Last week in my blog I started to talk about our church's mission statement, which states – “Making Disciples, Teaching God’s Word, Glorifying God”. We were looking at the passage in Matthew’s gospel which reads: “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 end of the age”,( Matt. 28:17 – 20 NIV). We stated last week in our blog that the one main imperative in this passage is the importance of making disciples. It’s very important that when God opens up doors for us to be disciple-makers that we make sure we are following through to His leading and prompting. We are to seek to reproduce in other people’s lives the Lord Jesus Christ. This process of disciple-making has been much more challenging over the last 20 months, due to the changes in all of our schedules, but God still calls us to be disciple-makers.
In the passage before us the “therefore”, is the result of the fact that God has given all authority to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus then in turn has given the authority to his apostles and then on to you and me to be disciple-makers. The first requirement in making disciples is to be involved in “going”. Jesus says, “go to all nations”. Now obviously Jesus was not expecting the 500 or so who were there to be the ones to take the gospel to the whole world. I believe His challenge, which is called, “the Great Commission”, is for you and me to take the message of the gospel anywhere He has positioned us. In every age, there is a need for the followers of Jesus Christ to be willing to go. When I gave up my career in the post office in September 1986 many people told me that I was nuts, to give up a career position and federal retirement to follow the Lord Jesus Christ into ministry. But I had told the Lord Jesus Christ that I would “go” wherever He sent me and do whatever He wanted me to do. When I made that commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ in July 1981, I have no idea how the Lord would direct and guide in my life, but over the last 40 years God is given me many opportunities to be a disciple-maker, but I had to be willing to “go” first.
The second part of being a disciple-maker is to baptize those who have come to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is a public symbol of initiation into the body of Christ that is very meaningful. It is a picture of the beginning of a new life in Christ and of allegiance to Him and to His church. Baptizing into the name of the Trinity implies a spiritual and mystical union with Jesus. The name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not a mere designation or magical formula. It is an acknowledgment of the Godhead involved in the regeneration of the person who has placed their faith in Christ and is giving testimony through the waters of baptism. It is the recognition of the Father as our creator and preserver, the Lord Jesus as our mediator and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as our sanctifier and comforter. When my wife Debbie and I got saved in October 1978 one of the first things that we did was to be baptized in January 1979. At that point, we were still very much between two worlds, but baptism was the first sign of our changing allegiance and of obedience and a growing desire on our part to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that baptism should follow our salvation experience and should be part of a growing and vibrant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In my ministry here at NDC God has given me the privilege of baptizing a good number of Chinese students and visiting scholars, who have come through our ministry to place their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have followed the imperative to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Some of these testimonies before the folks are baptized have been amazing and remind us of the power that the Lord Jesus Christ displays when He saves sinners from every nation and every tribe.
The final avenue of disciple-making that Jesus touches on in this passage involves teaching disciples to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. Making disciples doesn’t stop with the initiation experience of baptism. There is an educational process that follows and that involves learning and growing in our new faith. The word “teaching” means to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting. Remember in the first century there were no church buildings, so all discipleship making took place outside of a church building. But when the early church met in various locations, or in the various people’s homes they grew together through teaching in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was thankful this past Sunday when our Adult Sunday school reopened and there were 16 in attendance. Sunday school is one of the ministries that are so important for instruction and training in righteousness. Jesus intends for people to be converted and to be turned into disciples from every people group. I believe that is what He is calling us to focus on as a church. We never get away from the importance of making disciples and passing on the Lord Jesus Christ to the next generation, who can then pass on the truth and love that they’ve experienced through the Lord Jesus Christ to the next generation. May God continue to use us to be disciple-makers.
All for God’s glory,