Today’s Bible reading includes Jesus’ “Great Commission”. Jesus has spent about three years with his disciples and is commissioning them for their ministry. Grammatically speaking, there is one command with several participles that describe how the command is to play out.
He begins with “As you go”. He assumes that His disciples will go. Because He has all of the authority, He gives them this great commission.
Next is the command to make disciples.
The next set of participles describe how to make disciples:
- by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son,
andthe Holy Spirit, fully identifying them with the Trinity.
- by teaching them to obey Jesus’ teachings. Jesus gave a lot of commands. But in John 13:34–35, He gives them a new command: Love each other. Jesus’ new command wasn’t really new, he was just giving the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36–40) a new emphasis. In John 13:35, He says that people will recognize His disciples by their love for each other. This isn’t to discount so many other things about them, but their distinctive was to be love. Not an ooey-gooey squishy love, but a real — almost tangible love that Paul describes in 1Corinthians 13:1–13.
That’s it! That’s all it means to make disciples. The Great Commission is simple. But it isn’t easy. Teaching people to obey Jesus’ teachings is a life-long journey.
When Jesus linked teaching with how the command is to be applied, He isn’t talking about taking something from one person’s brain and transferring that to someone else’s brain. In the New Testament times, a disciple wasn’t just a student of a teacher. A disciple was a learner, much like an apprentice under a mentor who poured his life into the apprentice’s life.
Jesus’ commission isn’t to get people to make decisions. The commission is to make disciples. There is a world of difference between these two!
Unfortunately, a lot of leaders in the church at large don’t get this. It’s much easier to get someone to “bow your head and repeat after me” than it is to make a disciple. Decision-making is very quick. Disciplemaking takes time. Unfortunately, churches are full of decision-makers, and lacking on disciples.
In 2Timothy 2:2 Paul adds another dimension to
Have you ever been discipled? Maybe you need to talk with your pastor about growing deeper in your faith by meeting regularly with a more mature believer who can pour his/her spiritual life into yours.
Have you made a disciple? The commission wasn’t just for Jesus’ immediate disciples. The commission is for us, too!
I once heard someone wisely say that every Christian needs a Paul (a more mature believer who is
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
He has conquered sin and death!
He has made a way for us to be made right with a Holy God.
Last month, I mentioned Matthew 7:21-23 in my devo on Hebrews 4. Well, we’ll take a little deeper dive into Matthew 7 in today’s Bible reading. Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount. In these final moments, he talks about judging other people: don’t do it, but realize that you will be able to
He also talks about prayer: keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking and you’ll receive, find, and doors will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7-8) Notice the continual emphasis in his statements; He doesn’t say that we should just ask, seek, and knock once, or even a couple of times.
Next, He tells us that the broad road leads to destruction, but the Narrow Gate leads to the Kingdom of God. In this section, he talks about the necessity of judging people by their fruit. He says that not every “believer” will enter the Kingdom of God.
Finally, Jesus says there are two ways we can build our lives: On the solid rock of His Word or on shifting sands of everything else. If we build our lives on His Word, we’ll have a solid foundation when storms come. But if we build our lives on anything else, we won’t have anything to stand on when storms come.
When crews begin construction a high-rise building, they don’t build up from the ground level. First, they spend a lot of time digging down to bedrock before building up. A skyscraper needs a deep, solid foundation to support the entire structure. Houses — and even streets — have to have a good foundation, with iron rebar woven through the concrete slab.
According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 5If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (CSB)
We need to read this chapter as one continuing, developing thought and not take the individual parts on their own. The bottom line is that everything that we say and do is to be built on God’s Word. Everything.
And Relationship with God is everything. The worst thing any “believer” will ever hear is, “I know you called yourself a Christian and you even did a lot in my name, but we never had a relationship”. You can do marvelous things, miraculous things and still miss everything.” As someone once said, “You can climb the ladder of success and then learn that your ladder’s leaning on the wrong wall.”
Notice: the people who were condemned in Matthew 7:21-23 were just nominal “believers”, average church-goers. These are people known for their outward displays of their faith. These are people who are “doing God’s work”. If Jesus condemns people who are “doing the deal”, do you really think He will overlook you if you merely “believe”. Jesus’ half-brother says that even demons believe! And yet, they are awestruck by the One they recognize as the God Who is. (James 2:19)
Are you awestruck by the God Who Is?
Don’t miss this or you’ll miss everything! Build your life on God’s Word. Spend time reading it. Spend time studying it. Spend time memorizing it. Not so that you will know stuff. Do it so that you will know Him. Because knowing and being known by Him is everything. (John 17:3)
Today’s Bible reading from James 5 includes a verse that people frequently read incompletely. When someone quotes James 5:16, they are referencing the second half of the verse regarding the power of prayers from righteous people. Again, read the context. In the first half of the verse, James links the prayers of righteous people with the possible cause of their illness, hence the need for righteous people to pray.
James says that if anyone is sick and needs healing, call the local church leaders and have them anoint the sick person with oil. Then he says that the sick person should confess their sins to others and pray for them. That’s the part we miss.
In this case, I don’t think the verse divisions are the cause of the problem; I think our problem is our theology. Protestants, like myself, don’t believe we should have to go to a priest to confess our sins, so we bristle at the thought of confessing our sins to anyone but Jesus. And that’s a problem. And that may be the reason believers aren’t healed.
Now, before you brand me with a “heretic” label, let me say that God is still in the healing business. Not all sickness is caused by sin. Sometimes God uses miraculous means and sometimes God uses therapeutic means to heal people. (Acts 28:8-9) And sometimes God heals through physical death.
If you’re sick or suffering from any physical or mental ailment, by all means, seek medical care. There is — or there should be — no shame for a believer to take medicine or have surgery. And by all means ask God for healing, enlisting others to join with you. Both of these healing methods are mentioned in Acts 28:8-9, where Paul instantaneously healed Publius’ father and Dr. Luke used medical therapy to restore others to health.
But don’t neglect
And trust God for healing by any of the three methods I listed earlier.
In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 9, the writer says that the ministry under the new covenant ministry is better than the ministry under the old covenant.
Under the old covenant in the Tabernacle — and later in the Temple — the ordinary priests could enter the Holy Place to do their ministry, but ordinary men couldn’t go there. The High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place (the “Holy of Holies”), but ordinary priests couldn’t go there. And the High Priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, on the Day of atonement. He had to do this every year. The writer says that Jesus’ blood was so much more effective than the blood of goats and bulls in cleansing the conscience of God’s people. (Hebrews 9:13–14). (More on this tomorrow)
Imagine feeling the guilt of committing a sin, knowing that it couldn’t be covered by a sacrifice for 364 days. Imagine carrying the conviction for that sin and every other sin you commit multiple times each day for an entire year. That’s a lot of guilt.
Next, imagine the feeling on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest emerges from the Most Holy Place. All that guilt from all those sins you committed for the past 365 days was covered… in an instant!
Ministry under the new covenant is so much better! No longer do God’s people have to look forward to a day when their sins could be dealt with. Now, we can look back, knowing that our sins have been covered — all of our sins, once for all time — by Jesus’ blood. What a relief!
If you are a believer, you don’t even have to worry if a sin you committed a moment ago is covered. It was already covered almost 2000 years ago, long before the Holy Spirit even convicted you of that sin and you asked for forgiveness!