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What do you do in your life that really matters? What is really significant? Think about what you most enjoyed doing in your life. Do you love your job? Are you eager to go to work in the morning? Few people are. Most people feel like their jobs are ultimately meaningless. What if you could live a life of great significance? What would be your dream job? What would you most want to do? Regardless of the pay involved. Regardless of your abilities. One big part of many jobs is your boss. Describe your dream boss. What kind of boss would you most want to work for?
This week I’ve been reading the just-released bestseller, In the Garden of Beasts by Erick Larson. It is a nonfiction account of the relatively unknown William E. Dodd, a bored history professor at the University of Chicago. In1933 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Dodd as ambassador to Germany just prior to World War Two, before it was obvious what Hitler was up to. This appointment changed Dodd’s life. He went from bored professor to honored ambassador, appointed by the President himself. Dobb carried the authority of the United States. He represented the President of America on the verge of world war. He moved from insecurity to significance.
Let’s talk about a life full of meaning, a life of significance. This is the kind of life God has for each of us. At the end of his time on earth, Jesus Christ told his disciples that they get to live a life of significance.
Place yourself in the shoes of Jesus’ disciples back then. They saw Jesus killed on the cross. Now they have seen Jesus alive. They are trying to make the emotional move from grieving his death to rejoicing in his resurrection, but they are struggling to believe this is really real. Politically they are in a hostile environment. The Jewish leaders handed Jesus to the Romans and demanded his death. The Romans executed Jesus as a dangerous criminal. It was not a popular time to be Jesus’ disciple. The crowds have scattered. It appears that the Jesus’ movement is over, but now he seems to be alive. What’s next?
In one of his final encounters with the disciples, Jesus gave a last charge. Every Gospel and the book of Acts records Jesus’ remarkable charge to live a significant life. It has famously been called the Great Commission. We are going to look at four different expressions of Jesus’ Great Commission, in Matthew, Luke, John and Acts. Open your Bible to these four passages so you can compare and contrast them. The references are on your outline: Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20 and Acts 1 are the four chapters.
To whom does Jesus give this great commission? Priests? Pastors? Missionaries? No, he commissions ordinary men and women, blue collar and white-collar workers, young and old. By application, he is talking to you. Jesus is giving you this commission to a significant life.
I find this to be an amazing moment in history. This is Jesus’ Braveheart speech to his troops just before they go into battle. Here is the risen Christ with no money, no army, charging this band of eleven, or at most 500 men and women, with changing the world. As we read through the four texts, I want you to look for a few things. First, look for the Trinity. See if you can find the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the passages. Then look for the authority, the task, and the resources to carry it out. In other words, look for the answer to three questions: Who tells us we can do this? What are we supposed to do? How are we able to do it? The authority, the task and the resource. Let’s begin in Matthew twenty-eight, sixteen.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:16–20
The Bible does not sugar-coat or spin reality. Some followers worshipped Jesus and some doubted. The word for doubt could also be translated “hesitate.” We can identify. Do you see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Pretty easy in this text. What about authority? Who tells us we can do this? It is the Father’s authority given to the Son. What is the task? Make disciples, baptizing, and teaching. What is the resource that enables us to do it? Jesus will be with us always.
Now, turn to Luke chapter twenty-four, verse forty-six to see a very different description of this final challenge to live a significant life, this great commission.
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46–49
Jesus says, once you understand the Scriptures and receive the Holy Spirit, then preach repentance and forgiveness of sins among all nations. Do you see the trinity? The Holy Spirit is what is promised, the power with which they will be clothed. Who has the authority to tell us to do this? Jesus Christ, the Risen One. What is our task? To be witnesses of these things, preaching the forgiveness of sin in Jesus’ name to all nations. What enables us to do it? The Father will clothe us with power.
Now turn to John chapter twenty, verse twenty-one. In a few short lines John records Jesus’ offer of a significant life in different words. We read,
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21–23
Do you see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Who tells us we can do this? The authority comes from the Father who sent Jesus, who is now sending us. What is the task? To continue Jesus’ mission. To forgive anyone’s sins. What is the power we have to do this? The Holy Spirit. With the peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, you are sent to proclaim the forgiveness of sins.
Now turn to our fourth and final passage, Acts chapter one, verse six,
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:6–8
Do you see the Trinity? The Father has the authority to set times. The Son is speaking. The Holy Spirit will come on them. What is the task? To be witnesses for Jesus to the entire world. What enables us to do it? The Holy Spirit’s power. They were expecting a political kingdom. Jesus tells them they will represent the King who has risen from the dead, not as soldiers with physical weapons, but as witnesses with a gospel of peace that will change the entire world in the power of the Spirit. We do not change the world through terrorism or military conquest or governmental programs or spreading democracy. We change the world by representing Jesus Christ to the world, by making disciples, planting churches.
Look back on the four passages to put it all together. What is the significant life that Jesus tells us we can live? You get to represent Jesus Christ to the world. It can be described as making disciples, witnessing, preaching or forgiving sins. Essentially as United States President Franklin appointed William Dodd as America’s ambassador to Germany, so the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed you as Heaven’s ambassador to earth. How can you do this? Because you have the full authority of the Father to do it; because you have the clear command of the Son to do it; and because you have the divine power of the Holy Spirit to do it. That’s what Jesus is telling us. We do not appoint ourselves. We do not make up our duty. And we do not carry it out in our strength. You have the authority of the Father, the clear command of the Son and the divine power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s walk through each one of these compelling truths.
You have the full authority of the Father to do it
Jesus has all the authority of heaven and earth. In other words, he is the King. And as the King, he authorizes believers to represent him in the world. You are an authorized representative of Jesus. We are to represent the king by our words and deeds to people all over the world. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ to the world.
Jesus has authority from the Father who sent him. The Father sent the Son who now sends you. You can do this because you have the full authority of the Father conveyed through the Son. The triune God stands behind you.
At the start of the message I asked you to describe your dream boss. Who would you most want to work for? How about the almighty, living, gracious, triune God of all the universe? You can live a significant life by working for God.
As an ambassador you have the authority of God behind you. You have the divine authority to say your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus. Only God forgives based on Jesus’ sacrifice, but as his representatives, we have the authority to announce his forgiveness to anyone who repents and believes. You can represent Jesus to the world because you have the full authority of the Father to do it. It is God himself telling you that you can and should live this significant life. So what is it that we are supposed to do? What is the task? We have the clear command of the Son telling us we can do it.
You have the clear command of the Son to do it
We do not make up what we are supposed to do here on earth. We have a task given to us clearly by the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We are to carry on his mission. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so now Jesus sends us into the world. Jesus came to save people. He came on a rescue mission. He invites us to join his great mission. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so he has sent us to be his hands and feet, to continue his mission. We are people who help people find and follow Christ.
There is great joy when you experience God using you to help another person find or follow Christ. So what exactly is the task? Matthew says we make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Luke says we preach and witness. John says we forgive sins. Acts says we witness about Jesus. The task is to represent Jesus in the world. We are to help people find and follow Jesus. That is our mission: to be people helping people find and follow Christ.
Finding Jesus parallels repentance. People will be forgiven when they change their minds about their sin and about Jesus. To repent is to realize you have been wrong and take action to change. It is a reorientation. “Repentance involves turning to and embracing God in faith. Forgiveness of sin comes to those who stretch out a needy hand to Jesus, clinging to him alone and recognizing that without him there is no hope.” Pp 1940, Bock. Our role is to tell people that their sins will be forgiven if they repent and trust in Jesus, but if they do not, then their sins will not be forgiven.
The first step to a significant life is to repent yourself and embrace Jesus as your King, your Savior. Until you do that you are not saved and so cannot help others to find and follow Jesus. You cannot represent Jesus until you are following him yourself. Have you done that? Have you repented of your sin and embraced Jesus in faith? If you have never done so, I urge you today to repent and experience forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ. He died for you and rose from the dead so you and anyone on earth can be forgiven, freely, not based on what you do, but on what Jesus has already done. If you want to make that decision today, I encourage you to let us know on your Care Card so we can encourage you and help you with next steps.
Once you have repented and received forgiveness, you become a follower of Jesus and can live this significant life he offers. Your role is to be a witness. What does a witness do? They give testimony. They tell what they saw, what they experienced, what they know. So we tell what Jesus has done for us. We tell how Jesus has forgiven us. We tell how Jesus has changed our lives. We simply tell our story. You are the expert on your story. No one knows it better than you do. Tell your story of what Jesus has done in your life. Be a witness to Jesus.
Our central mission is multiplication. We are to multiply disciples. He breaks it down for us in Matthew. We are to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Did you catch that? Jesus does not say you must be baptized. He tells us to baptize people. For most Christians this is one of the least obeyed commands of Jesus. Our understanding of church is so confused that we think professional church officials such as priests, pastors or ministers baptize people. But to whom did Jesus give the authority to make disciples? To all his followers. So you are the church. As a follower of Jesus, you are to baptize others. How many people have you baptized? If you have baptized someone, do you remember the moment? There are tears of joy and wonder at the significance of that moment. Imagine how it might feel to baptize a friend or family member that decides to get baptized because of your witness to them? That is a significant life, a life that matters.
I will never forget my own baptism. My dad baptized me when I was seventeen years old in a cattle tank brought into a rented building in Dallas. At my baptism I read a verse from Acts, chapter seventeen, verse six that talks about opposition to those witnessing to Jesus. I wanted what was said of an obscure man named Jason to be said of me too. The Scripture says,
6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, Acts 17:6 ESV.
At seventeen, sitting in the cattle tank, I said I hope one day by God’s power I could turn the world upside down for Him. I still pray for that. If you want to be baptized, let us know on the Care Card. We are baptizing on June 12th, which is Pentecost Sunday.
Matthew says we are not only to baptize, but also to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Obviously, we must know his commands before we can teach them. Teaching can sound daunting because it creates images of a schoolteacher giving a lecture in a classroom. Remember the disciples have just spent three years walking around with Jesus as he told stories while they walked. We are to teach God’s Word mostly in the ordinary course of life. Notice we are to teach people not just to read what he commanded, know what he commanded, study what he commanded or memorize what he commanded; although these are all good things. He said to teach people to obey all he commands.
Our obedience includes obedience to this clear command of Jesus in his great commission. Jesus has issued a clear command. We are to witness, to make disciples of all nations. The clear command is to represent Jesus. We can represent Jesus to the world because we have the clear command of Jesus to do it.
Try to imagine the looks on the faces of this rag tag group assembled on a hilltop in Galilee. It would have been daunting to consider making disciples of the people in Galilee; much less the entire Jewish nation, but all the nations of the world? I might have asked Jesus for clarification, at least to repeat it one more time. Did he say all nations? Is he talking about us doing this? We can change the world one life at a time.
The scope of the commission is global. We are to disciple the nations. The Greek word for nations is ethne. It can be translated peoples. In other words, we need to go help all kinds of people follow Jesus. The gospel message in Jesus’ name knows no national or racial barriers. Pp 1940, Bock. This was revolutionary then and it still is today. There is no room in this significant life for racism or prejudice.
You may have heard in the news that God gave Christ Fellowship through Dr. Lee Brock the opportunity to make a difference for Christ for Deborah, a 20-month-old Ugandian girl. Last summer Lee, myself, and some other members of Christ Fellowship worked with Pastor Makumbi Johnson to plant four churches. A few months later, we got word that Makumbi’s granddaughter, Deborah, had a hole in her heart. She needed surgery that she could not get in her Ugandan village or she would die. Through your donations, Christ Fellowship paid to fly Deborah here. Lee arranged for her to travel to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, Colorado, where she received heart surgery that gave her new life. The newspaper said, “Fortunately for Deborah, Johnson had worked with her future miracle helpers last summer. Dr. Lee Brock and other Christ Fellowship members.” This is a significant life. Pastor Makumbi has been here the last few weeks and wanted to give you this message.
We are to help all kinds of people, not just people who are like us. We are to reach out to other nations, other people groups. Jesus breaks all barriers and unites all people into his new multi-ethnic communities called churches. Who are you impacting that is different from you?
We are not just to lock ourselves in our homes or Christian enclaves. Sometimes in my life I have waited for opportunities to talk with someone about Jesus, but Jesus said to go. That implies initiative. Going implies getting up out of your chair; out of your routines, out of your normal places. In other stories, Jesus talked about looking for a lost coin. When you loose something valuable, you look for it. Nothing is more valuable than people. Jesus commissions us to go. Will you go across the room to meet someone you don’t know? Will you go across the street to meet a neighbor? Will you cross your comfort zone to talk with someone who is different from you?
How can we do that? It feels hard, even overwhelming, impossible. You can represent Jesus in the world because you have the divine power of the Holy Spirit to do it.
You have the divine power of the Holy Spirit to do it
The Spirit is the promise of the Father sent by the Son. Reminiscent of creation where God breaths life into Adam, Jesus breathes out the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of life. This is the beginning of new creation, the awakening of the dead.
When you are helping people find and follow Christ, God is with you in a special way. As you are about his mission, there will never be a single moment when Jesus is absent. Jesus is the resurrection. He is life and it is the Spirit who gives that life.
Before Pentecost, the Spirit came and went on various people. Now at Pentecost the Spirit comes to permanently indwell every believer in Jesus. The Spirit clothes us with divine power, the power to live a holy life, the power to be bold. We literally have the powerful presence of God with us. So you can represent Jesus because you have the divine power of the Spirit to do it. June 12th is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the birthday of the church. We have never celebrated Pentecost in a service at Christ Fellowship, but we are this year. Be here June 12th for a special Pentecost celebration. We have the powerful Spirit with us always.
Please don’t be offended, but let me use a couple of crass examples to help you see the power of God’s presence with us. What could you do if you were paired up with God? Can you imagine two on two basketball with you and God on a team against anybody? Not even Dirk intimidates Jesus. Can you imagine a tag-team fight with God on your team? The Bible says, If God is for us, who can be against us? The significant life is possible because the powerful Spirit is with us, all the time. We don’t need to fear anyone.
Take a quick look at Acts chapter two to see how Peter himself was transformed from a timid figure of denial and failed nerve at Jesus’ trial to a preacher with fearless enthusiasm before an immense crowd at Pentecost. This is the Spirit’s transforming power at work. Pp 622-623, Bock. The Spirit of God empowers you to be a witness for Jesus. God uses you to change lives forever, to announce people’s sins forgiven.
There is no more significant life that helping others find and follow Jesus, than helping people experience the forgiveness of God and his peace and constant presence. Think about the power of the Spirit in life after life through history. “What other movement has been able to span the centuries and the variety of cultures that the Christian movement has touched? Where else can people of a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds be woven together in a rich fellowship? What other movement began so obscurely and now continues so comprehensively? Pp 626, Bock. What began in a stable now covers the world. You can share in the march of faith over the world, one person at a time, one testimony at a time. Someone represented Jesus to you. Who helped you to find or follow Jesus? Who will you help?
Remember the commission was not given to pastors or educated or ordained religious professionals, but to ordinary people who follow Jesus. So that means you can represent Jesus to the world because you have the full authority of the Father to do it, you have the clear command of the Son to do it, and you have the divine power of the Spirit to do it.
Let’s get really practical. When was the last time you shared your testimony of what Jesus has done for you? When was the last time you invited someone to church? Who could you impact for Jesus? Who might you baptize? Who might you teach? Jesus said to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, their home town; Judea and Samaria, their region; and to the ends of the earth.
• To whom could you witness in your “Jerusalem” –in this area? in your daily life?
• What about outside this area, but in America, in your language?
• Who do you know in the ends of the earth?
• Other nations?
• Other languages?
• Your Facebook friends?
• Friends from the past, exchange students, business relationships, relatives?
Think about trips you have recently been on or will go on. Who is traveling this summer outside the area, but in Texas? outside Texas but in America? outside the United States? God is sending us to the world. You can represent Jesus wherever God sends you.
We should all be great commission Christians. The King of Kings has appointed you to be his ambassador to the world. William Dodd’s commission to be the ambassador to Germany changed his life. God has made us his ambassadors to earth. God’s commission changes our lives from insecurity to significance. So this week, who will you impact for Jesus? Does a name come to mind? Can you see a face? We are people helping people find and follow Christ. This is a dream job working for the dream boss. This is a life worth living, a significant life. We can change the world one life at time.