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Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…(Matthew 28:19-20)
He was madder than a hornet. A young soldier we had led to Christ walked up and confronted us. “I’ve been reading my Bible,” he says. “Why didn’t you tell me I needed to get baptized!?” (He had now been in our ministry for over two years) Red-faced I turned to the guy that was discipling him and apologized for not being a better disciple-maker. One of the things that I’ve learned about problems in the ministry is that you ought always look upstream first. And the finger I was pointing for this young disciple-maker’s critical blunder was squarely pointed back at me.
In almost every conversion story in the New Testament, a profession of faith was immediately followed by baptism. Immediately! Not 2 years! Not even longer than a few days in Paul’s case. (Act 9.10-18) Paul even baptizes the Philippian Jailor and his family in the middle of the night. (Act 16.33) It seems in almost every case both the baptizer and the baptizee had a sense of urgency. It really was the disciple’s first step of obedience.
Today we want to wait to see if “salvation” is really going to stick or we want people to go through eight weeks of classes to make sure that they understand what they are getting into. We use baptism as a gate of authentication. There is no such Biblical precedent for that. That my friends is pure tradition. So let’s stop holding the first step of obedience hostage for new believers. We would never say, “Don’t stop committing adultery until we are sure you’re a real believer,” would we? No way! Start challenging all would-be disciples to immediate baptism. It should be the first step of many steps in following Jesus.
Here’s a good little Bible study on the immediacy of baptism; Baptism Hammer
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:18-19)
Baptism. Think about it. It’s simple enough that almost anyone anywhere can do it but it’s just weird enough that people balk at it. “You want me to do what? Fully submerge myself in water while being fully clothed?” But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He gave us this command to be “baptizers.” A lot of times we are looking to put something very tangible around a very spiritual reality. We are looking for a way to pour concrete around a cloud to capture what it is. We walk an aisle, pray a prayer, attend confirmation, etc… Well, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think Jesus gave us the “concrete” to pour on our spiritual condition when we start following Him; its called Water Baptism. That’s the metaphorical picture we can point to that we express our commitment to Jesus. Baptism doesn’t save us but it is a way to capture the relationship I have with Him and to acknowledge to the world; “I have died to myself and I now live for Christ.” (Gal 2.20)
Many other religions tolerate and even like Jesus. It’s really no problem for some to say, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus.” But once you start talking about baptism the tenor of the discussion completely changes. A line has been drawn in the sand (or water). Baptism is the symbol of being “All In.” And they are not prepared to make that kind of commitment. Interesting that people from other religions would have a clearer view of the symbolism of baptism than a lot of Christians. Do we take Jesus’ command to be a baptizer seriously? Do we see baptism as an optional superfluous ritual or a religious act that is like a ticket to heaven or a command to be obeyed that gives us a tangible symbol of our new identity in Christ?
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”(Acts 1:8)
Jesus was a Master at casting vision. He starts with a simple “Follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men” and in the end, He says “There’s the world, now get after it! Pure Genius! And as scalable as Jesus was in His approach to inspire His men to the mission, in the same kind of way NoPlaceLeft is amazingly simple and comprehensive. We can start with NoPlaceLeft in our hearts and quickly move to NoPlaceLeft in our family, our neighborhood, city, state, country, and ultimately the world. And as long as we keep it a vision and not an organization or about a set of tools or strategy, anyone who has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God is answering the clarion call (whether they know it or not). And lest we highjack the Great Commission with our catchy vision statement, let’s pin the rose on the True Founder. It was Jesus. He is the One who makes our hearts burn to see His glory continue to be the global goal. So NoPlaceLeft may be an inspiring way to repackage what Jesus commanded but He owns the rights and the results to the mission.
And think about it. It is easier than it has ever been to “Go Global.” Just this morning I was sharing the gospel with a Hindu in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India on Facebook. But you really don’t even need the internet or an airport, the nations are living next door to us. In our day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for not reaching the “ethnos.” They are all around us. And if we simply share the gospel and help them fall in love with and obey Jesus, we will have obeyed the global mandate of the Ruler of it All. Does Jesus’ Commission grip your heart? Are we living our lives in a way that His glory will spread like “leaven through the whole lump of dough?” Are we casting this vision in such a way that it ignites those around us to join the greatest enterprise in the universe?
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…Matthew 28:18-19
Now that we have set our sights squarely on the bullseye, let’s continue dissecting the King’s Commission. Jesus was after the world. Not part of it, not some of it, all of it! When He said to make disciples of “all nations” the Greek word is ethnos meaning every ethnic group. That means the commission to make disciples goes way beyond the borders of various countries. Jesus is saying “Make disciples” of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation! (Rev 5.9, 7.4, 13.7) When we finish, there will be NoPlaceLeft. Every people group on the planet will have had heard the good news of Jesus Christ and had the opportunity to follow Him as their King.
Many of us had the privilege of having Steve and Laura Smith as our co-laborers, mentors, and friends. And when you were around them something became very evident. They were absolutely captivated with the vision to finish the Great Commission. For them, it was “The World or Bust!” But in the sovereign plan of God, Steve was overcome with cancer and didn’t get to see his dream of “finishing the final lap.” Some may doubt the wisdom of God by taking one of the most strategic missionary personalities on the planet out of the fight. (I know I did!) But the beauty of Steve’s life is found in his supreme allegiance to King Jesus and His commands. He made a bunch (and I mean a bunch) of disciple-makers personally and through multiplication and they are laboring all over the world. And now one unreached people group after another is being reached for Jesus. Steve may not have seen the last lap but he did everything he could to pass the baton to us and inspire us to pass it on to the next generation of disciple-makers. Does your vision for disciple-making include the world? Do you see the gospel going beyond your context and breaking the barriers of race, language, culture, gender, etc…? Are you casting a vision for others that includes every tribe, tongue, and nation?
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples…”Matthew 28:18-20
His answer shocked me!!! I was sharing the gospel with a young Army private named Adam today and when I asked him, “What does it mean to make Jesus your King?” He replied; “Emulate Him.” I almost fell out of my chair! Wow! Here’s a young guy who gets it. But what does that really mean; “To emulate Jesus?” Does that mean I need to grow a beard, wear sandals, be single, and walk around Judea preaching the gospel? No, but there are a lot of principles that motivated Jesus to do what He did. And if you’re looking for the absolute supreme principle that guided Jesus it was His complete surrender to His Father’s will. This was the quintessential principle that gave Jesus purpose and determined His practice. The Principle Principle.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (Jn 5.19)
Jesus’ strategy was simple. He looked at what the Father was doing and did it in like manner. How did Jesus raise people from the dead, forgive sins, walk on water, etc…? By abiding so closely in the Father that He followed His every move. And now we are to abide in the Son as the Son abided in the Father. (Jn15.5) So we need to get a closer look at Jesus and ask the question; “Jesus, what are You doing and how can I join You in it?” I believe the best clarity we can get is by reading the gospels. This is where I get to see Jesus in action, extract the principles, ask for direction in my context, and put it into practice. Are you reading your Bible (Especially the gospels) daily? Are you asking the question?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…(John 1.1,14)
The most common rebuttal I hear to seeing Jesus as the aim of our discipleship is; “But Jesus was God! There’s no way we could be like Him. I mean He walked on water, raised the dead, and forgave sins!” And…so did Peter. (Mt 14.49, Ac 9.40-41, Jn 20.23)
I think the biggest mistakes in discipleship are to 1) not see Jesus as the primary and attainable model and 2) stripping Jesus of His deity in order to achieve this goal. Jesus was and is 100%, man and God. But this is an interesting theological conundrum. Let’s look at Philippians 2.5-8
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2.5-8)
Jesus is the God/Man. But He operated in the confines of the flesh. He restricted His activities to things we can fully emulate if we completely abide in Him. Otherwise, He wouldn’t be the sympathetic High Priest (Heb 4:14-16, Mk 10.45) and in a sense would be cheating. It’s like having special super powers that we could never have and yet that’s the expectation. We are only touching the tip of the iceberg on this topic but suffice it to say, while Jesus was in fact fully God, He did not tap into His deity during His earthly ministry. He is an exemplary and legitimate example for us to follow and be the aim of our discipleship. Yes, Jesus is God, always has been 100% but He did limit Himself to time, space, and energy as a man to give a pattern for life. He is what we were always meant to be in the image of God.