16Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
In our text for today, Jesus has risen from the grave and is giving his disciples some last instructions before returning to His Father in heaven. He reminds them of some specific things and outlines some specific responsibilities or “commands.”
He tells them…
- All power is given to Him in heaven and in earthThe church I pastor has adopted a motto based upon this passage, “T.E.A.M…” “Teaching, Evangelizing, Accountable and Making a Difference for the Kingdom!” “Teamwork,” sounds wonderful, but the development and “gelling” of the team takes much prayer, time, patience, forgiveness and work!
- Teach all nations
- Baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost
- Teach others to follow everything He commanded
- Remember that He is with them always – even unto the end of the world.
In this text, Jesus is giving His “team” if you will, the instructions they will need to be effective witnesses in the world. They started out with 12 and now they only have 11. Judas has forsaken the team, betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. Although Peter denied Jesus, he ultimately repented and returned. Although the others, except John, the beloved forsook Jesus, they ultimately came back to be His witnesses and spread the word that Jesus is alive.
They were a small group of scared men – uncertain, wrestling with doubt about what they were really seeing, what they were feeling and what their faith was saying. The task before them appeared daunting. The threats around them were real. Few if any really believed them. But the Words of their Master would powerfully and profoundly overshadow any doubt or fear that sought to bind them. They would become one of the most powerful and influential evangelism teams in history – the disciples would become “apostles,” evangelizing individuals, communities and nations – teaching the words of Jesus, baptizing new converts, establishing churches and providing the New Testament scriptures that we read and follow today.
The saints from on high were yelling, “GO TEAM!”
In this day of mega churches, tele-evengelist that minister to thousands, and radio broadcasts that reach millions, those of us who minister and serve in smaller churches and congregations may at times feel that our labor is in vain. But we must remember that this Christian revolution that we read about week in and week out didn’t start out with thousands, but with 12. And the 12 were not the best candidates according to our standards.
Look at who Jesus chose to work with:
Peter – “cussing” fisherman and zealot – one who was quick tempered and somewhat impetuous
James and John – the two brothers they called the “sons of thunder,” also quick to call down fire and brimstone on anyone who opposed them. Hungry for position and power, hid behind their mother who asked Jesus for the chief seats next to Him in the Kingdom
Matthew – A tax collector who was a robber of his own people, working for the Roman Government.
Thomas – Who vacillated between doubt and confession of faith – needed proof to truly believe
Judas – A thief and a schemer who would ultimately betray Him
The other disciples didn’t have much to say, except for Andrew who brought his brother Peter to Jesus, Phillip who encouraged Nathaniel to come and see Jesus for himself after he asked “Could any good thing come out of Nazareth?” and John, whom the text called, “beloved.” He was one of the only disciples other than the woman who stayed with Jesus until the crucifixion.
What a challenging crowd to work with! When we consider this “team” that Jesus assembled, we should be encouraged! Could it be that He deliberately selected broken, fragmented, sin riddled, frail men to be in His inner circle to help us understand that He – Jesus is the one that transforms us from bruised, broken, seemingly worthless beings into vessels fit for the Masters use. The only requirement is that we be yielded to Him. In other words, we have to say, “yes” to His outstretched hand.
No matter how flawed, no matter how damaged, no matter how broken, no matter how unsightly, no matter how rejected – God can and will use us on His TEAM! There are, however, some responsibilities associated with being a part of this TEAM!
Team members must walk with Jesus. In order for the disciples to impact others for Christ, they had to know Him for themselves! It is difficult to play on a team if you don’t know the plays, know and understand the rules and follow the leader. You can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you don’t go!
Team members are to teach about Jesus. One of the first and visible lessons that we teach is the lesson of our lives. People will not listen to our words if our lives scream something all together different. Your life first has to be a lesson.
Team members are to evangelize. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all called to be witnesses – to tell the lost that Jesus saves. That may not mean that you go from door to door inviting people to church or walk around malls or on streets handing out tracks (booklets that teach about salvation). But it does mean that we should ask the Lord for a spirit of evangelism, asking the Lord to create opportunities for us to naturally begin conversations about trusting the Lord as personal Savior. We should have a concern for the souls of the lost. As “team members” we should be in prayer that each day, our lives are used to draw, to convict, to compel somebody to seek Jesus. We should ask the Lord to open our eyes to the people He has placed before us that we can witness to and reach. Witnessing takes on many forms. Sometimes it’s just being a listening ear. Sometimes, it’s giving them support through friendship or finance. Sometimes it’s giving a wise word. But ultimately, it’s building a relationship of trust and sharing our faith as the Lord opens opportunities. We are to be Christ’s witnesses and evangelize.
TEAM members are to be Accountable. It’s so easy to say, witnessing, sharing the Gospel, supporting the ministry financially, volunteering to carry out the work of the ministry is somebody else’s job. It’s so easy to come in from week to week, sing some hymns, hug some friends, give a few dollars and keep on going. But TEAM members are accountable to share in lifting the load. We each are accountable for the building of this ministry, the spreading of the Gospel, the support of the work of the church. It’s not “their” responsibility, it’s “our” responsibility. We all have gifts, we all have talents, we all have treasure that the Lord can and will use for the up building of His Kingdom. When only a few of the few lift the load, it makes it extremely challenging. But many hands make work light.
If 11 frightened, flawed and half determined men could take the commands of Jesus seriously and turn the world upside down, what could we in the church accomplish today if we took the assigned TEAM work seriously?
Finally, Team members are to make a difference for the Kingdom! When you yield yourself to God’s precious Holy Spirit, listen for His voice, pray for opportunities to share God’s messages of love, hope, redemption, deliverance and restoration – God will open doors and you will make a difference for the Kingdom. You will touch some man, some woman, some boy, some girl – you will encourage some discouraged spirit, you will cause someone on the verge of giving up to change their minds – you will challenge someone who is wallowing in backward and destructive ways of thinking – you will make a difference for the Kingdom!
Although not easy, being a “TEAM” for the Lord is possible through Christ!
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,