The Greatest Promise
September 15, 2019
water cooler conversation:
What’s the dumbest promise you ever made? The smartest? What’s the longest promise you’ve kept?
Has anyone ever broken an important promise to you? How did you get over it? Are you over it?
did you know…
The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. They believed that if they kept their word, their gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year.
In 1633, the bubonic plague struck the village of Oberammergau, Germany. Within a few months, 84 people from a population of only about 600 had died from it, so the villagers made a promise. Gathering in front of a large crucifix which still hangs in the parish church, they vowed that if God would halt the plague, they would re-enact the last week of Jesus's life every 10 years as a thank-offering. They have kept their promise for 386 years.
Prior to President Trump’s election in 2016, dozens of celebrities swore they’d leave the country if he were elected, including Whoopi Goldberg, Lena Dunham, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer, Cher, Ne-Yo, and Bryan Cranston. To date, none of them have kept their promise.
Elon Musk has promised the arrival of computer-aided telepathy. In April 2019, he announced that his new company, Neuralink, would take brain-machine interface to the next level, allowing people with implants to communicate without talking. Physical disability, he said, could be all but wiped out in four years, while full-on telepathy should take some eight to 10 years to accomplish.
unpack the message:
Any time in Scripture we see language like, “behold,” “remember,” or “surely,” the writer is telling us that what follows is guaranteed. It’s promised. It’s a sure thing, written in stone.
So when Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” it is a promise that He will never leave us, never forsake us. This promise extends not only until our time on earth no longer exists but beyond that to the end of Earth itself.
We see cause and effect in the way verses 18-20 are structured. In verse 18, Jesus states that all authority is His, so in verse 19, He uses the conjunctive adverb “therefore” to demonstrate that we are equipped to go and make disciples because we are not acting in our own strength, but in HIs. Then in verse 20, when Jesus says, “Behold,” He’s saying “Look, here’s another truth.” The commands of verse 19 are buoyed by the promise of verse 20 – He has not called us to do anything for which He has not equipped us.
Think of a time that you were overwhelmed by life. How did your faith enable you to go on?
When has God supernaturally intervened in your circumstances, taking control, empowering you in ways you could not have anticipated or acted without His help?
The book of Matthew begins with the birth of Christ – Immanuel, or “God with us.” The book ends with Immanuel’s commitment to fulfilling the promise of His name – “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” There will never be a moment, an event, or a circumstance in which Jesus, “the Great I Am,” “Immanuel,” “God with us,” won’t be with you.
These events occur before Jesus’ Ascension (see Acts 1:3-11). How do you think the disciples would have reacted to His ascent into heaven without this promise?
We don’t go in our own power or authority, but with the power and authority of God Himself and with the promise that his power and presence are ours until the end of time itself.
“Christ's sense is, that he would grant his presence to them, his immediate disciples, and to all that should succeed them in future generations, to the end of time: and which is to be understood not of his corporeal presence, which they should not have till then, but of his spiritual presence; and that he would be with them, in a spiritual sense, to assist them in their work, to comfort them under all discouragements, to supply them with his grace, and to protect them from all enemies, and preserve from all evils; which is a great encouragement both to administer the word and ordinances, and attend on them.” John Gill
What does it mean for your life as you seek to “observe all that [Jesus] commanded you?” Be specific.
There are many ways to define people, but ultimately, there are only two kinds of people in the world – those who have believed in Jesus and those who have not.
Scripture teaches there is a supernatural transformation in the life of the individual who accepts Christ as Savior. It is a literal transformation from death to life through the work of the Holy Spirit who literally dwells within us when we experience salvation. It is a complex, metaphysical and theological discussion, but the simplest way to sum it up is to say that we are moved from death to life because we are not bodies that have a soul within us, but we are souls, within a physical body. You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. With or without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our physical bodies live and die, however, our soul transcends physical death and continues into eternity. This is life and death. Through salvation, our soul experiences eternal life in Heaven. Without Him, our soul experiences eternal death – separation from God – for all eternity.
The Holy Spirit performs many different works in the life of the believer:
He dwells within the heart of every single believer. 1 Corinthians 3:16
He promises to guide us and lead us in truth. John 16:13
He promises to teach us what is true to God and what is real to God and He helps us to understand that truth. John 14:26
He reminds us of the things that Jesus has taught. John 14:26
He helps us testify. The Holy Spirit gives us the right words to say when we witness to others about Jesus. Luke 12:12
He gives us new life through our salvation. We were dead in our sin, yet now we live. Ephesians 2:5
He unites the body of Christ, despite our differences. Ephesians 4:1-6
He gives us access to the throne of God. Ephesians 2:18
He builds the church - the body of Christ - through spiritual gifts. Acts 2
He gives us spiritual gifts to equip us for His service. 1 Corinthians 12:1
His presence develops the fruit of the spirit in us as we draw closer to Him. Galatians 5:22-23
Because of the Holy Spirit, we have a guarantee that heaven is real and heaven is waiting for us. 2 Corinthians 1:22
He intercedes on our behalf. Romans 8:26-27
Some say God is a crutch. They aren’t wrong - God is a crutch and we are crippled without him. But He does so much more than help us limp through life - He’s more like a spiritual jetpack.
All of every day
The Greek word πάσας, translated as "all things," is from the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. When used as a noun, it’s equivalent to "everything." Two Greek words (tὰς, ἡμέρας) are translated as "always," meaning "all days." The first means "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. It is the same word as was used above for "all things." The second is the Greek word for "day" which also means time, in general, and refers specifically to the daytime.
When Jesus says, “remember, I am with you always,” is He speaking to the individuals who were there, or more widely? Does it apply to us, do we think? Again, why?
How does the promise of Jesus’ continued presence as you make disciples change the way you see this remarkable calling?
If fear and apathy have hindered your obedience to make disciples, ask yourself why. Do you see the church as a place that exists to serve you? Are you worried about what others might think if you were to share the gospel with them?
Discuss what fears individuals may experience that keep them from fulfilling the Great Commission despite Jesus’ promise to be with us always and the Holy Spirit’s promise to give us the words to say.
Until the end
When Jesus says he is with us “until the end of the age,” He is speaking of the period of time from commission to consummation. The commission is to go and make disciples, we do it through the context of the local church and will continue to do this until the Day Jesus returns - the consummation.
This is not a partnership of strict obedience, it is a partnership built on a personal relationship. “I will be with you until the end of the age.” He is with us, guiding, teaching, interceding, uniting, empowering because the world is lost and dying and we need the supernatural strength and gifting of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this task.
Jesus is working alongside us as disciples to see the lost brought to Him. A day is coming when Jesus will return. He will reign supreme in a new kingdom, a new age, on a new earth, and heaven - the consummation.
Of all God’s promises in Scripture, which are most precious to you? He will be with you always? He will supply every need? He has a plan for your life? Why does the promise you’ve chosen mean so much to you? How has He demonstrated it in your life?
Greatness: To love God by obeying Him and so loving people by serving them above myself so they can follow Jesus more.
This statement captures the Great Commission, the greatest commandment, and the greatest love. If we want to enjoy Immanuel, God with us, we will enjoy it in greater measure when we pursue greatness.
Greater commitment to Greatness means Greater enjoyment of the Greatest promise.
The more I pursue greatness as defined by Jesus, the greater my enjoyment of the greatest promise. It’s not about obedience alone but obedience in a relationship.
What the difference between a relationship built on rules and one built on mutual respect and commitment? How does this parallel religion vs a personal relationship with Christ?
What is the greatest promise? Immanuel. God with us.
make a move:
Choose an action step based on what you’ve learned this week.
Think about the promises you’ve made to yourself and others that you’ve failed to keep. Evaluate which broken promises need an apology and which ones need a recommitment.
Make a promise to yourself to set aside time for regular self-care. That will look different for everyone, but make time for friends or for solitude, for rest or for exercise. Make a commitment to get the sleep you need, to make wise food choices, and maintain healthy relationships.
Make a promise to God to evaluate your priorities and give Him first place in your life.
Make a commitment to follow through on that idea, goal, or project you keep putting off.
Pray for the Operation Christmas Child initiative. Pray for the children who receive these boxes and for their families. Pray that this small demonstration of kindness transforms your heart and teaches your children that no act of kindness is too small.
This week, make a commitment to connecting with people different from you to whom you can minister. Look for those on the edges of society or our congregation. Ask for the courage to reach out to someone hurting, lost, and lonely.
If you haven’t decided to follow Christ, what’s holding you back? Salvation is as simple as acknowledging that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Right now, you can pray this simple prayer, believing the words not only in your mind but in your heart, and be saved. “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I recognize that I can never be good enough to work my way into heaven on my own. I believe that there’s only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ who died to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven with Him. Right now, at this moment, I repent of my sins and ask you to forgive me. My faith now is small, but I ask You to help it grow. Thank you that your promises are true, and especially for the assurance that I am now your child. I thank you that no matter what lies ahead, you will walk with me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you prayed that prayer, share your decision with one of the pastors or staff who can help you with resources and encourage your newfound faith.
Pray for your pastors by name: Christian Gaffney, Roy Dowdy, Lucas Johnson, Mike Zizolfo, and Austin Parkhurst.
Consider how you can serve at Expectation Church to make disciples. eKids? Production? Connections? Talk to any of the pastors or ministry leaders about opportunities.
Think of ways that you can actively be a part of new opportunities to make disciples in your community. Start by connecting with friends and neighbors. Start a book club, coach a little league soccer team, join a neighborhood clean up initiative, invite the neighbors over for coffee, or become a Big Brother or Big Sister. The possibilities are endless.
Pray for the George Mason students who have been blessed by our donation to the Patriot Pantry. Pray that God will continue to open doors for us to minister to these students and that those efforts will translate into meeting their needs on both spiritual and practical levels. Pray that they’ll start attending our services now that we’ve moved to our Braddock Road campus.
Ask God to show you what eGroup you should connect with and who in the congregation is looking for a friend or a mentor like you.
Pray about the upcoming season of eGroups. Ask God to show you how and where you can serve in this vital ministry.
Ask for a list of missionaries we support and commit to praying for them regularly.
Pray for 7SF and Exponential Church, our church plants in San Francisco and Port St. Lucie, that they will continue to live out the Great Commission in their communities.
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