Matthew 10:5-20 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. 11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 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, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
When Jesus sends us out He may not send us very far. Notice in verses 5 and 6, the disciples weren’t told to go everywhere to everyone with the Kingdom message, at least not just yet. They were told first to go to their own people, the Israelites, to share about Jesus. Sometimes when we think about evangelism and witnessing and missions we think about overseas or a long trip. It can be that. It is that, but what we can also embrace is that sharing Jesus begins at home. It begins for us with those closest to us.
The Gospel flows best into the lives of people through relationship. No one is closer to your family than you are. No one knows your friends better than you do. No one has more pull, more influence with your circle than you. One reason God has called you into partnership in His Kingdom is because He intends for you to reach the people who are near to you. You do not need to question whether God wants you to witness to your friends and family. The answer is a big, fat, “YES!”
So we know we need to witness to those around us, but how do we go about doing that? First of all, I think we need to remember we have been sent with the authority and power of Christ Himself to be His witnesses (Matthew 10:1, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8). So we need to adopt the mindset that witnessing to others is obedience to the command of Christ. Not witnessing, then, is disobedience.
Second, I think we need to remember we are not alone when we attempt to witness. Look at John 15:26-27-“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
Do you see verse 26 tells us that the Holy Spirit is in the witnessing business? The Spirit of Truth goes out from the Father to talk to people about Jesus. Church, we need to talk with the Holy Spirit before we attempt to witness. Here is a sample conversation: “Holy Spirit, I understand that one of your roles is to testify about who Jesus is. I am accounting on that. Just as I am sent, I understand that You are sent out from the Father to talk to people about Jesus. I need you to talk to my people, Holy Spirit.”
Verse 27 affirms our personal involvement in the witnessing business. It says that as disciples we have to testify to people about Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples, “Because you have been with me and have seen me and experienced me, you have a responsibility to tell other people about me.” The challenge Jesus gave to the disciples is for us as well.
After we have engaged the Holy Spirit and have accepted the personal challenge to talk to our friends and family we need to start praying for the salvation of our friends and family. Prayer will be like preparing the soil before you try to plant a Gospel seed. If our daily or at least our weekly prayer life doesn’t include praying for our circle of people to be saved, we are missing one of the greatest opportunities possible. Prayer should be our daily strategy when it comes to soul-winning.
We need to start praying that there will be an opportune time to talk with our friends and family. We need to pray that God will change their hearts and open their eyes to the truth of the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We need to pray that when we do talk to them about God’s love and the reason Christ died and the fact that we are all sinners in need of a Savior that they don’t look at us like we have four heads. We can pray that the spiritual lightbulb will go on!
Sin and salvation aren’t easy concepts to embrace in 2016 when it has been proliferated that there is “nothing wrong with anyone’s choices or lifestyle.” Biblical holiness isn’t an easy concept to embrace when “truth is now relative” and there are “no moral absolutes” and where “no one can tell me what to do” is the rule of the day. That is the way many people think today. The minds of unbelievers are blinded to the truth. We need to pray for wisdom to know how best to approach them (James 1:5).
So we invite the Spirit to lead us as we witness, we embrace the call and responsibility to witness, we pray to ask God to create the right opportunities and atmosphere, and we continually rely on the Holy Spirit to show people what it means that they are sinners in need of a Savior. People probably aren’t going to be naturally receptive to us pointing out that they are sinners. That isn’t a warm and fuzzy, popular message. But remember, as we share what Christ has done for us and as we talk about God’s love for them and the reason Christ had to die, we have the Holy Spirit on board to convict them of their sin and convince them that what we are saying is true, John 16:7. We don’t have to convince people of their need. The Holy Spirit will do that.
Would you renew your commitment this morning to go to your family and friends and to starting some spiritual conversations? What if you set a goal to have two spiritual conversations a week with those in your sphere of influence? What could happen? Maybe you won’t even have to do much of the talking! Maybe you could just toss out a few questions like, “Do you ever think about God or eternity or heaven?” What if you said, “I just wanted you to know if ever wanted to come to church with me I would love to have you?” or “If you ever have any questions about God or the Bible I would love to talk with you about those questions?” Then, just listen. “How can I pray for you?” will always open up doors! Be open to the idea that when Jesus sends you out, He may not send you very far. He wants to use you where you are.
When Jesus sends us out He will give us what we need. The disciples were told in verses 9-11 that they didn’t need to take a bunch of money, they didn’t need to carry lots of luggage, and that they didn’t need to worry about where they would sleep each night. Random people would just be opening up their homes. Wow! Talk about depending totally on God. What faith they had to have in order to witness to the people God had called them to reach. That is the big point. God wants us to know as we share the Gospel, He will give us the resources we need in order to do it.
So the disciples were moving from town to town to talk with their kinsman, the Israelites, about the Messiah who had come. They had to travel light, leaving multiple outfits, the blow dryer, and extra sandals at home. Since they were traveling they weren’t even working a job to make a living. I guess you could say they were homeless witnesses at the mercy of the people in the towns. However, they were really the sent who were promised to be provided for by a generous and loving God.
So how does this idea apply to us? We aren’t moving from town to town, tracking people down in our personal family tree so that we can tell them about Jesus. But what if you looked at your job as a resource God was providing for you in order to witness for Him? Your job gives you a place and platform to share. I love that when I walk into my good friend’s dentist office in New Boston, OH, she is playing Christian music in her office. As patients wait, rather than the sound of the drill, they are hearing the truth of God’s love in song. I love that when I go to Randy Parson’s auto shop I see a verse of the month on the wall which tells me Who and what is at the center of Randy’s life. I love that Forever 21, the ladies’ clothing store that was founded by born again Christians has John 3:16 on the bottom of the bags they give you to put your clothing in.
Perhaps it is easier for them to display their faith since they own their own businesses, but sharing our faith isn’t impossible for those of us who don’t. What if you saw your workplace as your personal mission field and started to pray that God would give you that mindset? I’m pretty sure it isn’t against the law to invite a co-worker to church or to mention an activity that is going on here. What would be wrong with telling a co-worker that your church is doing a food drive for the Community Cupboard just in case they would like to get in on it? Debra Meadows is a school secretary, and she and her principal and others meet for prayer before school starts. How awesome is that? I heard this week from a church member who hosted a Bible study during lunch at the hospital where he works. Your job is a resource. It is something God gives you not only to make a living, but also you to enable you to share His love.
God has also given us financial resources and gifts and talents so that we can witness. When those of you who can fix up houses, and work on cars, and cut hair, and clean houses, and check blood pressure, and make casseroles and babysit offer those services to people in need, you are witnessing to them with your actions. And when you do use your skills, those resources God has given to you, be sure to tell them that you just want to use what God has blessed you with to be a blessing to others. It will open countless doors.
Many of you have done the “pay it forward” gesture where you pay for the coffee of the person in the drive-thru behind you. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling to use your financial resources to be a blessing to someone? What if we challenged ourselves to go bigger? What if we handed our credit card to the grocery checker to pay for the family in front of us? The price tag would be bigger than the drive through courtesy, of course, but could we trust God to supply our needs if we reached to meet the needs of someone else? God has said He will meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Are we willing to let our witnessing be sacrificial at the same time? It could then be an act of worship at the same time! Do you see how witnessing could involve not only the sharing of but the exercising of our faith? What we give away will pale in comparison to what we could ever gain. One of our church members shared with me that for Lent he is trying to practice generosity, just giving to people to show them God cares for them. How cool is that? God will give us the resources we need to bless people in Jesus’ name, and as we use them, He will bring more and different resources to us in order to bless those around us through our generosity.
When Jesus sends us out He will tell us how to retreat. (Please change the word on point number three in your outline from “go” to “retreat.”) Revisit verse 11 with me. “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” Not everyone we might share with is ready to receive Christ or will receive Christ. Jesus told His disciples when their witness wasn’t received to “shake the dust off their feet” and to move on.
Maybe you have stepped out of your comfort zone to witness, and it didn’t go well. Don’t see that as a moment of failure. It wasn’t. It was a moment of obedience to God. Rejoice that you did what God asked of you! It you went to someone with a pure and prepared heart and a desire to share God’s love with them, what they did with that information wasn’t about you, but them. But maybe you saw yourself as a failure and then retreated rather than moved on to share your faith with the next person. Their rejection of the message may have felt personal, but it wasn’t. They were rejecting Christ, not you personally. Don’t conclude that you stink as a witness and therefore you should just quit.
What Jesus says here is so strategic. Shake the dust off your feet. Don’t take someone else’s indifference to the Gospel as personal. Shake it off, and keep walking. Don’t see it as a challenge where you now make up your mind to ram Jesus down someone’s throat until they cave. Shake it off, and keep walking. Don’t let someone’s argumentative or caustic comments pull you into a dramatic argument or cause you to start to be angry or act small. Shake it off, and keep walking. Don’t let them cause you to doubt your personal faith in Christ. Shake it off, and keep walking. Don’t judge people, label people, or write people off. Pray for them, and shake it off. Don’t carry around any unkind words they might have said to you. Shake it off. Don’t be shocked if not everyone is thrilled to hear about Jesus. Shake it off, but keep walking. Don’t let it discourage you or detour you.
When Jesus sends us out He will tell us what to say. Many people are afraid to witness because they aren’t sure they will know what to say. Can you identify with that? Look at verse 17 and following again: “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 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, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
While I am sure most of us will never see flogging and jail time as a result of being a witness, we could let these words of Jesus represent the times when we get questioned and aren’t sure we will have the right answers. Who is it again that gets involved here? Verse 20 assures us the Holy Spirit will be speaking through us.
We aren’t the first people who are nervous about having the right words to say. When Moses was asked by God to go to Pharaoh and tell him to free the Israelite slaves, Moses admitted his fears. Exodus 4:10-13 10 Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” 13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
“I’m not a gifted communicator. I’m not clever with words. I get tongue tied. I am too shy and backward to talk to someone about Jesus.” It’s a good thing it isn’t about you or your ability! Moses missed the whole message that God delivered to him in Exodus 3:14. God told Moses, “My name is I AM.” Listen, when the “I AM” calls it is ridiculous to argue with God that “I am not.” “I am not a gifted speaker.” “I am not smart enough.” “I am not significant enough to influence anyone for Christ.” “I am not well verse enough in Scripture” or whatever silly argument we might use. God already knows we are not, but He is the I AM in every situation, and if He says, “I will help you speak, and I will teach you what to say” it isn’t about our limitation or our excuses, but it is about a limitless God who does what He promises.
When Moses told God he wasn’t a good enough speaker and asked him to send someone else, the very next verse tells us God’s anger burned against Moses. “I don’t know what to say” isn’t an excuse God will accept. You want to tick God off, just tell Him you are too backward and ineffective at speaking to people about His Son Jesus. Just saying! J If God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22) surely He will be faithful to speak through us in a powerful way.
I often find in ministry that I don’t have the “words” to say to someone. Everyone is dealing with something different, and there are a lot of life challenges that people share with me that I have never had. It can be overwhelming to feel like someone needs just the right words and wonder if what you say will help or hurt. God doesn’t want us to live with that kind of fear and pressure. Often, when someone is sharing something with me, and I don’t have a clue how to respond I start praying silently for a Word from God to share with them.
I remember very vividly that I was ministering to a senior adult about six years ago who was a leader in the church. She was very faithful to attend. She was very devout and Spirit-filled. She asked to come and meet with me. We met in the sanctuary, and I could tell she was deeply troubled. What she was concerned about was that she didn’t remember there being a specific time and date when she had officially accepted Christ as Savior. She just knew they always loved the Lord and relied on Him for forgiveness of her sin. But not knowing of a specific time that she had given her life to the Lord, this person, well into her 60’s wondered if she was truly saved. It was really bothering her.
I started praying, “Lord, give me some word of encouragement and comfort for this sweet lady for surely if anyone is saved she is! Help her heart to be settled.” Instantly I knew what to say. I said, “Can you remember the date of your first date with your husband” to which she replied, “No, I can’t.” I said, “Does that make you less married?” An incredible grin and tremendous relief fell across her face. Was that not a clever answer? I can’t take any credit for it. It was the Holy Spirit. This was someone I considered far more spiritually mature than myself and far more wise and rich in life experiences than me in general, and yet God gave me just the words she needed to hear.
God is stirring His people to be the sent. During this Year of the Gospel, we are emphasizing our responsibility as believers and Christ followers. Be encouraged this morning that as you go you have the authority of Christ. As you go, you are being sent first to those in your sphere of influence. As you go, God will give you resources to use to communicate His Gospel. As you go, the Holy Spirit goes with you. As you go, you may face rejection, but keep going. As you go, God will give you the words He desires for you to share. These are the things you can count on when Jesus sends us out!