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The Great Commission: Going With a Plan

Notes & Transcripts

This morning, I want to preach the fifth and last message on becoming a Great Commission Church. Each sermon has been based on one of the five passages where the Commission is found. It is recorded in each of the four gospels and also in the Book of Acts. Each reading is just a little bit different, but in that difference we see the five priorities we must have as a church. This morning we will examine the commission found in the Book of Acts.

Jesus has been risen from the dead. He has appeared to the disciples and many others over a period of forty days, and—according to Acts 1:3—offered many convincing proofs that it was really him and not a hallucinogenic figment of their imagination. He has continued to teach them things concerning the Kingdom of God. He promises them that in a few days they are going to be baptized by the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity. That spiritual baptism will embolden them and empower them to be witnesses of the Gospel. That same Spirit will compel, and propel, and impel this infant church to take the good news of God’s redemptive act into all the world. It is a story of courage and success without parallel in the annals of world history.

It is a commission that the church is to heed in every generation until Jesus comes. Dr. L.R. Scarborough, second president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, once said, “ ... to refuse to witness a saving Gospel to a lost world day by day is nothing short of high treason, spiritual rebellion, and inexcusable disobedience to His holy commands.”

Five versions of the Great Commission ... all of them similar, yet each with just enough difference to reveal five specific priorities:

    • The 1st Great Commission—Matthew 28:18-20—teaches that we are to go in power, (of the Holy Spirit).
    • The 2nd Great Commission—Mark 16:15—teaches that we are to go with a priority, (of preaching the Gospel).
    • The 3rd Great Commission—Luke 24:45-49—teaches that we are to go to all people, (no one is to be excluded).
    • The 4th Great Commission—John 20:20-21—teaches that we are to go at a price, (obedience to God).

I. The Fifth Great Commission: WE ARE TO GO WITH A PLAN

    • "He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8, NASB95)
    • ILLUS. The last words spoken by people just before their death can be interesting. Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well--let 'em wait. Revolutionary War general, Ethan Allen, in response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, "General, I fear the angels are waiting for you." Am I dying or is this my birthday? Lady Nancy Astor when she woke briefly during her last illness and found all her family around her bedside. How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden? P. T. Barnum, showmen and entrepreneur. Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him. John Barrymore. I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis. Humphrey Bogart. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Civil War general John Sedgwick just before a Confederate sharpshooter shot him out of his saddle.
            1. unlike these men, who could not choose the times of their deaths nor predict which words would be their last, Jesus very purposely and memorably chose His final words on earth
                1. they are found here in the final version of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8
                2. in this verse, Luke presents the theme for the entire Book of Acts
            2. it has been two thousand years since Jesus issued the challenge to take the gospel to all the world
                1. Jesus’ last words on earth demonstrate God’s heart for gathering the harvest of His people
                2. with His last words, Jesus gave His disciples the motivation and the method for reaping that harvest

A. OUR MOTIVATION FOR BEING WITNESSES

            1. Jesus is Risen
              • "To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3, NASB95)
                1. in his Gospel, Luke gives some examples of the convincing proofs that Jesus used to convince His disciples that there weren’t seeing a ghost
                    1. they touched him
                    2. he ate food in front of them
                    3. he spoke with them
                    4. he even kindled a fire and cooked some fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
                2. hallucinations or figments of the imagination don’t do those things
                3. folks, that a man died and returned to life three days later is a message worth sharing
                  • ILLUS. Vance Havner was a Baptist pastor, a voluminous author, and a sought-after evangelist. He was famous for pithy quotes: "Too many churches start at eleven o’clock sharp, and end at twelve o’clock dull.” “Plenty of church members are shaky about what they believe, while not many are shaken by what they believe.” “Some preachers ought to put more fire into their sermons, or more sermons into the fire.” “The church is a hospital for sinners, and not a museum for saints.” It’s what he said about witnessing, however, that we ought to remember and take to heart: “We do not have a secret to be hidden, but a story to be heralded ... The Gospel is not something we come to church to hear; it is something we go from church to tell.”
                4. we have an incredible story to tell – that Jesus died for sinners and rose again that we might have abundant life and eternal life
                    1. the early church grew by leaps and bounds because they could not keep from telling the message
                5. a risen savior motivated the early church to be a witness
            2. Jesus is Ruling
              • "So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;" (Acts 1:6-7, NASB95)
                1. when the disciples ask Jesus if He will be restoring the kingdom to Israel when the Holy Spirit comes, it reveals that they are not thinking about a world-wide mission, but the restoration of Israel’s glory days under David and Solomon
                2. when Jesus used the word kingdom, however, He had something very different in mind
                    1. Jesus was thinking about the reign of God in the hearts of men and His rule over His Body – the Church
                3. every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we end with: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
                    1. in that sentence we are acknowledging that though God’s Kingdom is not fully manifested in this world, we believe that He reigns providentially in the affairs of men, and we believe that He reigns spiritually in the life of every believe who calls Him Lord
                    2. in our obedience to His commands – and His commands are not burdensome – we advance His Kingdom each time a sinner hears the gospel, repents, and commits his or her life to the Christ
                4. a ruling savior motivated the early church to be a witness
            3. Jesus is Returning
              • "They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NASB95)
                1. the message of the angel contains both a challenge and an incentive
                    1. Jesus has gone, and would not be appearing to them again
                2. the work of advancing the kingdom was now up to them
                    1. but His absence was not permanent – He would come again
                    2. during the interval, the church in every generation must preach the gospel
                      • “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14, NASB95)
                3. a returning savior motivated the early church to be a witness
            4. we have an amazing message and an incredible story to tell and share with everyone we know
                1. the early 1st century church grew by leaps and bounds because they were passionately motived to tell the story to everyone
                2. the goal of the Spirit-filled life is to be so vitally connected to Christ that you can’t stop talking about Him
                  • ILLUS. The Institute of American Church Growth recently polled more than 14,000 Christians and asked them, “What or who was responsible for you coming to Christ?” Ninety percent of the responders stated that a friend or relative who cared for them and invested time in them was the primary factor in their decision to follow Christ.

B. GOD’S METHOD FOR REACHING THE WORLD

    • "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NASB95)
            1. it’s a really simple plan
                1. they were to be witnesses of the risen Savior
                2. they were to tell others about the risen Savior and they were to begin in Jerusalem, extend out to Judea and then Samaria and finally – to the most remote parts of all the earth
            2. that plan is still in place for the local church today
                1. we must begin right where we’re at, in our local community
                2. from here our witness is to extend out in ever-widening concentric circles of evangelism that encompasses our state, our nation and our world
            3. in the months and years to come, I want to challenge us to become an Acts 1:8 Church
                1. my vision is that our congregation become a worldwide mission center, engaging in intentional kingdom growing efforts in Linn, and in Missouri, and in America, and in all the World
                2. Jesus Himself gave us the plan, we need to develop a comprehensive missions strategy that allows us to put our Savior’s plan into action

II. Our Fifth Priority Shift: WE NEED TO SHIFT OUR THINKING FROM LOCALLY TO GLOBALLY

    • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)
            1. so how do we shift our thinking from locally to globally?

A. First: CAPTURE GOD’S PASSION

            1. this is the first step and perhaps the most crucial
              • "Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38, NASB95)
                1. we will never be concerned about witnessing to the Lord until we understand how much God cares about lost sinners

B. Second: TAP INTO GOD’S POWER

            1. here in Acts 1:8, Jesus leaves the disciples with one of the greatest promises He ever gave
                1. God promised them His supernatural resources to carry out the work of evangelism and missions
                2. before the apostles are able to assume the tremendous responsibility of building the church of Jesus Christ and to conquer the strongholds of Satan, they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit
            2. the foundation of missions is not money, nor manpower, nor methodology
                1. it is the power of the Holy Spirit that gives missions its thrust
                2. that’s why every believer can be and evangelist and a missionary
            3. the power of the Holy Spirit is the grand indispensable ingredient of Christian witness
                1. a man may be highly talented, intensively trained, and widely experienced
                    1. but without spiritual power, he is ineffective
                2. a man may be uneducated, unattractive, and unrefined, yet when he is indwelt by and filled with the Spirit of God lost people will hear his witness and be converted

C. Third: COMMIT TO GOD’S PURPOSE

    • ILLUS. An elderly couple had just finished their lunch and made their way into the living room to settle themselves into their recliners for an afternoon nap. They were both dozing when the grandfather clock began to chime signifying the new hour. It began – one chime, two chimes, three chimes, and all the way up to thirteen chimes. The husband turned to his wife, mystified, and asked, “What time is it?” To which his wife responded, “I don’t know, but it’s later than it’s ever been before.”
            1. friends, for the lost people of this world, it’s later than it’s ever been before
                1. if you want to know how God plans to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ, go home and look in the mirror
                2. God has not called us to persuade, force, coerce, or manipulate anybody into the Kingdom of God
                    1. His purpose for us is to witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving power and leave the results to Him

D. Forth: FOLLOW GOD’S PLAN

            1. God’s plan for missions is beautifully simple
            2. they were to begin in Jerusalem, extend out to Judea and then Samaria and finally – to the most remote parts of all the earth
            3. that plan is still in place for the local church today

I believe in the Church evangelizing. I want you to believe in it too. I want you to believe in it, not because I do, but because you believe that our Savior gave His church a commission – a Great Commission.

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