The Prime Directive
Our theme for 2020 is “Seeing Spiritually.”
Our current series is entitled “Be the Church!”
Two weeks ago I preached a message entitled “A community of the called” where we looked at the origin of the church.
I closed that message with Matthew 28:19 and the statement that this was the last directive given to the church.
Jesus’ words are usually referred to as “The Great Commission.” Since that term is so familiar to most Christians, I thought it might be helpful to call it “the prime directive.”
The prime directive is a term which a single order or command from which more specific directions are derived.
In risk management, the prime directive is to eliminate as many “unknowns” as possible.
This is what guides research and decision making in a crisis.
The object is to identify as many variable outcomes as possible, calculate probabilities and have contingencies in place for each scenario.
If you’re a Star Trek fan, then “the prime directive” refers to a law which governs the Starfleet Command that they are not to interfere with the natural development of alien planets.
The prime directive is a much debated topic by scyfi nerds because it could mean anything from “don’t take over another planet” to “don’t even communicate with other planets” because it might interfere with their natural evolution.
As a Pastor looking at these discussions, it would appear to be an indirect commentary on the Christian philosophy of missions.
When we take the gospel to developing countries is that “interference?”
Certainly there is a case to be made for respecting and appreciating the unique culture of each place on earth as “people made in God’s image,” and that image has many facets.
But bringing people back into relationship with God through Jesus Christ is exactly what the world needs!
As people who are "called out" of the world, who know God and who are redeemed and restored into His image through Christ, it is our prime directive to spread this message to the whole earth.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A voluntary obedience
A voluntary obedience
And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.
God uses people with less-than-perfect faith.
Why does Matthew record that some disciples doubted?
Some say that a better translation would be that they “hesitated.”
It doesn’t mean that they didn’t believe Jesus, just that they still had questions, concerns and things that they didn’t understand.
Thomas is probably the most famous “doubter.”
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas went on to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
St Thomas is said to have lived in three different regions in south India.
I visited a cave in Chennai where Thomas is said to have lived, a rock where he was said to have been praying when he was killed and the tomb where he was buried.
I personally know and have met believers in India who trace their spiritual heritage back to Thomas.
God’s sovereign plan utilizes human free-will.
Imagine if God ran the universe the way humans do...
Jesus would be standing on the mountain saying, “I’m not going to ascend to the Father until EVERYONE is worshipping!”
God is not insecure.
He allows us a free will and somehow that does not get in the way of His ultimate plan.
In fact, our will is essential in His plan.
You cannot have true faith without free will.
Those who are worshipping are doing so because they have realized and understood who Jesus is, God revealed Himself among us.
Later when Matthew records that they are to baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it shows that the original disciples understood that Jesus was part of a Divine Trinity.
The best kind of teaching is leading people to discover the truth for themselves.
It takes a Christ encounter to truly believe.
How could the disciples not know who Jesus was after the resurrection?
Luke tells us of two such disciples who did not recognize Jesus at first.
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Jesus walked with them and unpacked the Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah for them.
It wasn’t until He broke the bread with them that they suddenly recognized Him.
30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Last week we considered the question, “Where do believers come from?”
God works through people who have had a supernatural encounter with the living Christ to bring other people into a supernatural encounter with the living Christ.
What Jesus did for Thomas, He also did through Thomas.
What Jesus did for these disciples on the road to Emmaus, He wants to do through you!
A transfer of authority
A transfer of authority
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore...
God put people in charge of the earth.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God’s original design was that mankind would fill the earth with His goodness.
The concept of having dominion was not oppressive domination, but bringing order out of chaos as God did when He created the world.
God always had a mission in mind for His people.
All of creation is groaning until as people, we realize who we are called to be and take up our responsibility.
19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
Jesus, the God-man, acquired ultimate authority.
When Jesus was tempted in the dessert, He did what Adam did not do. He put Satan in his place.
He did not give in to the temptation even when satan offered to give Him the kingdoms of the world.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
Remember when satan told Adam and Eve that if they ate form the tree they would be like God? And they were already like God!
Jesus showed Satan that he did not have the authority that he claimed, rather, that that authority was God’s alone and God gave Jesus, the God-man that authority.
Jesus now gives us, Believers, authority in His name to subdue the earth and one day we will reign with Him.
Jesus restores God’s original mandate.
The first thing that God told us to do was to multiply and to fill the earth, effectively subduing the chaos and filling the earth with His goodness.
When Jesus tells His followers to go and make disciples, He is telling them to go and reproduce the new life, the new birth and the new creation that is begun in them.
Making disciples means reproducing the life of Christ in others.
We talked about this last week when we talked about becoming spiritual parents.
Paul told the Galatians to follow his example.
Baptizing means that reproducing the transformation of Christ.
Baptism is an outward demonstration of the metamorphosis that takes place when a person comes to Christ.
Teaching means reproducing the new character that we have in Christ.
We help people to apply the truth of who they are in Christ to how they live their lives.
An abiding presence
An abiding presence
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
You are never alone.
Jesus did not just commission His disciples and then leave them alone.
The Holy Spirit is the very presence of Christ which empowers His church.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
You get to participate with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their work of creating, blessing and ruling the world.
The Holy Spirit is the power of the church. You were never expected to do this on your own. You need the Holy Spirit!
Keep on beholding!
Look! Do you see it? I am still with you!
Our theme this year is “seeing spiritually.”
There is an invisible spirit realm all around us.
We can see the Holy Spirit, but like the wind, we see the evidence all around us.
And we learn to know the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.
The point is that unless you are beholding, you will miss the power of His presence.
Don’t go without the Holy Spirit!
Pentecost is coming.
From the time Jesus ascended until the Holy Spirit filled and empowered the church, they were waiting and watching.
They were praying and confessing and processing their hearts in preparation for was God was about to do.
Matthew leaves us with Jesus’ prime directive. Acts tell us that Jesus left one more instruction.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
We are no longer waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. The Holy Spirit has come.
Our waiting is to keep in step with the Spirit, to be sure that what we are doing is in the strength that God provides and not out of human striving.
This was not just how Jesus launched the church, but it is how the church is to operate throughout all time - even to the end of the age.
Questions for reflection:
Questions for reflection:
Was there a point in your life where you became absolutely convinced that Jesus is who He says He is? Where do you still have doubts? Can you state your questions in a way that God may answer?
What does it mean to you to know that you are commissioned, commanded and given a directive by Jesus Christ Himself? How do the plans that you have for your life include going and making disciples?
How is the Holy Spirit working in and through you? Are you trying to do the work that Jesus gave us to do in your own strength? Are you continually being filled with the Spirit?