Principles for Discipleship(e)
As we approach Matthew
10, I realize that in a sense, it was a limited commission given to Jesus'
original twelve disciples. Yet, there are eternal principles discovered
here that will empower us to succeed in Christ's great commission. This
chapter reveals that these disciples were commissioned by Christ, protected
by God and empowered by God's Holy Spirit. I believe that today, even though
we do not have the same manifestations, we have the same ever present God,
Christ and the Holy Spirit working with us. They continue to empower God's
people to do his work.
Jesus had traveled through
the towns and villages for two years preaching the good news of the kingdom
and healing every kind of disease. As he looked out upon the multitudes
he saw them as harassed, helpless and without any type of leadership. But
he saw the potential. He said the fields are ripe for harvesting. Yet,
he understood that one person couldn't do all the work. Jesus said, "Ask
the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest
field." (Matthew 9:35-38)
It was at this point
in Jesus' ministry, he called his disciples. (10:1-2) It was a rag-tag
group, to say the least. There was Matthew the tax collector whom the Pharisees
despised. It is somewhat ironic that Jesus would choose him to preach to
the Jews. Then there was Philip, who had a hard time seeing the God about
whom he preached. Just before Jesus' death, Philip asked Jesus to show
him the Father. (John 14:9) Then there was Simon the radical, or the Zealot.
It is always hard to work with a radical. He can always tear up more than
you can fix. Then there was old two-faced Peter, who at times couldn't
make up his mind on which side of the fence he wanted to stand. At times
he had momentary bouts, where he was prone to cursing and turning his back
on what he believed and had been preaching. But he did like to hear a rooster
Then there was James
and John looking for greatness. Each wanted to sit either on his left hand
or his right hand. This tendency was so bad that they were called the sons
of thunder. In fact, this attitude was contagious in the group, the group
often had discussions about "Who would be the greatest in Christ kingdom?"
I wonder if those tendencies were spawned by the sons of thunder. You can
just hear discussions about who would preach for the biggest church, etc.
Then there was the infamous Judas, who at the twinkle of an eye would put
a spear into your side for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 10:1-2)
Many had rather run
a one-man show than trust people like this. But one person can't do it
all. Although some had rather try than ask others or allow others to take
part. There is no way that one person in this congregation can invade
your lives and your work places to do what God is pleading with you to
do, which is to reach the lost. The only way that even Jesus can invade
those places is through you.
When you take a 747
from Tampa to Los Angeles, you only see the stewards and the pilots as
you board the plane. But have you ever thought about how many personnel
it takes to put that one airplane in the sky. Literally hundreds are working
behind the scenes to make an airline flight a success. I wouldn't dare
get on a jet plane where one person was trying to run the whole show.
Don't Be Afraid to
Jesus simply gave
this rag-tag group the authority and power of God. From a human
standpoint, Jesus' group would seem highly unlikely to do great things.
Yet, Jesus gave them the authority to drive out the evil spirits and to
heal every disease and sickness. Jesus told them to go heal the sick, raise
the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy and drive out the demons. Freely
give as you have freely received. Jesus impressed upon these men their
purpose and responsibility, but he also gave them power. We need to put
others in charge and sit back and watch what God can do with a rag-tag
army. He has always done wonders with such a group.
Sometimes we fail
to see the relevancy of this story because it was a limited commission.
. After all, this commission was only meant for these twelve disciples.
And after all, they had a very special power of God. Their mission was
only to the Jews; this wasn't the great commission to the entire world
that Jesus gave after his resurrection. But
the principles are eternal. We
also have a limited commission. We can only reach those with whom we play
and work and come in contact with. But our commission is just as valid
and it can be just as powerful and effective if we would only trust in
God's power to make it so. There are eternal principles here, which have
application to us today. They are eternal because we have the same
God, Christ and the Holy Spirit as we work today.
Jesus sent seventy two
others out empowered to do his work. They came back reporting what they
Luke 10:1-2, 17-24
After this the Lord
appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every
town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is
plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore,
to send out workers into his harvest field . . . And the seventy-two
returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your
name.' He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from
heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and
to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that
your names are written in heaven."
At that time Jesus, full of joy
through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned,
and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good
pleasure. 'All things have been committed to me by my Father. No
one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father
is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' Then
he turned to his disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that
see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to
see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did
not hear it.' [Emphasis mine]
Even Jesus was excited
as he saw Satan falling like light from heaven. Today when one is won to
Christ, in a sense Satan is falling from the sky in that his power is being
diminished. Jesus is just as excited today. The joy in Christ's work is
not that we make a showy presence through great physical manifestations,
but that our names are written in heaven. That is what makes the difference.
That is what gives us our power. The joy is found when we discover that
God has revealed his secret to his children. They are the ones blessed
by God because God has given them eyes to see. Sometimes his work is still
showy, especially when you see a spiritually dead sinner resurrected to
a new life in Christ. Christ works are still marvelous.
Isn't it encouraging
that Jesus never asked anyone to do anything that he did not give him or
her the enabling power to do? "Be on your guard against men; they
will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.
On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses
to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about
what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,
for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking
through you." (Matthew 10:17-20)
It really isn't any
different today. Of course, we don't have power to cast out demons, heal
the sick, to raise the dead and cleanse leprosy. But do we not work for
the same powerful God? Does he not continue to empower his people to do
his bidding? Just because God manifest his power differently today doesn't
mean that he doesn't manifest his power at all. In fact, the only time
a great work is accomplished is when it is accomplished by the power of
We think that those
first disciples had power which we don't have. Jesus said, "I tell you
the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater
than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is
greater than he." (Matthew 11:11) The kingdom of heaven is a reality on
earth today; it is the church of our Lord. All those who are saved belong
to it and Jesus said that the least in the kingdom is greater than John
the Baptist. Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
Then Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will
do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because
I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) Jesus said, "I am with you always."
(Matthew 28:18-19) The relevancy of these scriptural principles will continue
to extend to eternity, although God's power is manifested differently.
God continues to uphold all things by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3)
It is through him that all things are held together. (Colossians 1:16-17)
Teaming Up with God
Makes It Possible
Today we believe that
you must choose people with natural leadership ability. This rag-tag group
Jesus chose didn't look much like the people to whom we would wish to commit
the gospel. Today most had rather do it themselves rather than trust God
to use people like this.
We look for people who
know something about what they are doing. We need someone with clout. We
look for "Type A" personalities that can't be intimidated and who can make
their presence felt as they enter the room. Yet, these men in the first
century appeared ignorant and unlearned as they went before the world.
Paul's presence was weak. Paul wrote, "I came to you in weakness
and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not
with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's
power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's
power . . . For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except
Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 )
Some where in our strategies
we lose sight of God. We usually try to develop some sort of unique easy
formula to insure our success. We try to make everyone understand that
their success will be limited if they fail to follow the plan. We feel
as though the power is in the plan and our ability to work the plan. But
this usually leaves the impression that "If it is to be, it is up to me."
Although there is much, which is dependent on me, this attitude may leave
God out of the picture.
It is Jesus who
takes the providence of God to its ultimate possibilities. Jesus
is encouraging his disciples before they meet trouble and distress. He
encourages them by telling them that they should contemplate the providence
of God, which reaches to the smallest of things like sparrows and hairs
on our head. Yet, God preserves them and not one of them can fall to the
ground without his knowledge of it. Imagine if you would, a little boy
wanting God's attention. So he reaches up and pulls a hand full of hair
out of his head. Then he says, "Dear God, since I have your attention and
you are close enough to recount the hairs on my head, may I ask you for
a favor?" God is just that close and involved in our personal lives.
Realizing God's presence
as we go forth to do his bidding is the only thing in the world that makes
doing his work possible. Jesus tells his disciples that not one sparrow
falls to the ground without God knowing about it and God numbers the very
hairs of their head. Jesus concludes by saying, "So don't be afraid; you
are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:26-31) Jesus spoke
these words to remind his disciples of God's personal involvement in what
they were being sent to do.
Stonewall Jackson and
his sister were crossing a treacherous torrent just below the mighty Niagara
Falls. The current so rocked and tossed the boat that the woman became
terrified. Jackson took her firmly by the arm and turning to one of the
two boatmen said, "How often have you crossed here before?" "Continually,
sir, for the past 12 years." "Did you ever meet with an accident?" "Never,
sir." "Never capsized and never lost a life?" "Nothing of the kind, sir."
Turning to his sister, Jackson reassuringly replied, "You heard what the
boatman said. Unless you think you can row better than he does, just sit
still and trust him as I do." (Via InfoSearch Database, http://www.infosearch.com/)
Similar words of reassurance
are what spiritually troubled Christians need to hear when tossed by the
billows of doubt and uncertainty. Jesus has never lost a soul entrusted
to His care. We are safe in the refuge of God's love, secure for time and
eternity because of His grace! (Via InfoSearch Database, http://www.infosearch.com/)
We must remember
that God understands the difficulties. He takes it personal. "He
who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who
sent me." (Matthew 10:40) This principle continues to be true, and it signifies
God's personal concern with what we are doing at the moment. When we are
rejected, God feels the personal rejection himself.
God always provides.
"Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no
bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker
is worth his keep." "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some
worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter
the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace
rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you." (10:9-11)
One day God will
also pass his judgment. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen
to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or
town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah
on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep
among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
is real as we speak. "But when they arrest you, do not worry about
what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,
for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking
through you." (Matthew 10:19-20) I realize that the days of inspiration
are over, the truth has been revealed through the apostles and they have
written those words down. (Ephesians 3:1-5) We can understand them as we
read them and we communicate them as we teach and preach. But the question
is, Is the word of God any less powerful today? Is the gospel the power
of God to save? (Romans 1:16) Is God's Word still filled with Spirit and
life? (John 6:63) Does God continue to give us wisdom to communicate his
message? Are these principles that we find here any less valid today?
God's Word continues
to be filled with Spirit and life.
Imagine taking a bean seed and poking it into a pot of soil. You know,
like kindergarten children do, when the teacher is teaching them about
God and how he makes things grow. God has placed enough power and potential
in that one seed to alleviate the starvation of the entire world. But it
has to be planted and the soil must be cultivated before God can work his
wonder working power through that seed. God alone has the power power to
make the seed yield thirty or an hundredfold.
We can choose to allow
the most powerful thing in the world to lie dormant. Or we can choose to
allow God's Word to be planted in our hearts and endeavor to plant it in
the hearts of others, so that God might manifest his wonder working power
in our personal lives as he changes our hearts through the leading of his
Spirit breathed Word.
Paul wrote to Timothy
as a young minister, "Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give
you insight into all this." (2 Timothy 2:7) Paul wrote to the Ephesians,
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know
him better." (Ephesians 1:16-17) Is God any less willing to give us wisdom
today? Of course, God's will has been revealed once and for all time (Jude
1:3), but he continues to give wisdom to those who ask for it. (James 1:5)
And it is this very presence that makes God's work possible today.
and church growth today are brought about as God gives it and because God
lives in us.
God's power makes his word grow in our hearts. (1 Corinthians 3:5-11) Paul
said, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's
Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) "And if the Spirit of him who
raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from
the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit,
who lives in you." (Romans 8:11) Paul wrote to Timothy saying, "Guard the
good deposit that was entrusted to you-- guard it with the help of the
Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:14) "The Lord knows those who
are his . . . " (2 Timothy 2:19) There is a great deal of power revealed
in the these verses. It is held in reserve for you. But it is dependent
upon your willingness to receive it.
We do not receive the
same manifestation of God's Spirit today, but we receive the same powerful
Holy Spirit at baptism. (Acts 2:38-39) We can argue until Jesus comes about
how it dwells in us, but the fact is that he does dwell in us, and his
power has not diminished over time. He still gives us all things that pertain
to life and godliness. (1 Peter 1:3-7) His power is real, but we must trust
Him to do what God has sent him to do, which is to change the hearts of
Don't Be Afraid of
Even Jesus' strategy
didn't make it easy. On the contrary, Jesus said, "I am sending
you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as
innocent as doves . . . Be on your guard against men; they will hand you
over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues . . . they
will arrest you . . . brother will betray brother to death and a father
his child . . . a student is not above his teacher . . . if the head of
the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household
. . . do not fear those who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul
. . . I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:17-36)
Courage is not
the absence of fear. Someone has said, "Courage is fear that has
said its prayers." Being a Christian neither guarantees fortitude nor frees
us of all anxious feelings. However, it does give us God's Word, which
when appropriated by faith makes dread and apprehension lose their paralyzing
A well known pianist
and composer, Don Wyrtzen, sits at the keyboard before large audiences
with poise and confidence. But he candidly admits to becoming anxious at
times. "I can even have an anxiety attack," says Don. "What I do may sound
simplistic, but it really works. I just sing quietly to myself verses like,
'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.' I'm
not saying that instantly the Lords waves a magic wand and the anxiety
goes away, but I have experienced complete serenity from God in a time
when I am anxious." (Via InfoSearch Database, http://www.infosearch.com/)
Early in this century
a London newspaper carried an advertisement that read: "Men wanted for
hazardous journey: small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness,
and constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case
of success." The ad, signed by famous Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton,
brought inquiries from thousands of men.
Commenting on this in
his book Be Faithful, Warren W. Wiersbe said, "If Jesus Christ had
advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like
this: 'Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church.
You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will
face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results
of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work
is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.'"
(Via InfoSearch Database, http://www.infosearch.com/)
It is not easy
confessing Jesus to the world, but it is essential. "Whoever acknowledges
me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.
But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in
heaven. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I
did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man
against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against
her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'"
"Anyone who loves his
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his
son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not
take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life
will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
A missionary in Africa
was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking.
"Do I like this work?" he said. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We
have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile
huts through goat refuse . . . But is a man to do nothing for Christ he
does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to
do with it. We have orders to `Go,' and we go. Love constrains us." You
may not be serving the Lord under dangerous or unpleasant conditions, but
the work He has called you to do has its own unique difficulties. In times
of trial and testing, only the love of Christ can strengthen you to go
"He who receives you
receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone
who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's
reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous
man will receive a righteous man's reward. And if anyone gives even a cup
of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I
tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
We enjoy the presence
of the same Christ, God and the Holy Spirit in our lives today. Although
today we don't have miracles, we nonetheless through faith must trust in
the same Supernatural God. We certainly have their assurance that we can
continue to do God's work under their power. Their supernatural power for
today is not as obvious as raising the dead, healing diseases, etc. It
is nonetheless still just as powerful and as Supernatural as ever because
it is above and beyond our natural world. Will you let that power have
its way with your heart as you reach out to the lost?
If the church finds
itself engaged in a losing battle today, could it be because we are trying
to do God's work without his power? We must remember that God's work done
without his power depletes God's people.