When Jesus sent His followers out to preach, it looked far different from platforms and pulpit in front of plush pews!
If you missed the blogs from earlier this week, please go back and read them. They all tie together.
III. Ends of the Earth
Matthew 28:18-20 is a commission to get the gospel, not to as many people as possible, but to as many people groups as possible. We are to make disciples of all….ALL…the nations. We are not just to make disciples of as many people as possible. We are not just to make disciples of our nation. We are to make disciples of all the nations, literally all of the people groups.
There are roughly 6000 unreached people groups on earth totaling more than 2 billion people. Unreached does not just mean unsaved. There are unsaved people everywhere! Unreached means that they have little to no access to the gospel. For example, in northern Yemen there is a people group of 8 million people. In that people group there are roughly 20-30 known believers. We have more people in one Sunday school class in the church that I pastor than they have in their whole people group of 8 million people! The population of Tennessee is just under 7 million people. Could you imagine how this one Sunday school class would feel if they were the only believers in the whole state of Tennessee? This is what it feels like to be one of the few believers in an unreached people group. It is no wonder that a missionary to Yemen once said, “I have but one life to burn and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” That same missionary died 6 months after arriving in Yemen.
There are roughly 1200 unreached, unengaged people groups. An unengaged people group has no gospel witness. They have no church, no preacher, and no missionary. Someone once asked, “Does anyone deserve to hear the gospel twice, as long as there are those who have never heard it once?” We are obligated to lay our lives down, our families down, and this church down and do whatever we need to do to get the gospel to the ends of the earth because that is what our king has commanded us to do!
II. Judea and Samaria
As we consider Judea and Samaria, we are considering those areas that are outside of our immediate towns, cities, and communities and/or those people who are nearby, but who are unlike us. Internationals who are living nearby are a good example of Judea and Samaria in our context. Consider the fact that the percentage of people living in the USA who were born outside the country reached 13.7% in 2015 and is projected to hit a record 14.9% in 2025. This is not coincidental! This is providential.
We read in Acts 17:26-27, “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” God providentially orders where we live so that people might come to know Him. Our role is to embrace the nations that He brings to our door. But how?
A good example of how to engage those who live among us, who are unlike us, can be found in John 4:3-42. I know that this is a lengthy passage of Scripture, but what is more important, impactful, and applicable than Scripture? In John 4, we notice that Jesus was intentional. Jews usually walked around Samaria when traveling between Judea and Galilee, but Jesus “had to” travel through there. He put himself at a prime location once He arrived in Samaria: a well. We read:
He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There are population segments around us with whom we rarely come in contact unless we make a point of doing so. To reach our Samaria, we will need to be intentional about putting ourselves in close proximity to them and where they congregate.
Jesus was not only intentional, but He was engaging. Jesus was interested in the woman as a person and as a Samaritan. Most Samaritans hated Jews because of their superior attitude, and the feeling was mutual. Jesus showed an interest in her, her family, her beliefs, her culture, and her hurts and needs. He did not approach her with a superior attitude, but as a man desiring a drink. We read on:
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?”
Just showing interest in someone can open such a huge door. Engaging people, even people from other parts of the world, is not that difficult. People are people and they are the same no matter where they are from. They experience emotions like you and me. They experience happiness and joy, sorrow and fear, loneliness and pain, and love. Jesus was engaging to the Samaritan woman, and we must be engaging with those we come in contact with as well.
Jesus was also strategic. He saw beyond the woman in front of Him. He saw her as a catalyst to reach her family, friends, and community. We read in verses 28-39:
So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”
Jesus was intentional, engaging, and strategic in His encounter with the Samaritan woman, and this was all necessary. These Samaritans needed to see Jesus and hear from Jesus to believe in Jesus. We read in verses 40-42 that this is exactly what occurred.
So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
We must understand that a Samaritan would never have walked into a Jerusalem synagogue to hear the law, or even to hear Jesus for that matter, so Jesus came to Samaria Himself. It is the same for the most part with our Samaria today. People from other nations, tongues, and tribes may walk into our country and community, but they aren’t going to walk up into our churches. However, like Jesus crossed the barriers to engage this woman, we can remove some barriers as well by opening up our homes to them. For a person from another nation to be invited into our homes will absolutely floor them, for the most part!
There was a Saudi Arabian student who came to American to attend college. He brought a very special gift from his country to give to the first American family who showed him hospitality and invited him into their home. After 2 years at the university, he was moving out of his dorm to return to Saudi. A brand new Saudi student was moving in, as he was moving out. Almost as if he had forgotten something, he turned around, fell down to the floor and began to look underneath his bed. He pulled out from beneath the bed he had slept in for two years the gift he had brought from his native country. He handed it to the new student and said, “I brought this to give to the first American family who invited me into their home, but I never had the chance to use it. Here. You have it. Maybe someone will show you hospitality.”
People are all around us from other nations. We do not have to get on an airplane to go to them. We do not have to spend a lot of money or even learn another language. We simply need to be willing to open our doors and entertain strangers for the sake of the gospel. In the words of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The next question that we want to answer from our consideration of Acts 1:8 is “where?” We have answered, who? You! You and I as followers of Jesus are the audience and target of Acts 1:8. What? Witnesses! We are to be witnesses: people who have had such an experience with Jesus Christ that we are willing to lay down our lives for Him and His mission. When? When the Holy Spirit has come upon us. When we see with Jesus’ eyes what He saw and feel what Jesus felt in His gut so that we are pushed to our knees in prayer for God to send laborers into the harvest, and are willing to be one of those laborers we know that the Holy Spirit is on the move. Today, we answer the question, “where?”
The answer to where is very clear in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Where? In Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest, or uttermost, part of the earth. For our purposes, we will treat Jerusalem as our own cities, town, and communities. It is where we live and do life. It is where we are most comfortable. All Judea and Samaria, we will treat as those areas that are nearby, but outside of our comfort zones, or those people who are nearby, but not like us. Finally, we will treat the uttermost part of the earth as the regions of the world where unreached and unengaged people reside; all the nations. Let us take time to consider each of these regions, or areas. As we consider these different areas, we are going to use Matthew 28:18-20 as our guide for how to engage them. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Our Jerusalem is where we have lived most of our lives. It is home. We are to be witnesses locally first and foremost. We can learn what it means to be effective witnesses in Matthew 28:18-20. We must first go. Jesus said that all authority was His, therefore go, or more literally, as you are going. As you go about your daily life at home, at school, at work, in town, make disciples. We are to intentionally make disciples as we go about our life. I don’t believe that the word disciples here refers to Christians. Rather, I believe it refers to learners. That is what a disciple is. It is someone who is learning. Jesus is telling us, as we go, to make learners. Find people who are willing to learn and who are willing to be your own disciples as you teach them about the gospel and about Christ.
If you read the New Testament you might notice that the word disciple is the “word of choice” in the Gospels. After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection Jesus followers begin to be called believers. I want to propose that disciples, at least in the gospels, may or may not refer to true believers. This is made clear in John’s gospel as he describes the response of many of Jesus’ disciples (not the 12) to some of His most difficult teachings. John 6:66 says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” Clearly disciples were learners, exploring the claims of Christ, but not necessarily fully committed followers of Christ. According to Matthew 28, we are to go and make learners. Find people who are willing to explore and consider the claims of Christ. Then, those who believer and are converted, we baptize.
After the converts are baptized, we then teach them to obey. Notice that we are not just to teach them. Churches have been teaching information for information’s sake for decades! We teach, teach, and teach more, but we aren’t real great at teaching people to obey. Maturity is based on obedience, not just knowledge. A person who has knowledge of 90% of the Bible, but is obedient to only 10% of what they know is far less mature than the person who only has knowledge of 10% of the Bible, but is obedient to 90% of what they know. We are to teach people, not just for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of obeying! So, in order to reach our Jerusalems, as we go, we are to make learners. Those who go beyond learning, and believe, are baptized. Then we invest in those people teaching them to obey the commands of Christ, remembering that Jesus is with us through this entire process.
We will look at Judea and Samaria tomorrow. Until then....
Where? Where do we go? We go to our Jerusalem, and as we go, we make learners, baptize the converts, and teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded. We go to our Judea and Samaria, those who are within arms reach of us, but unlike us by intentionally engaging them and showing them hospitality for Chris't’s sake. We go to the uttermost parts of the earth because no one deserves to hear the gospel twice as long as there are those who have never heard it once.
If you missed the blogs from earlier this week, please go back and read them. They all tie together.
III. What Jesus Felt v36
According to verse 36, He felt compassion: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them.” When Jesus saw the multitudes he was not moved with wonder, or with admiration, or interest. He wasn’t on a mission vacation to see the sites and get his passport stamped. He was moved with compassion. The word “compassion” here means "feeling with,” “feeling for,” or “sympathy.” It is a taking upon oneself the pain, poverty, and anguish of those who are suffering. The word literally points us to the gut. We might say today, “my heart aches for the crowds,” but in Jesus’ day they would saw my intestines churn or my stomach is upset for the crowds. This is really a more accurate description of what takes place is it not? What happens when you get some tragic news about a loved one? Your stomach is affected. As most of us know from personal experience, many intense emotions can directly, and often immediately, affect the stomach. So this makes perfect sense.
Jesus, felt such compassion for the crowds that His stomach hurt for them. We must step out of the temporal and into the spiritual and see the world with Jesus’ eyes. Is it a time for us to be flattering our heart and saying all is well, when Jesus is torn up inside? If he is uneasy, even to the point of agony, is it time for us to be resting on a soft church pew and to be saying all is well?
IV. What Jesus Determined
Finally we see what Jesus determined as a result of what He preached, saw, and felt. He determined three things. First, he determined that the harvest is plentiful. We read in verse 37, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful…” In John 4:35 after speaking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus said to his shocked followers, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” Second, Jesus determined that the laborers are few. In the second part of verse 37 we read, “but the workers are few.” It has been said that the evangelization of the world waits not on the readiness of God but on the obedience of Christians. K.P. Yohannan wrote, “Believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story.” The laborers are few! Thirdly, Jesus determined that there is an answer!
What is the answer? In verse 38, Jesus said, “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” The answer is prayer! Pray. Pray. Pray. According to A.B. Simpson, “prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.” The answer is not just prayer, but earnest prayer. The mission is serious. The mission field is a battle field. There must be earnest prayer! In the words of John Piper, “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against he powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world.” The answer to the plight of the world is earnest prayer, but earnest prayer for what? The harvest? No. The answer to the plight of the world is earnest prayer for God to send out laborers; literally to squeeze out, fling out, or send out. And let us understand that praying earnestly for laborers to be squeezed out by God, with a P.S. “not me” doesn’t work. When we earnestly pray to the Lord to send someone to witness to them, we place ourselves at his disposal to become one of His workers in that ministry. This is evident from Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on this subject. We read in Luke 10:2-3, “And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Notice. Pray earnestly for more laborers. Now, go your way! I am sending YOU out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Praying earnestly for laborers generally includes and eventual willingness to be sent out. This is Jesus’ strategy for reaching the world with the gospel of the kingdom.
Now, we conclude with our original question. When do we go? We go when we feel what Jesus feels and begin to pray earnestly…Lord, send laborers, and P.S., “Here am I.” Are you wiling to add that to your prayer for the nations this morning? If so, then we are getting real close to experiencing the answer to when!
When? When do we go? When the Holy Spirit has come upon us? How do we know the Holy Spirit has come upon us? When we see what Jesus saw and feel what he felt in such a way that we are driven to our knees to pray for laborers to go into the harvest…and we add a P.S. Here am I, send me Lord! That is when you know the Holy Spirit is working!
The one who scourged Paul would have given one third of the lashes across his breast, another third on his right shoulder, and another on his left. Halfway through, the skin would begin to break and tear. By the end, parts of Paul's back would be like jelly. The lacerations would not be clean, but torn and shredded, so that healing would be slow and complicated by infection. Now, consider that this happened a second time on the same back, opening all the scars. It healed more slowly the second time. Then consider that some months later it happened a third time. Then it happened again. And finally it happened a fifth time. And this was just one of Paul's suffering.
Today, we will conclude our look at "who" Jesus is issuing His command in Acts 1:8 to: His followers. We have already seen that a true follower of Jesus Christ is one who desires Him and denies themselves. Today, we will see that the true follower of Jesus also follows Christ without qualification. If you have missed our previous posts on this topic, please go back and read them so that you can get the full message of Luke 9:23-26.
III. Follow Him without Qualification v23c, 26
A third way that we must respond to Jesus if we are to be His followers is to follow Him without qualification. He tells us in the latter part of verse 23, “Follow Me.” That is straightforward and plain enough. Stay one step behind me. Go where I go. Do what I do. Follow me. He adds in verse 26, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Stay close to me. Don’t be ashamed of me. Imagine Peter, following Jesus at a distance after his arrest. This distant following led to a clear and unequivocal denial that he even knew Jesus! If we are to be His followers we must follow Him closely, unashamedly, and without qualification.
When we consider verse 26 and Jesus’ teaching that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him” we must recognize that Jesus is not referring to the context of our modern, western churches. He does not mean that when you walk down an aisle and turn around to a bunch of smiling supportive faces that you are necessary unashamed.
What does Jesus mean? Keep in mind He has just pointed out that the one who would seek to save his life will lose it and the one who would lose his life for Christ’s sake would save it. He seems to have something more in mind than being embarrassed. There would come a time when Nero would send his soldiers to Christ’s followers and they would demand, “Say, Caesar is Lord, burn incense, and live, or refuse to do so and die.” How should a follower of Christ respond to this? We know how the early followers of Jesus responded when they were threatened for the cause of Christ. According to tradition, Matthew was killed by a sword in Ethiopia for not being ashamed. Mark was drug to death in Egypt for not being ashamed. Luke was hung in Greece. Peter was crucified upside down. James was thrown over a hundred feet down from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. He survived the fall, and was beaten to death with a club. James, the brother of John was beheaded in Jerusalem. Bartholomew was beaten to death in Armenia. Andrew was beaten by 7 guards and crucified in Greece. Supposedly, he continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died.
Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India, Jude was shot with arrows, Barnabas was stoned, and Paul was beheaded. This is not unique to the early followers of Jesus. Since the first century, more than 43 million people have taken up their cross and followed Christ in martyrdom. Half of that number have taken up their cross in the last 100 years! That means that more people have been killed for Christ in the last century than in the previous 19 centuries of Christian history combined. It is no wonder that the word for witness in Acts 1:8 has evolved into our word martyr.
We must be willing to follow Jesus without qualification. Jesus seeks to make this abundantly clear. Consider His call in Luke 9:57-62. We read, “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” What is He doing? According to those who know how to do evangelism today, He should have led them in a sinner’s prayer on the spot. But, Jesus asks, “Are you sure you want to follow Me, because it will likely mean homelessness?” “Do you mean it? Then, let someone else bury your dad.” “Am I worth it? Then, don’t even say good bye to your family.” In other words, Jesus requires total, superior, and exclusive devotion. Jesus does not solicit a hasty, emotional decision. Jesus never encouraged an unthinking, impulsive leap of faith into discipleship in hopes that later on they would be willing to pay the price. He demands that they count the cost first.
Consider Luke 14:26-33 as well. Jesus said in verses 26 and 27, “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. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. He says over and over again, you cannot be my disciple, you cannot be my disciple, you cannot be my disciple! Here is what he is asking. If your family was to hate you because you come to me would you come? And if you had plans and ambitions and I asked you to do other than that would you be willing to do that? And if I asked you to take everything you have, sell it all and give it to the poor, would you be willing to do that? And even if I asked you to die in the cause, would you do that? He is asking, am I worth everything to you?
He goes on in verses 28 through 33, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” In the first parable Jesus says, “Before you start to build, sit down and decide whether you can afford to follow me.” In the second parable he says, “Sit down and decide whether you can afford not to follow me because I, the King am coming.” You have to decide. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! That is where we are right now as we consider what Jesus said it required to be His followers. It is the true followers of Jesus Christ who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses.
As we consider what we have learned, we are going to have to answer 3 questions. Are we going to believe Jesus? Are we going to obey Jesus? I know the urge is to run back to the Jesus we have created in our own image. I know that the urge is to run back to the safety of our cultural Christianity. Resist that urge, for while that may ease our minds…the biblical Christ will save our souls! Are you willing to come to Christ on His terms? I know none of us are fully here yet. I would imagine, and hope, that we are wrestling with these things. But are you willing to take a step? Are you willing to begin moving in this direction? Are you willing to make it your goal to desire HIM above all else? Are you willing to make it your goal to deny yourself and die to self daily? Are you willing to make it your goal to follow Him without qualification? He is worth it.
As we continue answering the question, "who?" from our study of Acts 1:8, we see the second necessary response and requirement for those who desire to follow Christ.
II. Deny Self v23b-25
The second way that we must respond to the call of Christ is to deny ourselves. Jesus goes on in verse 23, “he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Jesus' call demands that we deny ourselves and bear our cross each day. We need to recognize what Jesus meant, and did not mean, when He said take up your cross. This was absolutely positively not talking about a piece of jewelry. I have heard things like, “this is just my cross to bear” referring to an illness, a grouchy husband, or a bad mother in law. Christ's original audience knew exactly what he was calling for. Perhaps some 30,000 men were crucified during the lifetime of Christ alone. The disciples knew exactly what to expect and it was not good. They immediately pictured a poor, condemned soul walking along the road carrying the instrument of his execution on his own back, and one thing about that man was certain: if he was seen leaving town carrying a cross, he was not coming back. He was as good as dead! Jesus is saying, this is what you have to be willing to embrace if you will follow me. Jesus said, you must willingly and intentionally give up your life.
He goes on in verse 24 to say, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Stop. Read that verse again and ask yourself, Am I characterized by working hard to save my life or to lose my life for Christ’s sake? Am I living in reckless abandon for my Master? Somewhere along the way we have missed what is real about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.
There is a warning and a promise hear in this text. The warning is, if you save, you will lose. The promise is, if you lose, you will save. Some of us are likely thinking, Jesus didn’t literally mean…and this where we need to pause. Who are we to say that Jesus did not mean what he said? Who are we to say that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says? When we do this, we are molding Jesus into our image. We are interpreting the Bible so that it fits the comfort of our culture and keeps us comfortable. We must be very careful!
Jesus goest on to ask His audience in verse 25, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” This is a serious question that Jesus asked directly and indirectly often in His ministry. Consider what occurred in Luke 18:18-30. We read: “A ruler questioned Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 19 And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’ 21 And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 They who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.’ 28 Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ 29 And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.’” When we read this we are often quick to say, this was not a requirement of everyone. While this is obviously not a requirement for everyone, was it not a requirement for some? Notice the pattern of Scripture. Peter and Andrew left their nets. James and John left their nets and their father. Matthew left his career. Jesus reiterates this expectation in Luke 14:33 when he says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In the original language, the word renounce is ἀποτάσσεται (apotassetai) and literally means “to say good-bye to.” If we take this verse seriously, we have to admit that in order to follow Christ, we must be willing to give up everything. We must desire Him and deny ourselves daily even to the point of death.
As we consider Acts 1:8, we have asked six questions of the text: who, what, when, where, how, and why. We want to dig deeper into each one of these questions as we work our way through this study. We need to know who Jesus is issuing His commission to in Acts 1:8. He is directly issuing His Great Commission to His disciples and followers who followed Him up on the mount where He ascended. He is issuing this command indirectly to all of his followers from that day on to today.
The obvious questions follow. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? How do I know that I am one? And how do I become a follower of Jesus if I am not already one? It doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think about these questions. What matters, is what Jesus says in response to these questions. We need to know what Jesus says. We find a concise and clear call by Christ in Luke 9:23-26.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
From a solely biblical perspective, what does it look like to follow Jesus…to be a follower of Christ? What response is necessary to follow Him?
I. We must Desire Him v23a
The first way that we must respond to Christ is by desiring Him. Notice the text, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me…” He issues this message to “them all.” He leaves no one out. This call that Jesus is about to issue is for them all. If there is any doubt that this was an all inclusive call and command, He adds, “If anyone.” If anyone wishes to come after me…anyone who would wish to come after me needs to hear what I am about to say. This call and command is for everyone. There is no other option and no other way.
Notice that the very first necessary response is that we would wish to come after Him. He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me.” We must desire Him. We must wish to follow Him. He must be the object of our desire and affections. This leads to the obvious question: Do we desire the things of the World? Are we chasing prosperity, possessions, power, popularity, and pleasure? Are we passionate about sports, politics, our family, or our hobbies? What is it that excites us? What makes our heart beat faster? Is our desire for the things of the world, and in this world, strong? We must not only ask ourselves if we desire the things of the world. We must also ask ourselves, Do we desire the things of God? Maybe we love the Bible, prayer, the songs, Sunday school, sermons, and church. We love the things of God and that is good, but we have to remember that all of these “things” are a means to an end and not the end themselves. The question we really need to ask is, do we desire God? Do we desire Christ Himself? Do we get past the Bible, our prayer list, our favorite hymn, our Sunday school class, and our church and get to God Himself? Do we get past the things of God and get to God Himself? Does Jesus excite us? Does Jesus make our heart beat faster?
Jesus says, that we should come after Him! He should be the object of our desire if we are to be His followers. We read in Mark 12:30, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.” He desires all of our love, all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds, and all of our strength. He demands singular devotion! He desires that we should desire Him. Follow “Me” was Jesus’ simple command. We must desire Him
You can watch the Message in the video below
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 As we introduce our study of Acts 1:8 we have been answering 6 questions from 20,000 feet, so to speak: who, what, when, where, how, and why. We have already answered, who, what and when, and where. Today, we will answer the questions, how and why.
How do we respond to what we have learned thus far in Acts 1:8? While the specific answer to this question is not found in the actual text of Acts 1:8, I would be remiss if I did not give some guidance as to how to apply this command of Christ. The obvious, and simple answer would be, go be a witness. But, I believe there is more to obeying the Great Commission. I believe we can be obedient by taking four strategic steps.
First, we must pray. Jesus in Matthew 9:35-38 saw the harassed, helpless, and hopeless crowds of people. The sight of them caused His heart to break for them. He looks at His disciples and tells them how to respond to the great need before them: pray. We read, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” Step one in embracing this Great Commission of Christ is praying, and specifically praying that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers!
Secondly, we can obey the Great Commission by giving. We have a financial obligation and responsibility to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. Consider the reality that 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.50 a day and 2 billion more live on less than $2.50 a day. That means that roughly 40% of the world makes less than $900 a year! That means that if you make more than $32,400 a year, you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. That should cause us to pause when we recall Jesus’ words in Luke 18:24, “It is hard for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” Could you imagine what a difference it would make if we saw the responsibility that we have to use our resources to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. The average church attender gives 2.5% of their income to the church. If we really believed the Great Commission was important would we increase our standard of living at every opportunity and keep sending our nickels to the nations or would we totally revolutionize our lifestyle to give to the cause?
A third way that we can obey the Great Commission is by going. Virtually every one of us can serve as missionaries in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, if we are creative enough. One out of every six German Moravian believers in the 1700’s left their homes to spread the gospel to the nations. They took their businesses and set up shop wherever the Lord sent them. As they worked in their new land, they shared the gospel. As we consider the reality that most of the unreached and unengaged people groups are located in the riskiest places, this approach to missions will be necessary once again. Business as mission makes it possible to get to the hardest place in this world because even Yemen and Somalia need engineers, teachers, and medical personnel.
Finally, we must obey the Great Commission by sending. Organizations do not send missionaries. Churches do. We must call out, train up, and send out missionaries from our churches. We must make it our goal to find those within the congregation that God might be calling out to serve as missionaries. We then must train them to be godly, disciplined people of the utmost integrity. We must ensure that they have solid doctrine and are good examples of what a follower of Christ looks like. We do not want to be like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” They were exporting toxic religion to their proselytes. We have to ask, what are we exporting and do what we can to ensure that we only export the truth and a good testimony. When those called out are trained up, we must send them out. We pray, we give, we go, and we send long term to engage the ends of the earth with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Finally, we ask our sixth question fo the text: Why? Why do we do this. Obviously, we could say because Jesus told us to. Obviously this it true. Some of us might say that we should go because we love the lost. There is truth in this as well. We know that it is important to love people. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love I am nothing. We may be able to prophesy the future, unlock the mysteries of the past, and have faith enough to move mountains, but without love we are nothing. Love alone is not nearly enough however. The unreached and the unengaged often are not very lovable. If fact, after spending some time with them and seeing the fruits of their false religion, their sin, and the damage it does to those who are young, weak, and often innocent, we might walk away thinking that these people deserve to go to hell. And they do. And so do we. We need more than a romantic idea of missions and a feeling of love in our hearts. If we go to them primarily because we love them, we will discover that they are unlovable.
So why do we go? We go primarily for the glory of God and for the sake of His Name, with a love for mankind. We go because the One True God is not worshipped (Psalm 96:3-10). We go because Jesus is worthy of worship, praise, honor, and glory. We go because the bride groom is worthy of His bride. We go because Jesus is worthy of worship from every nation, tongue, and tribe. Paris Reidhead, in his sermon 2 Shekels and a Shirt tells the following story about 2 young Moravians that illustrates the ultimate “why” of missions. He said:
In the late 1700's a British planter owned an entire island in the West Indies off the coast of South America. Several thousand slaves toiled in the sugar cane fields under the burning sun. The atheist planter vowed that no missionary would ever set foot on the island to talk about God. He had said, "No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he's ship wrecked we'll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he's never going to talk to any of us about God."
3000 slaves were doomed to live and die without hearing of Christ.
Two young German Moravians heard of the island. They sold themselves to the British planter for the standard price for a male slave used the money they received for their sale to purchase passage to the West Indies. The Moravian community came to see the two young men off, who would never return again, having freely sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery.
Family members were emotional, weeping. As the ship slipped away with the tide and the gap widened. The housings had been cast off and were curled up on the pier. The young men saw the widening gap. They linked arms, raised their hands and shouted across the spreading gap "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering."
This is why we go! We go so that the Lamb may receive the full reward of His suffering. We go for the glory of God and for the fame of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We go because He is worthy of worshippers from every nation, tongue, and tribe.
1. Who? You
2. What? Witnesses
3. When? When the Holy Spirit has come upon us
4. Where? Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth
5. How? Praying, Giving, Going, and Sending
6. Why? For the Glory of God and the fame of the Name of Jesus Christ