The Great Commission

by Anita Wansley
Matthew 28: 18-20
April 6, 2008

I had the privilege of attending the Gulf states Missions rally last weekend. Everyone preparing a sermon should have the benefit of attending a full conference on their topic! I had already begun to prepare my sermon when I went that Friday night, but after about seven pages of notes, I realized that much of what I needed to say was being said by the people who shared throughout that rally. I hope to combine what God has given me to share with what He laid on their hearts to share, and may you hear God, too.

When I was in junior high, my sister Heidi went into a missions program, Youth Evangelism Service, a program with the Mennonite Missions Organization. We traveled to her commissioning service, where she and maybe 40 other young adults were going to be commissioned for their areas of service. It was held in a huge church with hundreds of people attending. This image has stood out in my mind for years. The leader of that service spread his hands out over the group of these new young missionaries as this scripture from Matthew was read. This somehow added to my idea that this passage was for people who were going to other countries to help people know God. It was for them. It was for the incredible people who give up their comfortable lives to move thousands of miles away to remote villages. It was for the people who worked in poverty stricken neighborhoods in large inner cities. It was for others. Oh, was I wrong.

This great commission is a calling for each and every one of us. It is all-inclusive. We are all the ones Jesus is commissioning to spread His gospel. All nations include our nation. All nations include our community. All nations include our friends and the people we see everyday. We all have been commissioned. We all have had a leader raise his or her hands over us to tell us to go and preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior. It is time for us to go and carry this commission to its intended purpose.

A couple of months ago Elaine conducted a Sunday school teacher’s workshop and presented a way of studying scriptures with three questions:

1. What does the scripture say?
2. What does it mean?
3. What does it matter?

So let’s look at today’s scripture through this tool:

What does this scripture say?

Read Matthew 28:18-20, then from The Message.

What does this scripture mean?

First, what is a commissioning? When I thought about this word, I had to think of all the great works of art and music that were commissioned by popes and kings. I also remembered a documentary (I think maybe it was a 20/20 special) on the current Monarchy in England. The Queen was making a trip to the United States and she commissioned an American photographer to come and take her picture for publicity. This photographer was respected in her field and was known for her talent. She was overwhelmed with the honor that was being asked of her by one of such high authority. Of course she said yes and prepared for the photo shoot. Afterward she claimed it was her highest honor in her career.

In this scripture we have Jesus, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth, commissioning us to do a great work for Him. He chooses us to share His gospel with all people. He chooses us to baptize and make disciples. He chooses us to teach new followers His ways. He must believe we are up for the job! Are we honored to be commissioned? Are we claiming it to be the highest honor in our faith career?

Why does this scripture matter?

Now to the meat and potatoes of the sermon! This “why does it matter?” question is the heart of why I agreed to do this sermon. This great commission, these incredible words of Jesus, is what I am discovering is my passion. This call to share what Christ has done in my life, to share what this gospel is about, has become what is most exciting to me and what I have discovered has given me the greatest joy.

This scripture matters! It is a call to do the work of Christ. We all are being called to share this gospel message and teach others about what God means.

At the missions rally last weekend Pastor Karl started the first session with a story. (Doctor/patient story)

Who are we in contact with every day that may one day say to us: “What?! You knew this Jesus and what He can do in my life all this time and you didn’t tell me?!”

This scripture matters! Pastor Karl gave the statistics that 95% of believers never win another person to Christ. 80% of believers never tell someone about Christ. What are we waiting for? This scripture and others call us to share Christ with others.

Romans 10:14 and 15: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

This scripture matters! We are called to not keep quiet! As many of the speakers shared last weekend, telling others about Christ is not an obligation, it is a natural part of what we do. We do it out of love and joy. It is not a difficult “oh, I’ve got to remember all the right verses, the right steps, the right prayers.” No, it is simply sharing what you have experienced. We cannot share what we have not received!

This scripture matters! This is an urgent, vital call from Christ! We know from Romans 3:23 that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We also know from Romans 6:23 that the “wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have the somber reality of heaven and hell and that matters! We are to confess our sins and claim Jesus as Lord of our lives. We must share this with others. Just being good isn’t enough — that matters.

Pastor Karl used the example of camp burning down and of course Jeff would run over to the lodge and bang on doors and yell for people to get out! We have this same urgency to tell people about God’s saving grace through Jesus. I also like the perspective in Steven Curtis Chapman’s song about Regis calling to ask you if you want to be a millionaire, they put you on the show and you win with two lifelines to spare, but you bury all the money in a coffee can and act like nothing happened. It doesn’t make sense — you’d be ecstatic –you wouldn’t be able to keep quiet. Whether you take Karl’s perspective or the Regis perspective, you wouldn’t keep quiet. Either out of great concern or out of great joy we too, share what Christ has done for us!

This scripture matters! This scripture tells us to not only tell, but to baptize and teach. This takes relationships. These relationships do not have to be complicated. Claudio was one of the young men who shared his testimony last weekend. He was in high school, getting involved with people who were in gangs, doing things that were not good and he knew it. He had known God and wanted to go to church but just wanted someone to go with him. Oscar was another teen who had just started going to Amor Viviente and one day approached Claudio. After talking a little bit the conversation somehow turned to church. Oscar simply said, “So do you want to come with me to my church?” That was all it took. Oscar made a simple invitation and God took care of the rest.

Oscar’s testimony was that he grew up in a family with alcoholic parents. He longed to have someone care about him. The first time he went to Amor Viviente, Pastor Karl gave him a hug. Just a simple hug and that was what brought him to Christ. He knew that that place was different. He felt Christ’s love and acceptance and knew that was what he wanted. He has now brought many people to know God and discover the joy of being part of a church family.

On the other hand, developing relationships in order to baptize and instruct can take time. It may take days, weeks, months, years before someone acknowledges their need for salvation. But we know that what we share is the greatest gift we can give others and that our time spent is never in vain.

This scripture matters! I love the way The Message puts the last part of this scripture: “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” The Holy Spirit is always with us, prompting us, equipping us, convicting us. The Spirit will not allow us to forget what we have experienced. Acts 1:8 says, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be my witness.”

Claudio, when he shared his testimony, pointed out the story of Phillip. In Acts 8 the Spirit told Phillip to go down a certain road. While on that road he met the chariot of an important Ethiopian official. The Spirit tells him to go to the chariot and stay near it. That was it. Just go and stay near to that person. It wasn’t go and present a salvation process. It wasn’t go and list the person’s sins. It wasn’t go and share his ten page testimony. No, it was simply go and stay near. God in the Spirit was with Phillip. Phillip was just supposed to obey and be ready. He was just to take that step.

This scripture matters! These words of Jesus matter to each and every one of us. It is our great commissioning. It is our call to be salt for this earth. It is our call to flavor this bland and sometimes downright yucky world with the salt of Christ’s gospel. It is time to take this call and not keep quiet.

Who is God calling you to share his gospel message with? Who are you in contact with every day that needs to hear your experience with Christ? Who do you cross paths with that may need to hear that there is a different way?

When we decide to see every person as an opportunity to share the gospel and fulfill this call:

    God will give us what we need for each step

    We don’t have to wait to be equipped for evangelism — God’s spirit will equip us along the way

    We don’t have to wait until we have the words — He will give us the words for each conversation

    We don’t have to wait until we feel the power — He will move mountains when we decide to act

    We don’t have to wait until we have prepared our testimony — He will provide it when we have the courage to open our mouths

Christ promised us He would be with us as we do the task that He asked of us. We cannot give what we don’t have so claim your experience in Christ and let it pour out to others.

Therefore Go and Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

This scripture matters!


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