After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them, “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.” Matthew 28:18-20.
What is a disciple?
I remember when I was a boy and first heard the word disciple, I thought it was a word that only referred to one of the original twelve disciples-the ones that are in the famous painting of Jesus at the long table during the Last Supper. I didn’t think there could be any other disciples. Later I learned that a disciple is simply another name for anyone who is a follower. So, a disciple of Christ is a follower of Christ.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31). He also said that the world would recognize us as his disciples if we love one another. (John 13:35).
Let’s not take this lightly. Being Christ’s disciple is more than saying you are a Christian, more than claiming his name. Jesus warns that there will be people who say to him, Lord, Lord we have done many good things in your name but he will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me.” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Being his disciple means holding to his teachings. Grab on and let no one or nothing stand between you and your relationship with God. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24). Being a disciple is a commitment, Jesus laid down his life for our sake and now we must be ready to lay down our lives for his sake. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men,” says Jesus, “I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32, 33).
Now, as his disciple we hold to his teachings, we read and seek to understand his word, we proclaim and acknowledge our relationship with him before others and we obey his directions. Therefore, a true disciple of Christ makes other disciples. (Mathew 28:18-19)
God has a purpose and a calling for each and every one of us.
God calls us to testify about him, to tell others about him, and to make disciples. A true disciple of Jesus makes disciples and those disciples make disciples. This is the manner in which the whole world may know the truth about the salvation he has given.
Remember that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). And God has chosen us to present that truth. He calls us his ambassadors of reconciliation (reconciliation means at peace with God). “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though god were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
We don’t do this under our own power. God gave us the Holy Spirit so that through him we would accomplish this calling. After his resurrection, Jesus told the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This is the primary reason we are here on this earth and the primary reason we have the Holy Spirit-it is to testify to the world about the salvation of Jesus.
Our calling is the same as Paul’s.
Paul said, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” (1 Timothy 2:5-7). That purpose was to testify and announce the truth of Jesus Christ.
Paul devoted his life to preaching the gospel, bringing reconciliation with God to those who would receive it. He was sent out by the Christian brothers at Antioch to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul took a team throughout Palestine, Cyprus, Greece, Ephesus and more preaching the gospel, planting churches, and teaching the people about Jesus and salvation. Often his life was threatened, he was beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, he went without food, and he was imprisoned, but he was not deterred.
This calling to tell others is often not easy, but Paul asked, “Am I trying to please human beings or God?” (Galatians 1:10). He said if he wanted to please men he would not be a Christian. The calling of God is a high calling, a great purpose in our lives. It is the bringing of salvation, freedom from the slavery of sin and Satan and eternal life with God.
The calling and mission of God through Israel
The calling has not changed. The mission of God was always to bring his salvation, his kingdom and a relationship with Him to the entire world.
In the beginning, in the book of Genesis, when God called Abraham to leave the land of Ur and go to a land that God would show him, God made promises to Abraham. God said that if Abraham obeyed and trusted in God, through Abraham all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Gen. 12:3). From the very beginning all of the nations were a concern of God, not just Israel.
God said it again in chapter 18:18, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (See also Genesis 22:18 and 26:4). Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. The blessing of Abraham and ultimately the blessings of the nation of Israel were not for the purpose of national pride in Israel. They were always to bless others and to be a light to others about the glory of God and His desire to be in relationship with those who would receive Him.
The law always provided for others who were not born of Jewish descent, a method for inclusion in the Jewish religion. Ruth, a Moabite came into the Jewish faith and it was through her descendents that Jesus came. Rahab, also a non-Israelite is found in the lineage of Jesus.
The Jews were to be a light to the nations and not the only people of God.
Look at the words of God in Isaiah 2:3, “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’”
Isaiah 56:6-7 says that God will give joy in his house of prayer to all foreigners that serve him. And Hosea 2:23 says, I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
It was always the calling of Israel to tell others about God’s love and His desire for a relationship with them. But Israel did not accomplish this task. They wanted to be the only chosen people of God, chosen as special in themselves. (The story of Jonah is a perfect example of an Israelite not wanting to bring salvation and deliverance to another nation, in this case Ninevah.)
Israel was to be the salt of the earth. But Jesus said, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” (Luke 14:35, 36).
We are the called.
Now it is our calling. As stated above, we are the ambassadors of Christ to bring the reconciliation of God to the world. We are the blessed to be a blessing, just like Abraham. Paul says that we, the Gentiles, are now the children of Abraham through faith. We are heirs of the promise and heirs of the blessing to be a blessing. (Galatians 3).
It is our responsibility to tell of God’s reconciliation through Christ. How great is that call?
Romans 10:13-15 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
How do we go about carrying out our call? In Acts 1:8 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would give us power to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem is the very place that the disciples received the Holy Spirit. It was their home town, their neighborhood. So, telling others about Jesus begins where you live, your immediate family, your friends and your co-workers. Jerusalem represents the people who you know and are involved with in your daily life. Judea represents a larger area and Samaria is the country or state next door. These places can be projects that your church may already be involved in. Many churches take short term mission journeys. I know many churches who reach out to poor or oppressed neighborhoods and some even take journeys to other states where they join up with other churches to encourage them and take teams out to knock on doors and simply pray with people or talk to them about Jesus. Talk to your Pastor about what your church is doing and see if you can be a part.
Finally, you can reach the ends of the earth by supporting a missionary. Your local church may already support a missionary financially and maybe you can help. Ask if there is a newsletter and you can become involved by praying and even writing the missionary. It is my personal opinion that every Christian should be involved in this Great Commission to reach the world through prayer and finances. As little as $10 a month (your sacrifice of not buying three Cokes from a restaurant a month or five Cokes from a gas station) can go a long way for a missionary in a foreign country. It may not seem like much to you but it is greatly appreciated (Speaking as a missionary living in Bolivia, it is an overwhelming joy to receive a letter so that I know I am not forgotten).
Now what? You are called! You are chosen! What will you do now?
The below links are part of THE BASIC DISCIPLESHIP COURSE: Each lesson is meant to be taught over a 30 minute to 1 hour session. (Audio lessons of 30 minutes each will soon be available-keep watch)
Discipleship 101-10 Baptism and Communion (Coming soon!)
Discipleship 101-13 Spiritual Warfare (Coming soon!)
Discipleship 101-14 Heaven, Hell and the Judgment (Coming soon!)