But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20
John and Peter were picked up, jailed and beaten, and then commanded never to talk about Jesus again. They were living the Great Commission, even at great cost to themselves. What I find interesting is their response to their captors. They couldn’t help but speak of what they’ve seen and heard.
This begs a lot of questions for western Christians who clearly struggle with telling others the story of Jesus, for somehow we can help it, at least more often than not. Why exactly is that the case? Of course, our schedules are busy, and some feel ill equipped; many of us are just scared or it simply doesn’t cross our minds. But what if the most important reason is, we simply have seen and heard so little of Jesus in our own lives, he has become inconsequential? He’s an occasional thought, or a tiny blip on the radar of our lives, but not enough to shape the stories we tell; we literally have nothing to say.
That can change, you know? Jesus is speaking; he is at work, you only have to listen and watch.
We tend to complicate things with our insecurity and uncertainty.We then wrestle with questions and doubt.
The disciples were still processing all that had recently happened- Jesus’ trial, death, burial, resurrection. I’m sure there remained a thousand questions in their hearts and minds. Yet, they trusted and obeyed Jesus when He told them to go to Galilee. And once there, Jesus gives them one final exhortation. And what they did, we must do (even in the midst of insecurity and uncertainty)- they believed Him- at several levels. 1) His words were true. (He did have the authority to send them) 2)They could do what He had challenged them to do. (They were to make a global impact with the gospel) 3) He could and would do what He promised. (be with them every step of the way)
We have everything we need to trust and obey the great commission: the Holy Spirit, the scriptures, and our testimony. It’s time to trust and obey.
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”
― J. Hudson Taylor
This is my favorite quote by my favorite missionary. Reading Hudson Taylor’s Biography changed the course of my life and motivated me to listen to the call of God which beckoned me to China. No one is qualified to be a missionary. I certainly was not. It was the boldness of other hero-believers such as Taylor that gave me the courage to “Go into all the world.” Obedience comes before understanding. I listened to my Savior, but I did not know how I would fulfill the Great Commission. All I knew how to do was “Go.” How do I teach them everything you commanded, or baptize them, or make disciples when I do not know their language or culture? Jesus only demands that we are willing to submit to His supreme authority and trust that He will never leave us to do the work alone. Believer, young and old, don’t be afraid of where God the Father calls you or what Jesus the Son commands you to do; JUST GO and TRUST His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. Whatever you do, please do not ignore this command and say it is for someone else. If you do you are disobeying direct orders. There is no other reason we are left on this earth. Jesus is coming back soon! Let us be counted among the good and faithful! Ready. Set. Go!
Director of Community Missions & Evangelism
If a person sets out to speak to his neighbor according to a pre-conceived series of talking points with a pre-determined goal, chances are life with that neighbor will not grow very dear. That’s because people aren’t pre-fab slabs of protoplasm that respond predictably to meticulously applied stimuli. Revealing Christ to people requires less flow chart and more flow. Difficult questions, surprising twists, painful honesty, personal weakness—these all must remain on full display if you are to speak to someone about your own faith. That’s not good salesmanship. But Jesus is not a product. He’s the teacher of an eternal kind of life. And that’s why he says you will rely not on a set of principles, but on him. He never left you his notes, because he never left you at all.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” 18b
Jesus was clear the authority was not given to the disciples. We are not sent of our will or choosing. God has called us, and we are to go. This is actually a great comfort to me. There is nothing about my persona or character that is going to win someone to Christ. My responsibility is to teach what I know. Not with authority, but rather a conviction that I know this Jesus, and I believe that others can know him too. Our relationship with Jesus is the basis for our testimony which will, but the moving of the Holy Spirit, help others form a new and greater understanding of who he is as well. Jesus, in the authority of heaven and earth has commanded us to go and tell his story.
Join us as Senior Pastor Chris Johnson, Associate Pastor Aaron Hufty and Associate Pastor Bryan Richardson walk us through Matthew 28:18-20 (The Great Commission) in our Summer Sermon Series: “Meant for More. A Study of Commandments.”
David E. Garland noted in his commentary on Matthew, “(These two commandments) are the fundamental principles by which all other commandments in Scripture are to be interpreted and applied.” As we read through all of Scripture and seek ways to obey our Lord it always comes back to these two commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbor.
All that we learn and all that we do must adhere to the words of Christ in Matthew 22:37-39.
If we are honest, commanding love offends our American sensitivities. You might be able to ask for someone’s love, certainly hope for it, but you never demand it. Truly, who has the right to demand love from someone? God does, according to Moses and Jesus.
God also demands that we fear him, but not the kind of fear “that flees from his presence, but the kind that longs to do his will.” (John Sailhammer). The greatest commandment, the call to love the Lord your God, further defines fear. What God is commanding is an authentic response to his oneness; our total awe and devotion. God can demand our love because He alone is worthy of it, and He alone is our greatest good.
When God demands from us, He never takes, He always fulfills. You are never left with less; you always have more.
The desire for safety, friendship, love, significance, and purpose is very strong in the human heart. God has created these longings in us so that we might find them through a relationship with Him. And Jesus takes us a step further in the application and expression of our “self-love”. He teaches that our longing and desire for these things should match or equal (His word-as) our longing and desire for those around us (neighbors) to find and have these things as well. This is a radical perspective. Jesus convicts and challenges us to understand that our own desires and needs are best met in our love for the Lord. And when the Lord meets those needs, we then must have an equal passion and burden (His word-love) to serve, minister, and help others to find the same with God.
“He (Jesus) is commanding that our self- love, which has now discovered its fulfillment in God-love, be the measure and the content of our neighbor-love.”- John Piper
Underneath my computer in my office I keep a sticky note with a quote from Tim Elmore that says, “What you focus on expands.” There is a reason that the scripture reiterates the word “all” in this command. Our innermost desires and thoughts should be rooted in the Lord. In the moments that we pause at work or school and begin to daydream, what are we dreaming about? What we focus on expands. As our heart and mind begin to dream and think, the things that we dream and think about expand. Our knowledge of those things increases. Our plans become more comprehensive. Taking a pause to dream is not a bad thing. It is when these thoughts and dreams consume our everyday lives that it becomes a hinderance to our faith. Jimmy Needham wrote a song that states, “Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking about is an idol.” What you focus on expands. Is what you are focusing on keeping you from focusing on God with all your heart?