Trinity Sunday: “Go”

The Trinity ranks as the greatest mystery of Christianity. Here’s another Trinity Sunday sermon, preached on 15 June 2014.

Scripture reading: Psalm 8.
Sermon text: Matthew 28:16-20.

We live in a nation of restless souls.

The children of immigrants founded America. Immigrants, either voluntary or involuntary, built our nation. People from around the globe still travel here to escape ancient prejudices, recent debts, and class restrictions, believing in the dream of creating new lives for themselves and their children.

Even native-born Americans wander. We live in the most mobile nation on the planet. Americans think nothing of moving across the continent for a better job. We travel worldwide on vacations. We constantly look for something to fill our hearts, clear our minds, or bring excitement to our lives.

I see an opportunity here. As I see it, we have everything necessary to fulfill one of Jesus’ greatest desires: The desire of His people to go and proclaim the gospel.

Today, the Church celebrates “Trinity Sunday,” the Sunday on which we clearly teach one of the greatest the mysteries of the Christian faith: One God, Three Persons, each completely independent yet completely One with one another. Our belief in the Trinity separates Christianity from the other monotheistic religions. I believe it also gives us a fuller picture of God and helps us understand how God works in us to carry out His desire for the salvation of humanity and all creation.

After His resurrection, Jesus met the disciples in Galilee. St. Matthew recorded that Jesus had “directed” the disciples to go to a certain mountain in Galilee where He met them. We don’t know to which mountain St. Matthew referred, but we know the disciples obeyed Jesus and met Him there.

On this mountain, Jesus appeared to His disciples. St. Matthew wrote, “when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The disciples recognized Jesus as worthy of worship. Remember, all the original disciples believed in one God. As Jews, they had recited Moses’ teaching their entire lives: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). To the Jews, God and God alone deserved the worship of His people. St. Peter had already spoken for the disciples in his great confession of Jesus’ identity: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus’ resurrection further convinced the disciples of His deity.

Notice that although all the disciples worshiped, “some doubted.” I don’t think this should surprise us. Those of us who have lived inside the Church our entire lives often take for granted what we ask people to believe about Jesus. We ask people to believe in a man crucified by the Romans who then came back to life after lying dead in a grave for 3 days! Even the original disciples had trouble understanding what had happened, and they saw Jesus face to face after His resurrection. People sometimes need more tangible evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, of His life within His Church. More on that later.

As the disciples worshiped, Jesus told them,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Who gave Jesus, the Son of God, this authority? Only the Creator, God the Father, could grant this authority. Jesus had actively participated in the creation of all things, but as St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, He had “emptied Himself” of His heavenly attributes to dwell among us (Philippians 2:7). At His resurrection, Jesus received the authority of all creation, an authority He had possessed since the foundation of the world.

Because all authority rests with Jesus, He can command His people to carry the gospel, the good news, of His death for humanity’s sins and of His resurrection, by which He defeated sin and death. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus sent His disciples throughout the world, empowering them through the Holy Spirit to teach all He had commanded them and to make disciples of all who believed their message.

Once people believed the message of the gospel, Jesus told the disciples to baptize them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Everything proceeds from God the Father; salvation comes from the finished work of God the Son; conviction and belief comes from the work of God the Holy Spirit, who draws us to the cross of Christ for salvation and indwells us that we may know what God expects of us and how to live as Christ commands us.

Through God the Holy Spirit, Christ could truly say, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The omnipresent Holy Spirit constantly reminds us of Jesus’ presence in our lives.

One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; One Church, composed of all who believe the message of the Apostles; one great command, to go and make disciples.

How does this command apply to us today, at New Hope?

For one thing, I believe that we cannot go anywhere until we’ve arrived at the place where God can use us to carry the gospel. Too many Christians today have come to treat church as an option or an obligation. I don’t want you to see worship as an option; for a Christian, worship comes with the privilege of calling yourself a child of God. I want you to see worship as an opportunity to praise God for your salvation. I want you to see worship as an opportunity to pray for those around you, the hurting, hurtful, sorrowful, stubborn people who need Jesus.

You cannot worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23) without genuine conversion and repentance. For too long, too many Christians have desired Jesus’ salvation without accepting His command to live holy lives. I see a serious problem here. How can we go and tell others of Jesus when we refuse to live godly lives ourselves?

“Why would you say this, John?” I’m glad you asked. Let’s go back to Jesus words. In the English translations, the word “Go” appears as a command. Greek has an imperative tense, but Jesus didn’t use it when He said to “go.” The tense Jesus used here better implies, “As you go.” You cannot make disciples unless you go out as a disciple yourself. “As you go” means you will always show the people around you, in your everyday life, what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus.

That poses a problem for many. The people around you may hear you say all kinds of good things about your God and your church, but they also see how you live as you go through your life. I said earlier that people need tangible evidence, clear evidence, of Jesus’ resurrection. Your lifestyle must provide that evidence. Christian, your life, your actions, your words, your desires, will prove Jesus’ resurrection more than anything else I can mention. Does your lifestyle assist the Church in making disciples? Do your actions bring people to Jesus, or do they drive them away?

Let’s take this to the congregational level. We’ve all enjoyed celebrating our big anniversary this year. I enjoyed the celebrations last week. However, we cannot rest on what we’ve done over the past 175 years without looking ahead and moving forward. Jesus has commanded us to make disciples in this community. Have we done everything necessary to reach our communities and our area for Christ? If not, what must we do?

First, I issue a call for repentance. We’ve treated church as an option, and then we wonder why our children decide not to worship at all in their adulthood. Church will rarely rank higher in their priorities than it does in ours. If you treat worship as merely an option (or even worse, an inconvenient obligation), you children will see it that way as well. Our children and our community see the lives we live outside the walls of our sanctuary. We must show them we believe in Jesus’ salvation through our own lives. If you’ve allowed something else to come between you and God, pray for genuine repentance and forgiveness. Only then can the Holy Spirit guide you to go and make disciples.

Secondly, I issue a call to our congregation to minister to our communities. The communities of our area have grown exponentially in the past decades. Had the churches in our areas grown as quickly, we would all have grown exponentially as well. Why haven’t we? What has hindered us from reaching those who have moved here? We, too, must repent for not reaching those God has placed around us. We must do whatever we find necessary to minister to the people around us and bring them to the cross of Christ, our Redeemer.

Lastly, I call on you to look ahead and decide what kind of congregation we will pass to our children. Will the people of New Hope one day celebrate our sacrifices or mourn our timidity? I’ve never met a timid person in this community. I believe God has given us a holy calling, a glorious calling, to build a congregation worthy of passing to succeeding generations.

I know we’ve had our fun celebrating our past. I know many in the Church today, especially in America, believe the world will eventually get too bad for anyone to do anything about it. Yes, I’ve read the Scriptures, and yes, I know that times will come in which it appears the saints have lost. Those times have come in the past, and the Church has triumphed. Jesus assures us He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Forget everything you’ve ever read about how bad it will get, because you’ll never read anywhere where Jesus gives us the option to surrender. Go, and live in victory! Jesus has won, and so will we!

We’ve sat and celebrated. Now, we must go to the cross in genuine repentance and receive the forgiveness of our sins as we confess them to Christ. Go, and make disciples by showing everyone that you have become a disciple yourself. Go, and in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, bring your community to the cross and empty tomb of our Lord for salvation and service in the name of God.