************ Sermon on Matthew 28:16-20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 18, 2001
"Join the Rescue Squad!"
Topic: WitnessingGEMS, it is now twenty centuries later and God still has no other plan. He is counting on people like you and me to tell others about His love for us in Christ. He wants you and me and everyone else here to "join the rescue squad."
There is a legend which recounts the return of Jesus to glory after his time on earth. He bore the marks of his cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached him and asked, "Master, do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?"
"No," replied Jesus, "not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know."
Gabriel was perplexed. "Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love for them?"
Jesus said, "I've asked Peter, James, John, and a few others to tell people about me. Those who are told will tell others, and my story will be spread throughout the earth. Ultimately, all mankind will know about my love."
Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He well knew what poor stuff men were made of. He said, "But what if Peter denies you again? What if they all run away again in the face of opposition? What if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twenty-first century people just don't tell others about you? Do you have another plan?"
Jesus answered, "No. I'm counting on them."
I The Basis
A Jesus Himself tells us the basis for joining the rescue squad: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Or, as the song we sing puts it, "Our God Reigns!"
Jesus claims "authority" for Himself. In the Bible "authority" is something that belongs to God. It is a word which indicates His invisible and active power over every sphere of life. To God belongs all the power of the universe. This power is displayed in so many different ways. It was displayed at the time of creation when God simply voiced heaven and earth and everything in them into being. It is displayed in the magnificence and glory of His creation: a sunrise over a mountain top, a sunset over the ocean, the Grand Canyon, the Sequoias, a flower, an orchard in full bloom. It is displayed in His control of history; in His hands lies the destiny of men and nations. It is displayed in His awesome acts: the impossible conception of Isaac, the drying of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh and his hosts, water from a rock and manna from heaven, the destruction of Jericho's walls, a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a Son. Our God is so great and so mighty. There is nothing He cannot do.
B The prophet Daniel was given a vision in which He saw this authority and power of God being given to a Son of Man – Whom we know to be Jesus.
(Dan 7:13-14) "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. (14) He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
We see glimpses of this authority already during the days of Christ's earthly ministry. He had "the authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mt 9:6,8). He had the "authority to drive out evil spirits and to cure every kind of disease and sickness" (Mt 10:1). He "taught as one who had authority" (Mt 7:29). He even had the authority to command wind and waves to be still (Mk 4:35f). This authority was limited, however, by His earthly calling and presence. But after His resurrection and ascension Christ's authority is limitless: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." "Our God Reigns!"
C This authority was recognized by the eleven disciples. Jesus told them to meet Him in Galilee, at a certain mountain. Scripture tells us "When they saw him, they worshiped him." The Greek word for worship means "to fall on the ground before a person and kiss his feet, the hem of his garment, or the ground he is standing on." It is a sign of respect, of homage, towards one's Lord and Master. When the eleven disciples saw the risen Lord, they worshiped Him. They acknowledged His authority and power. They knew "Our God Reigns!"
D The authority of Jesus is universal in scope. There is no thing, no place, and no person that is not included in His authority. Of concern to us this GEMS Sunday is the realization that the authority of Jesus is also over the eternal destiny of men and their immortal souls. Listen to what Jesus about Himself:
(Jn 17:2) For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
(Jn 1:12) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God ...
E Jesus makes a big point of saying He is given His authority by God. In the Greek language what Jesus actually says is, "Given to me is all authority in heaven and on earth." Jesus says "given" because He wants to stress He did not take the authority to or for Himself. Many earthly rulers are that way. The military rulers of Pakistan, for instance, took authority for themselves. It is the same way in China and every other dictatorship or totalitarian regime. But Jesus did not take His authority. He was given it. God gave Christ His authority.
Why did God do this? For what reason? On what basis? This is Christ's reward for humbling Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, being obedient to death – even death on a cross. Because Christ willingly underwent this for sinful men, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name. Now everyone is to bend the knee before Him and confess that He is LORD, Master, King of the universe (cf Phil 2:5-11); everyone is to confess that "Our God Reigns!"
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." "Our God Reigns!"
II The Command
A Having said this, Jesus commands the church to go and make disciples of all nations. Don't forget, He is speaking as the one who has all power and authority in heaven and on earth, He is speaking as the One Who has authority over men's souls and eternal destiny, He is speaking as the One Who has the authority to give eternal life.
Christ has been given all power and authority. Being sovereign He is free to do what He likes, as He wishes, with that authority. What He chooses to do is send forth His disciples and the church to make disciples of all nations. Amazing, isn't it? Christ can do what He wants and yet what He wants to do is make disciples! Christ can have what He wants and yet what He wants to have is disciples. What wondrous love and grace!
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it? Most if not all of us would use part of it for the Lord's work but we would make sure the bulk of it was used on ourselves and our loved ones. Or, if you had fame, position, and power, what would you do with it? Again, I am sure we would try to advance the Lord's work but I am equally sure we would also advance ourselves. But even with all authority and power Christ retains His servant nature. Even with all authority and power Christ thinks not of Himself.
B I want you to also note something else Christ chooses to do with His power and authority. He chooses to be with us – guarding us, protecting us, giving us His power – when we join the rescue squad. No matter where we go, no matter what we face, no matter who opposes us, Christ is right there beside us:
(Mat 28:20) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Do you realize what this means? It means we don't have to fear those who oppose us. We don't have to fear not having the right words to say. We don't have to fear threats to persons or property. Jesus says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Mt 10:28). We don't have to be afraid because the One Who has all power and authority is with us, beside us, and in us. We don't have to be afraid because the One with us is stronger than any who may oppose us. We don't have to be afraid because the King of the universe promises to be with us.
C Christ uses His authority to gain disciples. What is a disciple? A disciple is not the same as a follower. It's possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be a camp-follower without being a soldier of the king; to be a hanger-on in some great work without pulling one's weight.
Topic: DiscipleshipThere is a world of difference between attending lectures and being a student. Likewise, there are so many so-called followers of Christ who are not one of His disciples.
Title: Overcoming Mediocrity Means Living Differently
Once someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger man. He said, "So and so tells me that he was one of your students." The teacher answered devastatingly, "He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students."
Topic: DiscipleshipThat's the way it is when you become a disciple of Jesus. When you accept Christ as Lord and Savior, you renounce Satan completely. You can't "split time" by serving Satan part-time and Christ part-time. A disciple is one who totally commits him or herself to the Lord. A disciple is one who obeys the Lord.
Title: A True Citizen
When an immigrant comes to America, before he can become a citizen he must renounce all his commitments and allegiance to his former homeland and pledge 100 percent allegiance to America. Then and only then will the U.S. Government grant him citizenship.
When it comes right down to it, a disciple is someone who recognizes the authority of Jesus over all of life, who knows "Our God Reigns!"
D Jesus commanded the disciples and the church to go and make disciples "of all nations." When Jesus sent out the Twelve before His death and resurrection He confined them to staying within Israel's borders.
(Mt 10:5-6) "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. (6) Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."Now, however, the church is to go to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. The Christ with all authority in heaven and on earth is not concerned just with the souls of Israel. He is concerned with the souls of all nations, peoples, tribes, and languages.
E We all know – or we should know – why Christ wants us to join the rescue squad, why Christ wants us to make disciples of all nations. Christ want us to do this because people need rescuing. Everyone, everywhere, every age needs to be rescued. People need to be rescued from sin. People need to be rescued from evil and Satan and darkness and misery.
Do you know what is the absolute worst thing that can happen to anyone? The man or woman of the world might say:
Though these things are all bad, there is something that is worse – far, far worse. Do you know what it is? It is spending eternity without Christ. It is spending eternity in hell. It is spending eternity under the judgment and wrath of God against sin. The Christian joins the rescue squad because he or she cannot stand the sound of people marching to hell, because he or she cannot stand the thought of anyone spending a Christless eternity.
- AIDS. The worst thing that can happen to me is to contract AIDS.
- Cancer. The worst thing than can happen to me is to die slowly, painfully, from cancer.
- Alzheimer's. The worst thing that can happen to me is to lose all contact with reality.
- Poverty. The worst thing that can happen to me is to lose my job or to lose all my money in the stock market.
- Disability. Becoming paralyzed due to disease or accident or having a child with multiple disabilities.
- Nuclear war or accident, energy crisis, chemical spill.
III The Method
A The Christ with all authority in heaven and on earth commands us to join His rescue squad, to make disciples of all nations. And He also tells us how to do this: by baptizing and teaching.
There is so much we can read into these two words. Let me list some of the things
First, we can support missionaries through our gifts and our prayers.
B Second, we all must be witnesses. It isn't that hard to be a witness. All you need to do is to remember the ABCs to salvation:
We must be Christians who reproduce. Unfortunately, most Christians are sterile. That is to say, they never reproduce themselves, even though Christ has clearly commanded us to make disciples.
- A - admit your sin and guilt
- B - believe in Jesus Who died for your sin
- C - commit your life to Jesus
Title: Spiritual Multiplication
Consider this: The total offspring of a single pair of flies, if they survived to the end of summer, would create a mound big enough to cover Germany to a depth of 46 feet.
Next time you swat a housefly, remember the importance of spiritual reproduction.
C Third, I would also like to lay a challenge before our GEMS, young people, young adults – that you will consider becoming ministers or missionaries. Don't forget the words of Jesus:
(Mt 9:37-38) "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (38) Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."I used to live among the Amish. They harvested by hand. The crop is big and they need lots of workers. That's the picture Jesus has in mind here. So how many of you will consider entering some form of Christian ministry? Two, three, five of you?
"Ask," says Jesus. That means we need to pray about this. So my prayer – do I dare to do this – my prayer is that ten years from now two of you (or should I pray that it will be five of you) will be missionaries?
D Fourth, we need to live out our faith. Nothing turns someone off from Jesus as quickly as a supposed Christian whose life is nothing but a lie. Here is a reminder that faith is more often caught than taught – especially with our children. It is important to model our faith.
E The Evangelism Committee asked me to lay before the congregation two easy ways for you to join the rescue squad. First, Crossroads Bible Institute. This is the ministry of correcting Bible Study papers of prisoners. We are looking for people to sign up for this. After the service this evening Ed Brower will have a sign-up table at the back.
Second, prison ministry. For years we as a congregation have had a prison ministry at Corcoran State Prison. Last Sunday night we asked interested members to show up at a meeting. Our ministry there can be as big or as little as want: from one night a month to a couple of nights every single week, from conducting worship to leading a Bible Study. If you are at all interested, please contact Bram van't Zelfde.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," says Jesus. "Our God Reigns!" "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations."
Are you obedient to the Lord with all authority, to the God Who reigns? Do you go and make disciples? Have you joined the rescue squad?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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