“The Great Commission” or “The Great Suggestion”
Why does it feel like we treat Jesus’ commission to the church in Matthew 28:16-20 as optional? Recently Pastor Brian Van Doren and I have been discussing evangelism and discipleship on the Families for Life Podcast (oakhillbc.org/f4l). We have been looking at these topics in light of how Jesus did them during His earthly ministry. We have been using The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman as an outline for these discussions. It could really be called the “Master’s” plan of evangelism because Coleman looks at the life of Jesus and extrapolates principles that we can incorporate in our own lives to share our faith and make disciples. Check out the podcast for a more in depth look at those topics.
Today, I simply want to share that I am burdened by modern Christianity’s lack of emphasis on discipleship. We simply do not make disciples as Jesus called us to in the Great Commission. This is something that must change for the Kingdom of God to grow and to secure the future of the church for generations to come. Let us take a look at Matthew 28 and discover why it is such an important text:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 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 28:16-20
I am sure you have read this passage or heard it preached before, perhaps many times. I know that when I read something repeatedly it can lose its significance; however, we need to read this passage with fresh eyes. Do me a favor, read it again, this time slowly and think about what Jesus is saying. Remember this is one of the last things that Jesus said to His followers before He ascended to the right hand of God the Father. These words should be taken very seriously.
Notice in this that the commission is given by the authority of Jesus but not just that, at the end He says He will be with us to accomplish the work. The whole process of reproducing our faith in others in contingent on the Lord Jesus. That should fill us with much hope and confidence. It does not depend on you or me, it depends fully on Jesus! This should give us excitement for the task of making disciples.
Now notice the actual command that Jesus gives us, it is not to make converts but rather to make disciples, or followers of Jesus. They are to be people that are saved, baptized and in the process of becoming like Jesus. That is what a disciple is! But a disciple is not fully mature until they themselves are making disciples. Followers of Jesus are commanded to carry on this mission, passing it on to the next person then the next and so forth. This is how the kingdom of God is built. This is how we are instructed to multiply our faith.
I have been convicted of this truth over the past few years which has caused me to commit to being in at least one discipleship relationship in one form or another once a year. Sometimes it is a one-on-one relationship and sometimes it is in a D-group format. I think that this goal is a good, manageable goal that all Christians should have. We need to be pouring our lives into someone else for the kingdom of God.
So, ask yourself if there is someone you need to be discipling right now? Maybe it is someone you can or have led to Christ recently. Maybe it’s someone that has been a Christian for a while, but they have never been discipled. There are a ton of people in that situation. Simply find a good resource, like Growing Up by Robby Gallaty or The Walk by Stephen Smallman, and meet once a week with them. These books will lead you through the process of discipleship.
I am making it sound easy because it really is easy. It does take time and energy, but it is so worth that investment for the Kingdom. From the outside looking in you might be fearful to start, or you might feel like you do not know enough to disciple someone. Here is the thing, Jesus will give the strength, the wisdom, and the help to carry out this mission. He is not looking for perfect followers, He simply wants faithful ones. Will you take seriously the task of making disciples? Will you commit to enter into a discipleship relationship as either the discipler or disciplee in 2021? Remember, we need disciples that will make disciples, that is the mark of a truly mature believer and that is taking the Great Commission seriously!
“The Great Commission” or “The Great Suggestion”
Standing at a Crossroads
If you have not had the pleasure of watching The Chosen yet, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately! You can watch for free at: https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen. The first season is eight episodes covering the beginning of Jesus' ministry. There is a second season being filmed right now! This is a well done, true to the text, series. Of course like any show about Jesus they had to use their sanctified imagination but I think they stick as close as possible to the biblical text. I like this because when I read the stories of the Bible I try to make them come alive in my mind. I try to imagine settings, people, and places. This series helps to do that for us.
(Spoilers for The Chosen follow)
One story line follows Nicodemus, a celebrated Pharisee Rabbi. He is called the teacher of teachers in the series. He is shaken to the core when he is confronted with a demon possessed woman. He begins searching for answers after she is miraculously healed by Jesus. This leads to the famous passage in John 3 where Nicodemus approached Jesus at night so as not to be seen. Jesus confronts Nicodemus' presuppositions about faith, really He is confronting him with the gospel. Nicodemus needs time to consider this truth. A little bit later there is a heart breaking scene when Jesus is about to set out with followers and is waiting to see if anyone else would join. We presume He is waiting for Nicodemus, who is hiding around the corner struggling to leave behind his life and follow Jesus, ultimately he does not follow Him. This is the part that is not in the scriptures but is added for drama.
However, it got me to thinking about so many people that are standing at crossroads. I remember in my own walk this was a huge challenge for me. I became a believer my sophomore year of high school. I confessed to being a believer but struggled for another year trying desperately to keep a hold of my old life. It finally came to a point where I was miserable. Everything I tried to do that was out of God’s will brought me pain and hurt. It was only when I finally surrendered my will to Jesus that I found peace. The amazing thing was I did not miss my old life when I gave it up. Jesus gave me that abundant life that He speaks about in John 10:10. All it took was me finally trusting the Lord enough to say I will follow you anywhere you want to take me.
I have seen so many people at a crossroads like this. I imagine they are like Nicodemus, full of fear and angst. They are afraid if they step out in faith they will fall. However, when we think like this we miss one important fact, Jesus is there waiting to catch us. Much the same way He caught Peter as he sank in the water (Matthew 14). Jesus was not going to let Peter drown, He simply wanted Peter to trust Him.
Jesus is calling out to all of us at different times and in different circumstances. Maybe it is to leave behind a besetting sin or a call to ministry or to something outside our comfort zone like sharing our faith. Whatever it is we must respond with faith. Following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will not always be easy but will result in a fulfilled and abundant life. Are you standing at a crossroads now? I would challenge you to follow Jesus. Whatever He is calling you to do or wherever He is calling you to go - do it! You will never regret faithfully following Jesus.