Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

Index of Articles
reprinted from the September 2000 edition of Essentials  
  Jesus the Saviour - a sermon Steve is currently working as a missionary for CMS.
  Matthew finishes his gospel with the Great Commission.This comes as a logical conclusion to themes developed in the rest of his book.  
  Some of these themes are already introduced in chapter 1.  
  God's Plan  
  In the list of names at the start of Matthew 1 is the family tree of Jesusgoing right back to Abraham, the father of the Jews.  
  We might think that such a list is irrelevant for us, but it is not as foreign as we might imagine.  
  You might think of it as a hall of fame  
  Maybe a gallery with paintings of famous people in it.  
  At Ridley College in the dining hall there are paintings of all the past Principles.  
  Leon Morris is the most familiar name. Graeme Cole is not there yet.  
  You might remember that we used to have pictures of the Queen in all our schools. Some small country schools still do.  
  In Pakistan they have pictures of Jinnah, the founder of the nation, in schools and shops and often in houses.  
  I am going to read out some lists of names.  
  I want you to see how meaningful they are to you:  
  Some Archbishops:  
  Keith Rayner, Peter Watson, Harry Goodhew, Peter Carnley  
  Some Prime ministers:  
  Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard  
  Some cricketers:  
  Greg Chapell, Dennis Lillee, Mark Taylor, Hansie Cronje  
  I imagine that this list of names in Matthew 1 may have had a similar effect on the Jews as they remembered their history as a nation.  
  Starting from v 2 Matthew gives us an account of the children and descendants of Abraham, he who was too old to father children,  
  whose wife laughed when she was told the good news.  
  God promised that through him he would bless all the families of the earth.  
  In v 6 came the high point in the nation's life: King David.  
  God promised him a great name, and peace for Israel.  
  Yet it was not long before the sin of the people was so great that they were taken into exile in Babylon. They are reminded of this in v 11.  
  Their return had been such a disappointment, for even as Matthew was writing, they were suffering under Roman rule.  
  But Matthew does not stop there!  
  It is from the line of David that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born,  
  (v 16) and in v 21 he tells us that this is the one who will save his people from their sin!  
  Matthew has actually done some crafting to get three groups of 14 in v 17,  
  but that serves to demonstrate more clearly his point: Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel's history and God's promises.  
  What Matthew wants to say is that Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel's history and God's promises!  
  Being involved in mission is getting involved with God's plans.  
  Plans that stretch right back through Jesus and King David to Abraham  
  and the beginning of the world.  
  I like to make plans. I often tend to be a bit ambitious and aren't so good at achieving them.  
  Matthew here is presenting us with God's big strategy for the world.  
  It is a bit bigger than a ten year plan!  
  This is his eternity plan!  
  Matthew is showing us the progress so far, and then showing us that the key to its future success is the man Jesus.  
  In the Great Commission, Jesus is inviting us to get involved in God's plans.  
  We can go on with our own plans for our lives, but if they are not in line with God's plans for the world, then we are wasting our time.  
  We can choose to be a part of it, or we can follow do our own plans, which are sure to be frustrated.  
  God's Grace  
  If we take another look at the family tree  
  we can see further signs of God's grace  
  Matthew lists 4 women: Tamar (v 3), Rahab and Ruth (v 5), and Bathsheeba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (v 6).  
  They are not the most famous women of Israel.  
  We might expect to see the wives of the patriarchs: Sarah, Rachel and Rebecca  
  The three who are named, Tamar, Rahab and Ruth are not Jews.  
  There are Gentiles in the family line!  
  And Bathsheba who is not named is described as the wife of Uriah the Hittite, also a Gentile!  
  We know a little about the private lives of three of these women.  
  Tamar deceived her father in law Judah by acting as a prostitute in order to have a child by him.  
  Rahab is probably the prostitute who sheltered Israel's spies.  
  The great King David watched Bathsheba having a bath, slept with her,  
  then had her husband killed.  
  If this were your family, would you want others to know about it?  
  This is not what you would expect to see in the pedigree of the Messiah.  
  Why would Matthew want to tell us all of this about the Messiah?  
  Jesus did not come because the Jews had been good enough.  
  It was exactly the opposite  
  He came because they desperately needed him  
  The coming of Jesus was a sign of God's grace.  
  We saw that the last group of fourteen generations began when God sent the Jews into exile in Babylon, because they refused to listen to him, no matter how many prophets he sent to them.  
  They were a disobedient and rebellious and stubborn people  
  We have already seen another unexpected element in this family tree.  
  There are Gentiles involved. God's purposes are not limited to the Jews.  
  While the book of Matthew has a strong focus on the Jews, it begins and ends with a reminder that God's plans involve the whole world.  
  We need to remember: that includes us!  
  We are undeserving and we have experienced this grace nevertheless!  
  Mission is sharing the good news of God's grace with an undeserving world.  
  While many in Australia reject this message, there are many more people in other countries who haven't even had the opportunity to hear it!  
  That is why Jesus gave the great commission in the first place!  
  God's Son  
  Matthew has told us a surprising amount about God's plans and his grace through this list of names.  
  He ties this together in the story of the naming of Jesus.  
  Matthew is telling us first about the goal of the mission of Jesus:  
  "She [Mary] will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  
  for he will save the people from their sins." (v 21)  
  Matthew then tells us about the means God will use:  
  "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." (v 23)  
  Our mission  
  The coming of Jesus is part of God's plan.  
  It involves grace to undeserving sinners.  
  It is a message of salvation from sin.  
  Matthew is making the point that salvation is from God.  
  Jesus is God with us.  
  In Matthew 28 Jesus tells the eleven that his authority comes from God and then tells them that he will be with them.  
  The implications for mission are obvious.  
  We get involved in mission because it is God's idea, and because God is with us in the task  
  The gospel is the way that God has chosen to fix the problems of the world, to rescue the world from sin, the greatest problem of all, and the cause of all other problems.  
  The gospel is the message we proclaim;  
  it is also the motivation for being involved.  
  The gospel has motivated me to be involved in overseas missions.  
  When I was growing up, I would often feel guilty when I heard sermons on the Great Commission.  
  I thought that God might want me to be a missionary, but always felt that I didn't have enough faith or courage or whatever it took.  
  I'm still not sure that I do!  
  I went through a period of uncertainty about my faith.  
  When I was challenged about missions or some aspect of my Christian life,  
  I used to feel guilty  
  I used to think that maybe I wasn't a Christian, because I wasn't committed enough.  
  A significant time for me was when I came to understand the gospel properly.  
  I came to understand that it was not my faith or commitment that saved me but God.  
  I was a Christian because Jesus saved me from sin.  
  I wasn't saved because I was good enough, or committed enough, but because of God's grace  
  The funny thing was that as I came to understand grace and stopped feeling guilty, God began to change me so that I actually wanted to do what he wanted me to do.  
  I actually wanted to be part of his plans for the world  
  Like missionary work for example.  
  Having been to Pakistan a number of times, I actually like the place!  
  I like eating curries, I like the people.  
  The church has a great need for good Bible teaching, something else I enjoy doing.  
  I have experienced the blessings of hearing the gospel and want more people in Pakistan to have this opportunity.  
  The Great Commission is no longer a chore, something that produces guilt in me, but something that I want to do.  
  Of course we don't always feel like that, so we became members of the Church Missionary Society.  
  CMS is a society of like minded people, both supporters and missionaries with fire in their belly because they have experienced the blessings of the gospel and they want people in other countries to hear also.  
  They want to be a part of God's plan.  
  CMS is a society that is rooted in the gospel, the message of salvation.  
  I pray that God will give all of us fire in our bellies for the gospel.  

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