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Making Disciples (Sermon 11th June 2017)

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June 12, 2017

Here is the sermon manuscript I referred to yesterday for my message. I can tend to get off track in the delivery but the base of what I said is here! Enjoy.

Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This morning we come to one of the most often used passages when it comes to what we are meant to do as followers of Jesus. Or what mission looks like. To go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I want us to focus on the first part of that sentence and what it means for us, for our lives today. 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

To begin with we need to have some background on the use of the Greek words here.  The two words go and make are both adjectives.  The word for make disciples is in the imperative voice.  Which means that the emphasis of this sentence is actually on this word.  There are many who would preach on this passage and focus on the word “go” but it might be better to focus on this idea of make disciples.  The word for go is in a passive mood.  If we were to highlight something in these words it would need to be make disciples.  That’s our imperative, our exhortation, our direction.  Whilst we cannot ignore that we are to go we need to be placing emphasis on what we do when we go.  Make disciples.

So just what are we to do to make disciples and where do we do it?  

To begin with we don’t do it out of our own strength.  We don’t do it by pure will power.  It’s actually not something that we can wake up one morning as say “well, it must be time to make disciples today, I think I’m ready”.  We make disciples in and through the authority that Jesus has and has given to us.  Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  That’s such a powerful image.  The God of everything.  The God of creation, the God who holds everything in the palm of his hand.  The God that is in all things and is capable of anything.  This God has given each one of us authority to make disciples.  Makes you wonder how we can be scared to reach out to other people, doesn’t it?  It makes you wonder why we don’t just get out there and do it.  It makes you wonder what it is that stops us.  Why we don’t just do it.  Well, we are human and we have human emotions and feelings.  There are days that we just can’t imagine God at work in us.  We can’t imagine that God would want us to be working for him.  We have so much on our plate that we can’t imagine being useful at all.  We could be like Moses and tell God that we aren’t good enough to do what he asks us to do or we could be like Gideon who needs confirmation over and over again.  Or we might just not believe that we are able.  If we believe that we aren’t able to make disciples we have forgotten who it is that indwells us.  It’s Jesus Christ, the Father, the Holy Spirit.  God indwells us.  It actually doesn’t matter two hoots whether we are capable.  Jesus is and that’s what counts.

That’s easy to say but hard to do isn’t it?  To constantly remember that Jesus gives us authority and that we are called to use that as we work to make disciples.

There are a couple of keys from our passage today that should help us in that.

The first in is that we see the eleven disciples being obedient.  We have seen that they have almost no idea of what’s going on.  Jesus has told them what will happen yet they didn’t understand.  Here we find that Jesus instructs them to go up on the mountain.  The important thing is that they did!  They didn’t understand why or what they would see.  They just did what Jesus had told them.  That’s the first key for us to make disciples.  We must be obedient and go where Jesus directs us to go, whether we understand or not.  Just as the nation of Israel followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, so do we too.  

Not only are we to just follow but we are also to worship.  When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshipped.  What they didn’t do was to set up a church service. Not that I am against a church service (obviously). They didn’t get some hymns together, arrange a piano, a sermon, the offering.  They stopped and worshipped Jesus.  It was spontaneous.  As we choose to go where Jesus has instructed us to go, we are to worship Him in that place.  As we again think of the disciples not really understanding what was happening, they still worshipped God.  We are not told how they worshipped Jesus on that mountain. But what it does is it gives us the freedom to worship God however we can.  For some it is in song.  There are times that I have come home from somewhere to the sound of worship music blaring from the house.  I go in and find Catherine singing (and yes, sometimes even dancing) to her heart’s content.  Lost in the moment of worshipping God with song and music.  I am different, my worship of God is quieter, more contemplative, prayerful.  Neither discounts the other.  In fact, Jesus is worshipped in both cases.  We need to worship Jesus in the moment. We need to worship Jesus in the places that he directs us.

We also need to acknowledge that even as they worshipped, some doubted. How’s that for a reality check. These 11 disciples were actually face to face with the risen Jesus and they still doubted!

Doing these things doesn’t mean that we are making disciples though.  Except perhaps for ourselves. Worshipping Jesus is part of our own discipleship journey.

If we are to make disciples by acknowledging that our authority comes from Jesus, by being obedient to his leading and by worshipping there also needs to be another dimension.  

There is a saying that says that you can’t lead someone somewhere that you haven’t been yourself.  You can’t teach what you don’t know.  You can’t show what you haven’t seen.  We can’t make disciples if we are not disciples ourselves.  We need to be disciples of Jesus ourselves so that we can make disciples.  

A disciple in the time that Jesus walked the earth wouldn’t choose to follow a program, or a school or a religion.  They would choose to follow a teacher.  Jesus’ disciples were a little unique in that he called them to follow but they still chose to follow Jesus. They still chose to listen to his teachings.  They still chose to call him Rabbi, teacher, master.  Jesus has called us to make disciples, but to do that we also need to be disciples.  Being a disciple of Jesus means that we have chosen a few things.  We have chosen to follow his teachings.  To do that we actually need to study his teachings.  We have chosen to learn from Him.  We have chosen to communicate with Him.  To walk with Him, to listen to obey.  It’s as we make ourselves disciples of Jesus that we can do what we are all called to do.  Make disciples.

Back to my Greek lessons again.  When I studied this Greek thing, my lecturers simplified the concept of the participle by suggesting that whenever we see a word that is a participle the best thing to do was to translate it with an “ing” at the end.  If we do that to our passage today, we can read it as “therefore going make disciples”.  If we do that, I think we suddenly have a different shade of understanding.  When we say go make disciples, we can tend to think it’s something we do in the future, it’s our goal, once we move from where we are now.  When we say going make disciples we suddenly realise that it is what we are to do right now.  As we go, it’s not the goal, it’s the journey. Not the light at the end of the tunnel but actually the tunnel itself.

This call to make disciples is for us right here and right now.  We are all called to make disciples.  Called to make disciples as we live our lives.

 Called to make disciples amongst our stresses, our trials, our tribulations and even amongst our joys.  It’s not something to be put off for when we get there.  We need to remember though, that it is not through our strength that we do it, Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  It’s this authority that we have been given to make disciples.  We make disciples not of Shepparton Baptist Church, or even the Baptist Union of Victoria.  We make disciples of Jesus the Christ for Jesus Christ.  We can’t wait until we get to where we think God has called us.  Whether it is overseas mission, local mission or even when we have climbed the corporate ladder.  We are not to wait until we get there. 

Jesus tells us to go make disciples of all nations or peoples.  That includes the ones who you rub shoulders with everyday. I want to continue to encourage you to engage with the community. I’ve said that I would rather see you in a community run organisation that be part of a church program. Recently in the newspaper, I have seen two opportunities to be part of the community.  One was for help with a reading program at a local school for children who’s first language is not English. The other is the Christmas lunch for people who are alone. They are after committee members. Both are great opportunities to be part of the community and share the love of Jesus while you do it.

This call is not something that we leave to others either.  It’s not purely up to a few of us to do it.  Jesus does not put in a modifier in his statement.  He purely says, go (or going) make disciples.  It’s a calling that we all have.  It’s a calling that we are all to take seriously.  

How are you at making disciples?  What is it that you do to fulfil your calling?  You may not be baptising people but I wonder what is it that you are teaching?  Are you taking the time to talk about Jesus to those that don’t know about him?  

When we talk about our own lives, our own faith, we are teaching.  As we show how we live, our example is teaching.  When we “share the gospel” with someone, we are teaching.  What do you teach? On our journey, we will teach whether we plan to or not. On our journey what we do and say, says something.  We need to have an awareness of what it is that we are teaching.  Are you making disciples of Jesus or are you teaching something else?  Each one of us is called to make disciples of Jesus.  Are you?

We are not to make disciples because we have to. We make disciples because we know the gift that we have in Jesus Christ and because we want to share this gift. Being a disciple isn’t about rules and regulations. It’s about being free. It’s about knowing a deeper reality than we thought possible. When we choose to follow Jesus, our eyes are opened. Opened to a love that we cannot describe. Opened to a God who would choose to become human.

The last sentence of this reading (and the gospel of Matthew) is vital to our understanding of Jesus (even if the sentence starts with “and”). And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Jesus who was and is God, became human just like us. Lived and breathed on this planet as part of creation. He died without sin, and was raised from the dead by the Father in all His glory. It’s this Jesus who tells the 11 disciples and us that He is with us always. It’s this Jesus that we are to share with others. It’s this Jesus who we are to make disciples for.

How about you? Do you already have this amazing gift of knowing Jesus? If you don’t, you can. If you already do, please share the good news. It was worth God dying so that it could be shared.

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