Today I want to talk to you about Mission Sunday, because we’re going to look at a calling that every believer has. You see, after Jesus death and resurrection, just before he rose into heaven, he spoke to his followers the words that have become the “marching orders” for the church. It’s what’s known as the “Great Commission” and these words are one of the most important life assignments we have as believers. Many of us have recently read John Bevere’s book “Driven by Eternity” and have been stirred with a passion for things that matter most. If you’re a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve been called, and this is what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 28,
“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 28:19-20).
Now these two verses contain God’s purpose for the church, our hope, and untold numbers of followers of Jesus Christ have sacrificed their lives to carry out this mission. Without them, the church wouldn’t be what it is today, and yet today the call remains the same, and the promise of Jesus remains, “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Steve May once told a story of a man who risked his life to save a boy trapped in a burning building. The doorway was blocked, the room was filled with smoke, and the child couldn’t find his way out. His rescuer stormed into the house with reckless abandon, retrieving the young man from certain death. As the boy was carried from the burning building into the open air, he said, "Thank you for saving my life." The man looked deeply into the boy's eyes and said simply, "Just make sure your life was worth saving."
As we consider the people who’ve died throughout history in order to carry out the Great Commission… as Christians we need to challenge ourselves to make sure that we are living "a life worth saving" because, and this is so important, the Lord Jesus Christ determined that your life was worth dying for. Therefore, the best way we can do that, as individuals and as a church, is to take these last words spoken by our Lord Jesus and implement them into our own personal mission statement and to live them out in our daily lives.
We can do that by focusing on three key words that I want to share with you today. Three words that are a formula for living a worthy life… a formula for making a difference in the lives of others, and they apply to pastors, teachers, businesspeople, coaches, parents, young adults, students, and anyone else who wants to make a difference in the world. And here is the first word; first of all, Jesus said “Go!”
That's what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 19: "Therefore, go..." And honestly, this is a basic principle for success in any venture. You don’t wait for success to come to you, but you “go” after success!
Jesus said, “Therefore, go...” and the Greek word that’s translated “go” literally means “to go”, but it’s actually a present participle, which means it’s not as much of a command, as if you just tracked mud across the kitchen floor and your mother’s standing there pointing to the door and saying, “Go!” But very literally, it could be translated, “As you go”, or “As you do life,” or “As you’re following Jesus, make disciples.” Now a lot of people think that you have to go overseas to make disciples, but very literally, this directive of Jesus is, “As you do life, make disciples.”
So, Jesus tells us, that we’re to make disciples when we’re at home, when we’re on the road, when we’re going to bed, and when we’re getting up. As you do life make disciples. But what exactly is a disciple? Well, let me tell you first that a disciple is much more than just a church member. A disciple is a learner. A disciple is an apprentice. A disciple is a follower. A disciple is a committed supporter. In the New Testament, the early believers weren’t called Christians, they were called disciples, because a disciple would follow a rabbi or teacher, and they would live their lives according to the teachings of their rabbi.
It was just like in the Old Testament, when Elisha shadowed Elijah, he said, “I want to be just like you. But even more he said, "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). Or like Ruth said to Naomi, "Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Just like Jesus and His disciples or Paul and Timothy it’s like, “I want to be under your teaching. I want to memorize what you say. I want to be like you. I want to do life like you.” What Jesus is saying is that if you’re a disciple of Jesus, as you go through life, you’ll be making disciples as you’re sharing the love of Jesus.
And it starts, first of all, with going to people who don’t know Jesus. So, on your way to and from work you’re looking for opportunities to make disciples. As a student, you’re looking for opportunities to make disciples. As a stay-at-home mom, you’re not only discipling your children, but you’re discipling the other moms who bring their kids over to play. If you’re a coach, you’re discipling the other coaches and the students, because as you do life, you’re doing what? You’re making disciples!
The reality though, is that in many churches today, we’re not making disciples, because people “Go” to church. They’re merely spectators, consumers, and then they leave and go about their lives. For many Christians, the thinking is that, “The church should disciple me” but we forget that we are the Church, and that we should be discipling other people, we should be making disciples, and yet many people aren’t.
Today I want to encourage you, if you want to live a worthy life, a life worth dying for, go and make a difference in the lives of others. Go for it, because you can’t wait for the world to come to you. You must go to the world. If we really want to reach this community, we have to go, and we have to reach out.
Now we can do that in a variety of ways, but I believe that the best way is by telling someone you know about what Jesus has done for you and what he can do for them too. Another way is by visiting neighbors and giving them a flyer about the church and inviting them to visit. Another way, is that together we can provide outreach ministries such as back-to-school parties, clothing and food drives, as well as providing uplifting gospel centered activities for the children and youth. And in this manner, we in a very practical way, bring the gospel into the day-to-day grind of daily living, reaching out to those who need to hear it, and obeying Jesus directive to “Go.” And then secondly stay...
We're supposed to go, and then we're supposed to stay. And I know that doesn’t make much sense, but here’s what I mean. Jesus said,
“Therefore, go and make disciples...baptizing them... and teaching them...”
And what he’s talking about is a long-term commitment, making disciples of those we’ve introduced to Jesus, and actually staying and serving those people. It's not about our flying in or driving in and throwing out a few Bible verses, handing out some tracts or pamphlets, pushing for a profession of faith and then taking off. It's about us staying long enough to see long-term transformation.
God describes this in Deuteronomy chapter 3, when he told Moses, “Commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28). God told him to stay, to stick with them, disciple him, encourage him, strengthened him, and speak life into him. You see, with your words you can encourage and strengthen those around you. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, but as you go, as you do life, you make disciples.
Now certainly, there is a place for discipling others around God’s word, but it doesn’t have to be limited to a Bible study. As you are doing life together, you can help others to apply Biblical principles to their lives. It could be simply working with a married couple who’s struggling and encouraging them saying, “Here’s some ways that you can honor God better in your marriage.” It could be helping someone who doesn’t understand money management and saying, “Here’s some biblical principles that helped me to better manage money.” It could be talking to some parents and saying, “You know, here’s what I’ve learned from the Bible about being a parent. Maybe you can try some of this.” And it could be just praying with someone and letting them hear how you pray. It’s as you go, you’re making disciples.
I guarantee you that there are people around you that God has put in your life that you’re meant to disciple, to encourage, to strengthen, and to point to Jesus. Now I’m sure that those of you who are a little younger as well as those who are a little bit older will have excuses. As a matter of fact, that is one of the things I hear all the time, “I’m just too young” or “too old for it.” But today I want to encourage you, because this church is full of people who need you, and this community is full of people that need you.
If our only mission in life is to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, we might as well go to heaven right now, there’s no reason to remain on earth, but Jesus left us in the world with another purpose in mind. He said in Matthew chapter 5, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). And that means that we are to be agents of preservation in a decaying environment, he has appointed us to be lights in a darkened place and time. Therefore, the apostle Paul told Timothy to stay, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). He told Titus stay and, “teach the older women… To train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure” (Titus 2:3-5). He said, “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in endurance” (Titus 2:2).
We have lots of younger women who need older godly women as models discipling them. We’ve got men who are trapped in materialism, men who don’t know how to be great leaders and are stuck with lustful desires who need older men who have overcome these desires to speak into their lives. There are those of you, who should be mentoring teens, or maybe you should be discipling kids. You’re called by God and one of your most important life assignments as you go, as you do life, is to stay and make disciples.
If you want to make a difference in people's lives, you have to make a long-term commitment to be part of their lives. You have to be willing to stay with them, to help them grow. And this is especially true for parents; if you want your kids to turn out right. I can tell you how to do it in four words: “spend time with them.” If you're a parent, the most important job you have is that of building character in your children; making them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ; and that requires a long-term commitment. It requires that you stay. It requires your time.
In order for our church to be effective, our commitment to one another and to this community must be long-term. It's as simple as this: the longer we stay focused on fulfilling the Great Commission, the more effective we will be. We’ve got to Go. We’ve got to Stay. And third we’ve got to... Demonstrate!
Jesus said, "...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Not just "telling them" but "teaching them". And this is such a crucial distinction, because it’s our job, our responsibility, to communicate the message of the gospel effectively. This often involves more than words. It involves demonstrating the Christian life by our actions.
Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing."
God wants us to show others what it truly means to be Christian. He wants us to lead by example. That's how you teach people to become disciples. It's not enough to describe obedience, we must demonstrate it and keep demonstrating it until the lesson is learned.
Listen to what Paul said in Philippians chapter 3, “Join with others in following my example brothers and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Philippians 3:17).
You do that as you “Go”, number one, as you “Stay”, number two, and number three, as you “Demonstrate’ life. You may not be perfect, but as you grow closer to Christ, you can be an example. Paul describes this to the Corinthian church in his first letter. In Chapter 11 he said,
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Paul says, as I’m trying to be like Him, you try to be like me. In fact, the Greek word translated as follow very literally means to follow or to imitate. If you are unsure of how to disciple someone, just be a good example and let them watch you. That’s what Paul did, he said imitate me. And the church imitated him, they watched how he led, they watched how he studied the Bible, they watched how he prayed and they watched how he taught. And Paul told them in chapter 4,
“In Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16).
And for those of you who are parents, one of your greatest callings as well as one of your greatest challenges will be to disciple your children. That’s what you’re here to do, but if you look at what most parents do, if you follow their example, what you’d think is that what’s most important is to make them world champion soccer players before the age of six, make them ballerinas before they’re eight, or to excel in calculus before they’re fourteen. And you’d think, if you look at the way some of us live our lives, you’d think that the greatest calling on us as parents is to keep our kids as busy as possible, succeeding at things that don’t contribute to their spiritual growth and certainly not to the Kingdom of God.
But you know, this is one of the things that makes parenting so difficult, because children imitate what they see. If you’re not seeking first the Kingdom of God, if you’re not growing spiritually, and you’re not living a godly life, guess what your children are going to imitate? They’re going to imitate your bad habits, they’ll imitate our culture, they’ll imitate what they see on TV.
You know, when our kids were little it was easy to teach by example, because it was simple. Don’t touch the stove, look both ways before crossing the street, say your prayers at bedtime. But when they became teenagers it became more of a challenge, because the lessons we need to teach them are more difficult. You know like, love your enemies, treat your elders with respect, forgive as you’ve been forgiven, put God first in all you do, control your tongue, etc. and these are more difficult to teach, because they’re more difficult to demonstrate.
Athanasius once said, "You cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself."
That’s why the commitment to make disciples is so important. You teach by example, by demonstrating the truth, and if you want to make a difference in the lives of others, it requires a commitment to demonstrating the truth with your personal life. If our children, our friends, and our neighbors look like the world, think like the world, and imitate our culture, it’s because we’re not demonstrating Kingdom living that’s out of this world. Listen to what Paul says in Romans chapter 12,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
We haven’t been called to look like the world, we’ve been called to be transformed, to follow Paul’s example, to imitate Christ, and to demonstrate the righteousness of God. The apostle Peter tells us, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). We’ve been called out of the darkness and called to go into the world with the message of Jesus Christ, to stay as long as it takes to make a difference, and to demonstrate in our own personal lives the example of obedience that we have been called to model for others.
That’s our calling: to make disciples as you go, as you stay, and demonstrate life; being an example as you’re becoming more like Christ. You see, if you’re not making disciples you really need to question whether you’re really a disciple of Jesus. Because when you know him, when he’s really changed your life, when you’re a disciple, you can’t keep him to yourself. Your relationship with Jesus is supposed to be personal, but it was never supposed to be private. You’re called by God to make disciples. And I want to challenge you to honor the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for you and to make your life worthy of his death.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 06, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.