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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Should We Stay, or Should We Go?

It is often assumed that Christ’s last command to the world was “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is very near to the last command given by Christ on earth, but it is not quite the last. This command was spoken in Galilee (Matthew 28:16), Christ ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives in Judea a few days later. (Luke 24:50-52, Acts 1:12) Did he say anything important or profound in those days? Undoubtedly he said many important and profound things in those days, as it is impossible for Christ to speak idle words. Many of his sayings have been recorded in scripture, but if all of them were, there could not be found a library large enough to hold all of the volumes that would be written. Every word in the Bible is hand picked by Jesus Christ to reveal himself to humanity; he chose his words carefully so that only his people could understand. (Matthew 13:10-13)

Therefore we should expect that Christ’s last command to be there on purpose. Was his last command to go and preach the Gospel? Quite the contrary.

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)

Luke words it a bit differently in his introduction to Acts.

While staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)

Christ’s last command to his disciples was to stay in Jerusalem, to wait for the Holy Spirit. They obeyed him and the outcome was an incredible evangelistic outpouring that touched every nation and corner of the Roman Empire, extending from Jerusalem, into Judea, Samaria, and extending to the ends of the earth.

Our command is “Go”, but is there a caveat? Indeed there is, the go is modified by the expectation that our going would be led, fueled, and tempered by the Holy Spirit. It is easy to stand on a street corner and scream at people, it is easy to shove a Gospel tract into someone’s hand, it is easy to corner someone and preach Gospel truths to them, it is easy to buy someone lunch at tell them "God bless you", it is easy to mow someone's lawn and invite them to church, and certainly the Holy Spirit can use all of these things, but Christ isn’t a numbers kind of God, he says Heaven rejoices over a single sinner who repents. If Christ were in the numbers game, he could rearrange the stars to quote Acts 4:12 and the whole world would be saved tomorrow, but he’s not, he’s in it for the glory, of proving that his grace is sufficient and his strength is made perfect in human weakness.

So, beloved, before you “Go”, why don’t you stay? Make sure your motives are right, that you’re seeking the glory of the Son, that you are working in tandem to the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete (literally, he who walks alongside), and not fighting him and his efforts.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love…the former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerity… (Philippians 1:15-17)

Many have taken the command to “Go” seriously, and they’ve gone, but they’ve gone without the Holy Spirit. This is sweet to the tongue, but bitter in the belly, for I rejoice that the truth is proclaimed, but I worry about their souls. Many will knock on Heaven’s gates and when denied access will ask, “Lord, Lord, did we not preach in your name?” and the answer will be that God never knew them; they refused to stay and wait for his Holy Spirit to guide them in all truth, instead trusting in their own ability to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ.

What is your end goal? Evangelism or a right preaching of the name of God? Multitudes proclaim a made-up free-will god, others proclaim a god who has given America over to her homosexual tendencies and refuses to save anymore, some preach a 19th century pronunciation of an Old Testament tetragram; they have gone without the Holy Spirit, instead of preaching truth they preach lies.

Do your efforts sound more like Second Timothy 2:24-25, The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

Or First Corinthians 3:1-3, I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

Perhaps your efforts to be a minister of the Gospel of Grace are well under way, but you never stayed and waited for the Holy Spirit, you've never humbled yourself under the exceeding goodness and kindness of the Lord of Glory, you’ve never knelt at the foot of a blood stained cross acknowledging that your ways can only end in death, that apart from Christ’s resurrection there is no life, and apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, your efforts in evangelism are in vain.

You are but a laborer in the harvests of God, you may plant, or you may water, but unless God grows the seed of faith, your efforts are in vain. Therefore, once you are clothed with power, baptized in the promise of the Father, that is, the Holy Spirit, then lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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