After the Resurrection and before the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, Jesus gave His disciples authority as He also commissioned them to win others to a life of discipleship. We read in Matthew 28:18-20- 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There is no mistaking what the role of a disciple of Christ is. It is to make other disciples. It is to do what Jesus said He came to do which was to “seek and save those who are lost,” Luke 19:10. Go and make disciples. It cannot be clearer. Jesus also promised that He would be with them as they carried out their assignment. That means the disciples had power and authority, and it means that we have, infinite power to carry out our assignment. God is with us, but we don’t go, we accomplish nothing. God is with us, and if we go in His name and authority, we cannot fail.
Let me share this Great Commission in another way using the words of the Apostle Paul.
II Corinthians 5:16-20-16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
Here is the big takeaway for our time together today:
God’s plans for humanity are in the hands of the Church.
Is that intimidating or overwhelming for anyone else? It is for me! I have to sit with that statement for a while to try to grasp its magnitude. With His infinite power and understanding, God could have chosen countless ways to communicate the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice, but He chose the Church. Tell your neighbor, “Tag, you’re it.” The local church is God’s plan to win the world for Christ. We are here for such a time as this to love people to Jesus, to go on a search and rescue mission with Jesus and to teach people about their next steps with Jesus. That is our assignment. That is our opportunity. That is our privilege.
As we begin to understand the gravity of this Great Commission, this command to bring people in, we begin to live more intentionally and carefully. What we say matters. What we do matters. How we interact with others matters. How we prioritize our day matters. Our lives are a positive or negative witness with every interaction we have with others.
How we pray matters. A few weeks back, I asked our Wednesday prayer team to begin every prayer in the prayer circle with a prayer for lost people to be found in Christ. That means if there are eight people who show up for prayer, eight prayers get prayed for souls to be saved. The salvation of the world is the preoccupation of Heaven, so it ought to be the priority of the Church.
The Wednesday prayer team honored my request. Last Sunday five people gave their hearts to Christ! I have no doubt that the prayers for salvation that were prayed by the team in the Wednesday meeting were a huge catalyst for those who made that decision. (And if you were in that number who raised your hand for salvation last Sunday, please let me know personally. I saw five hands and know who two of the five are but would love to congratulate and help the rest of you get started on your journey to follow Jesus now that you have found Him as Savior and Lord!) I challenge each of you to pray daily for people you know who aren’t saved, that they would get a revelation of the salvation you have found in Jesus!
Can I show you what comes just before the Great Commission in Matthew 28? Look at verses 16 and 17: 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Right after this is when Jesus gave them authority and told them to go. Right after this! Right after we read that some of the 11 remaining disciples doubted, Jesus commissioned them to go. What? Even with some of them doubting, even with some of them not understanding it all, even with some of them having questions. Maybe they doubted they could continue to follow Jesus faithfully. Maybe they doubted their ability to do what Jesus commanded them to do. Even in their state of doubt, Jesus told them to take the next steps to be witnesses for Him. Why did Jesus commission doubters to go? Why didn’t He give them more time to get to a place of confidence that they could do what He was asking?
There are probably several answers but two come to my mind. 1. He wanted them to fully rely on Him to accomplish the work, so that He and not they would get the glory. 2. Sending them out was a way to help them grow. You don’t overcome doubt by doing nothing. You overcome by stepping out. You grow as you go. Jesus knew that.
What happened when the doubters in the bunch heard, “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Did it suddenly click that Jesus wasn’t sending them without accompanying them? Did they have an “aha” about Him empowering them to be His witnesses?
When a person accepts Christ, a next step is baptism. Other next steps include learning how to read the Bible, becoming faithful church attenders, beginning the spiritual disciplines of prayer, and giving and worship. Many people take those steps but fail to take the next, next steps which include becoming an intentional witness with a desire to bring others into the Kingdom of God.
Witnessing can be daunting. You may have your doubts about your ability to represent Jesus before others. Perhaps you are scared you will be asked a question you don’t have an answer for. God tells us in His Word to trust Him in those moments. He will give us what we need because He will be standing right there with us and through the power of the Holy Spirit, He will be standing up in us. It is always OK to say, “That’s a great question, let me think about that and get back to you,” and then you can reach out to someone for some help in formulating a reply. I simply say all of that to say that when Jesus commissioned those first disciples, He knew they didn’t have it all together. He has also commissioned each of His followers, and as He did and does, He knows WE don’t yet have it all together. That is OK because He has us. God is using flawed people to talk about the perfect Savior. That way the spotlight is always on Jesus and not on us.
Our doubts, our insecurities, our shy nature don’t change the Commission we have received. We are to reach, to preach, to baptize, and teach and are then to repeat that process. Am I driving home the point?
Now, let me preach this message. In Luke 15 Jesus tells three parables. What they all have in common is that in each story something is lost and there is great rejoicing when the thing that was lost becomes found. There is a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Let’s look at the Parable of the Lost Sheep:
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Jesus launched into this trilogy of stories because the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were muttering about Him, criticizing Jesus for spending time with sinners. It’s clear they didn’t understand Jesus’ mission. Jesus purposefully engaged sinners so that He could reveal God’s love for them. Like, why wouldn’t He be eating with sinners? Why wouldn’t He be starting conversations with people who were disconnected from God? Why wouldn’t He tell those who were “poor in spirit” the Good News He had been sent to declare?
Jesus is radical about lost people. Radical. Whatever it takes. However long it takes. No matter where it takes Him, He is seeking out lost people. Jesus is willing to go wherever, whenever to reach even one lost soul. As blind as the religious leaders were, it was going to take three stories with the same message to try to get through to their thick heads!
First, Jesus told the story of a shepherd who had a hundred sheep, and one went missing. When you are taking a test, 99/100 is a good score, right? You consider that a success. You don’t sweat missing a point. You don’t even worry about what you didn’t get right. You have a sense of victory and accomplishment about it, but when you are talking about souls, about people who could be eternally separated from God forever, 99/100 isn’t good enough for God. Every person matters to God. It is God’s will that NONE should perish.
So, in the parable, the shepherd leaves the 99 to go seek after the one, and he searches until he finds it. The shepherd is determined, persistent and is passionate about every sheep, wanting none to be lost. When he finds the one sheep, He isn’t just relieved that he collected the stray, but he rejoices. He is overjoyed. He carries the sheep on His shoulders all the way home. It is a true celebration!
And then he texts everyone in his contacts and creates a Facebook event, to invite everyone to a celebration to rejoice with him over the one lost sheep who was lost but is now found. He has a “found” party! It’s a big deal to the shepherd, and every person who comes to faith in Christ is a big deal to God! It’s the biggest deal!
Jesus told this story not just to demonstrate His passion for every person, but He told it so that the 99 understand their own assignment. We who are in the 99 need to be going after “the one” who has gone astray. We who are in the 99 need to be passionate about people who are lost. We who are in the 99 need to have a sense of urgency for and determination to find lost sheep. If you are in the 99 this morning, I ask you, “Who is your One?” Who can you go after? Who can you talk to about Jesus? Who can you pray for to come into the realm of the found? Who can you witness to about your personal relationship with Jesus? Who can you invite to Church? Who is the One you are working to win to Christ?
The shepherd meant to find the lost sheep. He didn’t just hope he’d bump into him down the road or just hope that he would somehow wander back on its own. No, the shepherd went looking for the lost sheep and was relentless about finding him. Jesus was intentional about engaging lost people where they were.
Sinners have to be engaged. Many lost people don’t even realize they are lost. They aren’t simply going to migrate towards Jesus. They aren’t going to wander into a relationship with Christ. They have to be brought in. They have to be loved in. They have to be prayed in. They have to be invited into relationship with you and then introduced to Jesus.
Jesus engaged Zacchaeus one-on-one. Luke 19 tells us that Jesus entered Jericho and saw Zacchaeus sitting up in a tree. Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd, so he elevated himself to get a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus stopped under the tree and called him down and invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house. Y’all, he singled him out. He called Zacchaeus out of the shadows, away from being a spectator, away from speculating about Jesus and invited him into a relationship so that he could get to know Jesus in a personal way.
Look at the response of the people: 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The encounter changed Zacchaeus. He went from being an unscrupulous and hated tax collector to a generous philanthropist and Disciple of Jesus. He also pledged to make right any wrong he had done. This wasn’t just a positive exchange; it was a life-change for Zacchaeus. He did a complete 180!
Can you invite yourself to someone’s driveway, to someone’s cubicle, to someone’s extra-curricular activity? Those who exhibit curiosity about Jesus, can you encourage them a step closer to a personal encounter?
Jesus engaged the Woman at the Well. He went out of His way to go through her area. He chose to meet her at the hottest part of the day at a well where He knew she would be drawing water. She was a woman with a rough past and a bad reputation. She didn’t have a good track record of quality decision-making when it came to relationships. He talked to her not only about spiritual things, but about her personal life, not because He wanted to shame or expose her, but because He wanted to heal her heart and satisfy her life. He opened her eyes to what He could make available to her.
And the result was a complete change of life. The disciples were confused as to why Jesus would have had a conversation with the Woman at the Well. They didn’t understand that she mattered to Jesus. They asked Jesus about the time He had spent with her, and Jesus responded by saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Encountering the “one,” talking to the “one” about God was the centerpiece of Jesus’ mission.
To meet the Woman at the Well, Jesus had to inconvenience Himself. He had to literally take extra steps to pass through Samaria. Is there someone you could go out of your way to engage? Someone from your past? Someone on social media that you don’t really know, but their posts indicate that they need hope, that they need a Savior? Maybe there is someone you have considered an enemy, someone with whom there has been some rough history. Jews and Samaritans didn’t get together in Jesus’ day. They had a pretty rough history that had caused a rift, but Jesus didn’t let that stop Him when there was “one” who needed what He could provide.
The Gospels tell us of over 40 meets up with people individually, and I am confident there were many, many more that simply didn’t get recorded. Jesus ministered to crowds, but the cry of the crowd didn’t surpass the needs of the One. He healed a crippled beggar in John 5. He released a demon-possessed man from the clutches of Satan in Mark 5. He healed Jairus’s daughter in Mark 5 as well as a hemorrhaging woman in the same chapter. He freed the woman caught in adultery, forgiving her sin in John 5. He met people in their workplace or in the marketplace or in their homes.
And even as He was dying, Jesus’ ear was tuned to the cry of “the One.” His heart was moved by the need of “the One.” Jesus was in unimaginable pain on the cross. It wasn’t a convenient time for a conversation. If anyone had a reason for a pity party, for a “woe is me” session, it was Jesus while He was on the cross. But even in the most horrific of circumstances, Jesus gave His attention to engage “the One” in order to bring salvation to his heart. He wasn’t satisfied knowing there were many who had turned to follow Him when the “One” right next to Him hadn’t come in yet. As long as He had breath, Jesus had an opportunity to bring one more into the Kingdom. That is how He viewed it. That is how intentional He was about bringing salvation to as many who would receive Him.
Who is your “one?” Your ONE is anyone in your relational zone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Great Shepherd, Jesus.
We have probably had 400 people saved in the last 16 years. That is wonderful, but as long as there is still one who hasn’t been brought in, we are still supposed to be searching for “the one.” How many of you know “one” who isn’t saved? As long as there is one lost person, as His followers we must engage in His mission to bring “the one” in.
Let me share the last verse of our central text from Luke 15, the one about the lost sheep. Jesus said, 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Let’s help Heaven party. Who is your “one?” How can you engage them personally? I guarantee you, a focus on “the one” will not only grow the Kingdom of God, but it will grow you. Don’t wait until you have it all together. Don’t wait until you have every question answered. Don’t wait until you think you are ready. Take the Great Commission challenge and make it the “Everyday Commission” as you daily seek to win “the one” for Jesus’ sake.