Joey Sparks
7Sep/110

Some Things Are Just Obvious

Sights, smells, and sounds. All three can reveal where we’ve been or what we’ve been doing.

We can easily tell when someone’s been...

  • At a BBQ restaurant
  • Running around or playing outside
  • Cheering for their favorite sports team
  • Hunting or fishing
  • Cutting grass or working in the yard
  • Receiving devastating news
  • Out in the rain

I wonder what the Jewish Council saw or heard that caused them to say about Peter and John, “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13b)? It’s likely the council members had seen the two men traveling with Jesus before. But it’s also likely the previous statements about them being bold, “uneducated, common men” connected them to Jesus as well. They would have placed Jesus in those same categories as well. (Uneducated refers to the formal level of studying the law, not mental capacity.)

What does the world today need to see to recognize that we’ve “been with Jesus?”

  • Jesus himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
  • The “Fruit of the Spirit” are obvious characteristics of the Christian life (Gal. 5:22-23; cf. Matt. 7:20).
  • Peter reminds persecuted Christians, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers,they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:11-12; cf. Matt. 5:16).
  • Paul commended Christians in Thessalonica, “Andyou became imitators of usand of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with thejoy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lordsounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thess. 1:6-8, emphasis added).

Who are the people in your life whom you know “have been with Jesus?” Are you living so that others know you “have been with Jesus?”

20Nov/080

What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?

I'm not a fan of those who are constantly negative about the church. Just as my wife exercises patience with me, I hope Christ exercises patience with His bride as we overcome our faults and outgrow our immature complaining (Eph. 5:22-33).

In the process of growing and improving, there are some interesting things to consider. Over the past several years, discussion has increased concerning how to welcome guests/visitors to our assemblies. This video highlights how some of our good-intentioned efforts likely fall short at welcoming those who might be new to our assemblies. I've seen it on several blogs recently and felt it worthy of passing on.

I think there are some things worth considering. Ultimately, I think guests can easily detect whether our actions (whether or not they are considered the most "guest friendly") are growths of love and warmth.

4Oct/070

An Open Door for Effective Work (09.30.2007 Bulletin Article)

When Paul was concluding what we know as 1 Corinthians, he tells the Christians in Corinth that he is remaining in Ephesus a little longer. Additionally, he tells them why he is remaining there: “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me…” (1 Cor. 16:9).

On several occasions in the New Testament, the imagery of a door is used to represent opportunities. Jesus said “I am the door” (John 10:9). The only way to the Father is through Jesus (John 14:6). When Jesus told the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25), the bridegroom came and took the prepared virgins, leaving the unprepared searching for oil: “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready when in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10). The finality of judgment is represented by a closed door. That’s a pretty clear image. When Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3, he said the following words: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). We have the privilege of opening the door to allow Jesus into our lives. He’s done the work, we have to be willing to open our lives to his will.

Hopefully, we see the power of the door analogy in scripture. Likewise, we need to see the opportunities literal doors present us in this life. How often do we remember that souls live behind the many doors in our communities? Probably not as much as we need to. Not as much as Jesus does.

What has happened to the practice of door knocking? Like so many other things, it is fallen by the wayside because it seems confrontational and outdated. And yet, there are some people who might only have the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus if someone lovingly visits their home.

We always have the opportunity to tell our neighbors about the love of Christ. Specifically, next weekend we have a marvelous opportunity to tell the community that the Lord loves them and that the church at Midway cares about them. Next Saturday, we will spend several hours knocking the doors of the communities around us to inform them specifically about our upcoming Youth Weekend. Generally, we want them to know that we are a loving group of Christians seeking to serve and obey God.

Many of us aren’t thrilled when someone we don’t know knocks on our doors. Yet we would all do well to greet them with love and hospitality. That itself may be an opportunity to share the gospel with others. Improving our response to the practice will help us as we spread our good message.

The biggest hurdle many of us face is that of fear. Maybe it’s the fear of having the door slammed in our faces. Maybe it’s the fear of a barking dog. Maybe it’s the fear of saying the wrong thing. Maybe it’s the fear of doing something we’ve never done before. As understandable as those fears are, we must realize all of them are centered upon the wrong thing: us. If we are convinced the community needs to know about Jesus and how to obey him, then we need to spread the gospel because it’s God’s will and not our own. If we’re going about the Lord’s business, then we have no reason to fear. That’s why Paul told Timothy the following in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I hope you’ll prayerfully consider the opportunity to tell the community about our upcoming Youth Weekend. Please make your plans to stay after the PM service tonight. We’ll meet on Saturday, October 6 at 8:30 am to begin knocking. If you are unable to be here at 8:30, let me know, and you can join up with us when you are available.

Let’s commit to doing the Lord’s will and making his love and grace known to the world...starting with the world around us.

13Aug/070

A Biblical Contemporary Ministry, Part 3

For the last two weeks, we have been looking at Acts 17 and Paul’s sermon in Athens (often called his “Mars Hill Sermon”) for inspiration as we reach out to our 21st century generation. He was placed into a daunting—but amazingly providential—situation where he could teach some of the brightest academic minds of the first century about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus far, we have observed that Paul had (1) a touched spirit over their idolatry and (2) the courage to engage them in discussions about the truth. Ultimately, Paul’s actions led to several in the audience believing and following him (Acts 17:34).

It is with that same end in mind that we turn our attention to the final area of an effective contemporary ministry. We should always seek the truth about how to reach souls with the gospel; we should always look to the Bible for guidance in so doing; we should keep in mind that it works!

The final aspect of Paul’s situation was that he proclaimed the message boldly. He had a powerful message, and he preached it powerfully. He did not skirt the truth about idolatry; he did not leave room for the Athenians to think their way was okay also; he preached the full, unadulterated truth about the God of the universe and about his risen Son. Notice briefly some of Paul’s phrases:

· “What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (17:23)

· “The God who made the world...does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything…” (17:24-25)

· “We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, and image formed by the art and imagination of man” (17:29)

· “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness”

(17:30-31)

· “of this he has given assurance to all by rising [Jesus] from the dead.”

(17:31)

As we remember his original audience (and their gods that surrounded them), some of these things would definitely fall into the “stepping on toes” category. Although Paul himself said to preach the truth in a loving nature (Eph. 4:15), the truth still needs to be taught specifically. At Athens, Paul preached with love, and that meant challenging the error of the Athenians. Today, we must lovingly address and meet the challenges of the 21st century. The person from whom I was inspired to do this study said in his lesson, “It’s not hard to be Biblical if you’re not committed to being contemporary. And it’s not hard to be contemporary if you’re not committed to being Biblical.” That statement exhibits the truth of our position in the 21st century. We must always be Biblical; we must also make sure the saving Biblical message reaches our surrounding audience and culture.

Briefly, I want to think about this same idea from a slightly different angle. Within the church, we have struggled over the past several decades to have the same success in reaching people as we did 40 to 60 years ago. Not only do we face that challenge, but we are often reminded of limited success “within our own walls.” Many of our young people grow up and then grow out of service to the Lord. I readily admit that the ultimate responsibility for our young people exists with their parents. However, let’s think about how far powerful, sound, challenging, and loving preaching will go in not only reaching the lost around us, but also in meeting the spiritual needs of Christians.

Sadly, many congregations—intentionally or unintentionally—preach and teach messages that do not challenge their audiences out of fear that they might not come back. Although we want people to be happily in Christ, they can’t be such without hearing and obeying the full truth. Today, the issues may not be the same as they were for Paul, but preaching the truth will still be unpopular. It will be difficult for us to proclaim God’s will regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage; many people are sensitive about preaching on homosexuality; many are not comfortable when preaching the truth about gambling; many do not want to hear what God says about “social drinking.” Yet the truth about those things is vitally important to pleasing God and enjoying true fellowship with him and with other Christians.

May we be committed to preaching the powerful gospel message...in so doing we save ourselves and our generation (1 Tim. 4:16).

27Jul/071

A Biblical Contemporary Ministry, Part 1 (Acts 17:16-34)

One struggle of every generation of God’s people is to reach the people around them with the truth about God’s love. Throughout time, accepting that love has meant living in ways contradictory to the present worldly generation. Thus, resistance mounts and discouragement abounds. Thankfully, God has preserved the words and actions aimed at sinful generations as an example for times to come.

In the 21st century, we need to follow these examples as we continue to reach our contemporaries with the life-changing truth about Jesus Christ. Paul serves as one such powerful example when he speaks the truth at the Athenian Areopagus before the “brightest” philosophers of that time (Acts 17:16-34). As we notice this passage for the next several weeks, we need to keep the ending in our minds.

Acts 17:34 says, “But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

Paul’s sermon was successful! He caused some to believe! The text says that many scoffed at the resurrection, but some believed! What Paul did, we must do, for his actions brought fruit for the Lord.

First, Paul had a distressed heart. Notice how this account begins, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols(Acts 17:16; emphasis added). Paul’s spirit was touched as he witnessed the sinful practices of the Athenians. Paul did not go around robotically preaching and condemning people. His message resulted from a sorrowful and outraged disposition over the idolatry that surrounded him.

Many of God’s messengers were touched by their audiences’ spiritual plight. When David wrote the 119th Psalm about God’s word, he included his grief over man’s wickedness:

“Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law” (119:53).

“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (119:136).

“I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands” (119:158).

Jeremiah—known as the “Weeping Prophet”—was continually troubled over his people’s sinfulness:

“But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down
with tears, because the
Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jer. 13:17).

“Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my
people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow”
(Jer. 14:17).

Jesus wept over the shameful condition of Jerusalem:

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’” (Lk. 19:41-42).

Paul emotionally warned of false teachers:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on
earthly things”
(Phil. 3:18).

If we are to reach the generation around us, we—like David, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul—must be touched by its sinful state. Not only must our mind understand the sin around us, but our emotions must be pricked over sin’s consequences.

If we callously preach down at the lost around us, there will be few brought to the Lord. If we begin with a spirit that is troubled over the spiritual state of the lost, and then proclaim the uncompromised truth, souls can (and will) be won for Christ. May we sincerely and prayerfully consider the unfortunate immorality of our current generation.

Have a great week...for Him!

4Apr/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Consolation

This is the final week of our six-part series from some of Jesus’ final words before leaving the earth. His words were meant to teach, motivate, and encourage His disciples as He turned the work of saving the world over to them. As His followers today, we are responsible to these words of our Savior.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The final phrase of this familiar passage is the one we need to carry with us most closely. As we are doing His work, Jesus gives us the ultimate security: His presence.

We all understand the helplessness associated with feeling alone. Jesus no doubt had experienced that loneliness himself while on earth. Many people followed Him around because of His powers. Yet few followed to the end. Jesus was faced with the loneliness that came from knowing the salvation of the world depended on Him alone. Jesus felt humiliation and loneliness on the cross of Calvary when He bore our sins on His shoulders (Matt. 27:46). Because Jesus knew the heartache of loneliness, He also knows the comfort of presence and intimacy. That’s exactly why He offers it so freely to His followers: we need it!

When Joshua was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land after the death of Moses—a parallel situation to the disciples in Matthew 28—the Lord spoke the following words: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). God knew taking the Promised Land would be a difficult and daunting task. God knew it would take great courage on the part of the Israelites. He told them that He was the source of their strength and courage. The Lord’s message centuries later to fearful followers of the new covenant was the same: do your mission and stay strong because I am with you.

We need the presence of our Lord because of several reasons. (1) There are plenty of people around us that don’t live godly lives. If we depend on them for companionship, we’re doomed to fall into sin ourselves. (2) We need to continually remember His example each day as we serve Him. We need to see with His compassionate eyes, touch with His understanding hands, and speak with His confident words. (3) We need to constantly remember the price He paid for us to have a relationship with Him. As we hold to His nail-scarred hand, we remember our work was first His work. Knowing He gave so much should motivate us to give Him our whole lives in obedience.

Not only do we long to feel His presence as we do His will, we literally cannot do His will without Him. As the Hebrew writer was closing his letter to first century Christians, he had many things of which to remind them. He had spent the majority of his previous words convincing them to not give up on their new-found faith in Christ. Here’s the author’s words to those struggling Christians many centuries ago:

“For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Have a good week...alongside Him.

31Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Instruction

This week, we focus on the fifth portion of our six-part series from some of Jesus’ final words before leaving the earth. His words were meant to teach, motivate, and encourage His disciples as He turned the work of saving the world over to them. As His followers today, we are responsible to these words of our Savior.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now we’ll notice Jesus’ clause, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” After bringing people to Christ and baptizing them for the remission of their sins, we have the responsibility (and opportunity) to teach them more about the love of God and how to please Him. The disciples had been trained and taught about the new covenant God was issuing through Christ; it’s those things Christ had relayed to them that they were to relay to new disciples. Today, we are to teach what Christ taught; we are also to teach what those apostles and disciples relayed to first century Christians.

When we view this command to continually teach about Jesus and His commands, we must ask ourselves “how are we doing in our teaching?” As we pose that question together this morning, let’s ask and answer that question in two specific areas:

How is the teaching in our homes? The context of our passage shows that whoever “makes a disciple” is generally responsible for “teaching them.” This makes pretty common sense from the church perspective. However, do we ever read this portion of the passage and think about our homes? If parents have been responsible for bringing their children to Christ (or are preparing for and praying for that decision), wouldn’t it be in keeping with Christ’s command that they should be teaching them as well? That’s the idea that is emphasized continually in scripture. Back in Deuteronomy, Moses said, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…” (6:6-9). Paul echoes those words in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers...bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The main source for teaching children the ways of the Lord is the home. If we were to compare the amount of time spent in the home on schoolwork and studying the Bible, which would have greater emphasis? Are grades important? Absolutely. But so is learning the Bible throughout one’s childhood. May our homes not skirt that responsibility.

How is the teaching in our Bible classes? Many elders throughout the church have set aside periods of time for their congregations to meet for the specific purpose of studying the Bible. We should take this seriously as it is a response to our elders’ authority and because we are studying the holy words of God. Paul told Titus in Titus 2 that the older men and older women of the church were responsible for teaching and encouraging the younger men and younger women of the church. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the purpose of our Bible classes today? How seriously do we take our Bible classes, though?

We show how much we value Bible class by our simple attendance. We show how much we value Bible class by our timeliness. What does it say about our devotion if we’re consistently late? Adults, we show how much we value Bible class by our examples. It’s no wonder that some young people don’t respect their Bible class teachers and classmates (and God) when their parents either (1) don’t come to Bible class at all, or (2) are at the building but don’t actually attend a class. As adults, we are helping to form the current generation of young people’s perceptions of the Bible and Bible class. How are we doing?

Nothing is more important to the lives of those who come to know Christ than to continue to know and learn more about Him. May we never wilt under the pressure to teach them the Truth.

23Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Remission

This week, we continue observing the words of our Savior as found in Matthew 28:18-20. Shortly before ascending back into heaven, Jesus gives His followers a mission statement of sorts.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Over the past several weeks, we’ve noticed the importance of Jesus’ authority over heaven and earth and that we should carry the gospel into the world and offer the invitation to follow Him in response to that authority.

There are countless sources of discussion and controversy in the religious community. Among those who profess to follow Christ, there may not be a more sensitive—and important—issue than baptism. When we consider the evidence, we can’t help but see the seriousness of the matter as it involves the salvation of man’s soul.

We could spend hours discussing scripture that shows the necessity of baptism. We can use Biblical arguments from many different angles that show it’s essential. This morning, however, it would serve us well to remember one of the scriptural purposes of baptism: remission of sins. Understanding this purpose should help us see baptism’s necessity.

Baptism is for the remission of sins. Throughout God’s quest of allowing man to have a relationship with him (and man continuing to come up short), He has constantly pointed to the cross of Christ as the eternity-shattering climax (Gen. 3:15). The cross of Christ serves as the final and supreme sacrifice in a long line of imperfect and inferior sacrifices. Hebrews 9 makes it clear that, though important, the Old Testament sacrifices were incapable of forgiving man’s sin. Christ, while serving as the perfect High Priest, gave Himself as the perfect spotless sacrifice so that all who had obeyed and all who would obey could be forgiven of their sins. That amazing piece of scripture in Hebrews 9:11-22 closes with the following words: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Since perfect blood has been shed, forgiveness is possible. Thankfully, the Bible shows us how to contact that blood and be forgiven of our sins.

In Acts 2, a multitude of Jews were assembled when Peter and the other apostles began teaching them the truth about the man they knew as Jesus. When they were convicted by the truth that they had literally killed their Messiah, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” They acknowledged a sin problem; Peter told them the solution: the blood of Christ that would forgive them. How great is the irony of their situation (and ours today also)! They had Jesus killed and it was that death that provided the opportunity for that very sin to be forgiven. Truly God enacted His amazing grace to save our souls. We can’t receive that grace any other way than through baptism.

When Paul stood before the Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 22, he gave the testimony of what happened that led him to Christ. At the climax of his conversion, he was told by Ananias, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Paul was instructed to be baptized to wash his sins away. While necessary, his new faith in Christ hadn’t saved him from sin. While essential, his repentance from his wicked deeds hadn’t secured his home in heaven. While convincing, his confession of Jesus as the Son of God on the road to Damascus didn’t cleanse his sins. His baptism washed away his sins. In order to experience that same washing and forgiveness, we must contact the blood of Christ through baptism as well.

There’s another interesting phrase in that passage as well. Romans 10:13 is often cited as proof that baptism is not essential for salvation, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It’s interesting that Paul is citing Joel 2:32 and it uses the same wording as Ananias when he told Paul to be baptized (“calling on the name of the Lord”). From the New Testament’s perspective, being baptized for the forgiveness of sins is inseparable from “calling on the name of the Lord.”

Clearly, having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the ticket to our heavenly home (Matt. 10:32-33; John 14:6). The Bible teaches us how to have that intimate relationship with Him. Among other things, baptism is required to accept the gift of salvation offered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. May He bless us as we teach and practice this truth to a lost world.

19Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Invitation

A couple of weeks ago, we began observing the words of our Savior as found in Matthew 28:18-20. Shortly before ascending back into heaven, Jesus gives His followers a mission statement of sorts.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Thus far, we’ve noticed that Jesus makes it clear that He has all authority, both in heaven and on earth. Because of that authority, we should give Him our lives in complete submission. We’ve also noticed that we are commanded to “go” into all nations and teach them the good news of Christ and make disciples of them. We often try to skirt our responsibility to actually go into places that need the gospel, but Jesus reminds us of our task.

This morning, we are going to look at the phrase “make disciples” from a slightly different perspective. W e are only disciples ourselves because Jesus had given us the opportunity to be His followers. We should always be reminded of His love and graciousness in allowing us to be Christians through His blood. That we can be disciples and make disciples of Christ is one of the most profound blessings known to man. May we not spurn the greatest invitation; may we not keep it from other men and women that need Christ.

The invitation has a connection with authority. Although we could make a connection between the invitation to come to Christ and His authority in Matthew 28, there is another place where Jesus Himself connects the two ideas. Matthew 11:25-30 is one of the most comforting passages from Jesus’ life. Here we find our Savior telling all who would come to Him that He “will give [them] rest…[they] will find rest for [their] souls. For [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light.” Prior to telling us these great words of encouragement, He says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father…” Who better to “come” to than the one who has been given all things by God the Father? We have an incredible opportunity to come be a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. One thing that makes that amazing is the authority, power, and faithfulness of our would-be Master and Lord.

Accepting the invitation comes at a cost. As lucrative as Christ’s invitation to come to Him is, we must all be reminded of the cost of being a disciple. In Luke 14, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple...so therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” One of the things that makes Christianity unattractive to many in the world is the list of things that they would “have to give up.” From passages like Luke 14, we see that it’s not just about the things we give up, but it’s about being fully devoted to Christ and His cause. Being a disciple can’t be just in word only; it must be seen in our lives. Being a true disciple of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest opportunities we have been given on earth; may we accept it ourselves; may we convince others of the great opportunity that exists for them as well.

Have a great week in His service.

14Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Commission

Last week, we began observing the words of our Savior as found in Matthew 28:18-20. As some of Jesus’ final words before leaving this earth, He told all followers to carry out His will by bringing others to Him.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Last week, we noticed Jesus’ authority over heaven and earth and our responsibility to give our lives to Him in full submission. This morning, we will turn our attention to the most familiar portion of Jesus’ statement: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Go with a purpose. Some have proposed in the past that the verb that is translated “Go” in this verse could just as easily mean “as you are going.” While that could be a possibility, it is unlikely that is what Jesus specifically meant to that audience. The verb used there is actually a type of participle that is predominantly used by Matthew that—for lack of an easier way to explain it—gets it’s “mood” from the following verb to which it is attached. “Make disciples” is in the imperative, therefore “go” is imperative as well. Jesus specifically commands us to go with the purpose of making disciples of His will. This idea also makes the most sense when you consider His original audience. If He told Jewish Christians to convert people “as they are going,” how long would it have taken before they branched out to reach Gentiles? He makes His mission clear from the beginning: the gospel of His resurrection is for all nations, therefore we should “go” into them to teach Jesus.

Today, we must be going—whether to places far away or down the road—with the purpose to leading souls to Christ.

Going and making disciples is a process. Although Jesus is firm regarding His mission of teaching the lost, He understands the hearts of men. He knows it is difficult to touch everyone with the good news of salvation. When He was in the beginning of His earthly ministry, He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16). This statement gives us a rallying cry for our everyday actions: no matter what you’re doing, let your light shine. Notice the desired response of those around us: “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus understands you might not baptize everyone you come in contact with, but He tells us everyone should see our good works enough to know to Whom we belong. Although evangelism can be discouraging, we need to remember that relationships, trust, patience, dedication, and prayer are all important to bringing souls to Christ. These things often are built up over time. Evangelism should be urgent to us, but not to a fault of being scared and unsuccessful.

Go in the present. As Jesus was leaving the earth, He gave these hallowed words to His followers. From that moment forward, this was their mission statement. There should have been no confusion over who needed to know about Jesus’ life: all nations. There should have been no question about what to do: create disciples through baptism and teaching. There should have been no fear: Jesus would be with them. When the imperative is used, it is used to show command and force. The time during which it is to be carried out refers back to verse 18 (because of the “therefore”). Because Jesus now has all authority in heaven and earth, we must go now! They were to go then; we are to go now. Although going for the purpose of teaching others can be difficult, we will be doing His will if we do something for Him.

May God bless us all as we “go” and bring others to Him—even this week.