“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Yes, we all know this passage by heart. The Great Commission! What good Christian doesn’t know it? But, before you stop reading because you know this so well, ask yourself, how are you obeying these verses today?
Is the extent of your knowledge solely head-knowledge, or has it proved itself true in a life-style obedience?
Along with the other simple teachings of Jesus, I believe we have overcomplicated things so much to the point where we disobey. We’ve forgotten the basic commands Christ gives us.
As a result, I’m afraid we have created for ourselves such a powerless, watered down faith, that we have begun to label the Christians who actually do obey as the “radical” or “super” Christian.” There is no such thing. Jesus was the most normal Christian ever to live. Somehow, entry-level Christianity 101 has become “radical.”
We’ve dwarfed the commands of Jesus into options, we’ve diluted the message of the gospel into a message of prosperity, and we’ve belittled the power and person of the Holy Spirit into some unknown mystical force. We’ve mistaken the cost of following Christ – to take up our cross and follow him, to lose our life, to hate our mother and father, to die to ourselves daily – as the extra credit only the “super spiritual” believer does, when these are the fundamental requirements to follow Jesus.
Now, I’m not trying to transform all of us into Pharisees. I’m not trying to exhort us to work harder, to try more, or to be “better” in the religious sense. All of those things are anti-gospel and not what Jesus wants. I’m just worried that the God that we’re following, this Jesus Christ we speak of, is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, but rather, is merely a broken caricature of what the true living God of the Bible is.
Christian, are you obeying the simple commands of Jesus?
Go, Not Come.
When we look at Jesus’ commands in the Bible, we see that He has laid out the battle plan for us. We don’t need another plan, because He has given us the strategy, the answer to the problem that He has promised to fulfill. What is it?
Jesus tells us to “go.” Go means go. Often, however, we say to people, “come.” Come to our church and come to our bible study. Who’s the missionary in this situation? The non-believer. We often force the non-believer into the missionary role.
And yes you’re right, that makes no sense whatsoever, except it’s what we far too often do.
We’ve forced them to step out with faith into an unknown environment, while we comfortably await their arrival. This goes absolutely against everything Jesus teaches. We must be the missionaries. We must be the ones that go to them. We must be the ones to shape our entire lives around who they are, what they like, what they do, and where they go. As in the words of Paul, we must become “all things to all people” [1 Corinthians 9:22].
I’ve also heard it like this: a missionary is someone who gives up everything for the sake of the gospel, except the gospel.
So go, not come!
Everybody, Not Just Some
What does Jesus say next? He says to go to all nations. That means everybody.
“Everyone, everywhere,” as my mentor puts it. We are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ not just with a few but with everyone. And by everyone, I mean everyone: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and roommates – everyone in our lives, which makes up our oikos, which is Greek for “household.” The Father’s heart is not just for us to be saved, but for our entire oikos to be saved as well.
We tend to choose who we think will respond to the gospel. However, Jesus says to go to everyone. He gives an example with the Parable of the Sower. This farmer, who goes out to sow the seeds, knows which soil is good and which is bad, chooses to throw the seeds everywhere. Some of the soil is shallow, some of it is hard, and some of the soil is choked with weeds. However, some of the soil is good, and God multiples the fruit 30, 60, and 100 times [Mark 4].
Like the farmer, we are to sow broadly. Sowing the seed is our responsibility. Only the Holy Spirit can make seeds grow. So make a name list of your oikos, pray over each name, and share your testimony and the gospel with every single person on that list. It’s what everyone means.
Don’t give the gospel to just some, but to everyone.
Disciples, Not Converts
What did Jesus invite His followers to become? Disciples, not church members or converts or even “Christians.” A disciple learns everything his teacher teaches him, and then he obeys and teaches other people to do the same. A disciple surrenders everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
It’s not merely about “bring saved” and it’s not just about praying a “sinner’s prayer.” There is no grey area in whether one is a believer or not. There is no such thing as the “nominal” Christian. Someone is either a disciple or not. It is very black and white. Jesus wants disciples.
In addition, we are to train these disciples who in turn will train others who train others, and so on. This begins to multiply and soon enough, a widespread church-planting movement is birthed as thousands upon thousands of disciples are made.
Jesus also says to not only teach, but “teach to obey.” Obedience is the mark of true discipleship. The 21st century American Church often assesses how mature a believer is based on how much he knows. However, the New Testament assesses the maturity of a believer based on how much he obeys.
Finally, we are to reach the nations. All nations, “ethne,” means all people groups. This is not at all an option; rather it’s a requirement. If we leave this out, then we are disobeying the commands of Jesus, to put it simply. In addition, there are also over 1600 other times in the Scriptures when God mentions his desire for His name to be worshipped among the nations.
So Christian, how are you reaching the nations?
Sure, not everyone is called to go overseas, but are you reaching out to your Saudi neighbor? How about one of the hundreds of thousands of international students on college campuses across the US? Are you financially sowing into the work among unreached people groups and praying that every tribe, tongue, people, and nation would know him?
How have you sowed into the work God wants to do among all people groups?
Fulfillment of the Great Commission
Not that we should need any extra motivation to obey the Great Commission, but perhaps this can encourage us as we press on to win more for the sake of Christ.
Christ’s second coming may be sooner than we realize. We are at such a unique point in history, unlike any other moment in time, that with the resources at hand and the ways God has been moving, we could very well see the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our lifetime.
Steve Douglass, president of Campus Crusade for Christ International, has spent over 40 years working with global leaders in light of the Great Commission, so he has some credibility on the issue when he said this:
“From the way God is moving today, even without some terrific eye of faith, I have been persuaded it will be fulfilled in our lifetimes and I personally think in the next decade.”
China and India, once two of the most unreached places on earth, have witnessed complete transformation over the past decade, the Middle East is beginning to change, and people all over the world are praying and planning more than they’ve been in the past six centuries. There are new breakthroughs methods of reaching people, scripture translation is expanding rapidly, and very fruitful ministry methods are increasing.
I am convinced that if we as the Church learn to obey all that the Great Commission commands, we can and we will see the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our day. May we give everything, every single day, for the sake of his perfect name, as we continue to labor for the knowledge of his glory to cover the earth and for the return of our glorious King.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”