The Great Commission's Guarantee
December 12, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Why are we here?
We are looking this morning at just one verse of Scripture. I do not usually do that, but I am doing it this morning. One verse of Scripture, Matthew 24:14, which says, "This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." There is so much in that one verse, and I hope we have a chance to unfold it today by the power of the Spirit.
Back in 1984, I had the privilege of going to the Urbana Missions Conference at University of Illinois at Urbana. And the opening speaker, John Kyle, said, "We are here because of the Great Commission." Well, I know he was talking about the Urbana conference, but those words stuck with me, and I think they apply to us here this morning, at least in part.
We are left on Earth by God after our salvation because of the Great Commission. There is still work to be done. We have assembled here to worship God and to give him glory and praise, but also that we might be renewed and strengthened for the Great Commission work that we have to do. It is still before us. We are here because of the Great Commission.
You know something? Sometimes I forget that. I do. I get wrapped up into my life, I get wrapped up in what we are doing. It is easy this time of year to forget it. We get involved in the busyness of schedules. I talk to my wife all the time about the most wonderful time of the year. Well, sometimes it feels like the most over the top time of the year. I do not know what we can do about it. We are all caught in a vortex, aren’t we? And we are spinning along and what can we do?
What we can do is separate ourselves out and say, "Why am I here? Why am I alive? Why has God saved me? And why has he left me here?" And the answer, at least in part, is that we are here because of the Great Commission.
A Life-Changing Encounter
I will always be thankful to God for an encounter I had with a young woman named Kim years ago at New Meadows Baptist Church up in Topsfield. It changed my life. I have no idea where she is today, I have no idea what is going on with her today, and I could guarantee she does not know she is being preached about this morning. I can guarantee that. But she changed my life.
What happened was in our small little Southern Baptist church up there (about 40 people on a Sunday) a number of them were going out with InterVarsity on a mission trip, a summer mission trip. I was working as an engineer. I had graduated from school. I was settled in my life, had a fruitful ministry, a good Bible study, different things going on: a nursing home ministry, engaged and excited, praying for missions, doing different things, giving, but just being an engineer.
She came up to me after Sunday worship and she said, "Well, we’re going. A number of us are going on a mission trip.”
I said, “Well, I know, Kim. I’ll be praying for you.”
She said, “Well, have you prayed about going?”
And I said, “Well, no.”
She said, “Why not?”
I said, “Well, it’s 10 weeks. They don’t give you 10-week vacations in the engineering world. I’d have to quit my job to go on that mission trip.”
She said, “Well, have you prayed about it? You should ask God. It’s not your life, you know?”
I will never forget her saying that. I was really taken aback. I had thought it was my life. But really what she was saying in a very simple, basic way is, “You are not your own. You’re bought at a price, and therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20).
So, I told her that I would pray about it. “Yes, Kim, I will pray about quitting my engineering job and going on a 10-week mission trip to Kenya.”
Well, I forgot about that promise. You know how you forget about promises that you did not really think you had to make. And so, I went on and about a week and a half later, I was having my quiet time and the Lord brought it to my memory.
“You said you would pray about it,” and so I said, “Alright, Lord. (I’ll try to get the attitude.) Lord, do you want me to quit my job and go on a 10-week mission trip?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
No question about it. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord wanted me to quit my engineering job and go on that mission trip.
“Well, Lord, I have another question. What do you want me to do when I get back? I do not assume I am going to die as a martyr over in Kenya. What do you want me to do when I get back?”
The Lord led me to go to seminary full-time and on a path that led me eventually here. I had no plan for my life, I was just going week by week.
I hope that this message or some conversation you have with someone like Kim this morning or over the next few weeks might change your life. If God is calling on you to serve him in a cross-cultural setting, to go overseas, to do something different with your life, whether you’re a retired person or a college student or somewhere in between, or even just as a youth, you’re starting to think about your life, thinking about what God might have in store for you, get this in mind: We are here because of the Great Commission. There’s work to be done. Let’s glorify God in our body.
The Goal of the Church
We are here this morning to worship God, and that is a good thing. Worship is a good thing. John Piper said concerning missions that we need to realize that missions is not the ultimate end or goal of the Church. This is what he said in Let the Nations Be Glad: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of a church, worship is. Missions exists because worship does not. When this age is over and countless millions fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”
So, it is for here and now that we consider missions. The ultimate end is that people who do not know him yet, who have not called on his name, might call on the name of the Lord and be saved, and that they might eternally feast at the feet of Jesus and worship. That is the whole point. Missions is not the ultimate end. Worship is.
An End Time Purpose
As we look at Matthew 24, we come to an end time chapter. Now, frankly, all of the New Testament is end time, isn’t it? Because the end times came when Jesus came. But Matthew 24 is an eschatology dream. People love to read it and try to find out signs of the end and to wrestle with it. I like to do that too. I like Matthew 24. It is an exciting thing to consider the end time. The ultimate purpose of missions is eschatological, an end time purpose. We have the big picture in mind: What is God doing in the world in the end? And so, it is right for us at this time in missions to bring the two together and look at Matthew 24. What I find in Matthew 24 is a good companion verse to the Great Commission.
You know the Great Commission. It says in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said,
“All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
That is a commission. It is a commandment that we should go and make disciples.
A Promise Fulfilled
What I find in Matthew 24:14 is a promise that the Great Commission will be fulfilled. It is Jesus giving us a guarantee that it is going to work. It is a remarkable statement: “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
It is a promise from Jesus Christ. We tend to focus on the command and miss the promise, don’t we? We tend to focus on the commission and miss the guarantee, and the guarantee is most certainly that this work will be done. And so, I think God deserves thanks and praise for how much of this Commission he has already fulfilled. We should be standing here and saying, “Thank you, Lord, that you have done what only you could do, that you have taken the Church from a small, kind of fearful Upper Room group, 120 or so in Jerusalem, and you have conquered much of the world. Only Jesus Christ could do that.”
What we are going to do this morning is glorify God together in three ways.
First, we are going to understand this promise in Matthew 24:14 biblically.
Secondly, we are going to recount some of God’s mighty acts over the last 200 years, to try to understand how he has really accelerated the fulfillment of the Great Commission. For that material, I am indebted to the Perspectives class. And if any of you have not taken the US Center for World Missions’ Perspectives class, talk to Bob Stevens. This is a wonderful class that you can take. He is right over here. I will not have you stand, Bob. But at any rate, if you want to know who he is, come and talk to me. But the US Center for World Mission has put together a wonderful class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” I learned so much about what God has done in the last 200 years. We are going to look at that very briefly.
Thirdly, we are going to rededicate ourselves to the remaining task.
Matthew 24:14 in Context
Let us look at it biblically: Matthew 24. I told you I am just going to preach on one verse, but I just cannot take a verse out of context. Let us do a little context work.
Matthew 24:14 is found in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew’s gospel is all about the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. Specifically, it is about the King of the Kingdom of Heaven and his glory, Jesus Christ. So, from the very beginning of Matthew’s gospel, in which the record, it starts out, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David,” it establishes Jesus as the Davidic king, the promised Messiah. He is the king of the Jews. But as it unfolds, it is clearer than ever as you just go on and read Jesus is really the king of the kingdom of heaven. That’s what he is because he preaches, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He is talking about an advancing kingdom.
As the kingdom advances, we find that it is a rejected Kingdom. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, the people are all shouting and saying hosanna, and they are laying down cloaks and palm branches. But very soon after that, Jesus goes into the temple and cleanses the temple. I believe it is at least the second time that he cleansed the temple. And he, again, joined battle with the scribes and Pharisees, with the Sanhedrin, with the chief priests and the elders, the teachers of the law, with the powers that were at the time religiously, because they were doing wrong, they were using religion for their own personal gain. They were filled with greed and self-indulgence, they were devouring widows’ homes, they were living for this world. They were looking good on the outside, but inside they were full of dead men’s bones.
Jesus takes them on, and it culminates in Matthew 23 with the sevenfold woe that he speaks on the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” He goes through this seven times, a sevenfold condemnation from the one who will be the judge of all the Earth. He has the right to do this. He has the right to speak a sevenfold woe on these false leaders and teaches. He calls them blind guides.
At the end of that, he laments over the spiritual state of Israel, focuses on the city of Jerusalem, and says,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Behold, your house has left you desolate. For I tell you that you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
And then Jesus left the temple. That is the desolation. When Jesus leaves, that is the desolation.
His symbolic exit from the temple at that moment was very significant. You know how the Prophets did symbolic actions that showed spiritual truth? It was very significant when he said, “Behold, look now and watch, because your house has now left you desolate because you’re not going to see me again.” And out he goes, “Until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Oh, I have to put in that hopeful thing, because some day they will say it. Amen? They will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” but they were not ready to say it then. So, it was a rejected kingdom.
As I have mentioned before, the disciples, having no clue as to what was going on, came up at that moment and said, “Master, what magnificent buildings! Isn’t the Temple so ornate? Isn’t it magnificent?” They are kind of like country folk. They don’t get to the city much, and so they were just impressed by the architecture. That was bad timing, wasn’t it? But for God’s purposes, wonderful timing. And so, Jesus said, “Do you see all these stones? Do you see all the glory? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. Everyone will be thrown down.”
What a shock! How can it be? And they are waiting for Jesus to take up his throne, and they’re wanting to sit on the right and the left, and they’re thinking, “I’m going to be undersecretary of whatever real soon.” That is not going to happen.
“What do you mean the temple is going to be destroyed?” That does not fit. And so, they came to Jesus privately, because I think they were afraid of the answer, and they said to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, it’s called the Olivet Discourse, “Tell us, when will this happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
The threefold aspect of the disciples’ question makes Matthew 24 one of the hardest chapters in the New Testament to interpret. When will this happen? What is this? The destruction of the temple. And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? How do we unravel the strands? How does it work? It is very complicated.
Thankfully, we do not have to do it this morning. We are just focusing on one verse, remember? So, we are going to zero in on that one verse, and Jesus is beginning to answer the question. From verse 4 up through verse 14, he begins… And this is the context.
Certain and Uncertain Signs
As he is discussing it, he is talking about what I consider to be uncertain signs. Look what he says in verse 4 and following. He says, “Watch out that no one deceives you, for many will come in My name, claiming I am the Christ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars.”
There are false Christs and false prophets that come just like Judas the Galilean and Theudas who appeared during the time of the census. Gamaliel referred to them in Acts 5. Have you ever heard of Theudas and Judas? Well, if you had not read Acts 5, you would never hear of them at all.
Let me tell you something, that is what makes this so magnificent. Jesus is just another religious leader, right, sitting up on a mountain saying, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” No, he is not just anybody. Because when he says it, it happens. When Judas the Galilean says things, nothing happened. He ends up getting killed and his followers are scattered. When Theudas says something, nothing comes of it. He gets killed and his followers are scattered.
Jesus is the Christ, and when he says something that is going to be true from here to the end of time, you know what, it is. That is the way Jesus is. And so, he says,
“False Christs and false prophets are coming. You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you are going to be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you’ll be hated by all nations because of me.”
What are these? These are what I call uncertain signs of the end. What do we have as we take that whole section? You have political events, geopolitical events, nations rising and falling, empires rising and falling. You have famines and earthquakes and cataclysms, and you have persecution and difficulty. These are uncertain signs of the end because they are true of every generation from the time that Jesus came until now. You cannot use them to identify any one generation.
In 1526, Martin Luther, as he looked at the political events of Europe, wrote to a friend: “Now, what had happened is the Turks had conquered a section of the Hungarian empire and were just literally knocking on the gates of Europe. They were ready to overrun.”
Most people thought that the Turks were going to overrun Europe. Luther thought so too, and he said that he believed that the end of the world was so imminent that he would not have the time to finish translating the Bible into German before the end of the world came. By the way, he finished seven years after that.
Yes, he was wrong, but let me tell you something. It’s always been a passionate interest of Christians to find out by looking at the equivalent of the New York Times or The Jerusalem Daily, whatever, Bugle, whatever they had back then, looking at the headlines and saying, “What’s going on? We are definitely in the last 40 years,” or whatever. How Lindsey did it with the establishment of secular Israel. And so, he began writing The Late Great Planet Earth and all that. We are looking at the signs of the times.
Jesus said, “Let me give you a sure and certain sign. This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” So that is a sure and certain sign of the end.
Five Aspects of Matthew 24:14
Let us look at the verse itself and unfold it a little bit. I am going to look at five aspects of the verse very briefly: First, the message in the verse. Secondly, the method. Thirdly, the mission. Fourth, the motive. And fifth, the mystery.
1. The Message
First, the message within the verse. What does he say? This gospel of the kingdom. The word “gospel” means good news. This good news of the kingdom is going to be preached. Good news.
What is the kingdom? Well, it is God’s sovereign right to rule over what he has created. He has the right to be king over what he made. But it goes deeper than that, doesn’t it? The fact of the matter is that the kingdom of heaven’s advancing has to do with human beings through repentance and faith, coming under the submission of the king and glad about it. They are glad that Jesus is King now. They are delighted that God is ruling. They are delighted. It is glad submission. That is where it is.
Demons are subject, remember, in Christ’s name. They are not glad about it all. They are terrified of Jesus. Kings that do not even know Jesus are subject to his sovereign rule, though they know it not. Because the king’s heart is like a water course in the hands of Lord. He directs it whatever way he pleases. But they do not know about it. It is unknowing. It is ignorant.
We are talking about glad submission to the authority of Jesus the king. That is what is going to be preached. Such as it says in Psalm 97:1, “The Lord reigns, let the Earth be glad. Let distant shores rejoice.”
Be glad about it, that God reigns. Be delighted in it. And so, we desire to be delighted in the fact that God sits on his throne, and we want to find out what his will is and do it. That is the advance of the kingdom. Now, why is it good news? Why it the gospel of the kingdom? Because God is a good king, and everything he ordains is right, and fruitfulness and beauty and order come from his reign. Amen? It is a delightful thing that the kingdom is advancing.
We skipped a little keyword there at the beginning: “this gospel of the kingdom.” Very interesting. Don’t forget that he was speaking to his apostles sitting there on the Mount of Olives, they’re listening to him say these words, “this gospel.”
Were they hearing a gospel? Were they seeing a gospel? Yes and yes. Because they were the eyewitnesses. They were the specially chosen ones, the twelve apostles. They were chosen to be in one sense the foundation of the church along with the prophets, it says in Ephesians, and how is that? Because of their eyewitness and their testimony. They saw the actions of Christ. Their minds were like little camcorders. They are just observing, and they are taking in.
Do they understand it? Well, we already said they did not understand. That is why they asked about how great the building was, remember, but they are taking it in, they are absorbing. Later, after Jesus had died on the cross and had been resurrected, and risen to heaven, “the counselor, the Holy Spirit,” Jesus says, “whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have said to you.”
All of a sudden, “Hey, you remember when Jesus said this and things are…” They are starting to understand and to remember the events of Jesus’ life and his words exactly, and what it all meant. And so, we get the Gospel of Matthew, you get Mark, you get Luke, and you get John, you get the foundation of your faith.
“This gospel,” what does it mean?
This gospel is the key to the advance.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” And so, what is “this gospel of the kingdom”? Well, what the apostles observed. We preach a biography first. We talk about Jesus. We talk about that he was born of the virgin Mary, which we celebrate this time of year. We talk about how he led a sinless life, how he came and preached to the people of Nazareth and of Capernaum, and in the region of Galilee. We talk about what he said.
We give people who have never heard the name of Christ a history and a biography of a man who really lived and who did incredible miracles, who spoke to the wind and the waves, and they obeyed him, who fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, who was able to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and to drive out demons, he could do all these things.
As one person said, “For us, he’s done all things well.” And so, we also have a record of his incredible teachings: the Sermon on the Mount, the teaching of the Good Shepherd and of the bread of life. We have all these teachings, and so we preach this gospel of the kingdom, it is a biography. So we preach a biography.
2. The Method
Secondly, it says, concerning method, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached as a testimony.”
I want to take those two things and put them together. There is the preaching aspect of the advance and there is the testimony aspect of the advance. How do I understand it? Well, the preaching is the proclamation, like a herald does of the good news, so that we take the message across mountain ridges and across oceans and across rivers and other places, through great danger to a people who have not heard of his fame or seen his glory. We proclaim, we preach. We tell them the gospel. We preach that biography. We speak it, we live in a very advanced technological age on you what they tell us that preaching is soon to be obsolete. Don’t you believe it.
This verse right here tells me that preaching will be here to the end. Are you understanding what I am saying? Even though I am not like an MTV exciting thing. Do you have an attention span long enough to follow and track? I think you do. Oh, I think they undersell you all the time.
Preaching will be with us to the end. That is not just this, it’s what we did, what I did at the water cooler, the coffee breaks. It’s what I did when writing with co-workers on two-hour trips to a vendor or something. It is the preaching of the gospel. It is the verbal proclamation of Christ.
All of you can do it, but there is also the testimony part. You know what that means? It means your life has to live up to what it is you claim. Now, none of us are going to be able to do that perfectly, but we are like witnesses, and the witness cannot be discredited. We have to live up to what we proclaim, and none of us will do it perfectly. Oh, how humble we are when we see our wickedness and our sin, but we must preach and we must give a testimony by our life.
3. The Mission
Thirdly, what is the scope? Well, there are three aspects, there is the geographic aspect, and there is the ethnic aspect, and there is the chronological aspect. It says, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world.” That’s geographic: “As a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
So, you get three aspects. First, geographic, the whole world.
Is there any part of God’s world you can say, “Well, this chunk doesn’t belong to God”? Oh no, he claims it all. He has his flag in every bit of it because, “The Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” That verse is over the beautiful map, here, right outside. If you have not seen it, go and look above and see that it has been claimed for God. It is all his. So, the geographic scope, the whole world.
Secondly, ethnic, to all nations. This phrase has gained greater insight. We have learned more about what these ethnic groups are. I am going to talk about that more in a moment over the last 200 years. It is going to be preached to all peoples, all nations, and chronological.
This preaching, this gospel advance, is going to go on to the end of the age. Like Jesus says in the Great Commission, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age,” chronologic advance.
4. The Motive
Fourthly, what is the motive? What is the motive of this gospel advance? Well, it says, “And then the end will come.” Well, I must say in the Bible, it is not the greatest statement of motive. But I think if you understand what ends God has in mind, then you will understand how this is a magnificent statement of our motive. What is the end? The Greek word is telos. What is the end that is going to come? Well, there is just the end of the world, what we call the day of God, judgment day and beyond, when God forever destroys evil and wickedness, when he purifies the world, and when we have the new Heaven and the new Earth, the home of righteousness. That end.
Do you want that to come? Are you looking forward to the new Heaven and the new Earth? Well, it says, “If you’re looking forward to the new Heaven and the new Earth, then you should speed it’s coming,” it says in 2 Peter 3:12. Speed, it’s coming.
How are we going to speed its coming? Well, this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony all nations, and then the end will come. And not before. So that means that there is still work to be done. There is still an advance, there is a border, a boundary, only God knows what it is, but there is an advance.
But perhaps there is a second meaning, the end, the telos is the purpose, then the purpose will come. What is the end purpose of God?
God’s purpose is always the same, ultimately his own glory, that he might be displayed, revealed, and made known that he might be worshipped, that is the end that will come. “Then the nations will fall on their faces before him and gladly say, ’The Lord reigns, let the nations be glad.”’ That is the end that will come, and that is our motive as well, the end of God, what his purposes are.
You know what? It will end what I consider to be the greatest injustice in the history of the world. You know what it is? It is that Jesus Christ does not get what he truly deserves for what he did, that he is denigrated, that he is thought of as an afterthought, that he is no big deal, that he is not special, not the center of your life or other people’s lives. That is a great injustice, and it will end when the end of the world comes.
5. The Mystery
Fifthly, mystery. What is the mystery? Well, you do not get it in this one verse, but you get it in the context. Look at verse 36, Matthew 24:36. Now, I know you said I am just doing one verse. I could not control myself. We are just going to look at this one other verse, Matthew 24:36. The mystery is this: no one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father. That is a mystery.
Like William Cowper said, in God Moves in Mysterious Ways, “God is his own interpreter.” Do you know what I mean? He decides when the nations been reached, he decides when 24:14 has been fulfilled. He is the one who is allowed to do that. Until then, we have to wake up and say, “Oh, the sun came up. There is more work to be done. I’ve still got work to do.” We are here because of the Great Commission; there’s still Commission work to be done.
Five Aspects Summarized
In summary, the message is this gospel of the kingdom. The method is that it will be preached as a testimony. The mission is the whole world to all ethnic groups until history is over. The motive is then the end of the world and God’s purposed end will come. The mystery is that no one knows when that day will be.
I want to take a moment and look at how it has gone from that point. Jesus is not Judas the Galilean, and he is not Theudas. He is not a false Christ. Has he been as good as his word? Can we see the progress? I can see it. We started in the Upper Room, 120 believers. Now, there are countless millions who claim the name of Christ in almost every tribe and language and people and nation worshipping him. Jesus has been as good as his word. Isn’t that thrilling? He made a prediction, and it has come true.
The Last 200 Years of Christian Missions
Over the last 200 years, the gospel has especially exploded, where was biblical faith 200 or so years ago? In Europe? In the new nation of the United States? Certain outposts in other parts of the world, in Latin America, in Africa, mostly near the coast. Carey had set up his work in Serampore… That’s it. And a few other little outposts where there was trading and there were some Christians there.
Since that time do you see the progress that has been made? There is not a geographic nation on Earth that there is not a New Testament church in it. Isn’t that thrilling? That was not true 15 years ago, but the fall of the Berlin Wall has opened up countries like Albania. Other things have happened: the events in the Islamic world have opened up countries like Afghanistan. Things are happening, things are moving, it’s a thrilling thing to see.
God used four individuals to really help us understand Matthew 24:14, and we do not have time to go through them today. But let me tell you who they are and what they contributed briefly. If you are interested in more, then I have done my job for Bob Stevens and the Perspectives class saying, “Boy, tell me more about William Carey and Hudson Taylor and Cameron Townsend and Donald McGavran. I want to know more about these guys.” They have helped us understand Matthew 24:14.
William Carey basically told Protestants, “The work isn’t done. It was not just for the apostles. The Jesuits, the Roman Catholics, are sending out missionaries all over the world, but we want the true gospel to be preached, and so we need to find out how we as Protestants can advance the gospel. We need to exert ourselves. We need to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. So, get moving, Protestants, let us get into the mission game.” That’s what he did. And so, some call him the father of modern missions.
Hudson Taylor looked at where the work was being done, and it was all on the boundaries, on the edges. He went to China, and he is there in the missionary outpost, and he is seeing that these missionaries are living comfortable lives. They are not venturing out much, there are a few converts, but not much. And he said, “What about the vast teaming unreached millions in the inland regions?”
I will never forget a quote I read concerning Hudson Taylor. As he looked at this map of China with all its provinces, he realized there was no witness in the inland regions. He was in a worship service in England. Now, when you think of 19th century England, think 21st century America. It was kind of the center of Evangelical faith, of missions’ interests, of good preaching of all kinds of things, of books and publishing, and all kinds of gospel wealth. This is what he said, his own words on Sunday, June 25, 1865:
“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 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 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 and to guide those who might labor with me. Need I say that peace at once flowed into my burdened heart.”
What would you feel about our worship service? Would he see a bunch of satisfied, comfortable people who are rejoicing in their own security while millions are perishing? I do not think that that is too far from what happens in America, in American churches. My feeling is let us not be that way. Let us follow people like Hudson Taylor. Say, “The work is not finished yet.” He began praying for mission teams for each province of China, and God raised them up. His watch word was this “God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” That is his spiritual secret.
Thirdly, Cameron Townsend. Cameron Townsend was a missionary in the early 19th century in Guatemala. He was preaching the gospel to Indian tribes in Guatemala in the national language, Spanish. He comes to one Indian household, and he is sharing the gospel in Spanish. They know Spanish—it was the national language and all of that—but finally one of them said, “If your God is so smart, how come he can’t speak my language?”
Wow! Well, that struck him. Good point. And so, he began looking into the issue of languages. At first, he thought there were 500 languages in the world. Then he upped his estimate to a thousand, and then 2,000. By the time he died in 1982, he thought there were 3,000 languages in the world. Now, the estimates are around 5,000. The group he founded, Wycliffe Bible Translators, understand how much work there is yet to be done to get God’s word into the heart language of these nations and peoples, and they are continuing to do the work.
The fourth man working about the same time as Cameron Townsend was Donald McGavran. He was a missionary in India. As he looked around and saw what was going on in India and all the complexities of their society, he started to notice cultural groups that he called homogeneous units. They were similar in language, culture, and history. They saw themselves as a group, and he said, “You know, this is probably what Matthew 24:14 means when it says, ’To all nations.’ It is not two geopolitical nations like represented at the United Nations. No, there are groups within China and within India and within Latin America that need to be reached with the gospel. God is his own interpreter but apparently, the work is not done yet, so maybe we need to look a little more closely and say that there are still some nations that have never heard the gospel.”
He came up with the idea of the hidden peoples, the so-called unreached people groups. Initial estimates, when he started looking at this idea, put it at 24,000 unreached people groups. That was in 1950. In 1980, it was down to 17,000 unreached people groups. Now, the number may be about half that. Isn’t that remarkable?
The Remaining Task
The progress is being made right in front of our eyes. It is thrilling to me. I remember praying when I was a student at MIT in Campus Crusade for Christ. We were praying for 15,000 unreached people groups. It is far less than that now. Amazing statistics about God’s glory. I could give you number after number what God is doing.
Let me give you this one, and then if you want the others to come in, I will give you the first of you, this sheet. But in AD 100, about a generation or two, depending on how you define it, after Christ, get this: there was an estimated twelve unreached people groups per church congregation. That means every church congregation needed to reach out to 12 unreached people groups. With five million Christian congregations worldwide, get this: there are at least 500 congregations for each unreached people group.
All I have to do as pastor is to find our other 499 sister churches, get together, and find that one unreached people group, and we’ll be set. We will have done our part, right? Let us get those 500 churches together and go reach that one unreached people group.
Brothers and sisters, this is doable. Do you see it? It is doable if people are willing to sacrifice. If people are willing to believe what I said at the beginning of this message, and that is, we are here for the Great Commission, we are not here for the other reasons. And it is so confusing at Christmas time. We forget, “Why am I here? What is going on? What am I doing in my life?” Five hundred congregations for every one unreached people group. Brothers and sisters with God’s help we can do it.
There is still a great work to be done, isn’t there? Look at the 10/40 window, look at the Muslim world. Are those folks going to be easy to reach with the gospel? What do you think? I think some of these unreached people groups, the price will be a martyr’s blood. Guaranteed. I have no idea, but there might be even martyrs sitting today that God might use to open up. To open up a group. And it is not just one, it is usually a history, and then little by little, they start to see what is happening and they come to faith. It is not going to be easy, but we have this promise, listen: this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Now, what application can we take this?
Illustration: Insider Trading
I want to take odd illustrations or analogies to put it together. The first is insider trading, and the second is horse gambling. That is just unseemly, right? I am not advocating either, insider trading or horse gambling, but insider trading says, “I’ve got some information about what’s going to happen, and you need to get in on this so you can make a killing.”
Do we not have that, brothers and sisters? Do we not have some inside information on what is going to happen? Don’t we need to invest in this so that we can make an eternal killing with God? I think we do. I think anything else you invest your money and your time and your life in is going to be a waste, but this is a blue-chip stock, folks. This is most certainly going to happen.
Illustration: Horse Racing
How about horse racing? We used to live in Louisville, and they have the Kentucky Derby. I never went down there. There are always around a quarter million people, and you could not get near it. Besides which, my faith frowns on gambling and so should yours. But it is a great illustration. Can you imagine, if you wanted to bet on a horse, a $2 bet, I guess is what they go for, and you went with a race three quarters or four fifths over and there’s Secretariat out in front by 50 lengths or 40 lengths or whatever, and say, “I’d really like to place a bet, can I place a bet?”
What do you think they are going to tell you?
“The window is closed. You can bet on the next race, but not while the race is going on.”
Invest in Christ
My friends, you can invest or bet or whatever while this race is going on. Jesus is winning, the gospel is advancing. Invest in Christ. This is most certainly going to happen. It is a guarantee.
There is no way that you can lose any dollar invested lighting. Each one of those lamps represents $1,000 except one of them. Jack told me it represents $500, sorry. OK, but he lit it, praise God. I said, “Jack, we’re going to light that lamp fully. And then the rest of them.”
Our goal is $50,000 for missions. Can you think of a better way to spend your money, $100, $300, a $1,000? I can’t. Invest your money because you know what happens? The way it works with Lottie Moon is that money goes directly into putting mission units, that is, families who are missionaries, on the field to advance the gospel.
Pray. Ask the Lord to raise up laborers for his harvest field. He will most certainly answer that prayer. Then go and find Kim. I don’t know where she is, but have Kim talk to you about your life. And say, “You know, our pastor thinks really highly of you.”
“Who’s your pastor?”
I do not even know if she would remember me, but just find a Kim in your life or somebody like that, to challenge you to do something dangerous, something risky with your life, to take your vacation, or to quit your job, or to take your retirement and go.
We are looking as a ministerial staff at some interesting and fascinating ways in various parts of the world for short-term mission to go on. We are already doing work in various places in East Asia, and in the Caribbean, in Haiti, and other places. There are opportunities in Eastern Europe if you are interested. Keep aware of what we are doing. We are looking at some strategic things: smaller teams sent for shorter amount of time to serve as an encouragement to missionaries. We are looking to do more and more things. Get involved.