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Faith Bible Church, NY
September 24, 1995
The Great Commission, Part II
Throughout Matthew we have seen him make his case that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. The final proof of that was given in His resurrection from the dead. We have also seen Matthew’s concentration on presenting Jesus’ teachings to his followers. Jesus took advantage of every opportunity to teach His disciples concerning Himself and what life was about so that they would be able to carry out God’s kingdom program after Jesus’ departure into heaven.
PEOPLE GOD CAN USE
As we saw two weeks ago, Jesus’ disciples were just ordinary men. There was really nothing special about them. They were often proud, boastful and selfish, even bickering with each other about who was the greatest (Mt. 20:20f). They often demonstrated a lack of faith even over things Jesus had previously done before them (Mt. 15:32f). They proved to be fearful and except for John, refused to be seen and identified with Jesus after He was arrested and was crucified. Even after the resurrection, they were initially hesitant to believe. These were ordinary men, but they later “turned the world upside down” as reported by their opponents in Acts 17:6.
AVAILABLE: God was able to use these ordinary men because they made themselves available to God, they were worshipful to Jesus and they submitted to Him. God can use us in a similar way if these characteristics would mark our lives. Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. Verse 16 tells that they went there. They wanted to be available for whatever the Master had in store for them whether it was to learn more or serve Him. You find that to be true throughout their lives. They often did not know what was in store for them, but they desired to learn from Jesus whatever He would teach them and they desired to do whatever Jesus would ask them. They made themselves available.
Are you available? I believe that a major reason that many Christians are not used much by the Lord is simply the fact that they have entrapped themselves so much into what the world says is important, that they are not available to do what the Lord says is important. We mimic society and rush from place to place to accomplish this or that with the result that we often never see the opportunities that are right in front of us. The neighbor that needs encouragement. The co-worker that would join us in a Bible study if we asked them. The teen that would like for someone to give them something to believe in, but doesn’t believe that anyone really cares. In the rat race to keep up with the Jones and fulfill society’s goal of materialistic success we miss the opportunities to meet genuine needs both close at hand and far away.
What soaks up your time, energy and money? Would you be able to take advantage of an opportunity to do something for the Lord even if it were handed to you on a silver platter, or are you like the rat so busy trying to get through the maze to the end that you never look up to see the hand of God offering you a way out to a different kind of life? Are you available to God?
WORSHIPFUL: The disciples were also moved to worship at the presence of Jesus Christ. Verse 17 says that when they saw Jesus they fell down and worshiped Him. That requires and understanding of who He is and who you are in relationship to Him. If that thought alone does not make you fall down before Him, then you think too highly of yourself and too low of Him. You are simply one of the things He has created. You deserve nothing but punishment because of your sin, yet He has chosen to love you and give you everything. Worship of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of the true Christian. Is that true of you?
Ministry done without a heart of worship is always done in the flesh without the Spirit’s power. It also always becomes that person’s personal source of pride and/or power. Such ministry is not unto the Lord for His sake, but unto themselves for their own sake.
SUBMISSION: We also find that the disciples were submissive to Jesus. They understood that He is Lord and willingly sought to obey Him. They did not obey because they had too, but because they wanted too. That also is a difference between a true and false Christian.
Jesus said in verse 18 that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus’ claim here is unlimited. Authority refers to Jesus right, power and freedom to do as He pleases and command others to do as He pleases. Jesus’ claim here is that this authority has been given to Him by the Father and that it encompasses everything. The word “all” and the phrase “heaven and earth” reinforce each other in expressing the idea that Jesus has authority over all created things.
It is Jesus’ right to command us. It is our responsibility to obey. Failure to obey subjects us to either His chastisement (Heb. 12) or His (Rom. 1, Rev. 20) and those that fail to yield will eventually be forced to obey (Eph 4). The true Christian is marked by submission: willing obedience, not defiance which results in forced obedience.
Jesus has the authority to command and he does so in verse 19. It is important that you understand that what Jesus says here is a command, not a suggestion. It is expected that those that belong to Christ will obey it. It is ludicrous for someone to say that they believe Jesus’ claims and trust Him for salvation and then reject what He says and not submit to His authority. That only proves they do not believe Jesus’ claims about Himself, and one of His claims is authority over all creation.
JESUS’ COMMAND TO MAKE DISCIPLES
What is the command that Jesus gives? It is one command accomplished in three elements. The Greek grammar here is one verb; “make disciples”, with three participles: “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” We are to “make disciples” by “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching.”
The command is not arbitrary but based on Jesus Himself. Notice the command begins with a “therefore” which brings back into focus Jesus’ authority. The command to make disciples can be fulfilled because Jesus has the authority to send us and the power to accomplish His work through us. As I have said before, it is not your ability, but your availability given in worshipful submission that makes you useful to God. Jesus accomplishes His work through you. Since Jesus is who He claims to be, you can therefore go out and do what He commands because the command is based on His authority, power, and ability to accomplish it.
The command itself is to make disciples. Whatever else the church does, the center of its focus needs to be in making disciples. Our fellowship, our ministries, and even our worship all revolve around being and making disciples.
What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows the teachings of another. They learn from the teacher. They identify with the teacher. They seek to be like the teacher. Luke 6:40 gives a good description saying that the “disciple is not above his teacher… but after being fully trained will be like his teacher.” Paul tells us in Rom. 8 that all those that will be saved are “predestined to b e conformed to the image of [Jesus].”
You can see from this that if you claim to be a Christian, then being a disciple of Christ is not an option. Even the term, “Christian,” speaks of discipleship since as Acts 11:26 states it was the “disciples” that were first called “Christians” in Antioch. The term itself means to be “a little Christ.” A true Christian is someone who, as Paul describes in Gal. 2, has died to themselves and has Christ living in and through them. When people see you, do they see Christ living in you?
Jesus command is to make disciples of Him and you cannot do that unless you are His disciple first. We make disciples of Christ the same way that the apostle Paul did in 1 Cor. 11:1: “be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ.” We call people to follow us as we follow Christ. If others became like us would they also be becoming like Christ? That in a nut shell is what making a disciple is all about: people begin to pattern their life after you and since you have patterned your life after Jesus they in turn are also becoming like Christ.
Jesus commanded us to “make disciples” and gave three elements needed to accomplish that. First is the going out. Notice that it is we that are to do the going. The little sign we have above the doors of this building as you go out reflect this. “You are now entering the mission field.” Christians are to go out to the non-believers in order to start the process of making them into disciples of Christ. We are the ones that need to be making the effort, we are the ones that will be inconvenienced, we are the ones that will be in places that make us uncomfortable, we are the ones that will expend our time and money in the endeavor. We are the ones that are to “go.”
We may have just celebrated ten years since the dedication of this building to the Lord, but this building is not the church and it cannot do the Lord’s work. You are the church and you do the work. This is only a building designed to help facilitate one aspect of making disciples, teaching them to observe all that the Lord commanded. This building can’t go out and it cannot make disciples. It is only a building, you are the church, the body of Christ and only you can fulfill Jesus’ command to go.
Notice as well that we are to make disciples of “all nations.” That reflects the fact that in Christ there is no room for prejudice. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, black or white, red or yellow. Keep in mind that the modern idea of “race” is from evolutionary thought. God only made one race, the Human race in all its morphological variations. God separated the human race into various “nations” and we are to go out to those nations and make disciples for Christ.
Making disciples of all nations also shows the necessity of going out. We have to leave our comfort zone to reach out to people who are different from us. They may have different physical characteristics of size, skin color, eyes, hair, noses and toes. They may have customs you do not understand, like putting jewelry in odd parts of their bodies and wearing funny looking and uncomfortable clothes. They may eat food you consider unusual to say the least, like snails, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, and as Bruce Omer in Thailand found out, coagulated blood. You may not even know their language. They may live somewhere else. But whether they are around the block or the world, the command is for us to go to them that we might make them disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first aspect then of making disciples is to go out to the non-Christian community. Where can you meet non-Christians? Of course you can meet them anywhere including in church, but where can you meet them in a context where you can begin to make them disciples of Christ? Again, almost anywhere. You are only limited by your imagination and willingness to be available. There are the obvious people & places like your neighborhood, school, and place of work, etc. There are also all the people you do business with, those who are involved in your hobbies, your social organizations, etc. There are all the people you can make special outreaches too: jails (adult and juvenile), convalescent homes, hospitals, parks, shopping malls, train stations, parades, fairs, flee markets, etc. God will use you if you are available. Are you willing to go?
What will you do when you go? You will use your spiritual gifts and you will proclaim the gospel, the good news of salvation from sin and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Now that probably sounds scary to most of you. I suspect there are probably only a few people in the room that are gifted in evangelism who can hardly wait between opportunities to proclaim the gospel to someone they have never met before. Yet, evangelism(proclaiming the gospel), is a responsibility for every Christian. If “cold turkey” evangelism scares you, and it does me, then don’t fret, God always enables you to do what He calls you to do. Your part is simply to be available and submissive.
You may not be able to talk to a stranger, but you can talk with those you have already built relationships with. You can also learn to become more bold in talking with others by doing it and trusting God to get you through it. As we focus on what God thinks of us instead of what other people think of us we are less intimidated. And finally, you can also use your spiritual gifts to support the activities of those that are gifted in evangelism. The church works together as a complete team with each member of it doing its part toward accomplishing its goal of making disciples of Christ.
As the gospel goes out there will be those that respond and that brings the next element of making a disciple: Baptism. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Baptism should be one of the first steps in a new believer’s walk of faith.
While there are many traditions concerning baptism, the scriptures are clear that it was only done by those who believed, so that excludes babies. It is also clear that it was done by immersion. Baptism does not save nor does it extend any special grace. Some of you were sprinkled as babies in a church and were told you were baptized. The truth is that all that happened to you is you got wet!.
Baptism is an act of faithful obedience in public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be baptized into the name of God marks you as professing to belong to God. Note that you are to be baptized into one “name”, it is singular. That is why we only dunk once as opposed to three times as some other groups do. The singular “name” signifies the unity of the trinity. It is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The third aspect of making disciples is “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” There are those within the church that are specially gifted to teach, but this command is given to all. Parents teach their children. Mature believers teach new believers. Teaching is not just imparting knowledge by some academic exercise. It is the interaction of your life with someone else so that they will be capable of living for Christ. You do not have to know all the answers, but you do have to know the Lord.
Keep in mind that while learning to do all that Jesus has commanded will be a lifelong process, it should only take a short time for someone to learn enough to begin the process with someone else. Even if you have been a Christian for less than a year, if you have been careful to learn what has been taught to you about Jesus, you are already capable of working with a new Christian who knows less about living for Christ.
I will expand on this topic of how to make a disciple in next week, but for today have it solid in your mind that God can and will use you to make disciples if you are available, a worshiper of Christ and willing to obey His commands.
Why am I so sure of this? Not just because it is true in my own life, but because Jesus has the power and authority to accomplish it. In addition, we find here at the end of the last verse in Matthew, that Jesus will be with us through it all. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus calls our attention by saying, “lo.” It is a call to be alert and focus our minds on what He is now saying. He then makes it emphatic that He will be with us to the end; a literal translation being, “I will be with you, even I, all the days even to the conclusion of the age.”
Jesus will be with you each and every day of your life even if that is to the conclusion of this age and you are transformed and taken to heaven without having to taste physical death. Jesus is present. His power is present. His command is given. The only question open is whether or not you will be available and obedient to let Him use you to make disciples of Him. What will you do?
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