On Sunday, July 19th we held an outdoor gathering where live-streaming & audio recording was not feasible. So, Pastor Paul converted his teaching notes into a written piece for those who were not able to join us on Sunday. Please forgive improper grammar and typos as spoken notes were converted to writing fairly quickly.
At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus introduces us to the massive kingdom work at hand: There are many sheep without a shepherd leading them to The Shepherd.
In feeling the weight of this work, Jesus calls His disciples to turn toward God by working hard at prayer. Now, Jesus calls His disciples to turn toward others on behalf of God by working hard at being His witnesses.
In Chapter 10 Jesus gives His disciples a mix of instructions on what to do and expectations of how it will go. Further evidence of Jesus as a compelling leader: He sets proper expectations for His followers, knowing that unmet expectations will foster disappointment and frustration.
This past Sunday we considered two things from the whole of Matthew 10:
Identity of a Disciple
Instructions for Disciples
IDENTITY OF A DISCIPLE
For the first time in the book of Matthew, Matthew (the writer) identifies the 12 leading Disciples. Those Disciples that saw & experienced first-hand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is to these 12, that Jesus is specifically speaking in Chapter 10. However, all disciples for all time benefit from eavesdropping on this lesson because much of what Jesus has to teach them is also instruction for disciples now.
Today, disciples are those who believe in, follow, and are striving to live more and more like Christ. That journey is marked by a repeated pattern of being a mystic (seeing & listening to Jesus), being a pilgrim (believing Jesus & His teachings), and being a missionary (sharing Jesus with others)
The order is important and the pattern is repeated for disciples. Our discipleship starts with Jesus, transforms the world within us, and culminates with us sharing Jesus to the world around us.
Pause & Consider: If you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus, which of these three patterns do you find easiest or most consistent in your life? Why? Which one is the least frequent or unnatural for you? Why?
INSTRUCTIONS FOR DISCIPLES
How we share Jesus and what that experience will look like is the overall focus of Chapter 10 and we considered 8 principles. These are not 8 “tips and tricks” when sharing Jesus & His gospel, these are 8 principles to guide a lifestyle of being a missionary for Jesus.
In verse 5 Jesus says “go nowhere among the gentiles”; rather, go to the “lost of sheep of Israel.” Initially this may sound exclusive, not inclusive. However, if we consider the whole of Jesus’ life and message; we know He cares for everyone and desires all (Jews and Gentiles) to have an opportunity to respond to His gospel message. However, in this directive, we learn Jesus is strategic.
We can hear this today for us. It’s ok for us to be strategic with who we are intentionally being among and sharing the gospel with. We cannot bear the weight of trying to save all peoples each day. We can be free to hone in on some people – those we believe God is calling us toward.
But who is God calling us toward? To know that answer from God, we must not just be strategic but spiritual; a people of prayer who are reliant on the Spirit to lead us. We must be reliant on the Spirit as we construct our strategy for doing our part for the Kingdom.
Verse 19-20 also calls us to a place of reliance with our words, not just our strategy. We aren’t clever, smart or winsome enough to share the gospel perfectly for each person. The Spirit knows exactly what hearers need to hear and so we are asked to be “spiritual” and allow the Spirit to speak through us when the moment of speaking gospel truth and grace arrives.
The Spirit will speak through us and He will guide us to discern who is ready & willing to hear about Jesus and who is not.
In verses 11-14 Jesus tells His disciples to be discerning about the receptiveness of their teaching. Should they arrive in a place and among a people who are receptive; then remain, be patient and proclaim the gospel. Should they arrive in a place and among a people who are closed off to the gospel; then move on to another place and a different people.
We too, need to follow the Spirit, and be discerning with whom we are witnessing to. Now, we must be careful, because the freedom to move on, is not permission to lack grace or patience with people’s journey. However, sometimes we can shift our energy of sharing Jesus toward others. The principle is to be discerning of the Spirit and remain in step with Him.
Pause & Consider: Who are the people you are strategically, or intentionally, finding ways to share the gospel with? Are you regularly praying for them?
Throughout Chapter 10 there is a tone of boldness Jesus is charging His disciples with. Several times Jesus says to “proclaim” the gospel; even to shout it from housetops (v 27). Jesus and His gospel is to be the primary boast of a disciples life.
Now, let us be clear: Many places and people will desire the fruit of the gospel (things like: love, justice, unity, hope, peace, etc.) but not desire the message of the gospel.
What is the gospel message in its essence? Each of us are sinners in need of a Savior and the same God who created & sustains us came to live with us, die an atoning death for us, and eternally lives to reign over and restore us.
This is “good news” (there is a God who saves us), but only after it is “bad news” (we are sinners who need to confess faith in Christ). This idea is not popular and so it is often rejected. The fruit is desired, but not the foundational message. Yet, Jesus asks disciples to be bold with this gospel message.
Pause & Consider: Sharing our faith is a risky, scary step. What holds back your boldness with speaking the truth and grace of the gospel? Can you ask God for courage and an opportunity to share your faith this week?
The instruction: be bold with a humbling message. The expectation: you will need to remain steadfast with it because the work is difficult and you will be persecuted.
Verses 16-23 draw out some painful circumstances for the 12 Disciples specifically (flogged, dragged before religious and government councils, etc). But, in verse 22 Jesus gives the plain “eyes wide open” moment to all disciples for all time: “you will be hated because of me.” The Apostle Paul tells his protege Timothy something similar
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 TImothy 3:12
Persecution for our faith is a certain storm in our life of sharing Jesus. Christ remains unchanged. He is still a stumbling block to the proud, wise, stubborn (1 Cor 1:23 / 1 Pet 2:8). He is still the aroma of death to those seeking to define and author their own life (2 Cor 2:14-17). Before the message of the gospel is a message of life for us, it is a message of death to us.
What is that message of death? That each of us must die to our self; our own way of thinking & living, authoring our own truth and our own meaning. In verses 38-39 Jesus reminds His disciples that they must lose their life (as they want to define it), in order to find their life (as Christ wants to define it).
Each of us are called to live a sacrificial life of love for the glory of God and the good of others. This is the truly meaningful life we were designed for. It is not easy, but good. It is not comfortable, but satisfying.
That journey is difficult for us. It’s hard to be okay with letting go. However, there is a place of security that Jesus reminds His disciples to make their foundation. It is the love of the Father and His sovereignty over our lives.
In verse 31 Jesus reminds His disciples the Father has them. He values them. He promises them a future, secure glory on the other side of suffering. From the security and strength of God’s love for us, we can turn towards others and work hard for the gospel message to reach their hearts. That which we freely & abundantly received, we also freely and abundantly give (v. 8).
Pause & Consider: The love of our Father carries along with it the message that Jesus cares more about our heart, than our actions. In regards to sharing our faith, this can mean that Jesus cares more about our genuine attempts rather than our anxiety over getting our words about the gospel perfect. Do you find, or feel, the security and freedom of this kind of love and acceptance?
And finally, as we turn toward others on behalf of God — we should look up and see our Shepherd has gone down this road before us. He is not asking His sheep to do anything or endure anything He has not. Jesus’ path of revealing God & the gospel to others, is the same one He calls us down. We, the student, are not better than our Teacher.
Be like Him: Proclaim the gospel & sacrificially love. Do so strategically & spiritually; with discernment, boldness & steadfastness; and be dead to yourself & secure in God.
The work of the Kingdom is massive and lies before us right now. The work is still entrusted to His disciples today – those with a repeated pattern of seeing Jesus, believing Jesus, and sharing Jesus. As we take on this work with these principles, the Kingdom will grow and we will mature as disciples.