Matthew 28:19-20 “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.”
Growing up in a missionary family, the Great Commission has been in my awareness for as long as I can remember. I have heard it quoted countless times, but I still think the majority of Christians fail to understand it. Thankfully there are some teachers who indeed stress what I think is the half of this that gets largely ignored, and that is the matter of making disciples. The average American doesn’t seem to even know what the word means! I like that the Japanese here says “the people of all nations,” because we are prone to think of nations in terms of geography, when historically the term applied more to people groups. The thing is, everything and everyone belongs to God by right of creation, but our misuse of free will has put the majority of mankind in rebellion against our Creator. It is only by becoming His disciples that we enter into right relationship with Him. That’s not just a matter of saying a few words, though words are important. My grandfather Carver had an expression for how he felt many people thought of salvation: “Into bliss and out of blister.” In other words, “Say the secret words to escape hell.” Today, people don’t even believe hell exists! The thing is, the Kingdom of God is a matter of acknowledging and obeying the King, and that is what discipleship is all about. Lots of Christians want to leave out the word, obey, in verse 20! We want to be spoiled children, never corrected for anything. However, the Bible very bluntly says that such a child is not a true child at all. (Hebrews 12:5-6, quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) These days parental discipline is attacked, precisely because the devil wants us to reject the discipline offered by our heavenly Father. In Canada, you can be jailed for spanking your child! That’s not to excuse abuse, but it is to say that the devil intentionally conflates discipline with abuse. Discipleship involves commitment both to learn and to obey. We are called to be disciples and to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
It’s been quite a few years now since I discovered that my name, Jack, means “apprentice,” or “disciple.” That’s why it appears so often in nursery rhymes, as in Jack be Nimble and the like. I was actually rather pleased with the discovery, particularly since my full name is Jackson, in other words, “the son of a disciple.” I believe my father was a very genuine disciple of Jesus Christ, not to mention my mother and all four of my grandparents, and some of their ancestors as well. I have a remarkable heritage! However, all of that can fall apart at any point. If I am not a disciple, making more disciples, my ancestry doesn’t benefit me. In recent years I’ve been involved in studying Coaching, as opposed to top-down teaching, and it has been changing my perspective on discipling. Coaching was never modeled to me, so I haven’t known how to do it. Many people have spoken into my life, for which I am grateful, but I haven’t been very effective in coming alongside others and coaching them as disciples of Jesus Christ. I’ve just finished another book on the subject, and I pray that I will continue to grow as a disciple and a discipler, coaching people into the kind of relationship with Jesus that He desires, for His glory.
Father, thank You for all You’ve brought me through, and that You aren’t through with me yet. Thank You for bringing me to announce my retirement from school teaching. Help me move into the ministry that You have planned for me so that many true disciples may be raised up in this nation, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!