Copyright September 30, 2015 by Chris Mullis
This is the second message in a series on the Great Commission. We use the term commission in a number of ways in our world. Harold Brooker is a county commissioner—someone we have entrusted and given authority to make decisions for the benefit of Whitfield County. In the military, a soldier may be commissioned as an officer. When they receive their promotion to a higher rank (or commission), they are given greater authority; but with greater authority also comes greater responsibility. We might also commission a ship, signifying that construction is complete and the ship is ready for active service. Then, when the ship is no longer needed, it is decommissioned. We might say of ships or persons that are unable to serve, “they are out of commission.” I hope God never has to say of me as a Christian, "He's out of commission."
The Great Commission is the greatest authority and most important responsibility Jesus gave his disciples. Originally it was for his first Disciples, but it is also for everyone after them who believes and follows Jesus. If you are a Christian, the Great Commission is for you. It gives you great authority on earth; but with great authority also comes great responsibility.
So 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.”
Last time, we looked at the first imperative of the Great Commission—to go. Christ’s followers are to spread out into the world and live the Great Commission wherever we are. We go to our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, our work, and even to faraway places to spread the Good News about Christ wherever we are, every way we can, in whatever we do. Today, I want to pay special attention to the second imperative of the Great Commission—make disciples.
Making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. It is the main point. But what is a disciple? A disciple is more than a follower or a fan. Mathetes (the Greek word for disciples) means not only someone who learns, but also someone who becomes attached to one’s teacher and becomes his follower in what he teaches and the way he lives.
Let’s consider the disciple Matthew as an illustration of discipleship. Matthew was a tax collector. Although tax collecting was a profession people scorned (both then and now), it was a lucrative business. Yet Jesus said to Matthew, ““Follow me and be my disciple.” So Matthew got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9)
Matthew dropped everything, left his tax collecting booth, his business, and followed Jesus. For three years Matthew walked alongside Jesus, lived as he lived, ate what he ate, and learned what Jesus taught. As Matthew’s knowledge grew, Jesus began sending him and the other disciples out to do the things Jesus did. In Matthew 10:1, we read Jesus gave his disciples the authority to cast out evil spirits and heal every kind of disease (i.e. he commissioned them). Then in Matthew 10:8, it says Jesus sent the disciples out to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. [He said] Give as freely as you have received!” In other words, these are the things I have done for you, know you do them freely for others.
It’s one thing for Jesus—the Son of God—to heal the sick, raise the dead, and caste out demons, but his disciples did this too? Yes! You see, the disciples did more than just learn Jesus’ teachings. They put them into practice and began to embody who he was. At first they struggled. They stumbled. They failed at times; but by the time Jesus ascended into heaven at the end of his earthly ministry, the disciples were ready to take over Jesus’ disciple making mission.
We too, if we are disciples, are called to follow Jesus. We make him the greatest priority of our life. We commit to learn his ways and live them. It doesn’t mean we are perfect or that we don’t make mistakes. Just like the 12 disciples, we will make many mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn. Disciples learn by trying. And gradually they get better.
So the question is: Are you a disciple? A fan admires Jesus. A follower follows him around to see what he will do next. But a disciple walks with Jesus, learns from Jesus, and does what Jesus teaches. A disciple is commissioned to make other disciples.
Since we are concluding our stewardship campaign today, I will use the subject of money to make my point. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) What we do with our money is a pretty good indication of our priorities.
A disciple gives up everything to follow Jesus. If you haven’t given up everything for Jesus, you aren’t really a disciple. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Do I really have to give up everything? Really? What about my children? What about my job? What about…”
There is a story about a rich young man who wanted to be a disciple and Jesus told him to give away all his possession. The man went away sad, because he had many possessions and wasn't willing to give them up. We won’t get into all the ramifications of what Jesus said to that young man today. Let me just say this, Jesus is a gracious master. Most of the time, he’s not gonna make you literally give up your children or family or give away all your possessions as long as you recognize they are no longer yours, but his anyway. If Jesus is the Lord of your life, all you have and all you are is his and you acknowledge this when you commit to be a disciple of Christ.
And you can keep your money too. But what does it say if you aren’t even willing to give 10% of your income in obedience to God’s word? Have you really given it all up for Christ if you aren’t even willing to give 10%? Are you really a disciple then?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this during our stewardship campaign at Pleasant Grove. And I’ve been particularly thinking about our younger folks here at Pleasant Grove. I remember what it was like to be a young adult, newly wed at the age of 20 years old. Kelly and I were becoming more active in the church. We were growing as disciples. We felt led to start tithing and we really struggled with it.
You have to understand, we had no money. With both of us working, we were earning less than $400 a week. And we were both paying our own way through college without any assistance from our parents. (We used to have a jar where we would save our spare change at the end of the day. And when it accumulated enough, we would treat ourselves to eating at McDonald’s. McDonalds y’all! I used to dream about the day I could eat at McDonald’s anytime I wanted without worrying if I would be able to pay the light bill at the end of the month.)
And it was in the midst of living that impoverished lifestyle that Jesus challenged us to start tithing. So we were thinking, “How in the world are we going to start giving 10% of our already meager income to the church?” It just didn’t make any sense, but that is when we started the spiritual practice of tithing and we have been tithers ever since.
The decision to tithe 10% of your income is a challenge—regardless of how young or old, rich or poor you are. However, it is a spiritual practice that will change your life as a disciple of Christ.
Holy Communion reminds us how Jesus gave everything for us. The bread is His body, the wine His blood. Jesus gave everything for you. Are you willing to give everything to be His disciple? Think about that question as you whenever you receive the bread and the wine. Are you willing to give everything to be Jesus’ disciple?