Peninsula Community Church
May 19, 2019
Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Acts 1:7-8 He said to them,“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In the movie Citizen Kane, the last words Charles Foster Kane utters on his death bed are the words “Rosebud.” These words served to frame the movie’s narrative and provide the key to understanding the man’s tragic but world-changing life. In Jesus’ final days, He also spoke powerful words to His disciples that frame the narrative that would guide the rest of their life. These words continue to guide us and direct us as passionate followers of Christ, even today. You see Jesus gave us a “Great Commission” that helps us focus on our purpose and the reason we live in this world torn apart by sin and the depravity of mankind. It gives us purpose beyond our existence today.
The statements before us answer the life long question that so many ask. “Why am I here?” “What am I suppose to do with my life?” “Can I really make a difference?” Mark Devers in his book “Disciple Maker” has suggested that disciplining is a ministry of how, but it is really a ministry of why. Discipling others involves modeling faith and godliness with our lives. Paul called those in Philippi to imitate what he had done and the life he lived (Philippians 3:17). Effective discipling also imparts the reasons for believing in and living for Jesus. Paul called Timothy to entrust to others what he had learned from Paul (2 Timothy 2:2). So discipleship is in fact a means to show why the way of Christ is the way to go. It is to answer the question “why Christ.” “Why should I believe?”
The truth is we are always disciplining. We are always effecting others. To disciple others we must be passionate followers of Christ ourselves. Anyone can imitate Christianity for a while without any real conviction, but that kind of “faith” will not last, and it will not save. False Christianity is a hindrance to people receiving what they really need. The fact is those who look to us need the truths we believe, the truths behind how we live, but they need more than just a good person to follow, they need Jesus. You can never teach anyone all the how’s, but when you teach them the why’s, you prepare them to exercise wisdom and generate their own how’s long into the future.
As we look at the words contained in this passage, we find that through these words Jesus laid out three exclusive means to be disciples for Him. I say exclusive because this is reserved for those who have experienced a saving knowledge of Christ. These three elements include the following. He gave us a plan. He gave us a promise. He empowered us to accomplish the task that He called us to do. That is what I love about Christ. He never calls us to anything that He does not equip or prepare us to accomplish. Hudson Taylor the great missionary to China had one of the greatest quotes ever. He said Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. How many times have you been assigned a task but were not given the tools or power to accomplish the task? God never does that. He always provides everything we need.
So what is discipling? Mark Dever suggests that “At its core, discipling is teaching.” He says, “Your discipling should help people understand more. Through discipling, you want people to know why Christians pray, why we share the gospel, why we join the church, why knowledge of God’s sovereignty impacts how we live, and more.” To do this we must have been impacted by the Gospel message ourselves. We must have been changed by the radicalness of the Gospel.
A careful observation of this passage reveals that the only command in this text is really to make disciples. While go is a command. Teach is a command. Baptize is a command. In the original language, the major command here is to make disciples. All of these are the actions to be taken in order to disciple those around us. In essence, the passage could be translated something like this . As you are going, make disciples. As you are teaching, make disciples. As you are baptizing, make disciples. The emphasis, the pinnacle of this passage, is on discipleship. We reach people and bring them to a knowledge of Christ and help to deposit in them a hunger for more.
As we consider these words, let us look at what He has done for us. First of all, Jesus gave us a plan. The words we have before us are just as powerful and just as important as they were 2000 years ago. Notice what He communicates to His disciples. “Go therefore and make disciples.” This is more than just winning someone to Christ. It is turning hearts to the ways of Christ. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you in such a way that people would want what you have. I think, based upon this text, Jesus would say there are three things that are true for disciples. Disciples have been adopted by God, disciples are being formed by God, and disciples are empowered by God for life and mission.
We have focused at times so much on the evangelism aspect of what God wants us to do, we have missed the discipleship aspect of what He has called us to do. Not too many years ago one of the largest churches in America, Willow Creek Church, realized an important missing component in their ministry philosophy. They had done a good job of bringing people into the church through evangelism, the problem was that they had not been as successful in discipling those who came into the church.
Listen to Hybels own words. ”We made a mistake… What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people (and) taught people how to read their Bible between services (and) how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” Hybels indicated that the emphasis on programs and meetings did not produce disciples. Did you get that? Programs and ministries do not produce disciples. We must engage the gospel personally to grow in Christ.
The problem was that while the church was growing, they were not making disciples. While there is something to providing an atmosphere that encourages people to come to the church and feel welcomed. It is another to provide opportunities for people to grow and become disciples. How do we know that people are disciples of Christ? A true disciple of Christ makes disciples of others. That is disciples make disciples. That is why it is noteworthy that Christ commanded us to make disciples and not just evangelize. Evangelism therefore is a subset of discipleship because without accepting Christ, discipleship is ineffective.
Jesus said that we are to go into all of the world. The question however is where is our world? In other words while we all have a sphere of influence sometimes we need to move outside that sphere of influence to reach others. The world is our ministry. Where ever God plants you, that is your field of service for Christ, that is your world. No matter where you are, make disciples of all men. It is not your job to be selective, but to reach those you are given the influence to reach.
Secondly, He has given us a promise. He will be with us. He will be there and will guide your words and your voice. For this reason, we do not have to fear or for that matter worry about what we will say or do. Be confident in the fact that He is with us and that He is watching out for us. Be confident that He is leading us and directing our steps. Man makes plans in his heart but God directs his steps.
Thirdly, He has empowered us. Jesus promised that He would not leave us without empowering us to accomplish the task at hand. He has empowered us by way of the Holy Spirit. There are some in the world who have a mistaken idea of what the Holy Spirit does and what His role is in our life. Based on Acts 1 His responsibility is to empower us to evangelize and disciple others.
How does He do that? We only have to look at some of the amazing stories of the Book of Acts to see how this is worked out in us. Peter stood and preached a message where 3000 came to know Christ in one service. The disciples were empowered to meet daily in homes to encourage one another, teach the word, and share life with one another. The Holy Spirit also empowers in miraculous ways. Remember when Peter and John just walked by people and their shadow alone healed those they encountered. Stephen was empowered to preach a powerful message while men had stones clenched in their hands and were about to throw them at him.
While these things are sensational, the Holy Spirit’s task is simply to empower and make a way for us to share Christ in every day life and existence. It is that simple. It is not complicated. Know this that Jesus has a plan for your life and He has promised to be with you so that no matter where He leads you He will be with you. He has imparted to you His Holy Spirit so that you are empowered to do what He calls you to do.
So what do we do with this. We recognize that Jesus has a plan. We recognize that He has promised to be with us. And He has empowered us to accomplish His task. Let’s go for it.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom