Lesson for August 23-29
To know a message, but not to know why you need to send it, could lead to halfhearted efforts and perhaps even a resignation on the part of the messenger. We’ve been studying for several weeks about the message Jesus gave us to preach. But now we must take time to pause and reflect on why we are being sent to give it to others.
Having a mission statement is a firmly established business practice for any kind of organization or institution these days. What is the value of knowing what our mission is? And did Jesus specify our mission as disciples?
He was quite forthright with Peter and Andrew as He called them away from their fishing business. He said, ” ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’ “ Matthew 4:19 NKJV They knew from the beginning that following Jesus would lead to something that was attractive to them, something they could understand and appreciate. And something that Jesus would equip them to do. Their goal and desire was to “catch men”, not fish. And Jesus would show them how.
The word mission contains the idea of sending something or someone. We use its root in words like missile (a weapon sent through the air) or remission (when a disease is “sent back” and is no longer giving us symptoms). To know our mission though, or why we are sent, is important because it gives us fire to carry out our mission in the first place.
Key Text: ” ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.’ “ Matthew 24:14 NKJV
This Bible verse that talks about the end should make our ears perk up, just like when Peter and Andrew were called to be fishers of men. Recognizing that we live in the time of the end should give us that same fire.
This mandate to preach to the whole world was very daunting to the first disciples, even though the Roman Empire had paved the way somewhat. Even so, the world was not as reachable as it is today with our satellite communications and electronic media networks. The fact that technology has advanced so rapidly in just one lifetime is an unmistakable sign that Jesus’ coming is near.
Sunday: To Be the Light of the World
Let’s look at the passage in the Sermon on the Mount that describes this “light of the world” theme:
” ‘ You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’ “ Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV
If you’ve grown up singing the children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine”, you may only be thinking of our lights shining as individuals, and certainly that is one of the main thrusts of this part of Jesus’ sermon. But He seems to be envisioning also a collective movement of “shining lights”, the one set on a hill, the one called the church.
And why does this light shine? He stated plainly that it was to glorify our Father in heaven. So that must be part of our mission before the world, to glorify Him.
Let’s explore this concept of light a bit further and see some of the finer points about it. Light has come to be a symbol for truth, knowledge, and even godliness.
- David associated light with our salvation in Psalm 27:1–“The Lord is my light and my salvation”. NKJV
- Paul said it meant having a character like God’s–“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),” Ephesians 5:8 NKJV
- We can say we are in the light, but actually be in darkness.–“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.” I John 1:9 NKJV
- We can get light and darkness mixed up.–“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 NKJV
Discussion Questions: How is it possible that we can have good works without glorifying the Father? Who is glorified when this happens? What is needed for others to see our works and for God to be glorified?
Why does Jesus say that we “are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and it says in John 8:12, ” ‘I am the light of the world’ “, speaking of Jesus. Are there two lights of the world? Read also John 1:6-9.
Why was light created on the first day of creation? Read John 1:4. How is light indispensable for life?
Physical light is invisible. We only see it as it’s reflected off of something. How is this similar to the way God works?
Monday: To Be Witnesses
Two things seem to be needed for us to be effective witnesses for Jesus. He’s not just looking for someone who witnessed firsthand what God can do for others…
- it has to be for what He’s done for US individually.
But we also need to become partners with the Holy Spirit, for…
- it has to be through the power of God that we do our witnessing.
Luke’s version of the Great Commission is found in Luke 24:46-49. We understand that our witnessing will involve preaching (not necessarily from a pulpit, mind you), but just what is it that we are to preach? Look for it in this passage:
“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you, but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’ “ NKJV
Since the resurrection was foremost on the minds of those first disciples, Acts 4:33 tells us that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”. Their firsthand account, along with the message of repentance, must have been a great tool in furthering the work quickly and making the church grow in numbers.
Every age has had a present-day message, coupled with proclaiming Jesus as the Savior of the world. Our most effective witnessing seems to happen when we couple that timely piece with the everlasting gospel (good news) about salvation.
Discussion Questions: As the first disciples preached heavily on the resurrection, what timely message should we be giving today?
Describe the state of emotions felt by the disciples before they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. How did this affect their witnessing and their discipleship?
Define “remission of sins” that Luke’s gospel mentioned in Luke 24:47. [cancellation, almost like “sending back”, from root miss]
Tuesday: So Send I You
Since we’re talking about mission, which means “sending”, there’s one verse that may come to mind. We even have a hymn, “So Send I You”, based on Luke 20:21. (By the way, there’s a handy scripture index in the back of many hymnals.)
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.’ “ John 20:21 KJV
Knowing why Jesus was sent might have a bearing on our mission. John 3:17 tells us “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” We can definitely know that sharing the story of salvation is part of our mission statement.
And what did Jesus do while He was on His mission? “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” Matthew 9:35 NKJV This sounds like a very complete ministry program, one designed for a church, and for every individual to feel a part of.
All of this seems like a rather daunting task for any of us. How can we ever fulfill a mission as Christ did? Well, God did not leave us powerless. Remember how God “breathed into” Adam the “breath of life”? Then at Pentecost, Jesus once again “breathed on” the disciples as they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). There is life and there is power in the breath of Jesus!
Discussion Question: Read John 14:12 and discuss in what way(s) our works will be greater than Jesus’.What does going to His Father have to do with our works being greater?
Wednesday: To Make Disciples
What exactly did Jesus ask of His followers in the Great Commission?
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
Four activities are called for in this passage: go, make, baptize, and teach. In the Greek, only the one involving making disciples is given in the imperative. Therefore, the emphasis of the sentence falls on “making disciples”, with the other three activities dependent on it. It would be like telling someone to come and clean our house by vacuuming, mopping, and doing the dishes. The emphasis would be on getting a clean house. So, Jesus gave high priority to making disciples, by using the methods of going, baptizing, and teaching.
The process of making disciples also includes:
- winning people’s confidence
- sharing Bible-based testimony
- appealing for spiritual decisions
We must let the Holy Spirit work on hearts. We are just there to enable and encourage the process. It’s up to the Holy Spirit for results.
Notice that “all” is quite prevalent in the Great Commission.
- Jesus has “all authority”
- we have to go to “all the nations”
- they must be taught to “observe all things” pertaining to the gospel
- Jesus is with us “always”, or “all our days”
Perhaps this just reflects the inclusive nature of Jesus’ ministry. I Timothy 2:3, 4 says, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” NKJV
Discussion Questions: What other reasons might the word “all” be mentioned so much in Scripture?
Discuss the words “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” from Matthew 28:18. In what ways was Jesus limited while He ministered on earth during the Incarnation?
Does it matter significantly the order we follow, while carrying out the Great Commission? How much teaching is necessary before and after one’s baptism, for example?
What’s the difference between Christian witnessing and proselytizing? Why is it important in non-Christian cultures to recognize this difference and is it important even in Christian countries? [proselytizing means to induce, recruit, and convert]
Thursday: To Preach the Gospel
The idea of preaching to the whole world was included in the gospels of Mark and Luke. ” ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ “ Mark 16:15 NKJV
As a matter of fact, Mark uses the term preach 14 times, more than any other gospel. The Greek word means “to proclaim aloud, to announce, to preach.” Therefore preaching the gospel must be a vital element in the church’s mission and seems to have particular importance in the end times. Remember our key text where Jesus said, ” ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.’ “Matthew 24:12 NKJV
Preaching to all the world does not necessarily mean that the whole world will heed the message, however. The passage in Mark about preaching continues with “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” Mark 16:16 NKJV
Jesus described a wide gate leading to destruction and a narrow gate leading to salvation. See Matthew 7:13, 17. Therefore we should not be surprised, nor feel personal responsibility, when our preaching does not meet with total success. People have to invite the Holy Spirit into their hearts before conversions are realized.
Discussion Questions: Read and consider Revelation 14:6-12. Why do you think this passage sounds like a final message for God’s people to preach in the last days? Rich as it is in symbolism, what present truth does it convey for earth’s last generations?
Talk about each of the three messages, and why they need to be included in the mission of God’s remnant church (Revelation 14:6-12)?
- First angel: What indication is there in this message that seems to point to the Sabbath and God as our Creator and Judge?
- Second angel: Why does this message about Babylon seem to pertain to fallen, apostate church denominations?
- Third angel: What comfort can we give to reassure people about this beast power and how they can avoid getting its mark? How is the description of God’s people in verse 12 pivotal in knowing how to be on God’s side?
Just as fire is driven by the burning of oxygen, the church is driven by a Spirit-driven mission to spread the gospel, along with present truth, to the whole world. A sterile, powerless organization results whenever the church forgets its mission.
All God’s people are commissioned by Jesus to the twofold mission of preaching and making disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit. The church, made up of committed, active believers, is the most effective method for fulfilling our mission.
Become familiar with your church’s mission statement, either on a local or denominational level.
Design your own personal mission statement, based on Jesus’ commission for spreading the gospel.
Here are some possible prompts to help you get started:
- With God’s leading…
- Holding forth the Word of Life in Christ-like love…
- Connecting with God to…
Remember this prayer as you seek to fulfill your mission this week: “Lord, take my lips and speak through them; take my mind and think through it; take my heart and set it on fire.” ~W.H. Aitken
Next week: The Law of God
To read the Sabbath School lesson, or to find more resources, go to www.ssnet.org