When Culture & Conviction Collide: MISSION

The backdrop to Jesus’ instructions regarding the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 was a culture that was hostile toward the Gospel and religiously confused.  Jesus had just been crucified and raised bodily on the third day.  His disciples were somewhat confused about all the ramifications of Jesus’ death.  In addition they appeared cautious, at best, about how to proceed given the aggressive response to Jesus.

Jesus provided very clear instruction on how to engage the culture.  He did not tell them to go and convince people to change their behavior.  He did not tell the disciples to set up debates to argue the veracity of their claims to Christ’s deity.  He told them to go and make disciples.  Jesus clearly wanted His disciples to engage the culture by calling people into a relationship with Jesus that transforms lives and, by so doing, change opinions, hearts, families, and even culture.

Jesus’ call to make disciples was clear and compelling in the first century.  This disciple-making call extends to us as well.  Let’s consider with fresh ears the Great Commission and how it is expressed in a contemporary culture that appears indifferent and sometimes hostile to the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Regardless of our perceptions about how our message will be received, our instructions are the same – “make disciples.”

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Martin Luther King echoed this call at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 when he made the following statement –

If you will let me be a preacher just a little bit - One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved.  Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do.  Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying."  He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that."  He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery."  He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively."  He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal.  And if a man will steal, he will kill.  So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

Martin Luther King was correct in addressing the culture of his day with a call to Christ.  The need in the world today is for the Church to issue that same call to Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and clothed in love.

Jesus Affirms His Authority (vs. 18)

The Greek word for “authority” is exousia which translated means “all the right of absolute authority and all the resources of absolute power.”  Therefore, Christ not only has the authority to declare His will, He has the power to carry it out.

There is nothing in heaven or on earth or in all of creation that Jesus does not have authority over.  Colossians 1:17 says “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”  He has both the right and the power to direct creation.

Jesus is infinitely triumphant, authoritative, and all sufficient.  Jesus has all authority over all of creation because He is Lord!

Jesus Commits His Companionship (vs. 20)

The reality of Jesus Christ, Lord of all Creation, issuing instructions to His disciples and pledging His never ending companionship along the way is beyond comprehension.  What does it look like for Jesus’ companionship to be constant and abiding with us as we carry out His will for our lives?  Let’s look at what this was like in the life of the Apostle Paul.

In Acts 18:9-10 while Paul was in Corinth after experiencing many difficulties in Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica, the Lord affirmed Paul with these words, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you . . .”

In Acts 23:11 after returning to Jerusalem and being challenged by church leaders and physically attacked, the Lord gave Paul this word of encouragement of His companionship. It reads, “But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.’”

In Acts 27:23-24, while sailing on a ship headed to Rome as a prisoner, a terrible storm occurred.  In the middle of this storm the Lord’s companionship was tangible.  It reads, “For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’”

Finally, in a Roman dungeon, heartbroken over news of heresy in churches and saddened by loneliness, Paul was encouraged by the Lord’s companionship as recorded in 2 Timothy 4:16-17.  It reads, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.”

The companionship of Christ is a certainty.  It is sufficient for all our needs as we are living His call for our lives.  Hebrews 13:5 echoes this truth, “I will never fail you and never forsake you.”

Jesus Shares His Strategy (vs. 19-20)

Jesus’ instructions were for His followers to “make disciples” “as they go.”  The word of command in this passage is not “go.” It is “make disciples.”  The expectation is that as we go we will be faithful to live out Christ’s teaching as faithful disciples ourselves.

He also provides instruction on the process. It involves evangelism and equipping.  It is both sharing the Gospel and helping believers mature in Christ.

Closing

Christ’s call is extended to us out of love.  He does not require our service for His name to be made great through the world and among the nations.  It is a beautiful expression of His love for us that He invites us to join Him in the process of sharing the Gospel with the unbelieving world and then equipping those believers to go and make disciples themselves.Christ holds all of the authority in all of creation and pledges His companionship to enable us to be faithful to His call.  The question is will we answer that call?


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Charles Fowler

Senior Pastor of Germantown Baptist Church. Husband of Sandra and father to Anna and Sarah.

About This Blog

The purpose of the sharing Life blog is to provide opportunities to analyze cultural issues through the lens of biblical truth. Posts are written by Senior Pastor Charles A. Fowler as well as other members of the GBC staff. Our worship guides are also offered as a daily tool for guiding your family in worship at home.

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