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Eternal Principles for Discipleship(e)

Matthew 10:1-42

James R. Davis

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 crow.

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 Include Others

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 had done.

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 God.

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." (10:14-16)

God's presence 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.

Personal growth 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 people.

Don't Be Afraid of Failure

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 power.

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.'" (Matthew 10:32-36)

Matthew 10:37-39
"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."

Conclusion:

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 on.

Matthew 10:40-42
"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.
 
 

 

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