The Great Commission – Acts 26:15-18

You Have Been Saved For A Purpose

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'”

” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

Seeking Servanthood

When Paul had his encounter with the Living God, he was first directed to be the servant of the Lord Jesus.  The first concern of God after people come to him is to follow Him and to serve Him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In a culture where we are told every moment of every day that it is all about YOU, this seems to be a foreign concept.  After all, if it is all about ME, why should I care about any of YOU?  This is a tool of Satan as he attacks our minds:

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This three-pronged attack is very effective at distracting us from being effective servants of the Lord.  If Satan can get us to desire fleshly things, or covet with our eyes, or fill our hearts with pride, he can effectively destroy our walk and ministry for the Lord.

Servants have no rights of their own; their master is Lord over them.  Many of the letters in the New Testament start with the author identifying themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Worthwhile Witness

A great deal of Christians, when witnessing to the lost say, “God has this wonderful plan for your life” or “Escape the fires of Hell!”.  And while both of these are true, we are to be telling people that God desires that people know Him.  We are to tell people what God has done for us in our lives – to free us from the bondage of sin, and to give us the opportunity to live life in victory.

We are to show that we are living lives in victory.  That is how Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail, resulting in the jailer and his family coming to know Jesus as Lord.  Many have come to faith through the faithful witness of disciples of Christ after people see the peace they have in their lives through difficult time, terrible illness, and other distress.

Smash Strongholds

In order to live our lives in victory, and to help others live in victory, we need to break down the strongholds in our lives:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These strongholds are arguments and pretensions that we have in our minds that are contrary to the revealed word of God.  Just a couple of these (certainly not an exhaustive list!) are:

LegalismThere is no law against love

Our works earn us a place in heaven – It is by grace alone through faith that we are saved

God can’t forgive me of my sins, they are too great – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them

We can have strongholds in our lives about finances, sex, and any other number of topics.  God, through His word, is the only authority for all aspects of our lives.  He created the universe and us.  He knows everything there is to know about us.  He knows what will harm us and what will prosper us.  And since Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, we can trust what He says is correct.

Show Salvation

We are to tell of God’s salvation to the lost.  Before witnessing, we are also to pray that God will open the eyes of the blind and that the deaf might hear so that the lost will see the goodness of God, and the free gift of salvation.

By being faithful servants, who have been freed from the bondage of strongholds and pretensions in our minds through the word of the Living God, we are then able to go and do what we have been commissioned to do – make disciples of all nations.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I a faithful servant to Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious, and Your beauty is beyond description.  You shower us with your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  If I only knew just how much You provide for me and protect me from, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praising You.  Father, open my eyes to the strongholds in my life that keep me from being free to serve You as You desire.  Show me in Your word the truth that I need to see in order to shake myself free from the bonds that I have created.  Bind the works of Satan, and help me to be free, for since Jesus has freed me, I am free indeed.  And Father, please send me to people, or send people to me, that I may witness of what You have done in my life, that You would be glorified and that others would know of Your love for them, that they too might be freed and be saved.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:40-42

God Will Certainly Reward Each And Every One Of Us For What We Have Done In The Flesh

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Welcoming the Witness

Jesus proclaims something very profound here regarding witnessing for Him.  When someone accepts you, they are accepting Him.  Those who witness for Christ at His request are His ambassadors.  They have the full weight and power to go out and represent the person abroad.

The disciples of Jesus have been given His full authority to act in His name – His very character – to represent Him to others.  And when we represent Him, we are, in fact, representing the One who sent Him – His Father.  Jesus was God the Father’s ambassador to men, and we have now in turn been passed the baton in this relay race.  Everything that we do will reflect upon not only Jesus but also God the Father – for good, and for bad.  We should keep that in mind before we form conclusions in our minds, say anything to anyone, or do anything that might bring shame upon God.

Receive the Reward

Jesus also clarifies what type of reward we receive when we welcome His ambassadors.  Those who welcome a prophet (as a prophet) will receive the reward of a prophet.  That should cause us pause.  Even if we are the lowliest workers in His kingdom, when we receive a prophet of God as a prophet, we receive his reward as well:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

If we receive a righteous person, we receive a righteous person’s reward.  There is only one who is righteous, and He is Jesus Christ.  He received a great reward – eternal life.  In a like manner, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness:

1 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Retain the Reward

Gaining the reward is the first giant hurdle.  We have an obligation, a blood-debt, so to speak, with the One who purchased our lives with His very own blood.  Jesus died upon the cross for our sins, offering His blood as the final, and only permanent atoning sacrifice for them:

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

We are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.  And Jesus provides us with the litmus test:

If you love me, keep my commands.

When we aid and assist an ambassador, we are, in effect, aiding and assisting the one who sent him/her.  Even providing relief of the desert sun by giving a cup of cold water to the least of his disciples (ambassadors), we are, in effect, doing it to Him:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

And although the gift of salvation is a free one, insofar as we do not have to earn it but merely accept it, how ungrateful would we appear if we did not thank the One who made it, and show our appreciation for His efforts?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask some questions:  How do I receive ambassadors from God?  Am I living in such a way that I am a faithful ambassador for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have sent Your prophets and recorded Your words through them in Your word.  Help me, Father God, that I would listen to Your word, and receive them as You sent them – as Your ambassadors.  Help me to yield myself to Your Holy Spirit, for He testifies about Your Son and is the One You have sent as a down-deposit on my inheritance in You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient to His voice as He speaks to me through Your word.  Guide me so that I would be a faithful ambassador for You as well.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Freedom in Christ – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The Greatest Among You Will Be A Slave

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Serving as a Slave

Paul willingly submitted himself to others to help win them to Christ.  Jesus Himself said that we should serve in a like manner:

26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave

It is only when we are able to serve in a selfless capacity that we are able to truly be effective for Christ.  Freedom gives us the opportunity to serve in this way, for sin causes us to pursue self-centeredness and prevents us from being fully useful to God.  Jesus was completely yielded to the Holy Spirit, and was able to put aside everything that would have impeded Him in His ability to live a life without sin.

Living the life of a servant can be lonely, difficult, unthankful, and unacknowledged by men.  We need only to look at the lives of the Apostles to see that their journeys were fraught with danger, difficulty, and at the time, little recognition from men.  We greatly value their contributions today, but while they lived their lives, they were seen as weak, inferior, and dangers to society.  Servanthood is a characteristic of God and should be greatly desired and emulated by those who walk with His Son.  The true test of a servant is how they react when they are treated like one…

Identify with Individuals

When people identify with you, they are more likely to listen and accept what you have to say.  And while salesmen and advertisers do their very best to get you to identify with them, their spokespeople, their products, or public figures with whom they tie their brands, it is for their own personal gain rather than true relationship.  Identity is still one of the strongest forms of persuasion that exist.  When people see that we are like them, they allow you to interact with them on a more personal level.

Paul did his very best to identify with those whom he interacted:

  • He became like a Jew to minister to the Jews
  • To those under the law, he behaved like them (though he was not under the law)
  • To those not under the law, he became like them (although he was under Christ’s law)
  • To the weak he became weak

In every aspect, Paul endeavored to be like the people that he was trying to reach.  And while this can be used for nefarious purposes (confidence men, rip-off artists, etc.), Paul was using the technique to seek greater access to those whom he was trying to reach.  We can do the same with those that we encounter.

Scatter Seeds

In all of this, Paul used his freedom to sow the seeds of the Gospel.  Although he had free will, he chose to use his freedom for the work of Christ.  In the Western world, we are taught to seek our own benefit first.  Both Paul and Jesus sought the benefit of others first, and lived their lives in such a way that it was attractive to those who they were trying to reach.  And while not everyone will respond, it is the duty of disciples of Christ to bring the good news of Jesus to every nation and people.  Use your freedom wisely, and allocate the time that God gives you for His plans and purposes.  When we do that, we are truly fulfilled and are then able to find the calling that God has intended for us since before the foundation of the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I using the freedom that God has given to me to glorify His name in the manner that He has appointed to me to fulfill?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious in providing freedom from sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross for my sins.  Help me to use the freedom that You have given me to fully dedicate myself to the plans and purposes which You have determined long ago.  Help me to fulfill Your desires and to do that which I am intended to do.  Keep me close, and remind me to always follow Your lead.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Isaiah 54:17

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

The Bible contains many promises of God.  This one is very encouraging.  It is comforting to know that we are being protected by God against all of the weapons of the enemy.  It is also comforting that anyone who says anything against us will be refuted, for we have been forgiven all sin.  This is our HERITAGE!  God will VINDICATE us!

There only appears to be one qualifier – “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”  Who are the servants of the Lord?

Servants wait upon the master.  They are in His service to do His bidding whenever and wherever He directs them.  They direct their talents to complete the tasks assigned to them.  They are often given guidelines, and are expected to do the work when they see work to do.

There are many gifts given to believers once they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Here are just a few ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11):

  • Wisdom
    • The ability to understand the difference between wise and foolish things (think: King Solomon)
  • Knowledge
    • Are you able to absorb great amounts of information and then process it so that it is understandable by others?
  • Faith
    • Do you trust God to move mountains, trusting Him to do things when other people would normally give up?
  • Healing
    • When you pray, do people get well?
  • Prophecy
    • Do you know things about what is going on and things that will go on, when you have no reason to know them?
    • Does God often let you know something that you should share with a person or people He directs you to share with, even if you don’t understand the message?
  • Distinguishing between spirits
    • Do you know who’s who?
    • Do you sense the presence of angels and demons and their activity in this world?
    • Do you know when, if someone is speaking, whether or not what they are saying is Biblical, even though you don’t know why?
  • Speaking in tongues (languages)
    • Are you able to speak in a known (already existing) language but don’t understand what you are saying?
    • Are you able to speak in an unknown language and don’t know what you are saying?
  • Interpreting tongues (languages)
    • When people speak, do you know what they are saying, even if everyone else around you doesn’t because they don’t speak the language (and you may not know the language either)?

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many others.  Here are eight more to think about:

  • Craftsmanship
    • Can you make a masterpiece out of nothing?
    • Or, can you take a box of parts and with a few simple tools, put the item back together without any instructions?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Hospitality
    • Are you driven to constantly feed and attend to guests at your home?
    • Do you enjoy throwing parties and events?
    • Are you the first one to get up to pour drinks at an event?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Music
    • Can you play a musical instrument in a way that inspires others to greatness?
    • or, are YOU an instrument (should you audition for “Stomp“)?  You may have this gift.
  • Leadership
    • Do people have a great tendency follow what you say and where you go?  You may have this gift.
  • Teaching
    • Can you take the most difficult subject and explain it to most people so that they have a clear understanding of it?  You may have this gift.
  • Pastoring
    • Do you constantly feel the need to guide and nurture people in their faith and walk with God?  You may have this gift.
  • Service
    • Are you the one who gets great joy from doing the jobs that no one else does, and is content that the job is done and done right, even if no one else notices?  You may have this gift.
  • Prayer
    • Does God wake you up in the middle of the night to pray about something that He then places on your heart?
    • Do you struggle (wrestle) in prayer for individuals, issues, leaders, and/or nations (or other things)?
    • Do you enjoy spending hours communicating with God in prayer about anything and everything?  You may have this gift.

There are over 30 implied and delineated gifts that the Spirit of God gives to us to use to glorify God and help the body.  Are you using the gifts that were provided to you in stewardship by the Spirit of God at the direction of the Spirit of God for God’s Glory?

If not, why do you call yourself a servant?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we all fall short of perfection.  You have saved us from this, and give us the wonderful opportunity to know You, the only One True God.  You have given us great privileges and responsibilities as well.  Show us what gifts the Holy Spirit has provided to us.  Empower us to act in these gifts, and guide us in the way that these gifts should be used.  Father, do not let me be afraid of these gifts, but help me to embrace them that Your kingdom would grow.  I am your servant, Lord God.  Speak to me that I may do Your Will, in Your Way, in Your Time, for Your purposes, that You may be glorified.  This I ask in the the precious name of your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?