We Will Make Disciples
Topic: Discipleship Passage: Matthew 28:18–28:20, John 15:8–15:8
When Jesus left the disciples and went back to heaven, they knew, without a doubt, that he left them with an assignment, a job to do. It was an assignment so big, I don’t think they had any idea how to carry it out. But they knew that somehow Jesus would be with them all the way. It was clear now, their lives and their future were not their own. And Jesus’ command to make disciples ruled the course and purpose of their lives. That mission, has come down now to us, also, to make disciples of all nations.
Quite frankly this passage terrifies me, or at least makes me tremble. This is our Risen Lord himself, announcing that he has all authority in heaven and on earth, then saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This is not some human idea or suggestion. Jesus Christ commands this! And it makes us fall to our knees and say, I hear you Lord. Show us our part in this! Show me how I am to do this.
He commands us to make disciples, and believe me that is hard enough in itself, even to make one disciple! But then he adds “of all nations”! If we take the Lord seriously at all, I think the command feels a little large! At least it does to me. I feel like Paul when he said, “Who is adequate for these things!” Who can do that!? That is the part that makes me tremble.
But there are two great encouragements here also. One is the simplicity of the command. I don’t mean easy, I mean simple or clear. Jesus did not issue 20 pages of complex disciple-making procedures on how to make disciples, that only a few gifted people could grasp. No! He said “make disciples baptizing them, then teaching them to obey”. I do not want to be flippant, at all, but we can all put somebody under water, and we all know, to some degree, how to teach our kids, or to teach somebody something. It is not eloquence or a sophisticated program that forms a disciple. It is teaching, explaining, talking, helping people understand what Jesus said, and then to follow and obey that.
Of course there is more; there is relationship with Christ, Christ lives in us and we abide in him and we love him; all that matters! But at the heart of being a disciple is a simple willingness to do whatever Jesus says! Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he is the one who loves me.” So we teach all men to keep all that Jesus commands!
The other great encouragement is that Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. I think Jesus understood that we would be overwhelmed by the greatness of the command. So he said, “Behold!” or KNOW THIS!! That “I AM WIT H YOU! And I ALWAYS WILL BE with you even to end of the present world!”
Jesus promised that he would NOT leave us as orphans but that He would come to us IN the Holy Spirit. He promised that the power of the Holy Spirit would be upon us to carry out this mission. Luke 24:49,50 Right after Jesus gave the disciples a message for all nations, he said, “Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; stay right here in the city until you are clothed with power from on high”. And surely we need that power to make disciples as much as they did!
CT Studd said, “The churches have so bound (the Holy Spirit) in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves”. The tragedy of that attitude, is that the Holy Spirit is the way Jesus is with us and works through us today! The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Jesus. Acts 16:7 He is called the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:19
It is ONLY because Jesus is with us, IN the person of the Holy Spirit, that we can even have a notion about making disciples! The more we are moved by this authoritative command of Jesus, the more deeply we desire his Spirit to fill us and empower us.
Our ultimate goal as believers, is to glorify God. Jesus said By THIS my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. Bearing much fruit is the PROOF that we are true disciples and Jesus said, THIS glorifies my Father. IE *Relating to Jesus AS A DISCIPLE brings glory to God. When we lay down our rebellion, our resistance, and surrender to Jesus and obey him, that glorifies God! Everyone of us is called to be a disciple and to do all we can to bring other people to that fruit-bearing disciple-relationship with Jesus. Our devotion to this mission is at the heart of how we glorify God!
Jesus clearly defined what he meant by the word “disciple”. Of course it means a “learner”. But it means a learner with a fierce loyalty to Jesus and a radical obedience to Jesus. It means absolute surrender, a total giving up of ourselves over to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, Go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. Obedience is at the very heart of being his disciple! That is clearly what Jesus meant by being a disciple.
In the book of Revelation, the saints are called those who “those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus”. They are called those who “do not love even their own lives unto death”. Paul said the goal of his ministry was “to bring the Gentiles (IE all nations) to obedience—by word and deed”. Romans 15:18
No one can be saved by obedience, or any works of any kind! But the fruit of salvation is obedience! God’s own Spirit is planted in us, to work in us a loving obedience!
Obedience to God sounds restrictive, but it is the pathway to freedom, joy and the outcome is eternal life. Obedience to sin is the bad life. Obedience to Jesus is the good life! Paul said, “The wages of sin is death!” But we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,(disciples!) the fruit of that is sanctification and eternal life!” (Rom. 6:21,22)
One day, “a woman in the crowd called out to Jesus, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." But Jesus replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." Even more blessed, or even more happy (than Mary the mother of Jesus) is the person, Jesus said, who obeys me and my word! (Luke 11:27,28)
Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10,11 Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jn 15:14 The life of a disciple is a life lived in the love of God, in the joy of Jesus, and in friendship with Jesus.
The live of a disciple is the truly free, love filled, joy filled life that you have been craving!
YET Jesus taught us, sometimes in shocking terms, that there is a cost to being a disciple. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” “Anyone who does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”. There is a cost, a daily cost. It is a cross-bearing kind of life.
Christians in China today, are under constant surveillance by the CCP. They use facial recognition cameras to watch everything people do. According to VOM Going to church, or going to the home of another Christian, even once, can lower their “social score”, which can keep them from a good job, or a house, or a loan, from getting into a school, or limiting places they can shop.
The president of VOM, Cole Richards said, “Despite the oppressive environment, Chinese believers remain faithful.” He said one Chinese pastor “disciples the members of his church by telling them, “Of course the government is watching you, and listening to you, (even) in your own home! So make sure that what they are seeing is a true disciple of Christ!” Cole Richards said, “I pray that when Christ returns, every record in the world, documents, digital files and even the memories I leave with my children, (will) clearly attest that I am His disciple.”
Instead of focusing Christians on the injustice of the surveillance, he tells them “make sure everything they see PROVES you love Jesus and obey him”. Is there a cost? Of course! Expect that and be prepared to pay that.
Jesus also said, to be his disciple, requires supreme loyalty to him. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” To be a disciple means that nothing and nobody is more important to you than Jesus.
As Elizabeth Elliot put it, “The question is simply, 'Who is your master?'” Or as Paul put it, “We are no longer to live for ourselves but for him who died and rose again on our behalf.
So...What is the mission of the church? Is it to sing songs and hear a sermon and have Sunday School for the kids? Is the purpose of the church to have activities for families? Is is to find friends? Of course on some level it is all those things, but ultimately all we do is to contribute to the mission of being, and making disciples! We are here primarily to teach people to obey and follow Jesus no matter the cost, or the conflict that creates. We call people to a faithful loyalty to Jesus. We are to reach fallen broken sinful people, and form them into devout, obedient, lovers and followers of Jesus.
We do this on Sunday mornings, in Youth Group, in men's and women's bible studies. All the ministries and activities of the church should in some way help accomplish this goal – to direct hearts, to direct lives to one person, Jesus Christ!
Parents, your goal is not just to get your kids to be “good kids”, or good students or good athletes, or get them into good marriages and good jobs someday. Your highest goal for them is for them to follow, love and obey Jesus!
We must not lose sight of this mission in our homes and families and certainly not in the church! With all my problems and all your problems, and all the things we all have to do just to get through each day, with health issues, and marriage issues, job issues, we can easily lose focus. When you add in the current obsession with COVID-19 and Politics and we can forget all about making disciples!
We need to stop like we are doing this morning and we need hear the voice of Jesus say, “Go and make disciples of all nations”.
Let’s move on to the rest of what Jesus said here...
*Jesus said to make disciples of all nations. So..Our concern has to be for every person, of every race, in every nation. Ellizabeth Elliott said, “Jesus Christ died for all and that makes me interested in the salvation of all.” Christ did not call us to a “bless us four and no more” kind of life. Christ called us out of ourselves to something much bigger than our own selves, and our own marriages and our own families. He called us to this really big task of glorifying God through being a disciple and making disciples.
In Revelation 5:9 John sees the 24 elders sing a new song to Christ, You are worthy to open the scroll “because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” The heart of God and the plan of God is to save people of every kind, in every place on the planet.
So our hearts need to expand to people who are different from us, or far away from us, or maybe right next door to us. I know how small and inadequate I feel in all this but with the help of the Holy Spirit we are to do whatever we can, whatever our part is, to be an instrument of God in making disciples. We can pray, we can give, we can be available to talk, to invite, to love people, all with the goal to be about our Lord’s business of loving and being concerned for, and involved in some way in making disciples of all nations.
**The method Jesus give us in this passage, is baptizing them and teaching them. He tells us HOW to make disciples! We are going to do a separate message on baptism so I won’t say a lot here. But, I don’t think we can claim to take Jesus seriously and then blow off baptism. You read Acts and the apostles did just what Jesus told them to do right here in Matthew 28:18-20. In every case where men and women believed in Christ they then were baptized in water.
We may not even understand all the significance of baptism, or all the effects baptism has upon the one who is baptized. But part of observing all that Jesus commanded is to get baptized ourselves, and then to teach other people to be baptized. I mean do we take Jesus seriously or not?
Jesus said to make disciples by teaching all people to observe, keep, obey all that he commanded, and that includes all that went on to reveal to the apostles. Paul said, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.” We all play a different part in that. We all have different strengths and gifts. But that is a pretty good life goal for you - if you want to know what you are here for. We are here to admonish every person, teach every person, that every person my be complete in Christ.
Teaching is to be a big part of what we do in the church. Do we have too many Bible studies, too much time in God’s word? I don’t think so.
And we are not teaching merely to fill people with information or even Bible knowledge. We are teaching for a heart response to Jesus. We are teaching to make disciples of Jesus Christ!
*This mission to make disciples should grip our hearts. I pray that somehow we would have ears to hear the call of Jesus upon our lives this morning.
Jim and Elizabeth Elliot were missionaries to the Auca Indians in Equador in the 1950s. The Auca indians speared Jim and 4 missionary friends, to death. Elizabeth stayed and worked among the people who killed her husband. A lot of people didn’t understand why she didn’t go home, especially since she had a little girl, Valerie. Elizabeth’s response was this, “Death does not change our duty”. “God's command 'Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature' was the categorical imperative. The question of personal safety was wholly irrelevant.”
People might have problems with that but Paul said much the same thing in Acts 20:24 “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
This spirit of willingness and readiness to so anything for our Lord, should burn within our hearts. My prayer is that our hearts would burn with passion to contribute ourselves, and our energy is some way to play part in making disciples.
Let’s commit to the work, sacrifice and struggle to make disciples. This is not an easy assignment. There is something for all of us to do. It takes a lot to make even one disciple!
Norman Grubb said, “To get one soul saved, absolutely, genuinely saved, saved from lust and lying and laziness and self seeking, and loving Jesus with all his heart is a tremendous achievement – anyone who knows the Congo, knows that.” When he looked the fruit of there ministry in the Congo he said, “There are a few glorious shining lights among them but so many so weak and dark, needing a lifetime of prayer and toil and teaching to present them perfect in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t know of a better phrase to describe what it takes to make disciples. It takes a life-time of prayer and toil and teaching! Paul put it this way, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” That is what we are all about as a church! We are in the pains of childbirth. We are birthing disciples for Jesus.
None of us are apostles Paul or Peter or but we all play a part and we should take up our part with devotion and zeal and eagerness.
There is so much that is needed to do this. There is so much love and encouragement and instruction and timely words, and prayer and every other possible kind of labor and spiritual gift that are needed for this task. Everything we do we are thinking how we can build others up and help them become a devout, loyal, loving, obedient follower of Jesus.
And for everyone here, that is what we want for you. We are here, NOT to direct you toward us. We are here to proclaim Jesus as Lord. We are here to direct your heart, your life toward him!
There is something for you to do, for us to do. Let us commit ourselves afresh to this task, to go and be a part of this great commission to make disciples of all nations.
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