It is our privilege again this morning to examine the tenth chapter of Matthew – Matthew chapter 10, and I encourage you to take your Bible and turn with us to that very, very important and wonderful chapter. We are having a high and holy privilege every Lord’s Day as we commune with God through the truth of the gospel of Matthew. We have found ourselves, after a couple of years, in the tenth chapter, and learning what the Spirit of God has for us here is one of the richest of all the experiences we have yet had. For in the tenth chapter of Matthew, our Lord sends out His disciples for the first time. And we who have, 20 centuries later, been sent to reach our world can learn deep and profound truths from what He said to them. Let me read for you verses 5 through 15, which is the passage we’ll be discussing this week and next.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, ‘Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your purses, nor a bag for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes nor yet a staff. For the workman is worthy of his food. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go from there. And when you come into an house, greet it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”
Now as you know, if you’ve been with us in our study of Matthew, Matthew’s message is clearly that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. That is the thesis of his narrative. Jesus of Nazareth is God in human flesh; He is the promised King, the Savior, and the Deliverer. He has come to fulfill the promises and the covenants and to redeem the world. In the first nine chapters of Matthew, Matthew amasses the evidence to verify this claim about Jesus. So you have nine chapters of credentials. He has shown His genealogy, by His birth, by the homage given to Him from the kings of the east, by the threat that He was to Herod, by His preaching, by His teaching, by His miracles, by His power, by His words, he has shown every way possible that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
And as you come to the close of chapter nine, you begin to pull together the responses to those truths which Matthew has made self-evident. For one, look at verse 31, “When they were departed, they spread abroad His fame in all that country.” One of the things that happened from all of the tremendous credentials of Christ was that His fame began to spread everywhere. But another thing happened, verse 34, “The Pharisees said, ‘He casteth out demons through the prince of the demons.’” The conclusion of the religious leaders was He is demon-possessed. He’s from hell. He is indwelt by Satan. And so while His fame spread abroad among the people, the leaders were convinced He was Satanic. And yet in verse 35, “Jesus continued all about the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” He just continued to proliferate the credentials.
And then we come to the very important transition in verse 36. One day, one time, as Jesus stood on the edge of a hill and surveyed the crowd beneath Him, “He was moved with compassion.” He was wrenched internally. “Because they were faint” – or weary. Literally, they were beaten, bruised. They had been ripped from limb to limb by their own leaders, who had imposed upon them a false, legalistic system of religion that denied the truth of God. “And they were scattered abroad, as sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus saw the vastness, the lostness of the multitude, and said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” As you know from the study of that text, what He means by the harvest is the judgment, for harvest in Matthew is judgment, when God puts in the sickle and reaps. And He could see this mass of lost, disoriented, weary people, moving as if they were some great group of criminals toward an inevitable judgment.
And He says the people to go and warn them are so few. And He realized that He had to enlist some others to assist Him, and so he called for prayer in verse 38 and He asked the disciples to pray. And then as we come to chapter 10, He made them the answer to their own prayers. Now there is real integrity in prayer like that, where you’re praying for something and willing to be the answer, and they were. And so He called unto Him, chapter 10 verse 1, His twelve disciples and gave them power. Then verse 5, “These twelve Jesus sent forth.”
We’ve had the wonderful privilege, over the last four or five weeks, of meeting the Twelve. It has been a wonderful time. Hasn’t it? And we have decided that, summing it all up, they amount to the company of the unqualified. They really didn’t have what it took to change the world. But it was not what they were, but what God made them. And for the process of their training, Jesus was molding them into what they needed to be to change the world. And now it is time to send them out. Not finally and fully, as will happen after the day of Pentecost when they are sent forth, but in just a first training mission format, for only few weeks He sends them out, to get a taste of what it will be like, to experience what they will inevitably experience as a way of life. And so this is their first short-term missionary assignment. And by the way, I like to think of the Twelve as the original missionaries. They were the first ones Jesus sent forth.
And the thrust comes because Jesus perceives the judgment of men. And I really believe that the great motive that we see in the book of Matthew, as well as often in the heart of Paul, is the inevitability of judgment. Paul said to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” And Jesus saw the harvest and called for laborers to go and warn men of that inevitable harvest.
Now as we approach verse 5, we have met them and now the Lord instructs them as they go. Now may I just give you a little bit of a comprehension of the total picture? The instruction that He gives the disciples is for a short-term mission. But as you flow through the chapter, you find that as it progresses, He releases to them information that will be good for them for all the life of ministry they have, and will stretch beyond them to every other person the Lord ever sends anywhere. Some of it is very defined and confined, and some of it is very broad. It’s almost telescopic. It starts with a very limited perspective and then begins to unfold and unfold and unfold, till you come to the end of the chapter and you can just sense the Spirit of God driving His point right into your own heart. So here are principles meant for them on their first short-term mission, and yet they can be extrapolated and drawn out to apply to all of us who go in the name of Jesus Christ to reach people.
By the way, the chapter is divided into three parts. The first section begins in verse 5 and ends at verse 15 with the statement, “Verily I say unto you.” And that section talks about the task of the missionary, the task of the apostle, the task of the one sent. The second section goes to verse 23 and ends, “Verily I say unto you,” and that talks about the reaction to the one sent. The third section goes to verse 42 and ends, “Verily I say unto you,” and that talks about the cost to the one being sent. So we’re going to learn about the task, the reaction, and the cost of being a disciple sent in the name of Jesus Christ.
Now we’re going to look at the task as the first section for this morning and for next Lord’s Day. And in verses 5 through 15, you have what I believe are effective principles for missionary work. If you’re going to go out and do the Lord’s work, if you’re going as one sent by the Lord, representing Him, it is essential that you understand these principles. I recall an article in New Times magazine written by a critic of the church, in which he made this statement. He said, “Personally, I am convinced that Jesus had more class than most of His agents.” Unfortunately, that is definitely the case. One of the tragedies of contemporary Christianity is that the people who purport to represent Jesus Christ don’t represent Him at all. And if we are to be sent from Christ to the world, to touch the world with the reality of Christ, then we’re going to have to listen carefully to what He told the ones He sent out.
Let’s look and see the principles for an effective missionary. Number one, a divine commission – a divine commission. Verse 5 begins, “These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them” – now stop there. There’s the commission. They didn’t volunteer, although they were willing to go. Christ did not act over against their will. But they were called. They were commissioned in great measure as Jeremiah, of whom the Lord said in chapter 1, “Before you were formed, I called you.” They were called sovereignly called by God. They were given a divine commission. They were sent; they were dispatched; they were under orders. And it is first and foremost needful in the ministry to recognize that God has sent you. You remember I told you some months ago about the man who asked the young preacher after seeing so much pride in his life, “Was you sent or did you just went?” And first of all, you want to be sure you’re sent before you go.
By the way, Mark 6, in a comparative passage, in verse 7 tells us He sent them two by two. I think there is a reason why. For one thing, they would be companions in times of possible loneliness. For another, they would be strength to one another in times of temptation. For another, they would be an encouragement in times of despondency and persecution. For another, they could relieve each other in the matter of preaching and healing, which would be going on all the time. And for another, it was known well to them that the testimony of anyone was confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. So the Lord sent them two by two. And it probably only lasted a few weeks, but they were still the ambassadors of Christ, officially sent. They were really in the same category as Paul, who said, “God has given to me the ministry as an oikonomia, as a stewardship.” As he said in 2 Corinthians 3, “A trust is given me.” That’s a serious matter, Paul said, and so serious, in 1 Corinthians 9 that, “I am cursed if I don’t preach the gospel.” Woe is unto me simply means curse me, if I don’t preach. Why? I’ve been given a commission. I’ve been given a divine commission. I can no more go AWOL on this deal than someone can do that in the service. A serious matter.
In their case, their commissioning was direct. The Lord walked up to them and said, “You, follow Me.” And that would have been very clear. They didn’t have to put fleeces out and pray and ask the Lord to show them signs. I mean, He just grabbed them and took them. No with us, it’s a little more indirect. Isn’t it? People, especially young men going into ministry, will often ask me, “How do you know you’re called to the ministry?” And basically, I think three criteria help us to understand that. Number one is a strong desire. If I delight in the Lord, He will give me the desire of mine heart. I believe God has planted in my heart that desire. “If any man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing,” and I think the implication of Paul’s word to Timothy is that men will desire that, and ministry is something that God puts in the heart today.
Secondly is the confirmation of the church. You may say, “I am called to preach,” and everybody else will say, “We’ve heard you. You’re not called to preach.” So you have to have the confirmation of the church. And that is what Paul meant when he said to Timothy, “That gift of God given thee and confirmed to thee by the laying on of the hands of the elders.” Confirmation of those around you in the church. And finally, the ministry is made possible by circumstances. Paul says, I’m in Corinth, 1 Corinthians chapter 16, “because an opened door and an effectual is given unto me.” So you’re looking at desire; you’re looking at confirmation and affirmation; and you’re looking at opportunity. And you know, if you go through all of those things and your heart is set and fixed on a goal, that that’s the call of God.
And so they were called in a very immediate, very external, visible, physical way. We are called internally, but nonetheless called and commissioned. Because you’ll notice that it says He not only sent them but He commanded them. That is a very interesting word, paraggellō. The word really demands an awful lot of attention. I wish we had more time to just really get into that word. But it means basically to give orders. But if you study that word and trace it through its usages in the Greek language, you find some very interesting things. For example, first and foremost it is a military word. It means a superior giving orders to an inferior; it is a command issued to soldiers. That we see in its secular usage. It is an aggressive, definitive statement of absolute behavior that requires obedience. That is its primary use in a military way. Secondly, it is used in legal terms. There are some papyri that have been discovered in which this paraggellō verb is used of summoning a man to court. In other words, he is bound by the law; he is bound by legal injunction against him to obey and respond.
We also find in some secular sources that the word is used of an ethical concept. It is used, for example, as Aristotle teaches morals or ethics to his students. They become binding on the basis of the integrity of the individual. When you learn what is ethically right, you are bound to that, if you have any character. Then it is what you might call a technique word. It is a word to define certain technique. For example, it is used of the rules of grammar or the rules of oratory or the rules of literary composition. It is a word then that defines exactly how something is to be done. And fifthly, it is a medical term. It is used of a doctor prescribing something for someone who is sick, instruction for one who wants to be well.
Now let me sum it up. Here is a word that is a word of military command; you don’t have any choice but to respond. Here is a word that is a word of legal obligation; you have no choice but to respond. Here is a word of ethical standard; you have no choice but to respond. Here is a word of technique, which means if you’re going to do it right, this is the way to do it; you have no other way to respond. It is also a word of medical prescription; if you want to be well, you do it this way. It is a word, then, that in every dimension binds upon man a response.
And as you trace the word in the New Testament, and it is used 30 times at least, you find that it is repeatedly used as the standard Christian term for instruction. In Luke 5:14, Jesus used it to instruct a leper. In Luke 8:29, He used it to give command to an evil spirit to come out of a demoniac. In Luke 8, He used it to instruct Jairus. In Luke 9, He used it to command His disciples. It’s used in the book of Acts of the command of the Sanhedrin’s to Peter and John. It’s used in Acts 15 of the command of the Pharisees to observe the ceremonial law. It’s used by Paul in his writing to Timothy. It’s used as he talks about what widows ought to do. It’s used in the pastoral epistles. It’s used many places. It’s just the word that means we are bound to respond.
And so when you realize you’re commissioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, and that you have no choice but to respond, because you are a soldier and He is the commander; because you are drawn into the court and He is the judge; because you are the one who is to live the life, and He is the one who sets the moral standards; because you can only carry out the task, He’s the one who determines how it is to function; because you’re the patient and He is the doctor, you respond. And I say this so many times when I talk to men in the ministry, what God wants in a ministry is not your creativity and innovation. What He wants is your obedience.
I was writing an article Saturday for a coming convention and was reminding those who would be reading, as I wrote in the article, that the preacher is not a chef. He’s a waiter. God doesn’t want you to make the meal. He just wants you to deliver it to the table without getting it messed up. That’s all. We are servants under divine commission. Now people, that’s a binding thing. I say to you that is a binding thing. I am bound to fulfill that commission before God. And I think that’s what Jesus was doing with these Twelve. I think it’s good that the Lord binds us, because there are so many days we’d like to get out. But we’re bound. And we all say, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” All of us, I think, in some sense have been commissioned, some more officially commissioned as evangelists and teaching pastors, but all of us are bound to obey Christ’s call to go and represent Him in this world. I thank God for these folks who go down to Hollywood Boulevard and walk up and down the street and present Jesus to those people. Don’t you? You can do it anywhere, and I believe the call of God is binding on our lives in that regard.
So the effective missionary, the effective disciple, effective apostle realizes he’s under divine orders. Doesn’t have any options. He’s committed to obedience. He’s committed to follow the principles of the Word of God as commanded. You see, that’s why when we go, it says, into all the world to make disciples, we baptize and we teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have – what? – commanded you. Because that’s the whole issue. The Lord wants obedience.
Let me give you a second principle. I believe an effective missionary is not only marked by a divine commission, but I believe he is marked by a central objective. I believe if you’re going to be effective in serving God, there has to be a very clear focus, a very central focus. Look at verse 5 again. “And [He] commanded them saying, ‘Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter not.’” And there are two possessive genitives, which means don’t go into a road belonging to the Gentiles or a city belonging to the Samaritans. Don’t go near Gentiles or Samaritans. You say, what has Jesus got against them? I mean, is this the Jewish gospel? I mean, is it limited? Well, it is here. I mean, it reads to me just like it reads to you. And then in verse 6 He says, “But instead, you go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now may I add that this is not a permanent command. This is a very dispensational statement, a very narrow statement, limited to this time and place and this the plan of God. I’ll talk about that in a moment, but what I want you to see out of it is that it illustrates how God gives people very clear objectives, very central focus, very limited mission.
David McKenna has rightly said, “Self-styled Messiahs are always megalomaniacs who want to win the world and win it now. And some people’s perception of ministry is so vast that their ministry winds up being like a birdbath, a mile long and an inch deep.” But the focus that our Lord gives to us here, I think, is the very narrowness of ministry. You say, does God not care for Gentiles? Of course He cares for Gentiles. Just in case you might wonder about that, turn back to Matthew chapter 8 and verse 5. And you’ll find there that, “When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came to him a centurion.” Well that’s a Gentile. That’s a Roman soldier who commands a hundred men.
And Jesus responded to that man. I believe He not only brought healing, but I believe – and we studied that in the text some months ago. I believe He not only brought healing, but I believe He brought salvation to that household. And Jesus makes a great statement in verse 11. He says, “And I say unto you that many shall come from the east and west.” And that means east and west of Palestine. Many Gentiles will sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. And the sons of the kingdom, the Jews, will be cast out. Don’t be confused. The Lord has already made it abundantly clear that He will reach Gentiles. In fact, in the Old Testament, all you need to do is read the prophet Isaiah, and you will find in chapter 49 and in chapter – several places in the 50’s where he says Jerusalem will carry the message to the nations. He loved the Gentiles. Later on in Matthew 28, He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” And we’re going to see in chapter 13 how Jesus begins to turn away from Israel and begins to talk about the church, which is called by Paul, “The fullness of the Gentiles.” The Lord always had the Gentiles in His plan.
You say, what about the Samaritans? Does He got something against the Samaritans? No. The Samaritans were okay, but the Jews hated them – absolutely despised them. It was one thing to be a Gentile. You couldn’t help that. You were born a Gentile. I mean you just sort of were a Gentile. Tough luck. But to be a Samaritans is to be a corrupted person, because a Samaritan was a half-breed, and they reflected the intermarriage of the Jew with the Gentile, which was a crime unforgivable in the minds of many Jews. Jesus didn’t have a problem with that. You see, the first woman that Jesus ever announced His Messiahship to was a Gentile woman living in the city of Sychar who had a handful of husbands and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Not a nice lady. And a Samaritan. And it was to her that He revealed His Messiahship. No, he had no problem there. And when He was talking about how men ought to love and how they ought to love their neighbors, He used a Samaritan as an illustration.
You say, well then if God loves Gentiles and God loves Samaritans, why does He tell them don’t go to them? Oh, I’m glad you asked. By the way, the Samaritans had fomented the hatred, because 20 years before the time of Christ, the Samaritans had stolen into the temple in the middle of the night during Passover and thrown dead men’s bones all over the temple enclosure, which polluted it. And so there was just a terrible hatred at that point in time. And there were lots of problems in going to a Samaritan town and lots of problems in going to a Gentile town, particularly for this little group of unqualified guys.
Now let me give you three reasons why I believe He told them not to go there. Number one I call the special place of the Jews – the special place of the Jews. They were just God’s chosen people and they were the ones to whom the covenants and the promises were given and the law. And so in the line of God’s plan, it was that the kingdom was to be first offered to them. That’s all. And they, first of all, were approached by John the Baptist, who came and he was saying, “Repent. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It’s imminent. It’s here. It’s available. And then Jesus came along and said, “Repent. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And now Jesus says, “You go, and you say the very same thing, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ You offer them the kingdom. You offer them the rule of God on earth. Heaven has come to earth. God wants to rule. Yes, it’s a spiritual dimension. Yes, it’s within you. Yes, it’s in your heart. Yes, it’s the acceptance of the lordship of Christ, but it also has an earthly aspect.” And had they responded to the Messiah, the internal and the external would have come together at the same moment. “You tell them the kingdom is imminent. It’s available. They can have it if they repent and believe.” And they are the people through whom the rest of the world is to be blessed. They are the tents of Shem, through whom all the nations are blessed.
“Salvation is of the Jews,” it says in the New Testament. That doesn’t mean it’s only for them. It means it comes through them. They were to be the emissaries, the witnesses. Jerusalem was to be the launching point for evangelism. Jerusalem was to be the place where the nations came to see the Messiah. They were to be His witness people, so He said, “Go there first.” Much like Paul on his missionary journeys. Even though he was a missionary to the Gentiles, he always went first to the synagogue, because he went to the people of God first of all to gather them together to help him to reach the Gentiles. So He says, “You go first to them.” Now I promise you something. If they had gone first to the Gentiles and the Samaritans, the Jews wouldn’t have listened to them. So the special place of the Jews was the first reason.
The second one I call the special problem of the Twelve. They were hardly up to this task, reaching their own people, to say nothing of trying to reach the Gentiles and the Samaritans, whose culture they did not understand that well, whose biases and prejudices they could not have overcome easily. They were not equipped for that. Do you know that nothing every really cracked open the Gentile world, with the exception of Peter’s confrontation of one God-fearing man named Cornelius, nothing ever made a dent in that world until a man came along by the name of Paul?
And he, born of the tribe of Benjamin, an Israelite of Israelites, zealous for the law, trained under Gamaliel, a true Jew in every way, but educated and instructed in Gentile culture and from a Gentile area, was able to make the bridge to reach those Gentile people. These fellows just weren’t up to that. It just wasn’t time yet for them. They weren’t ready. They didn’t have the technique. They didn’t have the background. Couldn’t build the bridges. And if they had started there, they never would have been able to come back to the Jews. The Jews would have just written them off as those who brought about a Gentile and Samaritan religion.
Thirdly, and less important than those two, I think the third reason they were sent to only the Jews was because of the special point of attack. Any commander knows that you just can’t do everything. You can’t be like the man who jumped on his horse and rode of madly in all directions. You have to have specifics. The possibilities were varied, and He gives them a specific target. “Just do this. Go to Galilee, and go to the Jews, who are the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” By the way, the phrase ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ simply refers to the Jews. If you compare it back with chapter 9 verse 36, you see that. He saw the multitude and they were sheep without a shepherd. They are the lost sheep. They have been disconnected from the Shepherd. They are out of the fold. They are wandering, hopeless, and helpless. He says, “Go to them. Go to My people, Israel. They are the ones to whom the promises were originally given. They are the ones with whom you can communicate and have an audience and reception, so go to them.” So our Lord Himself reflects to them what was His own specific ministry.
You probably have not thought about this, but do you realize that the Lord Himself never went to the Gentiles? His ministry was almost exclusively to the Jews. In Matthew 15:24, He says, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That was His focus. The Gentile world would come after that. Jesus had a tremendous economy of effort, tremendous clarity of objective. Now I think that one of the things that frustrates people in ministry is that they don’t have a clear objective. They just don’t have that, and you can get so diverted. You know, I’ve gone to mission fields and I’ve talked with missionaries. And they’ve been on the mission field a long time, and you ask them what they’re doing. And well, let’s see. We do a little of this and a little of that and a little of this and little of that, and they’re all over everywhere and you just really wonder if they’re doing anything. They don’t have a clear objective. I think part of an effective ministry is to have a clear objective. Know your gifts, what God has equipped you to do; know the needs and the callings and the opportunities and the desires of your heart and find a track and run in that track.
My grandfather taught my dad and my dad used to tell me, most people in the world never do anything well. So just do one thing well and you’ll be way ahead of most people - just one thing well. Just find the one thing God wants you to do and do it. I think about that a lot. It’s easy for me to get pulled off into all kinds of projects. Oh, I’m telling you, every day someone wants me to go do something. Come over here for six months, go over here for a month, do this, do that, help us with this. And sometimes you just feel like you’re being ripped to pieces. And you go back to the thing that you see in Christ and that is this tremendous focus on the objective.
I know what God’s called me to do. God has called me to preach. I know that. That’s what I’m to do – to preach. I know where He’s called me to preach, and that’s right here. I just want to affirm that in case some of you are thinking otherwise. He has called me to preach here. I know that. He has called me to preach here, teaching expositionally His Word. I know that, because I am compelled to do that in my heart. And He has called me not only to preach and preach here and preach expositionally, but primarily the New Testament, because that is the mystery and I have been called to preach the mystery. It says so in Colossians 1. I know what I am called to do, and that’s what God wants me to do. A lot of other things I could do, and sometimes you have to fight it off. But you just keep that constant focus.
You say, what about this? What about that? And you can get all concerned. The Lord will take care of that. He’s got other folks. Did you know that? I don’t have to do it all. If I just do one thing right, just one thing that He gave me to do. And I’ll let Him take care of where it goes. You know, I’ve said this so many times, if I take care of the depth of it, He’ll take care of the breadth of it. If He wants to spread it around, that’s His business. I just want to hit the target. I’m committed to that.
We need that kind of focus. I know, in a church like ours, sometimes I think that we have so many things going on that there’s some people just standing in the middle dizzy, just saying, “Gee, Alice. What do we do?” See? And they really wind up doing nothing, or this a little bit and that a little bit. You know, the smorgasbord Christian. Just a little of everything. That isn’t the idea. Focus. The Lord said, “ I do only that which the Father has given Me to do. My meat is to do His will. I am not come but with the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Lord said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but” – what? – “sinners to repentance. I’m going for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and only the ones who admit their sin.” That was a narrow focus, a narrow perspective, but that’s an effective ministry. Do one thing and do it well. Precision in ministry.
Third principle, and this is as far as we’ll go this morning. I think effective missionary work involves a clear message, not only a central objective but a clear message. Oh, I grieve in my heart at just the befuddled condition of Christianity today. Our message is anything but clear. I was on a plane the other day, and a pastor sat next to me. We were going to a pastors’ conference in Chicago. And He said, “Let me give you a little demonstration.” He took out a piece of paper, and he just wrote on the paper, and he just kept writing and writing and writing and writing and writing, just kept writing on the same little tiny piece of paper. And he handed me the paper and he says, “What does this say?” And you know what it was? It was just every – all kinds of scribble, scribble, scribble, scribble, deep dents, scribble on top of scribble in one little – I said, “I don’t know what it says. How could anyone know what it says?” And he smiled. He said, “What was the first word? What was my original message to you?” I said, “I don’t have a clue.”
He said, “Let me tell you what I did.” He says, “You take a piece of paper.” I said, “All right.” So I took a piece of paper. He says, “You write ‘Christ.’” And I wrote, “Christ.” He says, “Now, over the top write, ‘Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Charismatic, dispensational, fundamentalist, liberal, Protestant.’” And he gave me about twelve other things. He said, “Now you give that to an unbeliever and ask him what your original message is.” He hasn’t got a clue. Who know? Right? I mean, if you pick up the daily news and look at the church section, hopeless – utterly hopeless.
Part of the problem is that we don’t stick with the central message. And what does He say in verse 7? “And as you go, preach.” And as you preach, will you say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I mean, I can’t it get much simpler. I love that verse. You say, that’s the whole sermon? Where’s the rest of what you’re supposed to say? That’s enough. The kingdom of heaven is a big enough subject to cover everything that God is interested in. So if you want to open your mouth, then make sure you talk about God’s projects, not man’s. Preach the kingdom, the rule and reign of God, that heaven has come to earth.
The kingdom of heaven is seen three ways: In conversion, when men enter the Kingdom; in consecration, when we live out the kingdom. Romans tells us that the kingdom is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace joy, in the Holy Spirit; and the kingdom come is ultimately earthly in its millennial form. But until that time, we preach the kingdom, the kingdom, the kingdom. You know, Jesus taught His disciples nothing but that. All the principles of God’s rule, God’s rule, God’s rule. He is Lord, He is Lord, He is Lord. Men are to submit, men are to obey. God rules. And then even after His resurrection, for 40 days, Acts 1 says He taught them things pertaining to the kingdom. It can gets confusing out there for people when they listen to preachers. You say you’re a preacher, and they haven’t got a clue what your message is until they hear you. Right? Because all kinds of preachers preach all kinds of stuff. I mean, the average unbeliever who turns on even the television and listens finds such disparity that it would be impossible to know what the real message was.
I was in Mississippi, at the time Martin Luther King was assassinated and a lot of civil rights things were going on. And we were down there going through the black high schools, two or three of them a day, holding assemblies and preaching Christ, and we had a great time. One night we had just finished a big assembly, and the Lord had blessed in a wonderful way. And we were out in the middle of nowhere. Went to some black farm and we had some ice cream and stuff with the family, and we had a neat time. And it was late and we were leaving and we kept noticing somebody was following us.
Well here we are in the middle of nowhere, dirt roads, dirt roads, dirt roads everywhere and we’re trying to get back about ten miles to where we were supposed to stay. And all of a sudden this blue light starts going around behind me, and I was driving this car with the guys in it, and pulled up beside me. And this great big huge guy with a sheriff’s badge on rolls the window down and I stopped. And he says, “You went through a stop light.” I said, “What?” There’s no stoplights around here. This is a dirt road. This like 11 o’clock out in the farm area. I said, “There’s no stoplight around here. You must be mistaken.” He said, “I’m not mistaken. You went through a stop light.” I said, “Now, I didn’t go through a stop light.” And then he had this little club in his belt and he said – I said, “I went through a stoplight.” I’m not going to argue about it. Right? He says, “Follow me. We’re going to the jail.”
So we do. We followed him for ten miles. They’d been following us around. They took us in there, and this guy collected our money as collateral, I guess, for whatever was going to happen. And he said, “What are you telling those people in those school meetings?” I said, “What do you mean, what do we tell them?” He says, “What do you tell them? Do you tell them about civil rights?” I said, “No.” He said, “Are you telling them about marches? Are you starting a march?” He said, “Are you telling them about protests, boycotts?” That was the big word then. I said, “No.” I said, “Do you know what we’re telling about?” He says, “Yeah, I’d like to know.” I said, “We’re telling them about Jesus Christ.” And I said, “You know, we’d be happy to tell you about Him, too.” He said, “I’m already the Sunday School superintendent. I don’t need to hear about that.” Well it was kind of an interesting night, to put it mildly. But you know what, there were so many people down there at that time who called themselves ministers who were not talking about Christ, who were not talking about the kingdom of heaven. It’s no wonder some of those people were paranoid.
Now, I mean to tell you that Satan is not stupid. And the best way to render the gospel of no effect is to make sure nobody knows what it is. It is the message that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that imminently and available to every person is the rule and reign of God in their lives, here and now, as well as earthly, millennially, and eternally. That is our message. I won’t get pulled into politics, although I have some strong feelings about things. I won’t get pulled into other things. I say no to that stuff all the time, because my focus cannot change from the kingdom. I wish, Christians, every time we opened our mouths, something about the kingdom came out. Wouldn’t that be good? Let’s just talk about God’s rule and His kingdom.
I just love it that He says to them, “Just say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now what are you going to do? Just go around saying that over and over again? No, of course not. Fill it up with all of the content that that term deserves, and we’ve been through that term about ten times in the previous ten chapters, so you know what’s there. Well there’s a sense of urgency in that statement. I know and you know that it wasn’t long after this until the Lord turned away from Israel, because they didn’t take the message offered to them. I think there is urgency and immanency in this world too. I don’t know how long we have before the Lord comes, and we need to be proclaiming the kingdom with urgency. Effective missionaries have a divine commission, central objective, and a clear message.
You want to know something frustrating? The next point is the best point of all. I’d ask you how spiritual you are and take a vote about whether you want me to do it this morning or next week, but I don’t want to do that. I’m just going to pray that if you don’t come back next week, the Lord will make you sick, because it is the best point of all. All right? Let’s have a word of prayer together.
Thank You, Father, for Your good and gracious Word to us. Thank You that You can even use us at all, who are so unqualified. Thank You for the example that You sent these Twelve, called them and used them to change the world, and we are the fruit, generations later, of their obedience. Should Jesus tarry, may there be generations ahead who will be the fruit of our obedience. Send us, Lord, as You choose. Help us to focus on that ministry You’ve gifted us to do and to make the message crystal clear. And well thank You in Christ’s name, Amen.
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