New Hope Notes
Pastor Jon Burgess
Pastor Jon Burgess
March 23 & 24, 2019
Welcome New Hope! Please give a warm welcome to Jonathan Almonte from the Dominican Republic. I asked him to share his story with us, and to light a fire in us for what God could do through one person to change another person’s life—or even an entire city!
We are starting a new series: CoMission (being the hands and feet of Jesus by looking at some remarkable events effected by ordinary people, who were made extraordinary by their willingness to make a stand to do what they were called for). Over the next four weeks, we will look at what God called us to do: To follow Jesus, go on a mission with Him, obey His command to go and reach the world for Him—The Great Commission…
Matthew 28:18-20 NIV says: “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
PASTOR JON: Jonathan, what was your life like growing up in the Dominican Republic?
JONATHAN: I grew up in a ghetto, surrounded by drug dealers: My mother ran away from home when an uncle raped her; she lived on the streets where she met my father (saw him as a way out of the situation) and got pregnant with me—then my father left us! I worked on the streets as a dumpster diver, basically, diving in the garbage piles for plastics to sell, to buy bread and chocolate to eat! My mother understood that education was a way out of our situation, so she sent me to school. I faced a lot of bullying for many years because of my poor clothes and shoes. I thought I was a mistake and, eventually, got involved in gangs. My mother heard about a church in the community (through a sponsor of Compassion International) that was giving away food and school supplies; so she got me into the program. Suddenly, I had shoes, uniform, food, and everything! God started to change my life through this local church! And thanks to Compassion International, I graduated with a degree in Linguistics. I first worked for the UN as a speaker for the government in the Dominican Republic; then became a missionary in Haiti; and returned to my community to work for the Youth Development Strategy for the Dominican Republic!
PASTOR JON: You entered church as a student living out of trash piles and now you oversee the youth program in the Dominican Republic! I couldn't think of a better way to start our study of the Great Commission than your story! Some treat the Great Commission, not as a command, but more as the great suggestion! The truth is that Jesus called His disciples then, and He is calling His disciples now, to make disciples of all nations!
Jesus is calling all of us to a Catalytic Challenge! The word catalyst simply means something or someone who brings about a change because they enter into a situation they weren't a part of before. Certainly, the sponsor of Compassion International was a catalyst who rescued Jonathan from poverty; now Jonathan is a catalyst in the lives of the children in the Dominican Republic. Jesus is looking each of us in our eyes and saying, “You/we (believe it or not) are a catalyst to bring about a positive change—that cannot happen without us being personally involved!
1. Catalytic Command: At First, Just Go To Those You Know
Jesus wants us to start where we are. Sometimes, that's the most difficult spot because those people know our weaknesses and shortcomings; but, we are the most effective there because they knew us then; and, they'll see the change in us now—after we met Jesus Christ!
In Mark Chapter 5, Jesus comes with his disciples in a boat; a man runs up to him screaming, naked, and possessed with a legion of demons! The townspeople would chain him up, but he would break off the chains and cut himself and scream like a mad person. The people of the towns around didn't know what to do with him, except to send him to the cemetery!
When the man sees Jesus coming, the demons inside the man recognize the authority that just pulled up onto the shore; they run up to Jesus and say, “What do you want, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Leave us alone!” The demons beg to be cast into a herd of pigs; Jesus does so, and the pigs run off the cliff and drown! This is a gentile town and the people take care of pigs as their livelihood; so when the pigs rushed off the cliff, the livelihood of the townspeople literally sank in the river!
Mark 5:16-19 NIV says: “16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”
When the people saw what happened, they were frightened and pleaded with Jesus to leave their region! As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon?possessed begged to go with him, but Jesus says no, go home and tell what the Lord has done for you.
2. Catalytic Conversations: Just Tell What We Know
The man is now of sound mind, clothed, and set free! All he wants is to go with the man that has just set him free, but Jesus says no: “Go home and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you."
Mark 5:20 NIV says: “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”
Fast forward to Mark 7:31 NIV says, “Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.”
Mark 8:1-3 NIV says, “1During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’”
Decapolis means ten towns (ten different Roman towns) that he went back to tell what he knew, saying: “Remember what I was like before this man Jesus came and set me free?” These are the same people that were so angry with Jesus and told Him to leave because He was responsible for their pigs drowning! But now, they are amazed because the man who was demon-possessed is sharing something that they had never heard before!
The most effective evangelism you and I will have in fulfilling the Great Commission is through Catalytic Conversation—sharing our story through face?to?face conversation with somebody: “Hey, remember how I was in high school? Well, let's not go there, but let me share with you how I am now.”
Jesus left the Decapolis and returns. We don't know how much time has passed since this man was set free and when Jesus returned, but notice what happened: God changed the hearts of ten towns because one man decided to go back to where he was known and tell them what he knows.
We are also called to go out! Church was never meant to be within the four walls, nor was our story meant to be limited to an hour-and-a-half on a weekend service. Our stories belong out there—even if we don't know the scriptures or have it all together.
The Great Commission is Jesus looking into our eyes, and directing us to go back to those we knew in past and start building relationships and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Imagine the reasons the man would not want to go home: They have seen him running around naked and filled with a legion of demons! Imagine the layers of shame and guilt; and the last thing he wants to do is to go back to the people who knew how awful he was!
No matter how bad your past was before Christ, I'm sure it wasn't as bad as that guy. And yet, don't we have the same reason for not wanting to be sent back to those we knew in high school, our family, and old neighborhoods? The Catalytic Command says: Who better to change the people than a familiar person who's been changed by Christ!
If Jesus went into the gentile towns, He wouldn't have been well received—they were still angry with Him for drowning their pigs! So, the best person to reach that town was the man who had just been changed by Jesus, a gentile, who would be received better than anyone else.
You may be wondering what change could one person possibly accomplish? Look at the life of:
Mahatma Gandhi: One person who brought independence to an entire country through passive resistance; and said, "We need to be the change that we wish to see in the world."
Rosa Parks: Through her resistance by sitting in a section in the back of the bus, affected a permanent change in the civil rights in American history. She said: "Stand for something or you'll fall for anything." "Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground!" They called her much worse than a nut, but she decided to take a stand, and changed civil rights in our country! She is just one person, who made a huge difference in America!
Tank Man: One of the most famous photographs in all of history is called Tank Man because no one actually knows his name. He was the man who stood his ground in front of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square after the massacre. He had literally seen, along with all of his countrymen in China, these very tanks rolling over students who were fighting for democracy in '89. He stood in front of the tanks, halted them, and became a symbol for democracy. He fought for democracy by taking a stand against tyranny and made a difference in his country!
A single person can make a difference! One person can change a nation; and change the direction of history. Go back to the familiar places and effect the change you want to see!
A Catalytic Command leads to Catalytic Conversations—simply telling what you know! Go to those you know; share what you know! Many fear the questions they are sure to be asked, and hesitate because they may not know the technical answers to difficult questions.
Just tell what you know! This man had just been delivered from demons. He hadn't sat with Jesus, around the campfire hearing all of his parables and stories about the kingdom of heaven; yet, Jesus thought he was ready to go back to his towns and change this thing forever.
Jesus comes right where we are, on our ground, on our level. Maybe our chains aren't as visible as that man's, but Jesus has broken our chains. Maybe our demons weren't as many as in that man’s, but Jesus has set us free from our demons. Maybe there's a whole world of families, friends, neighbors, co?workers, and fellow students who need to know our stories, but they have never heard it because we're afraid to be embarrassed by what they will hear, and because we feel a little awkward.
If one story could change ten towns, what could our stories do on this island within the circle of people we know? We don't have to know everything. All we need to know is how Jesus set us free. The best way to let people know that Jesus is real is to simply share our story of salvation with them.
We are the catalyst leading to a Catalytic Conversation to change of community around us! We don't need to have it all figured out. All we need to be is the spark to light the fire that changes this island and relationships with Jesus for eternity!