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“[John] said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:23-27).

Sal Mattson appropriately died on Good Friday. His legacy is partly captured in the University of Tennessee campus newspaper:

Campus evangelist passes away | The Daily Beacon

If you have not watched (I know the video drags quite a bit but it really is worth watching)  and read the links above, what I say next won’t have near the impact that it should. At least not the impact it had on me.

My brother attended Sal’s funeral. He described it as a joy-filled celebration despite Sal living only 53 years and leaving behind a wife and 5 children. There was much rejoicing over Sal’s homegoing and His Savior. The stories told there magnified what we learn from the links above. He gave his life to preach the Gospel from a sidewalk on the rabidly secular campus of a state institution of higher education. What we might not know is how he was treated by those he ministered to. His eulogists’ shared how Sal was often reviled – cursed, mocked, and even spat on. But he never uttered a harsh word, instead, we are told, he looked lovingly at his nemeses and kept pleading that they hear and believe.

One such account symbolized his self-denying, cross-bearing pursuit of rejecting everything that might hinder knowing and following his Savior. I paraphrase:

“One day a group of students was particularly cruel to Sal, saying and doing terrible things. Profanity laced names were thrown his way and objects were hurled in his direction. One of the group was convicted enough about this injustice that he returned to apologize for the group. And he did. Sal’s response? ‘Thanks, but it’s OK. Let’s talk about your salvation.’ The young man soon professed Christ and returned often to visit Sal as he continued to stand and preach to an unwlecoming audience. The boy sometimes stood by his side in an attempt to deflect the insults and harassment.”

Sal was so committed to evangelism that the weekend before his transition, weighing only about 70 pounds and moving in and out of consciousness, he telephoned his father-in-law to share the Good News. I’m sure that the man’s profession of faith was a very powerful and meaningful going away present for the dying evangelist. Think about it – the last task Sal Mattson accomplished was to share the Gospel and hear a loved family member say “yes” to Jesus.

And when was the last time we told someone about our Savior? Would that be the most important thing on our mind as we were wasting away with cancer and our death imminent?

I wish I were more like Sal Mattson than I am. Really, I desire to be more like Jesus – for He truly is the ultimate example for Sal, for me, and for you. So often we sit in our comfortable pews, we serve on our committees, we attend our Bible studies and “Christian concerts,” we blog, we give back a portion of God’s provision, we pray, we read our Bible…we do most of “the right things.” But do we give ourselves? All of ourselves…like Sal did. To Jesus and others, that is. More importantly and clearly, do we give like Jesus did? 

So I think it only fitting we conclude this tribute to Sal and his Savior with Christ’s own words. I think they are quite appropriate:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Please know we can only live like Sal did, and like Jesus wants us to, when empowered by Him and His Word and not through self-effort alone. We must be compelled by loving Christ because we know He first loved us, and how much that cost. So, in the end, it is not Sal or us who gets the glory…it’s the Savior. And I’m convinced Sal would have it no other way.

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…a continuation of the previous post . 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

Fifth, our going and making disciples is vitally linked to Christ’s presence with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. This leads to a critical and profound question: Do we go because of His presence or do we more fully experience His presence when we go? I would answer, “Yes!” His presence in us compels us to go and share and disciple. But, simultaneously, the more we do these things the more, it seems, we experience intimacy with Him. What a beautiful continuum: We go because He is in us, in our going we experience a greater sense of His presence, and this intimacy and fellowship with our Savior motivates us even more to go and disciple. Understand, He goes both before us and with us as we live out His commission to see true Gospel transformation. “The LORD your God is with you. He is mighty to save…” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV). It is good for us to be reminded of Moses’ words in Exodus 33:15 (NIV): “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us…”

Number six is that the tactical process to deploy the Gospel to all nations is found first in the word, “Go.” This could be translated “as you go” – as you go to the store, to work, to church, on vacation, etc. This denotes a lifestyle of leaving the fragrance of the Gospel as a trail-finder everywhere we journey. Another feature in the game plan for expanding God’s kingdom is that the spread of the Gospel starts at home (Jerusalem) and moves out (until it reaches the ends of the earth). Let’s not gloss over this. We all have a Jerusalem (work, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, etc) and we are called to go there first. The harvest is ripe in our own sphere of influence. Although we are to promote global missions we are not to do so at the expense of the harvest outside our front door. I would even venture to say that one of the greatest mission fields in America can be found in church pews on Sunday morning. 

And last, although not explicitly mentioned in these two texts, I believe that prayer must undergird all going and making of disciples in the name of Jesus. Although this includes praying for missionaries it also means that we must have prayer-saturated lives in order to most effectively carry out the command to spread His life-transforming Good News. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 4:2-6 is pivotal on this point. In the context of sharing the Gospel, Paul taught the church at Colossae to devote themselves to prayer and even asked that they pray specifically for him as he sought opportunity to articulate the Good News. This more than suggests that we need to pray for ourselves and others as we seek to make this mandate a Great Commission (not omission) in our lives, the lives of others, and throughout the church universal. 

So I will leave you with the words of Jesus Himself. Words that, when combined with the texts we have studied, should give us a sense of urgency to go, share, and make disciples for His glory: 

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38). 

May each of us fervently and consistently pray this prayer and know that we are undoubtedly one of the laborers called to go, share, and disciple in the field where God has placed us. May it never be said that we are the omission in The Great Commission.

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