Sunday, July 12, 2009
Matthew 28:16-20 THE KING IS ALIVE—GO TELL
Matthew 28:16 The 11 disciples travelled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In his novel, The House Of the Dead, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevski wrote that to utterly crush a man, give him work that is completely meaningless. "If he had to move a heap of earth from one place to another and back again - I believe the convict would hang himself . . . preferring rather to die than endure . . . such humiliation, shame and torture." The Commandant of a Nazi concentration camp must have read Dostoyevski. Hundreds of Jewish prisoners had survived in disease infested barracks on little food and gruesome, backbreaking work. Each day the prisoners were marched to the compound's giant factory, where tons of human waste and garbage were distilled into alcohol to be used as a fuel additive. Even worse than the nauseating odor of stewing sludge was the realization that they were fueling the Nazi war machine. One day Allied aircraft bombers destroyed the factory. The next morning hundreds of inmates were herded to one end of its charred remains. A Nazi officer commanded them to shovel sand into carts and drag it to the other end of the plant. The next day the process was repeated in reverse; they were ordered to move the huge pile of sand back to the other end of the compound. "A mistake has been made," they thought. "Stupid swine." Day after day they hauled the pile of sand from one end of the camp to the other. Dostoyevski's prediction came true. One old man began crying uncontrollably; the guards hauled him away. Another screamed until he was beaten into silence. One who had survived three years ran. Guards ordered him to stop as he ran toward the electrified fence. Prisoners cried out, but there was a blinding flash and a terrible noise as smoke puffed from his smoldering flesh. In the days that followed, dozens of the prisoners went mad. They ran from their work, only to be shot by guards or electrocuted by the fence. The Commandant smugly remarked that soon there would be no more need to use the ovens. Human beings are born with a compelling need for meaning and purpose. We cling to life with dogged resolve while work is meaningful, even if it supports that which we hate. But meaninglessness and purposelessness destroy the mind and ruin life.
Have you ever seen or been involved in an event which quickly and unexpectedly turned from defeat to victory? We have watched televised coverage of storms and earthquakes when an unexpected survivor was unearthed. We can only image the relief and profound joy. The agonizing defeat of Golgotha is transformed into the Triumph of Galilee. These verses offer magnificent conclusion to the Gospel of Matthew but it is, in fact more of a beginning than an end.
This final section picks up two themes which are at heart of Matthew’s Gospel. In 1:1-17 Jesus was presented as successor to royal dignity and 2:1-12 portrays him as true “King of the Jews.” In due course he entered Jerusalem as her King (21:1-11), but that claim sent Him to the cross, where it was repeated in ridicule (27:37). But now we know the rest of the story. The crucifixion and resurrection are the prelude to the greatest story ever told or conceived—that the message and rule of the resurrected King will be extended to all nations on earth. But wonder of wonders you are part of that unfolding story.
The stress here is on "all": 1) All authority. 2) All nations. 3) All things. 4) All time.
1. All Obedience—the Prerequisite of Mission (16)
Perhaps you noticed the focus on “11.” Attention is called to the tragedy of Judas. The betrayer is no longer among them. His fate was sealed by his unbelief and disobedience. But don’t become distracted, the focus is on the 11 who have made their way to Galilee, to the place “where Jesus had directed them.” (See 36:32 and 28:10). In spite of their grief and their doubt (note v. 17), they still obeyed Christ.
We are sometimes deterred in our mission because of our fear and doubt. We wonder whether our neighbor is just too hard for God. Will our witness make any difference?
What will my little effort matter? We are witnesses and thus we must make a radical commitment to be obedient to tell our story.
Andrew Reed (1788-1862). The hymn was “Holy Ghost, with Light Divine.” Stanza five brought great conviction to my heart and the inspiration for this editorial. Here is verse 5: Holy Spirit, all divine, Dwell within this heart of mine; Cast down every idol throne, Reign supreme and reign alone.
Believe it or not I spend a lot of time trying to “cast down” idol thrones. I desperately want Christ to reign in my heart without a rival. Often it is the good that attempts to become a substitute for the best.
Years ago someone wrote etiquette expert Emily Post and asked her, “What is the correct procedure when one is invited to the White House but has a previous engagement?”
Post replied, “An invitation to dine at the White House is a command, and it automatically cancels any other engagement.” I want my devotion to Jesus Christ to cancel out all other rivals
Piper, “Three billion people today are outside Jesus Christ. Two-thirds of them have no viable Christian witness in their culture. If they are to hear-and Christ commands that they hear-then cross-cultural missionaries will have to be sent and paid for. All the wealth needed to send this new army of good news ambassadors is already in the church. If we, like Paul, are content with the simple necessities of life, hundreds of millions of dollars in the church would be released to take the gospel to the frontiers. The revolution of joy and freedom it would cause at home would be the best local witness imaginable.”
Baptists first arrived in Russia in 1860. They pushed carts full of Bibles from town to town and were arrested every time they preached. Today Russia has close to one million Evangelicals. Why? Because someone was obedient to the gospel. Someone obeyed the command of the Lord.
2. All Worship—The Impetus for our Mission (17)
Their first impulse must be ours—“they worshipped Him.” Bible is brutally honest—“some doubted.” Greek word does not indicate a settled unbelief but a state of uncertainty or hesitation.
They fell on their face prostrate, as it were, before Him. Some of them doubting until He came near because they had not yet seen Him after His resurrection. But when He came near, surely their doubt was erased. And they, too, worshiped. It is necessary for one who would fulfill the great commission to have a worshiping heart. That is to say his heart or her heart is wholly set on Jesus Christ. All else is lost. All else fades away. When they on that hillside saw the risen Jesus Christ, all their shattered dreams were regathered, all their disappointment was instantly ended. Their sorrow was turned into unbelievable joy. It was a reversal of every emotion they were feeling and perhaps there was worship that occurred on that day that is equalled by few other worshiping occasions in all of human history. They saw the risen Christ and everything in them was born anew. They had a focus that was singly on Christ. Like Paul has said, "I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Who said, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Their focus was so clear. Who said, "That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." It was that single mindedness that made the difference. They like David had set the Lord before them and all else disappeared. That's what it takes, a worshiping heart.
Worship proceeds from understanding of who God is—He is the resurrected and rightful King and thus deserves worship. He alone is worthy of our worship. It is the profound privilege of worship that lays the foundation for our mission. The knowledge that He is sovereign God, the only rightful King compels us to tell the nations.
Crown him with many crowns, The Lamb upon his throne; Hark, how the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own! Awake, my soul, and sing Of him who died for thee, And hail him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.
Crown him the Son of God, Before the worlds began, And ye who tread where he hath trod, Crown him the Son of man; Who ev'ry grief hath known That wrings the human breast, And takes and bears them for his own,
That all in him may rest.
Crown him the Lord of life, Who triumphed o'er the grave And rose victorious in the strife
For those he came to save; His glories now we sing, Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, And lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of Heav'n Enthroned in worlds above, Crown him the King to whom is giv'n
The wondrous name of love. Crown him with many crowns, As thrones before him fall;
Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns, For he is King of all.
3. All Authority—The Basis of our Mission (18)
This is the first “all” statement. It will be followed by three similar ones. “All nations,” “teach them to obey all things,” and “I am with you always.”
The verb tense is ingressive aorist, “has been given.” The prophecy that the Son of Man would be enthroned as ruler of the world has not been fulfilled by virtue of the
resurrection. You may recall that Satan once offered him “all the kingdoms of the world and men’s glory.” Now, by virtue of His obedience He has received far more than Satan could offer—He has received all authority in heaven and earth.
It is this authority that is the basis of our mission.
“All authority!” It is because He is Lord, and He is risen from the dead to prove He is Lord, that He has all authority to command you and me and the church as a whole.
The Authority of Jesus Establishes the Priority of the Church. Jesus has authority over the church. depends upon the decisions and actions of each specific congregation.
The Authority of Jesus Provides the Ability of the Church. power by which a church can function as a church. Human strength, abilities, and resources alone cannot sustain the work of the church. Is the church charting its course in response to institutional principles of success, suggestions for good public relations, or data devised to assure popularity? How much does the church depend upon God?
The Authority of Jesus Shapes the Identity of the Church. “they worshiped him, but some doubted.” sheer humanity of the people Jesus chose to do his work. strugglers, doubters, and failures in the crowd. But Jesus was not put off by this reality. Weaknesses, mistakes, and even sins were rejected as disqualifications for ministry. The identity of people on mission is shaped by the authority of Jesus.
The Authority of Jesus Demands Activity by the Church. God calls the church to be a people on mission. Not just a people, but a people on mission. Obedience to “The Great Commission” is not an option for people earnestly desiring to live and function as a church. The authority of Jesus shapes the very identity of the church, even its priorities, power, and ministry.
David Bosch notes that the word ‘mission’ was used only of the Trinity in the first sixteen centuries of the Church’s existence. It was used in the context of the sending of the Son by the Father and of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son.5 By derivation it came to be used of those sent by God and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ. After His resurrection Jesus Christ said to the disciples: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’; or, ‘As the Father made me a missionary, so I make you ‘missionaries’ (John 20:21). The word ‘send’ is a critical one for understanding who Jesus is, as the Sent One from the Father, and what our mission is; as sent ones of the Risen Christ.
The English word ‘mission’ derives from the Latin ‘missio’, a sending. So it involves a sender, a person or persons sent by the sender, those to whom one is sent, and the assignment to be fulfilled. The Sender concept has the presumption of authority: someone has the authority to send, someone else. This gives us a direct link with Matthew 28: 18-20, the ‘Great Commission where authority is indeed linked with sending: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations’. Christianity (like some other world-religions) is intrinsically ‘missionary’. Mission is not an optional extra for Christians and the Church. The sent ones have a task. Their task as designated by the scriptures is to ‘preach the gospel’ 7, to bring good news. The imperative to mission is God’s deliverance in Jesus, In other words, evangelism is part of mission and should not be thought of as another definition of mission, but as part of it. Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ with a view ‘to leading others to turn from sin and their self-centred lives to trust, in Christ, to announce the forgiveness of sins offered in Christ and invite those who respond to become members of a community of fellow learners of Christ.”
Some, however, like John Calvin, were more evangelistic than has usually been depicted. According to Calvin the church has an integral role in the Missio Dei and ‘all God’s children’ must be involved in this mission. Believers have a sacred responsibility: ‘Is not that the highest honour that God could grant us, that after enabling us to feel his goodness, he should want us to become streams and conduits of his grace, that others might be participants of it?’
4. All Nations—The Scope of our Mission (19)
The universal lordship of the King mandates a universal mission. The kingdom of the Son of man described by Daniel (7:14) requires “disciples of all nations.” This has been anticipated throughout the Gospel—a people of God where membership is not based on race or ethnicity but on a relationship with God through His Messiah.
The imperative is to disciple the nations. Baptizing are teaching translate participles which specify what is involved in the disciple-making process. John’s baptism had been a preparatory one and now Jesus institutes one with a greater allegiance. It is “into the name” of The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. The experience of God in all three persons is the essential basis of discipleship. Interestingly “name” is singular which underlines the unity of Father, Son, and Spirit.
Up until now Jesus alone has been the teacher. Now disciples are to take over His role as teacher. Our teaching is not abstract—it is “observe all that I have commanded you.”
Helwys was imprisoned in Newgate prison 1612 and was dead by 1616. His beliefs had cost him dearly. His death in this way became a model for the Baptist cause, demonstrating that the concern for preaching the gospel to their fellow citizens, no matter what the personal cost was a high and holy value.
Later English Baptists exemplified this same heart beat;
Henry Denne at Fenstanton, a vigorous and educated Baptist leader, a former Anglican clergyman, was appointed a ‘messenger’ to be engaged in personal evangelism in other districts. 13 Denne insisted that ‘evangelism was of the essence of Baptist churchmanship’14.
Hanserd Knollys (1609-91 who signed the revised version of the London Confession in 1646.) appeals to his hearers: “Open your heart to Christ when he knocks at the Door of your souls, and calls you to come to him, to receive him, and let him come into your hearts, and dwell in your hearts by his Holy Spirit, and sanctifying Grace ... Let the LORD Jesus Christ have the Throne, and be exalted above ALL in your souls, that every Thought may be brought into Captivity to the Obedience of Christ.”15.
John Bunyan’s (1628-88) famous classic Pilgrim‘s Progress has been interpreted as having an essentially evangelistic purpose. He wanted to reach an audience who would never listen to plain preaching so embellished his story of Christian’s journey to the Heavenly City with allegory. He wanted to evangelize the sophisticated and carnal Englishman who looked for ‘truth within a fable’ and for those who ‘read riddles’ and ‘love picking meat’. He wrote evangelistically in The Pilgrim‘s Progress by demonstrating the life’s journey of one that attains ‘the everlasting prize’. This missions and evangelistic emphasis are indeed ‘the beating of the Baptist heart’.
Baptists are by nature evangelistic. If a so called Baptist church is not committed to evangelism it is not, by definition, a Baptist Church! Making disciples is not complete until it leads to a life of observing Jesus’ commands. Are you involved in discipling the nations? Are you discipling your children? How?
5. Always The Promise—Eternal Impact
The promise is not simply His presence, it is His eternal presence. Don’t miss this! Ezekiel ended his prophecy with the assurance of Jehovah Shammah—“The Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35). Gospels open with Immanuel—“God with us” (Matt. 1:24). Assurance of resurrection and ultimate victory of His kingdom is promised to His disciples. Now look at Revelation 21:3-4 and 21:22-27. Do you understand the impact of this promise? By praying, going, giving, and sending to the nations, you can live this life with eternal impact. What are you doing today that has eternal significance?
When missionary Ray Dibble and his wife left Nigeria at the beginning of World War II, they had just finished translating the New Testament into the Igala language. There were only six typewritten copies of the New Testament and a handful of Christians when they left. Returning after the war the Dibbles found fifty congregations. Tribesmen had made at least one hundred copies of the New Testament by hand. Some pages were torn, so some tribesmen had committed whole gospels to memory that they might not be lost. The believers were persecuted by nonbelievers and called "The Word of God People." They never gave up, and they deserved the title!
If we go, He will go with us! If we go, His gospel will spread! If we go, God's power will be at work to do great things! If we go, the Church will become a major force in the world.
How involved are you in taking the gospel to every creature?
One of the most poignant missionary stories is about Bill Borden. Are you familiar with condensed milk and "Elsie the cow"? Borden's family began the company. Bill's father was active in real estate after the great Chicago fire, and it was from this, not milk, that their fortune grew. Borden's parents raised him in a mansion on Chicago's "Gold Coast" within walking distance of Moody Church. At the age of 25 he was worth $40 million in today's dollars. Borden went to Yale and was president of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society his senior year.
He was voted third out of 800 for being the hardest worker, fourth for the most energetic, ninth as the most to be admired, and seventh as the one who had done the most for Yale. Bill's mother was devout and taught him the Bible. Before entering college, at age 17, his parents sent him on a 10-month global tour. He left San Francisco in September 1904, and when they reached London they went to hear R.A. Torrey preach at a revival. Torrey gave an invitation to those who had never publicly indicated that they had surrendered all to Christ. Bill stood up with several others and later wrote home, "We sang the chorus: 'I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all." Torrey gave five points for daily living, with the last being "Go to work."Borden decided to do just that. Back in Yale, Borden founded and privately financed a mission for down-and-out men. One man later said Borden talked to everyone. At Bible conferences he volunteered to wait on tables. He had a devoted but simple prayer life, and was tempted to buy a car but decided it was an unjustifiable luxury. Unknown to his family, he gave his entire inheritance to missions. a college lecture he heard Samuel Zwemer describe the sweep of Moslem influence throughout the Near and Far East. Zwemer said those 70 million people were not lost because they had proved too fanatical or because they refused to listen, but because "none of us has ever had the courage to go to those lands and win them to Jesus Christ."
After graduating from Princeton Seminary, he left for service in Egypt. His mother wondered on the eve of his departure if he had done the right thing in giving up everything he owned: "I fell asleep asking myself again and again, 'Is it, after all, worthwhile?'" "I heard a voice was speaking in my heart, answering the question with these words: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son....'" Soon after Bill Borden arrived in Cairo, he contracted cerebral meningitis and died. The news shocked the world. Accounts of his life and death were written in many languages. An editorial in a Richmond, Va., paper said, "His investment has borne rich returns already. There are thousands of talented and favored young men who will, in the light of Borden's conception of investment values, come to a new view of Christian service."
Among Bill's papers was a poem his mother had given him on his 17th birthday. It summed up what he did and what he was: Just as I am, young, strong and free, To be the best that I can be For truth and righteousness and Thee - Lord of my life, I come. Was it just a waste?
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevski wrote that to utterly crush a man, give him work that is completely meaningless. None of your work is meaningless, if it points someone to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord!
None of your work is meaningless, if you turn someone from death to life!
None of your work is meaningless, if you are obeying the risen Lord.
None of your work is meaningless, if you worship Him who to know is life indeed!
None of your work is me
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Acts 1 Eternal Impact
Some of my most interesting theological conversations take place on trains. “You’re pastor, aren’t you?” He asked one day. I try to be low key about being a member of the clergy, but people still figure it out. Nothing on me should have given me away...no Bible, no clerical collar. Maybe it was the glow on the hallo above my head. “Yes, I am a pastor,” I said, “I am the pastor of the Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle.” “That’s nice,” he said, as if he didn’t really care. “Listen, I have a question for you. The question is this: “Why doesn’t God fix things?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I mean, look at our world. Every time I get petrol, it reminds me that we are at war in Iraq. That reminds me about Sept. 11 and the ongoing threat of terrorism. Add to that all the other wars, crime, racism, poverty, illnesses, and cancer and it just seems that everything is a real mess. I want to believe there is a God and that this God is good, but it’s really hard when things are in such a mess. So I want to know: “Why doesn’t God fix things?” That’s exactly where the apostles were in our text: They were asking the question:
WHEN IS GOD GOING TO FIX THINGS? (Acts 1:6) The people of Israel were living under terrible oppression. They were a vassal state under the control of the Roman Army. Their own leaders (Herod and crew) were corrupt. The legal system was a shambles. Their religious establishment had conspired with the Roman officials to crucify their now risen Lord. The economy was in bad shape. EVERYTHING WAS A MESS. Following Jesus’ resurrection they were sure he was now going to fix the mess. That’s explicitly referred to in their question: “Are you now going to restore the Kingdom?” All of us in this room at one time or another have asked the question: “Hey, Jesus when are you going to fix things?” You are sitting in the doctor’s office and he brings in the results of the exam and says: “You have cancer!” You are sitting across from your spouse who tells you the marriage is over. You are sitting in front of the coffin of a loved one whose body will soon be under the dirt. You are sitting in your boss’ office, a company you have served for over 20 years, and he says: “Clean out your desk. You’re history.” Sitting in those situations, like the apostles, you raise your hands toward heaven and ask: “Lord, when are you going to fix things?”
Jesus’ reply is both encouraging and discouraging.
First, Jesus encourages them by saying: “The kingdom is going to come, but we will never know the exact time.” God is going to come at some point and dry the tears from our eyes, heal all our diseases, and abolish death. Second, Jesus shares a word that’s a bit discouraging. The disciples were hoping for immediate action, an immediate resolution to their trials, troubles and tribulations. Yes, God is going to fix things, but his calendar and ours is different. None of us knows the times or the dates the Father has set by His own authority. The only instruction Jesus gives them is to wait. They were READY TO ROLL! And Jesus’ says WAIT!
Someone has said the most hated word in the English language is NO! In my personal opinion, the most hated word is WAIT. It’s all about instant gratification. Let’s throw patience out the window and get on with the program.
This husband and wife were shopping in a department store. They had just purchased a piece of luggage and an eski. As the man was waiting for his wife to finish the rest of her shopping, he dragged the luggage and the cooler around with him to the shoe department. A clerk asked if he could be of assistance. “No, thank, you,” he said, “I’m just waiting for my wife.” At that point a man behind him said, “I’m waiting for my wife, too, but I never thought of bringing a lunch and an overnight bag with me.” Sometimes it comes to that! But do we miss the tone of Jesus’ voice when we read the word WAIT? Do we read this wrongly? You want God to fix everything? Well, you are just going to have to wait. Like when our kid is in the back seat asking why we haven’t gotten there yet and some what impatient ourselves, we yell: “Be patient, be patient don’t be in such a hurry.”
There’s another kind of waiting. It’s the waiting for an exciting event. Perhaps it’s the footy game. Or the birthday party. I think that’s what Jesus is saying here: Something very exciting is just around the corner. You could never imagine it, if you didn’t see it.
JUST WAIT AND SEE WHAT GOD IS GOING TO DO! The kingdom, in all its glory and power, is in God’s hand. We don’t know when that’s going to happen. But in the meantime get ready, because something very dynamic, powerful and wonderful is going to take place. So you see it’s the waiting for a great and wonderful event that’s just around the corner. Then Jesus tells them what the near future holds:
GOD IS GOING TO DO TWO UNPREDICTABLE THINGS!
God Is Going To Give You His Supernatural Power (Acts 1:8) You will receive power when the Holy Spirit Comes upon you.
Luke 24:45-48 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Why are we promised this power? Because God is going to do something supernatural, something that human power can’t achieve, so he needs bodies, committed humans, who are filled with his Holy Spirit.
An elderly lady approached me after the service one Sunday and commented on the sermon: “That was a pretty good sermon.” Trying to be humble I said: “Thank you Helen, but it wasn’t me it was the Holy Spirit.” Without batting an eye she said: “Oh no, if it was the Holy Spirit it would have been a lot better than that.”
The Sunday School class was learning the Apostle’s Creed. Each child had been assigned a sentence to repeat. The first one said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The second child said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.” When he had completed his sentence there was an embarrassing silence. Finally, one child piped up, “Teacher, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit isn’t here.”
I’m not sure that all of us believe in the Holy Spirit, much less the supernatural source of power he brings us. What does it mean to be under the power of the Holy Spirit?
A person who is filled with the Spirit is under His control and authority. When we put our faith in Christ, become born again, we are indwelt with the Spirit. The degree to which we submit to God is the degree to which our lives exemplify that power. If I’m filled with the Spirit how will I know it? Some identify it with feelings, noise and shouting.
Think of the difference between constructive power and destructive power. Destructive power is noisy: tornadoes, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. On the other hand, consider the powerful constructive forces of nature beginning with the most dynamic natural source of power in the universe…THE SUN! There would be no life on earth without the sun. The sun never makes any noise. You feel it, yes, but even when you don’t feel it, it is doing its work. Think of the power of nature in a seed. You plant it. It grows into a giant gum tree. How much noise does it make while it is in that growing process? None! The power is quiet, even unseen, but real. Jesus said spiritual power…the power of the Holy Spirit will be like that. Matthew 13:33: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Mark 4:26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
The supernatural power of the spirit is real, but quiet, even unseen. For that reason the most important thing we bring to being under the control of the Holy Spirit is FAITH! Since the growth of the kingdom is God’s business, it needs God’s power. That’s why he promises us this supernatural power. Consider these characteristics of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
1. It is not ritual, but reality. Going through prescribed rituals can’t achieve it…water baptism, speaking in tongues, praising God, etc.
2. It is not external but internal. Luke 17:22: “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
3. It is not a program, but power. Jesus did not say “wait for instructions on how to build, organize and program the growth of the church.” Acts is not the acts of the Apostles, but the acts of the Holy Spirit. Now Christ comes to the mission itself that is given to his church.
Is it true what TIME magazine wrote of us several years ago:
“The evangelical tends to grow safe in his inner consolation, lapsing into passive acceptance of the evils of the outside world…preoccupied with serving self.”
Some years ago I read an article by Dr. J.I. Packer in which he describes "acedia” Acedia is an archaic English word meaning apathy or boredom. Acedia is to be without passion.
In John 7:37-39, it says, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”
That’s what I want! Do you?
I want “streams of living water to flow from within me.” By this Jesus meant the Spirit whom we would receive.
I want to be in daily living relationship with the Spirit.
I want the Holy Spirit of God to flow out through me in witness to the greatness and goodness of my God.
I want to care, truly care about my God’s glory and about people’s tragic destiny without Jesus.
And I want to live out that concern in some way; I may not be an evangelist but I am a witness.
I want to be intentionally available and obedient to the Holy Spirit.
Are we desperate for such a relationship with the living Holy Spirit of God?
Have we tried long enough to pump water from an empty well?
Listen to the words of an one hundred year old song:
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee, God and King? All, all Thine own – soul, heart and strength, and mind!
I see Thy cross – there teach my heart to cling; O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love; One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heav’n descended Dove – My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
OUR MISSION IS TO WITNESS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST
The Duke of Wellington, the Iron Duke of Wellington, who won the Battle of Waterloo, was asked by a fellow Englishman, "Do you think we ought to preach the gospel to the heathen?" And the Duke replied, "What are your marching orders?" If we have any marching orders that I can understand at all, they are that we are -- that we are responsible for the evangelization of the world.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The word “witness” means essentially what it does in a court of law. A witness is someone who shares what he has seen, what he has heard, what he knows. There are three aspects of our witness about Jesus Christ.
WITNESSING ABOUT JESUS INCLUDES The vital facts about Christ
Notice the vital facts included in this text: Christ died for our sins. v. 3: “…after his suffering.” Not just that he died, but that he suffered with a purpose. His suffering was for the purpose of paying the debt we owed for our own sin. Wouldn’t it be nice if your bank called Monday morning and said: “We’ve decided to pay off what you have left on your house loan?” On the cross Jesus died for our sins…every one of them...past, present and future.
Christ arose from the grave. 3: “He gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”
Three proofs of his resurrection:
a. v. 3: “He appeared to them over a period of forty days.” b. v. 3: “He spoke to them about the kingdom of God.” c. v. 4: “He ate with them.” Lodged together for a period of time.
Christ ascended into heaven.
v. 1: “In my former book Theophlus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until he was taken up to heaven.” v. 9: “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” He went up, out of their sight.
When pilots are trained to fly on instruments they wear infrared lenses that keep them from seeing out the windshield. When they take the glasses off they can see what the world looks like around them. It’s like we are wearing those infrared lenses now that keeps us from seeing the reality of another universe that exists right next to ours.
Christ is going to return. 11: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” The basic facts of Jesus’ life…He died for us, He arose from the grave, and He ascended into heaven. In the not so distant future He is coming again. Now let’s look at the second way we witness about Christ.
WITNESSING ABOUT JESUS INCLUDES The vital facts about Christ
WITNESSING ABOUT JESUS INCLUDES The visible changes Christ has made in us
The authenticity of our witness arises out of the difference He has made in our lives. John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another as I have loved you.” In the beginning of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Jesus talks about attitudes that need to characterize our life, like humility, spiritual thirst, mercy, peace, etc. Then he says the following in Matthew 5:13, 14: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world...” A powerful aspect of our witness about Jesus comes out of the positive changes he has made in our character. Some depend solely upon their character...their good conduct…as their witness about Christ. Good character is not enough. One time a man’s boss died. This employee really admired him. He was a man of sterling character, but he never ever mentioned anything about his faith. So this employee was surprised when at his funeral he was extolled as a man who had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. This employee was shocked. He said: “You know I never accepted Christ in my life because I believed my boss was a great man and I never knew he had a relationship with Christ. If he could live that good of a live without faith, I figured I could to.
WITNESSING ABOUT JESUS INCLUDES The verbal testimony of Christ’s impact
Our personal testimony begins “BC” (Before Christ). b. We describe what life was like, the crises we went through. The next part of our personal testimony describes how we met Christ. “Through those steps we became believers…accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
The most important part of our testimony is how we came to faith in Christ. The last part of our personal testimony describes what life is like after we accept Christ. Prepare your testimony. Practice it on other Christians. Pray that God will give you opportunity to share and then be sensitive to the opportunity.
Every morning a Christian prayed this prayer: “Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is. One day he was on a bus sitting next to a big burly guy. The Christian was intimidated by the guy and was looking forward to getting to his destination. This big guy suddenly burst into tears and lamented: “I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?” He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you show me how to be saved?” The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed: “Lord, is this a sign?” Are you looking for a sign to start witnessing?
Why do people come to church? The Institute of American Church Growth polled 4,000 people, asking them what influenced them to go to the church where they were eventually converted. Here are the facts: 2-3 % just walk in 2-3% came through the churches program 5-6% were attracted to the preacher 1-2%came out of a special need 1-2% were reached through visitation programs 4-5% came through a Sunday School class ½-1% came through a public evangelistic crusade 75-90% were converted through the influence of friends and relatives Vance Havner: “We do not have a secret to be hidden, but a story to be heralded. The gospel is not something you come to church to hear…it is something we go from church to tell. The need is great in our world and in our community for the good news of Jesus Christ. Who will you share that news with this week?
Jim Elliot, the missionary whose life and death God has used to stimulate thousands to become caring witnesses to God's love both here in America and around the world, wrote to his mother when he was still in college:
“I spent this afternoon with Ron at (and he names the family). They were most hospitable and were eager to be remembered to you all, especially you, mother... They have a nice home and belongings and two cute kiddies, but are so like the rest of us that it is again disheartening. We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are 'harmless' and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, and conscientious objectors in the battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the cross. We are 'sideliners' - coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. O that God would make us dangerous." (from Shadow of the Almighty pg 79)
O that God would make us dangerous!
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
5 Powerful Pictures...I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH Matthew 16:13-17
What do you think of when you think of “the Church”? Do you think of several old ladies knitting or something more? Little boy and his dad coming to church. “Bet you it won’t do me any good either.” George Bernard Shaw once said, "If you destroyed all the churches tomorrow, people would the very day afterwards begin to build them back again because the church stands for something vital and essential." As Jesus left the church to do His work once He had departed this world you might expect Jesus to have spoken of the church often. Actually, there are only two instances recorded in scripture where Jesus used the word church. The first is here in Matthew 16:18 Rick Warren in "The Purpose Driven Church" writes: "Absolutely nothing will revitalize a discouraged Church faster than rediscovering its purpose." A discouraged Church is one without a vision. A dying church is one without a vision. A declining church is one without a vision. A defeated church is one without a vision. A decimated church is one without a vision. A Church without a goal is like a church on a merry-go-round. It may have a lot of activity but very little productivity. Many churches are just going through a religious routine on Sunday. There is no reason for their existence other than they are a Church and they are supposed to have 2 or 3 services a week. They are a lot like the two men that were observed working along side the road. One would dig a hole and then go about ten feet and dig the next one. The other worker was following behind him filling in the holes. After watching this unproductive behavior for a while, curiosity was peaked. "What's going on here. What are you men doing?" "Well, replied the first man, My name is Jack, I dig the holes; that's Charlie, he fills in the holes; and Roy, he's off today, he plants the trees." Many churches are just doing their little thing, locked into their routine, Sunday after Sunday, not getting anywhere, not doing anything productive, and dying all the while.
Super-hero saving the earth or galaxy. Our assignment is even greater. We are a royal priesthood intended to advance God’s kingdom until He returns. We are the SAS! We are the NBT SAS! We often don’t think of the church as a gathering of Kingdom Special agents whose role is more critical than any earthly profession.
The Context. Speculation about identity of Jesus has been escalating. The Pharisees and Sadducees want to see Him work another miracle (16:1). Miracle-working Messiah. In that context, but in private meeting with His disciples, Jesus asks who people believe Him to be. Speculation is rampant. The Key question is what His disciples have come to believe. They utter most radical declaration ever to come from human tongue—“You are the Christ (Messiah King) son of the Living God.” This confession changes everything. If you believe this all of life’s focus must be altered by this truth. It is in the context of the confession of His messianic identity that He declares His intention of building the church. Don’t miss the significance—we cannot declare that Christ is our King and not love His church. It is His bride, His field, His building. He came to establish it, He died to redeem it, He sent His Holy Spirit to empower it, and He will come again to take His royal bride to Himself.
The Lord Jesus at the pivotal point of His ministry, points from Himself to us! With 5 Powerful Pictures
1. “Upon This Rock”—The Firm Foundation
A friend of mine worked as a building Inspector. They had trouble with one builder who repeatedly took the reinforcing steel out of the foundations of his houses he was building after it had been checked by the inspectors. The fine was very minimal, but the damage immense! One day they set up a telephoto camera above the area where the builder was working. They took photos of him removing the reo (reinforcing iron) from the foundations after the inspection, took photos of him washing it off and sending iut back in a truck! They sent away the film to be developed which took 6 weeks, to develop and return, then fronted the builder. Already he had completed the building of the house. Not only did he get a fine, he had to demolish the house ( a much heavier fine).
The foundation is priority. It is built first and determines the size and dimensions of what can be built upon it. Just what is the foundation of the church? I believe that Paul comments on this truth in 1 Corinthians 3:5-11 where he speaks of the roles of Apollos and himself in the planting of the church at Corinth. Note verse 11—“Christ alone is the foundation. Peter’s confession to the Christ is the foundational truth that is at the very basis of all we are and do. If God laid His Son in the ditch, what do you think He must desire to build upon it? Nothing small about the work of the church. 11 because no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid—that is, Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. Paul issues a word of warning based on this foundational material.1 Cor. 3:12. Every believer is called to build. This is not optional. The only question is the quality of the material. Wood, hay, and stubble have no value and no permanence. Gold, silver, and precious stone speak of value and permanence. Has anyone told you that all of our service to the King will be tested by fire (3:13). We will be rewarded for all that remains. Caution: Paul is not talking about someone losing their salvation (15) but he is warning about wasting a lifetime of opportunity.
The whole deal is about the confession! Convictions transform us. Change us! Make us! Nothing more important than our convictions about the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the definition of a “Christian” Acts 11:26 For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
2. “I Will Build”—Supernatural Empowering Some members are like the old man that had been a member of the church for 65 years. The new pastor said to him one day, "Being that you have been a member here for 65 years, I guess you have seen some mighty big changes here." The old man answered, "Yep, sure have, and I've been against all of them." There are many thing's one should be against. But even more important is what one is for, such as DOING GOD'S WILL AND AS A CHURCH BEING AND DOING WHAT GOD CALLED US TO DO! He is doing this job. What do you do for the King that requires supernatural empowering? Are you living in the “safety zone” of what I know I can do? Quit! The Holy Spirit has empowered you to participate in the supernatural invasion of the planet. In Eph. 1:19 Paul prays that we would know the full empowering available to us which is based on the power that raised Christ from the dead.
The Canadian Magazine recently dealt with Hitler's use of the swastika. Included in their article was the following statement. “In the end, if his National Reich Church had been established, the swastika would have replaced the cross. Point 30 of the proposed National Reich Church's 30-point program, drawn up during the war, read: "On the day of its foundation, the Christian cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals, and chapels.... It must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika." History is the commentary on the folly of Hitler's dreams and on the futility of all who would seek to destroy the Church of Christ.
3. “My Church”—The Intimate Identification Greek word “ecclesia” is used for church. ek” “exit.” “kaleo” “called out.” When OT was translated from Hebrew to Greek (Septuagint Translation), the word for congregation of Israel was “ecclesia.” We are God’s called out people. We have been redeemed by Him for service to Him. The intimacy is found in the pronoun “my.” We are His! We can call Him “abba, Father.” We belong to the King and thus have been called to a royal service. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Keith Green wrote a song : The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight ’Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave And you, you can’t even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead Come on get out of your bed
How can you be so numb Not to care if they come You close your eyes And pretend the job’s done
4. “The Keys of the Kingdom”—Royal Responsibility Keys represent honor, authority, and responsibility. (use illustration of getting car keys or being given keys to the city). We have not being given the keys to an earthly city but to the kingdom of God. We understand that keys provide or prevent access. What are the keys? Simple—The Good News of the King. King came to earth, shed His royal authority, took upon Himself human flesh, becoming obedient unto death—death on the cross—that we might become His children. Peter; Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 11 Significance of tongues pointing to every tribe people and nation Daniel 7:13 I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. 14 He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
There is no message more critical and no responsibility more awesome. We lock people out of the kingdom when we fail to get outside the building that houses the church and declare this Good News of the kingdom.
It seems that churches everywhere are doing things today To try to bring their attendance up by giving things away.
They're running buses all over town in a way they think is dandy Giving all the boys and girls that ride some bubble gum or candy.
And maybe they'll have a contest give the winner a free plane ride Or offer them a ten-speed bike that would make one swell with pride.
God does not use this kind of plan to save one from his sin But uses visitation to bring the sinner in.
So if you're using this unscriptural plan perhaps you'd better stop Or your rewards in heaven might be just a lollipop.
Some churches are driven by finances. The question the forefront of everyone's mind in a finance-driven church is "How much will it cost?" Nothing else ever seems quite as important. Finances are foremost. The most heated debate in a finance-driven church is always over the budget. While good stewardship and cash flow are essential for a healthy church, finances must never be the controlling issue. The greater issue is: "What does God want us to do?" We do not exist to make a profit. The bottom line in the church is not: "How much did we save?" but "Who was saved?" I've noticed that many churches are driven by faith in their early years and driven by finances in later years. -- Rick Warren, Evangelism for a Changing World, (Shaw, 1995), p. 5.
When Arthur Rubinstein, the famous concert pianist, was in New York, someone invited him to attend church. His answer: "Take me to a church that will challenge me to attempt the impossible."
5. “The Gates of Hell Will Not Overpower It”—The King’s Promise
Other uses of gates of Sheol, point to the power of death, and the power of death broken by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Isa 38:10 Hezekiah king of Judah after he had been sick and had recovered from his illness: 10 I said: In the prime of my life I must go to the gates of Sheol; I am deprived of the rest of my years.
Job 17:13 If I await Sheol as my home, spread out my bed in darkness, 14 and say to the Pit: You are my father, and to the worm: My mother or my sister,15 where then is my hope? Who can see [any] hope for me? 16 Will it go down to the gates of Sheol, or will we descend together to the dust?
Job 38:17 17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Keith Green Swallowed into Earth's dark womb, Death has triumphed, that's what they say,
But try to hold Him in the tomb, The Son of Life, rose on the third day.
Just look, the gates of hell, they're falling, Crumbling from the inside out, He's bursting through the walls with laughter, Listen to the Angels shout! It is finished, He has done it, Life conquer death, Jesus Christ, has won it!
His plan of battle, you know, it fooled them all, They led Him off to prison to die, But as He entered Hades Hall, He broke those hellish chains with a cry. Just listen to those demons screaming, See Him bruise the serpent's head, The prisoners of Hell, He's redeeming, All the power of death is dead!
It is finished, He has done it, Life conquer death, Jesus Christ, has won it! Just look, the gates of hell, they're falling, Crumbling from the inside out, He's bursting through the walls with laughter,
Listen to the Angels shout! It is finished, He has done it, Life conquer death, Jesus Christ, has won it!
There is nothing that can stop the advance of the Kingdom. Death can’t, Hell can’t. The devil can’t. The Lord Jesus is Victor and He will overcome!
All attempts to fight God's will will fail...as many have found out!
The emperor Diocletian set up a stone pillar on which was inscribed these words: For Having Exterminated The Name Christian From the Earth. If he could see that monument today, how embarrassed he would be! Another Roman leader made a coffin, symbolizing his intention "to bury the Galilean" by killing His followers. He soon learned that he could not "put the Master in it". He finally surrendered his heart to the Savior, realizing that the corporate body of Christ and its living Head, the Lord Jesus, cannot be destroyed by the onslaught of mortal men.
The early church was not market driven. It did not make Christianity particularly user-friendly. Converts had to go through extensive, lengthy catechesis and examination before they were accepted for baptism. In the ultimate barrier to new member assimilation, those who did become Christians faced the death penalty. Nevertheless, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the church grew like wildfire. -- Gene Veith, Modern Reformation, Jul/Aug 1996, p. 6.
J.O. Fraser, a missionary to China many years ago began to experience a great depression. All that he had believed and rejoiced in seemed unreal. Even his prayers seemed to mock him. The depression, self-pity closed down on him until he realized that behind it all were the powers of darkness seeking to overwhelm him. They were overwhelming until he realized that deliverance comes through resistance on the ground of the Cross. He realized that he could have victory in the spiritual realm any time he wanted it because the keys of the kingdom were his. Friend, Satan's greatest weapon against Christians is to make us feel defeated, depressed, and discouraged. He will try to overwhelm you any way he can, but victory can be yours by using the spiritual weapons God has given us. Claim the promises, the power of God's Word, use them as weapons against Satan every chance you get. Listen, it's hard to be depressed, passive, or scared when you take to heart the promise of Ep. 2: "Our life is hid with Christ in God who hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Next time you feel overwhelmed, depressed, focus on your position in Christ, not your condition in life.
The image is of the church plucking lost humanity from the grasp of Hell itself. The church’s mission is too important for us to play our church games. This earth and all that is in it is passing away, but we have been called to an “unshakeable Kingdom” (Heb. 12:26) and for that reason we must serve the King acceptably.
Wesley's Covenant Prayer United Methodist Hymnal.
And now, beloved, let us bind ourselves with willing bonds to our covenant God, and take the yoke of Christ upon us.
This taking of his yoke upon us means that we are heartily content that he appoint us our place and work, and that he alone be our reward. Christ has many services to be done; some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honor, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations, and temporal interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves; in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ, who strengthens us. Therefore let us make the covenant of God our own. Let us engage our heart to the Lord, and resolve in his strength never to go back.
Being thus prepared, let us now, in sincere dependence on his grace and trusting in his promises, yield ourselves anew to him:
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
In a chapel in Southern France, the great Emperor Charlemagne is buried. Otho of Lomello, Count of the Palace at Aachen in the time of Otto III, would claim that he and Emperor Otto had discovered Charlemagne's tomb: the emperor, they claimed, was seated upon a throne, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre, his flesh almost entirely incorrupt. In his lap is a copy of the N.T., and his finger is pointing to a verse. It is Matt. 16:26. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? A later story, told by In 1165, Frederick I re-opened the tomb again, and placed the emperor in a sarcophagus beneath the floor of the cathedral
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."
An evangelical lady once asked Wilberforce, the liberator of the slaves, if his soul was saved. He answered her, "Madame, I have been so busy trying to save the souls of others that I have had not time to think of my own."
Drifting snow and bitter cold threatened the lives of Indian evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh and his Tibetan companion as they crossed a Himalayan mountain pass. Fighting the "sleep of death" as they began o freeze, they stumbled over a mound in the trail. It was a man, half dead from freezing too. The Tibetan refused to stop but continued on alone, but the compassionate evangelist Sadhu could not leave him to die. Instead he bowed down to scoop the man up to carry him while his companion went on without him. It was a constant struggle carrying the man through the snowy pass. However, the more he struggled the warmer he became, and his warmth passed through to the nearly dead man helping to revive him as well. Before they finally reached a village they found on the path the companion that had gone on without him alone...now frozen dead! The companion had sought to save his own life and he had now lost it, while Sadhu who was willing to lose his life, found it...and saved another man near death!