord will right every wrong. Just because justice is delayed does not mean that justice is ignored. Reason 2: God dominates. Verse 28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." It is absurd to fear man over God. The worst that man can do is send you to Paradise! Reason 3: God cares (He "carinates"). Verse 31, "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." If God cares for the sparrows, how much more does He care for you, Grace Tabernacle Bible Church? God trusting Christians will speak about Jesus!
Mandate #5 - Demonstrate Loyalty
Therefore, demonstrate loyalty! If Christians depend on the Lord, Christians (not should but) will speak on behalf of their Lord. As Charles Spurgeon said, "Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter." We are saved by grace alone, but those saved by grace alone will give evidence of the grace by proclaiming Christ. Verses 32 and 33, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." Those are humbling words!
Twenty years ago I met the love of my life (unfortunately for the first two years Julie didn't think I was the love of her life!), but the moment our relationship began going well, Julie had second thoughts. She felt called to be the wife of a missionary, not the wife of a public school health teacher and football coach. Torn, she sought counsel from her single's pastor at Moody church. The man's name is Daryle Worley, now ironically the senior pastor of the church that I once attended. I'm not sure what Daryle said, but eight months later we were standing together on the platform reciting our marriage vows before God.
And could you imagine how I would have felt when our pastor and friend began the traditional vows and my beloved bride went silent? "I Julie take you Randy to be by wedded husband." Silence! What would I think if she publicly refused to affirm her allegiance to me as her husband? Moving forward in marriage would be unthinkable. The absence of her affirmation would be a clear confirmation of her disloyalty.
Does not the same apply with Jesus? Are we not His bride? Does He not faithfully stand by our side? Doesn't Hebrews 2:11 say, "He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers?" He is loyal, no doubt about it. The question is, Do we reciprocate with the same loyalty?
We all fall short - consider Peter (Lk. 22:55-61) and Timothy (2 Ti. 1:8) - but on the whole Christians are not ashamed of Christ even if their relationship with Christ causes divisions in the most intimate human relationships because of their primary allegiance of loyalty to Him.
Verses 35 and 36, "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."
remember those days of doing youth ministry. Nothing could surpass our joy of seeing a teen come to Christ. Parents encouraged when they went home, right? Think again. Even though these parents claimed to be "religious" and their children were becoming more obedient, they were disappointed with their child's decision and mad at the leaders who pointed them in that direction! That's the sword of division that verse 34 speaks about. The newly-saved teens were confused. We told those students, "You go home and love your parents and honor your parents, but you follow Christ with your ultimate allegiance."
We all know how difficult it is to be persecuted by a stranger when we attempt to share Jesus, how would you feel if it were a family member! Sadly, many of you know exactly what I am talking about from personal experience.
Can verse 37 be any clearer? "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." I'd say that's ultimate loyalty!
This means a potential external division from one's family. Yet the sword of Jesus also brings a guaranteed internal division from one's self. In Christian circles we often call this "dying to self." You cannot be an evangelist, moreover, a follower of Jesus unless you die to self.
Mandate #6 - Die to Self
Verse 38, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
In the twenty-first century we miss the historical thrust of this verse. Today we minimize the force of the word "cross." We talk flippantly about the crosses we all need to bear. When we think of a cross we often identify it with an object of beauty, possibly something we might wear as jewelry. To our Lord's original hearers these concepts would be the furthest things from their minds.
In the first century the cross signified horror, disgrace and torture. Those sentenced to be crucified were only the vilest offenders. And those crucified suffered the most painful and degrading form of death conceivable. Often after being flogged, the sentenced criminal would receive the heavy horizontal beam on his back and was forced to carry it to the site of his execution generally amid an antagonistic and jeering mob lining both sides of the street. In the original historical context that's what it meant to carry one's cross.
When Jesus calls us to pick up our cross, He is calling us to deny self and identify completely with Him in His sufferings. He is calling us to abandon self and walk in His footsteps regardless of the cost. It is hard to consider our crucified Savior and still prioritize our own self-esteem.
The call is for Christ's sword to divide us from our love for self whereby we might have a greater love for Him and find our truest identification of who we are in Him alone. Jesus makes this point unmistakable in verse 39: "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it."
Actually, this command to die to self is for our greatest good if we really are intent on finding life, the true, abundant life Jesus spoke about in John 10:10. How many people do you hear running all over the world trying to "find themselves"? I did it for 24 years and came up empty every time after amassing some pretty impressive worldly credentials. Looking for purpose and satisfaction and meaning in life and finding only futility and guilt. As a matter of fact, this was one of the primary factors (second to an awareness of my sin) that the Lord used to draw me to Himself. I knew there had to be something better out there. God showed me Himself. Dying to self to live for Him, and then truly finding the reason for my existence as He lives His life through me to reveal His greatness to others. It was the missionary Jim Elliot who said, "He is no fool to lose what he cannot gain to gain what he cannot lose." It was that death to self that made him a great evangelist.
Therefore for successful outreach, we must define our target, deliver the Gospel, doubt not persecution, depend on God, demonstrate loyalty and die to self.
Too many people think faith is only important to get saved. My friends, our faith must be active throughout our entire Christian life. It is a life of faith. Faith to trust that God is working in us for His glory and our good. And throughout this awesome journey with our Savior, we enjoy Him and show Him to others with our words and actions so that others may find their greatest joy in Him as well. The road set before us ebbs and flows, but through it all the Lord has a plan to use us and conform us into His glorious image. Are you in Christ Jesus? Are you connected to Him finding great pleasure to serve as His ambassador?
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