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The following is a sermon preached at Sunnyside Baptist Church on Sunday morning October 5, 2008.

The world around us is not passive.  As Christians, we need to realize this.  The world around us is not passive… it is constantly trying to conform us to its image.  It does this all the time and in many different ways.  The world is always trying to mold us and shape us to be just like it… and all too often, it succeeds.  Often we are conformed to the image of the world and live according to its expectations rather than living according to the expectations of our great God and Savior.

The Bible calls this sin.  We shouldn’t mince words.  The Bible calls this sin.  God created all things in this universe for one purpose and one purpose only… to glorify Him.  All things are created to show something of Who He is and what He is like.  That is true whether we are talking about the sun, moon and stars in the heavens… or the vastness of the Pacific Ocean… or the grandeur of a redwood forest… or the majesty of the Grand Canyon… or even if we are talking about you and me.  All things were created by God to glorify God… and people uniquely so, because human beings alone in all of creation are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27.)

And yet we all fall short of this (Rom 3:23.)  We all tend to reflect the character of this world more than the character of God.  This is sin… and the consequence of sin is death (Rom 6:23.)  Physical death… spiritual death and separation from God and judgment for all eternity.  Yet God has loved us… despite our sin… and He sovereignly chose to save some from this judgment.  He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, who suffered for our sin when He died on the cross.  He took our place and became our substitute so that we could be saved from being punished eternally for our sin (I Cor 15:3-4.)  Salvation is of the LORD.  God has chosen to love us and be gracious to us so that some will be saved forevermore.  To receive this free gift of salvation, we must repent and trust in Jesus.

This begins a relationship with God as our Heavenly Father… and as we have seen over the past several weeks… relationships bring with them responsibilities.  God expects that we will strive to be conformed to His image rather than being conformed to the image of this world. 

Two weeks ago, we saw what Jesus called the first and great commandment… to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Matt 22:37, Mk 12:30.)  This must precede everything else in the Christian life.  God must be the center of everything.  If we love Him, then we will keep His commandments (Jn 14:15.)  Loving Him is the motivation for living the Christian life.  As we love Him, we are drawn ever nearer to Him and this deep-seated affection for Him motivates us to live our lives in such a way that He is honored. 

The second expectation in the Christian life is like the first.  It too involves love.  The second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:39.)  As we saw last week, our neighbor is anyone that God brings across our path (Lk 10:29-37.)  We are to love them as much as we love ourselves.  We should value them highly as people made in the image of God.  We should seek to provide for the needs of those around us.  And we should desire the best for them.  After all… this is how we love ourselves.

As we saw last week… some of our neighbors are easier to love than others.  Take for example… our enemies.  How are we to relate to our enemies?  Must we love those who mistreat us and persecute us in any number of ways?  Does God expects us to love them?

Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 5:43-48. 

Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In context, this is part of Jesus’ most well-known sermon which is often called “the Sermon on the Mount.”  In contrast to the passage we looked at over the past couple of weeks in Matthew 22, this sermon was delivered early on during Jesus’ ministry.  His opposition had not yet fully developed.  People were flocking to hear what this new preacher on the scene had to say.  And what He had to say was in sharp contradiction to the common wisdom of the world in His day.

He says, “You have heard it was said…”… implying that they had been taught something.  His hearers had been impacted the teaching of the world around them.  They had been taught that it was good to love your neighbor… but you don’t have to love your enemy.  In fact, popular wisdom among the 1st century Jews encouraged people to hate their enemies. 

How does the world around us teach us to relate to our enemies?

I was teenager in the 80’s.  I grew up watching Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Segal.  They were my role models for how to treat my enemies.  Do you remember how they treated their enemies?  They pretty much crushed them.  That may be an understatement.  They crushed them… they crushed their family… they burned their enemies’ houses to the ground… and kicked their dog in the process.  Now, in reality, I didn’t exactly follow in their footsteps… but I must admit that I grew up with a certain worldly motto burned into my self conscious… “Don’t get mad… get even.”

Isn’t that how the world tells us to treat our enemies?  If we have a business competitor… how do we respond to them?  We strive to put them out of business.  In fact, we tend to gloat if they go belly-up.  If we have an athletic competitor… how do we respond to them?  We crush them on the playing field and often we don’t even care if they get hurt in the process.  If we have a rival suitor for the affections of a member of the opposite sex… how do we respond to them?  We put them down and show them up in any way we can in order to demonstrate our superiority.  If there is a person who constantly insults us… how do we respond to them?  We tend to insult them back.  Or… maybe we insult them behind their back.  Isn’t this the way that the world teaches us to relate to our enemies?  Isn’t this the same thing which Jesus is dealing with in our passage?  The world around us, in an effort to press us into its image, teaches us that it is good to love our neighbors, but it is okay to your enemy

How do we feel about our enemies?  How do we relate to them?  To really answer this question, we need to make sure that we understand who our enemy is.  The term here is χθρός (pronounced echthros) in the Greek and it simply means anyone who is hateful or hostile toward you.  Anyone who opposes you in any way.  Drawing from the near context here in Matthew 5 and a correlating text in Luke 6:27-36… our enemy is anyone who hates you and despises you as a person.  It is anyone who curses you… or insults you… or speaks unkindly of you.  It is anyone who threatens you or persecutes you in anyway.  Your enemy is anyone who takes your things without permission with no intention of returning them or someone who forces you into service you don’t want to perform.  In Matthew 10:36, Jesus even says that a member of your own family can be your enemy if they oppose you in the Christian life.

So who is your enemy?  Anyone who is hostile toward you in any way. Your enemy is anyone who dislikes you or works against you.  By this definition… your enemy could be: The school bully who always kicks sand in your face.  Or the inconsiderate driver on the freeway who shows his lack of affection for you through various hand signals.  Or the business rival who maligns your reputation in the community and is always trying to steal away your customers.  It is the person in your church who slanders your name and character.  It can even be a member of your own family who mocks you continuously for your faith.

The world says we are to love our neighbors and hate our enemies.  “Don’t get mad… get even…” Right?  That may be the world’s wisdom… but it isn’t what God expects of us.

Jesus says we are to love our enemies.  As we have seen over the past couple of weeks, the biblical definition of love is to feel affection for another which leads us to take action on their behalf.  In other words, Jesus says that we are to feel affection for our enemies… strong affection… which leads us to do things for their benefit.

What does this look like?  How do we demonstrate love for our enemies?

We are going to come back here in just a moment, but first, turn over to Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching here in Luke 6

Luke 6:27-28, 31 (ESV) – 27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”… 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Jesus commands us in Luke 6:27-28 to do good to those who hate us.  Rather than seeking to crush our enemy… rather than seeking to “get even”… we are to seek their gain. 

Jesus goes on to command that we are to bless those who curse us.  This means that we are to speak well of others, even when they speak poorly of us.  In fact, Luke records Jesus giving “The Golden Rule”… do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Lk 6:31)… in this very same context.

How do we wish our enemy would treat us?  How do we wish the school bully would treat us?  With respect and kindness, right?  That is how we are to treat him.  How about the inconsiderate driver on the freeway?  We wish he would be courteous and polite.  That is how we should treat him.  How about the business rival who maligns your reputation in the community?  How would we want him to relate to us?    With respect.  With honesty and integrity.  We should do the same to him.  How about the person in your church who slanders your name and character?  How do you wish they would treat you?  With love.  With respect.  You wish they would speak well of you.  You wish that they would encourage you and bless you.  This is how we should treat them.  How about the family member who mocks you for your faith?  You would want to them to listen… to hear you out… to speak to you with kindness and love, even though they disagree with you.  We should do the same.

This paints a pretty good picture of what it looks like to love our enemies, but… remember… love is more than what we do.  It is a strong affection for someone which leads to action.  To simply do good to our enemy when we don’t feel like doing it doesn’t fulfill the command which Jesus is giving us here.  How do we love the person who doesn’t love us?  How do we stir up love within ourselves for those who hate us and persecute us?

This isn’t easy.  In fact, it is impossible in our own strength.  We simply can’t do it on our own.  It must flow out our love for God.  Love for enemies only comes as God creates in us a love for our enemies.

I believe this is why Jesus commands us to “pray for those who persecute you.”  The Greek here implies an ongoing and continuous action of prayer for those who actively oppose us.  We are to start praying… right now… for our enemies and not stop as long as we have life and breath.  We are to be constantly interceding on their behalf before God.  We are to be constantly lifting them up before God and seeking His best for them.

Have you ever tried to do this?  This is incredibly hard.  Let’s face it… we don’t want to pray for our enemies.  We don’t want God to bless them, do we?  We want God to smite them.  We want don’t want God to bless them… we want justice.  We want them to hurt just like we have been hurt.  That’s when you start going through the Bible and thinking… wouldn’t it be great if God just opened up the ground the ground and swallowed them whole?  Or maybe He could just send down some fire from heaven.  He doesn’t need to completely consume them… but maybe He could singe their hair and eyebrows?  Where is a big fish when you need one?

Jesus commands that our attitude toward our enemies be entirely different.  We are commanded to seek their blessing by going directly to the God of the universe and interceding on their behalf.

How do we do this?  I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time praying authentically for those who hate me and oppose me.  I tend to pray that God will show them how wrong they are and change their sinful attitudes.  I tend to pray that God will do “whatever He must” to make them the people He wants them to be.  If I am honest… this is the equivalent of calling for “the divine belt.”  I don’t want to say that we should never pray for justice.  The Psalmists often pray this way regarding their enemies.  But I don’t think that this is what Jesus is getting at here in Matthew 5.  We are to pray for their good.  We are to pray that God would bless them.

How do we do this?  I am far from an expert in this, but there are two things I have found helpful in this:

1)      Whatever I am praying for myself… I strive to pray it for my enemies as well.  I don’t think I have ever prayed for divine discipline to fall upon myself.  I pray for God’s grace and mercy and peace to be showered upon me and my family.  If I pray this for me… then I should pray the same thing for those who are my enemies.

2)      Pray the promises of Scripture for them.  As I come to a promise in Scripture… I strive to pray that this promise will be fulfilled in the life of my enemy.  I strive to pray for the blessings of salvation and provision and guidance for those who oppose me. 

Something amazing tends to happen in our hearts when we do this.  God tends to reshape our hearts and affections toward our enemies.  Whereas at one time we disliked them intensely… we tend to soften in our attitude toward them.  We begin to care about the person we are praying for, even if they don’t care about us. 

This isn’t easy.  It is an ongoing process.  Jesus commands us here to pray continuously for our enemies and, as we do so, God will do His work in our hearts and cause us to progressively… little by little… truly love those who hate us.  Then we will start to speak well of them and do good to them, even if they don’t speak well of us and do good to us in return.

Now I want to be clear about something.  This doesn’t mean that we are to blindly allow our enemies to harm us and take advantage of us.  Jesus doesn’t expect us to intentionally place ourselves in situations where our enemies can harm us.  When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world to preach on His behalf, He knew they would encounter many enemies.  He knew they would encounter opposition and hostility and hatred and He gave them this instruction…

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) – 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

We are to be innocent in our dealings with those who oppose us, meaning that we are not to intentionally bring harm to our enemies.  We aren’t to lash out against them.  But at the same time, we are to be wise in dealing with our enemies.  We aren’t to walk blindly into an ambush.  Jesus doesn’t expect us to allow ourselves to be unnecessarily abused by our enemies.

We see this demonstrated by Jesus Himself on more than one occasion during His earthly ministry (Lk 4:28-30, Jn 8:59.)  Since Jesus is our only perfect example of how to fulfill the expectations of God, then we know it is not opposed to God’s will to avoid the abuse of enemies if we can.

This sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?  Why would we want to do this?  Because God commands us to and we desire to do that which glorifies Him.  That should be a sufficient answer for us. 

But why does God expect this of us?

There are two main reasons given in the text here for why God commands us to love our enemies.

1)      To become sons of our Heavenly Father

2)      To be different than the world

Let me deal with these in reverse order here…

Jesus makes it clear that He expect us to be different than the world around us.  Even tax collectors and Gentiles love those who love them.

Tax collectors were considered by the Jews to be among the most sinful of sinful people.  They were considered traitors because they served the Roman government and they were hated by everyone.  They were often crooked and self-serving.  They were hated.  Yet even they feel and show affection for those who love them.

Gentiles, on the other hand, were considered even worse than tax collectors.  They were considered to be ritually unclean by pious Jews.  They knew nothing of the one true God.  They were pagans… completely separated from God.  Yet even these heathens greet their own family members.  Even they love those who love them.

Jesus is saying that His followers should be different.  The world loves those who love them, but as Christians we should be different.  Rather than be like the world, we should be something like God in the way in which we love.  Jesus expresses this by saying that we should become sons of our Father who is in heaven.

In a 1st century context, a son was expected to become like his father.  He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He would do what his father does.  If his father was a fisherman… it was likely he would grow up to be a fisherman.  If his father was a carpenter… it was likely he would grow up to be a carpenter.  He would grow up in the same town as his father.  He would marry from among the same group of people as his father did.  He would live and die in much the same way as his father. 

Do you see what Jesus is getting at here?  The purpose behind loving one’s enemies and praying for them is so that we can become progressively more and more like our Heavenly Father.  The reason why we do this is so that we can show forth something of the character of God in our lives.

What is God like?  How does God relate to His enemies?  He causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good… He causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.  God shows love and kindness to all mankind… whether they are actively opposed to Him or not. 

Theologians sometimes call this “common grace” and they distinguish it from saving grace.  God is gracious to all mankind in that He allows us to live despite the fact that we are sinners.  He allows sinners to enjoy something of the blessings of this life… family and home and food and life and breath… even though none of us deserve it.  God doesn’t save everyone, but He is gracious to some extent to everyone.  The sun shines on the good and the bad.  The rain falls on those who are right with God and those who aren’t.

God expects us to glorify Him in the lives that we live.  We are to be like Him… conformed to His image… not the image of the world… so that something of Him might be seen in us.  We are in a very real sense intended to be fuzzy photographs of God.  The world can’t see Him, but they should be able to see something of who He is and what He is like in us.  As Christians, we are becoming “sons of our Father in heaven” through becoming more and more like Him, so that the world may see Him in us. 

In fact, ultimately, we are to be perfect… or complete and mature (τέλειος in the Greek) as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  We won’t succeed in this during this lifetime… we can’t… but we must strive to be like God in every way.  And God is loving to His enemies.  In fact, to some He sovereignly chooses to bestow more than simply common grace… even though naturally we are all His enemies.

Romans 5:8-10 (ESV) – 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

God is gracious and loving to all His enemies… but to some, He is particularly loving.  If you are a Christian, then God loved you enough to send His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for your sin… even while you were His enemy.  Is it too much for God to ask us to love our enemies… and do good to them… and speak well of them… and to pray for them?

Isn’t this example we see in Jesus?  As His enemies nailed the Son of God to the cross… what did He do?  He loved them.  He prayed for them… 

Luke 23:34a (ESV) – 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”…

Commenting on this, Dr. John Stott has written, “If the cruel torture of crucifixion could not silence our Lord’s prayer for His enemies, what pain, pride, prejudice or sloth could justify the silencing of ours?” (Stott, quoted by D.A. Carson, Matt 5:44.)

As Christians we have been saved by God’s grace.  God has brought us into a relationship with Himself and He expects us to love Him with all that we are and to show forth His love to all those He brings across our path… even our enemies… even those who hate us and curse us and mistreat us and steal from us and abuse us and persecute us.  We are to love them… and do good to them… and speak well of them… and pray for them continuously.  We do this so that we will be unique and stand out as God’s people in the midst of the world.  But probably most importantly… we do this because we long to be like Him… who loved us…even when we were His enemies.  We do this because we long to glorify our Father in heaven and show forth something of what He is like in the lives that we live here on this earth.

Do you love your enemies? 

I would challenge us all to prayerfully examine our own hearts.  How do we feel toward those who oppose us?  How do we act toward those who dislike us and hurt us and speak poorly of us?  Do we love them?  Do we do good for them?  Do we speak well of them?  Do we pray for them?

Secondly, I would suggest that we begin to pray consistently for our enemies.  I’m sure many of us have a prayer list which we work through every morning in our times of private prayer.  Have you ever thought of adding your enemies to that list and praying for them specifically every day?  Try it… and see how God changes your heart toward them.

Finally… if there is bitterness and unforgiveness and anger stored up in you toward those who have hurt you… confess it before God.  Admit it for what it is… sin.  Remember that Jesus died for the sin of failing to love our enemies, just as He died for all our other sins as well.  Confess your sin.  Seek forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I Jn 1:9.)

Matthew 5:43-44 (ESV) – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

 

 

 

 

 

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The following is a sermon preached at Sunnyside Baptist Church on Sunday morning September 21, 2008.

Over the last several weeks, we have been looking at the gospel of John and we have seen over and over again the importance of believing in Jesus.

Who is Jesus?  We have seen that He is the eternal Son of God… the Creator of heaven and earth… who left His heavenly home, taking on humanity and walking among us.  He lived a perfect life and He died the perfect death in our place and rose again the third day so that we might be saved from the wrath of God against us for our sin.  He came and died and rose again so that we might be saved from the judgment to come and have eternal life in the presence of God.  This salvation is a gift which God gives freely to those who believe in Jesus.

What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus?  It means to know Him as He truly is and to trust in Him.  It means to repent… to experience a change of mind about Jesus and ourselves and our sin and to turn from our sin to Jesus and rely upon Him alone to save us from the judgment to come.

We have seen this emphasized over and over again in the Gospel of John… but then what?  This is just the beginning of the Christian life.  Salvation is a free gift received by all who trust in Jesus.  We do nothing to earn it.  But once we receive this free gift, we enter into a new relationship with God… and like all relationships, there are responsibilities attached to being a Christian.  God expects us to live our lives in ways that are pleasing to Him.  And at the heart of these responsibilities is love.

We are going to look at the responsibility of love in the Christian life over the next couple of weeks and in order to do so, we will look at the words of Jesus spoken to a lawyer from among the Pharisees near the end of His earthly ministry.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) – 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This event took place near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He had traveled about Palestine, doing miraculous works of grace and mercy and always preaching the need to repent and believe in the gospel if one was to be saved from the anger of God against sin.  In doing so, He made more than His share of enemies.  As He draws near the end of His earthly ministry, the opposition is becoming more and more hostile and His enemies are beginning to surround Him on all sides.  It is in this context, in an effort to trap Him in saying the wrong thing and therefore to find ammunition to use against Him, that this Pharisaical lawyer approaches Jesus with this question, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?

This was a common point of debate among first century rabbis.  They identified 613 different commands in the Old Testament Law… 365 negative commands and 248 positive commands.  There was no possible way to remember all these commands, much less intentionally seek to obey them all at all times.  Therefore, the rabbis would debate about which was the most important of all these commands (Wessell, Expositors Commentary, Mk 12:28.)  But they couldn’t always make up their minds about which commandments were “greatest” or “least” among this large array of inspired commands given by God.  This expert in the Law is attempting to trap Jesus by asking Him to answer a question which the rabbis of His day couldn’t agree upon even among themselves.

But Jesus doesn’t miss a beat here.  He answers this man’s question by pointing back to the Old Testament and quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. And by doing so, He not only tells this man what the most important commandment is, but also which commandment is of second importance as well.  These two commands can be summed up rather simply…

1)      Love God.

2)      Love people.

Now in the context here, this lawyer may be speaking in hypothetical terms about the stuff of 1st century theological debate in an attempt to trick Jesus into saying the wrong thing, but the answer to this question is of the utmost importance.  You see, the Law was given to describe for us the character of God and His will for our lives.  The Law is intended to describe for us what God expects of us.  The Law tells us what our responsibilities are before God.  Therefore , the answer to this question is of the utmost importance us as Christians today.

We are told here that the Law and the Prophets… all the Old Testament commandments… depend on these two instructions.  Literally everything else in the Law “hangs” (κρεμάννυμι) on these two commands.  This doesn’t mean that there are no other expectations which God demands of His people.  But these two commands are foundational to everything else.  You might say that these two commands are like a clothes hanger on which the suit jacket of all God’s expectations hang.  The clothes hanger isn’t the suit jacket, but it supports the whole suit jacket.  Without the hanger, the jacket falls to the floor and becomes useless and unwearable.  All of God’s expectations for His people hang from these two commands… 1) Love God and 2) Love people.

We are going to deal only with the first commandment here today… we will deal with the second commandment over the next few weeks.  There are only two things I want us to see in this first commandment:

1)      What is the greatest responsibility of the Christian?

2)      How are we to fulfill this responsibility?

First of all… what is the greatest responsibility in the Christian life?  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…”  Mark records Jesus also adding that we are to love God “with all your strength” as well (Mk 12:30.)  This is the great and foremost commandment.”

Notice that last phrase, “This is the great and foremost… or first (πρτος) … commandment.”  This comes before all else.  This is first and more important than any other responsibility which God demands of those who have a relationship with Him.   The fact that this is the “first” commandment implies that every other commandment flows out of this commandment.  This comes first.  This responsibility is more important than any other.  If we get this wrong… we will get everything else wrong.  If we don’t love God… then we cannot meet any of God’s other expectations for our lives.

So with this said… what does it mean to love?  What is love?  This isn’t an easy question to answer.  We all have a vague idea of what love is, but we seem to have a hard time defining it.  We know it when we see it… or it is probably more accurate to say that we know it when we feel it… but we have a hard time explaining it with words.

The Greek isn’t much help to us here.  The Greek term is γαπάω… it is simply means to love.  As many of you probably know, there are different terms in Greek used to describe love, γάπη and φιλία being the most common.  I have often heard many preachers say that γάπη is a God-like love which is selfless and unconditional, while φιλία is a human, brotherly love.  But this distinction cannot really be supported from Scripture.  In passages like John 21:15-17, Jesus uses both terms within the same context interchangeably.  So the Greek doesn’t help us much in attempting to define what love is.

Looking to our modern, cultural understandings of love isn’t much help either.  In our modern culture we have a very warped idea of what love is.  Love is often equated with attraction or physical intimacy and clearly, from a biblical perspective, this is not central core of love. 

Often I hear that love described as being something which is not so much an emotion, but an action.  In other words, people will often say that love isn’t what you feel… it is what you do.  But we can’t support that from Scripture either.  Love is clearly tied to our affections in Scripture.  Love is what we feel… yet it is also more than just a feeling.  Love is a feeling that leads to action on behalf of another.  A good example of this is found in John 14:15

John 14:15 (ESV) – 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that love is keeping His commandments.  No.  Love doesn’t equal obedience.  This is a conditional statement.  Love results in keeping His commandments.  Love is a feeling of affection which leads to action on behalf of another.

Let me give you another example of this…

Matthew 6:24 (ESV) – 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Notice that love is not equated with service here.  Love is equated with devotion (ντέχω).  But even more importantly, love is contrasted with hating (μισέω) and despising (καταφρονέω), both of which are a negative affection or emotion directed toward someone or something.  The point Jesus is making here is… do you have greater affection for God or for money?  This affection… this love will lead to action on behalf of the thing you love.  If you love money… you will serve money.  If you love God… you will serve God.

Although this is far from exhaustive, this should give us a sense of what it means to love.  Biblically, love is an emotion which leads to action on behalf of another.

Now, back in Matthew 22, Jesus is talking about the responsibilities which are ours as a result of our relationship with God and the great and foremost responsibility is love God.  But how are we supposed to do this?

Knowing the biblical context from which Jesus is answering this lawyer is helpful here.  Jesus is not answering this question out of a vacuum.  He is quoting from the Old Testament when He answers this Pharisee.  He is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and to really unpack the significance of what Jesus is saying here, we need to turn back there and pick up the full context…

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV) – 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

This passage is part of a Jewish prayer which is commonly called the Shema in Judaism (Deut 6:4-5, Deut 11:13-21 and Num 15:37-41.)  It is considered by orthodox Jews to be the most significant theological passage in the Old Testament.  Pious Jews in the 1st century would pray the Shema twice everyday, once in the morning and once at night (Wessell, Expositors Commentary, Mk 12:29-30.) 

Part of this prayer is the explicit command to love God with all our heart, soul and might.  But notice how the command to love God is preceded by a summary statement about who God is.  This is crucial, because we cannot love someone we do not know.

Notice what this text says about God.  “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.”  Literally in Hebrew, “Yahweh is our Elohim.  Yahweh is one.”

Names are very important in Scripture.  Names are more than simply a label attached to someone.  A name describes what a person is like.  Here… God is described by two different names which describe different aspects of His character.

1)      First, He is called Yahweh – the God who is.  This name of God speaks of His unchanging nature.  God always was, always is and always will be.  It speaks of His eternal faithfulness to deliver His people in their times of need.  He is eternally faithful and always keeps His promises.  Therefore, this is the name by which He is known to His special, chosen people in the Old Testament.

2)      Secondly, He is called Elohim. This speaks of God in creation and judgment.  This speaks of His power and sovereign authority.

These two names depict God as mighty and powerful… as ruling over all things… setting the standards of the universe and passing judgment over all things.  Yet He is also seen as a personal, caring and promise keeping God who acts on behalf of His people.  He is a God who forges relationships and always fulfills His promised responsibilities within those relationships.

Then, after speaking of the name of God, there is a specific mention of the nature of God.  God is One.  There is only one God… there is none like Him.  No other God exists in heaven and earth.  Only Yahweh… the personal God who forges relationships and keeps His promises… who is Elohim… the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of the universe.

But there is something else which is explicit but often overlooked here in Deuteronomy 6.  It is a tiny, 3-letter word.  In fact, in Hebrew it is nothing more than a suffix attached to a noun.  But it is of the utmost importance.  It is the word “OUR.”  God is a personal God who enters into relationship with people.  He is OUR God and we are HIS people. 

This summary statement regarding God precedes the command to love God.  Before we can love Him… we must know Him.  And the only way to know God in this kind of personal relationship is through Jesus Christ.  Jesus made this clear when He said, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 (ESV).)  We come to God through Jesus Christ.  He alone can reconcile sinners like us with God.  In Him alone can we come to know and understand our great God.  This must precede any effort to love God.  Apart from Jesus, we can never fulfill this responsibility.  After all, how can we love a God we don’t even know?

Do you know God? 

Do you know what He is like? 

Do you know that there is only one God? 

Do you have a relationship with the God the universe through Jesus Christ?

Is He your God?  Are you one of His people?

We can’t really love someone we don’t know.  We can’t love someone we don’t have a relationship with.

Every relationship has responsibilities attached to it… and Jesus says that the primary responsibility for those who have a relationship with God is to love Him and, as we see both here in Deuteronomy 6 and back in Matthew 22, we are not to simply love Him a little bit.  Jesus says that we are to love the Lord our God “with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind” and Mark adds in Mark 12:30, “with all our strength.  What does this mean?  Let’s take it apart phrase by phrase.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart.  The heart (καρδία and לֵבָב) is the seat of the emotions and will.  In other words, we are to make a conscious choice to love God.  Our innermost being is to be directed toward loving God.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our mind.  The mind (διάνοια) is rational part of our being.  It is where our thought life takes place.  We are to love the Lord our God with all our thoughts… all our meditations… all our daydreams.  Everything that takes place in our head should be centered around loving God.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our soul.  The soul (ψυχή and נֶפֶשׁ) is often translated “life” in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and it refers to all that a person is, both in the mind, body and spirit.  This speaks of all that we are as human beings.

The point Jesus seems to be making is that those who have a relationship with God are to love Him with all that we are as human beings.  Every aspect of our being is to be committed to expressing the deepest of affection toward Him.  And we are to be absolutely committed to this, because we are to love Him with all our “strength” (σχύς) or might( מְעֹד.)  This implies commitment… zeal… passion.  Everything that we are is to be absolutely… passionately committed to loving God.

What does this look like?  I know this illustration fails on some levels, but I can’t think of a better way to express what this looks like than to compare it to a man who is pursuing the woman of his dreams.  I remember very well when I first fell in love with my wife.  She was all I thought about.  She was all I cared about.  I was constantly devising ways to be around her and when we were apart I was looking for ways to call her on the telephone.  My thoughts… my affections… pretty much all of my life centered around pursuing her.  I am not unique in this… this is what we men do when we truly love a woman.  We pursue here with all that we are, because we love her with all that we are as man.  This is how we love with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

Does this describe the way in which we love God? 

Do we think about Him often? 

Does He occupy the center place of our thoughts and affections? 

Are we constantly seeking contact with Him? 

Is our life focused around Him above all else?

Isn’t this what Jesus says is the great and foremost responsibility of a Christian???

There is a tendency in our culture today toward segmentalizing every aspect of our lives.  When we go to work, we tend to be focused exclusively on being productive and being successful in our career.  When we are with our families, we tend focus only on being with them and doing whatever is necessary to fulfill our responsibilities to them.  When we are enjoying sports, we focus on the game at hand. 

In this segmented life, God often gets pushed to the periphery.  Let’s face it… most of us don’t really spend that much time thinking about Him.  We push Him off to the side of our existence.  Of course we think about God once in a while.  Many of spend some time thinking of God every morning in our quiet times as we read Scripture and pray.  Of course, we think about God for an hour a week at church.  But how much does He influence the rest of our lives?

Jesus says that every aspect of our being… every aspect of our life should express a heart overflowing with love toward God.  When we go to work… we should work in such a way that we are expressing love toward God as we work.  When we spend time with our families… we should spend time with them in such a way that we are expressing love toward God.  When we wash our cars… we should wash our cars in such a way that we are expressing love to God with all that we are.  When we lay down to sleep at night… we should express the love we have for God in the way in which we nod off to sleep.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  That is why we need a Savior… because to love to anyone or anything more than God is sin.  That is why Jesus died on the cross, so that we might be forgiven for the way in which we fail to love God as we should.

But we cannot allow our failure to love Him as we should to stop us from striving to love Him more.

So how do we do this?  Let me offer us four suggestions in how to apply this teaching of Jesus to our lives…

1)      Seek to know God

We can’t love someone we don’t know.  We can’t have a relationship whatsoever with someone we don’t know.  Everything we have seen here today assumes that we already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  If we are not trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then none of this matters, because ultimately, we don’t know God.

Once we have come to God through Jesus, then we begin the long process of getting to know God more and more.

How do we do this?  Through reading His Word and prayer.  Through spending time in gospel fellowship with God’s people… reminding one another who our God is and what He has done for us.  We grow in our knowledge of God through simply trusting in Him and living each day in His presence.

If you want to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength… then strive to know Him better.

2)      Cultivate love for God by constantly reminding yourself of how much He loves you.

Love tends to produce love.  Babies aren’t born loving their parents.  Babies come to love their parents through experiencing the love which their parents show them.  This is true in our relationship with God as well. John expresses this so clearly in his first epistle…

1 John 4:10 (NASB95) – 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We don’t love God naturally.  Love for God isn’t hardwired into our being.  We love Him only because He loves us first.

If you want to love God more, then spend time meditating on how God has loved you.  Remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Meditate on the cross.  Preach the gospel to yourself every day.  Remind yourself that you are a sinner, but God has loved you and sent His only Son, Jesus, so that you might be saved from your sin and saved to an eternal life in relationship with Him.  Remember the gospel!!!  Nothing melts the heart of stone like knowing how God has shown us His love.  Nothing.

3)      Constantly strive to put God at the center of everything you do.

This is perhaps the hardest thing of all to do.  How do we love God at work?  At school?  In our homes?  With our families?  In the activities we enjoy?  In the movies we watch?  In our thought life?  Is God central to all that we do and think and feel?  Do we strive to make Him so?

How do we do this?  Try to reflect something of the character of God in all that you do.  We are created to magnify Him… to make Him seen in the midst of this world.  Strive, to the best of your ability, in the strength which God provides, to show to the world that you belong to Him… and that you love Him, because He first loved you.

4)      Finally, when we fail, which we all do… repent and trust in Jesus to forgive your sin. 

None of us succeed in living up to this responsibility.  This is sin.   And the answer to sin is Jesus.  The Christian life is a constant life of repentance and faith.  Daily we must confess that we have not loved God the way that we should and we must repent of our selfishness and pride and unloving attitudes and turn to Jesus, with full expectation that He will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn 1:9.)  Repent… believe… and strive to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Because this is the foundation upon which all Christian responsibility hangs. 

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The following is a sermon preached at Sunnyside Baptist Church on Sunday morning, July 27, 2008.

What does the church exist to do? 

Why are we here on this sinful rock in the middle of the universe?  Why doesn’t Jesus just snatch us up to heaven as soon as we are saved?  Why does He leave us here on this sinful planet to suffer and struggle in this life?

The only thing that we as Christians do here on earth that we will not do in heaven is evangelism.  Therefore, it seems safe to say that we are here in the midst of a sinful world for one reason and one reason only…to glorify God by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. 

What is the mission of the church on earth?  It is to make disciples of all the nations, resting in the fact that Jesus Christ is with us always… even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) – 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is probably a very familiar passage to most of us.  It is so familiar in fact, that we have a name for it.  We typically call this “the Great Commission.”  But often we only focus on verses 19-20 and, in doing so; we miss out on some of the significance of this passage.  It is my hope that we will be able to see three things in this passage today:

1)      Who this commission is given to.

2)      What this commission entails.

3)      How this commission will be accomplished.

We are told here that the eleven went to Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had directed them to.  We don’t know which mountain this was, but the eleven apostles certainly did.  Jesus had prepared them in advance and told them where He would meet them and they were faithful to His command to go and meet Him right where He told them to.

But my question for us here today… did they go alone?  Is Jesus speaking only to the eleven apostles here?  If so, then we might have a problem, because it could be said that this commission upon which many of us base the ministries of our churches might not be intended for us.  In fact, there are a growing number of people in conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical churches who are saying that.  They will claim that this command is given here by Jesus to the apostles… and by extension to ordained ministers today… but it is not intended for all Christians.  And they might have a point if… and I stress if… the apostles were alone here.

So who is here on the mountain with Jesus?  To answer that question, it is helpful to go back a few more verses to verse 9.  This takes place right after the resurrection and the women have come to the tomb and found it empty and the angel has told them that Jesus is not longer there, for He has risen!  As they leave the tomb, Jesus appears to them…

Matthew 28:9-10 (ESV) – 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Jesus commands them to go and tell His “brothers” to meet Him in Galilee.  Who is He talking about here?  Clearly He is talking about the eleven apostles, but could it be that He is referring more broadly to all those who were His followers?

Although we cannot be dogmatic on this point, there are three reasons which might lead us to this conclusion:

1)      If you trace Jesus’ use of the term “brothers” (δελφός in the Greek) through the Gospel of Matthew, we see that when Jesus spoke of His “brothers”, He typically meant a wider group of followers than simply the apostles.  For example, consider Matthew 12:46-50

Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV) – 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus refers to all those who followed Him as His “brothers.”  (See also Matt 25:40)

2)      Furthermore, both Luke and John record Jesus appearing to the apostles while they were still in Jerusalem before they could travel to Galilee to meet with Him.  Why would Jesus have the women tell the apostles to meet Him in Galilee, and then appear to them in Jerusalem?  If He was going to see them later the same day, then why not tell them Himself?  Unless, of course, the “brothers” described here were more than just the eleven apostles, but is a reference to all those who followed Jesus while He was in Galilee.

3)      In I Corinthians 15:6, the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus appearing to more than 500 brethren at one time.  Most of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus occurred on isolated roads or in upper rooms or deserted beaches.  Where could He have possibly appeared to more than 500 brethren?  Could it be here… on a mountainside in Galilee… where the bulk of His followers could be found at this time?

Again, I stress, that we cannot be dogmatic one way or the other, but I think the evidence suggests that those present with Jesus on the mountain this day were more than just the eleven apostles. 

I bring all this up for a couple of important reasons.  Primarily, I want us to see very clearly that this is not simply a command for “elite” Christians.  This is not a command given solely to the apostles… or to church leaders today.  This is a command given to all types of Christians.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then this commission is for you.

Often when I have taught on this passage of Scripture in the past, I have heard many different excuses from people.  Far too many of us Christians will often say, “Yes… I know this is for me, but you don’t understand.  I’m just not ready.  I don’t know my Bible well enough.  My faith is too weak.  I’m just not confident enough to share the gospel with others…”

I would point you to this passage and say, “Look at the type of people Jesus gave this commission to.”  Look specifically at how they responded to Jesus here.  When they saw Him, they worshipped Him.  This is the appropriate response to Jesus… He is, after all, very God of very God and worthy of all honor and glory and praise.

But also notice that some “doubted.”   The Greek word here is διστάζω (pronounced distazo.)  It is derived from the Greek noun δίς which means “twice” or “again.”   The implication is that they thought twice about Jesus.  They had mixed feelings.  It doesn’t so much mean that they completely doubted Jesus, but they hesitated as they saw Him.  This term only occurs 2x in Scripture, here and in Matthew 14:31, when Peter walked on the water with Jesus for a moment…then he took eyes off of Jesus… and his faith wavered… and he began to sink.  Then Jesus took Him by the hand and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt”… διστάζω.  It’s not that Peter had no faith… he had enough faith to walk on the water for a moment… but then he hesitated.  He had little faith.

Those who came to this place believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God who died for their sin and who rose again.  Otherwise, why would they worship Him?   But their faith was not all it should be.  They hesitated at times.  They weren’t “Super-Christians” who were always confident and self-assured.  They were no different than us.  At times they could be strong in their faith and, at other times, they could be as weak as little children… afraid to engage in the task at hand.

Why do I bring all this background information up?  Because I want us to see that this commission is for people .like us.  Christians who aren’t perfect.  Christians who haven’t “arrived” yet.  Christians who are sometimes afraid.  Christians who hesitate to boldly share the gospel at times.  This commission is for people like you and me… ordinary Christians… who despite our weakness and timidity are entrusted by Jesus Christ to fulfill His mission in this world.

 What is this mission?  Skip down to verse 19 for a moment…“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…  The only imperative here in the Greek is the command to “make disciples.”

What is a disciple?  A disciple (μαθητής) is a learner… a pupil… a follower.  The command here is for Jesus’ disciples, meaning all Christians, to reproduce.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are commanded to take part in encouraging others to become followers of Jesus.  You are to reproduce other Christians and Jesus explains to us how this is done through three participles in the Greek… going… baptizing… and teaching.

The first part of “making disciples” is going.  This is an aorist participle in the Greek and should be literally translated “having gone.”  Jesus simply assumes that His people will “go” and, as a result of our “going”, we will take part in making disciples.

Think about this for a moment… what does it mean to go?  Let’s start by thinking about what it doesn’t mean.  We can’t go if we are sitting at home.  If we hole up inside the safety of our own castle and never engage with those who are unbelievers, then we aren’t “going”, we’re staying.  And if all we do is “stay”, then we will never make disciples.

It is also not sufficient to simply go to church.  We must “go” and be among unbelievers.  Jesus commands His people to, “Go…and make disciples of all nations.”  The word translated “nations” is θνος (pronounced ethnos) and, in the New Testament, it typically refers to Gentiles… those who were outside the people of God.  It speaks of those who were absolute pagans… people who knew next to nothing about the God of the Bible… people who were entirely different than Jesus’ Jewish followers.

This is a command to reach the nations of the earth… the θνος … the people out there who know nothing about God and the salvation which He has provided in Jesus Christ.  Yes… this speaks of reaching the native in the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa.  But it also speaks of reaching the lost soul in the deepest, darkest jungles of your local community as well.  This is not only a command to reach the sinner on the other side of the ocean… but it is also a command to reach the sinner across the street.

If we are never among unbelievers, then how can we take part in them becoming disciples of Jesus?

If we are to “make disciples”, then we must “go.”  We must step out into uncomfortable situations and engage with people who are not like us… people who are apart from God… so that they might be saved.

The Apostle Paul drives home the importance of “going” in Romans 10

Romans 10:13-17 (ESV) – 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Do you see Paul’s point here?  No one will ever come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the hear the good news of the gospel.  And how will hear the gospel unless we go and share it with them.

This is the first step in “making disciples”, but it doesn’t end here.  The second step is “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus is not saying that baptism is necessary for salvation.  Baptism is a symbol of identification.  It is a way of saying that I am with Him.  It is a picture of the fact that the sinner I once was has died with Christ… and I was buried with Him… and I have risen to new life in Him.

But notice here that baptism is described as being in the name… singular… of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As Christians, we are to be baptized… we are to identify with…the Triune God.

There is much that could be said about this, but before we can identify with God, we must know who He is.  We must know and believe that God is the Creator of all things.  We must understand that He is holy holy holy (Isaiah 6:3)…morally perfect in every way.  We must understand that He is a consuming fire (Deut 4:24, Heb 12:29) and that He will one day judge all sin (Rev 20:11-15.) 

This leads us to an understanding of ourselves before Him.  We are not like God.  Whereas He is holy, we are unholy sinners and we deserve His wrath (Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23.)

The only way that sinful people like us can identify with a holy God is through Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6, Acts 4:12.)  He is the only begotten Son of God who died on the cross for our sin, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve for our sin, so that we might be forgiven.  He rose again the third day so that we might have eternal life in Him (I Cor 15:3-4.)

This is the salvation that God offers to us.  It is a free gift, but we must reach out and take it.  We must repent of our sin and trust in Jesus (Mk 1:15, Acts 2:36-38.)  Water baptism is simply a symbol of the fact that we have turned from our sin and are trusting fully in Jesus.

If we are to take part in making disciples, then we must be clearly communicating this truth to those who are apart from Christ around us.  We must share the gospel with them.  We must tell them who God is.  We must tell them that they are sinners and are bound for hell.  We must tell them that Jesus Christ died for their sin and rose again so that they might have eternal life.  And we must call them to repent and trust in Jesus and to proclaim this fact to the world through being obedient to His command to be baptized.

But even after we have done this our work is still not complete, because there is still one last stage in making disciples.  We are to “teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us…

Notice that this is more than simply communicating information to people.  It is training up people to be obedient to God’s Word.  Making disciples is not complete when someone “makes a decision for Christ” and is baptized.  This is simply the beginning.  The Christian life begins here with obedience to Christ through repentance and faith… and it continues with baptism… but this is just the starting point for the Christian life.  This begins the ongoing process of growing to be like Jesus. 

Our commission is not just to get people to pray and prayer and go through the waters of baptism.  We are to continually pour the gospel over one another…and constantly teach the Word of God to one another… and never stop encouraging one another to grow in our understanding and obedience to the Word of God.

Do you see how huge this task is?  There is no way we could ever do this in our own strength… especially given the fact that we… like some of those here on the mountain with Jesus… are prone to hesitancy and doubt.  But we don’t have to do this alone.  We are not called to do this in our own strength.  In fact, the opposite is true.    We often speak of the Great Commission here, but I think we sometimes forget the “Great Comment” that is contained here as well.

All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me…  All authority is His.  He is sovereign over everything.

He is sovereign over everything in heaven… the angelic host, the cherubim, the seraphim and the living creatures… they all bow to His will. 

He has authority over all the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Satan and all his minions, the principalities and powers, they are all under His sovereign authority.

He has all authority over the universe.  Stars and planets and comets all travel in their orbits according to His will.  The black holes and supernovas and solar systems all belong to Him and move according His plan.

He controls all of nature.  The wind, the rain, the seas and everything in them belong to Him.  The mountains shake at His command.  Lightning strikes where and when and how He deems fit.  The thunder rolls when He commands.  Tidal waves and fires and cyclones and volcanoes are all subject to Him.  The fish of the deep and the birds of the air and the wild animals and the domesticated ones all belong to Him. 

The kings of the earth and their nations are ultimately under His control.  You… me… everyone and everything… every atom in this universe is subject to His authority. 

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He says, “…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  He’s got the whole world in His hands.  He’s got you and me brother, in His hands… and He is with us to make disciples until the end of the age when He comes back for us.

Why are we here?  What is our mission as the Church of Jesus Christ?  It is to reproduce… to make disciples.  We do this by going to those who are not like us and sharing the gospel and baptizing those who are saved and continuously teaching them and encouraging them to grow to be like Jesus.

This is our mission and it is awesome in its scope.  It is far beyond anything we could ever accomplish in our own strength, but we don’t have to.  We are sent out by the One who has all authority in heaven and earth.  The King of kings and Lord of lords has commissioned us to do this thing and, no matter how difficult it might be, we can trust that it will be completed, because He is with us always.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves if we are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Are we continuously going to those who apart from God with the message of the gospel?  Are we involved in encouraging others to grow in Christlikeness?  If not… why not?  Have we forgotten that the One who holds the whole world in His hands is with us… always… even to the end of the age?

Remind yourself of this… and remind your fellow Christians as well.  And, as a result, go 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 things whatsoever Jesus Christ has commanded us.

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