“Reaching, Teaching, Caring” (Matthew 4:23 sermon)

I came home from work last Monday night and Cheryl was sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket, and she said, “You remember that thing you said in the sermon yesterday about how ‘If you worshiped God first thing this morning, it doesn’t matter what else you did today, you still did the most important thing’ … Well …” And we both laughed. She was just joking, of course; she had dinner on the table, laundry going, and had gotten all kinds of things done.

But last week we DID see that worshiping God really IS the #1 Priority of a Church or an individual. It is the most important thing we can do. But worship is not the ONLY thing we are supposed to be doing. What else are we supposed to be doing as a church? That should be one of the most important questions we have.
— NOT “what do WE want to do?”
— NOT “what do people in our community THINK we should be doing?”
— NOT just “what did we do last year?”
But what does God’s word say that we should be doing as a church?

As many of you know, there is an old acronym: WWJD, which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” And that’s a pretty good question. Thinking about what Jesus would do in a situation can give us a good guide as to what we should be doing. And what we find here in Matthew 4:23 is a concise description of what Jesus actually did while He walked and ministered here on earth. It says:

“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”

What God gives us here is a description of Jesus’ earthly ministry in a nutshell. And interestingly, we find this EXACT same verse repeated again — word for word — in Matthew 9:35. If you have your Bible, look at it: “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” It is the exact same words from Matthew 4:23 repeated again. By repeating it like that, God is emphasizing it in a very strong way; putting a kind of “parenthesis” around the ministry of Jesus, saying THIS is what He was about here on earth; this summarizes His earthly ministry: He was “teaching”; He was “proclaiming the gospel”; and He was “healing” sicknesses among the people.

Let’s look for a few minutes at what this shows us about Jesus’ ministry here, and how we can imitate what He did in our own ministries, as a church, and as individuals. Remember we’ve already talked about how important worship is, but here in :23, we find Jesus’ ministry to PEOPLE as including at least 3 major areas: “REACHING, TEACHING, and CARING” for people.

I. The Ministry of Jesus was “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring”

A. First of all, it says here that Jesus was “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.” Mark 1:15 says that Jesus went around preaching this message: “repent and believe in the Gospel.” There Jesus preaches the two basic elements of the genuine gospel: repentance and faith. We’ll talk more about this later, but the modern “gospel” has really compromised in this area of “repentance.” But Jesus said if you want to be saved, you must repent of your sins — realize that you have been going the wrong way with your life, and turn (which is what repentance is) and put your faith in Jesus as your Lord & Savior. So salvation comes from repenting and believing — not merely believing and continuing to live the way you were — but repenting of your sin, and turning and following Jesus as your Lord & Savior.

Have you ever done that? Someone may say, “Well, I believe in Jesus.” Good for you. But just “believing” who Jesus is by itself doesn’t save you. The Bible says the DEMONS “believe and shudder.” They know who Jesus is better than we do. But they have never repented of their sins and followed Him as their Lord. If you have not done that, then you are no more saved than the demons are! And you need to truly repent of your sins and commit your life to Jesus and begin to really follow Him today.

So the Bible says Jesus went about “proclaiming the gospel” of repentance and faith, so that people would be saved. Reaching people with the gospel was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

In fact, one time in Luke 9, Jesus was traveling towards Jerusalem with His disciples, and He was intending to stay in a certain village in Samaria, but the people in the village rejected them because they were Jews, and wouldn’t let them stay there. James and John were upset at this treatment, and they said: “Lord, do You want us to call fire down from heaven and consume them?” But Jesus turned to them and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to SAVE them.” (:56) Jesus said that the very purpose for which He came to earth was to “save” people — to REACH them for God. So Jesus first of all was about “reaching” people with the gospel.
B. Second, it says Jesus went about TEACHING people and growing them spiritually. It says here that He “was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues.”
Jesus’ heart was to teach people the truth, as opposed to the traditions they had always grown up hearing, and the lies they had believed which were so harmful to them. He loved to teach people the truth.

Mark 6:34 says that when Jesus went ashore from the Sea of Galilee one day, “He saw a large multitude, and He felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.”
Jesus wanted not only to reach people with the gospel so that they might be saved, He wanted to teach them so that their lives could be changed by His word. So He was about REACHING, and TEACHING, and …

Third, we see here in Matthew 4:23 that Jesus went about CARING for people and ministering to their needs. It says He was “healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” Why did He do this? It’s important for us to have a biblical view of Jesus’ healing ministry.

Partially, Jesus healed people to fulfill scripture, and show people that He was the Messiah. Several times in Matthew it tells us that when Jesus healed someone, it fulfilled an Old Testament Messianic prophecy. For example, Matthew 8:14-16 describes how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and then healed many others who came to their home. Then :17 says “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.'” So partially, Jesus healed to fulfill prophecies and show that He was the Messiah.

But it was also more than this. Jesus didn’t just heal people in a “cold-hearted” way, just to prove who He was. He did it because He LOVES people, and He has a genuine compassion for us.
— Matthew 14:14 tells how when Jesus saw the large crowd, He “felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”
— We see this again in Luke 7, where He came across a funeral procession of the only son of a widow woman, and :13 says, “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her” — and then He raised that young man from the dead!

We see this all through the Gospels — in fact, if you want a good study, go through the gospels and see how many times it says that Jesus will “SEE” the needs of people, and then He will “FEEL COMPASSION” for them, and then He will DO something to help them: heal them, teach them, whatever needs to be done. So Jesus healed because He CARES. He cares for people.

SO we can summarize Jesus’ ministry in these 3 terms:
He was reaching people — sharing the gospel with them
He was teaching people the word of God, and
And He was caring for them and ministering to their needs.
“REACHING, TEACHING, & CARING.” That is a summary of what Jesus did when He was ministering here on earth. WWJD — “what would Jesus do?” We don’t have to guess what Jesus would do — Matthew tells us that what Jesus DID do: He was “reaching, and teaching, and caring.”

II. The Ministry of Jesus’ Church is “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring”

So what are supposed to be doing as a church? Folks, we are not here today to do an academic study of the things Jesus did here on earth. The Bible tells us as followers of Christ, we are supposed to imitate Him; following in His steps. I Peter 2:21 says that Jesus left us an example that we should “follow in His steps.” We should be doing the same kinds of things here on earth that Jesus did when He was here. So if Jesus was “reaching, and teaching, and caring” for people here on earth, then we as a church should be “reaching, teaching, and caring” for people as well (with worship as our foundation, as we saw last week).

We see this validated in the early church in the Book of Acts. Acts 2:42-47 describes the ministry activities of the early church:
— Verses 46 & 47 says “they continued with one mind in the Temple” and were “praising God.” (They were WORSHIPING)
— :47 says: “The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (so they were REACHING).
— :42 says “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching (that is TEACHING);
— :45 says “they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (that is CARING)
So here we see that the Early Church followed in the steps of Jesus by doing the same things He did: worshiping God, and then: “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring” for people.

So if “Reaching, Teaching & Caring” was Jesus’ ministry here on earth, and “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring” was the ministry of the early church, then what should we be doing? “Reaching, Teaching & Caring” should be the outline of our church ministry, shouldn’t it? If we are going to be faithful to Jesus’ example and to His word, then as a church we should be REACHING out to bring people in; we should be TEACHING and growing disciples; and we should be CARING for the people of our church and our community. “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring” should be the outline of what we are doing as a church — and again: we need to make sure we do not get distracted from it. As we saw last week with Martha, t’s so easy to get distracted, and do so many other things than the priority things that Jesus really called us to do. He’s given us these great priorities, of “Worshiping God, and serving Him by reaching, and teaching, and caring for people”, and we need to purposefully focus as a church on doing these things — and on NOT doing things that distract us from those things.

We only have so much time in a day. We only have so many days in a week. We have to realize that when we do things that are not priorities, it takes the time and effort and energy away from what we should be doing. So we need a laser focus on doing the priority ministries God has given us as a church.

I just finished reading an amazing biography on Abraham Lincoln by the poet Carl Sandburg. (He won the Pulitzer Prize for it; it is an amazing book: a biography, written by a poet.) But near the end of the book, you really see the singular focus that Abraham Lincoln had on saving the Union, and keeping the states together. As his cabinet was making their plans, and putting their policies together, he gave them this guiding principle: he said, if it saves the Union, let’s do it. If it doesn’t save the Union, we won’t do it. That was his sole focus; his great priority. Nothing else was as important as that. He would not be deterred from his great priority to save the Union and keep this country together.
Now folks, I love our country (and I love our new country, Texas! 😉 but as followers of Jesus, we have an even greater calling than saving the Union; we are called as a church to follow Jesus Christ by worshiping God and reaching and teaching and caring for people, and if does not doing that, then we have no business doing it as a church. We have got to have that “laser-like” focus on our great priorities of “Worshiping God, and serving Him by Reaching, and Teaching, and Caring for people.”

Church ministers, I’m talking to us. Church leadership, I’m talking to you. Church council, I’m talking to you. Sunday school leaders this is for you. (We’ll talk more later about how the Sunday School is perhaps THE best-positioned ministry we have in the church to reach and teach and care; we are going to need our best people to be involved in “reaching, teaching and caring” through our Sunday School in the days ahead). Ministry team leaders, this is for you. We need to fix these priorities of Jesus in our minds, and evaluate every single plan, every single idea, every single event we do, by these priorities: In every planning meeting we have, as we think about doing various things, we need to purposefully ask ourselves, “WHY are we doing this?” What is its purpose? Are we just “doing something,” or Does it involve worshiping God, or reaching, or teaching, or caring for people? And we may still do some of the same things we were doing; but we need to know WHY we are doing it — what’s the purpose behind it? Are we doing it to reach people, or teach them as disciples, or to build fellowship/or care for people? Knowing the purpose will help us better plan for what we are doing. AND we need to purposefully plan things that will accomplish the 4 priorities Jesus has called us to do: If it’s worshiping, reaching, teaching, or caring, then we ought to be doing it. But if it does NOT involve “worshiping God, or serving Him by reaching, teaching, or caring for people,” then we don’t have any business doing it as a church. It is a distraction. As we talked about last week, we don’t ever want to consider ourselves “successful” just because we’ve “filled our calendar” with “stuff” that is not worshiping God, or reaching, or teaching, or caring for people. We will be tempted to do some things because people want us to do it, or because we think it would be fun, or because we’ve done it before, or whatever. But we’ve got to purposefully focus as a church on doing what Jesus calls us as His church to do: “worship God, and serve Him by reaching and teaching and caring for people.”

III. The Ministry of Jesus’ Disciples (Personally) is “Reaching, Teaching, & Caring”

And one more thing: this isn’t just for us together as a church. Every one of us also needs to apply this to ourselves as individuals too. See, too often, people the church try to take comfort in what “we” are doing as a church body, when those individuals themselves aren’t actually involved in it. I have heard people say things like: “Oh, we have a great worship ministry,” or “we actually go the prison,” or “we have a great youth outreach,” or whatever — when they themselves weren’t actually personally doing any of it!

Let me tell you something — I have seen this, and I have had several large church pastors confirm this: many of the “mega” churches you see and hear about are often composed of a lot of people who just want to come and listen and be entertained, but they use the large size of the church to “hide out” and never really get involved in service any way. And the percentage of people who are actually serving or working on mission in some way in those churches is actually less than those serving in many of our smaller churches. And many of these people try to take comfort and say, “well our church is doing all these things” — but the thing is, THEY aren’t doing it! It’s others who are actually doing it. Listen to me: you are not going to be rewarded by God for what your CHURCH is doing; you are going to be rewarded by God for what YOU yourself are personally doing for Him. Are YOU personally involved in our church’s ministries of “worshiping God, and Reaching, and Teaching, and Caring for people”?

Folks, I am excited about what God has in store for First Baptist Angleton. But for it to happen, it’s going to take ALL of God’s people getting involved; each one of us serving in worshiping, reaching, teaching, and caring. We won’t all do the exact same things, but we will all have some place in those ministries through our church.

R.H. Dana was a college student in the 1800’s, and he began to have vision problems, so he took a break from college, and went on a two-year trip as a sailor on a large sailing ship. He wrote about it in what became a classic book, Two Years Before The Mast. He described in the book how every man on the ship had a certain responsibility. He said,
“Every one here knew his station, must be there when all hands were called to put the ship about, and was answerable for the ropes committed to him. Each man’s rope must be let go and hauled in at the order, properly made fast, and neatly coiled away when the ship was about. As soon as all hands are at their stations, the captain … calls out “Helm’s a lee’!” “Helm’s a lee’!” answers the mate on the forecastle, and the head sheets are let go.”

But when the captain gives that call, it only works if every individual sailor on that ship is doing his part. And it’s the same for us in God’s church. We will only be what God wants us to be as a church, if every individual among us is doing something to help our church “worship God, and serve Him by reaching, and teaching, and caring for people.”

Every week, each one of us should look back and ask ourselves: did I worship God, and reach, and teach, and care for people, this week? I try to do this myself every week. There are SO many things we can be doing; we get pulled in so many directions. And we can NEVER get it “all” done in any week. But my goal at the end of a week, is to be able to look back and say, “You know, I didn’t get ‘it all’ done, but if this week I reached out to somebody as a witness; if I taught or discipled someone; and if I cared for somebody in Jesus’ name — then even though I didn’t get it “all” done, at least my life was to SOME extent like the life of Jesus, because I was ‘Reaching, Teaching, & Caring for people.”

And I think that would be a good goal for every Christian every week, don’t you? At the end of the week, ask yourself: Did I worship God each day? Did I share the gospel or REACH out to a lost person in some way this week? Did I TEACH a class or help disciple someone? Did I CARE for somebody in some way this week: visit the hospital or a shut-in; take a meal to someone; meet some need? Was I like Jesus — did I REACH, TEACH & CARE?

A sweet person told me last week: “I think God’s about to do something great in our church — and I want to be in on it!” THAT is the attitude we need. THAT is the kind of spirit God will use! And how do we “get in on it”? By following in the steps of Jesus; by personally doing what He did: “worshiping God, and serving Him by reaching, and teaching, and caring for people.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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