3) Final misconception: I can be close to God without being a disciple maker.
This is a big one. Did you ever notice that those who are out there making disciples, those who are on the frontlines, those who sell everything and actually go to missions, those who devote themselves in the service of others, those who are impacting others, have you noticed that these people seem to have a special relationship with God? Not always, but more often than not.
Of course, if you are a monk and that’s your calling to pray and read Scripture all day and connect with God in a special way separate from society, then you might conclude that it’s possible to be close to God without being involved in the lives of others. But, I invite you to take a look at the tail end of the Great Commission. The latter half of v20–
20 …And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
This promise of God being with us. This promise is reserved only for those whose life mission is to make disciples. If you are not making disciples, then this promise–surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age–doesn’t apply to you.
If you are a believer, God is with you. He will never leave nor forsake you. But if you are looking for a deeper sense of his presence, you can’t get around these verses. Those who are actively engaged in making disciples will experience, I believe, a deeper, more tangible sense of God’s presence.
You and I want to be close to God. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. In a church service listening to a sermon. You and I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We want to be a Spirit-filled. But what is the goal of being filled with the Spirit? Is it so that we feel good about ourselves? Do we want to be filled with the Spirit to gain a holy high, a spiritual high, an experience? What is the goal? To answer that, please turn with me to Acts 1:8.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
This is right after the Great Commission was declared by Jesus, right after He ascended, but before the church was birthed in Acts 2. The disciples were gathered and they didn’t know what to do. Their leader Jesus was gone and they were scared for their lives. Jesus had left them with these parting words–all authority in heaven and on earth is mine so therefore go out and make disciples with that same authority. But the disciples couldn’t do it. And maybe you find yourself today exactly where the disciples were in Acts 1. You want it. You want to make disciples, but you can’t do it.
If this is you, I invite you to pray for the Holy Spirit. I pray that right now the Holy Spirit would come and touch lives and revive souls. I pray that Holy Spirit would stir hearts. For what purpose? Toward what end? To feel Spirit-filled? Is that the goal? Yes. Partly. We want to be close to God in a deep, devotional sense. That’s part of it. But it doesn’t stop there. Acts 1:8–
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; AND you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
This is a rephrasing of the Great Commission. If you love God and His love, His Spirit fills you, you will love God in return. That’s a no brainer. But that’s not all. You also will be His witnesses. If you receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be his witnesses in your home, at your workplace, in Pasadena and the circle widens, you and I will be witnesses in LA, Southern California, the United States, to the ends of the earth, to wherever he sends us.
God’s promise to be with us always comes in the context of us going and making disciples of all nations.
If you flip the verse, and say, I just want to be close to God but I have no intention of being a witness, I have no desire to make disciples, then we have no right to demand God’s presence and the filling of His Spirit. We ask for His presence, we ask to be Spirit-filled in part so that we can be effective witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth.
This is why the greatest commandment and the second greatest commandment go together. Loving God and loving neighbor go hand in hand. If the love of God is in you, then there will be love for neighbor. You can love neighbor for all kinds of wrong reasons so loving neighbor by itself is no guarantee that you love God. But, not loving neighbor is a guarantee that you don’t love God. If you love God but hate your brother, then you’re a liar because your lack of love for your brother proves that the love of God is not in you.
The same principle applies here. If you are truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will make disciples. No one has to coerce you, no one has to twist your arm. It will just happen naturally.
Your love for Jesus will overflow to others and God willing, you will have a privilege to lead people to Christ. And it doesn’t say, after you make a disciple and you lead a person to Christ, have your pastor baptize them. Baptizing them is part of your responsibility. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if you got a chance to baptize the person you led to Christ. If you lead someone to Christ, don’t you think it would be meaningful for you and for the new convert whose life you impacted if you were part of the baptism ceremony? In the baptistry over there together. Right? It would be meaningful. I haven’t really talked about this with others. I am just throwing it out there. Think about it.
Part of our responsibility to make disciples includes going, it includes baptizing, and it also includes teaching. Teaching what? Teaching them to obey everything Christ commanded us.
Teaching is hard. You can hear a lecture about linear algebra and it might make sense to you while you are listening during the lecture. But if the professor asks you to come up in front of the class and teach, that’s an entirely different matter. The same goes for us in our relationship with God. Someone can ask you, do you know Jesus? Yeah, kind of. I think I know him. But when someone asks, well, then, can you teach me about this Jesus? If someone asks you to teach them about Jesus, you got to really know your material.
This means it’s your responsibility to learn this book. Because this book teaches how you and I can relate with Jesus. This book is all about Jesus. The Word of God in the flesh. It’s your responsibility to teach someone how to obey everything Christ commanded. That means, you got to know Jesus personally. You are not teaching facts ABOUT Jesus. You are not transferring second hand information that you heard from someone else about Jesus. You can’t simply regurgitate what you read in a book about Jesus. You are not teaching about the mechanics of spiritual life, you are introducing someone to the Author of Life. Truth is a person.
And so when we are teaching others about Jesus, it forces us to search our hearts. And soon enough, if you’ve been teaching others about Christ long enough, you will eventually realize I can’t get by with facts and jargon and second hand knowledge. And you start asking, do I know this Jesus? How can I teach others about Jesus unless I know him personally myself?
When you are teaching someone how to obey all of Christ’s commands, you need to have firsthand knowledge of Christ. Because you are not imparting facts, you are imparting Christ. There is a world of difference between sharing facts about Jesus versus sharing Christ himself. If you obey this Great Commission, God will be with you always, to the very end of the age. Why? Because you will find yourself constantly going back to Jesus to feed your own soul so that you have something authentic to feed others with. You will have testimony. Your own testimony about Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life. Go to him that you may go to others and introduce them to the Jesus you know firsthand.
To wrap up, 3 resolutions for us in 2013: 1) love God, 2) love neighbor, and 3) make disciples. I pray that we can all experience Christ personally as we commit to these 3 things in the coming year.