(A commissioning sermon for Crosswood Church)
Like last week, when we sent out two missionaries to the Middle East, today is a very special day in the life of our church as we commission our second daughter church, Crosswood. In the past we’ve spoken of the Biblical mandate to plant new churches and how God typically uses church plants to bring much greater growth in new converts than is typically seen in established churches. It’s our hope that Crosswood will by God’s grace bear much fruit for the kingdom as we send them out from here. At Mount of Olives, as the mother church, we must remember that sending out church plants is only one of many ways we can and should be working to fully implement the Great Commission here and to the nations. Planting churches are necessary but not nearly sufficient if we are to be faithful in bringing the gospel—the good news to our Jerusalem.
To recognize this sending out of a new church, this morning we want to look at Matthew chapter 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples on a short-term mission trip to bring the message of the kingdom to the Jews. When Jesus here sends out his disciples, he wasn’t asking them to do anything that he had not been doing every day. In Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry he says in Luke chapter four, “18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” When Jesus sent his disciples out to do those things, he was merely calling them to continue his well-established ministry.
As rightly proud as we are of The Water’s Edge and now Crosswood, we as the sending church must admit that—UNLIKE Jesus sending out the 12, in many ways we are asking our daughter churches to do what we ourselves have NOT been very faithful to do. We have NOT been in modeling aggressive evangelism and if Crosswood were to preach the good news to lost people at the same rate that we as a church have been doing with it, it would be judged a failed church plant and soon shut its doors. That’s why, as we listen to this commissioning message Jesus gave to the disciples, we must remember it’s a message that BOTH mother and the daughter church must heed. Jesus’ words to prepare his disciples for their mission are equally relevant to both our churches.
We’re looking at only a section of this message in Matthew 10. Up to this point, Jesus has given some specific instructions like: “14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” But much of what has been said to prepare his disciples has been in the form of warnings. “2 …and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next…” That’s not exactly like a coach whooping up his players on the sidelines before the big game. There’s no fist-pumping or head banging after this motivational talk—it’s pretty sober stuff. Bringing the gospel to the lost is no game and the opposition we face doesn’t want to simply outscore us—he wants to destroy us and our churches.
The main charge Jesus gives in this section is in verse 27. “27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” About 80% of Jesus’ ministry was spent with his disciples, much of it in private instruction and explaining his public teaching. It was private, (or, “in the dark”) but he didn’t intend it to remain private. It was given to be brought into the light—publicly spoken. In Jesus’ day, if you wanted to make an announcement to the neighborhood about your daughter’s betrothal or the arrival of a new baby, you would stand up on the flat roof of your house and scream your good news to all within earshot. Jesus is charging his disciples to go public with the truths they had heard from Jesus in private.
This same charge still applies to us today in at least two ways. First, what we learn in church, conferences and small group Bible studies is not intended for our private consumption alone. God gives us his truth not to hoard, but to share with others. Likewise, if God opens your eyes to a meaningful truth to you in your quiet time, he probably didn’t give that to you for your benefit alone. He gave it to bless you so you could bless others with it also. This redistributing of God’s Word isn’t always directed to unbelievers—it’s can also be for building up brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of us are not very accomplished at saying in the light what Jesus tells us in the dark. We take his truth in; maybe even write it in a journal but most of the time we keep it to ourselves. In two weeks we’ve probably forgotten it precisely because we haven’t told it to anyone else. This retelling what we hear is a great way to give the good news to lost people because there’s so much wisdom in the Bible. Also, sharing what God is teaching you is a very natural way for a conversation with the unchurched to move toward the gospel.
Think about it. You’re talking to someone who is unchurched, but you’ve never been able to get to spiritual things with them. As you’re talking with them you say, “You know I read something today that made so much sense—it practically jumped off the page at me.” UNCHURCHED person: “Oh really, what was that?” YOU: “Well, you know I’m a bit of a worrier and this morning I was reading, “Cast your cares on him because he cares for you.” “When I read those words it was like the weight of the world slid off my shoulders. I could almost see myself throwing all the stress in my life on Jesus and knowing he would take it and watch out for me because he cares for me. Have you ever experienced anything like that?” UNCHURCHED: “Well, er, a…I don’t know exactly.” YOU: “Would you like to?”… Being willing to proclaim to the unchurched the words of wisdom and comfort Jesus tells us in private is a great way to move the conversation forward. The Old Testament wisdom literature in particular is a rich source of practical teaching about things we all have to deal with--finances and relationships and generally how to live life. The truth and wisdom of Scripture is also very helpful to the unchurched because it helps them to develop a positive view of the Bible. The point is--like the original 12, we too must give in public what Jesus gives us in secret.
The 12 were no different than us. When Jesus told them to tell the Jews what he’d said to them in private, they were scared. How would the Jews respond? Many would probably get angry or be skeptical or condescending—some might even become violent. Those fears are no different than ours and Jesus knows our fears. He’s intensely practical here. He’s not scraping the theological cosmos—he’s helping them with their fear of witnessing. In the first six verses Jesus commands them three times not to fear. His major point in this section is: Our fears can be overcome in Christ as we share his gospel with others. Jesus gives us three specific truths to help us overcome our fears. The first truth is in verse 26. Before he sent them out he said, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” The message we have to share has a history of being not received, misunderstood and misrepresented by the world. When we proclaim the gospel to others, its truth and significance is (to use Jesus’ words) often “covered” or “hidden” to them. As a result—they may feel offended and are often just certain that YOU are the one with the problem, not them. “How arrogant of you to say Jesus is the only way!” “How can you base your entire life on a book written 2000 years ago?” “Who are you to tell me where I am going when I die?” “You’re just another narrow-minded, intolerant bigot—peddle your ridiculous message to someone else.”
What Jesus is saying here is that someday in the future—it will be revealed to these people that you were telling them the truth and THEY, not you were the ones who were deceived. One day, they will be shown what had previously been hidden from them. They will see that, instead of being arrogant, you were actually were showing love to them. They’ll see that the Bible is eternally and absolutely true and it is wise to base your life on it. God will reveal to them what was previously hidden to them—that they will indeed go to hell without Jesus and your willingness to tell them that was an act of God-given boldness, not shallow judgmentalism. One day they will see that you were a nothing less than a messenger sent from God to them—to personally warn them of living in unbelief. One day they will see that in rejecting you, they were rejecting Jesus. They’ll see that there was someone acting like a narrow-minded, intolerant bigot in that conversation but it wasn’t you.
Can you feel how this helps diminish your fears? You can have much more confidence when you know that the opposition you receive will one day be revealed as foolish--that your message and your attempts to share the gospel with sinners will be vindicated by God. The first fear-overcoming truth is: Lost people will one day inevitably hear and know the truth of your message—you will be vindicated. We hope that those to whom we give out the gospel will know the truth before they die. Sadly, however—for many it won’t be until the judgment. Perhaps that conversation you had with them where they abruptly dismissed you will be brought to their mind and they’ll see that even though they were sure they were right, they were deceived, eternally deceived.
A second fear-overcoming truth is in verse 28. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Another truth that will help us overcome our fears in witnessing is this: Living in the fear of God will help expel the fear of man from our hearts. That is--when we’re afraid of how people will respond to our faithful proclamation of the gospel, the locus of our fear is misplaced because something far worse can happen to us than even the most violent response they might give. All they can do is kill us and send us to heaven for eternal bliss with God—that’s the ultimate of what they can do to us. But if we prefer the praise of men to God—if what another person thinks of us is consistently more important to us than what God thinks, then how can we claim that God is our God? Jesus says what we need to fear is “him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” What we didn’t say last week about the bodily resurrection is that not only believers, but also sinners will get a new body in the resurrection, but it won’t be glorious. They will be given bodies so they can eternally endure both spiritual AND physical anguish in hell.
Daniel 12:2 teaches a bodily resurrection for both the saved and the unsaved. “2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Both life and contempt are everlasting. Jesus is even clearer in John chapter five. He says, “28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out,[bodily] those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Paul tells Felix in Caesarea in Acts 24, “14 …there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” BOTH the just and the unjust will have resurrection bodies. Jesus wants us to remember that God has the power to throw both our bodies and souls in hell and we should allow a healthy fear of him to dislodge our fear of man. Think of it this way--it’s a bit like a man walking through the woods when a skunk comes out from behind a tree and lifts his tail in his direction. He turns to run away only to see a mountain lion 30 feet in front of him running right at him. In that moment, all of his fear of being squirted by the skunk is gone---swallowed up by his fear of being eaten. As his messengers, we must know what to fear and what not to fear.
A third fear-overcoming truth is found in verses 29-31. Jesus says, “29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The truth here is—Knowing God’s absolute sovereignty over our lives and encounters with lost people can still our fearful hearts. When we give the gospel to someone, we have no idea what’s going to happen and that uncertainty is the cause of our fear. But what we CAN know something far more important. We CAN know beyond any doubt that God is in absolute control of that encounter—nothing can or will happen that he does not want to happen and he’s working in it for our good. Jesus says, if two sparrows of comparatively little value to God will not die apart from the Father’s control—if God is in the minutia of our lives like the numbers of our hairs, then you can be certain that our Father to whom we have great value, is in absolute control of any and every situation. So much so that when he sees your hairbrush, he could tell you the number he assigned to each your hairs stuck in its bristles. Why would we be afraid of a situation controlled down to the minutest detail by our all-powerful, absolutely sovereign Father who loves us and only does what is good for us? The great missionary Henry Martyn said, “If [God] has work for me to do, I cannot die.” We’re all invincible until God is finished with us. The first main point is: Our fears can be overcome in Christ as we share his gospel with others.
In the previous verses, Jesus tells shows us how to think in ways that will overcome our fears—truths to remember when we are tempted to fear. In this section, he moves from our minds—truths we are to remember—to our hearts. Ultimately, you can know these fear-dispelling truths backwards and forwards and still never share the gospel with anyone because in many cases, ultimately the problem isn’t about fear. The root problem in many cases is that God doesn’t have supremacy in our lives—our true god is the opinion of others. If God doesn’t reign supremely in our hearts, why would we risk embarrassment, shame and perhaps even worse to tell others about his Son? Many so-called evangelicals—which means “bearers of good news” never share the good news because God and what he has done in Jesus Christ is not supreme in their hearts. When we’re called to decide between on the one hand, sharing the gospel and risk potentially painful consequences or on the other, remaining silent and staying safe—what’s supreme in our hearts often controls our decision. That doesn’t mean that people who put God first in their life cannot at times be silenced by their fear. We still sin. But we must hear what Jesus says in verse 32. “32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” The second main truth of this text is—Jesus must have supremacy in our hearts if we’re to publically acknowledge him to potentially hostile people.
Again, as he did in verse 28, God uses an eternal consequence to motivate us to share our faith. There he implies that those who claim to be in Christ, but are serially, habitually silent about him will be thrown body and soul in hell. Here, those who are serially, habitually unfaithful to speak the gospel and in so doing deny Jesus, Jesus will deny to the Father. Picture it this way. You stand in the judgment and it’s as if the Father looks to the Son to whom judgment has been given and Jesus shakes his head and says, “He’s not one of mine—I don’t know her.” Why would we think we belong to Jesus if we are not fulfilling a huge part of his purpose for us on earth-sharing his good news? There’s a father who is a brick layer. He has an 18 year-old son who says he wants to go into the brick-laying business with his dad and one day he’ll take over his dad’s business. The trouble is—he never works with his father—never lays a single brick. He may enjoy his self-made, delusional status of being in business with his father and one day inheriting it, but the truth of the matter is—regardless of what he may think or claim or have written on the side of his truck, he’s not in business with his father and he won’t inherit the business because he doesn’t do what a bricklayer is supposed to do—he doesn’t lay bricks. The Great Commission is surely not the only thing a believer is commissioned to do. We are also to be holy as God is holy and feed the poor and serve meaningfully in his church--just to name a few. But an evangelical who never shares the good news is a contradiction in terms—like a square circle or dark light or the living dead.
The necessity of Christ’s supremacy in our lives is also taught in verses 34-39 when Jesus says. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In the first verse, Jesus is saying that we should never be surprised when opposition to the message comes. In fact, we should expect it. Jesus has brought his sword and his sword—the word of truth in Scripture, divides people. When light comes into darkness, there is conflict. Satan doesn’t give up his paying customers easily and a spiritually dead person will not positively respond to the gospel unless and until God miraculously makes him alive—unless he causes him to understand and believe.
Jesus goes on to say that this division he will bring is so intense, it will separate even very close family relationships—father and son, mother and daughter, daughter in law and mother in law. He says your most adamant opposition may come from within your own household. That only makes sense because your family probably has the most to lose if your life is transformed to be like Christ. You’ll separate from them in your attitudes, desires and lifestyle and they’ll feel hurt and threatened by that and that’s the kind of thing that turns loved ones into enemies. Some of you sitting here could with tears say, “amen.” Having presented himself as the great Divider, Jesus then makes a powerful application. He says—if in the midst of this division—you regularly compromise the truth in order to get along with those you love—you are loving them more than me and his verdict is—“you are not worthy of me.” Jesus knew the pain of this division first hand—with the members of his own family. Jesus’ brothers didn’t think much of his ministry plan and in John chapter seven they voice their opposition. “3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.” Those who had known him the longest didn’t believe in him. That’s like the man who comes home from work one day and tells his wife—“I want to run for mayor,” and his wife said, “Why on earth would you do that—I wouldn’t vote for you. I’m sure you’d mess it up!” Jesus was divided from his own family.
Jesus says being willing to separate from your family for his sake is just part of what it is to follow him--it’s part of picking up your cross. Picking up your cross is not the elderly woman who says, “Well, I guess my arthritis is just my cross to bear.” No it isn’t. It may be a thorn to test your faith, but it’s not a cross. The cross has one purpose—its an instrument of death. Your cross is manifest every time following Jesus means denying what you want—dying to that desire for the sake of Jesus. If we’re not, for the sake of Christ willing to die to the love of our family, Jesus says we’re not worthy of him. He closes in verse 39 with, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus is saying that if you find your life in the things of this world—even your closest family—if that is where you go for life—you’ll lose your life eternally because you’re trying to find life apart from him. But if you lose the life you could have had with your unsaved family and friends—if your relationship to Jesus causes harm to those relationships—you’ll find eternal life in him. Some of us are experiencing the cross in this church plant. We’re losing some very good friends and it hurts. We have here a promise to claim. When you lose your life and that includes your friends for the sake of Christ, you’ll find it in him. That’s his promise to us.
There are many wonderful things about planting a church and one of those is it focuses our eyes on our mission. When Jesus sent out his disciples to reach the Jews, he helped them to overcome their fears, but he also warns us and them about the consequences of not allowing him to have supremacy in our hearts--which keeps us from being his faithful messengers. May God give all of us—both mother and daughter church the grace to love sinners with the love of Jesus by boldly telling them the gospel of Jesus Christ for his glory and their and our eternal joy.
 As quoted in, Piper, John, “What Jesus Demands from the World,” Crossway, 2006. P. 123.
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