Getting the Message Right (1)
Intro – A husband takes a couple of bites then says to his wife, “Honey, I’m afraid there’s been a breakdown in communication -- between you – and Julia Child.” Clear communication is critical, and made harder because much communication is non-verbal. Julius Fast’s Body Language illustrates how tone, distance, facial expressions, eye contact, and body movements often communicate more than words. “Please come again when you can stay longer.” The words are right, but the bored expression, the glance at the watch say something different: “I’m being civil here, but please -- don’t come again!” Maybe it only happens to me, but you get the point.
Non-verbal cues can supplement or confuse the spoken word. When the non-verbal content is inconsistent with the verbal, the listener is perplexed. Some psychologists now believe that schizophrenia is partially the result of parents who communicate one thing with words and another by their actions. This causes weaker kids to develop split personalities trying to please both sides of their parents! We can create similar confusion in how we communicate Christ.
Our text is transitional. Jesus’ 3-year ministry is above half done. So far, He’s done it all Himself. He did the preaching; He did the healing; He answered the questions; and He handled the conflicts. The crowds have grown, but many are unreached, & shortly – at 9:51 – He will leave Galilee to head for Judea. It’s time for His very ordinary followers to begin to help. It’s a huge step for Him to extend His reach into Galilee thru them. So, First, He gives careful instruction – covering at a high level both the verbal and non-verbal content of their message. He wants no confusion as to the message.
Many people miss Christ because of a confused message. They would say: “Church? I’m not interested in church because it’s filled with hypocrites.” Hypocrites say one thing and do another. There are a lot of hypocrites in churches, and sometimes they are us.
Jesus’ instruction is aimed at killing confusion. He knows these men are not perfect. They are seriously flawed, just like us. Yet He wants to encourage consistency in their message. So He instructs them concerning their Provisioning, Proclamation, Protestation and Provocation. Let’s look.
I. Their Provisioning
V. 1, “And he called the twelve together.” Capernaum is Jesus’ homebase, and it is also home to at least 5 of the apostles. They could be at home when not traveling. Here, having just arrived back from another unsuccessful journey to Nazareth, Jesus convenes them to set out a new plan. According to Mark 6:7, He sends them out in pairs. That makes for companionship, accountability and encouragement. He tells them what provisions they need to present a consistent message – what He was giving them; and what they do not need.
A. What They Do Not Need
What they do not need --vv.3-4, “And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.” They are to go with minimal provisions. Luke says “no staff” while Mark says “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff” (Mrk 6:8). Possibly He’s saying, “Don’t take an extra staff.” Matt 10:9-10 suggests an even more likely possibility: “Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff.” Jesus is sending them for a brief time, so He says, “Don’t go buy anything. If you’ve got a staff, fine. Otherwise, go without. Take no money, no food and no bag for supplies. Don’t be encumbered by things.”
Not much needed for a brief mission. But Jesus also taught them something. The night before His death, He refers back to this time. Lu 22: 35 “And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack.” What had they learned? They learned dependence! They learned God would take care of them. Starting with virtually nothing, they lacked for nothing. They won’t always go with so little, but they do this time to learn He is sufficient!
Luke 10:4 speaks further to this issue. “And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.” Stay focused on the mission. He knows their human tendencies! They’d be prone to change if a better offer comes. A home with larger quarters, better food, no kids, & swimming pool! He says, “Don’t go there! You’re not on a pleasure trip!”
Why did Jesus care about these details? He understood the message with its focus on repentance and eternity would be undermined if the messengers were absorbed with improving their earthly lot. That would confuse! Even the appearance of pursuing earthly upgrades would undermine the mission.
To us this means, don’t be encumbered beyond what is needed for the job. Enjoy what you have, yes. But stay focused on the mission, not on what you have or don’t have! Prov 30:8 says, “give me neither poverty nor riches.” Emphasis either way, what we have or don’t have, confuses a message that says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This doesn’t mean, quit your secular job! God says if you don’t work, you don’t eat! But our focus is to be His kingdom, His service, His will, not our pleasure. If God has given you much, it is for a reason and He will require much. In Mt 10:8 Jesus says, “Freely you received, freely give” (NASB). And in Lu 12:48, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” Jesus doesn’t want us focused on getting. He wants us focused on using what we have. Seeking things for pleasure confuses the message. Don’t load up on things that weigh you down!
David illustrates beautifully. I Kings 17. He takes food to his brothers in the army only to find that the Philistine champion, Goliath, has everyone frozen with fear. David said, “Well, I’ll fight him!” That was a laugh! This youth taking on the experienced 9’ warrior. On paper it was no contest. But Saul finally agreed to give him a shot. However, Saul wanted every edge, so note I Kings 17:38, “Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. (The stuff didn’t help; it encumbered him) Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.” You know the rest of the story. David returned shortly with Goliath’s head. But he had to go unencumbered! Nothing extra.
Do we have too much stuff? It’s really not how much you have, but what has you? I’ve seen people work for years to get a certain boat. But once they got it, they were gone! AWOL most Sundays. No longer interested in ministry? Too busy seeking pleasure. I’ve seen others use their boat as a wonderful tool for ministry. Sponsoring youth groups. Inviting unbelievers to join them. Enjoying what God has given but using it for His glory. The issue isn’t boat or no boat; the issue is how does it promote your mission? The issue is do you have things, or do things have you? Are you using them in the Lord’s service, or are they using you? I can tell you this, you’ll find a lot more pleasure in serving God with things than serving things for pleasure!
Too encumbered? A few years ago in the Alleghenys a hunter accidentally shot an eagle. Eagles usually fly out of range. But this eagle held in its claws a steel trap with a five foot chain. It had taken the bait along with the trap which did not impede its ability to fly, but held it within range of the hunter. Similarly, good things encumber when we see them as ends, rather than as means to ministry! Stonewall Jackson in his famous Shenandoah campaign would often turn up 50 miles from where he had been the day before, totally befuddling the Union Army. He marched hard with little supply, asserting, “The road to glory cannot be followed with too much baggage.” Do we have too much baggage? Have we exchanged God’s glory for things? If so, we’re sending out mixed signals to those we want to influence toward Christ.
B. What They Do Need
V. 1, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.” These men did not need things! They did not need Dale Carnegie speech courses or winning personalities or Gucci suits. But what they did need, Jesus gave them. He gave them power over the enemy and authority to use it. Power is holding an AK47; authority is when someone pins a badge on you and says, “Go get the bad guys.” Power is a 300 horsepower car. Authority is a license to drive. Jesus gave both.
This power and authority over demons and disease was given particularly to the apostles. II Cor 12:12, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” What signs? The ability to heal, cast out demons and occasionally raise someone from the dead. Look at the book of Acts and you will see that in the early days of the church the apostles were regularly performing miracles in confirmation of the message. Not everyone had this power and authority. But the apostles did; it authenticated their message prior to the NT begin available.
Every believer has power and authority to carry out God’s purpose for their life. We’re equipped with spiritual gifts mentioned 4 times. Eph 4:11-12 lists leadership gifts. Then Rom 12:4 says, “4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy (speaking directly from God prior to NT), in proportion to our faith; 7 if service in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts (preaching, counseling, applying), in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Most of us will find ourselves somewhere in that list. Peter mentions gifts as well in I Pet 4:10-11.
However, I Cor 12-14 is most enlightening on spiritual gifts. 4 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit (so one has the gift of serving, another of giving, another of teaching – as many as 25 identified); 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; (different ways the same gift can be ministered. Billy Graham does mass evangelism; my friend Jim Turner did door-to-door evangelism; Barbara Pelligrini evangelized through women’s coffee gatherings – same gift ministered in many ways) 6 and there are varieties of activities (or better, effects), but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (results differ, but it is not the result that matters. What matter is our faithfulness in using His gifts) Do you see now why no 2 people are alike nor are they supposed to be? Each is empowered by God in a unique way. No one can claim an exemption here, right? We’re all equipped.
Our problem is we all want to the demon caster-outer, right? We want the showy gifts; we want the glory. God wants us to be who He made us to be. Perhaps you couldn’t preach or teach kids, but you could minister your gift of teaching through the Praise Team. Perhaps you can’t sing a lick, but you could sponsor a youth group and love kids thru your gift of administration or helps. Find your place. Be like the guy who said, “A computer beat me at chess, but I beat that computer at kickboxing!” Find your gifting and go for it! Do it because you love it. Do it because you love Him. Do it bc you’ll give account.
Pres Reagan was shot and hospitalized for some time in 1981. But tho he was pres, his incapacity had little impact on the nation’s activity. Things hummed along. But if you’ve been in NYC during a garbage strike – as I have – you would realize that a 3-week strike by garbage collectors countrywide would paralyze a country. Decaying trash health hazards would soon abound. Who is more important – the President or a garbage collector? Well, all are needed. Paul reminds us in I Cor 12:21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” Everyone is needed, Beloved, and when we excuse ourselves for whatever reason, we are cheating this local body of believers and diminishing the ministry. We’re empowered to do something, not to sit and watch.
So, if gifting empowers, where does the authority come from? From the Spirit of God. I Cor 2:3-4, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The world has known few influencers like Paul. But what gives him authority? The cleverness of his message? The tightness of his argument? You can bet Paul worked on those things. He never offered to the Lord less than his best. But at the same time, he never trusted in his own effort to get the job done. He knew the authority to change hearts was the HS. So with us. We’re useless if not ministering our gifts. But we’re equally useless if trusting our own efforts. It is the HS who makes it all work. He takes little and makes it much.
Jonathan Edwards is widely considered as America’s greatest theologian. His brilliance is indisputable. He entered Yale when not quite 13. Graduated at 15. Was ordained at 19. Taught at Yale by age 20 and later was president of Princeton. He is most famous for the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He preached it on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, CT. It went straight to the point, picturing those who were rejecting Christ as being held by the thinnest of threads from eternal judgment in hell. But he was no raving maniac! He was so determined not to let emotion confuse people that he habitually read his sermons as he did this day. It was the Spirit that moved. Soon his voice was lost amid those in the crowd convicted by the power of the message and the authority of the Spirit. 500 people came to Christ that evening, sparking the Great Awakening that led to the conversion of thousands of people over the next few years. He used his gift, but took his authority from the Spirit.
Now a really interesting piece of trivia. Eight years after this, Edwards was voted out of his pulpit by a 90% vote, for insisting that Communion should be restricted to true believers. Yet Edwards never became bitter or took offense. One contemporary said, “I never saw Jonathan Edwards display the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week. He appeared like a man of God whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies." Edwards went on to minister to an obscure tribe of Indians before becoming president of Princeton. He was a man who got the message right – could not be distracted by any temptations and he lived what he preached.
That’s our challenge as well, Beloved. To stay focused on the mission. To enjoy life, but not be distracted by it. To use our gifts to the best of our ability, to prepare as if all depended on us, but pray as if it all depended on Him. That’s true whether it is baking a cake, taking dinner to a shut-in, taking the youth on an outing, teaching a Bible study or administering a garage sale for a mission trip – whatever it is we must prepare as if it was all on us; pray as if it all depended on Him. That’s our provision for getting the message right.