Matthew 28:18-20 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.”
It would be hard for me to specify a Scripture passage that I am more familiar with than this one. Born and raised in a missionary family, we breathed the Great Commission! That said, there is always more the Lord can speak to us from any passage, because He is infinite. In the first place, this is based on Jesus’ authority. We are all too prone to imagine that authority is based in human sources, either government or sometimes academia. However, as the Founding Fathers of America recognized, authority and everything that comes from it originates in God. That is fundamentally different from any atheistic system of government. As the Roman Centurion recognized, lesser authority is dependent on submission to higher authority. (Luke 7:1-10) That affects every area of our lives. As James pointed out, we can’t hope to resist the devil successfully unless we are submitted to God. (James 4:7) When Jesus has all authority, then obedient submission to Him allows that authority to flow through us. The next point is what we are to do with that authority, and here Jesus is very clear. We aren’t to “make converts,” whatever that means; we are to make disciples. The whole area of discipleship is a lifetime study, but here Jesus gives us the outline. We are to start by baptizing people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Too often we stop there! The same sentence goes on to say that we are to teach them to obey everything that Jesus has taught us. The catch there is that we aren’t going to be very effective teachers if we aren’t obeying Christ in our daily lives ourselves. To make disciples, we need to be disciples! The good news is, we don’t have to rely on our own strength to get it done. If that were the case it flat wouldn’t happen, and that is all too often what happens. It’s not that power and wisdom aren’t available, it’s that we don’t reach out to receive what we need. Here Jesus famously says that He is with us always. That assurance has enabled believers to do humanly impossible things, all the way through triumphant martyrdom. It is when we recognize and delight in our dependence on God that we accomplish all that He intends for us, for His glory.
This is both applicable and timely. This year marks 40 years we’ve been in Omura as missionaries, and to this point results have been spotty at best. Just in recent weeks there have been various things that have pointed to explosive growth, from dreams to impressions to encounters. Just yesterday I discovered that the man next to me on a train was from Kazakhstan! This church has been international from the beginning, but that was a first from Central Asia. Tomorrow we will have our annual business meeting and will be discussing some outreach projects that have great potential. 40 years ago I would have been truly excited about all of this, but right now I need emotional rejuvenation! I think God needed me to get over myself, to realize on the deepest levels that I can’t do any of this on my own. At the same time I need to have faith, again on the deepest levels, that He CAN do it. Like Moses, I will need to learn to delegate, but I must never shirk what is my responsibility. We don’t know in any detail what God has planned, but I’ve got to remain assured that He can and will bring His plans to fruition.
Father, it’s very interesting that this is happening just as I am becoming more and more aware of my own limitations. Thank You. Help me not get in Your way, but allow Your Spirit to flow through me unhindered, to bring the harvest that You desire and intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!