IntroductionEverybody needs a purpose. With no purpose, you have no direction and no motivation. A person's health often declines drastically in the months just after they retire. Researchers believe this is largely due to the retiree losing their since of purpose. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that recent retirees were 40% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who were still working.[i]
Perhaps this is because while people are working, they have a stronger identity and more driving them. When people retire, they often feel adrift, become depressed or inactive. It is not that retirement is unhealthy, it’s just that retirees need to find a new purpose to give them direction and motivation.
We all need a purpose. The Good News is God gives us a noble purpose that transcends our jobs, our age, our gender, and everything else about us. Our purpose, our mission, is called the Great Commission. Today we begin a new sermon series on the Great Commission. It was given directly by Jesus after he rose from the grave, just before he ascended to Heaven to sit on his throne at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Let’s look at the Great Commission as it was passed on to us in the Gospel of Matthew 28:18-20.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission is not an option; it is a command given to Jesus' disciples. In the beginning, it was to the 12 original disciples (minus Judas who betrayed Jesus and committed suicide). But the command was not just to the twelve, it is to all who call themselves “disciples”—anyone who has decided to follow Jesus. If you have decided to follow Jesus, you are a disciple and this Great Commission is for you.
Jesus said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore…” In other words, we had better pay attention and heed his command because it has the authority of the Son of God, the Lord of all Heaven and Earth, behind it. The Great Commission is a command that transcends all other missions we have in life. It is the Christian’s ultimate objective. When God gives an order, it transcends all commands given by those of lesser authority. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said it this way: “You have one business on earth—to save souls.”
That doesn’t mean we drop all our other responsibilities in order to carry out this one Great Commission. The Great Commission can be carried out—actually it should be carried out—as we go about all our other duties. The Great Commission ought to permeate everything we do. Let’s look a little closer at what the Great Commission says by breaking it into parts. We will look at the first part today. It is simple. Just one word. “Go!”
Lost in Translation
Some things are easily lost in translation. The Chevy Nova was one of the top selling cars for General Motors in the 1960s and 70s. I used to catch a ride to high school with my best friend in his brother’s 1974 Chevy Nova SS. It was a fast, fun car to ride in. But legend has it, the Nova did not sell well in Spanish speaking countries because “No Va” in Spanish means “No Go!” Who wants to buy a car that “won’t go”?
We have a similar problem when we read the Great Commission in English. The first word we read is “go.” It could lead us to think the main point of the Great Commission is to go, but that’s not it at all. The issue is the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Greek. The Greek language does not phrase sentences the same way we do in English.
A literal translation of the Great Commission from Greek to English would say something like: “Make disciples when you go…” In other words, the main point is to make disciples. It is assumed that you will go. And when you go, wherever you go, and in whatever you do, you should seek to make disciples.
The Great Commission should permeate every action of your life. You should make disciples when you go home to your family. You should make disciples when you go to work to make a living. You should make disciples when you go next door to your neighbor’s house. You should make disciples when you travel to a faraway land you’ve never been to before. You should make disciples when you become a parent and start raising kids. You should make disciples if you decide to remain single or not have any kids. You should make disciples next Sunday when you go to work on a project for Be the Church. You should make disciples whenever and wherever you go and whatever you do. It is the main point—the Great Commission. But I like the word go. It reminds us to be active. We’ve got to step on the gas and get busy.
Listen to what James 2:14 says, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”
Sometimes we in the church get so caught up in being “spiritual” (studying our Bibles, praying, etc) that we forget to go and make disciples. We become so spiritually-minded that we are of no earthly good.
In thinking about James 2:14, listen to what our music minister, David Crawford, wrote this week. He said:
“I believe there is a similarity between faith and prayer in this instance. Prayer is important, and is a power given to us that enables us to ask for things we do not have the ability to achieve on our own with the resources God has given us. But there are times when action other than prayer is necessary to show God’s love, and do His will. Sometimes it is being God’s hands and feet that may be the answer to the prayer of those unable to help themselves. Yes, you should pray, but don’t forget to do. Faith without works….prayer without deeds….we should all strive to Refuse to have one without the other.”
Are you willing to obey the Great Commission from Jesus Christ? Are you willing to make disciples whenever and wherever you go in whatever you do? Will you refuse to “sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called [you] to do [yourself]”?[ii] I hope so. Because what the world desperately needs is Christians who are willing to go make disciples of all nations.