November 6, 2016 Sermon
By John Ulrich, Lead Pastor
Today we are going to finish talking about our values. We have five values:
1. Bible – We believe that the Bible is true, fits together and is good for us.
2. Prayer – Prayer shows our dependence on God. Prayer is how we want to fuel this church. It’s how we want to find God’s will and accomplish God’s will.
3. Family – We believe God has a lot to say that can help our marriages and families. We want to be an inter-generational church – a family of families.
4. Community – We want to live in community with one another and with our neighbors.
Today we are talking about our fifth value – the value of missions. We value Missions:
- Missions is about the spread of the gospel.
- It is our response to the great Commission, which calls us to make disciples of all nations.
- While missions may give us an outlet to serve or expose us to lifestyles and cultures that are different from ours, the main focus of our mission endeavors is not the benefits that we get from them, but the spiritual benefits that they bring to others.
Therefore we will:
- Be a church-planting church. One that dreams about and saves for our first church plant from the beginning. Our goal is not to get huge. Rather, it is to multiply by planting other churchs. We’ve already started to save for that.
- Endeavor to send some of our best and brightest to share the gospel around the Triangle and around the world.
- Give 25% of our income to missions, the majority of which is for endeavors whose primary mission is to bring people to, or establish them in, the faith.
Today I want to look at three things:
- The Biblical Basis for that value of missions that I just read to you.
- The Balance that we want to see as we live that out, which is very important.
- The Budget: We’ll focus for just a minute or two on what we are doing financially about missions and on the reasons why we are doing that.
My main goal today by far is just this – I want each of us to decide in our hearts that the Great Commission personally belongs to us.
- I want us to take responsibility for the Great Commission in the way that we live.
- I want us to look for ways that God has equipped us to have a part in the Great Commission – right now – wherever we are at. How has God been at work in your life to help us take your very own part in the Great Commission? I’d love for us to think about that.
- I want us to be excited about what the gospel has done for us.
Did you see the excitement in Ray when he talked about finding Jesus? The man is risking his life for the gospel and when you ask him why, his answer is always the same: Jesus is worth it.
I believe that God could do amazing things through this church- if we would have that attitude – if we will be submitted to God – and if we will make his priority in the Great Commission our priority. I would love to see the gospel set us on fire. So today we want to talk about missions.
The biblical basis for this value of missions is the Great Commission. This command that Jesus gave us to preach the gospel to every creature – to make disciples of all the nations. That’s the basis.
The Great Commission is Christianity 101. It is the most basic command Jesus gave to us as a church. The Great Commission is the punchline to every one of the gospels. Each gospel starts differently, but they all end the same – with the Great Commission:
- In Mark, Jesus tells us that he will not return until the gospel has been preached to every nation.
- Luke’s gospel ends with Jesus saying that “repentance and faith in Jesus’ name should be proclaimed to all nations.”
- John ends with Jesus saying “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
That’s the Great Commission. Probably the best known version of the Great Commission is the one that’s given to us at the end of Matthew. This is the very last scene of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew tells us Jesus has already been crucified. He’s already risen from the dead. He’s already been seen by the women and by some of the disciples. When Matthew closes his gospel with this account:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted (or “hesitated…I think the idea is that they didn’t know what to do). Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20
That’s the way that Matthew’s gospel ends. That’s the final scene. The Great Commission. Now if we had been reading Matthew’s gospel and following Jesus’ story from the beginning – and if we were to look very closely at these verses in light of that – we would notice three things about this passage.
1. This passage completes much in Matthew’s Gospel.
This mostly falls under the category of “Jesus is so cool!”- but I want you to see this: There are several loose ends that start earlier in Matthew’s gospel that come together and are completed in this passage.
The disciples are completed. Before this they are incomplete. Jesus called them and trained them, but then we saw them become fearful and fail miserably at the cross. And so we wonder – what’s going to become of them? Will Jesus reject them? Will he send them away? Will he judge them? But here in the Great Commission we see the answer: Jesus is going to take these broken, imperfect, fearful followers that are so much like you and me – and he’s going to restore them – and give them the job of reaching the world. So this passage completes the disciples.
This passage completes Jesus’ identity. When Matthew’s gospel starts, we see Jesus’ miraculous birth – and we wonder who exactly is this guy? Is he a great prophet? Does he have some sort of divine spark? Is he God’s Son? If so, what does that mean? So we wonder. But here we see Jesus revealed as the second person of the Trinity. They are to baptize “in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He is fully God! So his identity is completed.
This passage completes Jesus authority. At the beginning of the gospel – just as Jesus starts his ministry – Satan comes to Jesus to tempt him. Do you remember what Satan did? He showed him the kingdoms of the world in all their splendor, and he offered Jesus authority over them if he would just bow down before him. But Jesus refused. And when we get to the cross – we’re thinking “wow Jesus – maybe you should have taken that deal – because this other path is rough!” But here in the Great Commission, we see why Jesus refused Satan and took the path that he did. He has an authority far greater than what Satan offered him. He has authority:
- In heaven and on earth.
- Over Jews – and Gentiles – over every person – every nation – every creature – every continent – over the earth itself.
- In heaven. All the heavenly creatures fall on their faces in reverence before him – Cherubimand seraphim and angels.
- Over unclean spirits – and evil principalities – and over Satan himself. He has all authority, and here in this passage, we see this authority completed.
Lastly, Jesus’ presence is completed in the Great Commision. In the beginning of the gospel, we are told that Jesus is “Immanuel – God with us.” And we wonder, just exactly what does that mean? Does it mean that God is for us? Like – go get ‘em tiger – I’m with you? Does it mean that God was with us when Jesus was here? Well, here we see it explained: Not only was God with us when Jesus was on the earth, but he is with us now through the Spirit of Jesus to the end of the age. So Jesus is present with his people – to guide us when we don’t know what to do – to comfort us when we are scared or hurt – to provide for our needs – and, most obviously, he’s with us to enable us to fulfill this command. He will help us make disciples of people who come from different nations, and cultures, and sometimes don’t even speak our language. He will do all that.
So this passage completes lots of stuff – the disciples, Jesus’ identity, his authority, and his presence. If we were in the place of the disciples – or if we were really reading this and understanding it for the first time – and we suddenly came to clearly know all this about Jesus, then our response would be the same as that of the disciples: We would worship – the word means to prostrate yourself. We would kneel down before him. We would say “thank you Jesus for all that you’ve done. Thank you for all that you are. We would put ourselves at his disposal. Like Ray, we would say “Jesus is worth it!” Like the disciples, we would worship and obey. So the passage completes much that is in Matthew.
2. This passage is stunning in its scope
We would notice just how big this command really is. Look at Matthew 28:18-20 again. Notice how many times Jesus uses the word “all” here: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Greek “all things”) I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always ( Greek All the days), to the very end of the age.”
Four times Jesus uses the word “all”: “all authority” – “all nations” – “all teachings” – with us at “all times.” You get the idea that what Jesus is commanding here – is kind of big – that this might just be a huge task.
And it is – it’s staggering. It’s so much bigger than the disciples, or honestly even we really understand. The disciples didn’t even know that much of the world existed. They knew about Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. We now know that there are seven continents – 196 countries by modern count – that’s a big world! And Jesus wants to reach it all!
Even that doesn’t begin to describe the staggering scope of what Jesus is telling these 12 guys to do. Because when he uses the word “nations,” he’s not referring to political national country boundaries. The word is from which we get our word ethnic. He is talking about cultural and linguistic people groups.
There are almost 10,000 people groups in the world. Some of them isolated. Many of them living in the most inhospitable places on the planet. Most of them speaking their own language. What Jesus is proposing here is mind-blowing. Talk about your “big hairy audacious goals”!.. This is what you call big picture thinking. Let’s get this straight: he’s going to use a bunch of fishermen and an IRS agent to get this done (Matthew was the IRS agent – he was in charge of stewardship!) But seriously – these are the guys Jesus is going to use. The same guys that abandoned him just 40 days earlier! The scope of this is stunning. What are the odds?
And yet – he’s doing it. He’s pulling it off. Jesus has just started the biggest movement in the history of the world. He has just launched the most popular religion on the entire planet.
Next time a co-worker harasses you for being a narrow minded Christian – just know for certain that whatever that co-worker believes – whether it’s another religion or atheism or agnosticism – there are more people in the world that believe what you believe than what he believes. So you win! For whatever that’s worth!
But the point is – Jesus is getting this thing done! The New Testament has been translated into about 1,300 languages. They are working right now on 2,300 more. (The second most translated book is Pinocchio – in 260 languages). The majority of people groups have a gospel witness. This is a huge job, but Jesus is doing it! Every nation – every tribe – every tongue on the planet, is going to be invited to the knowledge of Jesus. So that we will see in heaven, what John predicted: A great multitude from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, praising Jesus. It’s going to happen!
Now let me ask you a question: Don’t you want to be part of that?
- Don’t you want to say – when you get to eternity – that you had a part in making disciples of all nations? In bringing all nations to Jesus? God has blessed our nation – you and me – with the technology – and the wealth – and the Bible knowledge – to have a huge impact on fulfilling the Great Commission.
- Don’t you want to live for something bigger than yourself?
- Don’t you want to say you had a part in what Ray is doing to get the gospel to Muslims? So that other Muslims can say “Jesus is worth it”?
- Did you hear what he said: I only knew of a God that would tell me to go die for him in jihad. I never knew of a God that would come and die for me.
- Don’t you want them to know? Don’t you want to be part of this giant task?
I hope you do, because the third thing we would see from this passage is that
3. This passage is for every one of us
This command – this Great Commission that Jesus gave to the disciples – was not just for the disciples – it’s also for you and me. This is our commission.
This is why the command was recorded in the gospels – so we would have it. The gospels were not written early in the New Testament era. They were written as the 12 Apostles were passing off the scene. They wanted a record for Christ followers. Each gospel includes the Great Commission, because the Apostles wanted to pass the torch on to us (and those who would come after us), so that we would also be about fulfilling this command. It wasn’t just for them – it’s for us.
That’s why Jesus promises his presence in the Great Commission to the end of the age. The Apostles didn’t need his presence all the way to the end of the age, because they didn’t live to the end of the age. But we do need it, because we need to fulfill this command and make disciples. It’s for us.
This isn’t just written to the foreign missionaries among us – it’s for each and every one of us. When I was in Seminary, several of my professors pointed out that the word “Go” in verse 19 “go and make disciples” is not a separate command in the Greek – it’s a participle. What that means, is that you could very accurately translate the Great Comission in this way: “as you go, make disciples.” In other words, Jesus is saying “as you go – as you go – as you live – as you work – as God calls you to various schools – to various jobs – to various communities and cities – as you, and you, and you go about your life…make disciples.” Not just abroad, but here at home as well. Because it’s not just other nations that need disciples. Our nation needs them too…
So each of us should have a part in the disciple-making process – whether that is overseas missions or local missions – whether that is going, or helping others to go – this command is for all of us. You can do this! Hasn’t it been neat hearing each week people describe “I believe in Jesus because…” Each one of us has a story.
So that is the Biblical basis for missions. Missions is the punchline of the gospel. It is a huge task, but it is given to each and every one of us. We are all to take our part in the Great Commission.
Now what I want to talk about with our remaining time is really just two aspects of how we as a church want to go about the business of obeying the Great Commission. Each of us should be pursuing it in our lives, but here’s a couple of aspects of how we are going to try to do it together as a church:
The first aspect is The Balance: We want to have balance in the way we pursue missions. When we think about missions, there are very different ways that we can think about that word. It’s a very broad term. When some people talk about missions, they are talking about the other side of the world. (I’ve been talking a lot that way today.) But when other people talk about missions, they are talking about the other side of the street. What they do in the community – in the neighborhood. Which is it for us? Well, we want to have balance:
- On the one hand, we want to minister and spread the gospel in the Perry Creek neighborhood. As a church, we want to flood this neighborhood with the gospel. I want to spread the gospel in Shearon Farms – the development where we live – and I think the Jones’ want to spread the gospel in Hasentree. We should spread the gospel wherever we live. We should go across the street.
- But on the other hand – we never want to forget – never ever forget – that there are people on the other side of the world – who know little or nothing of Jesus. There are people like Ray who only know a God who says “you must go and die for me” – not a God who says “I have come and died for you.” They don’t’ know. They don’t know that they can have forgiveness for their sins – and eternal life – and a way of living that fits what they were made for – they don’t know.
And they’re not bad people. They’re a lot like us – and in a way, that’s why we owe them the gospel. Because we didn’t get the gospel because we deserved it. We’re not better than they are The gospel was not our birthright. We got the gospel because someone cared enough to teach a Sunday School class – because someone cared enough to write a book – to preach a sermon – to take us to church – someone cared enough to have a conversation. It’s not because we deserved it, and that’s why we have to share it with those who don’t know. When I share the gospel, I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread – and we have to do this. I owe it to them to pass on what I have received.
So we want to have balance. Both local missions and foreign missions. Some churches are good at going across the street. Other churches are good at going across the world. We want to do both.
But there’s another way that we want to have balance. We say missions is about the spread of the gospel – what does that mean? Some people when they talk about missions think primarily in terms of evangelism – of using words to share the gospel story – and to call for a response. Other people – when they talk about missions – think primarily of acts of mercy: Of relief work – of loving and serving their neighbor the way Jesus told us to – even of promoting justice. So for some, missions is going door to door. For others, missions is hanging the door and building the wall behind it! So which is it at Perry Creek Church?
Well, let’s think about the gospel for a minute: Remember the four parts of the gospel? What are they? Creation – Fall – Redemption – Response/Restoration.
We need to understand that that Gospel story two sides to it:
- The Gospel is both an individual story of how I am saved from my sin, and
- It is a global story of how God is restoring the world – and righting the wrongs – and reconciling all things to himself.
It’s got both aspects to is – both accomplished by the gospel story: Creation – Fall – Redemption – Response/Restoration
And we have to have think in both of these ways.
- If we only emphasize the individual renewal, the gospel becomes all about us. Our focus becomes – “How am I doing spiritually? What can God do for me?” – and my faith becomes self-oriented and self-centered.
- If we only emphasize the global renewal, we never deal with sin. We’re all about “living out the reconciliation of the gospel, etc”. But we lose the fundamental aspect that we need saving from our sin – and that the gospel story offers that!
So which part do we want in our missions? We want both parts! We want to represent the balance of the gospel – both parts – but keep the message of our salvation primary, because that’s the main focus of the Great Commission. That’s why the Great Commission is to baptize and teach. But we want to live out both aspects.
If I had a choice between giving our friends in Mexico a home or giving them the gospel, I would give them the gospel. I want us to be very clear about that. But here’s the thing – We don’t have to make that choice. God has so blessed us that we can give the gospel and we can do mercy. We want to do both.
If you look at that values statement that we read earlier, you can see that we have some fairly aggressive goals:
- We want to be a church planting church – saving for our first church plant from the beginning. We’re serious about that. We’re already doing it. So far, we have put aside $15,000 for local and global missions. We don’t know what percentage of that will be for our first church plant, but we want a good chunk of change ready for it when it comes.
- We want to send our best and brightest to spread the gospel around the Triangle and around the world. Some of us are probably going “best and brightest – Whew! I’m safe!”
Just kidding – but why do we say it that way? What we’re really saying is this: We don’t want to hold back. We want to be willing to give our best, and it’s going to hurt to release good people to go to other places. It’s going to be hard, but it’s our heart to be generous for the kingdom and to give back to God a good portion of the resources he’s given us.
Because at our core, we believe some things:
- We believe that God has more. That he gave us what we have so far – and that he can provide our needs if he calls us to give things away. I grew up in a church that believed that you can’t out-give God. I’ve seen that to be true.
- We also believe that this is the real legacy that we want to leave behind. Not so much that we were big. Not so much that we were the glory cloud church. But that we served faithfully – and we sent generously from our members – and from our money. And that we had a part – a big part for our little church – in spreading the gospel across the street and across the world.
- That’s whywe are giving 25% of everything we take in to missions. To spreading the message of the gospel across the street and across the world. To helping the neighbors that God has put in our path – both here and there – helping those who can’t help us back. We want to give 25% – the first 25% – of what we take in – to missions.
I don’t know if you know how extraordinary that is for a church plant. I can tell you that most church plants are scrambling around for every dime they can find. But we believe that God has called us – and will enable us – to share generously for the growth of his kingdom.
And it’s going to take faith on our part. There may be things that we have to do without. But this is the legacy that we want to leave as a church:
- We want to model as a church, the same kind of generosity that we would hope to see from you in your giving.
- We want to show our priorities in the way we spend our money. Jesus says “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” we want the spread of the gospel to be our priority – our treasure.
- We want to live a life of faith. A life that makes disciples by baptizing and teaching – a life that shows that Jesus is worth it – a life that is lived, like he really, truly has all authority. And really truly is with us – even to the end of the age.