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Showing posts with label Make Disciples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Make Disciples. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Great Commission, part 3

Part 3 – “Baptizing and Teaching”
Matthew 28:18-20

            This is the final message in our series on the Great Commission.  The Great Commission is not an option; it is a command given by Jesus to his disciples.  In the beginning, it was to the original disciples, but the command was not just to the twelve.  The Great Commission is for everyone who calls 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.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said it this way: “You have one business on earth—to save souls.”
So let’s look at the Great Commission as it was passed on to us in the Gospel of Matthew 28:18-20. 

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.” 

            Christ’s followers are to spread out into the whole 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.  A disciple is someone who makes Jesus the first priority of their life—even leaving everything else behind if necessary—learning Jesus’ ways and living them every day as they seek to make new disciples.  Today, we will consider how Jesus said we are to make disciples.  He said, baptize them and teach them all of his commands. 

            Baptism is the initiation rite for new disciples.  It is the beginning.  Jesus welcomes anyone to be his disciple, but anyone who wants to be his disciple must make a conscious decision to follow him.  They must recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, that he has the power to forgive their sins and save them.  They must choose to trust Jesus to save them, accept him as their Lord, and become his disciple.
            Churches have a surprising number of people in them who have never made this decision.  Jesus has always had a lot of people gathering around him who were curious, attracted by his ideas, or who admired the way he lived (maybe that describes you).  Crowds of people followed Jesus around the countryside during his earthly ministry, but he had only 12 disciples in the beginning who made a conscious decision to be completely committed to Christ.
            I want as many people as possible to come hear the Good News about Jesus.  Everyone is welcome to come and listen.  But just because a person comes to church doesn’t mean they are a disciple (AKA a Christian).  Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car!  A person starts their life as a disciple when they decide to put Jesus first.  And the usual way for us to acknowledge that decision is baptism.  Through baptism, we recognize a person is adopted into the family of God and God grants grace to help that person to live and grow as a child of God. 
            Some might say, “I don’t ever recall making a decision.  I know that Jesus is my Lord today.  I know he is first in my life and that I would do anything for him, but I don’t remember when I first made a decision.  I grew up in the church and sort of came to it gradually.”  That may be true and you might not ever remember the moment you made a decision, but you obviously have decided.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The key here is that you have decided to be Jesus’ disciple (remembering the moment is not that important).  Unfortunately, there are many in the church who have not decided.  They may even think they are Christians because they go to church, but they aren’t because they have not decided to leave everything else and follow Jesus.
            Some might say, “Well I was baptized as a baby and I don’t even remember it.  Am I still a Christian?”  We baptize babies as a decision of the parents to raise a child from the very beginning of their life as Christians with the hopes that one day they will make their own decision to follow Jesus.  It is a chance for parents to seek God’s grace for themselves and the child that they will do everything possible to make a true disciple of their child.  It is the act of parents who are faithful disciples, but the child must eventually decide for themselves.  The baptism is not complete until a child grows up and decides for themselves to be a Christian (most often around the age of 12 when a child in confirmed in the confirmation ceremony).
If we are going to make disciples, we need to invite people to make a decision to follow Jesus.  Now that doesn’t mean you have to walk up to everyone you meet and immediately bombard them with some evangelistic sales pitch.  Sometimes you have to be patient.  Sometimes you have to get to know people and build a real relationship with them.  Sometimes you have to pray for people for a while so that God will give you the opportunity to make a disciple.  But at some point if we’re going to make disciples, we have to challenge people to choose who will be their Lord.
I would like to challenge all of you today to decide who is your Lord.  Have you ever decided?  (I don’t mean do you remember the day you decided, but do you know today who is your Lord?  In other words, do you put Jesus first in your life—above your work, your family, your ambitions, your money, etc.?)  If you have never decided who is your Lord, I implore you to decided today.  Just because you've been coming to church for a while, doesn’t mean you are a Christian.  Choose today if Jesus will be the Lord of your life. 
            The decision to be a disciple of Jesus is the beginning, but it doesn’t stop there.  Next, we must teach people all of Jesus’ commands.  Gavin will graduate from high school this year.  Over the last year, Gavin has been considering which college he would like to go to after high school.  He finally decided on studying computer network engineering at Georgia Tech. 
            Now suppose Gavin gets accepted into Georgia Tech’s computer networks engineering program.  Will that automatically make him a computer network engineer?  Of course not.  In order to become an engineer, Gavin will have to study for at least 4 years and pass all his courses and earn his degree.
            A person who decides to be a Christian has made a wise choice, but it is only the beginning.  Now they must learn Jesus’ teachings.  This is what the disciples did.  As they followed Jesus, he taught them his ways—how to pray and fast, how to live, things to avoid, how to minister, how to love people, etc.  He spent three years coaching them.  And it was more than book knowledge or just listening to a sermon.  It was  “on-the-job” training.  In other words, he gave them opportunities to actually minister—to heal the sick, to preach and teach, to show mercy to the needy.
            This aspect of discipleship is so important.  Think about it: how do you teach a child how to throw and catch a football?  You could explain it to them—describe all the elements of proper catching and throwing—and you probably will, but that’s not enough.  They have to practice; they actually have to spend time throwing and catching to learn.  The same is true of Christian disciples.  It’s not enough to come to church and listen to a sermon.  We actually have to practice our faith.  We have to pray.  We have to practice self-sacrifice.  We have to love others.  We have to serve.  We have to trust God to help us do things that are beyond our ability.  We have to be a witness.  We have to make disciples.
            Discipleship is an ongoing, contextual education experience.  We learn by doing.  And just because you’ve been a Christian for 30, 40, or 50 years, doesn’t mean you’re done.  You still have more to learn.  The Apostle John outlived all the other original 12 Disciples.  He lived to see all the other’s martyred for their faith.  John is the only one who died of old age.  Yet John never retired from being a disciple; he never said, “I have finally learned it all.”  So even if you are a Christian who is 70, 80, or even 90 years old, you are still a disciple who is learning while doing the work of Christ.
            Jesus concludes the Great Commission with a promise. He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  As we decide whether or not to be Christ’s disciple, as we encourage others to be disciples, as we practice our faith, as we teach others Jesus’ commands, Jesus is with us.  Isn’t it good to know Jesus is with us?
            As we close, I invite you to:

·       Spend a moment in prayer and identify someone you could mentor for the next 2 or 3 years the way Jesus mentored the disciples—teaching them, encouraging them, coaching them in the faith, giving them opportunities to serve.

·       And if you’ve never made a choice to follow Jesus, I invite you to make a decision today.  Will you go where Jesus asks you to go?  Will you love who Jesus asks you to love?  Will you follow him?

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Great Commission, Part 2

Part 2 – “Make Disciples”
Copyright September 30, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Matthew 28:18-20

            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. 

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. 

What is a Disciple?
            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?