BY PASTOR GARETH on November 20, 2017
So I need to start today’s post with an apology. I had thought I sent the Scripture references and questions for the bulletin publication, but did not hit the “send” button. However, as promised yesterday morning, I am posting them here so that you can go and look them up again if it will help in your own reflections and study on our passage from yesterday morning.
Yesterday we had the second of our three messages in our November series: Cozy Christianity and the Counter-Cultural Christ. We have been looking at some hard sayings of Jesus about the nature and path of discipleship. Yesterday, we looked at part of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples as he prepares to send them out on mission in his name from Matthew 10:16-25. He prepares his disciples for the difficult journey ahead: they will face opposition. Jesus’ both encourages and reminds his disciples that they will not be spared the opposition Jesus has faced since “the student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Mt. 10:24).
At first blush, we might suppose that these instructions were directed solely to the group of twelve disciples, but taking into consideration the larger context of Matthew’s gospel, and the rest of the New Testament, we see that Jesus has a much longer view of his continued mission in mind. Knowing this, we too can expect to face opposition as followers of the counter-cultural Christ. As such, Jesus’ instructions to the disciples are just as important for us: we are sent by him into hostile territory, but we are also equipped for the task.
We are Sent into Hostile Territory
[Matthew 13:23, Matthew 13:30, Matthew 12:28, Matthew 16:18, Matthew 10:24, Matthew 10:25, Matthew 9:34]
“I am sending you out …” Jesus begins. Jesus intends to continue his mission – the message of His Kingdom – through his disciples. Looking only a little further into Matthew’s gospel (ch. 13), we see that Jesus sees this mission extending beyond his own lifetime. In the parables of the sower and the weeds, we clearly see a view to the ultimate end of all things when Jesus returns and those who belong to him are separated from those who are not. This view extends beyond his immediate disciples to all disciples of all times and places – Christ’s Kingdom will continue to advance through his followers until he returns.
However, this mission will not be easy, nor will it be free from opposition. The disciples are sent out “like sheep among wolves”. Jesus names the nature of this opposition in Matthew 10:16-25. Elsewhere in the gospel, however, Jesus identifies that the source of this opposition is ultimately spiritual and not human. The Kingdom of God is waging battle against the “principalities and powers” of this world (Matt. 12:28, 16:18; so also, Eph. 6:12). There is a very real enemy seeking to destroy and distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ through whatever means necessary. That battle carries on into the present day.
Though we may not experience persecution in the violent and often physical ways the early church did (as outlined by Jesus in our passage) and as many churches in the world today do, we cannot think for a moment that we, as Christians in the Western world, are free from persecution. If we truly take Jesus’ words to heart “the student is not above the teacher”, then we must acknowledge that we should expect similar opposition and treatment from the surrounding culture to the Kingdom in our midst. In reality, we do face opposition from the surrounding culture – largely in the arena of ideas. A simple search of social media on how Christianity is perceived in our current cultural context quickly educates us that the Gospel message is at odds with an autonomous culture that is not willing to accept the Lordship of Jesus (a la our message last week). However, this is by no means a reason to despair.
We are Equipped for the Task
[Matthew 10:19–20, Galatians 4:4–7, Galatians 3:5, Galatians 5:22–23, Ephesians 6:12]
Jesus promises the disciples in our passage (and by extension promises us) that we are equipped for this task of facing opposition: “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt. 10:19-20). Two very important things of note in this statement: first, that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of your Father” telling us that we are indeed adopted by God as his children (so also Gal. 4:4-7); second, that his Holy Spirit empowers us (Gal. 3:5), in this instance specifically in how to respond to the opposition we face.
As we saw in our recent series on Galatians, there are many ways in which God’s Holy Spirit works in and through us as his children. He assures us of our belonging to him, convicts of sin, but he also empowers us for God’s purposes in this world. It is indeed remarkable (and humbling) to understand that God works not only in us, but through us to accomplish his mission in this world. Understanding that the Kingdom has not reached its ultimate fulfillment yet, and that there is still spiritual opposition to the Gospel in the world until that time, then the primary means through which God continues the advancing of his Kingdom in this world is through us! But we need not be afraid, because we have the Holy Spirit in us!
Read over Matthew 10:16-25 at least 2 more times this week and reflect on the following:
- Are there areas in your life where you are experiencing opposition to your faith right now? What are they?
- Ask God to guide you in the way to respond to this opposition
- If there are things you need to let go of in order to let God work in and through you, do that
- If you are not experiencing any opposition, ask why that might be.
- How do you understand God’s Holy Spirit to be working in you right now? Through you?
- Ask God to show you where He is at work
- Pray for God to continue to teach and equip you through His Holy Spirit