Monday, August 4, 2008

Go & Tell: the Commands

Along with the commission to service there are commands to follow. First, these commands dictate that the ambassador of Christ must fully depend on Christ. For the Apostles, faith and unbelief had just been juxtaposed (end of Mark 5 with the beginning of Mark 6). As the Lord sends out His messengers they are to completely trust Him for their provisions. They are to be adequately supplied, but not to the point of ceasing to live by faith. The minimum of provisions was meant to call out the maximum of faith. The Apostles were to depend on Christ, not their bank accounts, supplies, or the largesse of others. They were called to travel lightly, and this is a principle to which we must adhere.

American Christians and churches are in danger of having too much baggage. Instead of the freedom that traveling light brings, we are mostly in bondage to “things” . Through this text Christ warns us about being encumbered with too much stuff. The only thing the believer is to carry is his cross as he daily dies to self and follows Christ. Dependence is vital if we are to meet and evangelize a lost world. We are not on a pleasure cruise. We are not tourists. This is not where we are called to experience our best life. Yes, we will have joy and pleasure, and we will experience the best of this life, but only if we totally depend on Christ as we are sent forth to preach.

One cannot help but also notice the sense of urgency in the Lord’s commands. Christ was never in a hurry, but He did display a sense of urgency. There is a big difference between the two. There were men with one purpose, and nothing was to detract them from it.

The same is true of us. Our message – the message Christ and the Apostles proclaimed – is life or death urgent: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Their message was urgent, and that urgency was even visible in their deportment, their provisions, and their accommodations. Everything about them was to indicate that their visit would be brief: the villagers must respond now!

Christ’s representatives were to do as Jesus Himself would have done. They were to be about the Father’s business. There would be times for rest, but this was not one of them. The tone of their conversation, the style of their lives, everything about them was to reflect their Master; everything was to give expression to the seriousness and urgency of the message they brought from Him.

The commands that Jesus gave His apostles demonstrated the absolute dependence upon Him that was needed, and the absolute urgency of the message. This was (and is) literally a life and death situation. As such, His commands also signify the seriousness of receiving or rejecting the Gospel. The Lord had instructed the Apostles to shake off the dust from their feet as a testimony against those folks or the community that would not hear the Gospel. Christ even said that “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”

How could that be?! How could the wickedly immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrha fare better in the day of judgment that Jewish cities and towns? Surely a community or culture that, while not wholly regenerate but shaped by the Judeo/Christian ethic, surely such a place would be more leniently judged that the utterly vile and vulgar Sodom?!

Evidently not.

Here is what the good Bishop Ryle wrote on this topic:
Thousands appear to suppose that as long as they go to church, and do not murder, or steal, or cheat, or openly break any of God’s commandments, they are in no great danger. They forget that it needs something more than mere abstinence from outward irregularities to save a man’s soul. They do not see that one of the greatest sins a man can commit in the sight of God is to hear the Gospel of Christ and not believe it, to be invited to repent and believe, and yet remain careless and unbelieving. To reject the Gospel will sink a man to the lowest place in hell.
This is why Jesus commanded His Apostles to shake the dust from their feet if a city rejected their message. It was in no way an act of superiority. It was an act that the Jews of the 1st century would have immediately recognized. Orthodox Jews would carefully and ceremonially shake the dust of foreign lands from their sandals and clothing. This symbolically dissociated them from the pollution of the pagan lands and the judgment which was to come upon those lands. Therefore, when Christ’s representatives were rejected, which is tantamount to rejecting Christ remember, they were to shake that city’s dust from their sandals as a merciful, prophetic act designed to make the people deeply consider their spiritual condition.

This is serious. No one can afford to play around with this. What are you doing with the Gospel? Christianity as a cultural force has waned in this society, but it is still the predominate “brand” of religion. Bibles may be found in nearly every home, bookstore (physical or online), hotel room, or hospital waiting room. Church buildings dominate the landscape. The language of the Gospel, while receding from public consciousness, is still vaguely familiar.

Has it been received and believed? That is the question to be answered. Has the Gospel been obeyed? Have you laid hold of the hope that is set before you, taken up your cross, and followed Christ?

If the answer is “no” then you may not realize the severity of your situation. Those who hear but reject the glorious Gospel of Christ, and to reject it is to not believe it, are in jeopardy of facing a far worse judgment than even Sodom and Gomorrha. Search your heart and take heed that you do not ruin your own soul.

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