Friday, February 24, 2012

A Common Misconception of Tehe Great Commission

One thing that really frustrates me is when people say that we should all just focus on sharing the Gospel and nothing about repentance.  Do not get me wrong, we should preach the Gospel always with words and with our lives.  The idea, though, that we should only share Jesus saves with no mention of Jesus changing our lives and with no mention on righteous living in Christ not only denies most of the New Testament example on teaching but it also denies the Great Commission.  Let's review the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age." Amen.  Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
Many people mistake the Great Commission as just a call to preach the gospel to all the world.  While that is a part of it, that is by no means all of it.  The call is to make disciples of all the world and Jesus tells us we accomplish that by teaching them to observe all the things that Jesus commanded the apostles.  In other words, we are not just making converts, but we are raising up mature men and women of Christ.  The Gospel is their salvation, their Baptism is their symbolic death to the world and coming alive again in Christ, and then the rest is teaching them how to be a Christian.  Far too many are stuck on step 1 and rely on whatever church they end up going to for step 2.  If we were called to make converts of all the nations, this would not be a big deal.  However, we are called to make disciples of all the nations.  If we reject raising up those we reach for Christ, we are only making aimless converts many of whom will go back to the world. 

I can understand why people reject step 3.  Step 3 is hard.  It is about obedience.  It is about repentance.  It is about giving up those things we hold onto but really shouldn't.  It is about changing our own lives to be a witness to others.  It is one thing to teach someone about living righteously in Jesus Christ, it is another thing to do it as an example.  Step 3 means commitment to Christ not just for your own sake but for the sake of others you are raising up.  It is hard to teach obedience to others when we either do no believe we need to be obedient ourselves or that we know we should but just do not want to.  There is no way around it, though.  Part of being a Christian is putting away our former conduct and living to emulate our Lord who saved us.  It is a rather incomplete and wrong view of the gospel to believe otherwise.  Being a Christian is not just accepting Jesus and then going on with your life just as before.  Being a Christian means a transformed life. 

Whether it be a personal desire to not give up our sins, laziness, or even well-intended but misguided notions of making as many converts as possible with no concern for what kind of Christian you are making, we have gone off the rails of the Great Commission.  If we look at the example of Paul (and the Bible tells us to look at the example of Paul), we see that he preached the Gospel and planted churches, but he did not stop there.  He discipled those churches through epistles, follow-up visits, and sending others to those churches.  He did not just make converts, but disciples and we must do the same.  Our failure to follow in that example has brought us to where we are today.  I think that it is not that so many of us have no interest in discipleship, it is just that very few of us were actually discipled.  If we were never discipled ourselves, we will not know the importance of discipling others that we reach for Christ.  I do hope we can change course, otherwise that time known as the Great Apostasy might just be right around the corner.

Teaching others the love of Jesus is a beautiful message.  Not only is it a beautiful message, but it is also an essential message.  There is no greater thing in my life then knowing Jesus loves me and loves me enough to have suffered and died for my sins so that I do not have to.  We can never stop teaching people that glorious message.  But there comes a point in time when we start to love Jesus back and that is where discipleship comes in.  Discipleship is not about teaching people how to get Jesus to love them, but teaching people how to love Jesus back.  And how do we love Him back?  Jesus sums it up in just a few words.
"If you love Me, keep My commandments. " John 14:15 NKJV

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