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The Great Commission

May 21, 2017 Speaker: Zane Pratt Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Passage: Matthew 28:16–28:20




Open your Bibles to Matthew's gospel, chapter 28, verse 16.

This is a very familiar passage, sometimes so familiar that we don't stop and look at it closely. Let's look now at Matthew 28, beginning at verse 16.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Let's pray. Father, we pray at a time like this, not because it's the expected thing to do, but because we can't do anything without You. Father, Your word is perfect, but we are deeply marred and scarred by sin. And apart from the illuminating work of Your Holy Spirit, we will not correctly understand, and we certainly will not obey what You tell us to do. So, Father, I confess my own complete inadequacy right now, and on behalf of my brothers and sisters here, I confess for all of us our absolute dependence on You. And we pray that You would not only open our minds to understand Your word accurately, but we also pray, Father, that You would warm our hearts to love what You tell us in Your word, and to open our wills to obey it. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen. 

As you've already heard, I spent most of my adult life as a missionary. And I have been able to observe over the course of my lifetime, a dramatic shift in public perception of missions. When I was a kid in the 60's in Georgia, for one thing, we still prayed and read the Bible in public schools, and I can actually remember in public school being told to go do a report on a missionary; and that was considered a good thing. I don't think America was actually any more Christian than it is now, but it had a pretense of being so. And there was a sense that Christian things were respectable, and that missions was somehow noble.

That's completely changed. And you and I both know it. Right now in our culture, in our society, there's probably few things worse you can do than being a missionary. It's considered offensive. It's certainly as politically incorrect as possible. There is a sense, especially in the press and in the entertainment media, that there is no more arrogant thing one can do than presume to go somewhere else and try to convince someone else that they're wrong, and that they need to change their religion. And so we are regarded in many ways as the epitome of all that modern progressive secular society despises.

And certainly around the world, missions work has gotten harder and harder. There was a time when you could go just about anywhere openly as a missionary. But as the colonial powers lost their possessions globally during the 60's, as communism swept over much of the world, and then as the Iron Curtain collapsed, we've seen a resurgent nationalism in many places, that is accompanied by a resurgence in pride in their own religion and a desire to keep missionaries out. So the places you can go as a missionary have steadily shrunk. 

As I said, I spent most of my adult life in central Asia, and have never once been in a place that it was legal to be a missionary, as a missionary, or in a country that would grant missionary visas. 

But not only is the issue of missions less and less popular both in American secular society and globally among the nations that need the gospel most. I also have noticed that there is a growing fuzziness about missions in churches. We spent some time in Great Britain. I was asked in our church if I would teach a missions study course. I said I'd be happy to do it. Well, I got the material from the British Baptist Union, the group that William Carey was part of, the first missionary of the modern missions movement. And it described missions as "love in action." It gave examples of missions as things like political activism and drug rehabilitation clinics, and never once in a multi-week study course on missions was Jesus mentioned. Or sin, or salvation, or the gospel. Never once. 

American churches aren't generally quite that bad off, but I still often see the tendency to equate missions with anything we do outside the walls of our church. So, missions can be social justice; it can be mercy ministries; it can even be just going out and having fun with people. That's all missions if we don't do it here within our own church. 

So in light of that, especially if you're somebody like me, but I think a congregation like you that is committed to the mission that Jesus has given His church, we really urgently need to answer two questions: First, what is that mission? What is the mission that God has given His church to do? 

And then, number two, given the attitude of just about everyone around us, what gives us the right to do it? How do we think we have the right to do something that is so offensive to much of the world? 

And that brings us to the text we just read. This is the most famous instance of Jesus giving His people a commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. But it's not just an isolated proof text. It's not that Jesus was talking about other stuff; He died, He rose again, and He thought, Oh, yeah, I meant to mention this: If you feel like it, some of you go take the gospel to the nations. As though it were a complete aside, out of the blue, no connection whatsoever with anything that had come before.

The Great Commission, as Jesus proclaims it here at the end of Matthew 28, fits into the flow of the entire narrative of scripture, literally from Genesis to Revelation. It is a consistent part of God's universal sovereignty and  care over His creation, and it's a consistent part of God's redemptive heart for all nations and all peoples. 

But still, it does come at a critical moment in redemptive history. This summarizes Jesus's marching orders for His people. And if we look at the apostles, and what they did in response to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what we see is that it was clear to them that they regarded taking the gospel to those who had never heard it, as Priority Number 1. That's what we read about for the rest of the New Testament; that's what they did. 

It answers our questions, though, this text, in a way that draws Biblical teaching together. So I want us to look at these questions, what's missions, and why do we think we have the right to do it, and I'm going to look at them in reverse order, and we're going to look at question 2, why do we have the right to do it, and then come back to question 1.

Now you know the setting. Jesus had just completed about a 3-year ministry of teaching. The Gospels end with one intense week of activity in Jerusalem. And hopefully you’re aware of the fact that anywhere from a third to a quarter of every Gospel occurs in the last week of Jesus' life. The crucifixion and resurrection had occurred. Jesus had truly died on the cross, been buried, and risen again. He then spent 40 days of follow-up with His disciples, and He's now preparing to ascend into Heaven. 

And as He does so, He commissions His followers for the mission He has for them. And He begins by telling them why He has a right to do so, and why they have both the right and the obligation to obey Him. Because He begins by saying, "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me." The authority for missions rests in the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. It's because He is Lord, and not just Lord individually of our lives, but Lord of the Universe, that we have both a right and an obligation to do what He told us to do. 

Now, as you read through the Old Testament, you begin to see an anticipation there. Some prophecies, predictions that the day would come when the kingdom of God would come; the rule of God would break in to human history. We usually translate that as kingdom, but the problem for us as Americans is that we think of "kingdom" as a geographic thing. The kingdom of England has boundaries, and it's defined by geography. 

A better way to look at it is sovereign rule. The emphasis here is on rule. The rule of God would break into history in the person of the Messiah. It then comes as no surprise that when you get to Matthew, you find that the theme of Jesus' teaching was precisely the kingdom of Heaven. The theme of what Jesus talked about all through the Gospels was that the rule of God had broken into human history in Jesus; that He Himself was the inbreaking of that kingdom. And so He talks about it, and He talks about the implications of it in the lives of people. He makes it very clear, though, that what the Old Testament had anticipated, it's happening now; it's come.

Jesus is now saying, All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. What He's saying is that the kingdom of Heaven I was talking about? I'm the King. Through His death and resurrection, He has assumed a rightful place as the King of the kingdom of God that has broken into human history. Jesus is King of all the earth. 

Now again, in many ways our culture doesn't help us here. We have a very ceremonial understanding of monarchy. If you think of a king, usually most Americans think of Queen Elizabeth in England. That's the monarch we know best. The Brits, by the way, find it amusing that we are so obsessed with the monarchy that we revolted against; that we in many ways have a greater reverence for the king we rejected than she gets in her own domains.

But the fact is that the Queen of England, although she reigns, she does not rule. It's funny; all authority in Great Britain resides in her, and none of it is exercised by her. Everything is done in her name, but it is a truism of British constitutional law, that if Parliament were to vote to put her to death, she would be legally obligated to sign her own death warrant. She has no authority. She reigns but she does not rule.

And so she's a great ceremonial figure, and she provides some stability, but that's pretty much it. That is not the case with the kingdom of God. What we're talking about here is an absolute monarchy. What we're talking about in Jesus is someone who both reigns and rules, someone who has the right and the power to do anything that He wills to do. Fortunately He also has the character to always do what is absolutely right, and the wisdom to know what that is. But that's the kind of King Jesus is. 

And so for us, with our history of rebelliousness, with our tendency to resist authority, our minds don't go there when we hear "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me." Many of us really don't consciously think of any level of authority higher than suggestion. 

But that's not what Jesus is saying. He has all authority. He is the King. That means He has authority over governments that are hostile to the gospel. It means that He has authority over non-Christian countries. He has authority over our own intolerant culture. He has the right to send us, so we have the right to go. And so if a country says, "The gospel cannot be preached here," well, there's a higher authority that vetoes that. 

I was in the army, back a few decades ago, and it was very clear that you had to look at an officer's rank, because the higher the rank, the more authority they had. And if a captain told me to do one thing, and a general told me to do something else, I had an obligation to ignore what the captain said and do what the general said. And so in the same way, if a government tells us that we cannot do what Jesus commanded us to do, we have an obligation to obey the higher authority, which is the authority of Jesus. 

It is because He has all authority that I have the right to go, even where I am told I should not go. But this authority thing actually is a two-edged sword. Because His authority over the nations also means He has authority over us. We're soldiers, not civilians -- all of us In the kingdom of God. And this means He has the authority to send us away from home and family and friends; He has the right to send us away from comfort and convenience. He has the right to send us into disease and danger if He so chooses. And He has the right, as a military commander does, to send us to our death, if he so chooses.

He has that kind of authority over us. 

So the Great Commission is not an option or a suggestion. It's a royal command from the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It's a royal command from the One who owns us. And it's directly connected with the inbreaking kingdom of God. These are the marching orders of the kingdom, in fact. All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. This gives us an incontestable right to fulfill the Great Commission, whatever other governments may say, and whatever our own culture may think. And it also gives us a a non-negotiable obligation to fulfill the Great Commission. 

So that's why we have not just the right but the obligation to do something that our own society thinks is highly offensive. 

But what is it? What are we actually supposed to be doing? Well, how many of you thought that English grammar was your favorite subject in school? One of the things about learning another language is that you have to learn grammar. And it's always, Here we go again.

But grammar is actually very useful, and it helps us to understand what things mean. And there is a type of verb called an imperative. It's a command.

So for instance, I can say to my child, "Would you please sit down?" Or I can say to my child, "Sit down!" THAT is an imperative, a command.

There's one imperative in this whole passage that we read. There is one command, and only one. Everything else relates to it, ties into it, helps us understand how to do it. The one command is to "make disciples." That's what we're told to do by Jesus; we are  to Make Disciples. That's the heart of the Great Commission. 

Then that raises the question, What's a disciple? And the problem there is, that "disciple" is not a word you problem normally use in daily life. Outside of church, outside of Christian circles, you don't talk about disciples or discipleship. 

It really fits into the way education worked in the ancient world. Today, education means you go to a class, you sit at a desk, you take notes, you write papers, you take tests, and then you leave. You may or may not ever have personal interaction with the teacher. There may be no relationship at all there. 

Education in the ancient world worked differently. You have a teacher like Jesus, or like one of the other rabbis, or like one of the great philosophers. Now they would speak to the crowds. They had a public ministry. And often it was an itinerant public ministry. So they would go from place to place, and probably give pretty much the same lecture, the same speech, the same sermon. That was the public teaching. 

But then there were disciples. It was a smaller group of people, who were with the teacher 24/7. So you remember that Jesus called the Twelve, whom He also named apostles, that they might be with Him and that He should send them out to teach. That's a description of the calling of the twelve apostles. And note that the first thing is that they "should be with Him." That's what a disciple does, first and foremost -- they hang out with the teacher. And I don't mean hang out occasionally. I mean, LIVE with the teacher, all the time. 24/7, every month of the year, they're with their teacher. 

And in the process of being with their teacher, then they get to ask follow-up questions, after the public speeches. They get to discuss other things as they come up. They get to observe the teacher's lifestyle. The goal, then, was not just to master what the teacher was teaching, but also to adopt and conform to the lifestyle of the teacher.

And that's what a disciple is: Someone who doesn't just get to know what Jesus taught, but who comes into such a close personal relationship with our teacher, that literally we come to resemble Him. It was said in the ancient world that you could tell whose student someone was by the very way they spoke, and their mannerisms. They literally came to remind people of their teacher.

And that's what it means for us. A disciple is a learner-follower who has embraced both the character and the content of Jesus Christ. So that means that the Great Commission is fundamentally about making disciples. 

Now making disciples starts with evangelism. A disciple becomes a disciple through hearing the gospel and repenting and believing. And so when we talk about discipleship here, we're not talking about what happens in some churches where they focus entirely inwardly, and everything's about building up the people who are already saved, without any attention whatsoever to the outside world. For one thing, that's not real discipleship, because if the results of your discipleship aren't evangelism, then it's not real discipleship, because part of what He commanded us to do is to share the gospel. 

So it starts with gospel sharing, but it never stops there. It's evangelism done with discipleship, not just conversion, in mind. And you'll notice from the text that it's evangelism that results in obedience to everything that He commanded, which transforms every area of life. That means that evangelism results in a lifetime of following Jesus and learning and growing and becoming more and more like Him -- which then fulfills the purpose for which we were created. 

We were created in he image of God, to reflect and represent Him. We marred that with our sin. Jesus was the perfect image of the invisible God, as God Himself become man. And now those who trust in Him and have been born again by His Spirit are being re-shaped back into the image of God. That's our destiny. Paul tells us in Romans that "Whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29).

So discipleship is the process that fulfills our destiny, and the Great Commission is to make more and more and more disciples. 

Now there are two subordinate verbs in here that help us understand parts of discipleship. One is baptism, and the other is teaching obedience. Baptism is shorthand for conversion. In the New Testament, sometimes they're used interchangeably. And baptism is a picture of the radical change that occurs when someone comes in repentance and faith to Jesus. It is a picture of death and resurrection. It's a funeral for the old person. It marks how radical a thing it is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. And in the New Testament, baptism was how you professed your faith publicly. That was the public profession of faith to a watching world. 

And then teaching obedience to everything He commanded means it's a comprehensive sort of teaching that includes both learning content and being transformed in character. And it ends up including everything that the Bible has to teach us. 

So that's the heart of the mission of the church: That we are to make disciples. 

Now disciples do lots of other things. And so disciples do feed the hungry, take care of the poor, heal the sick. Disciples are people who have a radically transforming effect on society. 

But they have to become disciples first. And so this is the basic task which then comprehends everything else a Christian does. And so we're not just content to encourage existing disciples to be faithful to everything Jesus commanded; we are to make new disciples, who then are obedient to everything that Jesus commanded.

In order to do this, that means that especially where there are no disciples, necessarily we're going to have to plant churches. And that's one of the reasons that we as an organization are deeply committed to church planting -- because, biblically speaking, you make a disciple in the context of a local church. And I've been very deeply helped by individuals who've worked with me one on one, and it's been good and healthy for me. 

But especially if you read 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Ephesians chapter 4, the picture you get is that none of us grow to maturity in Jesus apart from all of us in the body of Christ. It takes the church to disciple a believer. Which means that, when we are making disciples where there were no disciples, and where there were no churches, necessarily we have to establish churches as well. 

And so we are committed not just to evangelism and discipleship, but also to church planting to fulfill the task of the Great Commission. That's what we're to do: We are to make disciples, which means sharing the gospel, discipling believers, and planting and nurturing healthy churches. That's what we do. That's what the church is called on to do. 

And those churches then have the responsibility for doing everything that Jesus commanded, including, let me add, sharing the gospel where they are. And that's why Paul could look at his ministry as fulfilled in the eastern Mediterranean. You remember in Romans 15:23, he said, there's no more room for work for me here. 

Now there were a lot of people who'd never heard the gospel, but he planted churches all along the eastern Mediterranean. So as far as he was concerned, his work as a missionary was done. The church's work would keep going, because they were to evangelize where they were. So really, the whole missionary strategy laid out in the New Testament is dependent on local churches being actively evangelistic where they are. If that doesn't happen, then the whole thing that God sets up doesn't work. 

So that's what we're supposed to do. 

Well, WHERE are we supposed to do it? Well, He says that we are to make disciples of ALL peoples. Now probably, given who this congregation is and who your teachers are, you’re aware that "peoples" here does not mean individuals, nor does it mean countries. It means "people groups." It means ethno-linguistic groups, that think of themselves as "us vs. them." So for example, the country of Afghanistan is about the size of the state of Texas, geographically. But there are 52 different languages spoken in it. Which means that it is 52 "peoples" as far as the Great Commission is concerned. 

And this theme is a theme all throughout scripture. Literally from Genesis to Revelation, we discover that God has a heart for the peoples of the earth. In fact, the peoples are the framework in which God is carrying out His redemptive plan. 

And so in Genesis 22:18, God says, "In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (speaking to Abraham)." And He repeats the same thing to Isaac and to Jacob as well. You've heard Psalm 67 at the start of this service. You've heard the statement, "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us." Why? That Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations -- among all "peoples, it could just as easily be translated. 

In Isaiah 49:6, God says to the Messiah, "It's too light a thing that You should be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to bring back the preserved of Israel. I will make You as a light for the nations (for the peoples), that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. 

So it's no surprise that when Jesus gets to the end of His ministry, He ties all that He has done to what God has promised in the Old Testament as His redemptive purpose. We see it here, we see it in the book of Matthew. We see it in Luke, in a different setting, as Jesus is telling His disciples after His resurrection what He wants them to do. 

We read this in Luke 24:44: "And He said to them, 'these are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' (So Jesus is saying, The whole Old Testament was pointing to Me.) Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures and said to them, 'Thus it is written (let Me summarize the  Old Testament here), that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead (okay, we got that -- so the Old Testament is pointing to the death and resurrection of Jesus), AND that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. So thus it is written (this is what the Old Testament said), that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in Jesus' name to all nations.'"

So the Great Commission itself is a fulfillment of the Old Testament. 

We see in Revelation 5:9 that the very purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus was global and people-group in scope. "They sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'"

And then in Revelation 7:9 we read that that's exactly what's going to happen, that before the throne of God, there will be people worshiping Him from all tribes, nations, peoples, and languages. This is the scope of the task God has given us. Not simply to continue sharing the gospel with those who've already heard it, but to make disciples of all nations. 

And the thing that's scary is that 2,000 years later, there's still over 6,000 people groups that we would categorize as unreached with the gospel. And the total population of those groups? 2.9 billion people out of a total world population of seven billion. There's actually more people unreached today than there were people on this planet when I was born. That's the extent of the task that still remains before us. 

Now that's a pretty intimidating task, no question about it. And if I were the apostles, I would have sat there and thought, Ah, RIGHT. There's eleven of us, and we're poor and we belong to a captive people. Seriously, You want us to do that? 

But He took care of all of this by saying, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." The provision for the mission of the church is the enduring presence of Jesus Christ. And that's enough. 

You know, this is actually another pervasive theme of the Bible. When Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?" God did not respond by giving Moses a pep talk to build up his self-esteem. As a matter of fact, He didn't say anything about Moses. The answer to the question of "Who am I?" is, You've asked the wrong question. God's response to Moses when he says, "Who am I?" is God saying, "I will be with you." That's what matters. It doesn't matter who you are; what matters is who I am. 

The name of Jesus given in Matthew 1 was Emmanuel, which is God with us. Then here in the Great Commission we read that He will be with us as we are obeying His Great Commission. And the Bible ends with the glorious statement that the dwelling place of God is with man. He will be with us, and we will be with Him forever. 

So ultimately, He doesn't need our money, our technology or our resources. It doesn't depend on our talents or our abilities. He promises Himself -- a promise He fulfilled in sending the Holy Spirit. And that's enough. 

I should caution you, though, that we need to keep things in context. The promise of God's presence is not whatever you happen to be doing. It's in the context of our obedience to the Great Commission, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. 

So, what should you -- what should I do about this? There's one verb I didn't mention. That's the verb "go." It relates to the command to make disciples exactly the same as baptizing and teaching. And like them, it carries the force of the imperative. You are, I am, to GO in order to do this. It's not to happen haphazardly, but with intentionality.

So what should we do?

First thing: Make sure that missions is not just one more thing on your church's agenda. Make sure that it is central to the life of your church -- an understanding of all that you need to do. 

Second, make sure you're a disciple yourself. In a group this size, I can make no assumption that everyone here even knows the Lord Jesus. The gospel message is glorious. The gospel message is that a holy God who should, by rights, hate and condemn us because of our sin, looked at us, saw us as we are. And who we are is, every one of us is a rebel against God. And rather than condemning us, He loved us and became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. And the Lord Jesus lived the life we should have lived, and then died the death we deserved to die, bearing on Himself the punishment our sins deserved. 

And then He rose again from the dead, and conquered sin and death and hell. And that He now freely offers to everyone who will repent of their sins and believe in Him, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him. And if you have never done that, then I would urge you to become a disciple of Jesus now. The choice is literally a choice of life or death. And so I urge you to repent of your rebellion against Him, and put your trust in Jesus. 

And for all of you who are already disciples of Jesus, remember that that's the only kind of Christian there is. There aren't Christians and then serious disciples of Jesus. There are serious disciples of Jesus, and non-Christians. Those are the biblical categories. So I would encourage you to grow as a disciple yourself. Let me urge you to be active in sharing the gospel in your community. Now I realize that this is in many ways, Bible belt kind of country. You may dispute that, but from the places where I have lived, trust me -- you are in the Bible belt. But there are still a lot of lost people around you. And again the Great Commission, the strategy of God for evangelizing the world, depends on churches faithfully evangelizing where they are. And the task of evangelism is not something that's reserved for the pastor or the church staff or for a gifted few. It's been given to everyone. 

In one of the messages in the conference we just attended, Trip Lee made this comment: In case you’re wondering why doesn't the evangelism team do more, guess what? You're the evangelism team. And that's the case. The whole church is the evangelism team. 

Let me urge you to attend to the internationals in your community. God's bringing the nations to us. Get beyond the politics and recognize that it is God who has sovereignly moved to this community the people who are here. And I know for a fact that there are any number of international communities in this area. Be hospitable to them. Did you know that 80% of all the internationals who come to the United States are never invited into an American home? 80%.

On the other hand, when I have lived overseas, I have generally been invited into someone's home within the first six hours that I was in my new house. Pretty much everywhere else in the world I've lived outside of this country. Be hospitable. Reach out to them. Love them. You guys are in a somewhat different situation than many; that I don't have to tell you that not all middle easterners are terrorists. You do get that, I trust. My experience is that the vast majority of Muslims I have known have been the most friendly, hospitable people I could possibly imagine, and fantastic friends and neighbors. Reach out to them and love them. And love them with the gospel.

And then as you think about the world, as you think about the places where the gospel isn't, as you think about the places -- literally there are countries in the world with fewer Christians than belong to this church. And so as you think about places like that, instead of asking the question, "Is it me?" ask, "Why not me?" I want to flip the usual question on its head. Usually people assume I'm gonna stay where I am unless God rearranges the clouds to tell me I'm supposed to go somewhere else. And a dream, a vision, and a prophetic utterance would help convince me of that.

Instead, since the command is already here, the command to take the gospel to the nations is clear in scripture, do you want to know what the will of God is? Well, read the Bible. And here it is: The will of God is that we the people of God take the gospel to those who've never heard it. So our default should be, I will go where I'm needed more, unless God makes it clear that I'm supposed to stay where I am, or go somewhere else.

So I would encourage everyone in this church to seriously ask God the question, "Why not me?" And you don't have to be a seminarian. As a matter of fact, in most of the places where the gospel is needed most, the most useless people are seminary graduates. I say that as one, as a seminary professor. But if that's all you've got, you can't get in. And so the kinds of people we need to take the gospel where it is needed the most are doctors and nurses and physical therapists, and engineers, and agriculturalists, and lawyers, and businesspeople, and sports coaches . . . you get the idea. Pretty much all of you. 

Let me also add something else, if you think, Well, I'm too old. See the color of my beard? It used to be red. It is obviously red no more. And nothing better happened to me in my ministry in the Muslim world than my beard turning white. Because most of the rest of the world has a more biblical conception of things than America does. America glorifies youth and sort of regrets old age. The Bible glorifies age. Remember, gray hair is a crown of glory. I obviously do not have a crown of anything. I like to think of it as a chinstrap of glory. 

But the fact is that I get heard more now with white hair than I ever did before. The people who have age and experience get respect that younger people don't get in much of the world. So if you have a profession that you can use somewhere else, and if you yourself are a serious, growing disciple of Jesus who knows how to share the gospel and disciple others in the context of the church, then you are exactly the kind of person that we need to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. 

So that's my challenge. This is the clear command of scripture. This is the point of the spear of what God wants us to do as a church. He wants us to take the gospel to the nations. And my challenge is, ask yourself first, How can I do that most effectively where I am already, but secondly, why shouldn't I be one of the ones who goes where Jesus is not yet known? Let's pray.

Father, I thank You so much for this congregation and their desire to be faithful to You; for their commitment to the Word, and for their obedience. Father, I pray that You would raise up out of this congregation many who will take the gospel to where it's not yet known. And I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.


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