Matthew 28:20 | Empowered on the Mission | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: Matthew 28:20
This morning we will end our series, “The Resurrected King Gathers His Disciples,” from Matthew, chapter 28. So turn in your Bibles to Matthew, chapter 28—the great commission, given in verses 16 through 20. We have been studying these passages together, and now comes the seventh and final week. We had determined to go through this text slowly, phrase by phrase, word by word really, because it’s so significant in the life of the church.
This isn’t just another topic to understand. There are lots of topics that you can understand as a Christian. You can do a study on joy. You can do a study on contentment. You can do a study on indwelling sin. You can do a study on the end times. You can do lots of studies. But this study was intended for our church to really get us together and say, what are we here to do? What’s the whole purpose of this whole local church thing?
And the Lord really gave this teaching before he left to heaven again. After he had died, rose again, went up to heaven, he gave this message—which is given in all four gospels and in the book of Acts—he gave this message so that the church would be clear what they are supposed to do.
So his final message is found in verse 20, and I’ll read the paragraph for us, starting in verse 16 just to remind us one final time of the context. The passage reads as this—Matthew 28:16:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”
The title for this morning is “Empowered on the Mission.” Empowered on the mission. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to help or teach a young person how to ride a two-wheel bike without training wheels. It can be very painful, humorous, fearful—all of the above.
But if you’ve ever done that, you know there’s a big part of it that’s teaching. Okay, when you get on this bike, you’re gonna start going, and the faster you go, the easier it will be to stay in balance, so you want to get a little bit of speed. And you give all your instructions. And if you’re a parent in this room who’s done that, you can remember back to those days when that happened.
Well, you give those instructions, and you see the fear in the eye of the child. And now they put helmets on them to keep them safe. When I was growing up, we did it helmet-free, in the snow, uphill. You’ve got a helmet on; you’ve got instructions, and there’s still fear. They’ve been told the right way to do it. They’ve got some protection. But there’s still fear in the heart, because what if this doesn’t go well? What if I fall? What if I hurt myself? Well, there’s fear, instruction, protection—there’s all sorts of those things going on in that moment.
Well, imagine going up to that little kid and not just saying, okay you’re gonna go fast, pick up some speed, try to stay balanced; and they’re thinking, okay, you’re gonna let me go and I’m gonna go. But imagine saying to them right before they take off, looking in their eyes and saying, “And I’m gonna be right next to you the entire time so that you will not fall.”
That gives a little bit more confidence. They thought you were gonna be gone when they headed down that street on that asphalt. But now the last thing you say to them after giving the instruction is, “And I’m gonna be right here the whole time.”
That’s what Jesus is doing in this passage. Are you a little fearful of telling someone about Jesus Christ because of how they might respond? Are you a little fearful, hearing this great commission now for seven weeks, thinking I know I’m also supposed to be an instrument in the lives of unbelievers and I don’t know a lot about the Bible. Their lives are precious; what if I get something wrong? This is a big proposition, this whole great commission thing. Is there a little fear there?
Let this morning warm your heart. He says, behold. That means he’s taking you by the cheeks, looking at you in the eye and saying, listen to me. I’m with you. Always. Even to the end of the age. That’s what this morning’s all about. You overcome fear because of Christ, not being beside you; Christ being inside you. We have the Spirit of Christ inside of us as we seek to be obedient to the great, grand, large, important commission. We have Christ inside of us.
This morning, I want to examine two reassurances that we will be empowered as we obey the great commission. Two reassurances that we will be empowered as we obey the great commission.
1. Christ will remain with us personally.
The first reassurance: Christ will remain with us personally. Christ will remain with us personally. He says in verse 20, the second part of verse 20, “And behold, I am with you.” Behold, I am with you. That word “behold” is important. If you’re a Bible underliner, you can underline that every time it’s in the Scriptures. Behold, lo, listen—those things that start a sentence. Jesus is saying, okay, I’ve been teaching you, but listen to this.
He’s trying to draw you into focusing on exactly what he’s gonna say next because of how important it is, and he’s saying, listen. Behold. Look. Understand. I myself am with you. That’s how it reads in the original language. I myself am with you. That’s a little different than I am with you. I’ll be there. I myself will be there. There’s more emphasis when you say “I myself,” and that’s what the original language has in the text. I myself am with you.
So listen to what Jesus is trying to convince in just those few words: Listen, I myself will be with you. He’s trying to get their attention, and not just the disciples’ attention; he’s trying to get your and my attention with this. Behold, listen, I myself am with you.
He’s saying that he’s going to heaven, but he’ll still be with them. That’s what he’s saying. He’s been telling them all along, I’m gonna be leaving. I’m gonna be leaving. I’m gonna be leaving. And he’s gathered with them, giving them his final instructions before he leaves, and they don’t like the fact that Jesus is leaving. And he says, I am going to be with you. So I’m leaving, but I’m not leaving, in a sense. He’s leaving, but he’s sending the Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, which is himself. The Trinity is one—God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He’s leaving, but he’s gonna be present with them.
And this element of Christ being with them, God being with them, is found in a couple of other places in Matthew. In Matthew 1:23, the angel is talking to Joseph—Joseph, the human father of Jesus. Jesus, born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, born into a home where the human father was Joseph. The Spirit, God, speaks to Joseph and says this in Matthew 1:23: “Behold [there’s that word again—listen], the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”—God with us.
Over and over in the New Testament, even in the Old Testament but now in the New Testament, God is trying to communicate that he’s with his people. He’s with his people. Matthew 18:20. In the case of a sinning person in the church where people have gone to the sinning brother or sister and said, you need to repent of your sin; you need to acknowledge your sin, acknowledge that what you’re doing is not right before the Lord; and this person continues to disobey, continues to disobey, will not repent, will not repent. There’s continual going, continual unrepentance. Finally, Matthew 28 says, if you’ve gone through a process that brought elders there, told the church, called this person to repentance; if all of that has taken place over and over and over, you need to put them out of the church. And he says (Matthew 18:20), “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”
He’s saying if you end up coming to that conclusion because of their lack of repentance over and over again, and you determine that that’s the move this church needs to make, I am right there with you. God is trying to comfort his believers over and over with the fact that he is with them in all the difficulties of their Christian life.
Do you have to remove someone from your body? I am with you. Do you have to go and tell someone the gospel when it could be fearful? I’m with you. Do you have to stay married to a virgin who’s gonna have a baby and everyone thinks that you two are an immoral couple? Do you have to do that? I am with you. He will be with us, is the message.
Jesus taught before he died that he would leave and go to heaven when he’s done with his earthly ministry but that he would send a Helper. And that Helper isn’t, like, not as good as Jesus. Like, it’d be really great if Jesus was here, but he’s not here, so I guess we’ll take vice-Jesus. The next guy in line. That’s not it. The Helper is God himself, Jesus himself, you could say in a Trinitarian mindset. The Helper is the Holy Spirit. God is God, the Son, the Holy Spirit. And Jesus says, I’m leaving but I’m staying, through my Spirit.
Turn to John, chapter 14. John 14 is this account. This is taking place in the upper room. So it’s the night before Jesus would die; he’s in the upper room; he does a number of things at that meal. He inaugurates the first Lord’s Table. He tells the disciples that one of them will betray him; Judas ends up leaving. He washes their feet. They’re bickering about who’s greatest; he gets on his knees as a servant, as a slave, washes their feet and shows them what greatness looks like. A lot of things go on in this upper room, this final meal.
But one of the things that goes on is that Jesus teaches that he’s gonna send a Helper. John 14:16-17, say this: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be with them when he leaves. It’s not something that the entire world has. Our worldly friends and neighbors and family members—they don’t have the Spirit. Believers have the Spirit in them.
Turn over to John 16. John 16:4-15. He’s taught them about the difficulty of their mission when he leaves, and in verses 4-15 he says this:
But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me [the Father], and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jesus thinks very highly of the Holy Spirit. Verse 7 would have been shocking to them. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”
Imagine you being Christ’s disciples. People around your hometown where you live, people in Jerusalem, hate him, are going to kill him, want to kill you perhaps. And he’s saying, listen, I’m gonna reassure you. I’m gonna leave. Doesn’t sound reassuring. But he says, it’s better if I leave, because I’m gonna send the Spirit to be with you.
So right there, they have to take Jesus at his word. Okay, it’s hard to understand, hard to believe; I don’t get it; I like you being here, but … okay. They didn’t get the full sense of that, so he repeats it now again in the great commission.
So he’s then died, rose again, going back to heaven, and he’s telling them again, behold—listen—I’m with you always; and their minds can go back to John 14, John 16 just days earlier when they were in the upper room, and he was saying, it’s better if I leave because I’m sending someone to be with you. So there he says, I’m sending the Helper. Here he says, I will be with you. What does that communicate? The Spirit and Christ are one.
Why is it better to have the Holy Spirit in you now than Jesus here now? Why is it better? Because it’s better to have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, in you than beside you. And you have that if you’re a believer. You have something better than Jesus beside you. You have Jesus inside of you, as you seek to be obedient to him until he comes again. You have the Spirit inside of you.
So I wonder today—I don’t wonder; I know, because I’m just like you: Do you feel at times weak, powerless? You don’t know the right words to say? You’ve been hurt? You’ve got things to do that you don’t know that you can do? Your physical strength isn’t what it once was? You’re weak. We’re weak. I wonder if you feel that way about anything in your life today.
I want you to be reassured that if you’re in Christ, Christ is in you. Christ, the one who obeyed perfectly, gives you the power to obey. Christ, the one who completed and fulfilled his Father’s will, gives you the power to fulfill the Father’s will. Christ sends the Holy Spirit. You know another name for the Holy Spirit? The Comforter. You have the Comforter within you, the divine Comforter, God the Comforter inside of you. You have that, whatever the obstacle is you have to face.
J. C. Ryle said it this way: “He is with us daily to pardon and forgive; with us daily to sanctify and strengthen; with us daily to defend and keep; with us daily to lead and to guide; with us in sorrow, and with us in joy; with us in sickness, and with us in health; with us in life, and with us in death; with us in time, and with us in eternity.” God is with us.
Maybe you’re a student who is hurting because of something that goes on at school. Many of us have been there. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, and it’s difficult for you to drive by places in town, because that was your place. Maybe you hear the words of the Bible, hear the commands for you to obey, but don’t know if you can do that and that scares you and frightens you. He is with you. He’s the Comforter. He’s the Helper. He is the power. He’s with you.
And I want you to notice that this is exactly who God is. This is just like him. He’s done this any time he’s called his people to be faithful to them. He has communicated to them, I’m with you. I’m going to give you this huge, overwhelming, large task that you’re gonna be afraid of, and I’m with you.
Joseph—don’t need to turn there. Genesis 39. Joseph. The one who annoyed his brothers so much they tried to kill him and then sold him as a slave. Joseph. He would be the one that would lead a group of people into Egypt where they would be a great nation. Joseph. Genesis 39:2-3 says this, comments on what the Lord had Joseph do. It says this: “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” Joseph—insurmountable task. Two places in those two verses, it’s clear the Lord was with him.
Moses—Exodus 3. God tells Moses, okay, now this people has come to Egypt through Joseph. Joseph was there, his family came, they grew up into a great nation. Years and years and years and years later, they were a great nation, and the people of Egypt didn’t like that they were getting so great. They enslaved the people of Israel, and God told Moses, you’re gonna be the one that leads this people out of Egypt. And really, this nation didn’t even know Moses.
So, you’re gonna lead this people who doesn’t even know you; you’re not even credible in their sight; you’re gonna lead all of the thousands of them out of this nation, conquer Pharaoh, one of the leaders of the world. You’re gonna do this. And you know the story. Moses is stuttering, shaking his head, I can’t—I can’t do this. I can’t even speak well, in Exodus 3. God says this in Exodus 3:12: “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” God tells Moses, you don’t feel like you can do it? You’re right. I will be with you.
Joshua. The people go from Joseph coming to lead them to Egypt where they can grow into a great nation. They grow into a great nation; now the Egyptians hate them, mistreat them, so God uses Moses to lead them out, again saying I will be with you. He leads them out; they’re wandering in the wilderness because of their disobedience. Finally, they come to the promised land after forty years, and the book of Joshua is written where Joshua is the one to lead them now that Moses has died, lead them in to conquer the promised land. They’re there to conquer the other foreign nations—not just one nation; they weren’t just in a war against one other nation—they were in a war against many nations. They have to conquer these people and then divide the land, and that will now be their home.
Sounds like a pretty big task for a military leader. Sounds like a huge task. Joshua 1:5-6: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”
Are you a little afraid of evangelism or even walking a new believer through the Scriptures or speaking truth to one another? Are you afraid of all the things that come along with the great commission? Do you feel a little weak? I’m not really great at that; I don’t speak well. Do you feel any of that? You’re in good company. Joseph, Moses, Joshua. You’re also in good company because God says, I’m with you.
When he gives a command, he gives his power and he gives his presence to fulfill it. That’s what he gives. God promises his presence when he puts us on a mission.
So obeying the great commission is not about your ability or lack thereof. As a church, we’re not saying, we’re a great commission church. We are awesome. We are powerful. We’re brilliant. We’re wise. We know everything about this. We know exactly how to get to the heart of an unbeliever. We know it all. This town needs us. That’s not what we’re saying.
We’re saying, this command, this commission is huge, enormous. It’s the thing we should do. It’s big. It’s daunting. We are weak. We’re not the smartest in town. We’re not the greatest at everything. We’re not. But God commanded this of us, and he is with us. So when we’re weak, we’re strong, because he’s with us. Obeying the great commission is not about our ability or lack thereof, but obedience to the great commission is about the power of Christ inside of us as a body.
John Calvin said this: “If the apostles wished zealously to perform their duty, they must not consider what they are able to do, but must rely on the invincible power of him under whose banner they fight.”
So if there’s anything in this great commission that makes you think, I can totally do that. I’ll evangelize this whole town. I’ll lead ‘em all to Christ. I’ll teach them how to obey Christ, and he will be so glorified and so pleased with me. I got this. If there’s any of that in any of us, we’re mistaken. We take confidence knowing that his power is in us. That’s what we hold onto. Christ for us. Christ in us.
So, if we’re a little fearful about being obedient in the things of the great commission, it’s a good place to start. It’s a good place to be. And Christ gives us reassurances of his comfort and his presence and his empowerment. Christ will remain with us personally.
2. Christ will remain with us continually.
Secondly, Christ will remain with us continually. Go back to the illustration of teaching the kid to ride the bike. It’s not that, okay, I’m gonna be with you the first five feet; then you’re on your own. And we have done that as dads because they need to learn on their own, but Christ didn’t do it that way. I’m gonna be with you at the beginning; I’m gonna be with you at the middle; I’m gonna be with you in the end; I’m gonna be with you forever. Always going to be with you.
Christ will remain with us continually. He says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He’s telling them how long he’s gonna be with them. He’ll be with us always. Christ will always be with a believer. The day before you came to Christ, you did not have Christ inside of you. The day you came to Christ, you had him inside of you and will have him inside of you, with you, presently—the Spirit with you—for all eternity. You’ll be with him.
And he says, I’ll be with you always, then specifically narrows in to the end of the age. So I’ll be with you into eternity, but I’m also gonna show you right now that I’m gonna be with you till the end of this passing age, and when this passing age is over, then the eternal state comes. So he’s gonna be with us into the eternal state, but he wants them to know, while I’m giving you this mission to go and preach the gospel till the end of this human age, till the end of this human part in history, I’m gonna be with you in that time. That’s what he’s saying.
Turn to Matthew 13. In Matthew 13, there’s this end of the age talk, this end of the age language. Matthew 13, verses 24-30—he talks about the parable of the weeds. So there’s a sower. He scatters seed. Weeds come up. So there’s good things growing alongside of bad things. And then in verse 36, Matthew 13:36, he explains the parable. And he says this: “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’” So we heard you tell this story to everyone. Now we’re kind of in the house with you. Tell us what you meant by that. Matthew 13:37-43:
He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is [here’s our term] the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Jesus is saying, there’s a time in the future called the end of the age. Right now, there’s a time of opportunity for the world. There are people being saved and growing that are saved into the kingdom of God. There are also people who are threatening those people and seek to overcome those people and stamp out their light, and there are those people that are children of Satan. So there’s people of the King; there’s people of Satan, and they’re growing together until a certain time. And that certain time is the end of the age.
So Jesus in Matthew 28 is saying, right now there’s a time where there’s a field, and you go and preach the gospel, and that’ll be me scattering the seed, and I’ll grow people; I’ll save people; they’ll come into the kingdom. There’ll also be people that will be children of Satan. But right now, there’s a field; there’s an opportunity; there’s a time; good is growing; bad is growing. At a time in the future, the end of the age is coming, and we’ll gather them all together, and those who have been unfaithful will be in hell, and those who have responded to the gospel will be in the kingdom forever.
And Jesus is saying in Matthew 28, I’ll be with you until the end of that age. I’ll be with you the entire time. I’m leaving now, but I’m still here as you seek to fulfill the great commission. He’s saying that the spiritual battle goes until the end of the age and will be fought with his presence always with us.
In college, I had a job at a hotel. It was this high-end hotel, and I was a front desk agent. So this young front desk agent, and I was checking people in and I would check people out. And this was a high-end hotel; it was a business hotel, so you had these businessmen and women who had people to go and places to be—or, people to see, places to go? You got what I’m saying? Yeah. They were on the move. They wanted the rooms like they wanted them. These were travelers, expert travelers, and I was not an expert anything. I was just a college student who needed some money.
And I didn’t know what all the policies were. Okay, how do I check them out, and it’s slow—I’ve got to type this and that. And, you know, you can see these business travelers—they’re in a hurry and they’re sometimes grumpy and things like that, and it was a little scary. And I remember being trained for the job. Being trained was good, because it’s all theoretical.
Let’s say someone comes up and asks for this, what would you do? No, that was wrong. It’s okay; that person’s not there in front of you; this is theoretical. Okay, that’s safe. But what happens when it’s time to go out to the front desk when everyone’s trying to check out at once, and people want this taken off their bill and this to change and that to change, and you’re there all alone? The manager, the trainer, leaves.
Well, what if the manager or trainer said, listen, I’ll be there the whole time. The whole time, whenever you get into a problem, whenever someone yells at you, whenever someone doesn’t like something, or whenever you need a little more time, I’m gonna be right there with you. That would be very reassuring. Very reassuring.
Well, this is better than that. This is the manager taking all of his wisdom, all of his knowledge, all of his power, all of his boldness, all of his confidence and putting it inside of you so that you can do exactly what you need to do like an expert. Jesus is saying not, I will be next to you, but I will be inside of you—and not just for a little bit while you’re training; I’ll be with you until the end of this whole age, until I come back and we separate the sheep from the goats. I’ll be with you the whole time on this mission as you seek to bring people a knowledge of me. I will be with you. I will strengthen you. I will equip you. I’ll do it. That’s what he’s saying.
You know, as we wrap this series up, seven weeks on the great commission, there’s one command—go make disciples—and a lot of other things that accompany that command. Baptize them. Teach them. It’s pretty daunting.
And we have to acknowledge as twenty-first century American Christians that there can lie inside of us a passivity towards this commission. Yeah, you know, church is about me. I want to come and I want to be encouraged. I want to be equipped. I want to be fulfilled, and hopefully everybody else wants that too, but I’m here for me. That’s a selfish version of Christianity, a version of Christianity that the New Testament doesn’t know of.
The New Testament expects believers to be involved in one another’s lives and also getting the gospel to the lost. That’s selfless and it looks like Christ. That’s what Christ did. He was there for his own, and he brought the gospel to the lost. So we have to acknowledge at the very end of this series, there’s a passivity that lies in all of our hearts to some degree.
One writer said this: “Too many are willing to sit at God’s table, but not work in his field.” And this was the disciples. This was the disciples—this passive group that wanted God to take care of them without them doing much on his behalf.
Matthew 24:3—before he dies, says this—Matthew 24:3: “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be’”—he just taught on the end times. “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” So the disciples wanted to know, okay, the end is coming; it’s not gonna be pretty. Tell us when you’re coming back. We’re excited about when you’re coming back. We want you to come back; it would be easier for us if you came back; you would rule this place like you should. We want you to come back. That’s what they were thinking of right before he went to die.
Well, Acts 1. You can turn there if you’d like. Acts 1—they still have the same mindset, and this is after he gives them the great commission. “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6). So they’re waiting for him to bring about his kingdom. Will it be now? No, I’ve got to die and rise again. Okay, you’ve died and rose again. Now are you gonna bring the kingdom back? And what’s the implied answer? No. In fact, I’m leaving. And you’re gonna be about seeing people won to me. I did the work before; now you’re gonna do it. But, I’m gonna do it through you, is what the timeline is here.
Acts 1:6. I read verse 6. Is it now that you’ll restore the kingdom to Israel? “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority’” (Acts 1:7). So Jesus teaches a little bit on how to view his second coming. We should long for it—John 3. There’s a number of places. We’re longing for this. But he also says, it’s not for you to know when. But it is for you to know the job you do until it comes. “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you [verse 8] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
So, Lord, when are you coming back? When are you gonna bring about your kingdom? Is it now? No, I’ve got to die and rise again. Okay, now you’ve died and rose again. Now are you bringing the kingdom again? No, it’s not for you to know when I’m gonna do that, but my power’s gonna be with you. And you’re going to be doing some work while I’m physically gone. This is your deal. I’m gonna do it through you. You’ll receive the Holy Spirit; my power will be on you; you’ll be my witnesses; you’ll represent me.
Verse 9: “And when he said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up”—those are the last things he said before he left. My power will be in you, and you’ll be my witnesses—gone. Last words of Jesus when he left this earth was telling you and I that we have his power inside of us. That comforts me a lot when I’m afraid. That comforts me when I talk to skeptics, unbelievers, unbelieving family. Christ is in me. Christ is in me. I’ve got his power. I’ve got his power. You preach that to yourself over and over again. It’s the last thing Christ said before he left the earth.
Verse 9: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). And what are they doing? They’re still looking up. I don’t like that he’s leaving; I want him to come back. It’s what they’re doing. “And while they were gazing into heaven, as he went, behold [listen], two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11). So, he’s coming back.
And so what do the disciples do after this time? They’re looking up; they’re in Jerusalem; they look back; they see Jesus go. They think he’s coming back. He’s told them he’s coming back. He’s empowered them for a mission. There would have been a lot of fear associated with that. The angels come. The angels, by the way, are God’s messengers, ministers to his people. The angels come to redirect their minds. The one who left—he’s coming back.
And so what do they have the disciples do? They have them wait for the Holy Spirit. And guess what happens in Acts 2? The Spirit comes. And then you’ve got fearful, afraid Peter who denied Christ just about forty to fifty days previously—denied Christ—when the Spirit comes upon Peter, he goes out and preaches to the people that killed Christ and says, you’re the one that killed him. Repent. Believe. And Peter—it’s like, what came over him? Christ. Christ came over him. The Spirit came over him. Christ came in him. The Spirit came in him, and all of a sudden he was bold.
So if we say, I don’t know if I can talk to an unbeliever about the gospel, we’re not seeing how great this power of Christ was in Peter—the fearful one turned bold preacher, bold proclaimer. Guess what believers have in them the moment they’re converted? The Spirit. The same Spirit that infused Peter to preach the gospel boldly is in you. Let that sink in for a second. Let that sink into all of us for a second.
The same Spirit that empowered Peter is inside of us. We might not all look like Peters. We might not stand up in front of two thousand, three thousand people and preach. But we might talk to our unbelieving child on the phone as they’re going through something in a different state. And we might remind them of the gospel again today or later on this week. Honey, you need to acknowledge your separation before the Lord and trust that he came to save you. Maybe that’s the power of the Spirit working inside of us to get the gospel to lost people all around us.
Let’s be excited about the power that we have. The great commission does not succeed or fail because of us. The great commission succeeds because Christ is in us. He said, I will build my church. What he didn’t say there but says in other parts of the New Testament is that he’s gonna do that through our proclamation. He guarantees the success.
Put it this way: Evangelism is always successful 100% of the time. You know why? Because we’re doing what he told us to do. What he does with our proclamation—that’s his deal. He’ll save; people reject; that’s up to him. He’ll build his church. It’s successful when we speak the message with the power of the Spirit.
The comforting news is that Christ will be with us until the end of the age. He’s with us personally, and he’ll be with us continually.
Now, this is a church. This is a body of believers. We’re not in a group like this the other six days of the week. We’re at work places largely made up of unbelievers. We’re in homes even where there can be unbelievers. But here, the reason we gather as a body is to say, this is redeemed sinners coming together to meet, to worship their Lord, to be taught his word, so that we can go out and be faithful to him. This is unlike any other thing we do during the week.
But even in a group of redeemed believers, redeemed sinners, there typically are always people who are not right with the Lord, are separate from the Lord, still sin against him; and I would say if that’s even you today, if you would say, I’m not a follower of Christ. I don’t seek his glory above anything else. If that’s you today, I would say, acknowledge that. Don’t let me acknowledge that for you. You acknowledge that.
Say like the tax collector said in Luke, God be merciful to me, a sinner. Own the fact that you’re poor in spirit. Own the fact and mourn over your sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Why? Because they’ll be comforted. Own the sin that separates you from God the Father. Own it.
Don’t make excuses for it. Don’t say it’s not as bad as my neighbor’s sin. Own the fact that one tiny sin separates you from a holy God forever, because he’s holy. So own it, acknowledge it, confess it, and then the good part: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Did you hear those words? Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Everything you did back in junior high, everything you did in high school, everything you did this last week—he will cleanse from all unrighteousness.
Jesus Christ came to save those who are lost and sinful, not the ones who didn’t think they needed to repent of anything. What a savior! Jesus—I say to you if you’re convicted but not honoring God with your life—Jesus is a friend of sinners. He is. This week we celebrate that he came to die for you. You deserve death; he came to die in your place, and he rose again to prove that he has the power over sin and death and to prove that you can have the life in him. Eternal life. Literal, physical, eternal life. It’s not some mystical thing; it’s real. When you die, you wake up in his presence. So if you’re apart from God, I’m calling you to acknowledge your sin and embrace Jesus Christ as your salvation.
And if you’re a Christian—we’re at the end of our series—if you’re a Christian, and I was just talking to unbelievers and preaching the gospel to them, the good news of Christ, and you’re probably sitting there going, yep, that’s what happened to me. Yep, he saved me. Yes, he did that for me. Yes, I’m gonna be with him in heaven. As soon as I die, I’ll be alive with him. If you’re a Christian, those things are resonating in your mind.
So, what’s the application of this whole series? Other people need to know about that. Imagine such a great salvation where we can be saved. Fifty billion years from now, your salvation is locked up and secured because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. That’s such a great message; let’s go out of here and not tell a single soul about it. We can’t do that.
They are perishing. Their fifty billion years looks different than ours does right now. But God said, you go; you make disciples; I will be with you; my power will be with you; and I will build my church and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. That’s a message worth taking to people.
And then guess what? When they’re saved, then we teach them the Bible and that’s why we’re all here. We learn the Bible. We do that in small groups and Bible study. We learn how to be faithful and obedient to him because we’re saved by him. That’s our application. We talk. We talk to the lost; we talk to each other. We are grateful for our salvation.
There’s a hymn, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s called “Jesus, I Am Resting.” And it talks about the fact that when we come to Christ, it’s as if we had this huge burden of sin before that. Life is difficult; life is hard, sometimes because of our own folly and ignorance, our own rebellion against the Lord. Life is hard and difficult, but when we come to Christ, he forgives all our sin and takes our burden off our backs. And that’s why Jesus says in Matthew 11, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28; NASB). A Christian is one whose soul is at rest. I’m right with the God of the universe.
And this hymn I think says it well. Because a Christian who’s at rest is also a Christian who is at work—not for their own salvation, but to glorify God by being an instrument in the lives of other people. And this hymn says this. It’s a prayer. First, it says, “Forever lift Thy face upon me,” so give me favor, Lord.
Forever lift Thy face upon me,
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting beneath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory,
Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me every trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.
It’s a prayer asking God’s favor to be on us as our soul rests. But then he says, lift your face on me as I work and wait for you. Remember Acts 1? Remember Matthew 28? They’re waiting for the Lord. And he’s telling them, go to work. And we can do all of that—waiting, working—as our souls are at rest before God. Let’s pray.
Father, none of this work—we do none of this work to impress you so that you will save us. You have saved us—not by our work, but by your grace alone. And now we’re asking as a body, put us in the service. However we’re gifted. Some of us can maybe preach to a large crowd. Some of us might just seek to be faithful to preach to our unbelieving son or daughter or friend. Some of us can then lead a number of believers and show them the ins and outs of obedience to the Lord. Some of us might just do that with a new believer that lives next door.
Lord, you use all of us differently, but Father, show us how to obey this. We obey it in different ways, but we obey the same command. Help us to be a disciple-making church. Why? So that we would be seen as wonderful? No. So that the glory of your name would be the passion of your church.
Every soul on the face of the earth should see you as beautiful and worth giving their lives to. But that doesn’t happen today. Let us be a small instrument to where more and more people would give you glory. And we say that saying, we’ll work; we’ll wait; we trust your power in us. But come soon, Lord Jesus; come quickly. We pray this in your name. Amen.
More in The Resurrected King Gathers His Disciples
March 22, 2015Matthew 28:20 | Teach Them Full Obedience | Andrew Gutierrez
March 15, 2015Matthew 28:19 | The Baptism of a New Disciple | Andrew Gutierrez
March 8, 2015Matthew 28:19 | Make Disciples of All Nations | Andrew Gutierrez