Sermon Discussion: Matthew 28:16-20 - The Great Commission and Church Planting

Here are some questions to help us discuss and think through the sermon last week wrapping up our series on Sovereign Grace Ministries.

1) What was the main point of the sermon? How was it outlined?

2) Was there anything in particular that you found intriguing? Did you have any insights or questions as you listened to the sermon?

3) If you have heard sermons on this passage before, how did they differ and how were they the same? Do you feel like this sermon gave you a better understanding of what this passage is about, or do you think this muddied the water?

4) Before hearing this sermon, how did you think about mission, missions, and/or evangelism? Has this sermon changed that, and if so, how?

5) What is significant about the setting and context of this passage? How does it inform our understanding of the great commission of verses 18-19?

6) Why is it important to begin with the claim Jesus makes in verse 18, and what function does this claim have in the rest of the passage? Why do we need to remember this as good news? And why do we need to hear this good news as a church?

7) What is the primary command of this passage? What does it mean to be a disciple? What are some of the distorted views we have about being a disciple? How can we correct these distortions?

8) What shape does obedience to this command take and how do we know this? What are some problems with trying to make disciples apart from the life of the local church? Why is baptism essential to discipleship? Why is teaching essential? What is “all” that Jesus commanded his disciples? What sort of plan do we have at Trinity to make sure that we are instructing one another in all the ways disciples need to be instructed? What sort of instruction is Jesus after?

9) How is it possible to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples? What does this look like?

10) Very little of the sermon was dedicated to arguing why this passage should push us toward joining Sovereign Grace Ministries. What were some of the reasons given? Did you find them compelling? What was missing? What other reasons can you think of relating to missions?

Love, Rebuke, and Community

Here at Trinity, we are constantly learning what it looks like to grow as disciples together in community. By sharing our lives and doing everyday things together with gospel intentionality, we inevitably come face to face with the sin struggles of our fellow brothers and sisters. This is one of the reasons we believe discipleship must take place in deep community. A church that organizes fellowship and programs discipleship in ways that allow people to manage their identity and hide what is going on in their every day life is unlikely to make disciples since few people will be in a position to confront one another’s sin patterns. Discipleship requires that we share our lives deeply with the other Christians in our church, and at Trinity, we are learning to do this.

But this isn’t easy. Once we are faced with the sins of others, and once they begin to see ours, we have to learn not just how to “handle” each other but how to encourage one another and rebuke one another in wise ways that promote godly repentance, heart change, and renewed faith in the gospel. Here are a few passages that instruct us on how to do this well.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1

The first thing necessary is humility and self-examination. We cannot confront and restore others in sin if we have not first examined ourselves to make sure we are both seeing the situation rightly and have a humble attitude toward them. As we live in community with others, we must ask ourselves several questions whenever we think someone else might be acting sinfully.

 

  • Why am I bothered by this person right now? Are they sinning or are they interfering with my own idolatry? Is this an issue of wisdom or is there a real problem here?
  • Am I guilty of this same thing in other situations? Am I guilty of something else more severe?
  • Do I feel the urge to confront them because I want to put them down and show my superiority? Do I really understand what is going one here?

 

We have to learn to keep watch on ourselves before we can be faithful to watch over one another.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. - 1 Peter 4:8

Once we have examined ourselves and sought to make sure we are seeing the situation rightly, we ought to think about the most loving response to the person’s sin. To love someone well we have to consider the effect of our action on them. There is a difference between being right and being wise. Love drives us to act wisely for the good of the other. So we need to ask ourselves more questions:

 

  • Is this sin a habit? Is this an example of a deep rooted and unidentified sin pattern or is this a rare instance of this sin?
  • Does the person already recognize their sin or has it gone unnoticed?
  • Is this the best time to confront them or should I wait until later?
  • Does this person need a rebuke or do they need to see me graciously overlook it and shower them with kindness?

 

Peter suggests that love covers a multitude of sins. This is a way of saying that we need to develop what Tim Chester calls “relational generosity.”[1] Some people call this social grace. The idea here isn’t that love minimizes wrongdoing or acts like it doesn’t matter. Sin always does some sort of damage. Love bears that damage and doesn’t exact payment. Sometimes when we confront sin, we are actually exacting vengeance by shaming the person socially or by subjecting them to an emotional outburst. Sometimes we don’t confront sin because we hide it away deep down and bear a grudge that impacts the way we treat them in the future. But love covers the sin by forgiving them and responding with kindness and a good example. This response itself can be a form of confrontation, one that invites them to turn from their sin and live to righteousness. So not every sin needs to be immediately pointed out and openly addressed since love covers many sins.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

Finally, sin does often need to be explicitly addressed. This may be one of the most difficult aspects of living in community and sharing life. It is much easier to ignore the sins of others or to avoid future interaction by moving on to other groups of people. This is the most common way churches deal with sin. When people start getting close and begin seeing each other’s sins, they move on to another bible study, fellowship, or ministry in the church so as to avoid dealing with one another. But growing as a disciple involves living with others such that our sins are being confronted and we are confronting others in love and humble self-examination.

The author of Hebrews tells us two things that demonstrate why Christians must live in deep community with their church. First, sin is deceiving us all. Sin blinds us. We don’t always see what we are doing wrong, but others can. Second, we should exhort one another every day. There is no possible way to obey this instruction unless we are sharing our lives deeply with Christians in our church. Discipleship happens in everyday life.

All three of these passages assume that Christians sin regularly. The church is a community of broken and sinful people. But the church is also a redeemed and forgiven community that through repentance and faith are being renewed in the power of the Spirit through the ministry of God’s word in every day life. Christians living in community are to examine themselves in humility, forgive one another, bear with one another, and finally, graciously confront one another. We can do this because we remember that we have been forgiven much and that our righteousness is not our own, so any boasting is excluded. It is the gospel that makes this sort of community possible.

 

[1] Tim Chester, Everyday Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 142.

When What God Says Isn't What We Want to Hear

One of the advantages of preaching through an entire book of the Bible in corporate worship is that it invites God to challenge us with his word. When we walk passage by passage through a book like the Gospel of Luke, the church will inevitably find herself face to face with a teaching that she would never have volunteered to study, let alone publicly proclaim. But we can’t ignore what we find in Scripture as we hear the whole counsel of God. Rather, we must humbly receive the word of the Lord as creatures, children, and citizens who are in need of his gracious and guiding truth. We must recognize that even when his word makes us squirm or seems unreasonable or leads to discomfort, it’s the word of the King to his people, and it is exactly what we need for faith and faithfulness. 

The last few weeks have been an exercise in just this sort of tension. Luke 9:18-10:24 has a lot to say about uncomfortable things like suffering, self-denial, shame, rejection, failure, and death.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (9:22-26)

And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. (9:43-45)

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (9:46-48)

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (9:57-62)

Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (10:3) 

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (10:17-20) 

After a week of hearing about the cost of discipleship, most of us are ready to move on to sunnier skies and happier passages, to balance things out a bit, to get out from underneath the dark shadow of the cross. Sure, we reason, it’s helpful to be reminded that the life of following after Jesus is characterized by dying to self, bearing the rejection of the world, and repenting of sin as we trust the gospel, but three weeks in a row? Somebody might get the wrong idea! Somebody might mistakenly believe that Trinity Church is a rather glum group of folks! Personally, I don’t think I would ever choose to preach for three weeks in a row on such sobering matters, but as we hear the whole Gospel of Luke, that’s exactly what Scripture gives us. 

And you know what? We need to be sobered by what Jesus has to say. So often our instincts drive us to emphasize the joys of salvation, the blessings of redemption, and the glories of life in God’s church and to gloss over the costly parts of discipleship—the daily dying to sin and self, the suffering with Christ that comes before the glory of heaven, the repenting of idolatries that are so hard to give up, the rejection at the hands of a world that hates authority a lot and hates grace even more.

Particularly in the American church where it’s so easy to be lulled into believing that the best measures of success and faithfulness are our cultural power, social acceptability, and glorious prominence, we need Jesus to remind us again and again that he is a dying and rising king who calls his people to follow him in humility and meekness as they persevere in suffering with the hope that they are eternally his. We need Jesus to set the tone of our life together so that we remember what it means to be a church of the cross instead of a church of glory. We need Jesus to challenge our idols of greatness and popularity with the good news that we are sinners who’ve been accepted by God because Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem and walk the way of the cross. We need Jesus to show us how his gospel equips us to respond in peace to opposition rather than in violence, how his gospel strengthens us to count the cost of discipleship and joyfully persevere in faith. And perhaps the fact that we get so uncomfortable with these sorts of ideas is simply evidence that we need these texts of Scripture all the more.

Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (10:23-24)

May God continue to shape us with his word and equip us for faithfulness with the blessing of the gospel.