Sun, Jan 20, 2002


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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
MATTHEW 28:16-20

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 28 as we look at the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples, and you and me. As you are turning there, listen to this story regarding complacency, for it can cause you to lose the battle. The story goes like this:

I have played enough sports, been in touch with enough coaches, watched enough games, and read closely enough to know that there’s one strategy that’s deadly. And it’s so subtle. You think you can win by doing it, but you lose. It’s called sitting on the lead. If you’re an athlete or a sportsman, you know what I’m talking about.

When I was in High School, our basketball team went to the state finals in Texas. In one state final game we were ahead at halftime 26 to 18. The coach said, "Now we got’em. Just take it easy." You know what? We lost 41 to 40. Why? Because we tried to sit on our lead. We thought we had them beat, so we played with a maintenance mentality.

A growing church never gets so far ahead that it can afford to "sit on the lead." Complacency is a major peril to evangelism.

- Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p. 184

Today, when we think of evangelism we think that it is the pastor’s responsibility or the gift of evangelism where the Holy Spirit empowers a person in a supernatural way to speak forth the truths of God. We might think of men like Greg Laurie, Mike MacIntosh, Billy Graham and-so-on, but me, never! Please understand that this message that Jesus gave to His disciples is not speaking about the gift of evangelism, but He is talking to all disciples of His, you and me, and we will see that in our study this morning.

Keep in mind that these events we will be talking about this morning occurred after the death and resurrection of Jesus, during those 40 days before He ascended up into heaven, and probably very close to the end of those 40 days this Great Commission is given. With that said, let’s begin reading in Matthew chapter 28, starting in verse 16, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 28:16-20

The Lord instructed them to wait in Galilee and just as He said, came to pass. He appeared to them there. And yet, some doubted what they saw, they wavered in their belief, unsure of all these things even though the Lord told them all that was to happen, and what He said came to pass, but they still doubted even though they worshiped Him.

When we read these stories we wonder how in the world they could respond like that? How in the world could they doubt when they saw what Jesus said come to pass before their very eyes? Be careful, for we many times respond in the same manner.

You see, God has given us many precious promises in His Word. We have seen many wonderful things come to pass in our own lives. We have seen what God has said come to pass. And yet, when things don’t go the way we think they should, things get tough, and then we begin to doubt! Do you see how easy that is!

If you are like some of the disciples this morning, doubting that the Lord is in control of your life, wondering if you really can see Him, listen carefully to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18. He says to His disciples, His men, you and me, "...‘All authority has been give to Me in heaven and on earth.’"

Don’t doubt, don’t fear, no matter what you are going through, please understand that "All authority" has been given to Jesus, He is in control, He has the official right or power to see these things through. Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 1:16-17 regarding Jesus. We read,"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

Notice what Paul is saying here. Jesus was involved in creation, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He created all things. Things we can see and things we can’t see He has created. He created man and all the animals, birds, fish and-so-on. And He created this physical world, and He also created the spirit world, the angelic beings!

Now some believe in theistic evolution where God created life and then He left it alone to evolve on its own, He is not actually involved in this world or in our lives any more. That is just plain ridiculous! In fact, Paul tells us that not only did Jesus create life but He holds it together. He is the giver and the sustainer of life. Think about it. What holds an atom together? There are many theories, like atomic glue, but the reality is, the scientist may not know, but we do, it is JESUS! And I like that better than atomic glue!

And can you imagine if He let go what would happen? We don’t have to guess on that one either, for Peter tells us in II Peter 3:10-13, where we read, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." You see, when Jesus lets go, there is a big bang! So I guess you can say that we as Christians believe in the big bang, it just hasn’t happened yet!

Now this is important for us to understand. Before Jesus gives His disciples, you and me, the Great Commission, He tells us that He is in control. What does that do for us? It takes the burden off of you and me and places it upon Him for all authority, all power has been given into His hands. Now, on the basis of that authority, He tells us to "‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen." Matthew 28:19-20.

Jesus is talking about sharing our faith, telling others of the good news, the Gospel message. To go and tell for you have come and seen the risen Lord! Now before we dig into these verses, listen carefully to some statistics that come from a nationwide survey conducted in 1999 by The Barna Research Group regarding evangelism. They report:

  • 9 out of 10 American adults (86%) cannot accurately define the meaning of the "Great Commission."
  • 7 out of 10 adults have no clue what "John 3:16" means.
  • Barely one third of all adults (31%) know the meaning of the expression "The Gospel."
  • 58% of born-again Christians claim they have shared their faith with a non-Christian during the past year.
  • Americans living in the south feel more of a responsibility to share their faith with others than do adults in other regions of the country, with 40% of southerners feeling a sense of responsibility to share their faith with others, compared to 25% of those living in the west or Midwest, and 23% of those living in the northeast.
  • Only about half (53%) of born-again Christians feel a sense of responsibility to tell others about their faith. In other words, nearly half of born-again Christians do not think it is their responsibility to share their religious beliefs with those who do not know Christ.

That should be shocking to us for it flies in the face of what Jesus tells us to do, the Great Commission. Jesus said "Go" not "sit" or "stay" but go into all the world with the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

When Jesus said "Go" it is a participle and this verse should be translated "As you are going..." What does that mean? As you are going to work, as you are going to school, as you are going shopping, as you are walking down the street, wherever you go, you are to share the love of Jesus in all that you do. Now that may be hard for some of you to swallow. You are not that bold to just walk up to someone and share Jesus with them.

Two things, you first of all can pray that God would give you that boldness, which all of us should be doing. But, I think the point that Jesus is making is this, as you go through your

daily activities of your life, share Jesus, look for opportunities to share your faith, doors that may open up for you to walk through and do these things. The problem comes as people feel it is the churches responsibility to evangelize, or evangelism is done in the church. No, that is not what Jesus was saying, He was not talking to the church in general, but His disciples and He is telling them and us to "Go" or "As you are going" share the Gospel message!

Let me share with you two stories that drive home this point. The first story is called, "I’m Afraid They’ll Sit Up" and it goes like this:

Pastor Wallace Hostetter of Rochester, Michigan, went for a haircut one day. His barber was a young Muslim woman. In the course of their conversation, he told her he was a pastor, that he believed in Jesus, and that later in the day he was going to perform a funeral.

She replied, "Once I was supposed to cut a dead man’s hair. They were going to pay me $150, but I wouldn’t do it."

"Why not?"

"I don’t like to touch the dead, I’m afraid they’ll sit up."

"I know one who did," said the pastor.

"Ugh! You’re kidding."

"No, I’m not," he replied.

Then he told her about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When his haircut was done, she asked, "Are you going to keep coming here?"

"Yeah, I’ll come back."

She said, "I’d like to know more."

- Wallace Hostetter, Communicating to Contemporaries, Leadership Journal, Spring 1991, 23

Do you see the door of opportunity open up for this man as he was going to get his hair cut? He was able to share the Gospel message. Not force it down this woman’s throat, but through the conversation they had the door opened up. Look for those opportunities that God brings across your path as you are doing your daily activities. Don’t pass them up, but step out in faith and see what the Lord will do as you sow the seed of His Word!

The second story is called Witnessing by Walking, and it goes like this:

Christians are living witnesses who should "walk worthy" of the calling they have received.

In her biography of Marie Antoinette, Carolly Erickson tells about the queen’s attempts to disguise herself and attend parties, dances, and balls incognito, but her walk gave her away. "When she walked, she strode like a man. Her swift, purposeful gait was her trademark. It was said that she could never successfully disguise her identity at masked balls, for no matter how she dressed, she still walked like an Empress."

F. W. Boreham reminds us of a story from the life of Francis d’Assisi, "Brother," Francis said one day to one of the young monks at the Portiuncula, "let us go down to the town and preach!"

The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, obeyed with alacrity [eagerness]. They passed through the principle streets, turned down many of the by-ways and alleys, made their way out to some of the suburbs, and at length returned, by a circuitous route, to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention.

"You have forgotten, Father, that we went down to the town to preach!"

"My son," Francis replied, "we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere we walk."

It is just living what you believe, you are a screen for the world to see what God is all about as they watch you and what you do, what you say. What is showing on your screen? Hopefully it is showing Jesus, His love, His nature, His character, His truth, and-so-on. I like the way that Paul put it in II Corinthians 3:2-3. He said, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart."

You see, the Bible did not end with the stories in the book of Acts or the book of Revelation, but it continues on in you and me. We are epistles, letters, books for people to read, living epistles, of what God is all about, who He is, and what He is going to do or is doing. Again, what book or letter are people reading of your life?

Now I do understand that many feel unsure, unable, insufficient for the task. Please understand, you are! The good news is that all authority has been given to Jesus and on the basis of that authority we go out! It is not about us, but about Him! He empowers us to do the work we need to do. Continuing on in II Corinthians chapter 3, Paul says starting in verse 4,"And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." II Corinthians 3:4-6.

Jesus strengthens us, empowers us, as I have said, for the work He has called us to do. He empowers us to live what we believe if we would only step out in faith. And as we share our faith, sow the seed of God’s Word, the Bible with others, some will receive it, they will receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The thing to remember is you are the farmer sowing the seed of God’s Word, it is not your responsibility to save them, it is the Holy Spirit’s. So you need to sow the seed, you do your part and God will do His and you will be blown away how He will bless your efforts above and beyond what you ever imagined!

Now some like to get people saved and move on, put another mark on their salvation belt, but that is not what Jesus says we are to do. Yes, first they need salvation, an inward reality, an inward transformation by God. Paul said "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." II Corinthians 5:17. It is what takes place in our hearts as we surrender to Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives.

But it does not end there. You see, Jesus says we are to be baptized. Baptism does not do anything to you, except show your obedience to what the Lord instructed you to do. It is an outward showing of what has taken place in your heart. Baptism doesn’t save you, but it truly tells others that the old life has been buried in the waters of baptism and you are coming up out of those waters a new creation in Christ.

That is why when we do baptisms we do them in Lake Michigan, for it truly is a witness to others, it is not to be done in secret, at least it shouldn’t be. It is a deceleration that Jesus is on the throne of your heart, and why hide that, let it be a light!

Paul, in Galatians 2:20 put it this way regarding our life in Christ, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Do you see how symbolic baptism is. As I have said, death to the old life, and coming up out of those waters in Christ. That already happened during your new birth, your salvation, but now it is on public display for all to see!

And we still are not done, for there is still more that needs to be done as you led someone to Christ. First they need to be saved, as I have said. Then they should be baptized. And then they are to be taught the things of God. We are not to just leave these new babes in Christ to care for themselves. We are to nurture them with the Word of God, building them up in the faith, helping them to apply it to their lives.

Notice what Peter has to say regarding the power of the Word of God in I Peter chapter 1, starting in verse 23, "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." I Peter 1:23-2:3. God’s Word not only saves a person, but it is the nourishment they need for their spiritual lives, it is necessary for them to grow!

And I understand these things may seem overwhelming, but notice what Jesus says, "...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20. He is with us till this age is over, never forget that truth. Maybe you have heard of the story of the little boy who was asked by his Sunday School teacher what his favorite Bible character is. And the other students shouted, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and-so-on. And this little boy said that his favorite Bible character was Lo. He said that he wanted to be Lo! The teacher, puzzled by that statement, and she questioned him about it. And he replied by saying, "Jesus said, ‘Lo, I am with you always!’ Thus, I want to be Lo, for Jesus is always with Him!" What a great answer. The faith of a child and the reality of that statement. Yes, Jesus is always with us. You can run as far as you can away from God and if you turn around and repent, He is standing there right besides you. Don’t forget that, He is always with us, we are not always with Him, and that is where the problem comes in.

As you look at the task that Jesus has placed before us, it does seem overwhelming at times. So many who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and we can easily get discouraged by that. Don’t give up but keep pushing on as this young man did in the story One By One. It goes like this:

An old man, walking along the beach one dawn, noticed a young man picking up starfish and flinging them into the ocean. The boy explained he was afraid the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.

"But the beach goes on for miles," said the man. "What difference will it make? There are so many starfish that nothing you can do will matter."

As the boy picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, he said quietly, "It matters to this one."

You see, the battle is won one heart at a time. Are you that concerned for the eternal destiny of people as this young man was for saving these starfish? I hope so! You see, the question really is, what are you going to do to carry out Jesus’ command to us, "‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen." Matthew 28:19-20.

I pray you will be able to say as Paul did, responding as he did in Acts 20:24, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." May that be our passion as we are going into all the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. May we respond to the call as Isaiah did when the Lord asked him who will go for Him, and Isaiah said, "Here am I! Send me." Isaiah 6:8. And please remember, this command is as you are going share Jesus, it is not a ministry, but a lifestyle!

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