The Lord's Day Evening
February 5, 2012
“Missional about Missions”
The Reverend Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Now turn with me if you would to Matthew's gospel, chapter 28, a very familiar passage known as the Great Commission, beginning in verse 16 through to the end of the chapter. Before we read these verses together, let's look to the Lord in prayer.
Our Father, we thank You for Your Fatherly goodness and grace to us in the Gospel, that You would wrap Your loving arms around us, draw us to Yourself, listen to our cries as we whisper, ‘Father,’ in Your ear. We thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior, our Prophet, our Priest, our King, who through His pain and disgrace upon the cross enables us to find peace and grace in the Gospel. We thank You, Holy Spirit, for coming and indwelling our hearts and lives, coming as the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Christ, witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God. We thank You for ensuring that every jot and tittle written by men of old, prophets and apostles, is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Now bless His Word to us as we read it, as we endeavor to understand it. We pray for obedient hearts, responsive affections, wills that will say, ‘Not my will but Thy will be done.’ So Father, we pray, hear us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Verse 16, Matthew 28:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Amen, may God bless to us the reading of His Word.
Now as we come to the close of our Missions Conference - and it's been a joy to meet these missionaries from various places and doing different things but all of them seeking to advance the kingdom of God and to be obedient to this commission of our Lord Jesus to go into all the world and to make disciples. We need to ask ourselves tonight, “What role do I play in the fulfillment of that commission?” This is Jesus’ last command. This is Jesus’ last final instruction. I remember, as many of you my age and maybe slightly less remember, the first time you left your children home alone without a babysitter. You know, you knew that day was coming but eventually it came, but in our case it came unexpectedly and unplanned. And I won't go into details, but Rosemary wasn't home and I had to leave, and I laid down instructions to the children. There were five hundred sixty-seven of them. (laughter) And most of them began with “You may not…” And some of them, as I look back, were rather humorous, but one instruction was very, very clear. They were not to open the door to anyone. They were not to open the door to anyone. I intended — if they broke the others, there would be forgiveness, but I expected this one to be obeyed. This was my final admonition as I hurriedly left the house, rushing as I was, to a hospital to visit someone. And I said, “Now remember, do not open the door to anyone but me.”
Jesus is giving His last command. These are His final words to the disciples and two remarkable things immediately pop up to the surface. We won't have time to expand on either of them, but just to note them. One is the extent to which these men, the eleven to begin with, obeyed Jesus, especially since — did you see it at the end of verse 17? Some of them, the eleven, some of them doubted. Now we won't go into an English grammar lesson, but “some” means more than two. You understand that? If you use the word, “some,” in a sentence it means more than two. More than two of the disciples doubted. We don't know where all the disciples went. There are lots of stories and there are lots of traditions and many of these traditions are believable. They took the Gospel, these eleven disciples, even those seemingly who doubted, at least at this point, they took the Gospel to the ends of the earth. These eleven; the hundred and twenty that we read about in the Acts of the apostles some six weeks later; the three thousand on the Day of Pentecost. By the end of Acts 28, the Gospel has spread from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth - the end of the world as far as the New Testament is concerned, as far as geography was understood at that point in history. It is quite remarkable. It is astonishing that in a matter of decades, Gospel churches, vibrant, Gospel churches that could stomach epistles like Paul's epistle to the Galatians or Paul's epistle to the Colossians or Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, vibrant, Gospel, grace-filled churches had been established all over the then-known world. It's quite remarkable.
The second remarkable thing is how indifferent a lot of modern Christians are to this commission. How many, you know, how many Christians can you truly say — hand on heart — are obsessed with missions. Missions is one of those elite things that belongs to a subset and a subcategory of the church. It's the same everywhere. They are the “missions crowd.” You know, the “missions folk” in the church and you could identify them. And yet, this is Jesus’ last command. This is the one thing He intends us to obey. Now there's something else going on today so I’ll be brief. I remember Steve Lawson's sermon on hell that was very long on this very evening and I promise I won't be that long. I just have four things and they’re four very simple things. And I trust they’re things that lie on the very surface of the text. I don't want to be clever; I don't want to do exegetical gymnastics; I just want to say what's in the text. I want us to see what Jesus is saying. I want us to hear our heavenly Father saying, “This is My Son and I want you to hear Him.”
JESUS HAS ALL AUTHORITY
First of all, He claims to have all authority. He claims to have all authority. Verse 18, “He came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’” All authority over good and evil, over cancer and heart disease and Alzheimer's, over the earth and the moon and the sun and the solar system and the Milky Way and the billions of galaxies scattered all over the universe. He reigns and rules over them all — over the rain and the sunshine and the winds and tornadoes and monsoons and hurricanes and tsunamis. He has all authority. Every imaginable corner of the universe there is not a square inch of this universe over which Jesus does not say, “Mine.” He has all authority. Now this is something Matthew has been telling us from the very beginning of this gospel. He traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Abraham. He traces it all the way back to Abraham. The promise that was made to Abraham is that blessing would come to the nations of the world through Abraham. How in the world would that be possible when you read Genesis 12? That in Abraham's seed, not that Abraham himself was in himself a blessing as he went to the nations, but that in his seed blessings would come. And that seed, according to Galatians, is Jesus! In Jesus, the nations of the world are going to be blessed. How is that possible? In Iran? In the Sudan? In North Korea? In some of the nations in Southern America at the very tip of this particular part of the globe that we occupy? How in the world is that going to be possible? Because all authority belongs to Jesus. It's Matthew that tells us that astrologers, weird astrologers come from the East, they come from Babylon, they come with gold and frankincense and myrrh because perhaps they had heard Daniel's prophecy concerning Jesus. Perhaps they had heard Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the stone that would grow and grow and fill the whole world and that tradition that had been maintained over the years and centuries from the far East. Matthew's saying all authority is giving to Jesus.
What did Satan say to Jesus in the temptation? “If you bow down to me, I’ll give You, I’ll give You the nations of the world. I’ll give you the nations of the world.” And Matthew is saying He owns the world. He owns the universe. It is already His. And at the end of this gospel then, Matthew brings it back again. “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Me.” Why would you go with a message to dead people to urge them to turn and repent and believe in Jesus when they cannot return and repent and believe in Jesus in and of themselves? When their wills are enslaved to the natural condition of their fallen humanity? When they’re emotions are entrapped? When their minds are dull and cannot understand? Why would you take this message across the globe except if Jesus has all authority? “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun, doth His successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.” Isaac Watts’ rendition of Psalm 72. It's the sovereignty of Jesus that ensures that. The motivation and the guarantee of the success of missions is the sovereignty of King Jesus. The task that He urges us to do is a task that can be accomplished and will be accomplished because He is King, because He is Lord, because He is sovereign.
JESUS SENDS HIS SERVANTS INTO ALL THE WORLD
The second thing I want us to see in this text is Jesus sends His servants into all the world. He claims authority over all the universe and He sends His disciples into all the world. You know, there is no place where the Gospel has to say, “Thus far and no further.” You know, I heard, I heard, I think it was John Piper, but I heard, I heard him say, “There is no part of the world that is closed to the Gospel if you’re prepared to die.” If you’re prepared to die for the Gospel, there's no part of the world that is closed. What's Jesus saying? I want you to go everywhere. I want you to go north, I want you to go south, I want you go to east, and I want you to go west. I want you to go where no man has gone before. I want you as Gospel explorers to find those peoples and cultures and speak and tell and proclaim the Gospel there because He intends to gather His people from every nation, every people group of the world. There's a glimpse, isn't there, in the book of Revelation of worship in heaven and that worship is being given by people from every tribe and every tongue and every people and every nation. “I want you to go into all the world, into all the world.”
You know, one thing that that means is you've got to have an interest in all the world. You know, it's not just about Jackson, Mississippi. It's not just about this wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary state of Mississippi. It's not just about the United States of America. You know, find a news channel that actually focuses attention not just on where you are but find out what exactly are the needs in Uganda. What exactly are the needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo? What exactly are the needs in North Korea? Find a website — and there are many good websites — find a book and there is at least one very good book that will tell you and give you information. How many people live in this country? What kind of religions, generally speaking, are represented in this country?
You know the story of William Carey before he went to India when he was working in his cobbler's store in England? He was obsessed with the world. He had a map of the world on the wall and on that map whenever he had somebody — this was before smart-phones and Google and all the rest of it — when travelers would come who had been in foreign parts, would come into his — he would ask them. He would say, “Tell me about the people. Tell me about what you've found.” And he would write that information on the map because he was obsessed not just with England; he was obsessed with how is the commission of Jesus going to be fulfilled. Now in the wisdom of your extraordinary session, you have allocated particular parts of the world for special emphasis and special focus and make sure that you somewhere have a map — on your fridge, in your Bible. Jesus says, “I want you to go into all the world.” I want you to go into all the world so that when you hear a news item and it's about drug smuggling on the border of Mexico, think about Mexico.” What does the Gospel need in Mexico? How may Bible believing missionaries are actually working in Mexico tonight? He claims all authority. He claims all authority and He sends His servants into all the world.
JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES TO OBEDIENCE
And thirdly, He calls us to be obedient. Do you notice — “He calls them to be obedient to all that He has taught them.” Now in part, Jesus is saying, “I don't want you to go into the world and just get people to make decisions, decisions that make virtually nothing, whose lives are not changed. I want you to make disciples. I want you to instruct them in everything that I've instructed you so that when they come to believe in Me their lives are radically changed and transformed so that they grow and mature and become more like Me.” That's what He's saying. But let me narrow the focus. What particular command had Jesus given to the disciples? It was the command to go into all the world. Go into the world, go into all the world and make disciples and teach them to obey this command. Go into all the world.
You know, the question we have to answer tonight — all of us have to answer tonight if we're Christians, if we love the Lord Jesus tonight, the question we have to answer tonight is not, “Should I go?” The question we have to answer is, “Why should I stay?” because the going is self evident. I need to find reasons; I need to find good reasons why fulfilling this commission for me means staying here and supporting others in going. But you know, for some of you, for some of you it means, “Where do I go?” And don't be thinking — you know, times have changed — don't be thinking this is a command for young Christians. You know, “This is a command for twenty-somethings who are at seminary.” Some of you are facing retirement. Some of you are planning retirement ten years, fifteen years, twenty years. What are you going to do with that retirement when you have amass resources sufficient to take care of you in a way that you have become accustomed to? You know maybe the fulfillment of this commission for you is — why don't you give some of that retirement to mission work? Why don't you do a short-term mission spell, and I don't mean two weeks. I mean two years or five years or seven years when you still have your health, you still have your mind, you still have your energy, you still have the resources to do it. Jesus is saying, “Teach them to obey everything that I command, and this is My command, this is My final command, these are My last words to you: Go into all the world.”
What if it's your daughter? You know, your sweet, beautiful daughter and she's just graduated from a local university that I won't name and she comes home. You know, you have plans for her because you want her to be just like you. You want her to come home to Jackson and to buy a nice house in northeast Jackson and to be like you. And she comes home one day and says, “I think the Lord is saying I need to go overseas. I need to go overseas. I think God is saying I need to be a missionary.” That's a challenge, isn't it, when it's our flesh and blood? Jesus said, “All authority is mine.” Jesus said, “I want you to go into all the world.” Jesus said, “I want you to obey all that I teach.”
And fourthly He says, “I promise to be with you always, always to the end of the age, in every circumstance.” Now listen carefully because we love that little comment at the end and it makes us feel nice and warm and fuzzy inside because Jesus is with us everywhere. But what if what Jesus means is, “I’ll be with you so long as you obey My commands”? What if that's what He means? “I will be with you always, I will protect you always, I will provide for you always, I will strength you always so long as you obey My commands.” The promise that Jesus makes here is contextual and it's contextual to the charge that He makes.
Sometime, maybe this evening, I want you to look up on the internet, on YouTube, I want you to type in the words, “Helen Roseveare”. I doubt, I doubt if I live to be a hundred if I will ever meet anyone quite like Helen Roseveare ever again. I had the extraordinary privilege in the 1980's of meeting her on a fairly regular basis. She lived in Belfast as I did and she often spoke at a meeting that took place at the church where I was a minister. So I met her and I spoke at these meetings along with her and she is an extraordinary woman. In 1964 she went as a missionary to Congo — Congo which became Zaire, which now is the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest country in Africa, I think — seventy something million people. In 1964 she went to the missionary, to Zaire, to Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was captured and for five months she was a prisoner. She was horribly brutalized and raped, over and over and over. When she was eventually set free she came back to Northern Ireland and in 1966, it was barely fourteen months later, she went back. She returned as a missionary.
Now I want you to look up her name on YouTube and the title of the piece is, “Have You Fallen in Love with Jesus?” That's the title of the piece. Look it up: “Helen Roseveare - Have You Fallen in Love with Jesus?” It lasts six minutes. It's an interview. She's sitting on a sofa with a very English sounding interviewer and you look at her and you’ll say, “She's an old woman.” She's ninety now; maybe she's ninety-one. She's an old woman. I can say that about somebody who's ninety-one. She looks old; she sounds old. She's wearing a pink dress and she has a very distinctive, very distinctive voice, but she is a lion. She's a frail ninety year old, but when she speaks she is a lion because she loves Jesus through every syllable that she pronounces. I dare you; I dare you to go and watch that little video of Helen Roseveare and ask yourself, “Do I love Jesus like that?” Would I be prepared to do that for Jesus?
You know, you cannot say, “No,” without disobeying Him. He says, “All authority is Mine. I want you to go into all the world. I want you to do everything that I command you and I’ll always be with you. I’ll always be with you.” I don't know, I just may be speaking to somebody. In the providence of God, the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you, challenging you tonight to actually obey the Great Commission in a way that's going to change you, change your life, change your circumstances, cost you, perhaps cost you dearly. Perhaps it involves suffering and self-denial. But what was I telling the little children, the sweet little children? What was I telling them tonight about Jesus and what did they do to Him? They treated Him with pain and disgrace. Jesus has done so much for me. What is there, what is there that I won't do for Him in return?
Father, we thank You for Your Word. It challenges. Frankly, it terrifies us a little if we're honest, that You may be calling us to do something that perhaps we don't really want to do. So we pray tonight for that powerful working of Your Spirit that breaks down barriers, that stills fears, that opens doors, that gives clear guidance and instruction because we want to do what Jesus wants us to do because He gave Himself for us, He died for us, and we are His. So Lord Jesus, hear us when we say, “Do with us as You will and take us where You will and fulfill, fulfill Your great commission that all the nations of the world will come and bow at Your feet as one day it shall surely be.” Use us, broken vessels that we are, in the fulfillment of that. For Jesus’ sake we ask it, amen.
Now please stand and receive the benediction.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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