Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Though the words in this sentence look like four commands—go, make disciples, baptize, and teach—, in the original language, there is only one command with three words or phrases describing how to fulfill the command. The command is this: Make disciples. Everything else is part of how we do that.
The word “go,” in its original language, is more like “as you are going.” The concept here is that you make disciples as you go. Remember, making disciples is the command. Going is how you make disciples. This is pretty simple, really; you cannot make any disciples if you hide inside your house and never move or talk to anybody. You have to make disciples as you go through life, and sometimes as you go to the nations.
Make disciples is the command, and this is what we have to learn how to do. A disciple literally is a follower. We are to, as we go, help people from all nations, all people groups, all social classes to become followers of Jesus. We are to actively work to help people to move from wherever they are spiritually toward the goal of being a God-glorifying follower of Jesus.
If you look at the phrases which follow the call to make disciples, you will see that Jesus gives us two categories of disciple-making, two tasks to take part in so as to help others become followers of Jesus. Jesus tells us to make disciples by baptizing people and by teaching them.
What does it mean to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? This first half of disciple-making is the call to evangelism. To baptize a person necessarily includes you giving them the gospel and them choosing to identify themselves with Christ as his people. The Bible assumes that the saved are those who will be baptized. The Bible assumes that if you are saved, you will be baptized and you will become part of the church. So this first call to make disciples through baptism is the call to share the gospel with those who are not disciples and to help them toward Jesus.
The second part of making disciples is to teach those who have become believers to obey the things that Jesus has commanded. This, to be honest, is the part of the Great commission that many Christians ignore completely. We usually at least acknowledge that it is the command of God that we share our faith with the lost. However, we often completely disregard the command of God to then invest in other believers to help them to learn to obey the commands of Christ. However, it is not God’s plan for a person to simply believe in him and be saved and that be it; God intends for people to trust him, to be saved by him, and then to follow him with all their lives.
Now, here is the major question: How are you taking part in obeying Jesus’ commission here? How are you following your Savior? Remember, he has all authority. He has every right to demand we do this stuff. How are you going to obey?
Let me see if we can’t spell out some ways to obey here briefly. First, if you are not saved, you need Jesus. You need to become a disciple. You need to have your sins forgiven by God. You need to run to Jesus, believe in him, and ask him to take away your sin through his finished work done on the cross. You need to entrust your soul to Jesus in order to become his follower. Then, you need to tell the church that you have put your trust in Jesus, and you need to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating to the world that you identify yourself with Christ and his people.
Second, if you are saved, ask yourself this: How can I be a disciple this year by growing in my ability to obey Christ’s commands? Christians, we all need to grow. What are you currently doing in your life to insure that you are learning how to better follow Jesus. Are you faithfully attending worship? Are you taking notes and working hard during sermons to better learn to follow Christ through his word? Are you meeting with someone who is more spiritually mature than you and having them help you to learn to obey Jesus the way that they do? Christians, part of making disciples is making sure that you are growing as a disciple. So, as 2010 comes upon us, make sure that you are being taught to obey.
Third, besides growing yourself, it is important that you as a Christian are seeking out those who do not know Jesus. As you go through life, you are going to cross paths with people who do not yet know Jesus. It is the command of Christ that you work to help them to become disciples. With whom are you sharing your faith? Do you even know how to share the gospel with a lost person? If you don’t know how to share your faith, go to your pastor and say, “Pastor, I need help to know how to tell others about Jesus.” If he can’t help you, send me a note and we’ll get to work making sure that you know how to explain the gospel to a lost person.
Fourth, and this is the one that many of us need to think long and hard about, who are you helping to better be a disciple of Christ? Who are you teaching to obey the commands of Christ? Into whose Christian life are you investing. Is it possible that many Christians have done nothing over the past year to help anyone grow even one step deeper in their walk with the Lord? Many of you have talked about a thousand things you like or don’t like about politics, about the church, about the weather, or about your sports team, but you have not taken any time in 2009 to help a brother or sister in Christ to walk closer to Jesus.
Now, don’t get mad at me if you don’t think you are guilty there. And, if you are guilty there, don’t just sit there feeling bad. Let’s work together to fix the problem. In 2010, make a decision that you will find someone to invest in . If you are an older saint, why not find a younger saint who you can encourage, who you can pray with, who you can talk with about the word of God.
I once heard a story of a father and his two sons who went on a camping and fishing trip over a weekend. They were very excited to get away from town and have some guy time together. They packed the car with all the fishing gear that they would need, and they packed a nice big tent for them to sleep in. When they arrived at the lake, they set up their tent and got their campsite ready. That night they roasted hot dogs over the campfire, toasted marshmallows, and then went to bed with dreams of hauling in the big one.
The next morning, the men awoke to a nasty thunderstorm. No problem. The tent was dry and the fish could wait one more day. They had brought a deck of cards and some board games. So, they had a great morning just hanging out together. But, by the afternoon, all that time together in an enclosed space helped them to start grating on one another’s nerves. That was OK, though, as tomorrow would be time to fish.
When the men woke up on the third morning to find it still raining, they packed up the car and went home with hardly a word said.
“What’s the moral of the story,” you ask. When you don’t fish, you fight. Far too many churches are filled with nit picking, back biting, and personality conflicts over meaningless issues simply because the people are not fishing, not seeking to help the lost become disciples. The church that will be happy will be the church where the energies of the people are going toward worshipping God and making others into disciples. It is terribly difficult to really want to gossip about someone or say something bad about them if you are actually investing yourself in their Christian growth.
Here’s the whole point of the matter. Jesus, who has all authority, has told us to go and make disciples. That means that we need to be disciples. That means that we need to help others to become disciples by sharing the gospel with the lost. That means that we need to grow in our own following of Jesus. That means that we have to invest in the Christian growth of others. And Jesus said he will be with us, to see to it that we do what he has commissioned us to do.
[The above is an abridged portion of this morning’s message.]