The Great Commission

April 20, 2013

I am in this pulpit today as a result of an ole boy from Moncks Corner, South Carolina being obedient to the Great Commission. I would have never stepped into this church on my own because I had no interest in church. If I would have developed an interest in church or felt guilt about my children not being in church I would have returned to the denominational church that I was exposed to in my youth and would still be lost.
I had never heard the Gospel in that church. I knew that I was supposed to have my children baptized because that is what my Mother told me I should do. So, I called the base chapel to make an appointment to have my daughter baptized. They told me to show up at 7PM that Saturday to have it done and I did. I was so ignorant of my own denominational teachings that I did not know it was a priest baptizing my child. I was only an infant when I had been baptized and I had not ever seen one performed when I was older. I thought something did not “feel” right to me, but I did not know for sure until I received a certificate that read “this is to certify that Michelle Louise Shultz has been baptized in the holy rites of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.” I was incensed! I called the chapel and told them that they had baptized my child Catholic and I was Protestant. I was mad at them, but I was the stupid one.
I then had her baptized in a Protestant service. That meant that I had to actually participate in the service in front of everyone. I thought that the roof would cave in since it had been years since I had last attended a church service. When Karen and I did get saved years later and Michelle made a profession of faith; she was biblically baptized by immersion as a believer. If baptism had anything to do with salvation, and it doesn’t, then my daughter would be very close to the throne upon her arrival in Heaven.
Many times we are afraid to witness to folks with a different denominational background because we think they are Christians and we do not want to appear “intolerant.” My wife and I are living proof that the assumption that a person belonging to a church or professing to be a Christian means that they are a Christian is wrong. We were both loosely affiliated with mainline denominations that once preached a strong Gospel message, but they have for the most part departed from the faith. Indeed, if their founders could come back from the grave they would denounce many of them as heretics, reprobates and in need of salvation. The same would be said of other denominations and it is true that not all Baptists are Christians, either.
I am reminded of a story about the great evangelist, R. G. Lee. He came back to make a report to the Convention about the state of the churches. He said, “Brethren, it is my opinion that only ten percent of our membership is truly saved.” Of course, that created a bit of uproar and murmuring in the audience. He then came back, and said, “I made a mistake, five percent!” I wonder what percentage he would give today. I have worked with other groups of Baptists and they also have the same problem as the SBC. No one is immune.
We have sat back and become content with our numbers and have chosen to fight more among ourselves than with the devil and we wonder why our country and the world is going to Hell. We have chosen to politic instead of pray and elect rather than evangelize and we are reaping the fruit of our futility. You cannot change the actions or values of a man until you change the heart of that man. Jesus came to change the hearts of men not to change polls. That is why we must evangelize the lost!! You do this by obeying his leadership! Go where He says to go!

Matt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

I do not know if you have heard this before because I never did until I did the study for this sermon. The word Galilee means “the heathen circle.” We all knew it was a place in Palestine, but we just thought the Pharisees were being ugly when they questioned whether a prophet could come out of Galilee. (John 7:52) The area was known as a place where pagans and also half Gentile-half Jews lived. Surely God could not work in such a place and yet, it was where Jesus ministered a great deal more than among the “pure” Jews in the Holy City. We need to go to the heathen circles of our country and the world. We spend far too much money and time trying to reach folks just like us.
The disciples had to be where Christ told them to be or they would have missed out on their final orders. They had to be in Galilee, not in Jerusalem. They had to be on the right mountain. They had to know where they were supposed to be and be there on time. If of some them had showed up an hour late, they would have missed it. Brethren, the hour is late and we have missed it! We need to be where He appointed us and hearing His commands!

17And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

As you obey His leadership by going where He says to go, you must expect great things! The disciples were obedient by showing up on time at the right place and they worshipped Jesus when they saw Him, but they still doubted. Some were still not sure that what they were experiencing was real and they had doubts about the future. After all the time they had spent with Him and in spite of all they had seen Him do and now He has risen from the dead they still expect the worst!
Before we speak too harshly of them, let us examine ourselves. How many times do we doubt when we pray? How many times have we looked at a circumstance in our lives and forgotten all God has done for us and expect that this time all is lost? Do we worship Him? Yes. Do we seek to be obedient to Him? Yes? Do we attend all the services we can and read like we should? Sometimes, yes and sometimes no. Yet, do we doubt Him? Sigh. Sadly, yes! We need to expect great things.
Now some folks see things and attribute it to God when it is more like their own desires or the anchovy pizza at midnight that is showing up in their dreams. However, I believe some folks in other groups see more things happen in their Christian life because they expect a lot more than we do. For the most part, all we really expect from God is forgiveness of our sins and Heaven when we die. After that, we expect God to be too busy to really do much else for us, but we pray because we are supposed to do so and yet expect nothing to come of it. James says, you are wasting your breath, if you do not pray with a single mind without doubt. (James 1:8) Maybe that is why our soul winning is so fruitless and we give up so quickly. We really do not expect God to save anyone and by that unbelief we hinder the Holy Spirit’s work on the ones we witness to.

18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

We need to evangelize the Lost by spending time with Him. How else can we know His will? Jesus will come and speak unto us, but we need to be near Him to hear. We spend too much time running about listening to this preacher and that preacher in person or on the radio and TV. We read a mess of books and attend numerous seminars and search the net for all we can get and yet miss Christ’s message to us because we did not sit down to hear Him.
Depending on what preachers you are listening to and what books and websites you are reading, those things are not bad. However, those things are to be secondary to listening to Him. Some young missionaries asked George MacDonald what they should be telling the Chinese. He replied, “Sit down at the feet of Jesus and tell the Chinese what you see.” That is very sound advice. The disciples had doubts even though they spent three years with Jesus and had seen Him rise from the dead. Imagine what kind of doubts they would have had if they only spend Sundays and Wednesday nights with Him like most of us do.
Charlie Brown always had a crush on the little red haired girl. He would follow her home at a distance and want to talk to her, but he never did. I believe it was Linus who asked Charlie if the little red haired girl liked him and he said that he did not know because he never asked her. Too often, we follow Jesus from afar and have a crush on Him, but we do not sense His love or the message He would have us give the Lost because we do not spend time with Him or ask Him for the message.
We need to spend time with Him because He will give us courage. Charlie Brown did not have courage to talk to the little red haired girl. The disciples were scared and full of doubts. We fear the faces of lost people. When we spend time with Him we will begin to experience the truth of all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth. This will give us courage.
We have our theology straight and we have no doubts that Jesus has all power or jurisdiction in heaven. He is the Son of God, the second person in the Godhead and sits at the right side of the Father. He can command legions of angels at any time. He alone will be able to open the seals of Revelation. He is the Alpha and Omega. Nope, no problem with power in heaven.
It is in the earth that we doubt that He has all power. We look around the world and see all the sin, death, and misery and wonder who is really in power. Evil seems to win more often than not. Babies are murdered freely without appeal while murderers are educated, write books, file suits, and lead long lives in prison while they go through years of an appeal process. Deviants are looked upon as normal and the normal as deviants. Anything is tolerated except the Gospel.
Where is Jesus? He is right in the middle of everything. Things may look tough now, but when the saved are Raptured out of here, our current state of affairs will look like a Sunday School picnic. Much of what is going on is our fault. Search the Scriptures and you will see many places where God has used the heathens to chastise His people. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says that it is not the heathens’ fault if we have problems in our country. He says, that if His people will humble themselves and pray then He will heal the land. He did not say when the right party is elected to the White House or when the right laws are passed. He says when my people clean up their own backyard then He will kick the devil’s tail.

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

We lack courage and are huddled in our church houses on the defensive instead of being on the offensive as Matt 16:18 states because we fail to evangelize the lost by submitting to His authority. The gates of Hell shall not prevail means that they cannot withstand the power of the Gospel. The power or dynamite of the Gospel will blow the gates up. (Romans 1:16) It does not mean that we hide in the church house trusting that the Boogey Man cannot get in because the gates of Hell will not overpower us. If we are besieged or overpowered it is because we have given up.
Evangelism is not an option. Go ye therefore is more of an assumption than a command. It is the expected action of our lives. As you are going about the world, teach and baptize. Go is not a command in the strictest sense. It is not a “If you would, I wish you would, or if you get time would you” go into all the world, but an observation of what we will be doing. We are going to be out and about the world living our lives and while we do that we are then commanded to teach and baptize. This means all of us are to be doing it not just the preacher, elders, deacons, or the ones with the gift of evangelism. It is all of us. We have not quit living our lives, but we have quit evangelizing and hence we have given up the world to a defeated enemy and Hell appears to be in control.

20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen KJV

We also submit to His authority by not leaving anything out. We are to teach them all things. We tend to be a bit mealy mouthed and do not want to teach some things lest we might offend someone. We want to rewrite some things so that they will fit our culture. While we should not seek to be offensive for the sake of being offensive, we must come to grips with the fact the World crucified Christ because of the Word. They are not going to think highly of us if we stick to that same message. If we compromise the Word to woo them into the Church, they will hate us even more than if we cast our pearls before swine and great will be the rending. Christ withstood the culture and demanded that the culture become aligned with the Word. He did not align the Word with the culture. The Apostles did the same and turned their world upside down. We do not submit to Christ’s authority nor follow the example of the Apostles and wonder why the Church is upside down.
We must evangelize the Lost by seeking the Lost! We want to sit on our padded pews in the air conditioning and jist say, “Y’all come!” Nowhere in the New Testament is that a pattern. The Christians went to where the lost were. We must go where they are!
We are way too laid back. Whatever happened to the fire of our forefathers? I remember reading in a history book where a lad was complaining about the Baptists. He said, “You can never run into a Baptist without them having a Scripture to cast in your teeth.” Now, the only thing we seem to cast in their teeth is “How ’bout them Cowboys?”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses cover every door in Norfolk, Virginia at least three times a year. Baptists once did things like that. One time I was out door knocking and the people first guessed that I was a JW and then a Mormon. I was the first Baptist to ever knock on their door. Pitiful, jist pitiful! Even Mennonites were knocking on doors in one area. It was a bit of surprise the first time I went to a door and saw a Mennonite had stuck a tract in the door before I got there. While I do not share agreement in all their theology I was happier to see their tract rather than some other ones. In fact, I left their tract there and stuck mine along side of it. At least I knew the person behind the door could be saved in the Mennonite Church and their lifestyle and convictions are to be admired and respected and it would not hurt us to follow some of their convictions.
Not only must we seek them by going where they are; we must not leave any place untouched. We must go into all the world, even the heathen circle. I am not saying that we become them. Some folks go into some of the subcultures and try to look and act like them. I think we may have taken Hudson Taylor’s example way too far. Yes, he dressed like the typical Chinese teacher and spoke their language and ate their food, but he did not try to incorporate any of their religion or anything in their culture that would be contrary to Scripture. One well-known singer stripped naked on a foreign beach because she did not want to offend the natives who were naked. They thought she was crazy and I thought the Gospel clothed the naked not stripped the Christian. We are to accept people where they are and lead them to Christ and change what is unscriptural in their lifestyle. We do not have to pierce our tongue and wear black lipstick to reach that subculture. However we are not to run into their hangouts in our white shirts, ties, crew cuts, and our eighty-five pound KJV and make them feel like scum of the earth and if they are lucky they will get to be as holy as we are.
When I was a kid, the Salvation Army would come into the bars and take up an offering for the poor. I do not ever recall them leaving literature or preaching just taking up money. It was almost always a woman. I know the poor need money and the drinking crowd can surely afford to spare some change unless of course their family is in need of food and clothing because of Dad’s drinking habits. I don’t know that I would go into a bar for money. I believe that conveys the wrong message. I certainly would not have sent women into a place where drunken and semi-drunken men are looking for a one-night stand. I find it hard to believe that none of them were ever groped. In those days, maybe she was fairly safe because some of the most well versed men in theology that I have known were drunks and they might have had respect for her, but today she would be in big trouble.
The bar crowd, prostitutes, druggies, Goths, Gen-Xers, and gangbangers all need the Gospel and we need to reach them. We just need to be sure that we do it in a proper way. We need to leave no placed untouched, but we need the power of Christ to ensure that we are left untouched by the some of the places we must go for the love of God.
Finally we must evangelize the lost by discipling others. I said earlier that we must leave nothing out of the Gospel or the Word in order to win people to Christ. This continues in discipleship. As we teach Christians how to be good disciples we will convict the lost. We first disciple them outwardly through baptism, church attendance, reading, and prayer, etc. These are basics and when lost people see the changes happening in the life of one of their old cronies, they will react. At first, it will be negatively and they will doubt that ole Billy Bob will keep his religion. However, as they see the outward things remain consistent, they will sweat it out a bit because if God is doing this for Billy Bob, He might get a hold of me. For some, that will be a sign of hope because they really do want a change in their life, but they want reality and when reality shows up in a buddy, they get interested and are on their way to a salvation experience for themselves. For others, they will be fearful because they like their life and they do not want to catch Billy Bob’s religion. By the grace of God, some will run until they can no longer run anywhere but into the arms of Jesus. Sadly, some will run until they drop into Hell, but they will never be able to say that they never saw God at work or had a chance for salvation.
Outward discipleship is only a start and not the final goal of discipleship. Discipleship is not just being sure that a person knows the dos and don’ts and shows up at the services with his bible. The major and most important part of discipleship is inward. They need to experience the “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
They need to learn to rely upon that presence of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to empower their lives. A believer’s life will change far more dramatically as they are conformed to the image of Christ in the inward man. As the lost see the changes that sheer will power or turning over a new leaf could never make; they will seek the One who can make such changes possible. Then they will see the changes in themselves. As we allow ourselves to be discipled inwardly we will see changes in our lives, our church, our country, and our world. It can happen!
Will you fulfill the Great Commission? Will you obey His leadership and go where He wants you to go and expect great things when you get there? Will you spend time with Him so that you will know His will and receive courage from Him? Will you submit to His authority by confessing that evangelism is not an option and practice it without leaving anything out? Will you seek the lost by going where they are leaving no place untouched? Will you evangelize by discipling converts, including yourself, outwardly and inwardly? If you will, someday you will see another man in this pulpit as a result of your obedience. Or you may see men or women become fruitful Christians in other career fields. Some you may not know about until you reach Glory, but no matter because your obedience will make your life and other lives better here and bring you reward there. Go! Fight! Win!!


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