* The following is an approximate transcript of the sermon preached at First Baptist Church Valdosta, Georgia.
If you have ever seen the movie Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory then you know that there is a feverous search among the entire world to find the five golden tickets. Then one by one each is found and eventually the tickets are turned in for entrance into the magical chocolate factory.
For many Christians, the gospel is treated like this. Once you have “prayed the prayer,” “gone down front,” and “received Christ,” then you leave the gospel behind and move into discipleship. But what we will discover today is that the gospel is yo stay with the believer, it continues to change the believer to become more and more like Christ every day. The gospel is more than a ticket into heaven, it is the God given means to grow in your faith.
Lord if it were not for your grace and mercy we would be without hope. You have provided the only means of salvation, and you alone are worthy to be praised and worshipped. Help us this morning to understand your great commandment to receive the good news of Jesus Christ, and to share this gospel with those around us. We pray that you will bless the teaching of your Word this morning. Amen.
Please stand as we honor the reading of God’s Word.
Matthew 28:17-20 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.(ESV)”
In the 28th chapter of Matthew, we see a description of the events immediately following Jesus’ resurrection. Two women, disciples of Jesus, go and tell the other disciples of their conversation with the resurrected Jesus, and how he had told them to go and tell them to meet Him in Galilee.
In John 20:17,18 “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and that he had said these things to her.
Matthew:17 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The word for “doubt” in Greek is distazo and refers more to hesitation than to unbelief. Jesus had been crucified for the salvation of the world. For the 40 days following the giving of the Great Commission Jesus would appear to various groups, even groups of over 400 people. And eventually he would tell the disciples that He must go, so that the Holy Spirit may come.
So the way they had operated and lived with Jesus were about to change. Some worshiped him and were quick to follow, “while others were hesitant because they didn’t know what they were supposed to do now. When Jesus was there with them, “ he told them what to do, where they would go, even how to dress and what to say. But now, they were hesitant and didn’t know what to do. People will always have this response when they don’t know what to do.
How had the resurrection changed things? Jesus now appears and disappears (as in the upper room with Thomas), He can allow people to recognize Him or hide His identity (the road to Emmaus), Jesus has gone to cross, resurrected and now changed from mortal flesh to a glorified body.
So some of the disciples are worshiping some are hesitant and confused so Jesus comes to them and gives them a clear mission. “18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples.”
What we will see is that it is through obeying this command of Jesus to “go and make disciples” that the disciples will begin to realize how they are being made more like Christ and how they have been changed as well.
This “Great Commission” is for every believer to share the gospel with the lost world around them. As the body of Christ we must continue to share and preach the gospel to ourselves, but the “going” is not to church, but to the world.
Imagine you are at the mall and you and your family have just sat down to eat at a Chic-Fil-A. You are enjoying your waffle fries, and chicken sandwich. The kids are inhaling their chicken nuggets so they can play on the playground and about that time a girl comes around with a tray of tiny cut up samples of chicken with a toothpick stuck in them and asks, “would you like a free sample?” Doesn’t this seem like a waste?
She should take her tray and stand out in the mall to the people passing by, she should go to the McDonald’s line and hand out samples. The people sitting down in Chic-Fil-A with their chicken are already committed. The sample girl would have the greatest impact if she went to those who weren’t already committed to chicken.
We have the most precious message that has ever come to mankind in all of its’ history, “creation and Creator can be restored. We have been saved from sin and depravity, “our lives can be changed and brought into the image of Christ. We have the power of the gospel, salvation and the only means for people to have eternal life. Where do we go with this message? Where do we share this message?
There are a couple of things that we can infer from Jesus’ commission to us:
1) You have to believe that people really are lost. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Your neighbor who is a really great guy, who fixed your stove when it broke, “yes if he doesn’t know Christ he will be eternally separated from the Father for all of eternity in hell. No one comes to the father apart from a saving relationship through Jesus Christ. Hell is a very real place that those who don’t know Jesus, that’s where they go.
2) You have to believe that people really will respond. If we don’t really believe that anyone will respond we simply won’t do anything. We have been commanded by Christ to tell others about Him, we reach out with the gospel, “and people will respond. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ, and when you share the gospel.
3) every Christian is to duplicate themselves in the life of another person or people. You have received the saving message of the gospel, so we share it with others who in turn give their lives to Christ as well.
So once we shared the gospel, and they have responded to the gospel and are growing in their relationship with Christ, “ what then? The next step is to welcome them into the church. “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
The Christian reaches out and shares the gospel with non-believing people. They receive Christ and are brought into the church body and fellowship through baptism. Then they begin a life long process of learning about Christ and following his teaching in obedience.
So up to this point, I have mentioned the “gospel” several times, but I want to make sure that we are all on the same page as to how we define this term that means, “good news.”
There is one God who is the ruler of heaven and earth. He created all that is including mankind. They were created in his image male and female. They were given dignity, value, and purpose. He made us to worship Him, but we chose to rebel against him and worship the creation instead (which includes ourselves).
As a result of this rebellion, we are separated from God. We all have believed the foolish myth that we are our own god, so we believe we have the right to make our own decisions, do we what think is right, and live by our own moral code.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 “Now I would remind you, brothers,1 of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . . (ESV)“
The man Jesus is also God, or Christ, (fully God and fully man) was born of a virgin, and lived a sinless perfect life even though “he was tempted in all ways like us.” Jesus died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins. He was our substitute, “he took the punishment that mankind deserved.”
Just like mankind’s first parents substituted themselves for God in the garden, now Jesus (as God) substitutes himself back for mankind. He took upon himself all the sin (past, present, and future), of those who would come to trust him.
He gives the gift of salvation freely to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life. Jesus as a man took my place, paid my sin debt to God, and purchased my salvation.
Jesus’ dead body was then laid in a tomb and three days later (on a Sunday) He rose again to conquer sin, death, demons, Satan, and hell. Then as he ascended into heaven he commissioned us as missionaries to tell this amazing story to the world. This good news is that there is a God who passionately loves you and gave His one and only Son to die for you and your sin.
He continually pursues us, “He passionately chases us because He loves us with a love beyond our comprehension or anything the you have ever experienced. After the resurrection, He ascended into heaven where then and today, and for all of eternity He will rule and reign over all of creation. He is and always will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is commanding everyone to repent of their sin and turn to Him through His Word.
He is also coming again to rule as judge where everyone will have to give an account of their lives and how they are in relation to Him. Those who have believed in Him will enjoy eternity in heaven and those who have rejected him will suffer apart from Him for eternity in hell.
That is the gospel. It is this message of top priority that must mark every ministry, every lesson, every thing that we do must rally around the only message that can save mankind from their sin. The church is a group of people who have believed this message and are passionate about sharing it with others.
Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are opposites in every way.
But as believers we tend to think of the gospel as something we leave behind so that we can get strong. We receive the gospel to get saved, then we leave it behind to become religious. However, we are strengthened by God, through the gospel, every day.
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us. The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey.
Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people. The gospel says that the world is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.
Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person. The gospel says that you should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because He alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.
The goal of religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power, and control. The goal of the gospel is not the gifts God gives, but rather God as the gift given to us by grace.
Religion is about what I have to do. The gospel is about what I get to do.
Religion sees hardship in life as punishment from God. The gospel sees hardship in life as sanctifying affliction that reminds us of Jesus’ sufferings and is used by God in love to make us more like Jesus.
Religion is about me. The gospel is about Jesus.
Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.
Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (because I continually fall short of God’s commands). The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.
Sanctification “is the process of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness.” Sanctification is where we as believers become more like Jesus, as we turn from sin over our lifetime.
How do we grow in our faith? How are we sanctified day-by-day? As we make a concerted effort to go out into the world (all nations), and share His love. In this process of going we are sanctified.
As in the “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we show believers how to serve, relate, and love the body of Christ. As the local church we grow in how we deal with other people.
As we “20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you “we are sanctified as we learn how to teach others, “you learn far more and at a much deeper level when you teach others.”
But what if I make a mistake, don’t know what to say, where should I go, how do I do this? God has given us His Word, and “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” “ we have Jesus beside us every step of the way.
The gospel is not a ticket that we leave behind and use later to get into heaven, “ the gospel is Jesus’ command that we follow and it stays with us our entire lives as we grow in Him. It gives us salvation, purpose, and a means to grow in Christ.
This past Sunday I ran in a marathon in Orlando and afterward we walked around Disney and they encourage you to wear your metal. Honestly, I didn’t want to wear it, but my family were like, “dad you have to wear it.” So I said, “Why don’t you guys take turns wearing it.” So all throughout the evening, people would make comments to my kids, asking them their time, if they met any Disney characters, etc. to which they loved.
But as people were making comments to them, I found it enjoyable, even though I had run the race. My kids got to enjoy the rewards of running a race that I had endured.
Jesus went to the cross and bore the weight of mankind’s sin. He died in our place. We get to enjoy the rewards of being forgiven of sin, even though Jesus ran the race to Calvary. I get the reward, He gets the punishment, “but it brings Him joy to see His creation” bring glory to the Father.
 Ronald F. Youngblood ed. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee; Nelson) 1126.