How do we share the gospel cross-culturally? How do we fulfill the Great Commission around the world? In this message on Luke 24:45–53, Pastor David Platt teaches us about Christ’s work among the nations.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Luke 24. We’re going to do things a little different this morning in our time in the Word. It was a little over a year ago now that, against what Heather and I certainly had planned or envisioned, and against what most people with any common sense would have planned or envisioned, God called me to pastor this church. I want to let you in on a secret, but you can’t tell anybody outside the church, okay? So, this is just between us. If you’re a guest this morning, just kind of plug your ears. However, I want to let you guys in on some news. Your pastor is in over his head, okay? So, don’t tell anybody. This is just between us. However, God has really, really been gracious over the last year.
This morning you’ve seen your celebration guide. You don’t have any notes. You have kind of a blank page with some lines in there. Instead of us walking through a thorough outline and an in-depth studying cross-references, which I think needs to be the steady diet in the local church, I want us to have almost more of a family meeting, a little heart to heart this morning in a sense, and there will be plenty of notes to take. I would encourage you to take them if you like, but you just take them at your own pace.
We are coming today to the end of this series we’ve called “Cross Culture,”, how to share our faith across cultures. I’ve got to be honest with you. My heart has really been burdened throughout this series. I wanted to do a series like this because, most of the time, training on how to share our faith is relegated to this side class for the elite few to take who are really good at that sort of thing, or so we think. So, as a result, the majority of believers and members of the church are isolated from, what I believe, is the very purpose for which I believe Christ has us on this planet.
I believe He has us on this planet to make His gospel and His glory known in all nations. He’s outlined a plan for how that would happen. It’s called the Great Commission. This morning, I just want us to have a little heart to heart, and I want to tell you that I want to accomplish the Great Commission; I mean, complete it. I want our church to accomplish the Great Commission; I mean, complete it. Some of you might be tempted during our time together this morning to think that this is a little too idealistic, that we’re going to complete the Great Commission. I don’t mean this in anyway as an exclusion to other churches, like we’re the only church in the world, or that we wouldn’t work with other leaders in accomplishing the Great Commission. However, I really believe with all my heart that God desires to use this faith family…if we’re surrendered to the Great Commission, God will use us to accomplish it. I’m going to do the best I can this morning to share from God’s Word some biblical foundations for why I believe that.
Second, if you think it’s a little too idealistic, than one of my favorite phrases that you’ve heard me say before is those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. So, I want us to dive into Scripture, and I want to show you ten reasons why I believe The Church of Brook Hills can fulfill the Great Commission. Look at Luke 24:45. This is the very end. This is Luke’s version, so to speak, of the Great Commission, although it’s in a different place and a different time than what Matthew tells us about. Look at verse 45.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24 45–53 Encourages Us to Partake in the Great Commission
Ten reasons why I believe we can accomplish the Great Commission, and just to give you a heads up, these first two reasons, we’re going to spend a little more time on than we’re going to spend on the others, so don’t get worried when we get through the first two, and you’re thinking, “At this pace, we’re going to be here awhile.” Okay? Just go with me, all right? Ten reasons why I believe The Church of Brook Hills will fulfill the Great Commission.
Number one, because our message transcends every culture in the world. I believe we’ll fulfill the Great Commission because our message transcends every culture in the world. Now, we are coming to the end of this series. Over the last three weeks, we have seen how God addresses the three primary consequences or effects of sin that we saw in Genesis 3. Those three effects of sin are guilt, shame, and fear. God addresses them all throughout Scripture. We have seen God’s story in a guilt-based culture, God’s story in a fear-based culture, God’s story in a shame-based culture. We’ve talked about how all of these effects of sin are prevalent in every culture of the world, but in most cultures, one is sometimes more predominant than the other. We’ve talked about how Western culture is primarily guilt
based. We’ve talked about how many Latin American, African, some Asian cultures are predominantly fear-based. Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries are predominantly shame-based. Those are starting points from which we can begin to share the gospel.
The goal has been to equip us as a people, but first of all, how to tell our story of what God has done in our lives, how Christ has changed our lives, and how God’s story in a guilt based, shame-based, fear-based culture, and all of that leads to the ultimate story, which is recapped here in Luke 24. It’s the gospel. If we just share what Christ has done in our lives without sharing the gospel, the ultimate story of what Christ did, then we won’t be able to lead people to Christ. So, we’ve got to know the ultimate story if we’re going to lead people to Christ.
So, if you’re taking any notes this morning, I would encourage you right now with what I believe are three elements that need to be in the gospel in order to lead anybody to Christ. These are three elements we need to share. When you come to a point where you have an opportunity to lead somebody to Christ, what is the basic foundation that you need to say? All three start with the letter “E” just to help us remember them. Number one, we need to share the event. Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus Christ died on the cross. That’s an event. He rose from the grave. That’s an event. If Jesus did not die on the cross, if He did not rise from the grave, then we have no good news for the world. You can’t just say, “God has changed my life, and He can change yours,” without talking about the death and resurrection of Christ. Non-negotiable: The event. Second, the explanation. Not just, “This is what Christ did; He died and rose from the grave,” but, “This is why that’s important.” This is why what we’ve studied over the last few weeks helps us because the explanation is God took our guilt, the guilt of our sin and put it on Jesus instead of us, that Jesus on that cross covered over our shame. He paid the price for our sin. He takes away our fear. He makes a way for us to come to God. So, we explain that using the pictures that we’ve seen over the last few weeks.
The event, the explanation, and then third, the experience. It’s not good news if you can’t experience it. If it can’t be real for you, then it’s not good news to share with people. If it’s something we keep in here, then it’s not open to others, and that’s not good news for the world. So, experience the fact that God loves you and desires for you to know and to love Him. This is the truth that I want to be crystal clear in any and every conversation I have with somebody that doesn’t know Christ. I want them to know crystal clear, “God loves you and God desires for you to know Him, and you can experience Him through that event and what that means, the explanation.”
I would even encourage us, at this point, not to get caught up in trying to tell people who don’t know Christ all the benefits they get when they know Christ. “You get peace. You get joy. You get this, you get this. You get heaven.” All those things are wonderful. They are great things, but they’re not what you ultimately get. Ultimately, you get God. You know God. He provides peace, and He provides joy, but if we can have heaven without God, we don’t want heaven without God. We want God. God is the experience of the gospel, and we have the opportunity to know Him. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins,” Luke 24 says. So, we turn from ourselves and we trust in Him. The event, the explanation of how you can experience this…turn from yourself and trust in Him.
Now, that’s the ultimate story. It’s a story that transcends all cultures. Ladies and gentlemen, this is good news all over the world. I’ve been reminded in this series why the Word of God and the gospel of God must be at the center of all we do. Because, if my thoughts or my opinions or my ideas or the latest ideas from the latest Christian book or Christian fad are at the center of what we do, then that will not transfer across cultures. We can get away with preaching an American gospel here, but it doesn’t work over there. That’s why we must be thoroughly biblical, the center of our worship and the gospel at the center of our faith, because if it’s not, then what we have to offer the world will not cross cultures, but when it is, it will cross every culture in the world. I believe we can fulfill the Great Commission because our method transcends every culture in the world.
Reason number two, why will we fulfill the Great Commission? Because we realize that we are all preachers of this gospel. Now, the point of this series is that each of us would walk away with our story of what Christ has done in our life, be able to share that succinctly, powerfully, and meaningfully…God’s story as it relates to guilt, shame and fear, then, the ultimate story, which we just talked about.
Now, if we’ve got that, then what do we do with it? Luke 24 says you preach it. You preach it to all nations. This word “preach” is literally, “proclaim the good news.” It’s not talking about institutional preaching, that which happens when we gather together once a week and the preacher preaches. That’s not what this word is being described as. It’s proclaiming the good news. It’s the church, the body of Christ-followers, proclaiming the gospel. It’s the method by which this gospel would go to the nations through preaching of God’s people. He says, “You are my witnesses.” In verse 48, in the original language of the New Testament, it basically means, “You guys are going to do this.” This is the method by which the gospel would go to all nations, through God’s people preaching it.
It’s at this point that my heart has been most convicted during this series and most burdened during this series because, whether it was the conversation that I had with the megachurch leader that I mentioned a few weeks ago, whether it’s books or articles that I read on church growth, I am increasingly convinced that we have devalued the people of God in this mission, and we have relegated the primary responsibility for preaching the gospel to the institutional church. The result is the majority of Christ-followers find themselves more observers than participants in this mission, more spectators in the preaching event, spectators in preaching the Bible. What we’ve done is we’ve created stellar programs and presentations, performances, week in and week out, with incredible communicators and incredible preachers, where we say to people, “You bring people to church, and they will come to Christ when they hear this preacher, when they see this performance, when they hear this music; that’s how they’ll come to Christ.”
I’ll be honest with you here. It was a year ago when there were a couple articles that came out right after I came here that were talking about the youngest megachurch pastor in the country. As I began to get asked questions and interviewed about the size of the church that I was pastoring, I had to square those questions, that discussion, with the fact that the example for my life and ministry is a guy who spent his life and ministry with twelve guys. You get to Acts 1, which is the sequel to Luke, which is basically the next chapter here, and you see that there are only one hundred-twenty people in Acts 1 that have actually stuck around and done what Jesus told them to do. One hundred-twenty people is all He had to show for. I see that Jesus’ strategy was not about bringing the biggest crowds to the biggest building where He could preach the best sermons. His whole strategy was about mobilizing a small band of people who would go out and preach the gospel. He never had a goal to pastor a church of 4,000, or 5,000, or 10,000, or 20,000. His goal was to mobilize a few people to impact the world.
As a result, His strategy never revolved around having the right presentation, the right program at the right place. His whole strategy revolved around people, God’s people, going out, witnesses, testifying to what they had seen and heard. That was His strategy. All of them filled with the Spirit of God, which we will get to in a second, preaching the gospel. This is the way that it would go to all nations, through the people preaching, not through a person preaching. This is why I believe The Church of Brook Hills will fulfill the Great Commission, because ladies and gentlemen, we are going to be a church that believes in each other. We are no longer going to be dependent on programs or presentations or one person to achieve the purpose for which we have all been saved to do, to preach the gospel.
Luke 24 45–53 Reminds Us that We can all Share the Gospel
God, help us to see that we are all preachers of the gospel because we can miss this. Even in this series, we can miss this. The truth is the majority of us, during this series, have probably not taken the time to get our stories down, so that, right now, at this moment, if you were engaged with somebody who doesn’t know Christ, you wouldn’t be able to…in 45 seconds…share exactly how Christ has moved in your life in a way that would impact them in a way they would understand it. The majority of us have just not done that and, as a result, the majority of us, over the last six weeks of this series, have not shared our story with one person that doesn’t know Christ. I’m not trying to say this to make us feel bad. It’s just the truth. Out of over 4,000 people that have been involved in this series, there have been approximately 150 people who have actually responded with their stories. That’s about three and a half percent out of all of us. I know we’ve been trying something a little different. I realize that, but what it has done is it has opened my eyes to the fact that most of us expect to come in here this morning and hear the gospel preached.
However, let’s be honest. Most of us are not really willing to go out and preach the gospel all week long. Most of us expect to see people come to know Christ in this place, but the truth is most of us are really not expecting to lead people to Christ, even a person to Christ this week. It’s not on most of our radars. The Scripture teaches that God has designed for us all to be preachers of the gospel, and this affects the way we listen when we come to this place. It affects the way we listen.
I hope we’ve seen and heard some incredible truths over the last few weeks about God. God takes away our guilt and moves our shame and takes away our fear. We’ve seen these truths. However, for most of us we have thought that these sermons, these truths that we’ve seen, were intended to minister to us, and please, please hear my heart on this. I want to remind you that I do not preach for your sake. If I did, then everything I say would center on you, and as long as you in this room are comfortable and feeling good, we would have a successful church.
However, I do not believe that God has called me to preach for your sake. I believe He’s called me to preach for God’s sake, for God’s sake among you. Yes, I long for you to see and to know the truth that God has taken away your guilt, and He’s taken away your shame, and He’s taken away your fear. Yes, I want us to know that. However, I’m not just preaching for God’s sake among us. I’m preaching for God’s sake among the nations. The goal is not for you to know that you are not guilty anymore, for you to know that you have your shame taken away, for you to know that you had the fear taken away. The goal is for you to go and proclaim to everybody in Birmingham and people in all nations, “You are not guilty anymore. You don’t have anymore shame. Jesus was taken away on the cross. You don’t have to be afraid of anything because He’s conquered death.” The goal of preaching is so that we would preach the gospel to everyone in Birmingham and all nations. It’s when we realize this that we will find ourselves in the middle of fulfilling the Great Commission.
However, as long as we continue in a paradigm of church that most of us have grown up with, where it’s dependent on this person or this program or this presentation to do the job, then we will miss it. We’ll miss it. I’m praying that God would help us to realize that The Church of Brook Hills is not intended to be a place of ministry as much as it’s intended to be a base for ministry. You know what Jesus is saying right here? Beginning at Jerusalem. You don’t stay at Jerusalem. You don’t keep the gospel in Jerusalem. You begin it in Jerusalem. That’s your base and you go out and preach to all nations from that base. That’s what the church was designed to be.
Jesus was coming to completely absolve this idea that church is limited to a place. The church is a people going out and proclaiming the good news of salvation to all the nations. That’s the picture of the church, and it’s a reminder to us that, if we want a place of ministry where we can receive the gospel, but we’re not expected to rise up and reproduce the gospel in all nations, then this is probably not the church for us.
There are no spectators in the church in the New Testament. God, help us to see that this is not a place of ministry. This is a base for ministers, ministers who personally and corporately across this room are going out all week and fulfilling the Great Commission with their lives; ministers who are rising up and, without exception, all of us, all of us who know Christ, preaching the gospel in the places where He has put us. When we come together for worship to glorify God, we are seeing His glory and training in His words so that we can make disciples all week long. Brook Hills is no longer just a place of ministry, instead it’s a base for ministry to all of Birmingham and to all of the world. We’ll fulfill the Great Commission because we realize that we are all preachers of this gospel.
All right. I told you one and two. Number three, we will fulfill the Great Commission because Christ has sent us out in the authority of His name. It says, “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name.” I wish we had time to dive in to the whole book of Acts, but the beauty here is how this theme is mentioned over and over and over again.
You go through the book of Acts. It averages out to, almost once every chapter, you see things happening in the name of Christ. You get to Acts 3, Peter and John are walking up to the temple. There’s a layman who is sitting there, and he is healed. Peter says, “Get up and walk in the name of Christ.” You get to Acts 4, and they’re preaching the gospel in the name of Jesus Christ at the risk of their lives. You get to Acts 9, and you see that the name of Jesus Christ has taken this guy named Saul, who is actually persecuting the church, and completely turned his life upside down where he is the greatest advocate of the church, advancing the kingdom by the name of Jesus Christ. That transformation happened. You get to Acts 16, and you see demons being delivered out of people in the name of Jesus. All of this is happening because the name of Christ was going out. They were preaching in the authority of His name. They were living in the authority of His name.
Now, I want to remind you that 2,000 years ago there was a name that caused lame people to walk, and there was a name that caused blind people to see, and there was a name who caused people’s lives, who were completely against the gospel, to be transformed for the gospel. There was a name that delivered demons out of people. There was a name for which people risk their lives, and the name is still good today. It’s still good. The name is the same 2,000 years later as it was then, and we have the authority of the name of Christ. We do not go out and preach in the name of our intellectual capacities. We don’t preach in the name of our charisma or lack thereof. We don’t preach in the name of our church. We preach in the name of Jesus Christ and His name has power. There is not one person in the city of Birmingham that His name cannot reach. There’s not one person in a communist, Hindu, or Muslim culture that His name cannot save. There is not one sin that cannot be forgiven. There is not one hurt that cannot be healed by this name. We go out in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.
It gets even better. Number four, we fulfill the Great Commission because Christ has clothed us with the power of His Spirit. He sent us out in authority of His name, and He has clothed us with the power of His Spirit. He says, “You’re going to be witnesses. I’m going to send you my Father’s promise. I’m going to send you this, Spirit of God, who stands with you until you’ve been clothed with power from on high.” The word is literally “until you’ve got the garment put on you.” It’s like that horrible dream when you’re a kid that you show up to school, and you’ve forgotten to put your clothes on. It’s Jesus saying, “Guys, don’t even try to do this on your own. You’re just going to get embarrassed. You’re just going to get completely embarrassed. You’re going to find yourself completely powerless in this thing.” You wait. How can a group of common guys like this turn the world upside down? By the power of the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “I’m going to send you my Spirit, and He will empower you to accomplish this mission.”
Here’s the beauty of it. When you place your faith in Christ, His Spirit dwells in us, and what that means is I don’t have any more of the Spirit than you do, and you don’t have any more of the Spirit than I do. The Spirit of God is on you, brothers and sisters. He dwells inside of you, and He empowers you to accomplish this mission, so you don’t have to do it on your own.
I think we shortchange the Holy Spirit. Even in this series, it hit me over and over again because we saw some incredible stories. We saw Jesus bring sight to a blind man. We saw Him healing a paralytic to get up and walk. We saw Him delivering a man from demons. We saw Him going to a little girl, saying, “Rise up,” even though she was dead. We saw Jesus doing some amazing things, and there’s a tendency for us to see those stories, hear those stories, and think, “Man, if God would do that kind of stuff today, we would really be in business. Man, we could get this job done if we could see some signs and wonders like that.”
However, do you realize the Bible actually teaches the contrary? Remember when Jesus delivered that man from his demon possession? The whole town saw what had happened. What did they do? They go running to Jesus with praise? No. They said, “Get out of here. We don’t want you anywhere near us.” That was their response. People laughed at Him when He was going in to heal this girl.
Remember the parable we looked at last week, the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man is in hell, and he said, “Please send somebody to my brothers and my sisters, my family, to let them know the truth.” What does Jesus say? He says, “Even if they saw somebody rise from the dead, they still would not believe because they have the prophets, they have the Word of God, and they haven’t believed in that.” What is He saying there? He’s saying that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are more powerful than seeing people rise from the dead and seeing blind people see and paralytics walking again. That’s what the Bible is teaching. God, help us to see this.
You want to see the power of God at work? Then stop looking for signs and wonders. Jesus is telling us, “Speak my Word, and you’ll see the power. You speak it. You trust the gospel. You’ll see the power of God turning lives upside down, not just for a couple of years, not just for this lifetime, but for all of eternity. You want in on the power, speak the Word of God. Trust the gospel of God. I’ve clothed you with the power of my Spirit.”
All throughout Luke, there’s an emphasis on Jesus being led by the Spirit and guided by the Spirit. Look in Luke 3 and 4. It says over and over and over again, “the Spirit was on Jesus.” The beauty of Luke 24 and Acts 1 is Jesus is now saying that, “The Spirit that you have seen on me my entire life is now going to be on you. You’re going to be clothed with His power to fulfill this commission.” That’s number four, because Christ has clothed us with the power of His Spirit.
Number five, we will fulfill the Great Commission because our growth in Christ is dependent on it. Here’s what I mean by that. We have just seen in this passage how the Spirit is given to us so that we can proclaim the gospel. It’s what we see in Acts 1:8. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses to Jerusalem and also to the end of the earth.” Now, at this point, we could take an exploration. There are eight different times in the book of Luke and the book of Acts when Luke mentions the phrase, “filled with the Holy Spirit.” He talks eight different times about people being filled with the Holy Spirit. He uses that phrase. The interesting thing is every single time He uses that phrase, “They were filled with the Holy Spirit”, the result is that person automatically begins to speak. In Luke 1, it’s three different times. They begin to prophesy. In Acts, they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 4, and they spoke the Word of God boldly. Paul was filled with the Spirit, and immediately, he began to preach.
So, what I want you to see is that the Holy Spirit does a lot in Scripture. He comforts us, He guides us, He leads us, He gives us gifts. The Holy Spirit does a lot in Scripture. However, the primary purpose that we see for the Holy Spirit of Luke and Acts is evident. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to proclaim the gospel, to speak for God. That’s why He gives us the Holy Spirit. So, that is the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit. I want us to let that soak in for a second, then come to this picture. We’re going to fulfill the Great Commission because our growth in Christ is dependent on it. Our growth in Christ, otherwise called sanctification, is a process by which the Holy Spirit transforms us in the image of Christ.
Here’s the question I want to ask. How will the power of the Spirit ever transform us in our walk with Christ if we ignore the Spirit, the purpose of the Spirit in us? How will the power of the Spirit ever transform us if we ignore the purpose of the Spirit that’s living in us? It won’t happen. I’m convinced that God has designed this whole picture so that our growth in Christ is dependent on our obedience to the Great Commission. I know there are struggles, faith struggles all across this room in the lives of believers, but I am convinced that we are destined to live out a shallow Christianity if our lives are not surrendered to the Great Commission. I believe it’s what Paul is saying.
Luke 24 45–53 Calls Us to Share Our Faith with Others
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith. Why? So that you might have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. What he’s saying is you won’t have a good understanding of every good thing in Christ until you get, what? Until you get active in sharing the faith. Our growth in Christ is dependent on our obedience to this mission. We want to grow in Christ don’t we? We want to pursue Christ in order to become like Christ. That’s the vision of our church. We want to know and become like Christ. It’s the agenda that’s driving us. In order for that to happen, we are going to be obedient to this mission. We are going to let Him use this mission to transform us.
You talk to anybody who’s been on one of these trips over the last few months, and you’ll hear them talk about how Christ has transformed their lives. Why? Because of the mission they found themselves involved in. It works together. It’s a good thing. Our growth in Christ is dependent on it.
Number six, we will fulfill the Great Commission because the Word of God guarantees our success. What I love about Luke 24:45–47 is the emphasis on the fulfillment of Scripture. It actually goes back earlier into this chapter with Jesus talking. Basically, He takes the Word and opens their eyes, and He says, “Look. All the Scripture has been talking about me.” Then, He comes to this point, and He tells them that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.
We all know that it was not an accident that Christ died on the cross. It was not an accident that He rose from the grave. He didn’t come on the scene of the ministry, and God said, “Oh no, things aren’t working out the way I planned. Oh no. Jesus is dying. What am I going to do now? I guess I’ll raise Him from the grave.” This was the plan from the beginning. It is what Scripture fulfilled. Isaiah 53, Psalm 2, these pictures are the death and resurrection of Christ, prophesied hundreds of years before it was fulfilled. It was not an accident. It was necessary that Christ would die. It was necessary that Christ would rise from the grave.
Don’t miss it though. “And repentance and forgiveness for sins will be preached in all nations.” This is also what the Scriptures are talking about. It’s necessary, just as necessary that Christ dies, and just as necessary that Christ rises from the grave. It’s necessary that the church preaches forgiveness and repentance to all nations. That’s equally a part of the plan. So, if we stop with the death and resurrection of Christ, and we soak in that picture, but we don’t look toward how we can make this gospel known in all nations, then we’re missing the point of the fulfillment of Scripture.
You look all throughout the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 43, where it says, very similar to this, “You are my witnesses to the nations.” Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49, Isaiah 66, almost kind of like the Great Commission of the Old Testament, verses 18–21, over and over and over again. It’s saying, “This gospel is going to go to all nations.” That’s why, when you get to Acts 15, and they’re debating, “Should we let the Gentiles of the nations into the church?”, and they quote from the Old Testament. They say, “God said we should, so maybe we should.”
You get to Romans 15. Paul is giving the whole reason why his ambition is to make the gospel known where it’s not been heard before. What he does is he quotes three times successively from the Old Testament. The first quote, he talks about how the Jews will praise God among the Gentiles. The second quote he talks about how Jews and Gentiles will praise God together. The third quote he quotes about how the Gentiles are going to worship God apart from the Jews even. Jews and Gentiles together in this picture. The nations were going to worship. That’s what the Old Testament pictured. That’s what the New Testament is saying happened. It’s not a question of if all nations will know the gospel. It’s a question of when the church will preach the gospel to all the nations. The Word of God has guaranteed that every tribe, every tongue, every people, every nation will hear the gospel.
Don’t miss it: We have the privilege. The church fills a big part of God’s divine plan throughout all eternity of making the gospel known. We get to be in this line, and we get to join hands with those who have gone before us and run forward, Birmingham and all nations, and be apart of seeing what the Scripture has promised will happen. What an incredible honor. I believe in all my heart that God is working in this faith family to fulfill His work. It’s an incredible thought. It’s an honor to be a part of it. We will accomplish the Great Commission because of God’s work. The Word of God has guaranteed our success.
Seven, I believe we will fulfill the Great Commission because this is the purpose for which Christ has blessed us. You get to verse 50. It says, “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.” Can you imagine that picture? Jesus blessing His disciples, lifting up His hands and blessing them. Just put yourself on that mountain right there. Can you imagine that, what an intense scene as He blesses them? He pours out His blessing on them, and then you see Him rise up into heaven where He sits down at the right hand of God, where His whole work at the right hand of God will be to do, what? To bless His people. He is our high priest. He is our advocate on high, Hebrews says, a mediator between us and the Father.
Remember in John 14:12–13? Remember when Jesus said, “I’m going to go to my Father, and when I do, I will give you whatever you ask of me. Whatever you need, you ask it in my name, and I will give it to you. I want to continue to pour out my blessing on you in ways you never could have imagined.” What an amazing promise. Jesus saying, “I’ll give you whatever you ask.” What we do is we take that verse, and we say, “Does that mean if I ask God for a new house that He’ll give it to me?” or “Jesus give me a new car or give me a new job or give me safety, give me security, give me the American dream, and He’ll do it?”
No. We’re missing the whole point of the blessing of God. The blessing of God is to fulfill His mission. What He’s saying is, “You ask me for anything, anything you need to make the gospel known in all nations, and all of the resources of heaven are at your disposal.” What an amazing thought. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that is too bold for us to ask for if we are running after this mission. He’ll give us whatever we need. He’ll give us all the money we need, all the gifts we need, all the resources we need, everything. He said, “I’ll give you the resources of heaven. Just ask me, and I’ll give you whatever you need to accomplish that.”
Now, this is the key to unlocking the blessing of God. God has promised to bless His plan. He has promised to bless His people who are praying His plan. So, when we align ourselves as His people with this plan, we are assured the blessing of God. We’re assured of His blessing. We don’t even have to doubt or have to worry. That changes the way we walk through this next prayer series. Because we can pray for anything. We’re asking to accomplish His goal. He’s going to give us His wisdom. That’s for the next series.
Number eight, we will fulfill the Great Commission because we want to experience the thrill of this mission. This is almost a little selfish in here, but I think it’s biblical. I love what verse 52 says. It says, “They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with…” What? “…great joy.” These were some happy guys. They had seen Jesus ascend into heaven. They were going to Jerusalem. They were going to get some clothes from the Holy Spirit, and they were going to go out, and they were going to be part of a worldwide impact. That’s a good thing. That sounds fun to me. Let’s turn with great joy, wanting to experience the thrill of this mission.
I wish I had time. We could spend the next couple hours reading through some of these notes…God at work notes I have gotten recently of people sharing about how they could think of nobody…when they were asked to pray about three people that they could share the gospel with. The next week, God began opening up relationships in the neighborhood. They were now a part of God’s work in other people’s lives. One person wrote about how they were out of town and saw somebody that they were walking next to, and they began thinking, “Maybe this is an opportunity that God’s opening up.” All of the sudden, this person starts to talk with them and starts to share. You find out this person is Vietnamese and has a Buddhist faith. It just so happens that the person from our faith family has a mother who is Vietnamese and came from Buddhism to Christianity. Isn’t it weird how that works? She begins to share the gospel with that person.
Then, there are stories from Honduras and lives being changed. Not just in Honduras. In the airport, one person talked about how they were getting screened going through the airport, and they got stopped by the security person. She starts talking with the lady who is checking her bag, and she starts sharing with her just how thankful she is for all that she’s done. This lady is astounded, begins to ask, “What do you mean thank you?” She begins to share what she’s been doing. They end up exchanging phone numbers. This lady at the airport giving her phone number to this person saying, “I want to be a part of something like that.”
Stories of people coming back from these trips, and the first time they have a meal, sitting outside at a restaurant over here, meeting somebody who’s very bitter towards church, and that person ended up coming over and talking with them, hearing about what they’ve been doing in Honduras and saying, “I want to be a part of something that changes my life like that.” Then, I got one on my desk this morning. By the way, there are some e-mails that I get tired of reading, but these e-mails do not get tired of reading at all. I read every single one of them. This one talks about this Venezuela trip saying, “You know, I’m so thankful that the charter did not work out.” They said that because they said, “If we had been on the charter, we would have traveled over to Venezuela with seventy other Christians. What good is that? We now have the opportunity to disperse between all kinds of people who don’t know Christ on our way there and our way back.”
That’s a good perspective on how God turns things around and gives us opportunities. This is fun to be a part of. This is the thrill of the Christian life, and we want to experience it. I believe we want to experience it outside this property and in all nations. We want to experience the thrill of this mission. This is abundant life, making the glory of God known to all nations. It’s why you say, “Well, I didn’t have that kind of experience. I didn’t like sleeping on the floor. I didn’t like doing this. That wasn’t very joyful for me.” Don’t miss it. It’s no longer circumstances that determine our joy in this picture. Acts 5:41 and 42. The apostles were getting threatened with their lives, and they walked away rejoicing because they had become worthy of suffering for the name of Christ. There’s now joy in suffering because of this mission. We want to experience the thrill of this mission.
Number nine, why we fulfill the Great Commission: Because the glory of Christ leaves us no other option. It says twice, verse 52 once and verse 53 once, “They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and they stayed continually at the temple praising God.” This is the first time in the book of Luke when Luke mentions Jesus being worshiped. He’s being worshiped. They’re seeing His glory. They see Him seated in heaven with authority over all rulers and authorities, and everything in the world is now subject to Him. They see His glory, and it compels them to go.
That’s exactly why in Acts 7, when Stephen’s about to be stoned, he looks up and he sees the glory of Christ, Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and it’s seeing His glory that compels him to say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” There he dies as the first Christian martyr. Why? Because the glory of Christ left him no other option. He wanted to live for His glory.
Now, I’m convinced the more we study His Word, the more we worship based on His Word, the more we will see His glory, and the more it will compel us to go. We won’t be able to help it. That’s an automatic thing when you see the glory of Christ. If you’re willing to go there and see the glory of Christ, the glory of Christ will leave us no other options. We will see that He is worthy of all of our worship, and we will see that He is worthy of the worship of every single person on the face of this planet. The glory of Christ leaves us no other option.
Number ten, why we will fulfill the Great Commission, because we are committed to being ready when Jesus comes back. In Luke 24, He goes up. Acts 1, He goes up again. Luke records this picture twice. Acts 1, an angel comes to these guys as they’re sitting there dumbfounded. What just happened? An angel comes, and he says, “Just as you have seen Him go up, one day He’s coming back down.” He’s coming back, and you know the New Testament actually ties Jesus’ return with this mission? Matthew 24:13, “The gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:13. When Jesus comes back, we will not be asleep as a church. We will be more than awake. We will be running obediently with the task which He has given us.
Now, some of you are thinking, “Okay, I like the thought of it, but to be honest, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be here tomorrow or that any one of us will be here tomorrow. So, how can you say that we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission?” You got me there. However, I want to tell you a story. The year was 480 B.C.. The greatest army the world had ever known led by the powerful Persian King Xerxes was crossing over into Europe. Scores of nationalities and tribes represented in this quarter of a million troops, 250,000. Eighty thousand troops are on horseback and on chariots, the rest of them marching around and archers. It is said that when they marched, the ground trembled. It was said that when they stopped to eat, it looked like locusts had devoured everything in their path, and they drank and whole pools and rivers were turned into mere trickle. They were a war machine, and they were headed into Greece to subdue Athens and Sparta. In their way stood a rag tag group of about 7,000 Greeks that assembled together in a narrow pass about twenty yards wide, but amidst that rag tag group of 7,000 Greeks, there were 300 Spartans, known as the boldest fighters of that day.
A Spartan mother was known to say to her son, “Come back with your shield or on it.” It’s not what you want to hear from your mom. They were lead by a 55 year old Spartan prince named Leonidas. It looked like a mock up operation for the Persian army, but after two days of fighting, that was not the case. They had been resisted over and over and over again, the unstoppables had been stopped. Xerxes panicked and, late on the second day, he sent in his own bodyguards. They were known as the immortals, to take care of this group of Greeks. However, later that night, the groups were betrayed, and somebody led the Persians to see how they could surround the Greeks and the Spartans. The next morning they awoke to see that there was no way out. Most of the army was released except for 300 Spartans and Leonidas and a couple of others that stood on one particular mound to make one desperate last stand. They were attacked, and they fought; every one of them fought to the end. It is said, when they lost their swords, they fought with their hands and teeth until each one of them fell on that battlefield.
Before they did, they sent one stirring a message that became known as their epitaph, and it was, “Tell the Spartans that we behaved as they wished us to, and we were buried here.” Those guys had no idea what those words would do to trigger a surge of pride throughout the Greek army that would then rise up and in the days to come halt the Persians in their route of the country. Thirty years later, a short thirty years later, the city of Athens would become the most influential city the world has ever known. They did their duty. They stood with courage, and all free men today owe their freedom that was taken by these guys. One French philosopher said 2,000 years ago, “There are triumphant defeats that rival victories.”
I tell you that story because I believe that in the third millennium of its existence, the church of Jesus Christ is facing the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced. For the first time, we are facing the world’s first truly global culture. Some believe that our faith should be simple and private, but I believe that view of faith is misguided. I’m convinced that there is no time like today for the church of Jesus Christ to rise up and fulfill the purpose for which we have been saved. We may not live until Jesus comes back, and we may not live to see every single people group on this planet reached for the gospel, but ladies and gentlemen, I want us to be a church that dies trying. I want us to sacrifice everything on the altar of fulfilling the mission for which He has saved us, so that it would be said to those who come behind us, “Tell our Savior that we behaved as He wished us to.”
Will you bow your heads with me? With our heads bowed, eyes closed, I want us to consider what this means for each of our lives. I want to invite us to do something we don’t always do, but in just a second, I’m going to invite people all across this room, young and old alike, new Christians, older Christians, who somewhere along the way, maybe it’s been your entire Christian life or maybe it’s just been recently you found yourself more in a spectator, or observer, mentality. There’s not been much preaching of the gospel from your lips. So, this morning, would you be willing to say, “I’m ready to be a participant in this mission.” Not by committing, necessarily, to go on a trip or committing to do this or that, but basically saying, “God, I surrender my life to preaching your gospel. I’m going to preach you. I’m going to share it. I don’t know how that looks. I don’t know how to do it. I’m going to trust the authority of your name and the power of your Spirit to help me out with that.”
However, I want to invite you as we come to the end of this series, I want to invite us to say to the faith family, “We will not be spectators. We want in on this thing.” So, right now across this room, maybe you’ve been on a trip and it’s opened you up that you want to be a participant now. Maybe you’ve been sitting on the sidelines and this morning God is speaking to your heart and saying, “I want you to be in on this thing. It’s time for you to make some changes to get in on this.”
However, all across this room, I want to invite you, as we continue in a state of prayer, just to rise up and to come down here to the front, if you’re able to kneel, otherwise just to kind of stand on the side. I want to invite us to have prayer for all of us who have lived in a spectator paradigm of church that are ready to say, “I’m ready to be a preacher of the gospel.” Over the next minute or two, I just want to invite you to rise where you are and come down here to the front. We’re going to have a prayer together. If that’s the case in your life right now, I want to invite you to stand down here in the front. Maybe it’s you as an individual. Maybe it’s you as a family. I’m not saying you have to have all the answers and know what this means for your life, but to say, “I’m not going to be a spectator anymore. I want in on this thing. I’m going to preach the gospel. I’m going to take the authority of the name of Christ for real, the power of the Spirit of Christ for real. I want in.”
Stand or kneel, whatever is most comfortable for you, and I want us to pray together. We have a message that transcends every culture in the world. We realize we are all preachers of the gospel. We have the authority in the name of Christ and the power of the Spirit of Christ. Our growth in Christ is dependent on our obedience to this picture. We want to experience the thrill of this mission. We want in. We want the joy and we want to connect God’s blessing with His purpose. We know He’s ready to bless us so that His purpose will be accomplished in us. We know that the glory of Christ leaves us no other option, and we are committed to being ready when Jesus comes back.
Dear God, I praise you for your grace and your mercy which you have showered out on this church in so many ways. I praise you for the opportunity and privilege of being a part of this faith family. I praise you for brothers and sisters all across this room. I praise you for what you’re doing, and I pray that you’re honored and glorified in your church. God, I want to pray on behalf of the men and women across the front here who are saying, “I’m not going to be a spectator.” Maybe they are praying this for the first time ever in Christianity, maybe for the first time in a while, that they want to preach the gospel. God, I pray that they would know the power of your Spirit. I pray that you fill them with your power so they would speak your Word boldly. I pray that you would open up opportunities, left and right, for them to see you at work and join you at work whether that’s speaking a short word here or sharing the gospel or sharing their story, whatever that looks like.
God, we pray that you would enable your people to preach your gospel. We’re going to trust in your power unleashed in your people. God, we pray that it will be said through The Church of Brook Hills that repentance and forgiveness of sins were preached in all nations. We praise you for the opportunity to be in this line throughout history of you saying, “I’m going to make my gospel, my salvation, my love, my grace known in all nations.” God, I pray that you would encourage them with the authority of your name, that they would not be dependent on their intellect or their reason or their capabilities; that they would take the authority of Christ that you have given to them, and you would show your glory through their weakness, or that you would show your power and your strength even in their weakness.
God, we pray the difficulties, the trials this may bring…God, we pray for the struggles that this might bring. God, we pray that you will grant us grace to rejoice in the face of struggle and the face of suffering, because we know that we are part of making your glory known. God, we come to you now, and we ask you to give us everything that we need to make this reality in our lives. God, we don’t rise from this prayer time and say, “Now, I’ve got to go do it on my own.” God, we rise with the power of the Spirit and the authority of your name and the promise that you are going to bless your plan, and God we walk in the confidence of that. God, we pray that you would give us everything we need to accomplish this mission in each of our lives and in this mission as a church. God, we pray that every people group on the planet would know the name of Jesus, and we pray that you would use us to make that a reality.