Kingdom of God
Today’s Bible reading includes Jesus’ “Great Commission”. Jesus has spent about three years with his disciples and is commissioning them for their ministry. Grammatically speaking, there is one command with several participles that describe how the command is to play out.
He begins with “As you go”. He assumes that His disciples will go. Because He has all of the authority, He gives them this great commission.
Next is the command to make disciples.
The next set of participles describe how to make disciples:
- by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son,
andthe Holy Spirit, fully identifying them with the Trinity.
- by teaching them to obey Jesus’ teachings. Jesus gave a lot of commands. But in John 13:34–35, He gives them a new command: Love each other. Jesus’ new command wasn’t really new, he was just giving the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36–40) a new emphasis. In John 13:35, He says that people will recognize His disciples by their love for each other. This isn’t to discount so many other things about them, but their distinctive was to be love. Not an ooey-gooey squishy love, but a real — almost tangible love that Paul describes in 1Corinthians 13:1–13.
That’s it! That’s all it means to make disciples. The Great Commission is simple. But it isn’t easy. Teaching people to obey Jesus’ teachings is a life-long journey.
When Jesus linked teaching with how the command is to be applied, He isn’t talking about taking something from one person’s brain and transferring that to someone else’s brain. In the New Testament times, a disciple wasn’t just a student of a teacher. A disciple was a learner, much like an apprentice under a mentor who poured his life into the apprentice’s life.
Jesus’ commission isn’t to get people to make decisions. The commission is to make disciples. There is a world of difference between these two!
Unfortunately, a lot of leaders in the church at large don’t get this. It’s much easier to get someone to “bow your head and repeat after me” than it is to make a disciple. Decision-making is very quick. Disciplemaking takes time. Unfortunately, churches are full of decision-makers, and lacking on disciples.
In 2Timothy 2:2 Paul adds another dimension to
Have you ever been discipled? Maybe you need to talk with your pastor about growing deeper in your faith by meeting regularly with a more mature believer who can pour his/her spiritual life into yours.
Have you made a disciple? The commission wasn’t just for Jesus’ immediate disciples. The commission is for us, too!
I once heard someone wisely say that every Christian needs a Paul (a more mature believer who is
Jesus uses parables in today’s Bible reading to illustrate stewardship. Normally we think of stewardship as pertaining to money. Stewardship includes the wise use of money, but it isn’t limited to money. God’s people are called to be good stewards with everything we’ve been entrusted.
The foolish virgins weren’t good stewards of their oil; they didn’t have enough to make it through the night. And had the wise virgins shared their oil with the foolish virgins, no one would have had light to last through the night.
The servants in Jesus’ parable were entrusted with the master’s talents. We tend to think of talents as, well, “talents”. But the talents Jesus referred to in His parable was a measure of money. Last year when I preached through Jesus’ parables, I presented the following information so our people could grasp the tremendous amount of wealth that the master had entrusted to his servants.
- 1 danarius = 1 day’s wage
- 1 mina = 3 months’ wages
- 1 talent = 60 minas = 180 months’ wage = 15 years’ wages
- 1 talent = 15 years’ wages
- 2 talents = 30 years’ wages
- 5 talents = 75 years’ wages
Two of the servants were good stewards and made a good return on their master’s investments. However, one of the stewards was foolish in the way that he simply buried his master’s talent in the ground. Though not doubling the original amount like the wise servants, the foolish servant could have taken his master’s talent to the bank and the fifteen years’ wages would have generated interest.
I used to think that it was cruel for the master to take the talent from the foolish servant and give it to the servant who had the ten talents. That is, until I read the parable a little more closely.
Matthew 25:14, 18, 27 highlights the key to understanding why the master was not cruel to take the foolish servant’s talent: It was the master’s talent! At no point in the parable are the talents
If you are like most people, God has entrusted you with a lot: your body, food, housing, vehicle(s), and employment. He has also given you friends, coworkers, family members and extended family members. Granted, He probably hasn’t entrusted multiple years’ wages to you in one lump sum. But still, He has entrusted you with a lot.
So what are you doing with what He has entrusted to you?
Each of us has twenty-four hours each day. Each of us has seven days each week, twelve months each year, etc. How are you investing His time?
How are you stewarding your body, food, housing, vehicles, employment, friends, coworkers, family members, extended family members?
Remember, all of these belong to Him. How can you better steward what belongs to Him?
Don’t you know that your body is a temple 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. So glorify God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (CSB)
It never ceases to amaze me. Despite Jesus’ clear words in today’s Bible reading, people still think they’ve figured out when Jesus will return.
Pre-millennial. A-millennial. Post-millennial. Pre-Trib. Post-Trib. Mid-Trib. The theological term is eschatology, the study of the End T
Jesus gives us things to look for, but He never tells us when but He says you can tell the seasons by looking at a fig tree. (Matthew 24:32)
Why would Jesus not tell his disciples when He will return? Well, for one thing, He didn’t know! (Matthew 24:36) Other than that, I think the most convincing reason He didn’t tell them/us when He will return is that He knows our hearts. He knows that if He said He wouldn’t return until the Twenty-First Century, the missions movement of the past one hundred-fifty years probably wouldn’t have taken place. We think we can wait until the last minute to get right with God and get busy with Kingdom affairs.
Look around. Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of churches around your town? Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of the leaders in those churches?
There’s no reason to fear the end-times … if you are a believer. Your eternal destiny is secure. But if you aren’t a believer, you have a lot to fear! Don’t hesitate! No one knows when Jesus will return! And no one knows when their own time is up! Don’t wait! Get right with God now!
Now, if you are a believer, your work isn’t done yet! Sure, your eternity is secure, but don’t you want to bring as many into the Kingdom of God as possible (here and now, as well as then!)? If you have breath in your lungs and if your heart is still beating, your work isn’t done yet! You can still tell people about Jesus. And you can still pray! Pray for God to create a spiritual awakening, that people will be drawn to Christ and that believers will pursue Gospel-centered conversations with lost friends and loved ones.
No, the work of God’s people is not yet done yet. And Jesus won’t return until it is. So, let’s engage in His business until He returns! (Luke 19:13)
Today’s Bible reading includes some familiar words from Jesus:
“So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16 CSB) The context of His comments is the conclusion of a story of vineyard workers who grumbled about their paycheck. Now, there’s another hot topic!
Some of the day-laboring vineyard workers were hired early in the morning. Some were hired three hours later (
At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard prepared to pay their wages by lining up the workers from those most recently hired to those hired at the beginning of the day. Those who worked only a couple of hours were paid a day’s wage. Those who worked three hours were paid a day’s wage. Those who worked six hours were paid a day’s wage. And those who had worked all day long were paid a day’s wage.
Those who were hired early in the day complained that they had been cheated. They slaved throughout the heat of the day. But the people who only worked one hour were paid as much as they were. That isn’t fair, they said.
We tend to describe “fairness” on our terms, especially when we’re the ones who were shortchanged. Based on Matthew’s account, it does seem unfair that all of the workers were paid the same, though they didn’t work the same.
So we need to dig a little further. We find that the key to understanding the last/first, first/last statement can be seen in verses 13-15.
“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’ Matthew 20:13–15 (CSB)
The owner of the vineyard reminded the grumbling workers that it was his vineyard and they had agreed on the wages before the work began. Then, he pointed out that he had upheld his end of the contract. Besides, it was his vineyard! He owned the vineyard and they were merely paid workers.
How do you respond when you feel you have been treated unfairly? If we focus on us, it’s easy to get all bent out of shape. But we gain a better perspective when we back up and get the big picture.
When it comes to our salvation, we bring nothing to the table. We have absolutely nothing of any value to contribute. We owe an insurmountable debt to an infinitely holy God. God owes us nothing. Nothing! We … all of us … deserve eternal punishment from the King of the Universe because of our offense of High Treason.
God is the King in His Kingdom. He calls the shots. He makes the decision. It’s all about Him. It isn’t about us.
God owes you nothing but punishment for your sin.
But in His infinite grace and mercy, He grants forgiveness. He grants a pardon to all who put their trust in Him. Everyone who receives His grace and mercy receives an infinite amount to cover their infinite debt. No one receives more than any other because no one is any more deserving than another.
In Matthew 20, the disciples wanted priority over each other. Sometimes we do the same today. And when we do, we need to remember this chapter and realize that to grumble against God’s goodness demonstrates how much we still need to learn about grace!
Two words emerge from today’s Bible reading from Matthew 18:SIN and FORGIVENESS.
Jesus talks about causing a child to stumble and says that it would better for the person who causes this offense to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck.
Next, He says that if your eye or hand causes you to sin, it would better to pluck it out and cut it off because it would be better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed than to suffer in Hell because you didn’t deal with your sin.
Later, He emphasizes the importance of restoration when someone sins. Note, he says restoration and not punishment. Relationships are very important: relationships between people and people’s relationship with God. (Matthew 18:35, Matthew 6:14-15)
Finally, Jesus turns to the need to repeatedly forgive an offender. The math of 70×7 works out to 490, but Jesus’ emphasis is not on counting how many times you forgive, but that you forgive.
The bottom line of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of sin. Sin is bad. Really bad. And we should do whatever it takes to avoid it. John Piper quotes Puritan John Owen when he said that if you are not killing sin, it is killing you. Owen wrote a book, The Mortification of Sin in Believers based on Romans 8:13.
The second main point of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of forgiveness. As bad as it is when people sin against you, it is equally bad when you withhold forgiveness from them — whether or not they ask for forgiveness.
Someone wisely said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the offender gets sick. They may not even be aware that they sinned against you. Withholding forgiveness will eat you alive, so don’t do it. It will shortcircuit your walk with Christ. And that isn’t worth it, regardless of what the other person has done to you.
Now hear me out: the fact that someone sinned against you is bad. Really bad. Forgiveness does not respond by saying, “That’s ok.” It’s not OK! But we are called to release that person to let God deal with their sin. And if you really want to go deep in forgiving the other person, ask God to not hold this sin against them when they stand before the Judgment.
God is infinitely better at dealing with sin
than you will ever hope to be.
And yet, God is infinitely better at forgiving sin
than you will ever hope to be.