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Disciple Makers  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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DISCIPLE MAKERS PART TWO: THE GREATEST COMMISSION Matthew 28:18-20 July 24, 2011 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction Last week we convened a new series of messages on our identity as “Disciple-Makers.” Not only does disciple-making well define our role as followers of Jesus Christ, but it completely captures the heart of the Lord for who He wants us to be and what He wants us to do. I suggest, therefore, that investigating what it means to be disciple-makers is perhaps the most important study we can attend to. You will recall that last week we looked at the greatest command-ment, drawing from Matthew 22’s account of a scribe’s question about which was the greatest commandment. The Lord’s quick response was the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” That great commandment forms the basis of our relationship with God in Christ. It is a simple, straightforward command and implies that anyone who would seriously follow Jesus must start right here, with radical, committed love for God. Not only that, but we learned last week that this fundamental commandment is really a prerequisite to obeying all other commandments. Jesus said that all the Law and Prophets hang on this commandment. Bottom line, the great commandment is the primary obligation of Christ-followers because loving God without reserve is essential to living for Him. We can never and will never serve Him well if we do not love Him with all that we are. Loving Him will grow our trust and give us all the power we will need for living faithfully; it will heal our woundedness, make us healthy; and loving Him is the first and most necessary step in living as kingdom people in keeping with His perfect will for us. Today, our focus moves to the second great priority of God. That is His great commission. It is almost beyond our comprehension that the love and the grace of God in Christ has saved us from our sin and guilt, and our selves. But beyond that God wants to save us from the silliness of living our lives only for ourselves. By His grace He invites us into the high calling of His own mission to lost humanity. What Jesus commanded Thus, the next commandment for Christ followers is really an invitation to “co-mission” with God in His world. In Matthew 28: 18-20 we find what is commonly referred to as the “Great Commission”. This passage is likely one that is very familiar to you. You heard it recited and taught numerous times. The danger is that its meaning may have become hackneyed or clich?to you. I urge you, don’t let that happen. We must approach so serious and central a topic as this with freshness and resolve. Brothers and sisters, I am here to remind us that this commission is so much the essence of God’s will in our lives that if we ignore it or in any way diminish it to the point of not obeying it, we will have forfeited our identity as followers of Christ. Then Jesus came to them and said, “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 will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” I’d like to do a short grammatical analysis of the central sentence in verse 19. There are four verb forms in this sentence: Go, make disciples (or, disciple), baptize and teach. But one of those terms is more emphatic than the others. “Make disciples” is in fact, the only actual verb, while the other three are ancillary participles. And it is in the imperative mood, meaning this is Jesus’ most important command. (Not that the others are expendable, but the main point is disciples are to make disciples.) The Great Commission is Profound For the rest of my few minutes with you, I’d like to look at two aspects of the Great Commission, and ask the Holy Spirit to bear witness in my heart and yours, teaching us and compelling us. The first is the profundity of the Great Commission. Jesus said as He introduced this command to the eleven disciples and us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore…” What did He mean by that, and what does it have to do with the commission? Philippians 2 says that because Jesus was faithful to His mission, in that He suffered and died to save the world from sin, He was therefore highly exalted. That is, He was restored to the right hand of God, with full authority. Here in Matthew, following His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus says He has been given all authority. That means two things to those whom He is commissioning: one, when they go to make disciples they will be going in the authority of Christ—the one with unlimited authority. Two, His disciples must understand that this mission of disciple-making is not the suggestion of a buddy; it is a command from their Lord! There is a true story about an Army sergeant who tried for 25 years to quit smoking. After multiple failed attempts, he was in for his yearly medical exam with an Army doctor. The physician told him that his health was being severely harmed by smoking and that he should stop. The sergeant confessed he knew he should stop and whiningly told of his multiple attempts to stop smoking over many years. The physician looked at him and said, "What are these two bars on my lapel?" The sergeant replied, "They mean you are a captain." "Yes," said the captain, "And they also mean I outrank you, and I am giving you a direct order to stop smoking." The sergeant went home and never smoked another cigarette. He could not quit on his own, even after years of trying, but he could quit when he understood the power of a direct order from a superior officer. He was thoroughly indoctrinated by the United States Army and not willing to violate an order. As believers in Christ, our Commander-in-Chief has given us this, His most significant command. When we take it as seriously as this sergeant took his order to quit smoking, we'll be surprised how God can transform our lives and use us to His glory.. This is an enormous task—to disciple all people groups! We cannot make the mistake of assuming He wanted these eleven disciples, nor even the 120 disciples filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, to do it all. No, this was a commission for the church, and it was binding through all the rest of human history until God finally closes shop on this world with the judgment. It is a huge calling and His church has been faithful throughout the ages spreading the gospel and discipling individuals of every tribe and language. Today there are over 2 billion people in the world who call themselves Christians—a full third of the world’s population, and estimates are that 4/5’s of the world has been reached with the gospel message. Do you know how that happened? Surprisingly NOT by huge missional movements and strategies, but by individual believers demonstrating the love of God in Christ and sharing the good news with neighbors and friends that they could be reconciled to God through faith. That’s how our God gets the big job done: He moves His people into strategic contact with non-believers, and influences them to faith. That is amazing! Eugene Peterson: There is an enormous gap between what we think we can do and what God calls us to do. Our ideas of what we can do or want to do are trivial; God's ideas for us are grand. And that is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, in verse 20, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age. And that’s what He meant when He promised us and these very same disciples moments before He was assumed into heaven: You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses [here, there, and everywhere]… What did He mean by that? He meant He is counting on us, the members of His Church on earth to be His spokespersons, and that, in order to help us do that, He is residing in us through His Spirit, empowering us to clearly and compellingly share the message of salvation and hope with others. He means He has called us each to be disciple makers, and He is always going with us to encourage and divinely help us in the task. To be a disciple maker does not consist in stirring people up religiously or debating or manipulating them into belief, but in being a living mystery, representatives of wonder. It means drawing on the leading and power of His Spirit to live in such a way that our lives would not make sense if God did not exist. We don’t have to worry about having ability; our only concern is to give Him our availability. You cannot convert anyone. Only God can, and He will. But He is intently interested in using you. One author said of disciple making, “Without God, we can’t; without us, God won’t.” The Great Commission is Personal This is the will of God—that the mission of disciple making would be a person to person thing. God knew long before the masters of marketing that the very best advertising is word of mouth. He set the whole thing up that way; He wanted to do it that way. It is His plan that when an individual comes to restored fellowship with God through faith in Christ, and begins to discover the hope, the peace, the love and the joy of salvation, he will naturally want to share it with others. One pastor shared this story: While I was attending seminary, our two older children (ages 9 and 7) seemed to attract every other child in the mobile home park for after-school games of hide and seek. Our youngest, Carrie, was not quite 3—and (in the minds of the older siblings) always in the way. It was something you could count on; ten minutes into the games our little one would get pushed aside or skin a knee. One afternoon she came through the front door crying for mommy. She had gotten the worst again. My wife, Elizabeth, attempted to comfort her by giving her two freshly baked cookies. "Now, don't tell the big kids yet," she cautioned, "I haven't finished, so I don’t have enough for everybody yet." It took less than three seconds for Carrie to make it to the screen door, fling it open, and announce to the big kids, "Cookies, I gots cookies!" Great news is meant to be shared—especially when commanded. We need to be careful here to understand that while the commission is given to the “church,” we need to remember what that means. God’s people are the church—each of us and all of us. Not only are we a part of the collective Church of Jesus Christ with all believers across the world and across history. We are, each of us, ambassadors for Christ. Recently it came to light that the industrial refrigerator in the church kitchen had been forgotten about since the Spring closing of our Wednesday night meals. Still in that cooler, which no one has used since May, were some “leftovers.” They were left over, alright! When someone recently opened the door they were met with a blast of stench! Tim, Peggy and Drew Buchanan jumped to the rescue and did us all a huge favor. Now that refrigerator is clean as a whistle, unplugged and saving electricity. I bring that up to illustrate an age-old truth: that when a responsibility belongs to everyone, the work never gets done. Everybody thinks “someone else is taking care of that!” But when each member of an organization assumes the responsibility, even the hardest the jobs are taken care of. We must never think of the job of disciple making belongs to the “church,” without remembering “I am the church.” When Jesus gave this Great Commission, it was a commission to His Church, but only with the understanding that every disciple in that church is, in fact, the church. We are, therefore, all of us and each of us, called to the ministry of disciple making. We’ll be looking more closely at what that means, and how it is that God works through us in the process of making disciples in the next couple months. But for now, I think it is the Holy Spirit’s imperative that we be reminded that Jesus commissioned more than eleven first century men on a Galilean hillside to this great task. It is His imperative that everyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus the Savior also becomes a witness, a spokesperson for Him and a disciple maker. Each of us is providentially placed where we are by the personal and specific will of God to share Jesus with those with whom we come into contact. And, as I mentioned before, this is not a mere suggestion from Jesus. It is His imperative. This is what we are called to give ourselves to in service to the Lord. Conclusion Disciple making is our mission. It is the exact living out of the greatest commandment. It is HOW we love God with our whole heart, soul and strength. This is how the great commandment and the great commission are married. So central and so essential is this mission to the heart of God, that to neglect it is to declare that we do not love Him as He intends us to. If I am not motivated within by the love God has demonstrated for me in Christ by saving me and giving me hope, then I have neither fully received that love from Him; neither am I loving Him with all my heart, soul and strength, nor my neighbor as myself. Lorne Sanny, now an evangelist with the Billy Graham Association, wrote an article in Discipleship Journal: Years ago when I was with the Billy Graham team in a crusade, a businessman came forward one night and received Christ as his Savior. The next Sunday he went to a church he sometimes attended. After the service, he walked up to one of the leading elders in this church and said, "I was at the Billy Graham meeting last week out at the ball park. I went forward and received Christ." "I heard about it," the elder replied, "and I am delighted." Then the businessman said, "How long have you and I been associated in business?" "About 23 years, I think," the elder answered. "Have you known Christ as your Savior all that time?" the businessman asked. "Yes, I have," he answered. "Well, I don't remember you ever speaking to me about Christ during those years," the businessman said. "I have thought highly of you. In fact, I thought so highly of you that I felt if anyone could be as fine a man as you and not be a Christian, then I didn't have to be a Christian either." Recently, with the relocation of many members of this church, we found ourselves seriously behind in finances. This has led to much talk about how few people seem to be left; then further to how we need to get more members. But that is not true. We do not need to recruit more members in order to meet bills. We need to make disciples in order to honor God. I think He likes that approach a lot better. Matthew 6:33 says Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. The first order of business is not to recruit more members. The first order of business is to repent for not having been faithful in disciple-making. Then step two is to get serious—all of us, and each of us—about the great commission of making disciples.     [ Back to Top]          
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