It’s so easy for churches to become self-focused. Our own comforts and concerns slowly begin to swallow up our time, energy, and resources. But Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations should compel us to move out with the gospel to a world in need. This is the church’s mission. In this third sermon in a three-part series on Matthew 28:16–30, David Platt encourages the church to make disciples and to multiply churches, both in our own neighborhoods and among unreached peoples across the globe.
We’ve been looking at the vision and goal that defines who we are and what we do as a church, as described in this statement: “We glorify God by making disciples and multiplying churches among all nations.” Over the past weeks we’ve seen that our vision is set on knowing, loving and glorifying God. We do this by growing as disciples of Jesus and giving our lives to making disciples of Jesus. Then last week we saw in Matthew 28:19 that our mission is to make disciples and multiply churches. Today we’re finishing out our stated goal—“…among all nations—”beginning in greater Washington, DC.
When our kids were younger, I remember one Saturday night we had gathered together for family worship. That next morning I was scheduled to preach on Matthew 28:18–20. So I said to my kids, “Let’s pray that tomorrow God would call someone from our church to go to another nation.” I looked at our son Caleb, whom we had adopted from Kazakhstan, and said, “And Buddy, tomorrow God could call somebody to take the gospel to Kazakhstan.” He smiled in response. Then our daughter from China said, “Maybe God will call somebody to go to China.” And she smiled.
Our other two children were born biologically here, so I said generally to them, “Maybe tomorrow God will call somebody to go to Africa.” And Joshua lit up. He said, “Is that where I’m from?” Caleb quickly responded, “No, Joshua, you’re from Alabama.” Joshua got a dejected look on his face, not really happy with his place in the world.
Make disciples of all nations
Today I want to show you, from cover to cover in the Scriptures, that this is what Jesus has called us to: making disciples of all nations. As it says in Matthew 29:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” That is God’s goal for the church, so our goal as a church is to see disciples made in all nations. As we tour the Bible, I want to show you how God has a purpose, from the beginning of the world, to make His grace and glory known in all nations. Don’t believe what I say, but see it for yourself in Scripture. If we’re not careful, we can miss this picture.
I remember that there came a point in my Christian life, after years of following Christ, when I suddenly saw what we’re going to walk through. But when I saw it, I thought, “This changes everything. God has made His goal clear from the beginning to the end of this Book. He wants His grace and glory and gospel known in all nations.”
One side note before we start our tour. When you hear the word “nations,” don’t think of geopolitical entities—the 200 or so countries we’re seeing represented in the Olympics right now. After all, these nations didn’t exist in the Bible in the same way they to today. Believe it or not, the United States of America has not always been around and is nowhere to be found in Scripture—nor are many other modern geopolitical entities.
So when Jesus used the word “nations” in Matthew 28:19, He used the word ethnee, from which we get the word ethnicities or ethnic groups. When you think about it, this makes a lot more sense. Most of us here are citizens of one nation—the United States. But we represent all kinds of different ethnicities. There are well over 100 distinct ethnic groups in McLean Bible church. So when you think about our church, or the city of Washington, DC, or our country, there are all kinds of different ethnicities represented. And this is true in other countries as well.
So when you read “nations,” think about ethnic groups or people groups, which is a term anthropologists use to describe groups of people who share a common language or cultural characteristics. These words are found all over the Bible: peoples, ethnicities, clans, tribes, families, nations. God’s goal is for all of them to know and enjoy and worship Him. This is what I will show you today, starting in Genesis 12:1–3, where God called Abraham to be the father of the people of Israel—but it wasn’t just about that nation.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So it’s not just about Israel; it’s about all the clans and tribes and families of the earth. Go next to Genesis 18:17: “The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?’” Then look at Genesis 22:17–18, right after Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac on the altar, where God says to Abraham:
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.
So from the very beginning, it wasn’t just about one nation. It was about all the nations knowing the grace of God.
Turn next to Genesis 26, where God speaks to Abraham’s son Isaac the same thing He said to Abraham. Verse four: “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Two chapters later, in Genesis 28, God gives the same promise to Isaac’s son Jacob, “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
These are the biblical patriarchs, and God says to all of them, “It’s not just about you. It’s about My blessing being made known among all the families, all the nations, of the earth. I want you to see that this picture plays out in every major person we read about in the Old Testament.
Turn next to Exodus 9:16. Here God is using Moses to deliver His people out of slavery in Egypt. Listen to what He says about why He’s doing this: “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth…”—among all the peoples. That’s the full picture of what God wants to do through Moses.
So who takes over after Moses? It’s Joshua. Look at what God says through Joshua to His people, as he’s leading them into the Promised Land. Joshua 4:23–24:
For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.
“So that all the peoples of the earth may know” God is mighty and fear Him—that’s Joshua.
Go next to 1 Chronicles 16. Here we find another prominent Old Testament person, King David. Here David is leading the people of God in a song of praise to God. Listen to what he says in verses 23–24: “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”
In the next book, we read about David’s son Solomon, who built a temple designed to be a display of God’s glory—not just to Israel but among the nations. Look at 2 Chronicles 6:32–33:
Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.
The whole purpose of the temple was so all the peoples of the earth might know and fear God. So that’s David and Solomon.
Our next stop is in Psalms. We could spend the rest of the day in Psalms showing this. David, Solomon and others have written songs of worship for the people of God. But hear how they emphasize the nations. Look first at Psalms 2:7–8, talking about God’s anointing on the king—not just David, but future kings, including the coming King Jesus.: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
Next go to Psalm 22, another psalm that has application to Jesus, because it’s a psalm He quotes on the cross. In verses 27–28 we read, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” This is a picture of all the families worshiping God and the nations being under His rule. Two more stops in the Psalms.
Psalm 46 is often quoted, beginning in verse one: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” We also quote verse ten, “Be still and know that I am God…” But many times we don’t know what the rest of that verse says. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Then one more, Psalm 67. This psalm is praying for God’s blessing on the people of Israel. But listen to how “nations” and “peoples” are repeated over and over and over again:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
The psalms are replete with the truth that God deserves glory among all the people, all the nations of the earth. Are you seeing the pattern?
We’ll look next at some of the prophets. Isaiah is a book with 66 chapters’ worth of prophecy, looking into the future. From the very beginning of this book we see this, in Isaiah 2:2–3:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
Then move on to Isaiah 52:10. Remember, these are God’s words to Isaiah, but also His words to us through him. “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Let me show you one more in the last chapter Isaiah.,. This is a great picture, where he’s talking about the future. Isaiah 66:18–19:
For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.
Then we’ll look at a some other prophets. First, in Daniel 7, there is a prophecy that was fulfilled in Matthew 28:18, when Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” Daniel had a vision, which includes what we read in Daniel 7:13–14:
Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man [Jesus], and he came to the Ancient of Days [God the Father] and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
That’s a picture of Jesus, to Whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given. He will receive dominion and authority, in order that all peoples and nations and languages would worship Him.
In addition to Daniel, there are a few smaller books written by prophets that we want to look at, as the Old Testament draws to a close. First, Zephaniah 2:11: “The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations.” Then in the next book, Haggai writes this in Haggai 2:7: “And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.” Moving to the next book, we read this in Zechariah 8:20–23:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.” Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
What a great picture of the nations just streaming to Israel, because they know God is with the people there. And one more in the last book of the Old Testament,. Malachi 3:12 says, “Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”
God is a god of all nations
Are you getting the point? This isn’t some isolated theme that appears every once in a while in Scripture. This all over the Bible. God is not just the God of one type of people. He’s the God of all peoples, all nations, all tribes, all families. He wants His grace and glory to be made known among all peoples. So it’s no surprise that when we get into the New Testament that Jesus says what He does in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Of course He would say that. He’s read the Old Testament. More than that, He wrote it.
Now let me show you a few places in the New Testament. I trust you know this is all over the New Testament, but look with me at Mark 11. I was reading this last week in my personal Bible reading. Remember the story when Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables in the temple? Why was He so angry? What led Him to do that? Listen to what He quotes from Isaiah 56, in Mark 11:17: “And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”
A little background on this. There were different courts in the temple—the court of Jewish men, the court of Jewish women, then there was the court of the Gentiles where the nations could come. Do you know where they set up all their tables to exchange money and make profit? Certainly not in the court of Jewish men or Jewish women. They set it up in the court of the Gentiles—and it infuriated Jesus, because they had basically said, “This is our place of worship—forget about the nations.” Jesus said, “No, I came for the nations. God deserves glory among the nations. My house is a house of prayer for all nations.”This language just keeps going. Luke 24:45–47 talks about Jesus came and died so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations. Anyone here who has come to worship with us today, we’re glad you’re here. The good news of the Bible is that Jesus has died on a cross for you. No matter what nation, tribe, tongue or people you are from, God loves you. Just like each of us, you’ve sinned against Him, but He has made a way for you to be forgiven of your sin against Him—not by what you do, but based on what He has done for you.
Jesus endured the judgment we deserved, dying for us, then He was raised from the grave, conquering death, so that all who trust in Him can be forgiven of their sin and have eternal life in Him. He says here in Luke 24:47 that He died so “…repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” Not just to a few people, but to all peoples everywhere. This is why, a couple books later, we read in Acts 1:8 that He says to His disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Then going on to Romans 16:25–27, Paul talks about how Jesus has died to “bring about the obedience of faith” among all the nations. In Galatians 3:8 he refers to all the promises we saw in the Old Testament and says they were fulfilled in Christ. Remember what God had promised to Abraham? It’s happening in Paul’s day, as the nations of the earth are experiencing the blessing of God through Jesus.
Then just one more in Revelation 7. We started this tour in Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible, where God said, “I’m going to make My blessing, My grace, known among all the nations.” This is where all of eternity ends up, in the last book in the Bible, in Revelation 7:9–10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Notice he lists all “tribes and peoples and languages,” just so we get the point. What God said in the very beginning—“I’m going to make My blessing and grace known among all nations for all eternity”—is heading toward the day when men and women from every nation, tribe, tongue and people will gather around the throne of God in Jesus and sing His praises for His salvation for all of eternity. That’s where all history is headed—and God designed it that way. It’s not just for one type of people, but for all types of people. This is why Jesus said back in Matthew 28:19, “Go, make disciples of all nations.”
Do you get the point? This is so important. I don’t think the church really understands this. We hear Scriptures like this and start thinking, “Ah, this is a missions sermon. I’m not called to foreign missions, so I guess this isn’t for me.” In other words, we can see global missions as an optional program in the church for those few people who are called to go. But brothers and sisters, I hope we’ve seen that global mission—the spread of God’s glory to all nations—is not an optional program in the church. It’s the very purpose of Christianity. It’s for each one of us. We exist as a church for the spread of God’s goodness and glory in the world. To be sure, we have different callings and vocations. I’m a pastor. You’re an accountant or lawyer or consultant or lobbyist. You work in this or that part of the government. You’re a teacher, a stay-at-home mom, a student—on and on and on. We all have different jobs.
Matthew 28:16–30 teaches us God has called all of us
But God has created and called every single one of us to play a part in the spread of His grace and His glory in all the world. You might say, “Well, my heart is for my country, the United States,” or for DC, or the DCMV area. “My heart is for my community.” We say things like this, but we need to step back and ask ourselves, “ased on all we’ve seen in the Bible, what is God’s heart for?” His heart is for all the world—all nations and all peoples. Sure, our country is big, but if we say we have a heart for our country, then that’s saying we have about 5% of God’s heart. And it’s almost like we’re proud of that. Surely we want God’s heart to be our heart, both individually and as a church. Without question, God’s heart is for the people right around us—but it doesn’t stop there. I was thinking about this last week with our Access Ministry. One of our leaders sent me a quick video from Friday night. Our volunteers, including all kinds of teenagers, were hosting a prom for special needs kids. I want to show it to you quickly.
Video question: What do you think about Night to Shine? What do you think is going to happen when you get there?
Response: I think red carpet, limo ride, getting your hair and make-up done, dancing, kareoke room—and I can’t wait to be crowned queen for the night.
Watching that, I was so thankful for this ministry; so thankful for this passion for kids and adults with special needs in this church. After I saw this, I was thinking later about this sermon. I thought, “That’s it.” Some of the most overwhelming pictures of poverty and oppression I’ve ever seen in the world deal with children with special needs. I’ve see a child with special needs, high in a south Asian mountain, chained to a barn outside with the animals because the community believed that child was cursed. I just thought, “God’s heart is for that child too.”
We want to show God’s love like this right around us—and far from us. So yes, there are all kinds of needs right around us. There always will be. There are so many needs in so many people’s lives in this church—and yes, we as a church are to love and serve and care for one another amidst those needs. But we also must lift our eyes to see the many people who have no clue about God’s love for them. They’re walking through all kinds of things.
Lift your eyes for a minute to a place like Yemen, a country we won’t see participating in the Olympics. They’re in the middle of a war and suffering right now. In the northern part of Yemen there are about eight million people—about the same population as Virginia. Do you know how many Christians there are in northern Yemen, out of eight million people? About 20 or 30. At some point we at least need to lift our eyes and see that there are more Christians in some of our Bible study classes in this church than there are in all of northern Yemen.
At some point we need to see that God’s heart is for those people, their families, their kids, knowing the real needs they’re walking through. He wants them to know His love. So God has not left us in the dark when it comes to His goal for the church. He wants His grace and glory known in all the world, among all nations, all tribes, all peoples, all tongues.
This is where we realize that in the Great Commission, Jesus is not just giving us a general command to make as many disciples as possible, wherever we live. The Great Commission is not a general command to make disciples wherever you want. No, this is a specific command to make disciples among every group of people on the planet. We are to go to every ethnee—to every type of ethno-linguistic group—and see disciples made there. That’s the goal of God’s church. We cannot stop until that goal is accomplished.
You may ask, “How are we doing?” Well, right now there are over 11,000 people groups in the world—distinct ethnic groups. Some people count over 16,000, depending on how you divide them, but there are at least 11,000 groups that share a common language and cultural characteristics. Out of those 11,000 groups of people, over 6,000 are still classified as unreached with the gospel.
Now, let me point out that unreached doesn’t just mean lost. This is so important. When we talk about unreached, we’re talking about people who don’t have access to the gospel. When we think of lost—people who live in sin apart from Christ—there are people in Washington, DC, who are just as lost as they are in North Korea. Anyone who is in sin and apart from Christ is lost. But there’s a difference. There are churches all over Washington, DC, that are preaching the gospel right now. There are Christians spread throughout this city who have the gospel.
In North Korea, there aren’t a lot of churches preaching the gospel. There aren’t a lot of Christians scattered around with the gospel. In fact, most of them have been put in prison. So there’s a big difference when it comes to access to the gospel. Sometimes people will say, “I don’t know why we talk about unreached people around the world when there are unreached people in my office or in my neighborhood.” But in reality, those people aren’t unreached. How do I know? Because they’re in your office. They’re in your neighborhood. They have access to the gospel—you’re it.
When we talk about unreached, we’re talking about people who are born and live and die, and most of them never have anyone who tells them about God’s love for them in Jesus. There are over 6,000 people groups who fit that description. If you’re in one of those groups, the likelihood is that you will never hear about Jesus. And if you don’t hear about Him, how can you believe in Him? This is what Paul says in Romans 10. If you don’t believe in Jesus, how can you be saved from your sin? You die in your sin.
People ask, “Well, how is that fair?” It’s almost like we start pointing a finger at God, as if we should question His character. But the real question is this: Why is the church that knows this gospel sitting back and saying, “Well, God has not called me to do that; my heart is not for them”? That makes no sense. Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has clearly called us as His people to make His grace and glory known among all peoples, and that changes everything we do as a church. It changes how we live, beginning right here in Washington, DC.
Think about it. God has put us in one of the most diverse and influential global cities in the world. We have an opportunity to make disciples among the nations right outside our front doors, in our workplaces, and all over this city. This is why we’re being intentional about creating ethnic fellowships, calling one another to intentionally reach out across ethnic/cultural/linguistic lines to spread the gospel throughout Washington, DC. We’re encouraging one another in this way.
Matthew 28:16–30 calls us to go far
I think of some brothers and sisters with whom I talked last week—from Russia, Persia, Salvadore, Nepal, Ethiopia and other African, Asian and Latin American countries. As a multi-ethnic church, we have the opportunity to make disciples of the nations right here. We begin in Washington, DC, but we don’t stop there. We look for opportunities to take the gospel to people and places far from here. This is exactly what Jesus was telling His disciples to do in Matthew 28.
When He says later, in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” He’s telling them to spread out and take the gospel far from where they were. We as a church want to obey that command, to follow Jesus’ leadership to the ends of the earth. If there are thousands of people groups around the world who have little to no access to the gospel, then at some point somebody’s got to go to them. Let’s think of ways we can to do this.
We go short-term, for a week or two, as we’re able. Often short-term mission trips get a bad rap—and sometimes for good reason, simply because they tend to turn into short-term tourism. You can’t really make disciples in a week. But when short-term mission trips are connected to long-term disciple-making processes, overseas and back here, then they are hugely valuable. This is what we see Jesus doing with His disciples. He sent them out on short-term mission trips. This is why we as a church have opportunities for you this year to serve in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
I think of one particular trip in which we’re inviting people from all our campuses to spend a week together in Ethiopia. We’re working there alongside churches among orphans. I think of our efforts to take the gospel to unreached people groups not just in Ethiopia but throughout the horn of Africa. Other campus pastors will come with me on that trip, and I invite you and your family to join us in this concentrated focus in Ethiopia. We can use doctors, carpenters, children’s workers, Bible teachers, law enforcement personnel, step dancers…yes, I said step dancers. You name it. All kinds of people, all kinds of domains. I’ve often encouraged people to consider giving 2% of your year—about a week of your time—spreading God’s grace in another context. It will totally transform the way you look at the other 98% of the life you live right here. Some people will go spend 2% somewhere else and they’ll decide, “I think I’d rather spend 98% of my time over there and 2% back here.” If that’s the case, great! You don’t even have to come back. We’ll send your stuff to you.
So going short-term, for a week or two, may lead you to go on what we call “mid-term,” for a month or two, or a year or two. We have all kinds of opportunities for members of this church to go spend a month, or a summer, or a semester, or a year or two, somewhere else in the world. In fact, I would encourage every single student—as you’re getting up in high school and then as you’re in college—spend at least one summer, if not a semester or a year, somewhere else in the world, sharing the gospel.
This is a unique time in your life for you to be a part of what God is doing around the world. We want to help you do that. Parents, call your kids to do that. You might ask, “Is this like the Mormonization of McLean Bible Church?” And the answer is, “It sure is—except we’re doing it with the true gospel.” If Mormon families and students are that committed to taking a false gospel around the world, then what in the world are we doing with the true gospel?
So students, singles, couples, families, senior adults—anybody who has a month or two or more to go—we want to help you go. And not just mid-term, but even to go long-term. I want to be clear. I’m not saying I believe God is calling every single one of us to move to another part of the world for the spread of the gospel. He might, but I don’t think He is. At the same time, I am confident He’s calling many from McLean Bible Church to go long-term.
Just think about it. If we have over 10,000 people in gatherings today, and there are over 6,000 people groups around the world that have little to no access to the gospel, then surely in light of what we’ve seen in Scripture God is calling many of us to go to them.
He’s calling many of us to follow in the footsteps of George Lisle, the first missionary from America. Unfortunately, not many people know about him—not a lot has been written about him. But that’s because he was African-American. George Lisle started African-American churches among slaves in Georgia, then left as an indentured servant to go to Jamaica, where he started planting churches amidst fierce persecution. There was a Jamaican law that forbade preaching to slaves. He gave his life to long-term mission work and his legacy is felt today—not only across Jamaica, but in America and in Africa, as he raised up other missionaries to go long-term to the nations. He was a slave who spent his life for the spread of God’s grace and glory in the world. So how much more should we, with our freedom, follow in his footsteps?
We as a church are going to be intentional about sending brothers and sisters from among us to the nations, through all kinds of avenues. Some may go long-term as their job. In other words, if God is calling you in this way, and we sense that together, then we will work with you to find ways to financially support you taking the gospel to the nations. That’s one of the beauties of partnering together with the International Missions Board (IMB), because thousands of churches like McLean pool their resources to financially support thousands of missionaries around the world who are making disciples and multiplying churches among the nations.
So you may go long-term as your job, or you may go long-term through your job. In reality, many in this church have jobs that already open doors to go around the world, to go and work in another country. You don’t need to find support for that; you already have avenues to go and live for the spread of the gospel. A brother came up to me just the other day who works for the state. An opportunity opened up in the Middle East for him and his family, so he took it. He said, “All right, I’ve signed up; I’m going to the nations. So, what do I do now?”
There are so many people in this church with so many opportunities. What if God has given us those opportunities because He wants His grace and His glory known all over the world through our lives? All this depends on thinking this way, on having a different perspective—a God-centered, biblical perspective on the goal of our lives and His church. This is the goal God has given us together. Yes, it plays out in our lives in different ways, but this all leads to three exhortations I want to give us today. If Jesus has given us in Matthew 28:19—and God has given us all over the Bible—a goal of seeing disciples made and churches multiplied among all the nations, beginning right here, then this is how I want to challenge us.
Let’s pray zealously for God’s glory among the nations.
Let’s pray like we have God’s heart and like we want more of it. Do you realize that you and I can be a part of what God is doing in North Korea every morning from our knees? That is an awesome privilege. I would ask you to look at your prayer life right now. What evidence is there of a zeal for God’s glory among the nations? Are you praying and pleading for His grace to spread to all peoples?
Let me encourage us to remember how Jesus taught us to pray. “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” This is so simple. In my quiet time I use a couple apps. You might write these down as tools. Operation World is a calendar you can pray through over the course of a year, and you’ll end up praying for every geo-political entity in the world and all the people in them. IMB has a prayer app. Joshua Project has an app. In my time with the Lord in the morning, I just press one button and it opens up to the Enchee people in China today. It’s an unreached people group. It just takes 30 seconds to hear about this people group that is .06% Christian. Most of them in southwestern China have never heard the gospel. So I plead, “God, please draw the Enchee people to know Your grace and Your glory.” When you start praying like that, day in and day out, just a few seconds, you start to get God’s heart for the world.
Let this affect the way you view the news. Don’t just look for the latest gossip or the news on politics. Look at the world-news app you use and start praying for the spread of the gospel in the midst of all these different people. When you see what’s going on in this or that part of the world, just pray, “God, make Your grace and glory known to the people there.” If you’re watching the Olympics, let the Lord use this event to lead you to pray for the nations. Let’s think that way.
Let’s pray zealously for God’s glory among the nations.
Matthew 28:16–30 calls us give sacrificially for God’s glory among the nations.
Let’s acknowledge the obvious: we live in one of the wealthiest places in the entire world. What if God has given us such wealth—not so we could have more comforts in our country, but so that others among the nations might know the grace, goodness and glory of our God? It’s what He’s called us to. How does our budget reflect a sacrificial devotion to seeing God’s grace and glory spread among all peoples? I want to challenge us as a church, through the church, to give to the spread of God’s glory among the nations. What if God has willed our wealth for the sake of His worship? Psalm 67 says that’s exactly what He’s done. He’s blessed us so that the nations might know He is good and He is God.
Let’t not miss the purpose of our wealth.
Matthew 28:16–30 calls us to go willingly.
I think this applies in two ways. First, let’s go willingly right where we live. This is that “beginning in greater Washington” part of our goal as a church. God has put you and me here together for a reason: He wants His grace and His glory to be made known in the DMP area. He wants disciples to be made and churches to be multiplied right here. So let’s give ourselves to that, just like we talked about last week. As you give your life to disciple making right here, you’re part of God’s global plan—right where we live.
Then, let’s go willingly wherever God leads. Let’s open up our lives. I challenge every follower of Christ—every member of this church—open up your life. Say, “God, do You want me to go somewhere short-term? Mid-term? Long-term?”—knowing God’s going to lead us in all kinds of different ways. Just because God leads one person this way and another person in a different way doesn’t mean this person is super-spiritual and the other person is not. The issue is not where or when you go. The issue is whether you are obedient and your life is surrendered to Him.
This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. It’s what we’ve seen over the past couple weeks, that our lives belong to Him. He is Lord. So in your life, in your family, say, “Lord, here we are. Lead us however and wherever You want.” Just pray that and see what God does. Some of you might say, “I don’t know if I can honestly pray that to God. What if He leads me to west Africa in the middle of Boko Haram? What if He leads me to go somewhere in this or that part of the Middle East, or this remote area of Southeast Asia? I don’t know if I can actually pray that?” If theset questions come to your mind, I want to encourage you don’t forget Who God is. He loves you so much. If you can trust God to save you from your sins for all of eternity, then you can trust Him to lead you on this earth—and not just to lead you, but to satisfy you every step of the way. Mark it down. You will never, ever, ever regret giving your life to God’s goal. Never.
Let me close with a story. Karen Watson was part of a church in California. One day she sensed God saying, “I want you to go long-term.” So this single woman sold all she had, left her home and job, and moved to the Middle East to serve specifically in Iraq as a missionary. She was in a vehicle with four other missionaries one day when it was ambushed with gunfire. Karen Watson, along with three others—Larry and Jean Elliot and David McDonald—was killed. Just before she left to go overseas though, she gave her pastors a letter. I want you to hear what she said.
She wrote, “Dear pastors, you should only be opening this letter in the event of death. When God calls, there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible and my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place—I was called to God. To obey Him was my objective. To suffer was expected. His glory was my reward. His glory is my reward. I want to care more than some think is wise. I want to risk more than some think is safe. I want to dream more than some think is practical. I want to expect more than some think is possible. I was called, not to comfort or success, but to obedience.” She closed by saying, “There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you and my church family. In His care, Karen.”
This is my prayer for our hearts, for us individually in this church and for us collectively as a church, that we would care more than some think is wise, risk more than some think is safe, dream more than some think is practical and expect more than some think is possible. I pray that we would be a people who are called—not to comfort or success, but to obedience. May our goal to be His glory and may our reward be knowing and serving Him, however and wherever He leads. If we live like that, church, then we will have no regrets.
O God, we have seen in Your Word, with our own eyes, Your zeal for the spread of Your grace and Your glory among all the nations, among all the peoples. So very simply, with our lives and with this church, we pray that You would use us however You will for the spread of Your grace and Your glory among all the nations. God, we want to play our part. For everyone of us—in our lives, in our families, and then as a church—we want to play our part in seeing Revelation 7:9–10 become a reality. So don’t let us live ultimately with any other goal in mind than that. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.