So What Do We Do Now? (Being About Our Father’s Business)
In an effort to become a ” global brand” or international icon, some high profile professional athletes spin off into others arenas of life and pursue other interests like being corporate pitchmen, actors, musicians, business owners, entrepreneurs, authors, motivational speakers, etc.
Sometimes, athletes who do this lose sight of their original purpose, their primary vocation: being a professional ATHLETE! It is no wonder, then, when such distraction, such inability to “keep the main thing the main thing,” causes their performance on the field to suffer.
This also happens to some politicians as well: so much time and effort is spent trying to get re-elected, getting ready for the next office that they aspire to, trying to broaden their personal appeal, enjoying the comforts of their office, that the officials sometimes lose sight of what they were originally chosen to do: TO SERVE the people!
I know that I am prone to wander as well, to stray away and distracted from God and His purpose in my life, the reason He made me, the reason He died for me, and what He wants me to do with the time He has given me until He returns to bring me Home. There is a reason God compares humans to sheep in Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2…
Therefore, my hope is that this message today will recalibrate us a bit, will reorient us a little, will cause us to pause and get back to the basics of what it means to be a Christ-one, a follower of Jesus, by looking at Jesus’ final words to His followers during the forty days between His return to life and when He ascended into heaven. For it is in these five passages—often referred to as the “Great Commission” passages—that Jesus reveals to His people what they are to be focused on, what we are to be doing, in light of His imminent return—it is here that Jesus gives us His message, His mission, His mandate, that we are to present to the world…
Set the Stage—What Was It Like for the Disciples from Good Friday Until Easter?
1. Left EVERYTHING to follow Jesus
2. Pinned their hopes on Him overthrowing the oppressive Roman regime
3. Allowed themselves to dream that He would restore the kingdom to Israel
4. Then He DIES a brutal death…and the disciples are speechless, scared, secluded,
shaken, sequestered, stumped, and saddened.
5. Only they and God know the thoughts that must have run through their minds
between Good Friday and Easter, accusatory thoughts toward God and His goodness, His plan, his love for them, His power, His promises…
6. But at least Jesus’ remaining few followers endured those stormy three days TOGETHER, an implicit but powerful testimony to the importance of Christian community, friendship, togetherness, fellowship.
7. And then Jesus appears to them, miraculously AND physically, over the next forty days, with encouragement, yes, but also with a message, a mandate, a mission for how they are to live—and what they are to do—once He leaves to go to heaven.
The Great Commission Passages1
- The Evening of Jesus’ Resurrection—A Locked Room in Jerusalem: John 20:21: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’”
- 8 Days Later—Again in Jerusalem: Mark 16:15: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’”
- 1-2 Weeks After That—A Mountainside in Galilee: Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
- 40 Days After the Resurrection—Jerusalem: Luke 24:44-49: “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”
- Right Before Ascending Into Heaven—the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Indeed, my friends, for reasons not fully known to us, God has personally chosen to use HUMANS as His messengers. Jesus is saying to us, “Share ME with those around you.”
Why This Is So Difficult
1. “I’m not eloquent enough to share my faith in Jesus with others!”
2. “What if they have questions that I cannot answer?”
3. “What if I offend them?”
4. “Not enough time—I’m just too busy for this.”
5. “This is a job for pastors, for professional Christians.”
I have felt—at one time or another—all of these sentiments. But I take encouragement that when I read Scripture, I see one huge story of God doing extraordinary things through ordinary people:
Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)—God’s response to Moses:“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’”
Judges 6:12-16 (NIV)—God’s call to Gideon:“’The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’
‘But sir,’ Gideon replied…[and lists some of his objections]
The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and [do as I command].
Am I not sending you?’
‘But Lord,” Gideon asked, ‘how can I [do this difficult thing]…? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’
The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you…’”
But maybe personal confidence isn’t the issue. For some of us—indeed, for many of us at one time or another—sharing our faith in Jesus with others is difficult because:
6. We’re not really convinced that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6 NIV), We’re not really certain if Jesus is the only way to be forgiven (Acts 4:12 NLT).
7. We’re not willing to risk our popularity, social status, or reputation in talking to others about Jesus.
8. We’re a little embarrassed at what others will say if they find out how “religious” we are—either that we are “old fashioned” and out of touch with modern life, or that we are narrow-minded and intolerant of others.
9. We’re embarrassed of HIM…
Friends, I say this not to accuse or condemn—again, I have experienced (and still do at times) all of the above in my 10+ years of following Jesus.
But if our hearts are cut to the quick at all right now, please let us not use this as an excuse to get defensive or discouraged, but rather to get determined to have the LORD iron out these wrinkles in our character! Remember, God knows we are like sheep and easily go astray, but He loves us and wants to make us holy, like Him, if only we will let Him.
So what can you do?
A. Pray, and ask God to help you overcome these roadblocks that keep you from sharing your
love for Jesus with others;
B. Share this with a pastor, your small group, a trusted Christian friend/mentor, your spouse, and ask them how they struggle/deal with these challenges;
C. Read Scripture as much as possible each day, even if it is just one verse;
D. Journal the ways that God grows you through these challenges over the years; this will be a great boost to your faith!
One more thing:
10. One of the other reasons I believe is it difficult to share our faith in Jesus with others is that somehow we believe that another person’s eternal destiny and resting place is directly in our hands. I have heard many people whom I respect say, “So much is at stake!”, meaning that if we don’t tell a particular person about Jesus than that person has no chance at heaven (somehow implying that you are the only person whom God can use to tell that person about Himself).
Scripture is clear that we are God’s ambassadors–we represent Him, and we are one of His microphones through which He proclaims His offer of unconditional love and forgiveness to anyone who will accept Him. We have an important role to play–what a blessing and privilege!
(2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT):“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’”
(2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NLT):“As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.”
But, despite our important role, God is still the central character in His unfolding drama of saving a lost world and reconnecting us to Himself:
(John 6:44 NIV):“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 NIV: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Paul is clear that we God’s people water and plant the seeds of the gospel, but only God makes it grow. We have a role, but the whole story does not rest on us. We have a part to play, but the eternal destinies of specific people do not rest on my faithfulness this Tuesday at Target to share my faith in Jesus with the person standing in the checkout line with me.
Illustration: My 3 year old daughter was making pancakes with my wife last Saturday—my daughter poured and measured the flour, stirred up the ingredients, and taste-tested the batter before pouring!
Now, when I tasted the pecan & cinnamon pancakes (hungry yet!? :)), I could legitimately say to her, “Great job Sweetheart–you did a fantastic job on the pancakes!” And yet, despite her role in making dinner, the quality of the finished product was never in doubt. My wife was diligently supervising the entire time. My daughter helped, but my wife made sure that the outcome of the meal was delicious.
And I believe the same is true regarding sharing our faith in Jesus, regarding the Great Commission.
So let us shake that terrible monkey off our backs, that pressure that comes with us thinking that the eternal destinies of individual people rest on us, and let’s pour the love and grace and truth of God on others, trusting Him to make them grow.
So What Does This Look Like For Me?
Jesus’ Great Commission is not just “telling people about Jesus” (though it is that!); it’s not just trying to convince people to agree with us on a laundry list of facts from the Bible (though God does eventually want all of us to agree more and more with Him and His Truth! Doctrine is important, but it is not the only thing that is important–relationship is also extremely important to God, learning to treat Him as a Person, not just an idea/concept. So doctrine and relationship together are important sides of the same coin).
Even more than that, the Great Commission is about introducing people to the Person of Jesus, helping people get to know Him better through the way that we treat them (our words, actions, and intentions). It is also helping people—who at one time loved Jesus but have since slowly drifted away for various reasons—to get to know Him again.
Illustration I: “I know intellectually that God loves me (just as I know that I have a winter coat in my closet on a cold day); but what I need help with is learning how to put it on and wear it.” In other words, I am still learning how to “put on God’s love” each day to keep me warm and protect me from the elements. And I have a feeling that there are many others out there struggling with the same thing. So evangelism isn’t just about a persuading about facts, but also (and more personally) about how to walk with God practically.
Illustration II: The other day I was thinking of my 18 month old son, and I was taken aback by the intense love and joy I felt simply at thinking about him. Then I thought, “Oh wow. Father, is this how You feel when You think of ME?” YES! I have a hard time believing it, and so do many others out there. Strangely enough, I think many people are VERY aware of their flaws and sinfulness. So let us introduce them to the Savior who delights over them in spite of their imperfections. Let’s show them through our actions how great a Father God wants to be to them. Now “evangelism” isn’t as intimidating, is it…? 🙂
Let’s Get Practical—Examples of Living Out the Great Commission
Please know that I am not trying to give you more “religious” things to do (like adding bricks in your backpack). I know you’re busy; I am busy too and the last thing I need is someone making me feel guilty for what I don’t do and giving me a bunch of homework that I don’t have time for. Honestly, it’s a victorious week at our house when we get the laundry washed and folded and put away!
But let’s look at fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission like getting physically healthier: Some people do nothing because they say, “I don’t have time to work out for an hour or two each day.” But we can get healthier by simply tweaking/adapting the way we already spend our time:
-switching from white bread to whole grain breads;
-taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator;
-re-filling up our empty soda can with water throughout the day;
-doing some sit-ups and push-ups while we watch our favorite t.v. programs; etc.
Here’s my point: fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission doesn’t have to mean that we add more religious tasks/good deeds to all the busyness that we currently have going on (though there will be some pruning/shedding of “good” activities so that we have time for the best activities God has prepared us for). Here are some examples (remember—this is not a checklist! These are merely suggestions):
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
A. Make Eye Contact with & smile at people that you cross paths with each day—God can shine through your gaze and smile just like He did through Stephen in Acts or Moses in Exodus.
Exodus 34:29 NIV:“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.”
Acts 6:15 NIV:“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
B. Compliment People Who Serve You (waitress, person bagging your groceries, librarians, etc.).
Illustration: A few months ago I was checking some items out of our local library and I was particularly amazed at how efficient the request and transfer system is. I spontaneously thanked the librarian for all of her hard work. She was dumbstruck and said she had never been thanked one time in 13 years of being a librarian. PEOPLE notice it when they get a taste/glimpse of Jesus’ love—how exciting!
C. Start Your Morning Off Right. Each morning, try and say to God, “Lord, who do you want me to bless today, who can I love sacrificially today?” “Lord, how/where can I be Your hands and feet today, in a sacrificial/extraordinary/out-of-my-comfort-zone/expensive/I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this-but-who-cares-it’s-all-for-Jesus way?”
We can ask God to help us focus on the question: “Who around me needs
A breath of fresh air,
A pat on the back,
A genuine smile,
An encouraging word (or paragraph!),
An hour away from the routine,
A truly listening ear,
A tender embrace,
An empathetic/sympathetic ear,
A smoothie or Frappuccino that says, ‘I was thinking about you today!’
A touch of the Savior through
MY WEATHERED HANDS
MY QUIVERING VOICE
MY WANDERING ATTENTION
MY FLAWED INTENTIONS?”
As we bungle through answering the above question each day, we will be fulfilling the Great Commission without even always realizing it.
D. Allow God to Interrupt Your Day. Ask God to help you be prepared for when He interrupts you, for when He brings people into your path each day who could use a glimpse of Him, a taste of His love. More often than not, God will wind up interrupting our lives with those who are closest to us—namely, our spouses, children, siblings, and families (sometimes they are the most difficult to love).
E. Know Your Neighbors. One of the most effective ways to introduce others to Jesus is to build relational bridges by getting to know them, by “doing life” with them. Summertime is a great way to do this: try inviting some neighbors over for dinner, or inviting them to enjoy a glass of wine on your deck with the fire pit roaring. If you’re going for a long walk with your dog, stop by and see if a neighbor wants to go with you. I know this is difficult, but God has placed us around certain people for a reason; we might be the only Bible someone ever reads…
E. Perform Random Acts of Kindness. This can be a great exercise to do with our children, especially when they are bored! The next time they are bored, gather them around the kitchen table and say, “Who can we do a kind act towards RIGHT NOW? What should we do?” It could be a kind note thanking a neighbor or family member for their friendship; it could be picking up some smoothies for someone and dropping them off; it could be dropping off a dinner for a family; it could be sending a bouquet of flowers to a beloved teacher. Be spontaneous with your love!
F. Pray Pray Pray! Pray for others when you are riding the train, when you are stopped at a red light, when you enter a store, when you are waiting for your meal at a restaurant, etc.
G. Know What You Believe and Why!
–Alpha is a great course not only for seekers but also for believers to sharpen their faith in God through learning about the basics—the fundamentals—of what the Bible teaches!
-There are some fantastic books that deal with common questions & issues that people have regarding God—brush up on these! (Please click HERE and HERE and HERE)
-Try out a small group where you can safely ask questions and grow closer to God in a group setting.
H. Know Your Own Testimony, the difference Jesus has made in your life up to this point. Think about how you have grown, matured, and changed since you first trusted in Jesus as your Savior. Ask others who are close to you to tell you how you have grown. This can be done during small group time over a series of weeks. Then be ready to share your testimony with others in a 30 second and three minute version of your testimony, your story about what God has done in your life. God will give you the opportunity to share it!
1 Peter 3:15 NIV:“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
I. Grow in Your Love for God By Simply Thinking About Him & Spending Time With Him.
If God is simply an idea in our minds, a two-dimensional figure about whom we know a bunch of facts, then it will be very difficult for us to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission. But as we begin to walk each day with Jesus, talking to Him throughout our day, reading His Word, thinking about Him, asking Him to help direct our thoughts toward Him each moment, soaking in His promises and Truth, then we won’t just be trying to convince people of the facts of Jesus; we will be able to introduce others to Him!
Acts 4:13 NIV: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
People will notice when we spend time with Jesus…
Illustration: God has been teaching me lately to soak in His unconditional love for me. I already believe it intellectually, so that is a good start. But now I need to soak in it, think about, chew on it, practically remember it when I feel discouraged, when I can’t seem to do anything right, etc.
These discouraging thoughts often come right in the morning when I wake up and right when I am going to sleep. One night, as I was drifting off and the thoughts start rolling in, I just started thinking about God’s love for me: “You love me unconditionally!” I said in my mind. I said this multiple times, not in a chanting way, but rather in the way that intermittent windshield wipers work when you put them on the lowest setting. It’s not pouring rain so it would be silly to have the wipers going full speed, but it’s drizzling enough that after 5-10 seconds your vision is impaired. So the wipers, every so often, will just sweep away the accumulated water, giving you precious vision again.
This is how I was soaking in God’s unconditional love for me that night. As soon as the condemning thoughts rolled in, I thanked God and repeated that He loves me unconditionally.
This is just one of the ways that we grow in our love for God–that indeed He fills us up with His love so that we can pour out His love on the people around us.
J. Grow in Your Love for Others (Strangers and Friends)
-God: please help me to love others as You love them, to see them as you see them.
-Not just a sum of their parts: stranger, level of affluence, address, car, physical appearance, etc. But a unique masterpiece made in the image of God, hand-made by Him.
-We protect paintings in museums with red velvet ropes, cameras, and security guards, but we manhandle humans everyday with our glances, words, thoughts, and actions. The grocery store is a real museum…because it is filled with PEOPLE made by God and for whom Jesus died. We must start—with God’s help—seeing people this way.
K. Be Patient. George Muller, the 19th century man who cared for thousands of British orphans, prayed for and showed love towards many people during his life, in the hopes that some of them would accept Jesus as their Savior. One of Muller’s biographers—Basil Miller—notes that two gentlemen for whom Muller prayed for 52 years did not accept Jesus until a few years AFTER Muller had gone to heaven. Remember: it is God’s job to change our hearts; it is our job to introduce others to God and His love through the way we treat them.
God Made Us for This!
Forgive me if this is a little overwhelming–that is not the purpose of this message. This is difficult; but God made us for this important role! Like an eagle was made to soar, so we too have been made and equipped to show the world how great Jesus is through our words and actions. Let’s not be content merely with splashing around in puddles on the ground–let’s soar for Jesus each day!
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in [you] Himself [forever].”
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
Growing up in Chicago in the 80s and 90s, I LOVED watching the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan was of course my favorite player, but I always knew that Jordan never would have won six championships without his all-star teammate Scottie Pippen.
“Pippen has six championship rings. He’s a seven time NBA All-Star. He was an NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1994, a 3-time NBA First-Team All-NBA selection, and an 8 time NBA All-Defensive team selection. He is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history and a legend in the truest sense for being the ultimate support player to the greatest of all time.
However, perhaps the most infamous episode of Pippen’s career came in the post-season of Pippen’s first year without Jordan.
In the 1994 NBA Playoffs, the Eastern Conference semifinals pitted the Bulls against the New York Knicks, whom the Bulls had dispatched en route to a championship in each of the previous three seasons. On May 13, 1994, down 0–2 in the series and tied 102-102 in Game Three, Bulls coach Phil Jackson needed a big play from his team to have any chance of going on to the conference finals. With 1.8 seconds left and the score tied, Jackson designed the last play for rookie Toni Kukoc, with Pippen charged with inbounding the basketball. Pippen, who had been the Bulls’ leader all season long in Jordan’s absence, was so angered by Jackson’s decision to not let him take the potential game-winner that he refused to leave the bench and re-enter the game when the timeout was over.
Although Kukoc did hit the game-winner, a 23-foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, there was little celebrating to be done by the Bulls, as television cameras caught an unsmiling Phil Jackson storming off the court. “Scottie asked out of the play,” Jackson would tell reporters moments later in the post-game interview room.”2
My Friends, let’s not get distracted, let us get off the bench and into the game: Jesus has given us a mission, a mandate, and a message. With God’s help and sincere efforts on our part, may our entire lives be focused on introducing others to Jesus through the way we live, the words we say, the thoughts we think, the prayers we pray, and the choices we make.
1 Newell, Marvin J.: Commissioned: What Jesus Wants You to Know As You Go (Church Smart Resources, 2010).