WHAT JESUS EXPECTS OF HIS DISCIPLES
Matthew 10: 1, 5-16, 19-20, 24-26
- Companies often have a Mission Statement that summarises the company’s aims and values
- Every employee must be familiar with the statement and try to behave in accordance with its principles
- Of course, the statement is of little use in itself without the aims being put into practice
- Any employee ignoring or behaving inappropriately in respect of the statement would probably be asked to find another job!
If you ask the average person about the church’s mission statement, the majority would probably reply (if at all) that it’s the Ten Commandments
- But what did Jesus say should form the core of our beliefs and actions?
“To love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got!”
“To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”
“To go into all the world and preach the Gospel”
THESE STATEMENTS FORM THE BEDROCK OF OUR FAITH… But I want to look at five specific instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples about their priorities, as recorded in Matthew 10…
1) Be enthusiastic about spreading the full Gospel
Jesus said: Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message (gospel): ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’ (v 6)
“Preach the Gospel”… The truth of the gospel does not change… It has been defined in a number of ways:
- The proclamation of the redemption preached by Jesus and the Apostles, which is the central content of Christian revelation
- The joyous proclamation of God’s redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of man enslaved by sin
- Or, simply, the “good news”
No, the Gospel does not change but perhaps the way that we present it sometimes needs to do so!
- In particular, do we emphasise sufficiently that the Gospel is good news?
- We’re sharp about warning peopleof the consequences of unbelief … and this is certainly important
- Perhaps we’re sometimes less effective at describing what is good about the ‘good news’!
WE FACE A DILEMMA…
We rightly speak of the need for forgiveness and the hope of heaven
- But most people don’t feel that they are sinful or rebellious against God… they don’t understand what it is within them that needs forgiving
- And heaven seems far away and not very relevant to their lives here and now… except for people growing old
We speak of the Fall/being born again/getting saved
- But people are confused by this ‘religious-sounding’ talk
- They want to know… ‘If there is a God, will he help me when I’m in trouble?’
We sing of being H-A-P-P-Y
- But despite our attempts to sound upbeat, a lot of people seem to think that Christians are dull and negative… even hypocrites
- So what can be done to ensure that we preach the Gospel faithfully but also meaningfully
A RECENT ARTICLE in a missionary magazine had this to say about the things that matter to most ‘unchurched’ people:
- I am looking for a truth that works for me.
- I can only try to see life from my own perspective; reality is too complex to understand it all.
- I like to have a group of close friends with whom I share common values.
- I believe in being tolerant, in letting others live like they want to
- I do not believe in one truth and that one religion is the right way. People who say so are mostly hypocrites.
- I don’t like it when people argue about how their group or beliefs are superior.
- I want practical answers to life.
- I am suspicious of schemes that try to explain or give simplistic answers to complex questions.
- I don’t like institutional religion.
- I do have a vague desire for non-institutional spirituality but I don’t know how to find it.
Many people claim that they are ‘spiritual but not religious’. For example, Humanism is about the belief that: “human beings find value in the here and now rather than in something above and beyond”
- But there’s a sense in which we agree with them… the “here and now” is very important
THE ANSWER is not to try and ‘BE RELEVANT’ by watering down the Gospel but by proclaiming what the disciples were told to declare: The kingdom of heaven is at hand, which can be translated: ‘is right here’
- In other words, a significant element of the Gospel message concerns today… not just what happens when we die or some future celestial experience
The good news of the Gospel is that life can have meaning and purpose now…
- That we are not some cosmic accident… or evolutionary freak show… or just struggling along until we take our final breath!
- That God promises to be closer to us than our dearest friend!
- That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus
There’s so much desperation in the world… people thrashing about like fish out of water… They need HOPE…and Jesus Christ is the answer… perhaps we can make more effort in putting across the positive side of the life-transforming Gospel… as well as its warnings
2) Keep your lifestyle simple
Jesus said in verse 10:
Do not take gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey or extra tunic or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep
John Wesley once said when he had money he gave it away as fast as he could lest it find a place in his heart
- It is good to strive to improve your situation in life…
- For example, there is little point in choosing to live in a hovel simply because millions of others who have no choice do so
The disciples did not wander around penniless and hungry like beggars!
- They went back to their homes… changed their clothes… had a meal… chatted to the neighbours… milked the cow… got presents for the children… earned money
Jesus expects us to work hard, live sensibly and make His will our goal, while living in the world as it is…
There is a time to earn money… and to build homes… and to strive to improve our situation and that of others
There is also a time to put those activities to one side so that we can more actively ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’
- TO LIVE SIMPLY is to make sure that we strive for the things that God says matter and don’t waste our time working hard for the things that are of little consequence
- TO LIVE SIMPLY is to learn to be content (not apathetic or lazy!)
- TO LIVE SIMPLY is to see ourselves as stewards of our wealth until the master returns or calls us home
“Take no bag or gold or silver or copper” is not about being reckless… but about having faith in God to save and keep us in every situatio
Sometimes, we make sure that nothing can possibly go wrong… and on the off chance that it does, we set up an escape route for ourselves!
Jesus says to us… “See what it feels like to rely completely on me in the situation…
- Seeking guidance from my Spirit
- Depending wholly on my grace
- Simply trusting every day”
3) Be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves
Jesus said in verse 16:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes (serpents/dragons) and as innocent as doves
Christians are sometimes accused of being naïve
- Well, we should not be naïve but we should be wise
- We are not lambs to the slaughter (like dumb sheep) but sacrificial lambs… deliberately putting our own desires to one side to make way for God’s purposes
- A snake is shrewd because it knows when to strike and it knows when to stay hidden and still
- A dove is innocent because despite the presence of birds of prey it sets a straight course towards its goal and won’t be deterred
Jesus himself is described as being ‘without guile’… He didn’t need to be deceitful and conniving to get things done… but relied on the wisdom that comes from the Father
THE MAN JESUS WAS DRIVEN BY ONE SINGLE AIM…to do the will of ‘Him who sent me
- And we read that Jesus was “full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit”
In a world of ‘spin’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘self-seeking’, how refreshing it is for someone to meet a Christian where “what you see is what you get”… not gullible … but a discerning, generous-hearted and wise person who can be relied on.
4) Be wise in responding to circumstances
Jesus said (v 14):
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town
- The world is not as we would like it to be, but as it is!
- We can cocoon ourselves away and ignore the reality… or engage with it
In doing so, we must expect to be rejected by some people…
- Many of us fear being dismissed or mocked… but we must try not to take things too personally or resent those who behave that way
- There’s a time to persevere… and a time to move on
- A time to sow… and a time to reap
- A time to embrace the situation… and a time to turn our attentions elsewhere
We may indeed need to shake the dust from our feet when people are deliberately wasting our time…
But also to bear in mind that sometimes the most aggressive opponent is the person who secretly desires to find the truth… the cynicism is just a front to conceal emptiness and fear
People who show no interest in the Gospel are not normally antichrists or evil people… but those who are lost and in darkness
- Being aware, however, Scripture also tells us that God can ‘harden a heart’ if the person constantly rejects His invitation
- There are those who are left in spiritual darkness because they prefer darkness to light… it’s their decision
- We must rely on Spirit-led discernment about the use of our time and energies and abilities
5) Be willing to learn
Jesus said (v 20, 24):
For it will not be you speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you … A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master
AS CHRISTIANS…we have the Holy Spirit as our teacher…
But we can sometimes be guilty of switching off our minds…
- We are fearful that we might ‘intellectualise’ the Gospel
- We want to keep the simplicity of the message: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”
BUT IF WE ARE TO MAKE AN IMPACT IN THE WORLD we also have to learn to engage with the issues that matter to people
- People want answers to questions like:
What’s the purpose of life? How can I be happy?
If there is a God, why does he let little children suffer?
What happens when I die?
Is life just a lottery or is there a Guiding Hand at work?
JESUS sometimes spoke profoundly to His disciples … but plainly to the ordinary people so that they gladly listened to Him:
- About their lives and jobs and conflicts
- About their fears and anxieties
- Yes, and He also spoke about eternal life… of course!
Jesus said: “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart… and you will find rest for your souls”
In conclusion… there are FIVE PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS Jesus gives to help us fulfil our Christian Mission Statement:
1. Be enthusiastic about spreading the full Gospel
2. Keep your lifestyle simple
3. Be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves
4. Be wise in responding to circumstances
5. Be willing to learn.
With His enabling, let’s strive to respond and see lives transformed… starting with our own!