Summary: This is the first message in a series entitled Reimagining Evangelism. This message looks at how the often asks for us to do things that do not make any sense.
All of us would probably agree that some of God’s instructions just don’t make any sense. One of the most overwhelming and difficult tasks is that of reaching the world around us with the message of Jesus Christ. In fact with every passing day the task seems to be getting more and more difficult. Our society seems to be growing more and more hostile toward Christianity and people seem to be less receptive. The landscape of America is definitely changing. In 1963 around 90% of Americans identified themselves as Christians while only 2% claimed no religious affiliation. In 2012 the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christians declined to 70%. The percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation increased to 13%. This has caused many people to arrive at the conclusion that evangelism is a waste of time and the mistaken belief that the Gospel is not as powerful as it once was. The problem is that as the culture changed the church failed to change and adapt their methods of evangelism. Forty years ago providing clear evidence of Jesus’ resurrection and the reliability of the Bible was sufficient. However, we now live in a culture that believes that truth is relative which demands that we change how we reach out to the culture. We need new ways of sharing that old, old story. The truth is God has only told us to go and share the message but He has left the methodology up to us. If we want to reach people who now have this new mindset, we must begin to think outside the box and find new and fresh ways to share the greatest story ever told. Today, we are beginning a series entitled “Reimagining Evangelism” and our goal is to discover some Biblical insights that will help us reach this ever changing culture in new and fresh ways.
I. A fresh look at Jesus’ final instructions for His followers.
A. Jesus had the authority to call His followers to this overwhelming task.
1. Earlier Jesus had stated that the Father had committed all things to Him. In other words God had empowered Jesus to accomplish His ministry.
2. Now Jesus is claiming a complete and all-encompassing authority. An authority on the same level as God’s. This without a doubt establishes Jesus’ divinity.
3. This authority gives Jesus the right to hand out this daunting task to His followers.
4. This authority also gives Jesus the right to expect His followers to obey the command that He is giving.
B. What Jesus called His followers to do was revolutionary.
1. The Greek connective word oun which is usually translated therefore connects verses 18 and 19 and shows that Jesus’ authority stated in verse 18 is the foundation for what He commands in verse 19.
2. The verb go and the phrase make disciples are imperatives in the Greek which shows that it is a command and not a suggestion.
3. The revolutionary part of this command is Jesus telling His disciples to go beyond the boundaries of Israel to all nations which would include gentiles.
4. This marks the beginning of a new era in which God will deal with people in a totally different way.
C. Coming to grips with the components of the commission.
1. When the Jewish leaders baptized their converts it was done in the name of the Father and the Spirit. Now the Son is added placing Jesus on the same level as the Father and the Spirit.
2. The prepositional phrase “in the name” in the Greek shows that the goal of Baptism was to bring the individual into a relationship of belonging to the Father, Son and the Spirit.
3. Teaching was to precede baptism but the text also shows that a critical part of the process of discipleship is continued teaching following baptism.
4. Matthew clearly shows in his writing that Christianity is a way of life, not simply a system of beliefs or patterns for worship.
5. Jesus completely lays the responsibility of teaching new Christians what the new life in Him involves on our shoulders.
D. The power available for accomplishing the task.
1. Jesus promises that His presence would continually be with His followers as they carried out this daunting task of reaching the world with the Gospel message.
2. This promise is more than words of comfort, it is an anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the work that He would do in the life of the believer.
3. The Lord’s continued presence would not only encourage His followers but it would empower them to accomplish the mission that they have been called to.
4. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26—NIV 2011)