I understand that there’s more to being a disciple of Jesus than what I’m posting here. If you can leave a comment, perhaps we can talk more about this topic. I haven’t arrived because the perfect hasn’t come yet, and this has been a journey for me as I believe it is for you. I’ll be glad to do follow up posts on this topic. So here’s my first ‘two mite’s worth.
Matthew 28: 18. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19. 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, 20. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
These days there’s much talk about discipleship everywhere. And I’ve been asking myself this question: What kind of disciples do we want? The simple answer is disciples that look like Jesus. Yes. But we have to ask this sort of question in light of the Scriptures. Or better yet: What kind of disciples does God want?
God is most passionate about displaying His glory- above all things. His ultimate goal is that the earth “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2: 14). The heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19: 1). Man was created by God in His image, to reflect His glory (Gen. 1: 27). But sin entered and completely marred that image. As a result of sin, we fall short of His glory (Romans 3: 23). In the greek this can be translated as “deficient in regard to.” Or “have not been able to bring glory (δόξα doxa or praise) to God.” Because we glorify (deify or idolize) other things other than God Himself. And therefore we now stand in need of God’s mercy.
When Jesus commanded His disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28: 19), He also said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]” (v.18). This is crucial to note. This command to make disciples was given after Jesus rose from the dead. The work of salvation has been accomplished (John 19: 30). Forgiveness of sins is now available to all who would believe. Jesus has done it. He has all authority- over all angels, Satan and his demonic hosts, principalities and powers; over all kings, courts, premiers, finances, industries, government etc. We are not perfected disciples yet. And we will make mistakes, as we go making disciples, and we will need grace. It’s crucial to remember that the very gospel we are to proclaim is the very gospel we are still in need. We are all being discipled by Jesus through the power of His Spirit. But the fact that Jesus has all authority gives the church the authority and the confidence to go into some of the hardest places in the world.
First, Jesus says: All authority belongs to Him.
Second, He says: “Go and make disciples.”
Thirdly, He tells them:
v. 19f, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
So He tells us to: Baptize and teach all His commands. We’re to teach the whole counsel of God’s word (Luke 24: 27). But we are to teach them to obey, not just a downloading of information in a classroom based discipleship.
According to Mark’s Gospel, we are to: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15). Notice, the gospel is to redeem the whole of creation. So, how do we make disciples in obedience to Jesus’ command? Proclaim the gospel! Where? Everywhere! Jesus and His disciples made disciples wherever they went- in their day to day lives they made disciples. And then we are to: Baptize and teach all that Jesus commanded! The power lies in the gospel we are to proclaim. According to Paul, the gospel is “the power of God” for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1: 16). Elsewhere in I Corinthians chapter 1, he belabors this point: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The religious people (Jews) wanted power. They wanted a Messianic political revolution. The educated irreligious elite (Greeks) sought wisdom. To the religious, the Cross was a stumbling block. To the irreligious, and to the rest of the gentiles, the cross was utter foolishness. Yet, through the preaching of the Gospel, Paul says, God calls these people to Christ. All power and all wisdom that they were looking for is ultimately found in the person and work of Christ on the cross.
And this should be of first importance when we think about making disciples. Is the gospel just a means for making a disciple? In other words, is it just the ABC of Christianity or is it also the XYZ of Christianity? If our confidence is not in the Gospel message itself (the power of God) then we would surely resort to other methods. This is not saying that we should not contextualize. I’ve dealt with that before in an earlier post, (here, here and here). All of this is to say: The gospel is sufficient for all of life and ministry. It is the ABC and XYZ of Christianity. We need to make sure that our people understand the true heart of the Gospel.
The gospel justifies and sanctifies us. In Titus 2, it says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The grace of God not only saves us, but trains us to renounce “ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” The gospel of grace is power! Obviously, there’s only one Gospel. It’s the most obvious answer, but also the most assumed, most underestimated and most neglected. I say it’s the most obvious and most neglected because Paul was shocked when the Galatians church turned to “a different gospel” (Gal. 1: 6), a gospel that is “contrary to the one we preached to you” (Gal. 1: 8). When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23: 15). This is the same as saying: If you don’t get the gospel right that’s the kind of disciples you’ll reproduce. And there were some who troubled the Galatians and wanted ‘to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gala. 1: 7). Today, some do this either ignorantly or by “imagining that godliness is a means of [worldly, material, financial] gain” (I Tim. 6: 5). There’s only one gospel. And we are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1: 3).
So, the way that the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God is through the proclamation of the biblical Gospel. How do we know that? Paul wrote: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4: 6). The primary means that God has given us to make disciples of all nations is the preaching of the biblical gospel. The same God who preached light into existence (Gen. 1: 3), gives us the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” through the Word. Without the light of the Gospel there can be no true knowledge of the glory of God.
O God help us see that in order to make true disciples of Christ, there must be true conversion of hearts through the preaching of your Gospel. We need you Holy Spirit, to convict and regenerate the unregenerate. God have mercy on us. Have mercy on this nation! We repent for distorting the gospel of your Son by our legalistic and licenscious bent. We repent for trusting in our self-righteousness instead of trusting in Christ’s righteousness. O God, restore the true preaching of the Gospel in your Church. May your people receive much grace from you daily, and show that grace to one another. May we learn to forgive one another as you have forgiven us in Christ. May we learn to be true disciple-making disciples, so that one day the whole earth may be filled with people who reflect Your glory! In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!