Encounters With Jesus: The Great Commission

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at the church and it’s my pleasure to speak with you today about Jesus and about what it looks like to follow Him.

We’ve been studying now for a couple of months a series we called Encounters with Jesus.  And we’ve studied a bunch of times when people crossed paths with Jesus – they encountered him in their life, and what happens as a result.

It surprised me to see that sometimes people encountered Jesus and walked away sad or angry.  Other times people walked away with their worlds turned upside down.

Today we are wrapping up this series by looking at last time that Jesus encountered a group of people.  It’s the last words of Jesus to his followers.  And we find the passage of scripture in Matthew 28.  We actually read it last week, so I’ll pick it up in the same place…

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

Last week we talked about doubt – that it is normal and that doubt does not disqualify us – that doubt is reasonable – so long as it is dealt with appropriately.  Doubt turns toxic when we pretend the doubts don’t exist or when we don’t do anything to dispel them.  Doubt should prompt us to investigate and learn and seek the truth.  We never fear the truth.  The truth will truly set our souls free.

If you weren’t here last week but are curious about learning more – you can go to our website and usually we have two options – you can listen – or you can download the manuscript of the sermon – for you readers out there.  Last week we had a technical issue with the recording, and that happens sometimes, but we will always have the manuscript – or I should say, anytime I am the one doing the teaching.  Jim likes to add lib more than I do.  I try to write it out ahead of time.

If I don’t prepare ahead of time I will sound like pblt,pblt,pblt.  And yes, I wrote out the sound effect and you can read it for yourself tomorrow.  I’m not kidding.

Now let’s get to the passage we are studying today.  It has become known as the Great Commission of Jesus.  It’s the last words of Jesus to his disciples…

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus takes us with our doubts and tells us to go and change the world.  Take your doubts with you as you turn the world upside down.

Jesus has commissioned our life.  He has a job for us to do.  As we live our life, make disciples. The Mission: Go and make disciples.  What is a disciple?

When I think of what it means to be a disciple – I thought of this image here.  Luke and Yoda.  What is Luke?  He is Yoda’s disciple.  He is a student who is learning from the master how to be like the master, right?

A disciple is more than a student.  The goal of the student is to embody the teachings of their master.

So when it comes to being a disciple of Jesus – He is the master and we are learning how to live the kind of life he lived.  It’s more than learning his teaching.

Learning the doctrine that Jesus taught might make you a student and maybe even a scholar – but – that doesn’t make you a disciple.

For this reason, Jim and I prefer a different term.  We prefer the word “apprentice” of Jesus.  

Let’s be honest – if you were to tell your non-churched friends that you are a disciple of Jesus – they are probably going to have no idea what that really means – they are just going to say. “That’s nice.” And then inside they are going “Coo-coo!  Coo-coo!”

Now if you tell you that same person you are an apprentice of Jesus?  They are probably still going to think you are a little nuts.  I suppose if I’m honest, that term doesn’t help all that much.  But at least it clarifies the idea of what it means to follow Jesus.

My goal is to become like him.  I am his apprentice.  He is training me to live the kind of life he lived.  He is training me to become the kind of human being he was.  I am submitting myself to the process – and it’s much more than just studying it.  It’s embodying his teaching.

Now if I may be frank with you –  In my opinion, churches have a tendency to church out far too many students of Jesus, and not enough disciples.  We have churches that are dedicating themselves to creating bible scholars, filling their brains with deep teachings – really meaty stuff, right?  But if all that teaching doesn’t help them be transformed into someone who can love difficult people, then what has been accomplished?

It’s far easier to make scholars than it is to make a disciple.  It’s far easier to memorize Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.” than it is to actually live the kind of life that reflects it.

Because we believe world already has enough mean bible trivia experts,  we are committed at Journey to doing our best to teach people how to do everything Jesus said we can do.  And to be able to help people become the kind of human beings Jesus said we could become.

The mission that Jesus hands to us?  Get the word out to everyone.   Everywhere.  Every nation is filled with people – human beings – all fighting a great battle.  All needing to hear the good news.

So what is the message we are carrying to all nations?

  1. The Message. Good news!  The Kingdom of God is wildly available.  Even to people like you.  God sees you as blessable.  Right now.  Where you are.  God sees you as blessable.

Most people think that God is angry with them.  That’s the predominant false narrative most people operate with concerning God.  He is upset, they have done something to tick God off.

They deserve to know that God is not out to condemn them, but to rescue them.

One time, Jesus enemies, tired of seeing Jesus show grace and kindness to all kinds of notorious sinners, went out to try to find at least one person whom Jesus would condemn.  Show they found a couple caught in the act of adultery – and they drag the woman before Jesus – at least Jesus – condemn this one!  Can’t we agree that this one deserves condemnation?

By the time Jesus is done – and you can read it in John 8 – Jesus asks the woman – where are your accusers?  Is there no one here to condemn you?  Then neither do I?

Nope.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. (John 3:17) There is no condemnation for the person who places faith in Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

Everywhere Jesus went he began his sermons with the words – Good news.  I have good news for you.  You are acceptable.  Lovable.  Blessable.  You belong.  God not only loves you, he likes you.  And he has taken it upon himself to terminate the effects of sin between God and man.

Jesus himself took the sins of all who want him to, and when he died he brought our sins with him and when he rose he left our sins to rot in that tomb.  And he rose and brought with him a new life for us to try on.

The good news – is that transformation is possible.  We can actually become the kind of human being we always hoped we could become.  It’s real.  It’s possible for us to become loving, respectful people – who are not eaten up by fear or anxiety or worry or stress.

The good news is that God will change us and make us the kind of people who others are thankful to have in their life.

Jesus says that those who are his apprentices become the salt of the world.  Know why Jesus calls us the salt of the world?  Well salt is a preserving element and it .  Okay – sure – whatever.  Salt makes everything else taste better.  Fries?  Salt em up!  Fish?  Salt em up.  Chips?  Mashed potatoes?

Salt is awesome.  If it gets out of the shaker!  So get out there and mix it up.  Get the word out about Jesus.

You don’t have to live your live in pursuit of stupid things like sex or money or power or fame.  Blech!  But many people don’t know that.  They aren’t going to learn about it from our culture, that’s for sure.  Many will not know that they have wasted their life pursuing worthless treasures until they have experienced the emptiness of reaching the pinnacle.

I came across an article about Brad Pitt this week.  Here’s a guy that on the outside might appear to have reached the pinnacle – I mean – what does the guy not have?  But the article bluntly describes Pitts struggle with alcohol after his wife left him and sued for sole custody of their six children.

By then, everything in Pitt’s world was in free fall. —there was a father suddenly deprived of his kids, a husband without wife. And here he is, alone, a 53-year-old human father/former husband smack in the middle of an unraveled life, figuring out how to mend it back together.

And can I show you a picture that struck me as I read the article.  In some ways it’s perfect to describe this crazy world we were born into by default. (Picture of Pitt)

Now he’s an actor right?  We don’t know if the tears in his eyes are real or not.  I imagine they could easily be real.  Let’s assume he is as broken as the picture wants us to believe.

Now let’s read the caption.  That picture demands a caption, right?  What does the caption say?  Suit jacket:  $2,250.  Sweater:  $1380 by Bonetta Veneta.

In all honesty, that picture and caption breaks my heart.

2000 years ago Jesus pulled his apprentices together and said – I’m sending you into this kind of world with good news.  There is an alternative kingdom – wildly available to whosever wants it – a kingdom where God himself will coach us through our life.

He will make sense of life.  We will never walk alone – not a single day in our life – Jesus promises – I will be with us always.

The Mission?  Tell the world about the good news.

The Message?  The gates to the Kingdom of God has been thrown wide open for whosoever will…

  1. Let’s talk about the Manner in which we bring this message to the world. How are we to go about bringing this message to the world?  And the word I want to highlight is the word – with “Gentleness”

The only two words that Jesus ever used to describe himself are the words Humble and Meek.

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Since Jesus is gentle – it’s important that we be able to share our faith in him in a gentle manner.  Author Dallas Willard puts it this way…

What we are seeking to explain is Jesus himself, who is a gentle, loving shepherd. If we are not gentle in how we present the good news, how will people encounter the gentle and loving Messiah we want to point to? 

Over Easter we had a friend named Henry share his story of how he came to place his faith in Jesus and part of his story was that he grew up in the Mormon faith and later in life left it behind.  What stuck out to me about his story was his statement that one of the hurdles to coming to faith in Jesus was the idea that He might have to admit that Christians were right all along.

It was hard for him because, he told me – “all my life Christians were always the meanest people on earth to me.”  Gulp.  The Holy Spirit gently nudged my heart and said – listen up.

Then he said, but I crossed paths one day with two pastors who were super gentle and kind and they helped me get over my perceptions of Christians.

And it was like the Holy Spirit said to me – Phil – would you have been that kind of pastor?  Or would you have looked for some kind of angle to belittle them for what they believed.  Would you have been gentle?  And unfortunately I think I knew the answer.

It took that conversation before I came to understand that disrespecting other people’s beliefs will not actually help them change.  Arrogance only hardens people.

I haven’t been gentle in bringing the message.  I too often I belittled others for beliefs that I felt were unworthy of acceptance.

Our friends and family members, indeed fellow church attenders in this room- who are skeptical about the existence or the goodness of God have reasons for believing what they believe – or doubting what they doubt.  We deeply want to be able to convince them that Jesus is our good shepherd, but only with gentleness and respect will people be able to verify our claims.  Only with gentleness will people be persuaded that the Good News, is indeed Good.

Peter understood this – Peter by the way – was not a gentle guy.  He  blustered about more than any other disciple.  But eventually he too learned the allure of gentleness.

And so in the first letter that an older wiser Peter writes to the churches, he encourages believers in Jesus to be ready to explain why you are living your life differently than most.  Why you life is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control and gentleness…

He writes, If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. 1 Peter 3:16

Were someone to ask you about your faith, have you thought about how you answer?  And is your answer gentle and respectful?

How might I respond?  I have learned that Jesus really is a good shepherd, and I can trust him with my life.  How might you respond?

Part of what it means to go into all the world and make apprentices of Jesus is being able to express your faith with words when the time comes for words.  If you are unable to express your faith in words, take time this week to think about how you would share your faith – using regular words that people use in everyday talking.

Right?  Stay away from churchy words.  I’ve been redeemed, justified and sanctified by the Holy Spirit!  You friend hears,  Waa Waaaa Waaa waaa.  Unless their name is Peppermint Patty, they will probably not understand a word you say.

We talked about the Mission, the Message, the manner, and lastly, let’s talk about the means of living out the great commission of Jesus.

And the good news is that since we have given Jesus the right to govern our days, that Jesus is the one who leads and directs us to cross paths at the right time with the right people.

The Means of living out is the Holy Spirit.  If Jesus is God with us, then the holy Spirit is God inside of us.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do what Jesus said we can do  – and the power to be what Jesus said we can be.  And the Holy Spirit is the guide who leads us and directs our steps, leading us into opportunities to share about the hope within us.

I want to encourage you.  You can rest assured that God is at work in the heart of every person you meet.  He deeply loves people and cares enough about humanity to send you into their world so that there is a representative of the Kingdom of Heaven nearby.

The people in your life – you were meant to be with them.  You were sent to be with them.  (Well what about my boss?  What about that co-worker that no one can stand?   No one likes that jerk.)  Exactly!  God loves that jerk – enough to send you into his or her world

You are, the bible says, an ambassador of a foreign land.  An Ambassador of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul once wrote to the church meeting in the city of Corinth, Greece.  Corinth was, by the way, was a raunchy city.  And the church was filled with people who were once, how do we say it, formerly raunchy people.

In other words – these words we are about to read – they weren’t given at a pastors conference.  It was to everyone then and now…

God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. 

 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 

This is Paul’s version of the great commission.  Go out and let the world know that – when it comes to us and God – there is Good News.  Good news indeed.

God is at work in every person you know.  And he has sent you into their world to live a life marked by gentleness and love.  And at some point you can be assured that God will prompt them to ask – why are you different?

And that’s the beginning of a new chapter in their adventure with God.  A new chapter in them hearing the invitation – the same invitation that Jesus gave his disciples – come and see.  Come and see.

And God is at work in you, you know.  Maybe this is the first week you are in church in a very very long time.   Why are you here?  It’s not to become a church goer – it’s far greater- far more interesting than that.  God wants to lead you into the life you’ve always wanted for yourself.

An exciting and purposeful life.  Challenging and rewarding life.  A life of faith – trusting in His character and his ability to lead the days of our life.

Come and be an apprentice of Jesus.  Give him permission to teach you how life was meant to be lived.

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