Archive for October, 2019
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
A dove is to the birds of the air what a sheep is to the animals of the field…peaceful, harmless, and nonviolent. Between these two similar temperaments, some are surprised to find the shrewdness of a serpent as an example to be embraced. It points to the intelligence that must be exercised in our going out; to be savvy, astute, aware, street smart. Sanctuary religion is always safe. For a missional faith, however, it’s necessary to keep your head on a swivel; know where you are and what’s around you.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” (Matthew 10:16).
Jesus well understands the kind of world into which he sends us; that we will be vulnerable. To be as sheep points to the non-violent nature of the task given; that ours is a battle not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers. Therefore, we do not embrace the political and warring methodologies of man and their quest for earthly kingdoms. While the great seals of States might contain frightening beasts such as lions, eagles, and bears; a Christian coat of arms would begin with a sheep.
“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew 10:14-15).
Rejecting Christ is of greater consequence than the most obscene sins of these ancient cities. That some are unreceptive to the witness of your faith doesn’t mean the mission has failed. Such a response isn’t the rejection of you but the One who sent you do his work and be his presence. While we have been entrusted with a message of eternal weight, we do not answer for the decisions that others make.
“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city” (Matthew 10:11).
The “doing” of our missional task isn’t accomplished by casting pearls before swine. The “worthy” of whom our Lord speaks are those receptive to the things of God. Not all circumstances and encounters are conducive to sharing the gospel or speaking on matters of faith. By intentionally building and fostering meaningful and trusting relationships, we develop a culture of receptiveness.
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).
Aiming for nothing assures that nothing will be achieved. Aim has to do with the focus of one’s life. This focus so defines one’s life that any superfluous distraction is set aside and, instead, all energy and effort is directed to the attainment of our true affection. For the follower of Christ, this means that our aim is to glorify Him in all things to which we put our hand.
“Get up, let us go from here” (John 14:31c).
This admonition concludes our Lord’s teaching on the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. This will not come to pass unless He leaves—He leaves; He comes. It should not go unnoticed that the life of faith is always taking you from where you are. Where we are isn’t where we should desire to stay; what we are isn’t what we should desire to be. What does the Lord have in store? There is only one way to find out—“Get up, let us go from here.”
“Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:9-10).
The pursuit of our faith and the life of discipleship isn’t to be driven by economic motives. Jesus’ words offer both a personal challenge and a call to an astute awareness. Personally, these words herald a life of simplicity; that in preparing for the life to come, we divest ourselves all the more from the holdings of this world. We must also avoid the allure of charlatans hawking the gospel as a commodity for profit; those who promote “gospel strategies” that would lead churches away from the “least of these” to more financially advantageous locations. Compelling marketing data is of absolute necessity in the for-profit business world. For the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, it is departure by his people from his people.
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7).
There is never a time when we are not saying something about our faith. By our actions, attitudes, body language, reactions to the ever-changing circumstances in life, we are communicating to others a message about our faith and trust in the Lord. The most compelling argument for the Christian faith comes not from a personality in the pulpit, but people in the pews. It is the interaction of real faith in real time with real people that best proclaims the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For people that will never go to church, you are the first sermon they will ever see and hear.
“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Just as judgement is to begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17), so is the proclamation of Good News to begin with them. This targeted messaging of the Gospel during the earthly ministry of Jesus was for those disciples then and not for us now. The commission given us by the resurrected Christ is to be his witnesses in all places and to all people (Matthew 28:19-20). Your mission field is no mystery; it’s where your feet are.
“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
Clothing is used throughout scripture as a metaphor for the work of salvation God is accomplishing, and is a symbolic representation of purity and righteousness. For example, the apostle Paul utilizes this imagery in the idea of “putting on” and “putting off.” Positively, we “put on” Christ (Gal.3:27), the new self (Col.3:10), the armor of light (Rom.13:12), and the imperishable (1 Cor.15:33). Negatively, we are called to “put off” the old self, falsehood, the works of darkness, all malice and deceit. If we are going to dress daily, we must daily commit to the right dress.