The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This message is a part of a series called “GO & DO”. We will look at our faith in action and how it drives us to take on different roles throughout our lives. God did not call for his believers to sit silently and keep the Good News to themselves. No, we are to GO & DO as Christ did and leave no stone un-turned in our pursuit to spread the gospel of Christ.
Any conversation about a theme like “GO & DO” must be accompanied by a discussion about what exactly we’re being asked to accomplish. Where are we going? What are we doing? These questions can be summed up by asking “what is our commission?”
A commission is defined at…
…a formal written warrant granting the power to perform various acts or duties. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
If we expand this a little more, the commission tells us what a certain authority expects of us. If a benefactor is commissioning a painting, they are telling an artist what they want and the benefits or privileges that will follow (hopefully payment and maybe a spot in an art gallery) once completed. When an officer is given their “commission” in the military, it is a statement explaining what the expectations are of their service and the benefits or privileges that come via their authority.
Christians are also given a commission, often called “The Great Commission”. This commission is worded in slightly different ways as reported by the various witnesses, but the bottom line is clear: go and do.
THE GREAT COMMISSION
When we talk about what we are commissioned to do, as a Christian, we have to start at the GREAT COMMISSION. The particular verse I go to when I look at the Great Commission is found in Acts. It is the most detailed of any of the accounts and provides the most insights into what Jesus commanded all Christians to do.
Let’s set the stage. Jesus is about to ascend into heaven. He’s already been crucified and raised from the dead. After hundreds of people have seen and listened to him continue to teach, he is finally about to leave the disciples. In this moment, the disciples are left to wonder “what’s next”?
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
The disciples ask Jesus if he is about to “restore his kingdom”. Remember that many of the Jews felt that Jesus would ultimately come and be a king here on earth, ruling over all Israel. If Jesus had gone ahead and ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM, the disciples could essentially sit back and watch Jesus perform his miracles and rule. Instead, Jesus told them it wasn’t yet time for the new kingdom; the new kingdom wouldn’t come until the end-times talked about in Revelations. This seems like bad news until you catch the rest of the verse: Jesus was EMPOWERING the disciples to now go and be leaders and messengers of God.
Sometimes Christians hit this point and go “awesome, so it’s up to me!” That’s not the case. It’s not up to you to figure out what God needs; that is the job of the HOLY SPIRIT. We haven’t talked a tremendous amount about the Holy Spirit and I think the evangelical church (such as the Baptists) does a poor job of explaining exactly what the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is part of the trinity meaning it is just as much “God” as God the Father and Jesus Christ. While God the Father interacts with us through his supremacy and Jesus Christ interacts with us through his physicality, the Holy Spirit interacts with us through INTIMACY. It is God living in our hearts and minds. It’s the part of God that binds with us when we accept Christ into our hearts. Some people liken it to a conscience, but with far, far more power. It emboldens us to act at times when we are afraid and strengthens us when we are weak. This is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a critical part of the Great Commission. So many people look at the Great Commission as “what God told me to do” but in reality the Great Commission is “what God intends to do THROUGH ME”.
THE FIRST COMMISSION
During Jesus’ lifetime, we see a more detailed model of what Christ commissions his followers to do. We see this after Jesus has spent the first several months of his ministry preaching and teaching in the region called Galilee in the northern part of Israel. Take a look at this commission given to the original 12 disciples.
Jesus sent out these twelve after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road that leads to the Gentiles, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Don’t acquire gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a staff, for the worker is worthy of his food. When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. Greet a household when you enter it, and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it; but if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (Matthew 10:5-15)
Let’s unpack this commission and see what we can apply to our own lives.
First, we see Jesus calling the disciples to a SPECIFIC AUDIENCE. In the first couple of verses you see Jesus telling the disciples not to go to the non-Jews (Gentiles) but rather to focus their efforts on what he called the “lost sheep of Israel”. There were specific reasons for this, but what we glean off of this is that we all have certain people and things we are called to support. Some of us are called to minister to lost peoples in foreign countries. Others are called to minister to people who look, talk, and act very similar to us (which is exactly what the disciples were called to do here). Sometimes our calling changes and we are being drawn away from one group and towards another; keep in mind that the disciples here stuck mostly around Israel but after Jesus ascended to heaven many of them became what we would call “foreign missionaries”. The important thing is that we identify the audience we are being drawn to minister towards and the best way to find that out is through reaching out to others, praying, and paying attention to the doors God is opening for us.
Next, we see the ministry of COMPASSION that all followers are called to support. In Jesus’ time, many God-fearing Jews would only seldom associate with the sick, diseased, and those who appeared to be possessed because they felt those individuals were “unclean” and being punished by God for some reason. Jesus says that those are exactly the individuals we should be reaching out to. We should be ministering to those we find disgusting; those who make us cringe; the people who seem like they don’t have other people to love them. It’s hard; I won’t lie. I am not always the best at overlooking the physical nature or characteristics of a person and offering them compassion, but that is exactly what we are called to do. Regardless of your ministry or mission in life, we are all called to compassion.
Then, we Jesus calling all of us to LIVE HUMBLY and without regard to our own physical possessions. Jesus tells the disciples to not worry about gold, silver, or copper. There are two lessons here. The first is that our faith should not be in our own ability to provide for ourselves. This is a tricky one because obviously we still work jobs, invest in retirement, and all sorts of other “insurances” against bad things that may happen to us. At the same time, we have to understand that God will provide for us when we are conducting ministry in his name. During one of the mission trips to the Ivory Coast, our missions team told us a story about being asked to build a church that was much bigger than they could handle. After searching around, there just so happened to be a Korean construction team that wasn’t using their crane at the time and coincidentally was available to send it to help in building the church. When God calls you somewhere, He will provide. The second lesson here is to not be overly concerned for our things because it clouds our vision in seeing God working in our lives. When we obsess over our own clothes, electronics, and other possessions, it can distract us from what God wants us to do that is beyond “things”. You only have so much attention to give and if you are focused on things that are purely physical, it is hard to also pay attention to things non-physical.
Finally, our calling is to go beyond our own INSECURITIES. Probably my favorite part in this whole section is verse 14 where Jesus says…
If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:14)
When we go out and live our lives as Christians, we have to do so with the understanding that God is supreme and rules over everything else in our lives. Some people will not like it. Some people will not understand it. Some people may even hate it. The journey to following Christ is not one always paved with comfort and happy thoughts, but it is a rewarding one.
This is the great hope and rallying cry of all who follow Christ: live without fear for GOD IS WITH YOU!
“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. Beware of them, because they will hand you over to local courts and flog you in their synagogues. You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because it isn’t you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you. (Matthew 10:16-20)
There is a shirt I wear that several of you have commented on. It is a black t-shirt with the silhouette of a famous painting sitting in the Basilica in Rome. The painting is of the archangel Michael, who the Bible tells us is the leader of heaven’s armies, with his foot on the head of Lucifer about to strike him down with a sword. It’s a painting inspired by the prophecies in Revelation that ultimately Satan will be defeated and all those who chose a life focused on Christ will be a part of the victory. This is a dramatic and probably overly militaristic view of Revelation, but the message is clear: God wins. No matter what difficulties we may face between now and then, it will all be worth it.
When we think about our commission as a believer in Christ, this is the assurance we are all given. We have total assurance that anything we have to sacrifice or pass up in the name of God will come back to us in spades when we get to be a part of the victory of Christ.