Christ's Sovereign Declaration: This Gospel Will Be Preached (Matthew Sermon 121 of 151)
April 25, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Evangelism, Missions, Second Coming of Christ, Sovereignty of God
It still amazes me as I think about it, just the significance of the moment in redemptive history as this young rabbi sits on the rocky hillside overlooking Jerusalem surrounded by just a small handful of ordinary men, and makes an extraordinary prediction concerning human history. This one verse that we're looking at today, Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
That prediction that Christ made on that hillside would be one of the costliest predictions that Jesus ever made. It would cost the lives of thousands and thousands of his choice followers over two millennia in the years to come. It would bring pain and disease and injuries, and tears and torture and blood and tragic funerals, and incalculable sorrow to those who would see that it happened.
The preaching of the gospel in every nation has been incalculably expensive. And examples are bound from church history, and we ought to immerse ourselves in them for our own edification, lest we think too highly of ourselves and our own achievements. Immerse yourself in church history. These are your brothers and sisters, you're part of a royal family.
October 8, 1732, a sailing vessel pulled away from the wharf in Copenhagen, Denmark. On board were John Leonard Dobber, a potter, and David Nitschmann, a carpenter, who were leaving the security of their jobs and their families in Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries. In a prayer meeting, they had both felt the strong call of the spirit to come and minister the gospel to the slaves of sugar plantations at St. Thomas, in the West Indies. They knew the only way to reach them would be to enslave themselves, to become slaves themselves, to reach these lost people. One of the men left a wife and children begging him on the wharf not to go - reconsider and stay. But the call and the heart of God for these slaves in the West Indies was even greater than that pull, the pull of home. And as the ship pulled away from the docks, these men lifted the cry and those waiting on the wharf heard it: “May the lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering.” Amen to that. May Jesus get what he deserves for dying on the cross. And that became the resonating heartbeat of the Moravian missions movement, and the cost they paid was very high.
So also the cost of Adoniram Judson who buried two different wives and six children in five different locations for the cause of the gospel, whose sorrow over the shocking loss, sudden loss of his wife Ann was so profound that he dug his own grave and stared into it for weeks in deep despondency waiting for God to kill him, but pulled out of it and led hundreds, even thousands of Burmese to faith in Christ. He laid his life on the line to fulfill that aspect of Jesus' prediction that we're looking at today; this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in Burma as a testimony of that nation, then the end will come.
That spirit, that drive to fulfill the Great Commission was in the volunteers of the student volunteer movement, the early part of the 19th century. You've heard of them, they're the ones that pack their belongings in their own coffins because tropical illness made the life expectancy somewhere between 18 months and two years. So why waste extra baggage with boxes? They just packed their stuff in their own coffins and they died for the gospel from fevers.
That same spirit motivated William Borden, who was a 1909 graduate of Yale University, heir to the Borden family fortune, was converted to Christianity, gave his life to become a missionary to the Muslims in China. He never made it. He died of spinal meningitis during his training in Egypt. His grieving parents were given his Bible, in it they found in one place the words, “No reserve.” Nothing held back. And next to those words “No reserve” was a date placed shortly after he had renounced his family fortune in favor of missions. And at a later point, he had written the words “No retreat.” That was dated shortly after he was diagnosed with meningitis, and just before he died, “No regrets.” What a spirit! I want that spirit in me, I want that spirit in this church. No reserve, no retreats, no regrets, everything for the gospel. That's the kind of commitment it takes to fulfill Jesus' prediction.
Now, how is it that Jesus sitting on that rocky mountainside overlooking Jerusalem could predict that 20 centuries of his followers would be willing to make these kinds of sacrifices to get it done? That's the focus of the sermon today. Basically, in a nutshell, what I'm gonna say is only the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit over the hearts of the followers of Jesus to lay down their lives for people that have never met would make these words come true. And that kind of sovereign power is at work still today. I'd like to see it at work in this church, as it has been, and I wanna see it continue to work here, that we might help fulfill Jesus' prediction. That's what this sermon is about.
The context of Matthew 24:14: Jesus had made a prediction, a shocking prediction of the destruction of the temple. Not one stone left on another, every one would be thrown down. The disciples come to Jesus privately on the Mount of Olives, they ask him about it. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And so Jesus begins teaching them about the end of the world, about the destruction of Jerusalem and other things, Matthew 24, the rest of the chapter, and then on into 25, really, it's all of a unit. Speaking about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ and the way that we are to prepare for it.
Last week, we looked at the first section. In my opinion, Matthew 24:4-14 describes the events on earth between the first and second comings of Christ. What will life be like between those two events, the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ? He begins in verse 4 and 5 with a warning against false Christs, false prophets, false teaching. Verses 6-8, he talks about what he calls the beginning of birth pangs: wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes in various places. These kinds of things. General convulsions of a sin-sick planet, that it would be a difficult place to live.
And then in verses 9-13, I think he's talking about the specific sufferings of the people of God, what kinds of trials and temptations and sufferings are gonna come on his followers themselves. They'll be hated by all people on account of him. They're gonna be arrested, they're gonna be persecuted, they're gonna be put to death. Some are gonna betray and turn away from the faith and betray their own brothers and sisters in Christ. And there is a need in verse 13 to stand firm to the end. Only those people who stand firm to the end will be saved.
And then he gives this one verse, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” And this is, in its context, a sign of the coming of Jesus Christ, the steady irresistible advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ is evidence and proof of the same day coming back of Christ. The fact that we can see the progress that's happening right in front of us. And friends, it's accelerating. In our own lifetimes it's going faster and faster, it's exciting, what a thrilling time to be alive, but it's evidence of signs of Jesus' return. The advance of the gospel.
Not a Command But a Prophecy
Christ’s Saving Purpose
Now, as we come to verse 14, one of the central points I wanna make is that this is not a command but a prophecy. There's no word of command here. Now, Jesus came into the world, we were told, to seek and to save the lost. Very plain. He came into the world as a rescue mission, that we were lost, we had no hope. Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Came to save us from our sins. That's why he came the first time. It's why he shed his blood on the cross, that's why he died.
It's also why he's waiting to return, he's waiting for the second coming so that individuals may be saved, so that people can repent and come to faith in Christ. That's why he's waiting. 2 Peter 3 teaches us this in verse 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
And then in that same chapter, in verse 15, “Bear in mind,” said Peter, “that our Lord's patience means salvation.” There are specific elect people, they were chosen before the foundation of the world, the Bible teaches us, and the gospel has to reach them. Paul says he'll endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may hear the gospel and be saved. That's why the Lord's waiting. It's not for no purpose. It's to get this work done. The gospel work.
Many Commands for Evangelism
Now, I said this, this is not a command in verse 14, I'll say more about that in a moment, but there are many commands concerning the Great Commission. All you have to do is go to the end of this gospel, the most famous of all of the commissioning statements. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Verse 18 and following, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you, and surely I'm with you always to the very end of the age.”
There's the command. Commands are not lacking, we're commanded to go, commanded to make disciples, we're commanded to baptize them, we're commanded to teach them to obey everything. And this command was going to be across all the eras of church history. “Surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” It's a lasting, abiding command on the church and on you individually, and me too.
So there's the command also in Mark 16:15-16, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” So there's the command. We have it in Matthew 28, we have it in Mark 16.
At the end of the book of Romans, Paul speaks specifically of the command to take the gospel. He speaks of “the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” There's the word command even. There's no doubt about it, we are commanded to do this. And if we love Jesus we'll obey him.
The Lesson of the Commands: We Have an Obligation
And the lesson of the command then is that we have an obligation to the lost. Paul speaks of this obligation, the sense of being a debtor, we owe something. In Romans 1:14-16 he says, “I'm obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” I owe them a debt. “That is why I'm so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” So Paul says, “I owe Greeks and I owe non-Greeks, I owe everybody the gospel.”
And so this is not in any way paying Jesus back for what he did in saving him. We're not saved on a mortgage payment plan, friends. And you pay it off in installments with good works, that is faulty thinking, that's not the debt. Paul owes other human beings the gospel, and he's going to discharge it by preaching, that's the lesson of the commands. We should not feel any less an obligation.
In 1792, William Carey, the father, so-called, of the modern Protestant missions movement wrote a tract entitled this, “An Inquiry into The Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.” Carey was there arguing against the passive view of the sovereignty of God, that because God is sovereign and he can do everything without human agency, that we don't need to do anything. And if God wants to convert the heathen, he can do it on his own time and in his own way. He's writing against that view, though he himself believed in the absolute sovereignty of God, he still said, “We need to use means.” We ought to do stuff, that’s the 21st century version of “Use means."
We have to do stuff to get the heathen, the lost people converted, we have to get - in Carey's day - we have to get on ships and sail to India and set up a mission station and study the Hindu languages, and we have to preach the gospel plainly to them in those Hindu languages, and we need to translate the Bible into their native languages, and we need to set up a press to print those Bibles, and we need to teach them how to read their own language so that they can understand the Bible, we need to do all of... Those are the means. We need to use means to the conversion of the heathen, but we have an obligation to do it.
This is NOT a command... it is a Sovereign Declaration
Okay, that's the lesson of the commands. But I already said that this verse isn't a command. This is not a command here, this is a statement of future fact, it's a sovereign statement of future fact. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
And I'm celebrating that sovereign declaration with you today. It's going to happen. Absolutely, certainly going to happen. He is not telling his apostles something they should do, he's telling them something that will most certainly happen. That's what he's telling them. Something that will most certainly come to pass. It is absolutely certain. In effect, Jesus was saying that witnesses filled with the burning heart of love for Christ and the lost, filled with the Holy Spirit, will travel over the burning sands of the desert and through forbidding rocky and snowy mountain passes, and they’ll go across the seemingly endless, boundless waves of the South Pacific to cannibal filled islands there, and they will be willing to pay this price to get the gospel preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. This will absolutely happen.
The Prophecy Explained
Message: “This Gospel of the Kingdom”
Now, what I wanna do is I wanna go very carefully word by word, phrase by phrase, through this one, this one verse, and explain it to you. First, the message. “This gospel of the kingdom.” This gospel. The word “gospel” comes straight over from the Greek language meaning “good news.” I'm not gonna break the Greek word apart, but literally, it's got a prefix and a central root that means “good news.”
And this good news of the kingdom, this good news of the kingdom, the idea is of a king, sovereign, who sits on a throne and rules, the King of the kingdom of heaven is really the unifying theme of the gospel of Matthew. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. From the very beginning of Matthew's gospel, the genealogy and right on through, we get a sense of the right Jesus has to rule over us and rule in this world, the kingdom, Christ himself, the centerpiece of that kingdom. And that is the good news, the good news is the King. The good news is God Almighty seated on a throne. That's good news.
Jesus said earlier in Matthew's Gospel, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.” And I explained when I preached on that passage, the yoke represents Jesus' right to rule over your life. His kingly authority to govern you and move you right or left, or have you go straight. The kingly rule of Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus is inviting you to come into the kingdom with those words. There'd be no sense in me preaching on this one verse without inviting any who have never trusted in Christ to come and trust in Jesus.
Take that stubborn neck of yours, that stiff neck of yours that's been rebelling against God all these years. We all know about that. We still struggle with our own stiff necks; we're all the same. Put it under Jesus' yoke and you'll never regret it. Come to Jesus, follow him. Let his blood shed on the cross be sufficient for all of your acts of rebellion. Past, present and future. Come to Jesus. This is the kingdom, this is the good news, because what you're gonna find when you come into the kingdom is the perfection of the king, and how good and delightful he is, and how wonderful it will be to sit at his table and to talk with him and to obey his commands. It's good news, the kingdom.
And I love what it says, "this gospel of the kingdom.” This one that's going on right in front of you. He's speaking to men who are unique in redemptive history, they were the apostles, they were the eyewitnesses of his glory, Peter calls himself. They saw things you and I didn't see, they heard things with their own ears we don't get to hear. They were the eyewitnesses. They were the first link in the chain of church history, right to Jesus, the incarnation. And they saw what he did and what he said, they heard his words. When the woman anoints him with expensive perfume, he says, “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
So there was a sense of, there were little camcorders, little recorders, taking in the history of Jesus, taking in the events of his life, just being there. And don't worry about them forgetting, because it says in John 14, “The Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor, will come and he will remind you of everything I said to you.” Ordinarily, they may have been very forgetful individuals. Not when it came to Jesus' words and actions; they remembered everything, wrote it down for us. This gospel, the one about Jesus, that's the message.
Method: “Will be Preached”
What is the method? Well, it's going to be preached, it's going to be proclaimed by word, messengers are gonna go and they're gonna stand up in front of people and speak words about Jesus, and without that, no one gets saved. It says in Romans 10, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in one of whom they've never heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’” The good news about Jesus, the good news.
Somebody's gotta go and tell him a biography, they gotta go and tell them about Jesus, who he is. They don't know who he is, never heard of him. Some people have to go and they have to preach this message, because “faith comes by hearing,” it says there in Romans 10:17, it's got to be preached, it's got to be proclaimed.
Nowadays, there are some so-called “new evangelicals” who have a heart for social work, a heart for the urban scene, a heart for decaying cities and physical suffering they see brought about by sin, and they ought to because Jesus had a far greater heart for those things that they did. But they're saying foolish things, some of them, like this one: “Preach the gospel. Use words, if necessary.” Where in the world did that come from? We're told St. Francis of Assisi said it, he disavows all knowledge of it, according to the internet anyway. “He never said it,” he says, or at least some Catholic scholars are saying he never said it.
Well, it doesn't matter whether he said or not, some evangelical so called are saying it. You wanna know what they're saying? Just let the gospel ethic, just the good life that comes from being a Christian, just so shine around the people of your lives that they're just gonna get saved by watching you, how good you are. Well, to start, I would suggest, if you're married, just ask your spouse if that's gonna cut it. Alright? Am I just so good that people just by watching me are just gonna wanna come into the kingdom? And that will end your career right there on that one. “Preach the gospel. Use words, if necessary.” Let's try this one on for size: “Feed starving children. Use food if necessary.” Friends, the food is necessary to feed the starving children, and the words are necessary to get these people saved. We've got to proclaim this message, we've gotta tell them about Jesus, we've gotta speak to them. That's the method that God has chosen, the preaching of the gospel, and he's got reasons for doing it, but I don't have time to say it, it just humbles us to just hear a preached message and believe it, and we get saved.
Scope: “In the Whole World”
Thirdly, look at the scope. It's going to be done in the whole world. In the whole world. Jesus' eyes are on the whole world. Sitting on that rocky Mount of Olives looking out over Jerusalem before his death, he's thinking about the whole world. Yes, he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, but his heart was always for the whole world. Now, the Greek word here means “the inhabited world,” the places where people live. I believe that sin, the curse of sin has made some uninhabitable places of the world. I don't think it was that way from the beginning, but it's that way now. And so therefore, this is not talking about uninhabited places, but actually the Greek here intensifies it, “the whole of the inhabited world.
The gospel is going to be preached in the whole of the inhabited world, not a single inhabited place will be missed. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. So there's no strategy needed for the uninhabited portions of the world, you don't need to go to Antarctica, you don't need to go to Northern Greenland, you don't need to go to the seabed of the Pacific Ocean and preach to those nasty-looking creatures down there. We're going where people are living their lives, the inhabited world, that's where we're going, and we're going to preach to them.
Purpose: “As a Testimony to All Nations”
And what is the purpose? Well, it's going to be preached as a testimony, it says, to all nations. The word testimony, in my mind at least, brings the sense of a court trial, some kind of a proof's given, this kind of thing. It's an effort to persuade. And so the proclamation is going to be an effort to persuade, to prove something, to perhaps reluctant audience. And the nature of the proof has to do with the identity of the King, King Jesus. Who is he? What did he do? And of their need to repent and come into the kingdom. They need to have a testimony about this, the evidence of the deity of Christ, the proof of his miracles, the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw him physically, bodily, raised from the dead on the third day. We're gonna give testimony about these things, we're going to give persuasions.
The evidence that the prophets brought forth that Jesus didn't suddenly appear on the stage of redemptive history, but his coming was long expected. Come thou long expected Jesus. He came in fulfillment of the prophets. We've got to bring all of this evidence out and reason with people, and explain and prove from the scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
There's a testimony there, and it's going to be given, it says, to all nations. Again, we have this Greek word “ethne” from which we get “ethnic,” it has to do with the understanding that we in missions have come to really relatively recently, that it's not enough to go just to the political nations, like the political nation of India. William Carey brought the Gospel to the political nation of India, years, centuries ago. But Donald McGavran, a missionary there, a very careful observer of cultures and languages and customs and habits, said, “You know, there are just thousands of different people groups or identifiable ethnic groups, ethnes, so to speak, here in India. We've got to take the gospel to each one of them.” And so there is this understanding that we're going to cultural, linguistic, identifiable people groups.
And they need to hear the gospel. Jesus is saying they will. Jesus is saying they're going to hear. Every ethnic group on the face of the earth is going to have a clear proclamation of the testimony of the Gospel.
Result: “And Then, the End will Come”
And what is the result? Then the end will come. The end will come. For us who have believed in Jesus, it's a good end. For those who have not believed in Jesus, a dreadful end, more than you can possibly imagine, but the end is going to come. We're not going on like this forever. The end is coming.
The Power Behind the Prophecy
The Absolute Sovereignty of God
Alright, well, that's word by word, through the verse. Let me talk now about the power behind this prophecy, there is a power behind these words. These are not idle words spoken by some man sitting on a rock. This is the Sovereign God telling us what he's going to do. The absolute sovereignty of God. Only God, in my opinion, can make any kind of certain statement about the future; none of us can. I mean, that's even down to the small details of weather, or who wins a sporting event or other things like that, only God knows really.
But how much more is it true that only a great God can make a great proclamation like this and make it come true? The sheer number of things that would have to happen to make this occur are boggling to the mind. No one missionary could do all this. No one generation of missionaries could do all this. It was too immense even for the faith-filled and faithful apostles to achieve, too big a job for them.
Christ is predicting the mobilization of generation after generation of men and women who will be willing to lay down their lives for the cause of the gospel. Christ knows full well that some of these servants will die in the effort, they will fall into the ground and die, in the language of John 12. He knows that, and what Christ is stating here is, no matter how high the cost, this is going to get done.
The Power of the Holy Spirit over Human Hearts
So how can that happen? How can he be so certain? How can we know that this most certainly will come to pass? The sovereign power of Almighty God guarantees this. And specifically, the link down to earth is the power of the Spirit of God over individual human hearts to turn them from sin and selfishness and get them to do his will. And I think that's powerful. That he can do that. Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” And you're not going to be able to live the way you used to be living. You're not gonna do the same things you used to be doing. When the Holy Spirit comes on you, you're going to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. You will go when the Spirit comes on you.
Take a minute, and I wasn't gonna do this, but look over in Ezekiel 2. I think this may be the simplest statement you'll find in the whole Bible about this power that I'm referring to here, the power of this sovereign Spirit of God over your heart and mine. Look at Ezekiel 2:1-2. “He said to me,” this is Ezekiel, “he said to me, ‘Son of man’” - that was God's name for Ezekiel - “‘son of man, stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you.’” Verse 2, “As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet.” That's about as simple, mathematical as you're ever gonna get. The command comes, “Stand up on your feet.” The Spirit enters, and he found himself standing on his feet. That's the first step of the missionary journey right there. I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will come on us and get us to stand on our feet, and to do the things that God has commanded us to do. And he has that power. And there is a mysterious combination between the command, “Son of man, stand on your feet,” and the Spirit coming and empowering obedience to that command. It’s a mystery, you can't have the one without the other. We have to have the sense of the command of our king, but then the power of the Holy Spirit to make it so. So go back to Matthew 24:14, but I think this is the display of it, the Holy Spirit has the power to transform our selfish hearts and turn them to God and to others. He has that power.
THe Power to Thrust Out Laborers … Even at Great Cost
Jesus, in Matthew 9, “When he saw the crowds, that they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out laborers into his harvest field.’” Well, the words “send out” in the NIV are a bit tame. “Ekballo” is the Greek word. “Throw them out.” Alright, it's the same word used for casting out demons, the same kind of power that can cast out a demon can thrust out laborers into the harvest field. Amen and Amen.
He has the power to come on you and get you to change the whole way you live, so that from then on, you're doing something different. Change your career, you change your life, you change the direction and the flow of your life, and you do something different from then on. Now, here he's saying, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to do it.” So he's involving us in God sending out the Holy Spirit to do that. It's just amazing how deep and mysterious all this is, but we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest saying, “God send them out, drive out those laborers into the harvest field."
A Holy Compulsion
And so I think what we're talking about here is a holy compulsion that just comes over you, you're just compelled by the Spirit, as Paul refers to in Acts 20. “And now compelled by the Spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem.” There's a compulsion of the spirit. There are examples of this over and over in the Bible. Look, for example, at Jeremiah 20. Don't turn there now, but in Jeremiah 20, Jeremiah comes to God and says, “Oh Lord, you deceived me about my job description, you never told me how awful it would be to do this job.”
Aside, I'll say it again. I think Jeremiah had the hardest ministry in the Old Testament. I would rather be anybody in the Old Testament than Jeremiah. What a tough, tough job to be there, to be the one to turn out the lights on Jerusalem when the Babylonians were done with the place, to sit there over the hill and weep over it, as flames are just dying out and the smoke is rising and everyone's dead or gone. And you get to be the one to predict it and be there when it happens. And to be hated by the ones you are... Tough ministry.
But at any rate, Jeremiah goes back to his employer, back to God and says, “You deceived me, oh, Lord.” But then he goes on and says this, “If I say I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name, his word is like a fire in my heart. It's like a fire shut up in my bones. I'm weary of holding it in. Indeed, I cannot hold it in.” That's a compulsion that comes over you by the Spirit, you can't do anything but this work of God.
So also the Apostle Paul. His work was linked together with his salvation. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, the one that you're persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do.” Well, the word “must” became pretty obvious to Paul immediately what that meant. He had no choice. And so in 1 Corinthians 9:16, he says, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe unto me if I do not preach!” That's a compulsion of the spirit that comes on
And how does it work? Well, I've thought about this and I think it works by love. I really think what happens is the Spirit comes and moves love in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, it says, “For the love of Christ constrains us” - or compels us or controls us, different ways to translate that - “because we have concluded this, that one died for all, and therefore all have died, that he who died for all should no longer live for themselves, that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died for us.”
Basically, there's a kind of lifestyle I'm proclaiming here today, lifestyle of full on flat out obedience to the Great Commission in whatever role God has for you. And the alternative is that you should live for yourself. Those are your two options. I really believe it. It really just comes down to that. And Paul is saying that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died for us and was raised again.
Well, what moves him to do it? The love of Christ constrains us. Now, I meditated on that phrase, it's a little tricky, and I think it may even be meant to be. What is this love of Christ constrains us mean? Is it the love we have for Jesus or is it the love that Jesus displayed in his life for sinners? How about both? How about we don't choose? How about we love Christ so much we want to get on a ship and go and say, “May the lamb get what he deserves,” that we can live like that. I just love Jesus, am filled with the love that I have, that Jesus get what he deserves. The love of Christ, the love we have for Jesus. Or could it be the kind of love that Jesus displayed for sinners in dying on the cross for them? I wanna live like that. I think it's both.
But in any case, it constrains us. The same Greek word is used in Luke 12:50. Jesus speaking about his own crucifixion, “I have a baptism to be baptized with. And how constrained I am until it's finished. I can't turn to the right or the left, I've got to finish this work.” Well, again and again in church history, servants of Christ have spoken like constrained people. They've talked like this.
Hudson Taylor is a prime example. He was called to be a missionary to China. He went there, he had some very indifferent experiences with the mission agencies. The missionaries were all on the coastline of China, none of them venturing out much into Chinese society, they're living comfortable lives in the mission stations, and he was becoming disillusioned. He decided to go native, go inland to become kind of as Chinese as he possibly could be. He went with the Chinese hairstyle and garb and all that, so much that people that saw him and knew before thought, they didn't recognize him at all, thought he was just a Chinese man.
The mission group there rejected his methods entirely and his zeal, they didn't want any part of him, so he went back to England for many reasons, but to raise support. And then he says this, he was just thinking about the inland regions of China. On Sunday, June 25th, 1865, he said, “Unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge. I wandered out on the sands alone,” listen, “in great spiritual agony. And there the Lord conquered my unbelief.” He had seen a map of China, and he called it the accusing map of China, had huge sections of the country, none of them had ever heard of Jesus, called it the accusing map. And this was the burden on him, the inland regions. “In great spiritual agony, and there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told him that all of the responsibility as to issues and consequences must rest with him; that as his servant it was mine to obey and follow him, his to direct, to care for, to guide those who might labor with me. Need I say that the peace of God at once flowed into my heart. It was indescribable.” So there's a man constrained. He lived the rest of his life for this one burden, and that was to bring the Gospel to the inland regions of China.
The Prophecy Fulfilled: Already and Not Yet
Now, this prediction of Jesus, is it fulfilled? Can I say the words with great joy? Almost, almost, but not yet. I know it's not yet 'cause we're here. Jesus hasn't come back yet. He said, “And then the end will come.” The end hasn't come, there's still work to be done
Already: Huge Portions of the World Reached with the Gospel
But there's less work to be done now, a lot less than there was 50 years ago. The progress has been astonishing. Friends, this isn't a losing battle. If you're a bandwagon person, this is the bandwagon to jump on, this is the one to pitch in on and get involved. This is the one to invest your life in. This one. This is going to win. It's amazing, there's not a geographical nation on earth that doesn't have a vibrant church. That could not have been said 25 years ago.
I mean, all of the United Nations type nations, all of them have witnesses. That was not true when I was in college. The Berlin Wall was still standing then, there were countries like Albania, others like Mongolia, Morocco, some of those Northern African nations, Muslim nations, there were no churches there, that's no longer the case. Praise God. And then once Donald McGavran gave the idea of the unreached people groups, they started counting them, and the count down's been going down.
24,000 in 1950, the estimate was. When I was in college, the number was 17,000. In 1992, it was down to 11,000. In '96 estimates put it around 9,000. It's about half of what it was when I was in college. Today, joshuaproject.net, who keeps track of these things, puts the number at 6,644. It just keeps coming down. And many, many local churches have adopted unreached people groups and have just made it their focus to be sure that there's a Gospel Church planted in that unreached people group. It's just incredible the kinds of things that are happening, I don't have time to go through the statistics. Bottom line is the church is exploding and growing all the time.
Listen to this, in A.D 100, there were 360 non-Christians, estimate, 360 non-Christians for every one believer. Today, the number is seven to one. Get this one, this is even better, I love this. In A.D 100, it was estimated that there were 12 unreached people groups per local church congregation. Today there are 500 local congregations for every unreached people group. See, all we need to do is get the other 499 congregations together and choose an unreached people group and go reach them. Boy, they're gonna be overwhelmed when all 500 churches show up to reach that one unreached people group.
Not Yet: The Work Still to Do
Friends, this is a doable task, but there's still work to be done, there's still just four billion people have never heard the name of Jesus. Most of them, the 10/40 window, the longitude lines there, the 10/40 latitude lines, the 10/40 window. Muslim nations, India, China, there's a lot of work to be done, and it's still true that Americans spend... American evangelicals spend more money on dog food than they do on missions. May it never be.
Rejoice in the Sovereignty of Christ
Bottom line, can I say this just application, let's rejoice in the sovereignty of Christ, let's see what he's achieved already, let's give him the praise and the glory of 20 centuries of astonishing achievement. Say, to God be the glory for what you have done. To God be the glory for raising up men and women who are willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel.
Be Confident in the Final Outcome
And be confident, very confident in the final outcome: he's going to win.
Pray Confidently for More Laborers for this Vast Harvest
Based on Matthew 9, pray confidently to the Lord of the harvest to send out, thrust out, laborers into the harvest field. Pray it a lot, pray it fervently. Pray it confidently. But you know what might happen if you start praying that prayer, you know what might happen? He might actually send you out into the harvest field. Pray for it. Draw near to God every single day.
Draw Near to God Daily
If you don't have a heart for the nations, if you don't have a heart for missions, it's because you're distant spiritually from God, this is his heart, he's made it plain everywhere. Kevin quoted, I think it was Psalm 67, that's God's heart, that the nations might praise him. If that's not your heart, you're distant from God. Draw near to God, fix your relationship with God first, repent of known sin. Have your quiet times, draw close to him, and say, “Lord, give me a heart for the nations, and give me a heart for the lost coworker that's in the next cubicle.” It's all of a piece. It's all together. So draw close and ask God to give you an unreached people group to pray for. Go to joshuaproject.net and choose one. You get to pick the continent. I mean, whatever you want, go pick one and pray for it for the rest of the year, 2010.
Be Earnest Not to Be Left Out
And this is the one that convicted me the most, it is absolutely guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed that Jesus will finish this, that this promise will take place, but it's not guaranteed that I'll have anything to do with it. There's no Bible verse that tells me that, I, Andy Davis, will have anything to do with Matthew 24:14, or you. There's no guarantee that FBC Durham will be having anything to do with this at all 20 years from now. We have got to be faithful. We have got to say to the Lord, “Make me... Please don't pass me by, please don't leave me behind, please don't, as you move on ahead in success and triumph, leave me out. I wanna be part of it, Lord. Give me a burden, give me a heart after the nations, give me a heart after missions, so that I can be part of what you're doing in the world. And make sure that my local church is part of it, too. I don't wanna go to a church that's not not doing this, I'll leave that church. I wanna be a part of a church where this command is our command. This prediction is our command, we are moving out based on this, praying for unreached people groups, praying for the missionaries we have sent out.”
Pray for FBC to be a Launching Pad for Missions
Pray that FBC would be a launching pad for missions. We've seen a lot of brothers and sisters go out from here. Heavenly, what a joy. But I would say the overwhelming majority, if not all of them, came in here with a preconceived or pre-sense of call to the missions, and what we did was, we tried to shepherd that and be good stewards of it and furthered it long. Praise God that that happened. But I'd like to see someone who comes in here even today, without even any thought of missions, and then through the ministry of the church, through the influence of other brothers and sisters in Christ, develop that call and we launch them out in five years. That would be awesome. Wouldn't that be great? Pray that that would happen in this church. Close with me in prayer.