The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Psalm 37:23)
The Great Commission is indeed great. But as we’ve been exploring in this series, there is great danger in treating the Great Commission as the only one Jesus left us.
One of those dangers is that it ironically makes us less effective at the Great Commission. Why? Because it makes Christians feel guilty for working in the very places most likely to make disciples!
Dr. Michael Green, an expert on the explosion of Christianity in the first few centuries, says that the historical evidence “makes it abundantly clear that in contrast to the present day, when Christianity is . . . dispensed by a professional clergy . . . in the early days the faith was spontaneously spread by informal evangelists,” who shared the gospel “in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls.”
That was true in the early church, and likely to be true for the...
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.…And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. (Matthew 10:7-8, 42)
When Jesus called his disciples to “proclaim” that his kingdom had come, he instructed them to “heal,” “cleanse,” and “give.” Not just evangelize and “save souls.”
Because of that, I’m confident that Scott Harrison and his team at charity: water are doing “kingdom work” by giving clean water to millions of the world’s poorest image-bearers.
But some Christians disagree. For example, a wealthy Christian we’ll call Bill once told Scott: “We're not going to give to charity: water because you're not...
After his suffering, [Jesus] presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
Last week, we saw that for the very first time in Church history, many Christians today have interpreted the “Great Commission” to “make disciples” as the singular mission of the Christian life.
If that’s true, then most of your work is meaningless. The product you’re building, the beauty you’re creating, the car you’re repairing—none of it matters unless you can leverage those things to the instrumental end of “sharing the gospel.”
Believer, this is an egregious lie. And a crazy dangerous one for reasons we’ll explore over the next four weeks. Here’s the first problem with treating the Great Commission as the only commission Jesus left us: Jesus himself never did!
Today’s passage tells us that Jesus...
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, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19–20)
One of the deepest and most dangerous lies in the Church today is that this passage—often labeled the “Great Commission”—is the singular mission of the Christian life.
This, of course, has tremendous implications for our work. Because if the Great Commission to “save souls” and “make disciples” is the only thing that matters for eternity, then most of us are wasting most of our time.
This is what many of us are being told explicitly by church leaders! In the words of one influential pastor, “The consequences of your mission [and here he’s talking exclusively about the Great Commission] will last forever; the consequences of your job will not.”
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery which led him to Egypt and his unjust incarceration. But God orchestrated these events to eventually put Joseph in a position of power second only to Pharaoh.
When his brothers needed Joseph to save their lives, they understandably feared that Joseph would choose to retaliate. But Joseph did the unexpected. He forgave them and claimed that “God intended” all his hardship “for good.”
Of course, it’s unlikely that Joseph ever described his circumstances as a slave and prisoner as “good.” But looking back over the course of many years, he could see how God used his suffering for a greater redemptive purpose.
One day, you and I will be able to do the same, if not on this side of eternity, then the other. That truth doesn’t make the pain we feel...
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me….I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:4-5, 7)
After Joseph was released from prison, he was appointed by Pharaoh to lead Egypt through a seven-year famine. Now, Joseph is one of the highest ranking government officials in Egypt, and through God’s power, an exceptionally good one.
For seven years, Joseph organized efforts to store up Egypt’s agricultural abundance. And when the famine hit, Egypt was so well prepared that “all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere” (Genesis 41:57). As today’s passage reveals, “all the world”...
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:15-16)
Joseph was in prison unjustly. So when the guards told him that the Pharaoh needed his skills, Joseph must have sensed some hope that maybe, just maybe, his talents as a dream interpreter could earn him a literal get out of jail free card.
With that context, we almost expect Joseph to trumpet his own abilities to Pharaoh. But when Pharaoh gives him that opportunity, Joseph deflects the glory that could have so easily been his.
What remarkable humility! Even though he was in the fight of his life where the temptation to glorify himself through his work must have been strong, Joseph recognized that it is God, not us, who produces results through our work. And thus, he alone deserves the...
Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:20-21a)
Joseph, the treasured son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his brothers and eventually wound up in Egypt working for Potiphar, an Egyptian official. And right from the start, Joseph proves to be exceptionally good at his job. Genesis 39:2-3 tells us that “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered...the Lord gave him success in everything he did.”
Seeing this, “Potiphar put [Joseph] in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:4). But after refusing to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph is wrongly accused of sexual harassment and thrown in prison.
In sum, Joseph goes from a state of helplessness as a slave, to a position of power in the palace, back to a place of great weakness as a prisoner. And...
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more…His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. (Genesis 37:5, 8)
God has given you a dream for your work.
Maybe it’s doubling your business so that you can provide more jobs that lead to human flourishing. Maybe it’s writing a book to help others learn from your mistakes. Maybe God has given you a dream for an entirely different career than the one you hold today.
If you have breath in your lungs, I’m confident that God has given you a dream for your work.
But I’m also confident that there are many moments when you feel a disconnect between your dream and your present reality—a gap between what God has placed in your heart and what he has placed in your hands.
Joseph understood the pain of staring into that gap...
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good….for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. (Romans 13:4,6)
Let’s face it: The brand of Christianity isn’t so hot right now. By and large, non-Christians perceive us to be judgmental and unloving, increasingly retreating into subcultural enclaves to sit on Facebook to rage about “the culture” rather than engage it.
Here’s something you can do today to help solve this problem: Celebrate the good in a non-Christian’s work. More than that, tell them that you see God working through them to do good in the world.
That’s what we’ve seen throughout this series on common grace! God gives good gifts of provision and vocational skill to “the righteous and the unrighteous” (see Matthew 5:45). And he works in this world through believers and non-believers alike as we see in Romans 13:1-6.
And so, while we will not agree with...