Matthew 28:20 | Teach Them Full Obedience | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: Matthew 28:20
Open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 28 for the second to last time. Next week we’ll conclude this series on a great, high, and wonderful note.
And then some of you have asked what we’re going to be doing after the great commission series. Well, we’ll have one day, one Sunday together, Resurrection Sunday, where I’ll do kind of a stand-alone message from Revelation 1, and we’ll call it Overcome the Fear of Death. So that Resurrection Sunday, so that Easter Sunday, I would encourage you to invite people here who maybe do not know Christ, do not know the gospel, maybe some people who if they were honest, they would be afraid to die. That will be a message for them as the Lord Jesus Christ tells us to fear not because he has overcome death, and that’s the future that we have coming.
Matthew 28. We’re in our great commission series; the resurrected King gathers his disciples, and he gives them a mission. And we started talking about evangelism. He gave them the mission early on, go make disciples, and we’ve basically said that that is for all of us to do. We understand that.
He said, lo, I’m with you always, to the end of the age, so this is a commission until he comes back. Well, the commission isn’t done yet. We still continue on. It wasn’t just for the apostles; it’s for us as well.
And then he says, go out to all the world, and so we talked about that idea. Christians are concerned that people around the world would worship their Lord. He’s not just a God of America or a God of Israel or a God of Mexico or a God of any particular nation; he is to be worshiped by all nations.
And then last week we kind of came to the turning point in the great commission, once they’re saved now, then you baptize them. We taught on baptism, believers’ baptism.
And now, we get to the other side of the great commission coin. Now that people are saved in Christ, what happens next? Well, we, as all believers—not just the pastors and elders, but as all believers—we teach new believers. We teach all believers, to observe, or obey, all that Christ has commanded.
So let me read, starting in verse 19:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Look to the person on your left right now. Yeah, sorry those of you on the aisles. Yeah. Now look to the person on your right. Do you know what the Lord wants from that person? The Lord wants them to grow every day more and more to look like Jesus Christ. That’s what he wants from that person. That’s what he wants from all of us, and that’s clear in a number of places in the New Testament. To grow into a mature man. Who is the man? It’s Jesus Christ. Colossians 3—to grow into one body, one man. That’s Jesus Christ. We are to grow into one man.
The question is how do we do that? It’s a good question to ask, and this text this morning gives us the answer. So, I’m telling you, I’m telling my own soul, I am to grow every single day more and more to look like Jesus Christ. How do I do that? It’s all in here.
And so that’s why once someone gets saved, it puts them on a path of obedience, daily obedience, to the word of God, to what Christ has taught. We are in a daily path of obedience to what Christ has taught. This word needs to be central in our lives, so that we can grow by the power of the Spirit and thereby be pleasing to the Lord.
So this morning, two necessary truths to understand if we are going to grow together. The Lord doesn’t write his Bible just to a bunch of individuals. He writes the New Testament to the churches. Churches grow together. You see Ephesians 4—we grow together. You see 1 Corinthians 12-14—we’re serving and caring for one another so that we would all grow together into Christ. It’s not just enough for a believer to grow by themselves. That’s not what the Lord intended. They grow with the other believers in the church. We grow together; we’re used in each other’s lives together, in order to grow into the image of Jesus Christ.
1. The task of bringing about obedience.
So this morning we look at two necessary truths to understand if we’re going to grow together, and the first one is this. We’re going to understand this: The task of bringing about obedience. What is the task of bringing about obedience in a believer?
Well now, it’s important to understand, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we grow, it’s the work of the Spirit. But what’s the task that the Spirit uses? What’s the function the Spirit uses? He uses teaching. The Spirit uses teaching, teaching in the body, in the church, teaching from the word of God. So the task of bringing about obedience is certainly empowered by the Spirit, but the task itself is to teach the word of God. He says “teaching them to observe.”
Now, before we start talking about obeying so that we look more and more like Jesus Christ, we have to kind of set some foundations. You ask the average Joe walking on the street who’s never heard of Christianity, who has never heard of Christ, the first command to them is not obey so that you look more like Christ. The first command to them is repent of the fact that you don’t and believe in Jesus that he forgives your sins, and then he’ll put you on a path of obedience. So you can’t obey apart from the Spirit. You can’t obey apart from being a believer, the way the Lord intends you to obey.
So, we’re not saying obey so that you can be saved. We’re saying, obey because you are saved, and now you have the power to obey, and that makes you look like Christ, further obedience. So we have to be very clear. Our position in Christ is secure, 100% fixed. When you come to Christ, he forgives all of your sin—past, present, future. You know how God the Father looks at each one of you believers this morning? He looks at you as if you’re perfect. I hope that’s encouraging. I need to hear that a lot. The Father looks at us as if we are perfectly righteous. That’s our position.
Now, does that mean in a day-to-day living out this life, day-to-day pursuit, that we are perfect? No. Ask the person to your left or your right—no, don’t do that. Our position is one of perfection. Until we are with Christ in heaven and glorified completely, we’re not perfect in how we respond to him. That’s why he says—these people are in an environment of grace, believers—and now, teach them to observe all I’ve commanded them, so that they can grow more and more into the image of Christ.
And that’s where we are—the church. We come in every Sunday; we open our Bibles every day. Whenever it is when the word of God encounters our hearts, our desire is to be more obedient to him out of a heart of love because we’re totally secure and totally perfect in his eyes, but we want to respond to him the right way with daily obedience.
Notice he says teach them. Teach. Let’s talk about the word “teach” for a little bit. Teach. Instruct by word of mouth. You get that. You understand what teaching is. This commission is not just about saving people. So go preach the gospel to people; once they’re saved, they’re going to heaven; don’t worry about ever seeing them again. That’s not the message. Once they’re saved, they’re saved into a body of believers where they’re going to be taught and fed.
Every time I hear about someone new coming to Christ, I have this joy in my heart, just like you do. I have this joy in my heart, but immediately I have this, okay, how are they hearing the word of God now? Where are they sitting themselves? Where are they sitting to where this is ruling over them and the Lord’s word is governing their life and teaching them new things? I almost have this kind of panic—okay, now what? Where are they plugged in?
So I’ll ask new believers, so where are you going to church? Where are you plugged in? Do you have someone helping you understand the Bible, teaching you the Bible? And listen: This isn’t just for new believers. It’s for all of us until we reach glory one day. We’re all being constantly fed and equipped and nourished so that hopefully we can grow more and more and more into the image of Christ. But we do that by teaching. Teaching.
Now remember, a disciple is a learner, so a new Christian—a disciple of Christ—we never graduate from being a disciple until heaven. Even then we’ll be learning things. We’ll see him as he is. We’ll see things clearly in a way that we don’t always get right here, but we’re always to be learning. A disciple is a learner.
But in the body, people are gifted in the church to teach for the purpose of Christlike maturity. People are gifted by the Lord to the church to teach in order to see other people grow into Christlikeness. That’s the idea. And it’s not just one man; there’s a number of people in the body. There’s a number of people in this body with teaching gifts that can help do that.
Ephesians 4:11-13 says this: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”—see how this is corporate?—“for building up the body of Christ, until”—until what? What are they teaching us to do? What’s the goal? “Until we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” There it is. We teach so that people can grow together and look more and more like Christ together. That’s the idea.
But you know, this isn’t just for the elders, some people with a teaching gift. All believers are expected to have an influence on other believers. Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ [he’s talking to the church here, the church at large] dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing [even warning sometimes] one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
So there is this grace-saturated environment where people are praising the Lord and singing and praising, and we’ve got the word dwelling in us. We read the word; we understand the word; the Holy Spirit is using it in our hearts, and we let it spill out onto one another as we see one another in need and as we try to help one another grow. That’s the environment that’s expected in a church. That’s the environment.
Not just the pastor teaches, or the elder teaches. In a sense, everyone teaches one another, whether it’s through a text message reminding them of Scripture or praying Scripture with someone, reminding someone of the Scriptures, or even teaching a Bible study. It can happen in a number of ways. But we know the word so well, and we’re striving to know it so well that we can help other people grow in the body. That’s the idea.
Now, teaching isn’t always positive or easy. It’s not. We need to embrace that idea. One pastor says, “The Bible isn’t hard to understand; it’s hard to swallow.” And that’s true sometimes.
Colossians 1:28—listen to this. This is for the leaders of the church. Paul is saying this about the apostles and then thereby the shepherds and elders of the church. Listen to Colossians 1:28. Listen to these words: “Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” That’s the second time in Colossians where Paul’s talking about teaching the body, teaching other Christians, and he uses the word “warning.” It’s not always an easy, just kind of, here’s a little nugget of truth; go about your day; everything’s okay. Sometimes there are some challenges as we teach.
Turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. I want to trace this idea of teaching through 2 Timothy. Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, who was a fairly new elder, and Paul taught him how to teach and benefit the church. So I want to trace through the second letter just this idea of teaching so that we can kind of see, Lord, how are we supposed to do it? How are we supposed to view teaching?
2 Timothy, starting in chapter 2, Paul says this—actually chapter 2, verse 1. 2 Timothy 2:1: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2). So Paul’s saying, this is a relay race.
Where did Paul get his information from? The Lord. Who did Paul pass it on to? Timothy. Who did Timothy pass it on to? Faithful men in the church. Who do faithful men in the church pass it on to? The others in the church. It’s a relay race from one person to the next to the next to the next to the next to the next to the next … down to Canyon Bible Church of Prescott. And we teach one another. We keep teaching. So Paul tells Timothy, teaching’s gonna be a big part of this whole church thing. Has to be. 2 Timothy 2:2.
Now go to 2 Timothyt 2:14. 2 Timothy 2:14: “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. [Timothy,] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15). So you learn more about teaching there. First Paul says, “charge them.” A Christian teacher’s job is to charge the people under his care. That’s not always welcomed nowadays. It’s not always easy to receive. And it’s not because the Christian teacher has arrived and he has it all together. That’s not it at all. But he must be speaking the word of God. He must be speaking the word of God.
He says, charge them about not quarreling about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. And then he tells Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.” The teacher’s job is to get it right. Don’t start charging people if you’re not speaking this accurately. Some of us have had much of that in our church backgrounds. People do not handle this rightly, but they still charge us to do certain things that aren’t even in here. That’s not good. We must charge people with the word of God—nothing else—with the word of God.
2 Timothy 4. 2 Timothy 4:1-2—Paul says this: “I charge you [so Paul’s charging Timothy] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.” Okay, if Paul was writing that letter to me, about this time I’d say, okay, I’m listening. I charge you, Timothy, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus who’s gonna judge the living and the dead, so he’s saying, Timothy, I’m charging you to do something, and God is watching. You’d better be faithful to this.
What does he charge Timothy to do? Verse 2: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” I want you to notice some things. Paul tells Timothy not just to teach the word. Do you see another word in that verse? Preach. There’s two different words in the Greek used in that one verse. Preach and teach.
Preaching is different than teaching. Teaching is passing along information about something, being very careful to get something right and to teach people what something says or what’s true. Preaching does that with—the Greek word is pathos—emotion. It’s the difference between [in monotone voice], “Son, don’t walk into the street because a car could hit you and something bad could happen. It’s happened before. Cars go fast. You can’t get out of the way.” That’s teaching. Preaching is, “Do not go near the street because something bad can happen.” There’s a difference there.
Paul commands Timothy, in the presence of God who will judge Timothy’s faithfulness here, to do both. Preach and teach. Preach and teach. And how’s Timothy supposed to do that? Preach with an angry, frowning face so people get the word of God. That’s not what he says. Notice: “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove [another tough word—isn’t that a tough word?], rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
So there are warnings to give. There are rebukes to give as the word gives them, but we do that with complete patience, very carefully, because we want to be right about what God says, not about what we say. This isn’t always appreciated today—preaching.
Look at verse 3. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). A preacher, a teacher—they’re supposed to do both things. They’re supposed to do so patiently. Teach. Preach. With patience. But even when they do that, people will not like the preach part. People would rather have their ears tickled than sometimes to be challenged.
I tested this out last week. I went behind my little middle son, Gabriel. Some of you have seen Gabriel. He’s the one who’s very tiny with the high-pitched voice. I went behind his little shaggy head, and I was just kind of rubbing his hair a little bit, and then I tickled his ears. And you know what he did? First thing he did. Smiled. Laughed. Before he dropped to the floor and tried to get away.
Tickling of the ears makes us smile. Sometimes the preaching of the word doesn’t immediately; but that’s okay, because—remember what I said before—we are saved. We are secure. You and I cannot out-sin God’s love for us. Do you hear that? We cannot out-sin God’s love for us.
When I challenge my sons and they disobey, I don’t put them up for adoption. I look at how they’re making bad decisions, and I want to bring them closer to me. I want you to understand what I’m saying to you, because I love you and I want what’s best for you. You cannot out-sin God’s love for you.
But your sin’s going to be challenged in an environment of faithful preaching and teaching. And that’s good. Why? Because I need to be challenged because I want to look more like Jesus tomorrow than I did today. And so do you. And so this is the Lord’s prescription. This isn’t just the way Andrew does it or Brad Penner does it or any other leader. This is the Lord’s prescription for teaching and exhorting and being patient. It’s the Lord’s agenda here for us to grow together.
So people have tickling ears and people won’t want to sit under this always. Just give me a sermon where I never have to be challenged. That’s not what the Lord intended. But we preach and we teach clearly. Why? What’s the goal of all that?
Turn back to 1 Timothy. 1 Timothy, chapter 1. Paul’s first letter to Timothy. What’s the goal of all this preaching, teaching, exhorting with patience, rebuking? What’s the goal of all of this? And in some environments that you’ve been in—I understand this because I’ve heard of it and I’ve been in these environments too—it seems like the goal is for the preacher to preach with a frown on his face so that people will just do things the preacher wants. So the preacher can have a bigger congregation. So the preacher can have everyone looking like he wants them to look. Those aren’t the goals.
I pray that this is the goal of my preaching and anybody else’s preaching or teaching in the body of Christ: 1 Timothy 1. Look at verses 3 through 5. “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4). So, Timothy’s got to guard the flock and make sure people are being faithful to teach the word in that flock.
Verse 5: “The aim of our charge [or instruction, or teaching—the aim, the goal of why we’re teaching] is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The goal of our preaching is that we all would love Christ more with a sincere faith, good conscience, pure heart. That’s the goal. The goal of preaching is not just to get people to do the right thing. That’s not it. It’s that they would be obedient because obedience reflects a love for Jesus Christ.
I love my wife. I want to do things she wants me to do. I want to honor her. If I never cared what she said—she wants me to do this; I’m not gonna do it. She wants me to do that; I’m not gonna do it. She wants me to kind of be more like this; I’m not gonna do it. You could question if that was my pattern for a long time, do you really love your wife? When we love someone, we want to please them, and the Lord said, if you love me you will obey my commandments. He didn’t say, obey my commandments, and then I’ll love you. He said, if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments. And we get that in every human relationship we’re in. We get that.
The goal of all this preaching and teaching isn’t to be “angry Bible guy.” It’s not to be challenging just to be challenging. It’s so people can see, oh, this is an area of my life I want to do well because I love the Lord, and this is what he says. I love him. I want to grow and be obedient. That’s the goal.
You know who needs preaching? I need preaching. My heart can all too often grow cold and distant from the Lord. I need to be reminded and exhorted of all that he’s done for me, all that I have in Christ, so then I can obey him and I want to be faithful to him and love him. We all need that. The Lord expected that to be the pattern of the church.
So teach them. Teach them to obey, or observe, all that I’ve commanded you. Teach them to observe, obey. Teach them to conform one’s action to something. That’s what this is saying. The word “obey,” or observe, means to play close attention to. Deuteronomy 5:32: “You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” It’s to pay close attention to, and the word picture is like a prison guard watching a prisoner. You’re paying attention to what God says and to do what he says. That’s what Jesus is saying here. Teach them to observe all that I’ve commanded.
Now listen, the verse doesn’t say, teach them all that I’ve commanded. Isn’t that interesting? It says teach them to obey all that I’ve commanded. Now, I’ll be honest. I’d be liked by a lot more people if I would just teach what the Bible said. But he says, teach them to obey what I’ve said.
Our job together—not just from here—our job together is to teach one another how to obey more faithfully. We’re all in this together. We don’t just teach the Bile; we teach how to obey the Bible in a context of grace and love and security.
And this is joyful for a disciple. A disciple—a new disciple—you see it in the new believer’s eyes. They want to obey what the Lord says. You see it in your eyes. I see it in your eyes. Just bring me the Bible. Bring me the Bible; I want to be obedient to what the Lord says because I love him. That’s the attitude.
Psalm 119:34-35: “Give me understanding”—it’s a prayer. The psalmist says this: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” That’s the cry of the believer. “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” Do you hear the joy in that?
That’s why I love so many of you coming to me and saying, I want to be in a Bible church. I love being in a Bible church. You’re great for the heritage you’ve got even at Canyon PV. Some of you being there, you had a Bible church teaching you the Bible, and you rejoice in that; you love it. Why? Because you want to be obedient to the Lord, and you want to do what he says. You want to hear what he says—not some other guy. You want to hear what he says. 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” There’s a welcoming here of the word of God speaking to us.
James Boice, who is now with the Lord, a faithful preacher, said this: “Robust disciples are not made by watered-down teaching.” Robust disciples are not made by watered-down teaching. We teach this word as it’s laid out, and we see disciples grow.
And so, this verse, tenor of our verse—Matthew 28—the tenor is that we, disciples, existing disciples, would be teaching other disciples. That’s the idea. Now, that’s the first thing we must understand. We must understand the task of bringing about obedience. So the Holy Spirit uses teaching of the word to bring about obedience.
2. The totality of the obedience.
Next, secondly, let’s look at the totality of the obedience. The totality of the obedience. He says, teach them to observe most of what I’ve commanded you. No. Teach them to observe all that I’ve commanded you. We obey, we strive to obey, we should strive to obey in all of our conduct. Our entire being. That’s the goal. Christ calls his disciples to be aware of their entire lives.
Now, the puritans used to have a term. They called the sin that you struggled with the most—and I won’t ask you to say it out loud, but think of that sin that you tend to struggle with the most—they called that your besetting sin. The one that you just wish that you had an ax, and you could cut its head off. Get rid of that thing! Can’t wait for heaven so that I don’t do this anymore, am not tempted to do this. That’s your besetting sin. It’s a good thing to strive to put that to death, but beware of viewing your entire Christianity through the lens of just your besetting sin.
Hey, brother or sister, how you doing today in Christ? Oh, I was angry again with my husband, or wife, or whatever it may be. You know this about me. That’s what I struggle with the most. Be careful of viewing your entire Christian life through that one lens. The Lord calls for an understanding of our entire Christian life.
So whenever the word of God is spoken or read or understood or studied, we are seeing the things in here that people have done in the past, and he tells us what not to do here in the present that we can do and therefore sin against him. We want to know, okay, how can I disobey in this way. How do I disobey in this way sometimes? We want to know that. We want to obey in all of our conduct.
I used to be a youth pastor, and you’d sit in a circle with your students after a teaching time, and they’d go through small group, and they’d ask for prayer in certain areas, and you’d have, you know, a number of people praying the same thing every week. You’d have a young man, an earnest young man, I just pray that I’d stop being lazy. I don’t do my homework; I don’t do this and that; I just—I gotta—I gotta work harder. Or, pray for the lust I have in my heart still and pray for this and that. And the fear is, that we’d be so concerned about that one sin that we’d forget about other things that the Lord would intend for us to be obedient in.
For example, the lazy kid or the lustful kid who’s always praying about those things—but I heard how you talked to your mom when she dropped you off for youth group earlier too. I’m also gonna pray that you would honor your mother. I’m also gonna pray for this or that. It’s important. The Lord says, tell them to obey all that I’ve commanded.
1 Peter 1:15: “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” so examine your entire life. Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me.” That’s a prayer inspired by the Spirit to be in the Scriptures for us. God, search me, try me, know me. Show me if there’s anything in me that’s displeasing to you, “and lead me in the way everlasting!”
1 Corinthians 10. You don’t have to turn there, but you can note it. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13—it’s interesting what Paul does in that passage. He goes back to Old Testament Israel and tells the believers in Corinth, look at what they did back here. And realize that you can be tempted in the same areas. In that one passage (1 Corinthians 10:6-13) Paul is saying, when you read your Old Testament, pay attention. Before we go, “Ugh, I would never complain in the wilderness after the Lord sent me through the Red Sea and gave me manna. I would never complain.” Well, I think they probably thought that too.
But he’s teaching them a message: Understand that our hearts are prone to wander. The old hymn—“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, take and seal it. Lead me to your courts above.” Our hearts can wander sometimes, and that’s why he commands us to be taught about our entire lives. Teach them all I’ve commanded. Jesus commanded a lot of things to his disciples. You can see that in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Then Jesus told his disciples, go and preach the word. Go and teach my sheep. Feed my sheep. You see that in the end of John where he’s telling Peter, go feed my sheep. Well, you know how the disciples have done that? They’ve given us this, given us the New Testament. So you get the gospels—what Jesus was teaching—and then you get the New Testament epistles, which is what Jesus’ representatives taught his fellow believers about what Jesus taught. So we’re to obey the entire New Testament, and then (1 Corinthians 10) one of those apostles told the church to pay attention to the Old Testament as well. So, teach them all I’ve commanded you. Actually that’s wrong. Teach them to observe all I’ve commanded you. That’s what he said. Teach them to observe all that I’ve commanded you.
So we need to see that if we want to grow together and look more and more mature in Christ together, we do that by teaching and by teaching all that Christ has commanded. Those are the two truths we need to understand. This passage calls disciples of Christ to help teach one another the word.
And again, in your life, how does this apply in your life? Well, I don’t know that many of you would want to come up here and do what I do every Sunday. Maybe some of you would, and that’s great. We can talk about that. But you don’t have to do it from here. And you don’t—well, I’m not really a Bible study leader. I don’t really have the gift of teaching. That’s okay. Not everyone does. But Colossians 3:16 expects you to have the word of God so that in the right time and in the right place, you can help another believer grow in Christ.
So how could that be? Maybe it’s tonight when you’re on a phone call with your believing daughter who lives in Arkansas. Maybe you can just help her one little way. Honey, be obedient in this way. Honey, John 17 says this. Honey, Matthew 5 says this. That’s what we’re talking about here. That helps disciples grow. You can think of ways when people have brought the word of God to you and said, I think you should do this or respond to it this way. You love those things. That’s what helps us grow. Teaching.
This passage also expects that disciples would be open to the word of God in their own lives. So is there any way that you’ve not been open to the word of God? This is calling for us to be obedient to this word, to listen, to hear from it. Again, not to obey just so we can say, okay, the preacher wants me to obey; I’ll obey. That’s not it at all. That’s not it at all. We obey because we love him. We love him.
If I told you that you could do something, and it would show your love to Christ more, you would all sign on the dotted line. Sign me up. You mean the one that chose me before the foundation of the world? You mean the one that came to pursue a rebel like me? You mean the one that forgave all my sins—past, present, future? You mean the one that created me and holds all things together? You mean the one who prays for me now at the right hand of the Father? I can do something to show love to him more? I’m all in. That’s what we’re talking about here. It’s all for Christ. Love for Christ.
Turn to Nehemiah, chapter 8. We’ll close with this. Nehemiah, chapter 8. Nehemiah—right before Esther, Job, and then Psalms. Nehemiah 8. I’ve been praying that we would be like the Israelites at this point in time—not like they were at other points in time, but like they were at this point in time. Nehemiah 8. Let me read this account.
And all the people gathered [corporately] as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel (Nehemiah 8:1).
You can almost put yourself in this place. Before the Water Gate leading into the Holy Land, Jerusalem. Before the Water Gate, there’s this mass of people, and they’re calling Ezra the scribe, bring us the Book. Bring us the Book. My prayer is that all across our world, a group of people would call on pastors and teachers, bring me the Bible. Just bring me the Bible. I don’t need jokes, fancy stories, your sharing. Bring me what God says. Bring me what God says. They tell the Ezra the scribe, bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform [we got that covered] that they had made for the purpose (Nehemiah 8:2-4).
So Ezra’s in a place of authority, not because he is somehow better than them, but he stands speaking the word of God. He’s on a wooden platform, speaking the word of God, from morning till afternoon, speaking the first five books of the Old Testament, their law. He reads from it. Go down to verse 5.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground (Nehemiah 8:5-6).
And then verse 7 will give a lot of names of a number of people who are going out amid the people and teaching them what this was saying, what this meant. They’re kind of translating, this is what it means then, helping the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. Verse 8:
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (Nehemiah 8:8).
It’s not just about reading the Bible; it’s about understanding what it says. It’s important. That’s why we teach the Bible, to help understand. Verse 9:
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law (Nehemiah 8:9).
Let’s just pause right there. Why would they be weeping when they heard the Bible taught and explained? Well, they read all that God had done. But they also read all the ways that they had been unfaithful, and that causes mourning. That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Let’s go on further. But he says, don’t weep.
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine [this is celebration] and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
I’m concerned about the person who never is pricked in their heart by the word of God, who is never convicted, never challenged. I get concerned about that person, but I’m also concerned about the person who’s always pricked and always challenged and always walks around as a Christian Eeyore. I’m very concerned about that. Because that’s not the gospel. The gospel says that you are right with God, now. And while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I’m concerned about the one that’s never challenged by the word, and I’m also concerned about the one who’s always challenged and never sees the joy of forgiveness and joy of the relationship we have with the Father. Both those things need to be there. Blessed are those who mourn, because they shall be comforted. That’s the message. Blessed are those who mourn, because they shall be comforted.
I want that for this church. I want us to take the word of God seriously so that we examine ourselves, all in an environment of grace, knowing the Lord has covered all of our sins, and we don’t need to obey so that we can kind of secure our salvation all the more. That’s not good. That’s not a reason to obey. Maybe if I obey more now, I’ll really be saved. No, no, no, no, no.
If that’s your thinking in any way, you’re not understanding how wonderful the message about Jesus Christ is. He came to be your righteousness. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever separate us from his hand. We’re secure in Christ. We obey because we’re secure, not to make ourselves secure. He’s made us secure; we obey because we are and we want to love him. That’s the message. Let’s pray.
Spirit, teach us to obey. Father, enable us even in small ways to help each other obey. Father, there are so many phone calls which can end in us gossiping. Lord, redeem those calls and allow us to bring the word of God to the person on the other line. Allow us to speak the word of God to one another. Allow us to be there for each other, to help grow one another by your word.
Lord, help us to know your Bible more, all of us in this room, myself included. Help us to be a Bible people so that we can comfort and care for and train and teach one another, all so that one year from now, 10,000 years from now, we would look more and more like Jesus Christ.
Lord, these are the means that you have designed. Help us to know our Bibles, speak our Bibles, all by the power of the Spirit because we’re a group of people who loves you deeply, and we want to love you more.
Lord, empower us. This is a special church already. This is a sweet people. Lord, there’s so much, so much of your Spirit and your grace in this group. We’ve got evidences of your grace all over the place in this room. Thank you. Help us to continue growing together with one another so that we can be, one day, a more mature man in Christ. We pray this in his name. Amen.
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