Engaging in the Mission of Jesus (but it isn’t a secret)

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Today, Jesus still involves his disciples (that is, all Christians) in his mission. I am not saying that you should quit your job. But I am saying that all of us should depend entirely upon the Lord in every way as we seek to be involved in his mission.


To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 33



Matthew #33 . 9:35-10:15

From the end of chapter 9 all the way through chapter 10, Matthew records how Jesus involved his disciples in his mission here on earth. During this period, Jesus was deeply involved in ministry to many people. It seems that he felt more than ever how important it was to train others to continue his mission after he had fulfilled his purposes here on earth.

Although all of chapter 10 properly belongs together, I think there is too much that may be valuable to skip over it quickly, therefore, we will only go through the end of verse 15 today.

The first, and possibly the most important thing to notice, is that Jesus involves his disciples in his mission. It is the mission of Jesus, but because they have trusted him and follow him, it now also becomes the mission of the disciples. At the end of chapter 9 we see Jesus teaching, preaching, healing, and driving out demons. In chapter 10 verse seven and eight, he tells the disciples to proclaim the kingdom, heal, and drive out demons. He wants them to do what he does. He wants them to get involved in the “family business.”

At this point in time, he has not yet released them to go into all the world. He still has work that he needs to do here on earth before that can happen. So he limits their mission to just the people of Israel. But he is preparing them for what will come. This is, in effect, a training mission.

Here, the mission was given just to the 12 disciples. Luke records that later on, Jesus sent out another, larger, group for essentially the same purposes (Luke 10).

Today, Jesus still involves his disciples in his mission. Biblically speaking, anyone who trusts Jesus is supposed to be a disciple. We don’t have “Christians,” and then “disciples.” All Christians are called to be disciples. And all Christians are called to be involved in the mission of Jesus. Though he involves us in his mission in many different ways, and it isn’t the same for every person, what is the same is that he wants us all involved in some way or another, with what he is doing in the world. Virtually every Christian in the New Testament understood this. Not all of them served Jesus full time. Not all of them left their homes to travel to other places. But all of them surrendered their lives to Jesus, and lived as if they were on a mission for him. He is calling you to do the same.

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. (1Cor 6:19-20, HCSB)

For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (1Cor 7:22-23, HCSB)

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10, HCSB)

The New Testament is quite clear. Trusting Jesus involves surrendering fully to him. We are not here on earth to please ourselves. Jesus does not set us free from sin and selfishness so that we can pursue our own ambitions in this life. Now that we belong to him, we are part of his mission. Now, I will say that in my own experience, pursuing the mission of Jesus with my life has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It hasn’t always been easy, but I can’t imagine living any other way. To put it another way, living for the mission of Jesus, though sometimes difficult, certainly has its rewards.

I don’t think we can simply imitate exactly everything that is here in this text. This was how Jesus wanted his disciples to be part of his mission at that particular time and place. As I have said, he calls us in different ways and in different circumstances. Paul writes about this to the Romans:

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:4-18, HCSB)

So our calling does not have to look exactly like this first training mission given to the 12 apostles. However, I do think there are some principles we can gain from the instructions that Jesus gave to them here in this text.

First, as we’ve already mentioned, Jesus asks them to imitate himself. He tells them to do what he has been doing. I’m not always a fan of the expression “what would Jesus do?” The truth is, none of us is Jesus, and it isn’t always appropriate to behave as if we were. Even so, I think what we can gain here is an important perspective about the mission he has for us. What I mean is, it isn’t our mission, it is the mission of Jesus. We aren’t here to do our own thing, not even to do our own thing for God. We are here to get involved in what Jesus is doing. So as we seek to live our lives in the mission of Jesus, the real question to ask God is not “what is your purpose for me?” Instead, I favor praying more like this: “Lord what are you doing? How do you want to involve me in that?” It may be a subtle difference, but the point is the focus should be on the Lord, and his mission, rather than a self-centered, individualized view of our own particular purpose in life. It isn’t supposed to be my purpose, it is supposed to be the Lord’s purpose.

A second thing I see from Jesus’ instructions to his disciples is that he calls them to rely entirely upon God’s provision. In verse eight, he says “you have received free of charge; give free of charge.” In other words, is telling them not to ask for a set fee for their ministry. They are not to say, “deliverance from demons is 100 denarii; regular healing is $85, healing from leprosy is $97.50.” In verse nine, Jesus tells them not to bring their own money or even to provide anything for themselves. But then he adds “for the worker is worthy of his food.” So if they aren’t to explicitly charge anything, and they aren’t to bring their own provisions, the only thing left is to trust God.

I have met a number of people, (strangely, many of them were quite wealthy), who insist that pastors and church workers should not be paid. They use verses like these to bolster their positions. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. He is telling his disciples not to demand a certain amount of money before they will minister. He’s telling them to go ahead and minister, and especially, to trust God to provide. But he implies that those who are blessed by his mission will in turn give to these ministers (“the worker is worthy of his food”). And I think that is the New Testament model. As Paul explains to the Corinthians, and to others, some people will devote their working lives exclusively to serving God, and God’s people should give money to support those full-time ministers (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Tim 2:6; Galatians 6:6). But those full time ministers should consider God as their primary resource, even their primary financial resource. In other words, as one of those called to full-time service, I think of God as the one who pays my salary. I rely on him. Now, I’m deeply grateful to those people who support my ministry financially, and I think of them as partners in the ministry. But if I look first and foremost to the Lord as the one who supports me, I won’t get upset when people fail to give, and I won’t treat those who give more with favoritism over those who give little or nothing. If I look at God as my primary resource, I won’t decide to engage in a ministry based upon whether or not I can live on what someone will pay me.

It goes beyond finances as well. It’s true, there are a few Christians called to full time service. But every Christian is supposed to be a disciple, and every disciple is called to participate in the mission of Jesus in one way or another (Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:4-8 [quoted above]; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Most disciples do not make a living by working full-time in ministry. But we all still need to rely on the Lord to accomplish his purpose through us. We need to trust him for the energy; we need to surrender our time to him. We need to believe that he will do everything necessary to fulfill his mission through us, if we will simply give him our willingness. We need to look not at whether something appears feasible, but rather, at what the Lord is inviting us to do.

I am not saying that you should quit your job. But I am saying that all of us should depend entirely upon the Lord in every way as we seek to be involved in his mission.

There is one other point that I want to highlight today. In verses 11 through 14 Jesus describes how his disciples should relate to others as they fulfill his mission. What he tells them is not at all what most Christians have come to expect. In essence, he tells them to look for good people who are open to the message of the kingdom of God. If they receive that message, well and good. But if they do not receive the good news, the disciples are not to waste time with them. In fact, Jesus says that if people will not listen to them, they should “shake the dust off their feet,” when they leave. It was a custom for Jews to shake the dust off their feet as they left Gentile towns. It was a symbol for them that the Gentiles had rejected God, and that they (the Jews) had nothing more to do with them.

We don’t typically think of this attitude when we think about being involved in the mission of Jesus. But as we have already seen in our study of Matthew, Jesus did not come in order to be popular, or to make a lot of friends. His message offended many people, and he expected that to happen. He is sending his disciples with the same message, and it only makes sense to assume that the message will offend others as well. We should take care never to be unnecessarily offensive by how we behave or by how we go about the mission of Jesus. But if the message of Jesus is not received, that is not our problem. Our job is to participate in the mission of Jesus; the results are up to Jesus, not us.

So what is the Lord saying to you today? Have you fully engaged in the mission of Jesus? Have you surrendered your willingness to him? Do you need to learn to trust more? Is the Holy Spirit encouraging you today to rely upon Jesus truly and fully in everything? Do you need to be reminded today that the message of the kingdom of God is sometimes offensive, and not everyone will receive it?

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you now.


jesus fisherman


From the very beginning, Jesus invited all of his followers into the his own mission: to reach the world with the good news of forgiveness and grace through Him. This was not true only for Jesus’ twelve apostles, or for those with a special call to vocational ministry, but also for every Christian.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 9



Matthew #9. Chapter 4:17-25

The Light that came to Galilee in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy was Jesus Christ himself. Matthew 4:17-25 records how he began his ministry. The essence of his message, at least at first, was much like the message of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” I think that brief sentence summarizes the main point of Jesus’ first preaching in Galilee. He is trying to raise awareness that God is near, and actively working, and the appropriate response to the presence of God in our lives is to turn away from our sins and turn toward God. Jesus has not yet broadcast to the general public that He himself is God the Son, one of the Three Persons who make up the one true God. However, he is sending the message that God is at work and it is time for people to repent and submit themselves to God’s ruler-ship.

In verses 18-22, Matthew records an encounter between Jesus and four other men: Simon (Peter) Andrew, James and John. This was not the first encounter between Jesus and at least some of these men. Before John the Baptist was put into prison, he pointed Jesus out to Andrew and another unnamed person. Since it is the apostle John who records this (John 1:35-42) it is likely that he (John the apostle) was the unnamed person. Andrew introduced his brother Simon (who later became known as Peter) to Jesus. Peter, Andrew and John spent at least a day with Jesus at that time. So did two other individuals, Philip and Nathaniel. All this probably happened in Judea, south of Galilee, before John the Baptist was put into prison.

What this means is that Jesus was not a stranger when he called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him. John the Baptist had told them he was the Messiah. They had spent time with him. They may have even heard some of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee (as recorded in verse 17) before he called them.

In fact, Luke 5:1-10 fills out this incident for us. Both sets of brothers made a living as commercial fishermen. Peter and Andrew were on shore, messing with their nets. Jesus, knowing them from before, borrowed one of the boats belonging to them, and used it as a platform to preach a sermon to a crowd that had gathered along the lakeshore. After he was done, he told the fishermen to try fishing one last time. Peter objected, but obeyed anyway. The result was a huge catch of fish – so large that they had to call in their partners for help. Their partners happened to be James and John. In fact the catch was so enormous, and the whole incident so unusual that the fishermen clearly regarded it as a miracle. When the fish were all in, Jesus called the four of them to follow him. He said their new job was to bring in people, not fish. They immediately left work and went with Jesus.

After this, Jesus continued to travel around in the region of Galilee, preaching. Apparently, Peter, Andrew, James and John went with him from that time forward. Jesus’ preaching was accompanied by miracles, especially healing and deliverance from demonic oppression. In a time before antibiotics or pain medications, the prospects of getting healing or relief were normally very dim. So, Jesus’ reputation as a healer drew huge crowds from all over the region, and even from Judea in the south.

Now, let’s unpack this text a little bit.

First, Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven and Repentance. By his death on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven. Many times he demonstrated God’s love and grace. Many times, he spoke about that same love and grace and goodness. But Matthew reminds us here that the very first thing he preached was repentance. Repentance opens the door to God’s love and grace. If we refuse to repent, the door stays shut, and God’s love doesn’t do us any good. When God comes near, the very first order of business is repentance. We covered the topic of repentance in some depth in part 5 of our series on Matthew. Some things are worth repeating, however.

To repent means to turn back, to go a completely different way. If you can read these words, it is not too late for you to repent. Jesus can handle whatever horrible thing you’ve done, whatever you’ve left undone, and even whatever terrible thing was done to you. But you need to drop it, to turn away from it, and turn to Him. To repent is to fully own the fact that you have been wrong, with no excuses, and then to turn away from it, for all intents, forever.

Now, our turning away forever almost never happens perfectly. But it does mean that you are going a different direction now. You may fall down sometimes as you walk in the new direction. You probably won’t walk it perfectly. But after you repent, your direction is different than it was before. Once in a while, perhaps, you fall back into the same actions as before. But your overall direction is new, oriented toward God, not away from him.

Many of you reading this blog have already repented and turned to Jesus, and received him as your Lord and your salvation. That’s wonderful. But for us who have done that, Jesus is still at hand. He still wants to show up in our lives in greater and more profound ways. He wants to give us even more grace, more joy, more peace, a more abundant life in Him. To receive these things from him, our path is the same: repent!

Now, let’s look Jesus’ call to the fishing brothers. I think there are two important things we find here. First, this demonstrates that Jesus has a unique calling for some individuals to leave ordinary employment, and work for him full time. We describe this as a calling to vocational ministry. Peter, Andrew, James and John (and others who came later) left their vocations and jobs, and dedicated themselves full-time to the mission of Jesus. Jesus asked them to do this. He did not ask everyone he encountered to do it, even if they believed in him, and became his disciples. Jesus once delivered a man from many demons. The man wanted to leave everything and become a full-time minister.

As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. But He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18-19, HCSB)

Jesus wanted the man to continue to follow him in faith; he wanted the man to engage in His mission and tell others the good news, but Jesus asked him to do it right where he was, in his everyday life.

Twenty years ago, I might not have bothered to point out that the four fisherman had a unique call to vocational ministry, and I doubt I would have thought it necessary to make the case that some Christians in every generation have a similar call. But in our post-modern, anti-authoritarian culture, I think we have gone too far. We are becoming so anti-institutional that many people have become suspicious of those who are called into vocational ministry. I’m not a fan of institutions or hierarchies myself. But the bible does clearly teach that God calls certain individuals to specially dedicate their lives to teaching and training other Christians.

Paul says:

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock? Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? (1Cor 9:6-11, HCSB)

Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. (1Cor 9:13-14, HCSB)

James says this:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jas 3:1, ESV2011)

The author of Hebrews says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17, ESV2011)

Ephesians 4:11-12 says this:

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12, HCSB)

There are many more verses like this, which demonstrate the same point. Now, it is true that being called to full-time ministry does not make anyone a better or more important person. It is true that every Christian should be reading the bible individually, and engaging with others in the mission of Jesus. It’s true that every Christian should be willing and able to talk with others about Jesus. But there is a unique calling to teaching and equipping that is given to a relatively small number of people. I’ve seen individuals struggle and be led astray because some person just decided that he would start a church, or start preaching, without truly being called to it. I’ve heard and read a lot of bad, unbiblical teaching over the years because people have not appreciated that you should take a preaching/teaching equipping ministry very seriously; and few are called to it. I’ve also seen churches flounder because they reject a godly, biblical leadership model.

Now, I’m going to turn it around and try and have it both ways, because I think the text has it both ways. Just as this text shows us that some people are called uniquely to vocational ministry, it also shows us that everyone who trusts Jesus is called to participate in His mission. Not everyone is called to leave his or her career. However, all Christians are called to follow Jesus. For most, that means, among other things, expressing your faith and living for his purpose as you fulfill your everyday responsibilities at home and at work. It means being a disciple of Jesus when you are with your family, your friends, when you are at work, when you are driving, playing golf, fishing – in fact, all the time.

It is obvious that all New Testament Christians believed this and practiced it (Matthew 28:16-19; Acts 11:19-26; 1 Peter 2:12-15, 3:15-16). From the very beginning, Jesus invited all of his followers into the his own mission: to reach the world with the good news of forgiveness and grace through Him. This was not true only for Jesus’ twelve apostles, or for those with a special call to vocational ministry, but also for every Christian. For most Christians, the context for the mission of Jesus is your everyday life. Regardless, we should embrace that mission as part of embracing Jesus and his grace and forgiveness to us.