Out You Go
Last week we covered the section of Matthew's Gospel that deals with Jesus' choice of the 12 Apostles for the task of taking the word of the kingdom into the harvest. Now we see that he presents a plan to them, sets parameters on the provision allowed for the work and outlines the process. Our text is from Matthew 10:5-15 and reads: These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"
I suppose we could say the most crucial thing in this entire section is the fact that Jesus tells the Apostles that they are not to go to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans. Instead Jesus says they are to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
It is interesting that Jesus says they are to go to the house of Israel. We have looked at the fact that Abraham was called to establish a universal house. We have also seen that the children of Israel were called to be a kingdom of priests. We may think it that if Abraham was called to establish a universal house then Jesus would not restrict his Apostles to an "Israel only" ministry. However, we need to recognize that the Universal House which Abraham established was bequeathed to his offspring meaning the children of Israel. When we look at the history of Israel it becomes clear (according to Exodus 19:4 –6), that Israel was called to expand this universal house to all nations through their priestly ministry. They failed to do this. In the days of David and Solomon the influence of Israel had extended from Egypt to the Euphrates but still they had not established that universal house which God had called them to oversee. In fact, Israel had failed to follow the Lord as he should. They could not be priests of Yahweh to the nations because they failed to follow Yahweh themselves.
We don't have time to go into it now but we need to realize something else about the children of Israel. The covenant that is of import to the offspring of Abraham is the Abrahamic covenant. In fact, the only other covenant that is of tremendous importance throughout the history of the people of God is the Davidic covenant. Indeed, we might say that the Davidic covenant is actually the Abrahamic covenant having undergone a certain refinement. In the covenant promise to David, God said that he would build David a house (2 Samuel 7:11). In any case the Mosaic dispensation was more of an interlude (according to Paul in the book of Galatians), even though it had become of the utmost importance to the Israelites in the days of Jesus Christ.
It is this Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic refinement of that covenant that finds expression in the activity of the Church after Christ had accomplished his work. It is only after Jesus Christ had fulfilled all the law and the prophets that the people of God were set free to establish that universal house. They were set free to establish that kingdom under the true David, Jesus Christ himself.
But at this point Jesus says that his Apostles are to go to Israel only. We have discussed before that Jesus focused his ministry on the Jewish people. We cannot say that this was entirely exclusive; he healed the Centurion's servant and cast the demon out of the daughter of the Phoenician woman. However Jesus had come to Earth in order to fulfill all that God had intended for the children of Israel. That first century was devoted to the evangelism of the Jewish people in order that the old covenant administration might come to a fitting conclusion. In other words, before the promises of the Abrahamic covenant could be offered to the world at large it was necessary that the then existing visible covenant community be given the opportunity to enter into fellowship with the Creator of the universe. The visible Church of Israel had the privilege of the law - the oracles of God - and before those oracles could be proclaimed at large God determined that the children of Israel would be given a final chance to follow after Gad. The Messiah came and the kingdom was proclaimed. They continued to enjoy the special favor of God during the time of "already but not yet" before the conclusion of the old covenant and the fullness of the new.
Therefore the Apostles were told to limit their ministry to the lost sheep of Israel. And as we have said before this exclusive character of the Gospel ministry was retained throughout most of the first century. No doubt after Christ had died and risen from the dead the church moved beyond the Jewish nation and began to find adherents within the Gentile world as well. Nevertheless, even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, would always go to the synagogue in whatever city he found himself before he would begin to evangelize the Gentiles. This is because Paul recognized that it was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to the Jewish people first (Acts 13:46).
What then is this kingdom that the Apostles were called to preach? Jesus told them to tell their audience that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In the Greek this means that the kingdom of God is beside you or right next to you. In other words, the kingdom of God is present here and now. The kingdom of God (as Jesus says in another instance), is in your midst. This is to say that they were not supposed to teach that the kingdom was going to come sometime in the future but that the kingdom of God had already arrived. And this kingdom which they were teaching about is the reign of Jesus the Christ. It is the rule of the Messiah that has been realized in Jesus of Nazareth.
This is what the Jews had been waiting for over a period of centuries. The Jews were expecting a Messiah to come and overthrow the Romans by conventional military means. Therefore, when the Apostles came saying that the kingdom of God was here right now I can imagine that the audience would quickly look all about, wondering why they had not heard the sound of a marching army. They would be expecting to see a throng in the train of a mighty warrior astride a white charger brandishing a flashing sword of victory. However, they would soon realize that these dusty messengers from Galilee had something else in mind. Rather than a kingdom that is of this world they were proclaiming a kingdom from heaven.
It is difficult for us to understand how shocking this message would have been to the first century Jew. To suggest that the kingdom of God - the rule of the Messiah - is "nothing more" then his authority in the life of the individual and their arena of activity would be anathema. The "man on the street" in Judea and Galilee would find the proclamation of a kingdom embodied in a simple carpenter from Nazareth to be nothing less than balderdash. Unless the listener had been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit their disappointment would be palpable and I imagine a sense of discouragement would have stolen over the apostolic messengers. However, if the Spirit of God was working in the heart of the subject they would be moved to understand that which is unknowable by human reckoning.
This kingdom that they were preaching, this kingdom that Jesus told them to proclaim to the lost sheep of Israel, was a kingdom of the Spirit. Certainly it would be demonstrated in the physical realm as each individual recognized their Messiah and began to live a life according to his commands. But there would be no army marching forth to war. There would be no overthrow of the existing Roman government. The original audience would not understand that the kingdom of God is not about replacing governments but about redeeming and reforming them as the lives of those who participate in those regimes are redeemed and reformed.
The sad fact is that there are many Christians who are just like the Jews of the first century. The Jews of the first century were looking for a conquering Messiah who would destroy the enemies of the community of faith. with physical strength Far too many Christians are waiting for the same thing today. They're waiting for a Messiah who will come from heaven and destroy all the enemies of God.
Some of you have heard me say that there are only two positions that we might hold on eschatology. One position claims the Gospel will fail. The second position claims of the Gospel will succeed. No matter what you believe about eschatology those are the only two choices. You might be pre trib, post-trib, or mid-trib pre-millennial. You might be traditional premillennial. You might be dispensational pre-millennial. You may be post-millennial. You might be traditional amillennial or positive amillennial or any other flavor of eschatology you care to list. But it all boils down to this question: do you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will succeed in this age or do you believe that it will fail?
The Jews of the first century by and large believed that the covenant of God was a failure. Certainly, it made a difference in the lives of the Jewish people in that the Mosaic tradition ordered every aspect of our lives but it did not extend its influence beyond that singular nation. Thus, the Jews of the first century were pessimistic concerning the victory of God's covenant promises. They did not believe that the Messiah had the ability to rein in this realm apart from a physical overthrow of the enemies of God. They did not believe that God would establish the Universal House of Abraham and the messianic kingdom of Davidic apart from material means. Therefore when they heard the word of the kingdom from the Apostles they would be shocked to find that the Messiah that the Apostles were preaching would bring success to the covenant promises of God in a spiritual way.
This is part of the reason that it was necessary that the word of the kingdom be underscored by the works of power that Jesus performed - and according to this text his Apostles performed as well. Because the proclamation of a spiritual kingdom was foreign to the expectations of the Jewish people, God saw fit to verify the message with these works of power.
The Apostles were given the authority to heal the sick. This would not be the kind of activity expected of a conquering army. It would have been highly unusual for a military organization of the ancient world to have any concern whatsoever for the sick and hurting people in the civilian population. Indeed, the armies of the ancient world would routinely plunder and abuse the helpless civilians who lived in conquered territory and home territory alike. Therefore, if the kingdom of God had truly come and this was its character then the confusion of the nonbelieving Jew would be compounded. Indeed the Apostles were told to cleanse the lepers. They were called to show compassion to these outcasts of Jewish society and restore them to the place of fellowship. Again, this is not typical behavior for a military organization.
Remember when John the Baptist was asked about appropriate behavior by the soldiers? Keep in mind that - most likely - these were Herod's soldiers In other words they were not members of the conquering military but were second rate soldiers of a client king or more precisely a governor. And yet it was typical of those soldiers of Herod to use their position to oppress their countrymen.
Thus, you can see how odd the claim of the Apostles would be to the Jews. Already it was strange that the life of Jesus was characterized by good deeds. There were some who believed that he was the Messiah but only because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their heart. Now that his Apostles were going out to proclaimed the kingdom as a current reality they would be all the more amazed to find that the "shock troops" of this kingdom doing good deeds rather than demanding tribute. And yet this is what Jesus told them to do.
The text also says that Christ instructed them to "raise the dead." That clause is not found in the Majority Text. I'm not suggesting that it would have been impossible for the Apostles to raise people from the dead. However, because I tend to embrace the Majority Text over other editions of the Greek text I would suggest to you that this clause was a later addition. Without a doubt, the Apostles did raise people from the dead after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know of Peter, for instance, who went to Joppa and was used by God to raise Dorcas from the dead.
However, in this particular case I'm not sure it was something they were called to do. Our best bet is to say that we don't know. Because the Greek is inconclusive here we can simply say that they certainly would have had the power to raise people from the dead but we aren't sure that this is something Jesus had instructed them to do at this particular point.
We do know that they cast out demons. Later we will see an instance when the Apostles were unsuccessful in casting out an unclean spirit. However, the implication is that they had experienced success at other times. Thus the final good deed that the Apostles are called to do in preaching the kingdom is to cast out unclean spirits.
All of this is evidence of the dramatic change that is taking place with the coming of the Messiah. Last week we discussed the fact that the Apostles were given authority over unclean spirits. This would have been a dramatic change from the status quo. For centuries mankind had been under the authority of the angels. Those who were in relationship with God and his covenant community would be under the authority of the good angels. Those who remained in the kingdom of darkness would be under the authority of fallen angels. In either case mankind was under the power and oversight of the angelic realm.
A dramatic change took place when Jesus Christ came. The son of man arrived to restore humanity to its proper position in the created order. Therefore, the Apostles had authority over unclean spirits. In fact, the Apostles had authority that would not normally be granted to mere human beings.
This was a foretaste of the new age. This was an preview of the kind of authority and power that mankind was supposed to have in Jesus Christ. Indeed I will go so far to say that it is the type of authority and power that mankind was created to have. The working of these miraculous powers are subject to the teaching of the Scripture but the fact remains that in Jesus Christ humanity has been given the ability to exercise these supernatural gifts.
One of these days I will cover in a series (perhaps as early as next year) the truth about the charismata and what it means to be living in the power of the Holy Spirit in this age. For now it will be sufficient to say that the Apostles were sent forth in the power of the Son of Man expressing the nature of Christ and exhibiting the character of a read deemed and reformed humanity.
Finally the plan is completed with the instruction to give of themselves freely to the lost sheep of Israel. All that they have from Jesus Christ they received freely and therefore they are called to express the ministry of Jesus Christ without expecting remuneration. It would have been common for the Jewish itinerant preachers and exorcists to have a schedule of fees that they would charge for their various activities. In contrast the Apostles are supposed to teach and do good to their fellow Jews without any request for payment.
Jesus told his disciples not to ask for any money for the performance of their service. He also tells them that they're not supposed to take any money with them. Jesus is emphatic about this prohibition. He goes so far as to enumerate every possible kind of money that the disciples might have carried with them. He says no gold, no silver, nor copper. And I imagine at this point the Apostles wondered if it would be okay if they were to take a few "slugs" with them. Really though, it is clear that Jesus will allow no argument on this issue.
It's not just money he prohibited; a travel bag was also forbidden. Typically a traveler of the first century would have a bag slung about his shoulders which would contain food for the journey and possibly additional necessities. Christ said that they should not even take that. They're not supposed to pack additional clothing, additional shoes or even supply themselves with a staff if they do not already have one. At that statement I can picture the disciples gathered around Jesus glancing at one another to see who has a staff and who doesn't. Those without a staff probably got an elbow in the ribs from some of the other Apostles who did have a staff. Jesus was not prohibiting them from taking what they already had but he did not want them to prepare for this journey through the purchase or procurement of additional clothing or equipment.
The reason for this is that the "worker is worthy of his food." Now, that is the practical reason but the underlying reason is the simple fact that Jesus does not want them to depend upon themselves during the journey. Indeed, he does not even want them to depend upon the people that they will be staying with. From a practical standpoint that is what they will do - depend upon the good graces of strangers - but in reality they are resting upon the provision of the Lord.
Do you see the importance of this? Jesus was sending them out with a radical message. He was sending them out with the ability to display a change of circumstances that would be "mind blowing" to the first century Jew. He was sending them out (as we shall see), as sheep among wolves. There is no way they could be successful in this venture if they depended upon their own strength. Christ desires the Apostles to be fully aware of their complete dependence upon their Father in heaven. Yes, there would be those who provided shelter and food for them but it is only because their hearts had been touched by the Spirit of God that they would open their doors to the Apostles. The Apostles must understand, says Jesus, that they are ambassadors for the messianic reign and are provided for by that same Messiah.
Therefore, they are not allowed to take anything beyond the clothes on their back and the staff in their hand. They are not allowed to buy extra sandals or find a walking stick. Jesus wants them to depend on nothing except the power of the Father in heaven.
And the way that the Lord provides for them is through the people to whom they will minister. Jesus said that the worker is worthy of his wages. What this tells us is that the minister of the Gospel should not seek to enrich himself by fulfilling his duty. He is not supposed to charge for his services. He is not supposed to expect to have extra money or clothing or equipment. Instead, he is supposed to rest in the Lord's provision as provided by those to whom the ministers.
The apostle Paul spoke to this issue as well. He said that his apostolic ministry was supposed to be funded by those to whom he ministered. Granted, Paul would sometimes forego that right in order to short-circuit his enemies' attempts to stop his ministry. But, he makes it clear that a minister is supposed to receive his living from the Gospel. It is interesting that in his argument concerning this issue Paul makes use of the Mosaic law and says that the principal concerning the unmuzzled ox treading grain is really about a minister receiving his upkeep from his service.
Thus the provision for the outworking of the plan comes from the hand of God through those who hear the message. This of course depends upon the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of those who hear the Apostles. Thereby, all of this rests upon the power of the Spirit and the grace of the Father.
Jesus told the Apostles to go about the work of this ministry in a particular fashion. He said that whenever they come to a city or town they were supposed to inquire concerning who was worthy in that town. Once they received this intelligence they were commanded by Christ to proceed to that person's home and seek shelter there while they ministered in that vicinity.
But who is a worthy person? How are they Apostles supposed to know who is worthy in any given community? Well, this should be obvious. A worthy man is known by his reputation. I suppose that if you came into this town of Cottonwood for the very first time in your life and began to ask around the community who is the most "worthy" person in town you would hear a variety of responses. If you were to ask who it is in this town who has the best reputation you might hear a number of names but I am willing to bet that there would be at least one person whose name would be mentioned the most. I'm not saying I know who that would be. But in a small community such as this people develop a reputation and that reputation becomes known to the rest of the community.
The towns and villages that the Apostles would travel to as they proclaimed the kingdom would normally be small like our town. Therefore, it would not take long for them to discover who was "worthy" in any particular town.
To be worthy is to be someone who is godly. The Apostles were not being told to look for someone who had a reputation as a sharp businessman. They were not being told to seek out someone who had the financial means to shelter them while they ministered in that vicinity. They were not being told to seek out the person who had a reputation for religiosity. Jesus is saying that they should look for the household which is known for its godliness. They should look for the household which is known for its hospitality, for its morality, for its care for friends and neighbors, for its adherence to the Word of God. A household that was worthy would be a household characterized by compassion and love and a desire to serve Almighty God. This is what makes a worthy household. This is what the Apostles were supposed to look for. If they found a house that was worthy according to this criteria then they would find a household which was receptive to the word of the kingdom. This kind of household would not be hung up on the idea of a militaristic Messiah. Instead they would be a household ready to hear the word of a spiritual kingdom with an expression in this realm through the lives of those who were committed to the authority of the Messiah. Once the Apostles found a house like that they were supposed to stay with that family until they had completed their work in that community.
Jesus said that when they went into that household they were supposed to extend a greeting. When Jesus sent out the 72 on a mission much like the one which the Apostles were embarking on, he told them to greet the house by saying "peace be upon this house." This is much more than suggesting that the House would enjoy a lack of commotion.
If we understand "peace" in a covenantal sense we understand that it has to do with right relationship with God. Jesus is called the Prince of peace because he brings a cessation of war between humanity and Almighty God. Peace is a state of covenant relationship with the Creator of the universe. Therefore, when the Apostles came to a house and said "peace be upon this house" they were blessing that household with the hope of relationship to the Creator. Now, Jesus said that if it is truly a worthy household then the peace, the blessing of relationship with the Creator, would remain upon that house. You see, a worthy house - as we have seen - is a house that is receptive to the word of the kingdom. A worthy house is a house that embraces the spiritual reign of the Messiah. A worthy house is a house that understands they have the responsibility to manifest the rule of the Messiah in their arena of activity through obedience to his will. Therefore, to express this blessing is to speak the truth that a worthy house will experience a state of peace with the Creator of the universe.
But it was only if the house was worthy that the peace would come upon it. Jesus said that if it was not worthy then the peace of the Apostles would return to them. In other words, if the house was not truly a worthy household then this conclusion of enmity between God and that family would not take place. If they were not willing to receive the Apostles nor the message of the kingdom then they were not a worthy household. Indeed Jesus took this a step further when he said that any household or city which refused to hear the messianic message should be treated like pagans.
You see, when a pious Jew would leave a Gentile - or Samaritan - region he would, before stepping across the border, shake the dust of that territory from his clothing. This was a symbolic act wherein the Jew was doing all that he could to keep the defilement of the pagan area from contaminating holy Jewish soil. Therefore, to shake the dust off one's feet when leaving a home or a community is to signify that the household or town was not truly Jewish but was indeed heathen and contrary to the things of God.
The apostle Paul did this when the Jews in Antioch and Corinth rejected the word of the kingdom (Acts 13:51, 18:6). We need to understand the significance of this gesture. Paul was saying through this action that the Jews in Antioch and Corinth who refused the message of the Gospel were no better than the pagans. In other words they were not part of the chosen people but were instead heathens.
This is what Jesus is telling his Apostles. When they go to these Jewish households or towns that reject them they are supposed to show that this household or town is not actually part of the true Israel. They are to shake this defiled ground from their clothing and move on to those who will receive the word of the kingdom.
The penalty for this rejection of the Apostles message is quite severe. Christ says that "it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment and for that city!" Now, is Christ saying that household or town will be subject to greater punishment on the day of final judgment? That may be; it may also be that he is saying they will receive temporal judgment of a severe kind.
You see, Sodom and Gomorrah received their judgment in the temporal realm. This is not to say that the wicked people of those towns will not receive some form of punishment which exceeds the norm in eternity but we don't know that for sure. What we do know for certain is that Sodom and Gomorrah received punishment in the temporal realm. Therefore it is likely that Jesus Christ is referring to the judgment that came upon Israel in the conclusion of the old covenant age. When the Roman armies swept through Galilee and Judah in route to Jerusalem where they destroyed the city and the Temple terrible hardship fell upon some portions of Galilee. According to Josephus, there were some cities that were completely destroyed by the Romans with the population either killed or sent into slavery. This very well may have been in fulfillment of Jesus prophecy here concerning those cities and towns that rejected the message of the kingdom from the lips of the Apostles. In any case, we can rest assured that to reject the Gospel message is to seal one's fate. This is the unforgivable sin, to reject the wooing of the Holy Spirit when the word of salvation is brought to bear.
Application: The Plan
We have already made the point that not every Believer is called to "the ministry." On the other hand every Christian, every household is called to manifest the reign of Jesus Christ in their arena of activity. Therefore every one of us must look at this plan that Jesus gave to his Apostles and seek to make it our own. I would submit to you that we have plenty of lost sheep of "Israel" to whom we may go. The church at large is full of people who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The church at large is full of people who "made a decision" at a crusade or perhaps signed a card but have never worked to make their life an example of Christlikeness. There are millions of people who are members of the visible Church but have failed to come under the authority of the head of that Church who is Jesus Christ. Therefore we have a responsibility as those who know Jesus and are in relationship with the Father through him - we have the responsibility to take the word of the kingdom to the lost sheep of the new covenant Israel.
We can do this by living a life that is pleasing to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi said that we should preach the Gospel wherever we go and if necessary use words. But in order to do this we must understand what the kingdom of God is all about. We must understand that it is a spiritual kingdom which manifests itself in the material realm through the obedience of the followers of the Messiah.
I would further suggest we do not have the authority to perform the mighty deeds which the Apostles performed in their ministry work. I said that the miraculous events recorded in the New Testament were designed to confirm the fact that the Messiah had arrived. In this day and age, in the ordered and more mature church, expressions of the Holy Spirit's presence and power must conform to biblical principles of order. For instance, there should be no one traveling about with a "healing ministry" claiming to do the work of the kingdom. That is not the case. They are in fact committing sin as far as I'm concerned. According to the Bible, healing must take place in the mature Church through the office of the eldership with prayer and the anointing of oil. It's not a three ring circus; instead it is a very simple and orderly prayer for healing with the accompaniment of the symbol of the Spirit's power in the oil. Thus the healing, the cleansing of the leper and any other action that would restore a person to physical health is to be dealt with in the established Church through the ministry of the eldership. This precludes any kind of traveling carnival show where people knock folks down by the "power of the Spirit" or "heal" those two come to their exhibition. The Holy Spirit works through the institution of the Church.
We have already covered the issue of exorcism and so I will simply say that it should not be a common occurrence in a Christian nation. In the first place a Christian - someone who is truly born-again - cannot be possessed by a demon in any way. Secondly, in a Christian land there should be much less demonic activity to be concerned with. As I mentioned before, we may see things change in this nation as we move further away from our Christian heritage. In any case, I believe that the exorcism of demons should be conducted by those who are under the authority of an established church. They may be missionaries who have been sent out from the church to foreign lands or it may be a situation when someone is brought to the community of faith and is ministered to by the established eldership of the local church. Once again, I believe that the Bible would speak against the traveling ministry of exorcism in the mature Church age.
What this should tell us is that we are satisfied with a truncated version of the Church in this age of the Son of Man. Part of the reason is that we don't want to get ourselves mixed up with any kind of a charismatic chaos. It is unfortunate that the Pentecostal and charismatic factions within the church at large have given a bad name to the person of the Trinity known as the Holy Spirit. They have treated the Holy Spirit like an abstract power rather than a person. It is only by the grace of God that they see any evidence of the Spirit in their worship. Indeed, based on what I know about the Pentecostal and charismatic expression of the faith I would suggest that the majority of what they call the evidence of the Spirit is actually emotionalism or just plain old faking it.
In the mature church which exists in this age of the Son of Man the person of the Holy Spirit is to be honored and his power is expressed through orderly ministry which conforms to the teaching of the Scripture.
Application: The Provision
I'm going to apply this section of our text to all of us rather than to the ministry. All of us must "seek first the kingdom of God" and expect that all the things we need in this life will be added unto us.
Obviously it is not wrong to work in order to supply our needs. Paul said to the Church in Thessalonica that if a man will not work that he should not eat. He also said in a letter to his protégé Timothy that any man who does not care for his own household is worse than an unbeliever. Therefore we know that one of the responsibilities of a Christian is to work so as to supply for his own needs.
At the same time we must trust the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread." We must rest upon the provision of our father in heaven and not be concerned about tomorrow. If the Lord was able to provide for the Apostles when they were out doing the work of the kingdom then he is able to provide for us today.
I know it is difficult sometimes to have faith concerning the Lord's provision when the bills come due. It can be hard to have faith in the Lord's care for us when we don't have enough money to put food on the table. It strains our trust in the Creator and our belief in his love for us when we are unable to pay the dentist or the doctor bill or the utility bill. I've experienced this and I'm sure many of you have as well. Nevertheless, God will provide for us. I think part of the reason that we experience such hardship and anxiety over our financial state is because we refuse to live in faith. I'm not saying we should throw out all of our material possessions and then stand there with our hands open hoping that God will fill them. No, I am saying that if we live in faith we will no longer have the anxiety we now experience when finances run short.
I encourage you seek the Lord for provision. Seeking for material provision and for spiritual sustenance. We must embrace our Lord Jesus Christ and hold him tight in every aspect of our life.
Application: The Process
I believe God calls us to look for worthy households to join us in the work of the ministry. Really this is what the Apostles were called to do. They were not asked to look for worthy households in order to enlist them in preaching the word of the kingdom but they were looking for worthy households in order to find a base from which they might perform the ministry the Lord had assigned to them. Likewise we should seek out worthy households to join us in the work of Cottonwood Community Church. But how are we supposed to do that?
The first thing we must do is pray. In our Thursday night prayer time we always pray that the Lord will add members to this church. We want God to bring people to this church he would like to have here. I have said before that I would like this church to grow through evangelism. Nonetheless, we do require a core-group of believers around which a church might be built. Don't get me wrong; we have a core group of believers here now. But I think you would all agree with me that we need more "worthy households" to be part of what we are doing here at Cottonwood Community Church in order to provide a stable, solid core to build upon.
The second thing we need to do is to tell others about what is going on at our church. A good way to do this is to tell them about the website. They can go to the website and see what this church believes. They can read the history of the Church, find out what is going on in the church, read over a Sunday bulletin and they can listen to the sermons. Then, if they feel that the Holy Spirit is leading them to become a part of our work they will come at the invitation of one of you. This is an important aspect of church growth. Most people attend a church for the first time because of an invitation. So, the second thing we need to do is to talk to folks about Cottonwood Community Church and invite them to visit.
A third thing we can do is support the community canvassing effort either by helping place the door hangers or through prayer. This project is going to take place sometime after the county fair so I would ask you to be in prayer about it even now.
God calls all of us to participate in his plan to proclaim the word of the kingdom. We cannot forget that to do so effectively requires a commitment to cultivate the new creation and to manifest the rule of Jesus Christ in our life.
We live in an exciting time. Indeed, we live in an age when the church is still young and we have the opportunity to continue to lay groundwork for the generations to come. We can either lay a shaky foundation or we can be part of the community of faith which lays down a solid base. In order to be setting a sturdy stone in place we need to understand the plan of the kingdom, we need to faithfully seek God’s provision as we do his work and we need to manifest his wisdom in the process of demonstrating the messianic reign of Jesus Christ.
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