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Entries in Great Commission (2)

Tuesday
Aug202019

So Send I You

Mark 6:7-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

Today, our passage involves Jesus sending his twelve disciples out on a mission.  If his words before his ascension in Matthew 28:18-20 are to be called The Great Commission then our story today should be called the Small Commission.  It involves them going out only to the towns of Israel and preaching to them.  Perhaps Jesus saw this as a trial run for the greater mission that he would give them later.

Our title for this sermon comes from John 20:21. There Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (NKJV)  Everything that Jesus is doing with them throughout Israel is leading up to that point when he will go back to Heaven and the Apostles will need to take the Gospel to the nations of the world.  This would not be an easy task and it would be filled with many difficulties and trials.  Yet, it would also be filled with many joys.

There is a hymn that was published in 1954 and written by a Canadian woman named E. Margaret Clarkson.  She grew up in Toronto in the 1920’s.  In the 1930’s when she came of age, jobs were hard to come by in Toronto.  This led to her going into the far north of Ontario to become a teacher in the logging and mining camps.  Here are some quotes from her concerning her time there. 

“I experienced deep loneliness of every kind-mental, cultural, and particularly, spiritual- I found no Bible-teaching church fellowship, and only one or two isolated Christians, in those years.  Studying the Word one night and thinking of the loneliness of my situation, I came to John 20, and the words, ‘So send I you.’  Because of a physical disability, I could never go to the mission field, and this was where He had sent me.  I had written verse all my life, so it was natural for me to express my thoughts in poem.  Some years later [in 1963-after more life-experience and contact with real missionaries] I realized that the poem was really, very one-sided; it told only of the sorrows and privations of the missionary call and none of its triumphs.  I wrote another song in the same rhythm, so that verses could be used interchangeably, setting forth the glory and the hope of the missionary calling.”    (from https://propempo.com/story-behind-so-send-i-you-margaret-clarkson/)

This second version was published in 1963 as Margaret felt, if choosing between the two, the second one was the more biblical.  Here are the first stanzas of each version.

So send I you to labor unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing, to send I you, to toil for Me alone.

So send I you, by grace made strong to triumph, o’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin, My name to bear and in that name to conquer, so send I you, My Victory to win.

Of course, singing nine verses (the first version has 5 and the second has 4) would not fly in very many churches today.  However, the words of this hymn are of great value and worth looking up.  It teaches us to count the cost and also the rewards of going forth for Jesus.

The greatest rewards for taking up the task that Jesus gives to his Church are yet to be had.  In this life, these things are bitter sweet, but once our work is done, and we have reached the end of our race, we shall enter into the full rewards of our labors on this earth.

Jesus sends The Twelve on a mission

Mark’s version of this passage, again, is very short on details.  If you read Matthew 10:1-15, you will see that Jesus limits them to going only to the towns and cities of what he calls “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  This did not include Samaria, which was an area of Israel that had mixed with Gentiles in marriage and in religion.

We are told that Jesus sends them out in pairs.  Thus, we would have 6 pairs of two disciples heading out to different parts of Israel.  This was not to keep an eye on each other, but rather because, “Two are better than one.”  Like Adam in life, it was not good for them to be alone in ministry.  They could keep each other encouraged in the difficult times and supply gifts where the other fell short.

It is interesting that this same phrase, two by two, occurs in the Noah’s Ark passage.  There the animals are brought into the ark in pairs, two by two.  That passage is unclear as to whether Noah is rounding them up, or if God’s Spirit is drawing them into the ark.  Regardless, in our passage the disciples are going out in pairs to call people to enter the ark of God, Jesus.  If comparing the ark to Jesus is a foreign concept to you then think of it in this way.  Just as Noah’s family were protected from the judgment of the ancient world by getting into the ark, so those who come inside of Jesus by putting their faith in him will be protected from the coming judgment of fire that has been promised to the whole earth.

We are also told that Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits.  The word “authority” is sometimes translated as power.  However, the word properly means authority, and of course authority always has an involvement with power.  Regarding the unclean spirits, we have touched on this earlier.  This phrase is more of a description than a title.  Verse 13 helps us to see that the phrase is synonymous with “demons.”

It is sad to think that God’s people had become spiritually captured and plundered.  Everywhere Jesus and his disciples went in Israel, they encountered demon-possessed people.  I will remind us that people are not easily possessed.  It occurs when people dabble with false religions and the occult arts.  By listening to the teachings of demons, people give permission to those unclean, defiling spirits in their life.  You cannot surrender authority in your life without becoming a slave, and such was the case of many in Israel. 

No doubt, America has not seen as much activity in this area because of our Gospel foundation in Christ.  However, today it is becoming more and more prevalent for people to pursue the occult arts, and spiritual teachings of all sorts, which opens them up to such possession.  We will see more and more of this in our society, even though secular society will never call it demon-possession.

As a Christian, we need to recognize that such things are very real.  We must learn to stand on our own two spiritual-feet, and in the same authority that Jesus gave to his disciples then, proclaim the gospel and command unclean spirits to leave.  We need not fear any evil when we are on the side of Christ.  However, no one should approach these matters lightly and proudly.

Jesus also limits what provisions they can take with them on the journey.  They were to take only a staff, sandals, and one tunic (no bag, no food, no money, and no extra clothing).  Clearly, Jesus is putting them in a position that is more dire than it really was.  They had these things, but could not take them along.  Why?  The most logical reason homes in on the reality that Jesus is their teacher and they are the students, master and disciples.  So, at its foundation it is about them learning something by taking no extra provisions.  In such a situation, they will need to trust God to provide for them.  If God sends you on a mission then he will provide for you.  This is not just true in ministry, but in life as well.  All Christians are on a mission from God and he promises to take care of our needs, if we will put his kingdom first.  Of course, faith in God’s provision is easier said than done.  This will prepare them for times in the future when they will not be in their current state of being full of provisions. 

It is worth noting that Jesus does reverse these limitations later and allows them to take provisions.  The point is not that we should purposefully test God in this matter, but that we can trust him to help us in whatever we lack.  They are not testing God. They are responding to a command of the Lord.  Perhaps in this country of plenty our level of needing to trust in God for our provisions is very anemic.  However, Christians all around the world, both today and throughout history, have had to trust that God would provide for them.  Instead of falling into the habit of complaining and grumbling against God, they learned to pray, work hard, and trust God to provide.

The last part of the instructions of Jesus have to do with how they should conduct themselves among the towns of Israel.  This part will make more sense if you read the Matthew 10 passage.  Basically, they were to go to a town and publicly proclaim the Gospel.  If no one received them then they were to leave the town and go to the next.  Jesus tells them to shake the dust off of their feet in such a case.  This is interesting because it was the common practice of religious Jews to shake the dust off of their feet when leaving a Gentile city.  It was a symbolic way of saying that you are not going to take any part of that city with you because it is defiled.  Here they receive a bit of their own medicine.  If you are going to reject the Gospel and its ministers then the very dust of your city will become a witness, or evidence that they came and offered you grace.  In fact, Jesus says that those cities that reject his disciples with the Gospel message will have a more difficult judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah because they had a far less powerful and enlightening ministry from Lot.

If they are received positively and someone welcomes them into their home then they are to stay with them and let them care for their physical needs.  We don’t know if they were instructed to stay for a certain period, or if they had a certain amount of time to reach a particular list of cities.  Regardless, they would go from one town to the next proclaiming the Gospel.

The Twelve perform their task

In verse 12, the disciples take off to do what Jesus has instructed.  They leave Jesus behind and go in pairs to different parts of Israel.  In our passage, we are told that they preached, or proclaimed, that people should repent.  In Matthew they are told to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This reminds us of the message that the Bible says Jesus preached from the beginning, “Repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The kingdom did not fully arrive in the first century.  It came in spiritually, but awaits the judgment in order to come in physically and politically.  Thus, the whole world is in the same position as the first century, and we need to preach the same message. 

The word for repentance here means to “change one’s mind.”  The people of Israel were supposed to be a people who lived for God and his purposes, but they had become a people living for themselves and for their own purposes.  Their mindset led to lifestyles and bondages that were never God’s intention for them or humanity.  The biggest leverage to getting them to change their mind is the warning that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

God’s prophets had promised a time when God would send his anointed king who would heal Israel and rule over all the earth.  If Messiah (from the Hebrew word for “anointed”) the king was to be in Israel in their days then they would want to change their lives and get ready for his presence.  If I truly change my mind on a matter then it will truly change how I live.  Another term in the Bible that is used for repentance is the concept of turning.  When I am driving in the wrong direction, I need a change of mind before I am ever going to turn around and go in the right direction.  Let’s be clear.  Most people in America, and in this world, are going in the wrong direction.  Even many who claim to be Christians are simply placing a label on their life, but not really living for Christ and his purposes.  May God help us to daily change our minds and turn towards his path, rather than our own.  May he help us to turn from our tendency for the self-led life, and to embrace the Holy Spirit-led life.

As the disciples went into the cities, we are told that they cast out many demons.  The delegated authority that Jesus gave to them was recognized by these unclean spirits.  The key here is not a mantra or ritual for casting them out.  The key is that they had an authentic relationship with Jesus and he has authorized them to have authority over these spirits.  Yet, it is not just The Twelve.  Luke 10:19 is a place where Jesus talks to a larger group of disciples called The Seventy, who also are told they will have power over these unclean spirits (serpents and scorpions are metaphors for these unclean spirits).  Also, in Romans 16:20, Paul expected that God would soon crush Satan (and his operators) underneath the Christians in Rome.  Yet, we cannot merely declare authority over such spirits if we are not in true relationship with Jesus.  It is his power they fear and obey, not mine.

We are also told that the disciples anointed the sick with oil and healed them just as Jesus did.  It must have been something for Israel, who was still reeling from Jesus going everywhere healing and casting out spirits, to see his disciples doing the same all by themselves.  O, how God loves to take the weak and lowly, and lift them up to take the place of the great and mighty.

So, why did they use oil?  The purpose of the oil is to be a symbol of God’s Spirit and also an aid to faith.  In the end, people were being restored by Galilean fishermen, or a tax collector, or a zealot, etc.

You and I are not called to become Apostles of Jesus in order to lay down the faith once and for all for Christ’s Church.  However, we carry the same Gospel into whatever scope of ministry that he gives us.  Whatever sphere he gives us, as a friend, co-worker, spouse, relative, parent etc., we must be faithful to share Christ in words and deed, so that people can believe on him and have a place in his kingdom, both now and in the future.  All believers are called to be proclaimers of the Gospel, and may God help us to warn people to change their minds because the next phase of the Kingdom of God is at hand!

So Send Audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Racism

Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:11-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 28, 2016.

Today we begin a new series entitled “Society under Siege.”  In this series we will look at different social issues and try to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  As Christians, we ask this question because we want to be like Jesus.  We want our thinking to change and become like His thinking.  We want our actions to change and become like His, and we want our inner man to change and become like Him.  Thus Christians who are looking to Jesus for direction will have a different world view than the society around them, to one degree or another. 

Our society has embraced a world view that sees this world and mankind as cosmic accidents that have no absolute meaning or purpose, except that which we make for ourselves.  Morality is defined by what we think is best for us at this point in time, and the only destiny that awaits mankind is that of extinction within a universal/”multiversal” heat-death.  This is in direct contradiction to the world view of God and His Scriptures.  The Bible tells us that God created the universe and particularly mankind for a purpose, and that purpose is for us to become His children, bearing His image, and ruling over the earth while taking care of it in His stead.  Of course this purpose has run into many problems along the way, the main one is our sin and rebellion against it.  We are going to look at a particular sin today, racism.

This is a deep-rooted sin that has persisted throughout mankind’s history since we spread out and differentiated in appearance and customs.  Last year, on a Wednesday night in June, a 17 year old, white teenager stepped into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  After sitting in on a Bible study and as the church began to pray, the young man pulled out a gun and pointed it at 87 year old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, stepped in between them and tried to talk the young man down.  However, this was to no avail. Nine people were killed that night.  What was the murderer’s desire?  He wanted to ignite a race war and get rid of all black people.

It isn’t just certain white people who have given in to the sin of racism.  This summer in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest, a 25 year old, black man parked on the street and ambushed a group of police officers.  He continued moving and targeting police officers and rapid transit officers until he holed up in a college building nearby.  He murdered 5 officers and injured 9.  What was his desire?  He simply wanted to kill white police officers.  Both of these devastating sins were committed on people who had done nothing but be a certain color.  It is obvious that these things are wrong and yet many are sucked into the twisted logic that one race is better than others, or that any race is morally superior to another.  Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Racism Rejects our Common Creation

In Acts 17:26-28, Paul is in Athens, Greece, at an area where philosophers gathered and shared ideas.  This place was called the Areopagus, which literally means “Mar’s Hill.”  Paul is reasoning with these philosophers about God’s plan for mankind.  Why should these Greeks listen to Paul, a man from another race?  Paul points them back to the reality that all the nations and races have been made by God from “one blood.”  Thus we all trace our existence back to a common ancestor.  Whether you point to Noah, or to be technically correct, Adam, the Bible teaches that we have a common ancestor that is not an ape.  Though DNA has differentiated over the years, we are still related to one another.  Racial lines tend to focus on ancestry because this is how the different lines of DNA are passed on.  People scattered into groups that were isolated (whether geographically or purposefully).  Evolution emphasizes the differences and fractures our commonality.  It’s natural progression of logic leads to eugenics and the extinguishing of (in the terminology of Charles Darwin) “unfavored races.”  Thus early evolutionists created things like Planned Parenthood, not to help the poor and “inferior races.”  But rather, they wanted to stop the proliferation of inferior genes and eventually extinguish them.  The Bible, on the other hand, emphasizes that genetically we come from the same source, and that we are different from animals.  Animals do have the breath of life, but they were not created with the ability to bear the image of God.  Humans, as well as the angels, have the ability to act in particular ways that are like God.  All humans bear the image of God (no matter how much we tarnish it) and therefore are sacred to God, whether they are born or unborn.  Thus we should hold people of all races as having the same level of sacredness.

On top of this, Paul brings out that God has determined the nationalities, their times, and their borders.  Thus it is God, whom we are supposed to be like, who created all these differences.  So why did God do this?  Paul says that God did this so that we would seek for Him and find Him.  The differences and separations are intended to cause us to search for God and to recognize that no one people had the corner market on what God was like.  Of course mankind fell for deceptions that were given to it by fallen angels.  Thus God used Israel to bring the truth back to them.  Yet, even Israel did not have all the answers.  Christianity is not about having all the answers, but rather, knowing that God has acted within space and time in order to save mankind.  It is about trusting Him even though we don’t have all the answers.  Mankind has historically trusted itself rather than God, despite what it may look like to the modern observer.  The Devil uses our differences to cause us to destroy one another, but God uses our differences to break us out of our self-centered and sinful thinking.  In other words, He did so to challenge us.  Thus the white man needs to quit ignoring the cries of black people, and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Yet, the black man needs to quit blaming everything on white people and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Each of us needs to learn to deal with our own hearts before God rather than letting the enemy stamp his image upon our hearts through racial ignorance.

Racism Rejects the Great Commission of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, we see another reason that racism is a great sin.  When we embrace racism we fight against the commands of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth.  Whether we like it or not, we are under the authority of Jesus.  Of course Christians believe this and embrace it.  However, Jesus is Lord over everyone, Christian or not.  Now Christians have sworn allegiance to Jesus and resist joining in the rebellion against His authority.  If you look at Jesus in the Scriptures, you will not find a single issue in his life that can be properly interpreted as racist.  Yes, ignorance and sinfulness have caused many who claim to follow Jesus to operate in rebellion to their Lord.  But this can never change who Jesus is and what His commands are.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives us the duty to make disciples of all nations.  The term translated as nations is the Greek word “ethnos,” where we get the world ethnicity.  It is a reference, not to DNA, but rather to those who live in close association to the point that they have their own customs and manners.  Thus it is more than a political word, and more than a biological word.  Jesus has given his followers the command to go to all ethnic groups in order to invite them into His kingdom.  Thus God is drawing people from every ethnic group into a new people or nations who carry out His customs and manners.  People of every race, do not have a savior from their race, or a different gospel.  We are all called to the same Lord, saved the same way, and called to the same work.  Thus a black person or a white person who comes to Jesus is stepping out of their own people and entering into a new kingdom of Christ.  It is not “the white man’s religion.”  It is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow.  The way of Jesus will offend all cultures and all nations.  Some have looked at this plan and have called it ethnocide.  But that is a silly charge.  Christians are not trying to get rid of the nations of the world.  We are offering them the truth of a better way.  In fact, the ethnicities of this world are doomed to destroy themselves.  But those who embrace the way of Christ will not only survive, but thrive.  They will enter into the only Eutopia that can truly exist.

So what does God think of Christians who persist in the divisions and rivalries of this world?  In Acts 10:34 we see that God had revealed to Peter that it was not biology that made one clean before God.  It was those whom God called clean, regardless of their race or ethnic background.  Yet, Peter had some trouble living out what he knew to be true.  In Galatians 2, a situation is revealed to us where Peter had allowed his fear of what other Jews might think to affect how he treated some gentiles.  Peter could have claimed ignorance before this, but now he was simply being a coward and yielding to the stubbornness of other men.  Peter ends up being rebuked by the apostle Paul.  However, he is really being rebuked by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we repent of our own stubbornness in these matters of racial relations, the Lord will bring discipline, rebuke, and eventually judgment upon us.

Racism rejects the Character of God

In Matthew 9:11-13 we are reminded of the true character of God, rather than that which is demonstrated by those who are supposed to represent Him.  Mankind was created to bear the image of God.  Of course, it is understood that there are ways in which we cannot be like God: omniscience and omnipotence are a few examples.  But we can take on His character.  In fact, if we are following Jesus with full faith in him, then we need to be courageous enough to take on the character of God.  Though many ignorant and reckless people accuse the God of the Bible of being an angry, hateful God, this is far from the truth.

Jesus points this out to the Pharisees.  They could not understand why Jesus would interact with sinners and tax collectors.  He didn’t do it to become like them or because he liked how they were.  Rather, he was displaying the compassion of God for those who are sick, hurt, and trapped in sin.  The compassion of God can only amaze those who have become convinced of the sinfulness of mankind and our ability to fix ourselves.  The Pharisees had the truth right in front of them, but their eyes were blinded by their own sin.  Thus they had segregated themselves from the “others” around them.  “Those tax collectors have betrayed their nation and their God.”  “Those sinners aren’t trying to be holy like we are.”  They were willing to let others die and miss out on fellowship with God as long as they had it.  It is true that God will judge every single person.  However, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.  His compassion causes Him to go to such great lengths that He would even lay down the life of His own son in order to make it possible for “others” to become the children of God.  Racism displays the opposite of such compassion.  Do I demonstrate such compassion for “others” in my life?  Or am I stuck in the distinctions of this sinful world?  It was the Pharisees own sin that deceived them into a lack of compassion.

God is also love.  He doesn’t just exercise compassion as some high and mighty person helping the poor.  Rather, he truly loves them and wants to raise them up to his side.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He would give up His One and Only (unique) Son to die in our place so that we wouldn’t have to perish, but have everlasting life.  Which of us loves that fiercely?  Which of us looks at the others around us and refuses to let them perish?  Which of us lives a life of sacrifice to help them?  This is the character of God.

God is also forgiving.  We cannot talk about the love and compassion of God without forgiveness.  All ideas of love and harmony are dashed on the rocks of sin, offense, and the hurtful acts that people do.  God teaches us to let go of the wrongs done against us, by first calling it to the attention of the person doing it.  Then, we leave the rest to God.  I can’t control people, and I don’t have to let what they do rule my life.  When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like he was at the mercy of their actions.  But the truth is, they were at the mercy of His actions.  When you forgive people and move on, you are not absolving their sins.  Rather, you are letting God deal with it and refusing to let the enemy poison your heart with bitterness, anger, and rage.  At the same time you are doing what you can (sometimes there is nothing left to do) in order to save them from the judgment that they are headed towards.  This is the character of God.

May we strive everyday to reject the sinful thinking and distinctions of this world.  Instead, may God help us to display His character to a world that desperately needs it.

Racism audio