Closing the Gap Week 37 Sermon Notes

By September 23, 2018Sermon Notes

Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is the famous “great commission”

A commission is an instruction, a command, or duty given to a person or group of people.

You have heard of presidential commissions…similar…but yet very different.

These verses along with the scripture from next week…form what are Jesus’ last words prior to what is called his “ascension”…the post resurrection event where Jesus left the physical/visible presence of his friends.

He could then, and he could now continue to make himself physically visible to us from the realm he currently exists in…but for various good reasons…some of which we can surmise and some we cannot…he chooses not to.

But before he stopped making himself physically visible…he gave his “final words”

Final words are often thought to be very important…people long to hear what a loved one said before they died, or left on a trip they did not return from.

Sometimes, people will discover long lost correspondence from a deceased loved one and cling to those words desperately…they are like a message from the grave.

The desire to “hear” once more from a deceased loved one has sent many people down the road of the demonic…consulting mediums who propose to be able to make contact with the “other side.”

This is a very dangerous and for good reason, a scripturally forbidden practice…not all that is spiritual is good…attempting to contact the dead is the domain of demons.

But Jesus, did give post mortem instructions to his friends and to us…and he did it in person.

He could do this because post mortem (after death) he experienced resurrection life.

We don’t have the final words of a dying man, or spooky words from the “other side”.

We have the words spoken of the resurrected Lord…so they rightly carry a lot of weight…or should with those who love him.

He said:

All authority is his on heaven and earth (He is the subject matter expert on reality itself)

-Heaven and earth covers everything that exists.

Make disciples of all nations (his mandate…instructions are not just for some people…this is an all inclusive commission)

Teach them to obey all he commanded them (No picking and choosing…what sounds good…but the life the Lord demonstrated and communicated was a total package…none of it is discretionary…its all vitally important)

I am with you always (this commission will never become obsolete…never go out of style…and I’m not leaving in the sense that you will be on your own.)

*This not the sappy movie version of a dying parent telling a child…”I will always be with you.”

Jesus actually, literally meant this…”I will be with you in real and powerful ways…directing and engaging life with you.”

Heart of the commission: Make disciples 

Disciple: Means a student, learner, journeyman…best word is probably “Apprentice”

An apprentice is someone who is learning a trade from a skilled expert.

It implies more than the word student does…because a student can be someone who is learning information without any intent or accountability for application.

An apprentice is learning information precisely because they intend to use it in practical ways…they are going to make a living at this.

In addition a teacher may or may not know how to do what they teach…like a running coach (athletic teacher) who can barely walk to the track but coaches a world class hundred meter sprinter.

But an apprentice works under someone is or was very competent as well as knowledgeable in a certain field.

A disciple is a learner, a follower, but they are life learners…not information alone…but learning about how to experience life transformation

From Jesus, who is (as we discussed last week) is the subject matter expert on everything…of course this includes…human life purpose .

The word disciple is found 269 times in NT, while the word Christian is found 3 times.

The word disciple came from the Lord, the word Christian (which is a useful word) was given first as a derogatory term by those hostile to Christ’s followers.

The first disciples were ordinary people…but they were with Jesus for three years…they remained ordinary people but their lives were extraordinary in their impact.

They were and they remained throughout their lives…the Lord’s apprentices…and they reproduced their lives in the lives of others.

They followed through on the Lord’s commission to them.

This year our theme…closing the gap on faith and love…is really our life-long theme.

Faith: growing in confidence, apprenticeship in following and becoming like Christ.

Love: the practical, actual expression of Christ’s live in us revealed in the way we love others.

For me…for us…knowing and loving God and making his love known to others is not a cliché it is life purpose.

The great commission was given to apprentices…men and women who were closing the gap on their faith and love in real ways.

Their lives of apprenticeship would go on to result in many others experiencing the life of Christ as well.

They went about telling, not selling the good news…not the news of “Christian activity” or “moral reform” or “reading the Bible” or “going to church” and “being nicer”…of course these things were included int their lives.

But it was the good news that the very life God has designed humans for, is available to them still, but only in Christ-alone.

I don’t know this, but I think its true…that if you asked Jesus’ first apprentices “So, are you going to try and change the world?”

They wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what you are talking about…they were living faithful lives out of the abundance of what was happening in their lives.

People who have tried to change the world or change other people…have done a lot of harm to the world and to people…well intentioned or not.

People who have lived lives of faithful presence in the world…seeking to love God and others well…have done much good in the world…they have in fact, changed the world…though it was not their goal.

Their goal was simply to be faithful with their stewardship.

The Great commission was given to actual apprentices…their priority was to “be” his people… not to “do” Christian “stuff”

But of course out of “being” comes “doing.”

“As you go…while you are going…while you are being my apprentices…make full-time followers of Jesus…make other apprentices.”

It happened because as they walked with Jesus…filled and led by his Spirit…they saw and responded to God at work around them.

The early apprentices of Jesus walked with him in person…they observed him, they obeyed, him, they imitated him.

Ellis my youngest grandson is an apprentice of Oliver my oldest grandson.

Oliver is five and Ellis follows him around trying to imitate his words, his actions, his attitudes, and even his facial expressions.

This can be good and this can be bad depending on Oliver’s attitudes and actions…but this is always very funny for me.

With Jesus…this approach is always good.

However we cannot be with Jesus in the same way his first followers were…he doesn’t just hang out around a few people at a time.

But the opportunity they had is there for us…we can be his apprentices.

What is required is that the heart and activities of our lives must be the same as their…we must arrange our lives around Jesus like they did.

Sure they often failed…so will we.

But they left their lives as they saw fit to live them and choose to live their lives arranged completely around the priorities of Jesus.

This is how we are to live now as his apprentices…if we want to live his kind of life.

That’s what is behind the Lord’s challenges such as the one you find in Luke 14:18

There Jesus told a story of a man who was throwing an extravagant banquet and so he invited a bunch of people.

Then when the feast was ready, his servant went back to tell all the invited guests (and the assumption is they had said they would come) that it was time to come celebrate.

They all began to make excuses…”I just bought a field, need to go check it out” “Just bought some oxen, need to go test drive them” “Just got married, can’t come.”

These are clearly lame excuses…the field isn’t going anywhere, why do you need to go drive the ox right now, and really…you just got married…you didn’t know that was going to happen before you said you would come to dinner?

The story is about the gospel invitation that God has sent out…first to the Jewish people, then of course to all people.

And the implication is that people will miss the good life…the feasting life of Christ…because they are continually distracted by the details of their lives.

Of course the details matter…taking care of family, and work is important…that is not the point here…the point is that to be an apprentice we order our lives around the Lord’s priorities.

These people were not dealing with normal life issues…they were dealing with heart issues…disordered priorities.

If we do not order our lives around the Lord’s priorities…we will, in fact miss, the abundant life he has for us.

In 1937 Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote the book “The cost of discipleship”

It is centered on the Lord’s sermon on the mount and was written in Germany just as the Nazi war machine was really gearing up.

His theology of costly discipleship was something he lived out personally and it would eventually cost him his life…he was killed by the Nazis for taking part in an attempted coup.

The book was and remains influential…and rightly so.

However, the truth is, the cost of non-discipleship is far greater than the cost of discipleship.

The cost of non-discipleship is to miss the life of abundance that Jesus spoke about in John 10:10.

The cost of non-discipleship is to gain the world and lose your very soul…that’s a terrible trade.

We are going to read the Lord’s words again…but before we do let’s reflect on the fact that Jesus is the SME…subject matter expert on reality itself.

He is the smartest person who has ever lived…if he worked where you worked, he would be the smartest person there.

He was not merely this religious guy who wondered around throwing out spiritual vagaries…”look at the birds, and the flowers…go be like them”

“Ok, thanks Jesus, very inspirational…but I have a plant to run, a classroom to manage, patients to treat.”

Fix this in your mind…the smartest people of Jesus’ time…could not keep up with him…that remains true today.

He knows exactly how you should run your plant, manage your classroom, and treat your patients.

I am not saying you can find all you need to know about those things in the Bible…you cannot.

But you can find out all you need to know about relationship with Jesus in the Bible…and when you order your life around his priorities for you…he will actually, and practically direct you in all aspects of your life.

He is still involved…he is not dead.

So let’s read it again…these very important, life-ordering words of Jesus.

Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

  1. Start with Jesus’ authority.

Someone with authority is “authorized” to give orders to direct lives.

Jesus began his “great commission” with a declaration of his authority.

This is important to note because what he is telling his people to do is going to be widely misunderstood and disagreed with.

This was true then, it is true today.

He is instructing his friends to go and tell people to obey him and to follow him with their lives.

What this means is that all other beliefs that shaped their lives up to this point…were wrong…or inadequate.

Now you can see why Jesus started with his absolute authority. “All authority, everywhere has been given me,” he declared.

Because his claims were audacious…very bold.

All authority, everywhere…means…he is the SME…on everything.

When a source of legitimate authority makes a declaration that falls under that authority’s jurisdiction or scope of power then that declaration is true and legitimate.

Jesus’ scope of power, his jurisdiction is all heaven and earth…and all nations (all peoples)

That covers everything and everywhere…and everyone.

His commission to go and make disciples has legitimacy because of who he is.

Other human founders of religions have made bold claims but they lacked the legitimacy and power to follow through on those claims.

This includes the religions of materialism, atheism, humanism, and scientism(science as a belief system)…these are faith systems based on strongly held belief and disbeliefs.

These human authorities did and do not demonstrate by the quality and power of their lives that they had absolute authority, but Jesus did.

They did not rise from the dead they are still in the graves (or on their way there) so their claims to authority over ultimate matters of life and death are not valid.

When Steve Jobs, or other brilliant humans make bold truth claims…they cannot back them up with absolute authority…they die and they stay dead…and their lives, while they live…are not “sparkling in power and character” like Jesus’s was.

The starting point for making the good news known to others is the absolute authority of Jesus to make truth claims that apply to everyone, everywhere.

Our confidence is in him…not in us.

So we don’t start with “Who am I to tell anyone else how to live?”

You are no one and you should not do so…not if you are speaking merely for yourself.

But if you are an apprentice…you have been given delegated authority to speak for Jesus.

2Cor. 4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Start with “his” authority…not whether you feel worthy, or smart, or ready…

  1. Then…Be his apprentice

To become a “disciple” is to come into a relationship with Jesus where he is the authority, the “boss” of your life.

He has all authority in heaven and earth…and he has given humans the choice…for now at least…”Will you give me authority in your life?”

Will you accept what he says is right because he has said it.

Will you value what he values because he knows that is valuable and will you do what he has said to do because he knows how life is to be lived…because he designed it?

If you pay attention to, nurture your faith relationship with Jesus…if you seek to order your values and priorities around his…you will experience in growing fashion his life in you.

John 7:38 Jesus said…”Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 

Your priority is to know and love him.

If you pursue him that way…you will in fact make him known.

As you go, you will go in him…and as you go about your life “in him”…that is in a relationship where you are expecting him to move around you…you will see and seize opportunities.

NORAH: Many of you know our grand daughter Norah has an autonomic disease where her brain does not tell her to breathe.

For you and for me…we do not have to remember to breathe…we just breathe.

She needs an external device to help her remember…thank God for this device.

But we would all prefer that she didn’t need it…ideally breathing would be automatic for her.

Ideally…and this ideal is possible…making Christ known would be like breathing for us.

Not that we wouldn’t have to plan and send missionaries to take the gospel to other lands.

But my point is that…making Christ known would be something that happens in the normal courses of our lives.

We don’t have to fret and sweat…sell and push…we just be his people and assume he is at work…and look to join him there.

*I know that sounds simpler that it is in practice…but this is not impossible…this is an area where we are to close the gap.

How do we close the gap on this experience of “our doing flowing from being?”

Being apprentices…and making apprentices as we go about our lives?

  1. It is through the power of His presence with us and the importance of our presence with others.

Why do you believe you exist? For what purpose are you here?…this is the fundamental human question.

What are some the options that are widely held out there?

How do those options “work” or fail to work in practice(how’s it going for people?) and by whose authority do people come by those understandings of their life purpose?

I am personally convinced that the Bible has authority…I am convinced of this for many reasons…not the least of which is that Jesus…the authority…confirmed its authority.

The Bible teaches and personal experience confirms…that I exist for God’s glory.

This includes knowing him, serving him, learning to love him, enjoying him, representing him in ways that are accurate, aligning my values and actions with his.

We exist to know and love God…and to be loved by God…then to make God’s love known.

It means that as I live my life as he designed it to be lived…then his joy is maximized in me and my joy is maximized in him…and others are drawn in.

Jesus said…”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Again…this is not figurative…this is his actual presence with us.

He is ready to be present in all the circumstances of your life…

1Pet. 1:8-9 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We exist to know and love God and to be loved by God…and to make God’s love known to others.

He is present with us…and we are to live a life of faithful presence among others.

When I was a student at WSU and my faith had become alive for me…I wanted to understand how to better share my faith.

A mentor was training me in sharing my faith…I was a single college student…but he had a family and a job…so we had to plan our “training” time…it was Thursday nights at 7:00.

One Thursday night, at around 7:00…We got on the elevator at Fairmount Towers and a running back from DC whose name was Payton Bailey looked at me and my mentor and said “Huh, is it Thursday already?”

There is nothing wrong with the “scheduled and planned approach”…but it was not the full story.

I did see some of my friends come to Christ…and many of them have continued in the faith up to today…decades later.

But what made Thursday at 7:00 even moderately effective as ongoing “events” so to speak…even very predictable events.

Was the many experiences between Thursdays that I had with my friends…working, eating, playing together…being present with them, sharing life with them.

My friends were not opened up the gospel because we wondered the halls of the dorms on Thursday nights…they opened their rooms on Thursdays nights and listened to us because I lived with them between Thursdays

I once read an article written by a person who was not a follower of Christ about Christians, saying essentially this

“If you guys really believed the gospel, that people will die without Christ and be separated from God eternally then you would do nothing else except tell people about Jesus.

My thoughts regarding this are:

  1. It assumes that sharing the gospel is “the point of life”…the point of life is “be found faithful.”

-Being faithful includes many things…including jobs, homes, families, worship, rest, etc.

  1. That is not really the best way to actually help people…random sharing, drive by evangelism.

-Faithful presence and joining God where he is at work is the best way…I think.

  1. The Great Commission is to make disciples (apprentices)…not go tell as many people as possible…this is not at odds with telling the good news…telling is necessary.

It is at odds with an approach to people that doesn’t include…helping them learn to “obey all that Jesus has commanded.”

*Much of what has been produced in American Christianity has been “consumers.”

*Consumers of church, consumers of “Jesus”…consumers, when they become disattisfied or disappointed move on to another place to meet their needs and desires.

*Disciples rely on grace…they consume grace so speak…but they do not live for themselves…they live for their Lord.

*There is something amiss when people who should be producing ministry continue to be high maintenance and high drama.

*It is likely they are consumers of Christ, not apprentices of his.

  1. To a degree he is right…I need to be challenged to consider the reality of the gospel and people who are far from God.

-I am spiritually like Norah is physically.

-I do not, as I wish I did…always live in the gospel naturally and consistently…it is often not like breathing for me to see where God is at work and join him.

*I am often distracted.

*So, we are spending time together in God’s word, together in Worship, lead by God’s Spirit…learning or remembering to “breathe”

We are to be apprentices of Jesus…and as we go…to see where he is at work and to join him there…to make apprentices of Jesus.

We are to experience the life abundant…and invite others into our lives and into this life.

And to do this in the context of the life he has given us…personality, responsibilities, abilities, opportunities, gifts.

Eph. 3:10-11 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is through the diverse collections of people that make up this body…and other local bodies…that God intends to reveal his glory.


Our ministry here is built around life on life relationships.

We sometimes do well at this, sometimes not as much…we are “apprentices”…we are learners.

One Sunday, the very same Sunday…I was told by a guest that we are a super friendly church and by another guest that we are a very unfriendly church.

I don’t doubt the experience either guest had…we are, after all…just people.

But we are people…who for the most part really want to close the gap on faith and love.

We are not driven by programs…our formal ministry structure is small groups of people.

Our essential strategy for ministry is to walk with Jesus and walk with one another.

This works…when we actually do both…when we walk with Jesus and walk with one another.

His presence with us, our presence with one another.

We will talk more about this in two weeks when we begin our series on the “heart attitudes”

Your stewardship requires a heart of faithful presence…first live in the presence of Jesus, then live in the presence of others…as Jesus’ apprentice.

As apprentices of Jesus we are to live lives of faithful presence wherever he puts us.

God is involved in all your life.

It remains for us to: Expect it, watch for it, give thanks as we see it, and to encourage others to do the same.

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