Missional about Missions

Sermon by Derek Thomas on February 5, 2012

Matthew 28:16-20

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The Lord’s Day Evening

February 5, 2012

“Missional about Missions”

Matthew 28:16-20

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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