In 1755, John Wesley wrote in a letter to fellow believers saying, “You have one mission on earth; to save souls.” What is interesting is that most believers would not disagree with the notion brought up by Wesley, but agreeing on the fact that there is a great need to save souls is not enough to change the world. Glorifying Christ and proclaiming the gospel requires our diligence and focus. Often times we put our focus into our education, our careers, our self-preservation, and not only does that focus steal our attention away from the things of God, but it also distracts our work of the gospel.
Now, I am not saying that there should be no desire to increase in what God has so graciously granted us to attain. On the contrary, I believe it is good to be bountiful in knowledge, wealth, and any kind of earthly blessing by the grace of God, but it should never be a primary concern. Christ calls us to a greater purpose that we should not hinder, lest we rob God of any of the glory He so deserves.
Before ascending to His throne in Heaven, Jesus Christ gathered His disciples together on a mountain in Galilee. There He uttered His last words spoken on this earth, written in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV): “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” As Christians, we have an absolute obligation to obey our Lord. From this text we are able to draw conclusions as to what Christ commands His children to do as long as they are on this earth, in this age.
1) Go make disciples.
It is as simple as that. The very first thing that Jesus says is to go make disciples. Something that has often been forgotten when it comes to witnessing to others is the part in verse 19 where Jesus says, “go therefore.” This means that there is a reason behind discipleship, and the reason is this: all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection has brought victory over sin and death. Christ’s authority has been made clear, and His deity has been established making us regents for His Kingdom. The gospel is to be proclaimed because it is Christ’s work, and it is enough.
We were dead to sin and we had no way of being able to lift ourselves out of that sin. The world can now rejoice for Christ has now defeated the greatest disease and burden that has faced humanity: sin. Jesus did not come to make us unconditionally wealthy, healthy, and prosperous; He came to save us out of darkness and to bring us into a marvelous light. If one looks for any reason as to why there needs to be an urge to make disciples, it is because that individual doesn’t know Christ. Christ is the reason for discipleship and if He is truly in our lives, then it is only a matter of time before we begin witnessing.
Paul says in Romans 10:14 (ESV), “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” This text is not implying that God is not capable of saving mankind and that God is powerless against human will, but rather that we are we are the ones who He intends to use to carry out His purpose. God expects of us to make disciples through our bold preaching of the gospel from our lips, and signs of redemption that accompany us such as the fear of the Lord, conviction of sin, and righteous conduct. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be educated in how to evangelize, but rather that evangelism should become our focus as we disciple.
2) Teach Your Disciples
During the 1980s there was a great rise in America of evangelistic crusades, revivals, and television broadcasts. On the surface, it would seem that it was a positive as there were great numbers of people that supposedly came to the faith. Sadly, more studying of these events would only have you convinced that all it did was create more mass confusion in the body of Christ. There were false converts, false prophets, and there was a great load of false assurance around a superstitious prayer that was believed to be the magical formula for salvation.
What was worse than the mass deception, was the fact that that there were actually people who wanted to come to repentance, but because there was no one there to train them in righteousness the individuals would never be fully converted into Christianity. Becoming a Christian is not a one time event, and it is certainly not based on a “sinner’s prayer” that calls for someone to “accept Jesus” (as if Jesus needs acceptance). It is not about whether or not you accept Jesus, the issue is about Jesus accepting you. That is why a great deal and effort must be placed on discipleship so that one could have strong faith in Christ and to be assured of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.
Often I am asked when I came to Christ. Usually these people expect a date or a specific time, which is why they are surprised when I tell them that it lasted a few months. Becoming a Christian is one of the hardest challenges a person could ever take on. It requires fleeing from sin, abandoning the company of evil-doers, and a great deal of learning about who God is. I had brothers in the faith who encouraged me daily, and checked on my habits. They were not afraid to ask tough questions, and I was not afraid of being honest. In the Scriptures it is clear that was the true model of discipleship and I am glad God had taught me that early on.
The Bible is clear in Titus 2:7-8 (ESV) about what God expects from us when we minister to others, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned.” When we disciple, we are expected to be of good character and those who have been made more than conquerors in Christ over sin. Notice that we are also to be good teachers of the faith. This means that fundamental doctrines, basics in theology, and Bible studies are a necessity. There is no time to waste to begin talking about “feeling God”, “having a relationship with Jesus”, or “just living the gospel bro”. This is a time to get serious, kill sin in the disciple’s life, and to save his or her soul out of false religion.
3) Encourage Your Disciples
Before Jesus left, He assured us of His return. These words are of great comfort to us as we await His return to restore righteousness with His new Kingdom. I believe in the same manner, we are to be encouraging to our disciples. This is when it can become strangely difficult, including myself. Often times encouragement is misunderstood as being unconditionally supportive or making someone feel better, when in reality it means to steer someone to the truth in Christ. Difficulties arise because we can often become confused as to how to encourage.
The Scriptures give clarity about this in Hebrews 10:24 (ESV): “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” The key to encouragement is to stir up our disciples to love and good works. While being their close one with relations, we are to likewise lead them in the path of righteousness. To love is to be able to show them the truth and yet also restore what’s broken. This includes reminding the believer of his or her identity in Christ:
- NEW CREATURE, WITH NEW DESIRES
- ADOPTED SON/DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH
- TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
- RIGHTEOUS IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
- CHRIST’S WORK OF GLORY
There have been countless times when people I have discipled fell into sin or have failed to walk on the path of righteousness. It is easy to be tempted and give way to sinful wrath and malice, but the Holy Spirit usually reminds us that we were once dead in our own sins. It is only by God’s mercy we were saved, and it is only by God’s mercy that the individual can be continually rescued. Your job is to simply be the one to preach the word into the disciple’s life and to tell help the person grow in the fear and love of God. Paul told the Galatians in the sixth chapter is that part of being a believer is sharing burdens. God expects of us to help our fellow brothers and sisters in sin.
However, I would ask us to take heed of a very common mistake. Encouragement is not tolerance, but direction. This is not an excuse to yell, “How could you?” to any person who has sinned, but we are to definitely tell the person to steer clear of sin. Sometimes going through passages where it talks about the dangers of this sin is not a bad place to go. Other times it is a good idea to just begin being more heavily involved with the individual so it would be less difficult for him or her during the struggle. Above all things, show them Christ, so that they can be encouraged. It is Christ who has raised us from death into life with Him, so it is He should always be the source of all encouragement for discipleship.
Discipleship is a necessary part of life, especially that first step of witnessing to the stranger, acquaintance, friend, family member, or relative. It is always a joy in the end to disciple because one day the ones who you led to Christ will begin leading others as well. The Kingdom of God begins to multiply and God’s glory is manifested, for the Holy Spirit is now working among the individuals’ lives. Before it seemed impossible for salvation to be found, but with God salvation for anyone is possible. May we look forward to the bright future as we are to be encouraged by the words of Christ to take on the role of proclaiming the gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria.