Matthew 28:16-20 (Part 4) – The Present Tense of Being Christians (Part 1)

Posted: May 11, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 28:16-20 (Part 4)

Jesus Gives the Great Commission

Remember back in school, whether it be college or high school, where your English teacher or teacher of a subject where you had to write a term paper would critique your writing for how you used the English language as much as for what you actually said in the paper. It was frustrating at times to get bogged down in proper usage of the language when you to get to what they thought about what you wrote. I am not sure of the technical term now but one of the things they stayed on me about was having an active tense of writing vs. a passive tense. What teachers want to see is the subject of the sentence to be the one controlling the action of the verb not some noun in the predicate of the sentence. When the subject noun is the one doing the action of the verb sentences tend to be in the present and active tense. The subject is acting upon instead of being acted upon. Writing in the present tense seems to be more imminent and more engaging. Since I tend to write in this blog in a free-flowing style, where I sometimes break grammatical rules just for effect and to personalize my writing, it is often difficult for me to switch gears back to academic writing. I do remember the rules though. It is that passive vs. active thing as a writing rule that has stuck with me more than a lot of the rules of writing in the English language. I may have broken several grammatical rules already without realizing it as I have written this introductory paragraph to my blog this morning. Oh the irony! However, that passive vs. active thing is one rule that has stuck with me over the years and I remember it even if I do not always observe it. What does active vs. passive have to do with our passage this morning? Mark, how are you going to transition from an illustration about grammatical rules into a nugget of meaning from the last passage in the Gospel of Matthew?

 

It is that idea of active vs. passage, present tense vs. past tense and so on that immediately came to mind when I re-read this passage this morning concentrating on the Great Commission command itself. With that in mind, Let’s re-read, Matthew 28:16-20, with special attention to vv. 19-20a:

 

 

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

In my illustration about writing style (active vs. passive writing), the preferred style of writing is the active tense. In the active tense, the writing comes alive because the subjects of sentences are the ones performing the action of the verb of the sentence. It just makes for bolder writing. It makes for lively writing. It creates action or sense of action. That is what comes through loud and clear in the Great Commission command. Let’s look at the present tense, active, current nature of the Great Commission. There is action required – Go! Make! Baptize! Teach! Action Jackson Christians are required. The Great Commission requires present tense action. It is active not passive.

 

Go is the first verb. Inherent in going is that we must leave where we are. Inherent in going is not standing still. It seems that many churches today take the Field of Dreams approach to church growth and evangelism. They say build it and they will come. Many churches spend money on their buildings and making them better, bigger and more appealing. Even us “new wave” churches can fall victim to that. We give traditional churches a hard time for all their brick and mortar and steeples and all that traditional looking churchy stuff. But we can be just as bad in the new wave of church style – what we call modern church. Man, I have been to churches of the modern variety who have buildings that are just the coolest looking things you will ever see. Also, at modern style churches, you see light and audio systems that rival some music studios or touring pop singers. We have our golden gooses too where we load up on spending money to please our church-goers of the modern worship preference. I am not saying that church buildings and expensive sound and light equipment are not necessary to get the message of the gospel across to the people within our doors, but we cannot forget to demonstrate “going” to our people and teach them to “go”. In order to make new disciples, we must go where those who need salvation are. We need to go. We need to have more friends that just the friends we have at church. We must be out there actively engaged in the lives of people around us, both as individual Christians and corporately. We cannot sit still. We must engage our neighbors, our co-workers, and the people we just hang out with. We must engage. We must go!

 

One of the dangers of church is that it can become inwardly focused and when that happens it can begin the long decaying process of church death. It has happened to many traditional churches over the past 30-40 years.  There are more churches closing their doors today than there are new churches opening. It happens when church becomes about us and we forget to “go”. When we remember that we are here to spread the gospel and not just entertain ourselves, When we remember that we are here to be the bright light on the hill and not just have programs to keep our kids busy, we find out that we have to “go”. We have to get out of our buildings and serve the community as a church. We must get out there and show the love of Christ in ways that are unexpected these days. We must give ourselves away without expectation of payback. When we give it away, they will come. When we show love without expectation of return, they will come. When we help in ways that others won’t, they will come. When we are more interested in investing our money in our community that we are about how big our investment balances are, then, we are going. I am not saying that churches should not set aside money for the future of the church, but when we spend more more internally on ourselves than we do investing in the community then the balance is off. We begin standing stil instead of going when we do that.

 

Jesus commanded us to go. He did not command us to stand still and wait. This is a command to us individually and in the corporate sense of us collectively as churches. We have a duty to Jesus to do what He commands. He is our Savior and Lord. He saved us from the depths of hell separated for all eternity from God and for the great thing He has done in us, we desire to give him our obedience. We must as individuals “go” and engage the world around us. We must share the gospel when the opportunities come up. We must share what Christ has done in our lives. We must live lives that reflect Him. We must be in Christ-like mode all the time not just on Sunday morning. We must be in go mode all the time. We must go and share the gospel. As churches, we must do that collectively. We must show the world that Christians are all about Jesus and not about hating everything. We must serve our communities and show people love in uncommon ways. We must be out in the community showing people who Jesus Christ really is. We must be willing to love the unlovable. We must be willing to be different from the culture. We must be willing to go! We must not sit still and complain about how the world is going to hell around us and get out there and go! We must go! We must! Go!

 

Amen and Amen.

 

 

PS>Tomorrow we will look at the verb, to make!

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