Summary: A sermon that speaks to the Savior's last directive to the church prior to His ascension.
"The Last Command"
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching 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.
Introduction: The inspiration for most of my sermons comes from things that I have heard, or read, or experienced and in this case it is what I have read about the faithfulness of the church to carry out the Great Commission that draws my interest this morning. In recent years we have learned that there are thousands of evangelical churches in America today that are in decline, and perhaps as many as 80% are either dead or dying. Thousands report no baptisms, no conversions; no measurable growth of any kind. Closer to home we have approximately 130 FWB churches that reported only 175 baptisms in 2013. I thank God for the 175 but I suspect that most of that growth came from 20% of our churches. Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear of one of our churches that is closing its doors or is in real trouble.
ILL -- I heard a story about a family who had an experience years ago, while traveling down Highway 23 in eastern Kentucky, they would pass by a beautiful brick church. It was in an ideal location.
The church was closed and the windows were broken out, there had not been services there for many years.
I pondered one day -- wonder what happened to that church? Why is it closed, and the windows broken out and the weeds all growing around?
On one trip, I pondered this aloud? My oldest son, then 9 or 10, said, I know Dad, I know why it is vacant.
I said, well OK, tell me?
He replied, LOOK THE GRAVE YARD IS FULL ALL AROUND THE CHURCH, ALL THEIR MEMBERS DIED! They never reached out to the next generation?
My heart was broken, for there was probably an element of truth to this lesson. Wade Hughes Sr.
Our denominational agencies are seeking to address this problem and our North American Missions Department and our Executive department is in the process of implementing a program of revitalization and for the first time in its history our Missions department has employed a director of church revitalization! What is the reason for this trend? I believe it has everything to do with how Christians view the Lord's last words to the church.
I've titled this message the Last Command for obvious reasons. A reading of the text tells us that Jesus had instructed the disciples to "...go before him into Galilee..." and that his words to them were just prior to his ascension which is recorded for us in:
Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,
and that it is reasonable to believe that the 11 disciples were not the only ones assembled on this occasion judging from what Paul writes in:
1 Corinthians 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
Our Lord ascends to the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for all to come to the Father by him and where he waits for the Father's command to return to judge the world. There are several things that came to mind as I considered this passage that I hope and pray will bless you today.
First, there is:
I. The Mandate to Make Disciples
One of the things that I have noticed over the years is that there seems to be the idea that Jesus did not care anything about commandments when quite the opposite is true. Jesus commanded us to do several things. Some of the most important things he said were in regard to commandments. For instance, Jesus was asked what the "greatest commandment" was and he said that it was to love God with all our heart. We actually refer to this statement as the great commandment for that very reason. But the Lord said that we were to "love one another" and he commanded us to "love our neighbor as ourselves" and we are "love our enemies" I don't think that there is anyone in this sanctuary today that would disagree with what I have just alluded to but even though we consider these things divine directives from our Lord there is one commandment that we seem to think is optional. The command is simple and straight forward. "Go ye...." is the directive. Why then would anyone who professes to be a Christian think that this is optional? This is not a divine suggestion or preference. It is a command.