Jesus left us with a mission.
“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 [obey] all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
If the one with ALL authority, both in Heaven and on earth, gave one last command before ascending and departing (physically, at least), we should probably stop what we’re doing a pay attention to what He said. What was it?
But there’s more to it than that. Specifically I want to focus on the last part of it: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Well that would include the command to go and make disciples. We are called — commanded — to go and make disciples who go and make disciples. Praise God that this is happening! I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I see this happening. I see people taking what they have been taught, what they know in their hearts about God, and passing it on to others, who will be able to teach others also.
Yet, as I look around me, this does not seem to be work that characterizes the body of Christ. It is happening, absolutely, and praise the Lord for that. Yet it seems that it is the exception rather than the rule. But shouldn’t this be the normal experience of those who love and follow Jesus? That we should be men and women of great compassion and grace, longing to share with others the great treasure we’ve found in God? I certainly think so.
So why does it seem that so few are doing this, following the Great Commission of Matthew 28? There are probably a ton of reasons. I’m going to ramble my way through what I perceive as one of them. If I get carried away, I may address two. We’ll find out together.
It seems to me that the primary reason that people who genuinely love Jesus don’t obey His last command is fear. Remarkably broad? You bet. So let’s focus on the specific fear of inadequacy (Note that when I say “let’s” I really mean “I’ll. It just sounds inclusive to say “let’s. But at this moment, I get to be the keyboard warrior).
I see this every single day. I work full-time with college students, trying to convince them that the call to make disciples is worthy of their entire life. Wherever they go, whatever they do, Jesus has called them into the harvest field to labor for the rest of their lives. Yet so many are just crippled by this paralyzing sense that they are insufficient for the task at hand. The reasons, whether stated or not, are things like: I don’t know enough. Or I’m not godly enough (whatever that means). Or what if it affects my relationship with the person? Or my least favorite of all, I’m too busy / I don’t have time.
Well I have good news for you from the offset: You are completely and utterly insufficient for the task Jesus has commanded you to complete!
You can’t do it! You do not have it in you to help lead someone closer to God. Neither do I. How freeing is that? It likely doesn’t sound like something to rejoice over. Yet, it should be a joy to know that I”m insufficient in this way.
If I were sufficient to accomplish the task at hand today, what if I someday ran into a situation where I’m insufficient? How would I cope with that? I couldn’t. It is better then to trust that from the offset I am incapable and believe that God is fully sufficient to complete the work He’s given me to do.
Jesus promised to be with us in this! “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” You are not going to go and make disciples by yourself. At least, I sure hope you aren’t.
Anyone whom I’ve ever met with and attempted to disciple could tell you that if it had just been me giving them what I had to offer, we’d not have gotten a lot done. I am bad at this. Like weirdly bad at it for someone who’s full-time job it is to do this. Some people (my wife) just seem like they were made for this. Every gifting and skill God has given them (my wife) seems to come to play when they (my wife) interact with another person in a one-to-one setting and help point them back to God in the midst of the struggles, hardships, and triumphs of life. That’s not me.
But the truth is, I was made for this too. If I believe that this is the mission that Jesus has given to every one of His followers, then I need to believe that He cares so much about seeing it done that He can accomplish it even through me. Simply put, I don’t suck so much that God couldn’t even use me.
Two verses come to mind that give me immense comfort and confidence in the task of making disciples. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (this only counts as one),
“Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…”
I can have confidence because my sufficiency to accomplish anything doesn’t come from me, but from God in me. He has made me sufficient to be a minister of His new covenant. Praise God that this is true!
The second verse is Acts 4:13,
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
This gives me great hope. God chose common, ordinary men so that when people encountered them, they wouldn’t be astounded by their education, but by the fact that they knew Jesus personally. In fact, God sent seemingly the only guy in the New Testament with an extraordinary education (Paul) to the Greeks, who were guaranteed not to care about his education. When I spend time with Jesus, people can tell. Moses’ face shone from spending time with God. My spirit will shine when I do. Spending time with God makes an impact that others may perceive. That’s all it takes for me to impact another person in the way Jesus commanded.
So the truth is that I was made for this. I was made to go and make disciples. And if you are a follower of Jesus, then so were you. Discipleship isn’t having a thoroughly crafted content plan to lead people through to address all of their life problems and sin struggles. It isn’t being able to navigate every hard situation in life. I can’t fix my own problems or sin struggles. I can’t navigate my own difficulties in life. I sure can’t do it for someone else. Discipleship is a huge, broad, and difficult thing in many ways. But it is also simple. It is so so simple. Discipleship in its simplest form is perhaps this: knowing and following Jesus personally and helping another person, a friend, see how they can do the same.