Many people want to understand how to respond to Jesus’ command to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). As Professor Eddie Gibbs points out, to understand Jesus’ Great Commission, one must see it in the context of Matthew 4:19, where Jesus says to those who would be his disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Christians should want to wholeheartedly participate with Jesus in his gospel work by allowing him to lead us on that disciple-making, Great Commission journey. Jesus knows the path as well as the destination. As he leads us forward, he chooses the pleasant meadows of the good times and the narrow confines of our trials and sorrows. This is a journey we will never finish in this life. When we draw our last breath, it will be on the road, so to speak. For us, it will be a life-long journey of transformation.
Jesus, by the Spirit, causes a powerful transformation to happen within us as we intentionally participate and wholeheartedly submit to Christ’s authority in our lives. As we are transformed, we become attractive to those who do not yet know Christ—those who are seeking to understand the true purpose of life. This is what makes the difference between being part of Christ carrying out his will on this earth vs. trying to “do evangelism” and asking God to bless the endeavor.
Christ desires to shape our future, our reality and who we are. That is what the “follow me” is all about. Though we can’t accomplish Jesus’ Great Commission work on our own, we can be intentional about following him (participating with him) as he accomplishes his gospel work. As we follow him, we open ourselves up to Christ and allow him to make us an effective part of his will on this earth.
What would some of the transforming effects be when we are intentional about being part of Christ’s journey, as opposed to asking him to be the guide of our journey? The semantics here are small, but the difference in life is huge. We would become much more aware of the existence of unsaved people around us. We tend to block out the clutter of other people’s lives, especially those for whom we feel that we have no responsibility. Being intentional about following Jesus on a daily journey automatically nudges us into a priestly mentality, because that is who Jesus is.
It is interesting to note that Christ inspired Peter to write that we, the members of the Body of Christ, are part of a royal priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices in the name of Jesus the High Priest (1 Peter 2:9). What are those spiritual sacrifices, in practical 21st-century terms, that Christ desires that we offer? The answers to that question should shape who we are and what we do, both personally and collectively.
We would be growing spiritually. Being intentional about journeying with Christ would probably cause a person to begin talking to God about helping him or her to overcome some of the long-standing failings, be they commission or omission, that cause us to miss the mark. This is quite different from the legalistic approach to overcoming, where one is motivated by fear of not being in the kingdom or a desire for a greater reward.
This desire to have our character formed in Christ is driven by the realization that it is Christ in us who makes us attractive to the lost, and every sin that remains resident in us causes people to see Satan’s way in action instead of the transforming power of the love of God at work in us.
We would be more serious about knowing what we believe and being able to give a sensible explanation of those beliefs. Being intentional about journeying with Christ tends to stimulate a person to also be intentional about having an effective response to a lost person who needs and desires to know that there is a God, and to know how they might connect with him. Why would we leave such an important thing to accident?
Think about the words of Isaiah that Christ adopted as a primary theme of his ministry to humanity, “Comfort ye my people.” “Tell them that their iniquities are pardoned.” “That their warfare is ended.” And “make straight a highway to our God.”
Should we not invest some intentional effort at being able to assess the felt need of a person and being able to articulate that part of the gospel that speaks to their immediate need, thereby encouraging them to take a step toward redemption? Is not a highway a long series of steps that has been cleared of obstacles, and passage made as simple as possible? What is the practical application of making a highway to our God (for the lost)? What part do we play, and what constitutes, in real terms, making a highway for them?
Being intentional about being on Christ’s journey would lead us to change the way we allocate our time. We might begin to focus more time and energy on people instead of things. We would also tend to focus more on the relationships that we either have, or can develop, with people who do not have a saving relationship with Jesus. The focus of that time would be outgoing—being there for them, serving them in some small or great way, one time or ongoing.
By being intentional about yielding to Jesus’ command to a lifetime journey of following him, we put ourselves in the best position to be effective in his Great Commission.
Author: Randal Dick