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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1297

April 9, 2017 Matthew 28:16-20

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript. This series is based on the Book Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola)

 

“The Voice of Jesus: To the Disciples (Part 2)”

 

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: On the Mountain

 

We have been visiting all the stories where Jesus appeared after the resurrection and how those encountered heard the voice of Jesus. And from those stories, we have learned about how we can also hear Jesus’ voice. Today we look at another meeting with the disciples. The first meetings where in the upper room so I am calling this one Part 2!

We often talk about the mountaintop experience as being those special times of insight or grace, or some other highlight of our growth in faith. Biblically there are great moments on the mountain: receiving the Ten Commandments, Sermon of the Mount, and Mount Calvary to name a few. The mountain is often seen as the place to gain perspective, after all you can see a long way from the mountain top. The mountain voice can echo a long way giving it greater volume and range. We talk about the upward direction when we talk about being with God. One of our favorite Psalms speaks of looking to the mountain for help, I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). We lift our eyes and our voices and our lives to the hills, to the mountain, and there we look to hear the voice of Jesus.

The voice on the mountain from Matthew 28 is a commanding and ever present voice. First, by the voice, we are sent on a mission. We call this the Great Commission as we journey with Christ to make disciples and baptize and teach what Jesus taught. Second, we are sent in a relationship. The Great Commission also includes a great promise that Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. Jesus is not just on the mountain but He walks with us in the valleys. He speaks to us no matter where we are. Yes, we might find His voice more clearly on the mountaintop, but He speaks as clearly in the pit. He speaks in places where we might not expect to hear or we might be too distracted to hear. But we take with us, from the mountain, the promise of presence and the command to go. God the Father called Jesus his son and told us to listen to him. We know that listening in a biblical sense means to hear and obey. It means to actually do what we are told! Let us demonstrate we listen to the voice of Jesus in the Great Commission.

 

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: In the Great Commission

 

You might remember the Greek grammar that opens the command to go means, “as you are going”. As you are going make disciples… As you are going baptize… As you are going, teach obedience…

It is a mission of everyday life for every one of us. Every Christian is on a mission. Christianity is a movement, not a club, not an institution, but a movement of God’s people. Yes, we are organized into denominations and we are organized in particular settings, but we are not called to be a group that proclaims, “if you build it they will come”. We are called to move, to live, and as we are moving, as we walk through our lives each and every day, we are to share the gospel for the sake of making disciples who will make more disciples and spread the good news of Christ.

 

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel we see that Jesus sent the disciples out to do as Jesus had been doing, but they would go without him by their side. He told them to go to the lost sheep of Israel, to proclaim that the kingdom is near, to heal, raise the dead, cleanse the diseased, drive out demons, and also to take nothing with them. When we see this list of things commanded for the disciples, it makes the Great Commission sound simple – make disciples, baptize and teach. I don’t know about you but I would much rather teach than drive out a demon! Yet, we must consider Matthew 9 just as we do Matthew 28 – that Jesus sends us to do his ministry, empowered and equipped by his Holy Spirit. Who knows what great things might happen.

The Great Commission is a task of love. We are called to reach out with the love of Jesus because the love of Jesus has reached out to us. We reach out with the message of Jesus, to join him in his mission to the world which is already going on. The kingdom is near; it is at hand. It has come among us and we are to love in the context of that kingdom.

We talk about fulfilling the Great Commission by the term evangelism, a word that we feel is a challenge for many of us, but at its core it is simply sharing with others what God is doing in our lives and what God has done in Jesus. We fear how we might do that, what we might say, will we say the wrong thing? But there is something we need to always keep in mind: God is the one who is fulfilling the Great Commission; we are just a part of the mission of God. In Acts 16 when Paul met Lydia, this is what is said of the encounter, “The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). It is God’s work to open the heart. Our only responsibility is to pour out our heart about God and let God then open or close the hearts of those we meet.

 

The other thing I want to say about evangelism is there is no one way that is the way. A few examples are given in scripture:

  • We might consider Jesus sending out the disciples as the kind of two by two, cold contact work, like going door to door through a neighborhood. It is not normally our style, but it is one method. When was the last time two people knocked on your door who were from a church that was not Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? Matthew 9 is one way to consider doing evangelism.

  • Another way that I tend to favor is what I call “friendship evangelism.” Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). In this “method” we earn the right to be heard by befriending people and first hearing them, becoming a friend to them, being a neighbor to them. We share the gospel, yes, but also our life.

  • Another example from Acts 8:26-31, “Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.)  So he got up and went… Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.” Two ways to approach this – 1. The Spirit may lead us to go one way or another, 2. Share the gospel as we meet people along the way.  Sometimes, we may not see it at the time, the Spirit leads us to people. Sometimes it may just be someone we meet along the way. Whether you believe the Lord leads you or you just happen to meet, if the opportunity comes, reach out in love.

  • Last example comes from Matthew 25 and the view of evangelism through service. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). When we give drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, welcome the stranger, we also share the love of God.

 

These are not the only “methods” of reaching out in love, but only some of the ways we might obey the Great Commission. Ultimately, we listen to the voice of Jesus who will lead us in the way that we might be effective in are participation in the Great Commission.

 

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: In the Name

 

The last way we can hear Jesus is through the name. We have been authorized in the name. The name given in Matthew 28 is that of the Trinity, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Not names, but the name. This is the mystery of the Trinity, one God in three persons, of one substance. Some have spoken of the Trinity as God in triune community. What does that say of the church as a community? Perhaps it speaks to the importance of our connectional nature. It speaks to the importance of our relationships as ones called together to go and make disciples. We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us. We hear the voice of Jesus and of God the Father and of the Holy Spirit through many means, and one of those means is through the community of faith in love.

We listen to the God who is named and we hear God through the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the same voice throughout the Bible. To hear Jesus is to hear the Father and the Spirit. To hear the Spirit is to hear Jesus and the Father. And to hear the Father is to hear the Spirit and Jesus.

You might recall that one way we hear Jesus through the story of Mary at the tomb is when Jesus speaks our name. Here it is when we speak God’s name. It is in the name that we hear and by its authority that we might hear.

 

  • Hearing Aids

 

We have talked about many ways we might hear Jesus. The last question is perhaps why it matters if we hear the voice of Jesus. The goal of hearing is to know God. The goal is to develop the personal relationship with Jesus that leads us to the life God intends with Him. Multiple verses of Scripture speak of living in Christ and Christ living in us and knowing God in the most intimate way possible. Listen to a few of the verses that speak to this goal:

 

Jesus says in John 6:57, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” We listen to Jesus so that we might live.

 

Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We listen so that we might learn what this verse means for our daily life.

 

Again from Paul, Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” We listen to become conformed to the image of Jesus.

 

Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” We listen to the voice of Jesus that we may know the only true God.

 

The goal is to hear His voice in order to be shaped by His voice that we might know the Lord, love the Lord, and be more like the Lord. I did not preach on the significance of this Sunday as Palm Sunday, but I will say this about that day: We are seeking to hear and get to know the one who was willing to ride into Jerusalem on this day knowing that his life would be given over for our sins, that He would die for us, and to give His life over to His Father’s will by the power of the Spirit.

 

Just as we listen to follow what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28, we also listen for the voice of Jesus because God the Father told us to listen. Listen, therefore, to the voice of Jesus for the Father spoke these words, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him (Matt. 17:5).