Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Great Commission

I have learned that there are lots and lots of opinions floating around about The Great Commission.  It seems folks can't really agree on what it it; how it should be carried out; who should carry it and who  should receive it.

What am I missing?  Here we have Matthew's version:
“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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"  Matthew 28:18-20
Mark's version:
“He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.'" Mark 16:15-20
And Luke's version:
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'" Luke 24:45-49
Do you sense any ambiguity or disagreement at all?  Maybe I'm over-simplifying (It's one of my hobbies) but The Great Commission seems pretty straight forward to me.  What do you think?

Jesus sat everybody down around the campfire and said, “It's time to get to work.”  And with some serious nudging (ok shoving) from the Holy Spirit, these guys went from being the guys hiding in the upper room to being the men who set the world on fire for Jesus.  Wow.  They didn't have any problems understanding any part of what Jesus told them to do.  So, then, why do some folks make it so complicated?

You need to study the right books.  You need to go to these certain classes (that will incidentally cost you a fortune).  Little churches are better than big ones.  Big churches are better than little ones.  Small home groups are the only way.  Evangelism only worked in the old days.  Evangelism only works in other countries.  You have to have a big church budget. 

I really don't think the disciples worried about any of those things.  Jesus said, “Go” and they went.  Just like when He said, “Follow Me” and the did.  Not a lot of intellectualizing going on there.

Some people might say that the disciples had Jesus standing right there in front of them and so it was easier to follow Jesus instructions.  Maybe, but then that doesn't explain all the folks who didn't follow Jesus, even when He was right there with them everyday.  And, we have the added bonus of hindsight.  Just think how much differently things must have looked to the disciples when they didn't know how everything was going to turn out.  It's pretty easy for us to look back at them and think it looked pretty easy. 

I think the bigger issue is though, that we are really good at making excuses for not doing what we know we ought to be doing...well, ok, I'm speaking for myself.  But, if we can say we can't witness because we haven't had the right training or read the right books, then we can feel like we're off the hook for the moment, right?  We tell ourselves that we're not good at talking to strangers or giving sermons.  We don't know how to turn conversations around to God.  But we know, deep down, that none of those things matter to Jesus. 

I heard a man say on one of my favorite programs, Really Living, that only two things are really important:  to love Jesus with all of our heart and to teach other people to love Him too.

Pretty simple isn't it? 

So what still holds us back? I think sometimes we think it's just too hard.  But read this from Ellen White:
“In simple trusting faith believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Take right hold of a power which you cannot create but which is for you. Let the workers be filled with a spirit of cheerfulness and thanksgiving and rejoicing. Let every one make a personal consecration of himself or herself to God's service. Let them surrender their hearts to the working of the Holy Spirit, placing themselves in the right relation to God. It is time that we believed that all heaven is interested in the work before us. Christ came to this world to give Himself a sacrifice for the saving of sinners. Then believe, believe, that He will be with all who give themselves unreservedly to this work.” Bible Training School, December 1, 1905, “The Word of God”
That doesn't sound hard or complicated, does it?  “In simple trusting faith believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Yeah, I can do that.  I can take hold of Jesus power and be cheerful, thankful and ... rejoice-ful(?) ...  Anyway, I am willing to surrender my heart to the Holy Spirit and to be used by Jesus.  What about you?

I think sometimes we get caught up in wanting to do that big thing for God and never get around to it, because it involves money, planning, training, and other people.  And we're so busy waiting for time to do that big thing, that we miss a whole lot of little things we could do everyday.  Little things that may not even look like witnessing or evangelism or discipleship.  It's that whole, “Pay it forward” thing, only not so humanistic and new agey.  All Jesus ever asked us to do was to share His love and His salvation with the people we meet.  He didn't say we had to go to India to meet these people, but if you want to do that, that's great.  He didn't say we had to be great public speakers, but if you happen to be, great!  We don't even all have to be outgoing, gregarious people, because the quiet approach works too.  Each one of us has a personality trait, a gift, a talent, or an experience that Jesus gave us so that we could help someone learn about Him.  It doesn't have to be showy or even obvious to anyone, but the person Jesus put it there for...but they'll see it in you and be drawn to Jesus because of it.

Very simply, though, after all the discussion, all the excuses and all the delaying tactics, Jesus gave us a job to do.  And because He gave us the job, He gave us the tools to do it with.  Once we've surrendered to Him, He gives us everything we need to be His lead team – the folks who go out ahead of time and get people ready for His coming.

Remember that guy from the '80's football games who always stood on the front row and held up a sign with John 3:16 on it?  What did you think of him?  That he was kinda goofy?  But think about it...he was doing something for Jesus.  How many millions of people do you think saw that sign over the years?  I mean, how often do you remember seeing it?  I must have seen it 10 or 20 times at least!  Do you think it's just possible that somebody, somewhere saw that guy with the sign for the umpteenth time and thought, “Hmm, I wonder what that's about?”  Looked up the text and found what he (or she) had been looking for?  Do you think there will be anybody in Heaven because of that guy?  It's entirely possible...

The point is, that guy quit thinking about it and did something.  He didn't worry about what other folks thought.  I'll bet he took a lot of verbal abuse at the games, don't you?  And he had to pay admission for all those games – that was a lot of money.  But he went, and he watched the game, and spread the word about Jesus.  That doesn't sound that hard does it?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 

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