There is nothing like the security that a child feels in the presence of their parents, but especially with their dad around. My dad was a sailor in the Canadian Armed Forces and often would have to leave us for 3, 6, 9 month periods. So I knew what it was like to not have a dad at times, but I also appreciated the security of his presence that much more when he was around. Security is an important thing for children, allowing them to feel safe, protected and able to take risks that they would not normally take. Let's face it, taking risks is what being a kid is all about and having a dad there to protect them from the unhealthy risks is vital. Being a child of God is no different and that is why the final promise we find at the end of Matthew's gospel is so incredibly important and assuring to us:
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
This should be the most assuring promise for the hundreds of millions of disciples on this planet today. Knowing that Jesus is constantly with us should enable us to step out in faith, to take great risks, to be bold in our actions, to know that everything is possible for those who believe. It reminds us of the similar promise God made to Joshua before they moved into the Promised Land:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Joshua was in a situation that we should be able to relate to. It was his responsibility to move into a land that belonged to God but was filled with a people who had turned their backs on him and lived lives that were in contrast to God's holiness. His would be days filled with great battles. We too have been sent into a land occupied by the enemy, only this time we are not here to destroy but help in the reconciliation process. Now we have the Holy Spirit and can understand that the people are not the enemy but instead the enemy is dark forces behind them. Our days are also filled with great battles as we are engaged in this rescue mission. However, there is a problem; many of the hundreds of millions of Christians are fast asleep or too self-occupied to even understand their purpose.
Those who are engaged in this warfare are able to fight great battles due to this one fact that Jesus is with us. In fact, it goes beyond simply being "with" us; he is in us and we are in him. Let's start with the Vine to understand where our strength and boldness comes from. One of the most beautiful and encouraging passages of the Bible is found in John 15 as Jesus taught about our connection with him:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
The important part there is about us remaining in him and he in us. This is what enables us to bear so much fruit and it is the fruit the Holy Spirit uses to influence the lost to Jesus. What wonderful imagery of the depth of relationship we have with Jesus. Later Jesus prayers:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)
An incredible prayer for us, that we may realize that we are in God and that Jesus is in us, and due to this, complete unity is possible among us all. This unity will allow the world to know that we belong to Jesus. What a terrible mess we have made of that, but how much of it has been caused because we have not walked in the promise that Jesus is in us and have ended up living by our carnal thinking instead of by the Spirit?
It is as if we have not understood the spiritual truth that our baptism represents. The baptism is not near as important as the truth that lies beneath it. We died with Christ on the cross, allowing us to be divorced from our sinful nature. Then we were buried with him, dying to ourselves but God loved us too much to leave it there. So as he raised us from that death we were made alive IN Jesus. There is no life without him. The only way we can can live is if we are in him and he is in us. It is the most incredible thing. In order for us to be removed from our sinful nature Jesus and us were changed for all eternity and the relationship we have together is off the charts; way out there in the land of incredible.
This is why everything is possible for us. This is the freedom that we have. This is the power that pumps through us. This is why we are co-heirs with Jesus Christ. This is why we have nothing to fear and everything to gain. This is why demons run away from us screaming. This is why there is no need for us to be terrified or discouraged. We only have to realize who we are in Jesus and walk in it. It is the reason we can face a world possessed by the enemy and effect change around us. The revival we need is our awakening to the glory of God in us and the mighty power he wants to work through us.
He told us to "go", to make disciples, to teach obedience and he promised that he would be with us to the end of it. Not only is he with us but he is in us and we are in him. We have his power to evoke change in this world and the change may not be what you think it is. The change is that the lost would be found, that the dying would be saved, that the unrighteous would be clothed in righteousness and the common would be made holy. Change must be provoked from the inside out and that is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for us and wants to do for others. My friends, as you move this day, being used as an agent of change, be bold, be courageous, be strong, be mighty; Jesus is with us!
Thus ends our time with the gospel of Matthew.