Matthew 28.18-20. As I reflected on this passage, and the “Great Commission”… Jesus’ call to make disciples of all the nations, I couldn’t help but think how well it fits with the “Great Commandment”, loving God and loving people. The natural out working of our love for others is sharing with them the hope that we have, pointing them to way back to Father God through Jesus. Often when this passage is shared, the focus is on evangelism…sharing the gospel, and that fits the going and baptizing aspects of the Great Commission. But what about discipleship? Why is discipleship so important?
I shared a tweet this week… “Discipleship is a change in perspective…learning to see and engage the world like the Master.” For me, that is why discipleship is so important. Ever since the fall, our natural orientation is very earthy and self-centered. We tend to ask, “What’s in it for me?” It’s our time, our finances, our resources. We are too busy running our own universe to give loving God, much less loving people, a second thought.
When we first trust in Jesus, the Bible says that we are new creatures; but our perspective isn’t automatically realigned. Vestiges of the flesh and a culture hell-bent on dragging us away from God tend to keep us very earthy and self-centered. And we continue to look like the world around us. Discipleship is the process of learning to think and act differently. To reorient our perspective so that we begin to see the world through God’s eyes and to respond to others the way He would. It’s not an automatic process, but a change in lifestyle. And like learning a new skill, a new sport, starting a new diet…there is a period of disorientation before we truly begin to realign ourselves to the new reality. It’s learning to see my resources – my time, my money, my relationships – through God’s eyes.
The process of discipleship is intentional, and while it can and should involve some individual spiritual disciplines like time in the Word and prayer, it only truly happens in community, as we gather around the Word with fellow believers and encourage, instruct, rebuke, correct and point each other back to Jesus. I know of no other more effective means of discipleship. We see hints of community even in the baptismal formula. God lives in eternal community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And He calls us to the same experience of life together.
As I thought about my own life, the greatest periods of growth have always come as I’ve wrestled through a given passage with a group of guys on a Tuesday morning. Because as we’ve wrestled with the Word, the implications for our lives bubbled to the surface. The times in my life that I’ve been the furthest from God as a believer have been those times when I’ve isolated myself from others…those are periods of time when sin festered. And why is that? Because I can easily fool myself into thinking that I’m growing in maturity while it’s just me, my Bible and a cup of coffee. But when I run into someone else, then I find out my real struggles in loving others…
But what about you? When you think about the Great Commission, are you excited or terrified? If discipleship is a group process, what is your responsibility as an individual? To go (pursue) and to initiate conversations where you share the hope that you have. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and to woo, but we have to engage. And then invite them into your community where they can begin to grow.
This story challenges us to join God’s mission to reconcile the world to Himself. It’s an exciting and somewhat daunting task, but the rewards are worth it. It reminds me of the Mission Impossible movies…our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to change the world one person at a time.
My prayer for us this week is that we would take seriously our job of both being and making disciples we look for opportunities with those one or two folks in our circles who don’t know Jesus to engage them in gospel saturated conversations to point them to the hope we have in Jesus, so that we might make going and making disciples central.
Until next time…stay salty. BTW you can listen to an mp3 of this sermon entitled: “Fulfill the Great Commission” in our “What is Central?” series at: http://www.centralchristian.org.