Talk It Out – Sunday Suggestion

Throughout this week, we have been thinking about the Great Commission as given to us by the Lord Himself and recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. I want this week’s Sunday Suggestion to carry on the theme.

Before I do, is there anything that has challenged you this week? If so, talk it out with a trusted friend at church. Perhaps you were moved by the fact that the Eleven disciples had doubts (see Matthew 28:16-17), or perhaps you felt a nudge from the Lord to “go”? Maybe the discussion about baptism prompted you to want to explore it for yourself, in which case why not take this chance to discuss with your pastor? Did the posts about making disciples or teaching challenge you to want to go deeper with the Lord, or help others do the same? Whatever it may be, grab a coffee after the service and sit down with someone. Share your thoughts and get their views.

If there was nothing in particular that stood out this week, then that is fine. Instead, take that same cup of coffee and talk to your home group leader or leadership team about how your church is fulfilling the Great Commission. Do not be critical of course, but look for ways you can get involved and support the church’s efforts. There are undoubtedly myriad ways you can get involved. You might like to help run the next baptism preparation class, or take the big step of offering to lead a small group and help make disciples? You could start a prayer programme for those who are going out and sharing the Gospel, or join them yourself.

Ask your pastor or trusted friend to help you figure out your gifts and unique contribution, together make a plan on how you can use those talents to preach the Gospel – directly or indirectly.

As you discuss the Great Commission, see if there are ways you can encourage others. Some may be cautious or even fearful about stepping out, so give them confidence by supporting them and reminding them of Christ’s presence with them. It might be that they have a God-ordained idea in their heart to reach people with the truth, but they cannot do it alone. You may be the person they need to help turn their idea into a reality.

There are countless ways in which we as individuals and as part of a church, can seek to fulfil Jesus’ commands here. Perhaps you are desperately seeking a way to do so, but just can’t seem to find the right avenue. Talk to someone about it, and listen not just to them, but to the Lord through them as well.

I do hope you have enjoyed what you have read this week, but do not allow it to just pass you by. Let it prompt you to action, and to “go” as Christ instructed. Don’t dive in without thought, but do take definite action. Take the counsel of fellow believers and work with them in whatever way God is directing you.

Together, we can take the Gospel to the world that needs it so very much.

As a reminder, here are the words we have read so many times this week. Read them once again, slowly, and pay particular attention to those elements you have not noticed before. Importantly, read that last sentence more than once. Jesus is with you! Praise the Lord!

But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him; but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go[b] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:16-20 (WEB)

If you missed any of the post on the Great Commission, here is a list:

  • Bowing and Doubting
  • Go!
  • Make Disciples
  • Baptise Them
  • Teach Them
  • I Am With You

I Am With You

The Great Commission #6

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

Over the course of this week, we have taken a good look at the Great Commission found in Matthew’s Gospel. I hope that you now appreciate (if you did not before) that it goes beyond simply sharing our faith – although that is clearly part of it.

In summary, Jesus tells His Eleven – and by extension, us as well – that they are to go, to make disciples, to baptise and to teach people to obey Him. We have explored each of these in turn, and I now ask you to reflect on how you can contribute to fulfilling each element.

I hope you agree that this is no small task! If you are feeling a little daunted by the idea of trying to fulfil this Commission, then you are not alone.

The first thing to remember is that God will never ask you to do anything that you cannot do. He would be unjust to do so. God is neither unreasonable nor sadistic, enjoying watching us struggle. Instead, God never lets us go through things we cannot bear.

No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (WEB)

Paul, talking of temptation here, points out that God does not allow any temptation beyond that which we can bear. He will provide a way of escape so that no temptation will overcome us.

In a similar way, I believe God will not lay a command us on that we cannot do. He equips us with all we need to succeed, be it gifts, talents, resources or indeed His very own Spirit.

#God equips us with everything we need to succeed. #Bible #Christianity #temptation

It is also important to remember that we are not expected to fulfil this task all on our own. We may have individual responsibilities yes, but it is not on any one person to complete this great work solo. We work together, as a family of believers, and united as the Church of God, we can complete the mission before us.

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (WEB)

We, the church, are one body. We are made up of different parts, but all exist together as one, and only by co-operating can we hope to fulfil the Great Commission. I may be able to write (to some extent) but I surely cannot sing! What if someone is to be reached with a tuneful rendition of a biblical song? You will not be able to call on me to do this! Instead, you will need a different part of the body.

The truth is that you cannot do everything, but you can do something. God has purposely made us all different, and so each of us can bring our unique gifts, talents and experiences to bear. I cannot do it all, and neither can you, but together we can do a whole lot more.

I am with you

Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:20b (WEB)

Not only do we have one another’s help and support, we have Jesus’ too. Here, He tells us plainly that He is with us and will remain that way.

When we “go” in faith, stepping out to make disciples, baptise and teach, we do so with the Lord Himself. One of the keys to success is not trying to do this in our own strength, but in His. No one comes to the Father except through Christ Himself (John 14:6) so attempting to do this without Him is fruitless.

I recall a time when my wife and I had to move some furniture in our home. One of our children, who were rather young at the time, tried to help us. Their little amount of strength was insufficient to move the item, but with their father’s help, the job was completed.

Trying to fulfil the Great Commission without the strength and power of the Lord is like a little child trying to pick up and move a bed. It cannot be done.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29 (WEB)

A yoke combines the power of two or more oxen, so that the plough is more easily moved and the work done. If you only put one ox in the yoke, it will be lopsided and likely move in circles. Jesus asks us to link up with Him, and together the task will be completed.

Do not go it alone, but go out with Christ. He has promised to be with you, and only by working with Him can you extend His kingdom and share the Good News with the world. It is a great mystery that God chooses to involve us in His plans, yet I rejoice in that mystery and in being a part of that family.

I leave you with this thought; in heaven, you will be able to pray, to worship, to study Scripture, to fellowship with God and His people, but the one thing you cannot do is fulfil the Great Commission. Let this spur you on, united with the church, and in the power of the Spirit. Let us go out, make disciples, baptise and teach, knowing that Jesus is with us. Amen!

What will you do?

Ask yourselves these questions today:

  • What comfort do you gain from knowing Christ is with you?
  • How can you practically draw on His strength more?
  • Having read this series of posts, what three things can you do now to participate in this great mission?

Our First Testimony Tuesday post – My Story in 100 Words, by Jo

If you have not checked out the Berry Bunch Family already, then I strongly encourage you to do so. i’m truly excited to hear more of their testimony and about gods faithfulness in their lives and ministry.

It was something of an honour to be mentioned in this post as well!

Do give it a read, and start following their site. you won’t regret it!

I’ve written, edited, and scheduled our first #TestimonyTuesday post. This is an exciting new, and regular, output for us, and we have Nicola to …

Our First Testimony Tuesday post – My Story in 100 Words, by Jo

Teach Them

The Great Commission #5

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

The substance of our Christian lives ought to be different from that of the world. If we talk the same, act the same, think the same, and do all the same things that the world does, then we must question whether we are truly born anew. Disciples are not meant to be the “same” as those who follow their own fleshy or sinful desires.

If that is a shock to you, then perhaps the Great Commission has yet to be fulfilled in your life. Maybe you have believed in Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Saviour, yet no one has taken the time to teach you to obey.

And so, we come to the third part of the Great Commission which Jesus gave to us. To teach disciples all that He commanded.

Obedience may not seem like a very exciting topic to you, yet it is crucial we learn to observe what Jesus told us to do. It will lead us to God’s kind of success, blessing and most importantly, the glory of God.

Having made disciples, and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we must then teach them. This task will take a lifetime, and most people (myself definitely included) are slow learners!

Where do we begin? I suspect there is no right or wrong answer to this, and it might be different for everyone.

Firstly, we are to teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded. We might strictly interpret this to mean following only the red letters in our Bible, and thus dismissing most of the epistles and the entirety of the Old Testament… I do not think this is so however!

Every Scripture is God-breathed and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

The entirety of Scripture, the totality of God’s Word in both the Old and New Testaments, the letters, the history and the prophecy are all inspired by the Spirit of Christ. In my opinion, it is all to be taught and learned.

Now can you see why it might take a lifetime?

How can we teach the entirety of the Bible ourselves? Again, I believe it is a team effort. If you are a pastor, or are called to teach, then it might be more obvious how you can fulfil this part of the Great Commission. Use your pulpit, wherever it is, and teach the people to obey Christ. You may lead a church or be privileged to speak at one, you may write a blog or books, or you may be recording and sharing videos on YouTube or other media platforms. All of that contributes to the teaching of God’s people.

For the rest though, who do not have such platforms, or who do not feel called to teach, how can they comply with Christ’s instruction to teach?

Parents can and should teach their children. Older members of the church family may instruct the younger. The members of a small group will encourage and challenge one another, whether they are leading the discussion or just participating. As we do life together, the church ought to be helping each other to grow in faith and obedience.

Even if you personally have little opportunity to teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson.

If you have little opportunity to #teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (WEB)

Here, the apostle Paul, urges the Corinthian church to follow him, as he follows Jesus. Imitate me, he cries, as I imitate Christ. This is not easy, and if we take a hard look at ourselves, we may not feel like the best examples of Jesus’ lifestyle. But each of us should be striving forward to observe what Christ has taught us, and as we do, let us bring others along for the ride.

Sometimes we think of the Great Commission as only relating to evangelism. I hope these words have shown you that it is not so. Fulfilling this Commission does, of course, involve telling others about our faith, but it also encapsulates our journey into maturity as believers. I do not think there is one Christian who can claim to observe all that Jesus commanded us, and so we are all to keep walking with Him, bearing fruit and growing in faith.

What will you do?

I want to ask you:

  • How well do you feel you obeying Jesus at the moment?
  • What is your “pulpit”? i.e. in what ways can you be a teacher and encourage others to obey Christ?
  • What one thing can you do to be a better example for Jesus?

Baptise Them

The Great Commission #4

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

Jesus gave three primary instructions to His eleven followers on the mountain.

  1. Make disciples of all nations
  2. Baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  3. Teach them to obey all He commanded

We now consider number two on the list, namely the instruction to baptise.

In some respects, I feel this is a forgotten element of the Great Commission. I have said previously that simply telling others about Jesus is not quite enough to fulfil the task at hand, and this particular instruction is relevant. Telling others about Christ and the Gospel does not equate to baptism.

We must not neglect the command of baptism in the Great Commission.

We must not neglect the command of #baptism in the Great Commission. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

For the individual, this may feel somewhat difficult to fulfil. It is clear that we ought not to run around throwing holy water on people, baptising them with a super-soaker! For the most part, we tend to leave this instruction to be fulfilled by the church, rather than us as members of it.

To be clear, baptism is a symbolic event where water is sued to indicate the new life of a believer seeking to follow Christ. It is a public declaration of an internal change. When we surrender ourselves to Jesus, He gives us a heart of flesh instead of stone, and gifts us with His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. Baptism, then, is an outward sign of that commitment.

Different church traditions do this in a variety of ways. Some will completely immerse an individual in water, using a pool or even the ocean. Others simply sprinkle water over them as a symbol of cleansing. Some church traditions baptise children or infants, while others only adults.

On that last point, it is clear that as an infant, you cannot make the promises required for a real commitment for Christ. Instead, it is the parents and godparents who make those promises on the child’s behalf, and later in life it is hoped the child will make the promises for themselves. In the Anglican tradition, a baptised infant, when they reach an age of understanding, can then go forward for “Confirmation” which is essentially adopting the baptismal promises for themselves.

Whatever your tradition, and whatever your views on infant baptism or total immersion, the command from Jesus is clear – we are to baptise.

A friend of mine came to faith in his twenties, but was never baptised. He had not been baptised as a baby, and his church had not emphasised the need for it. When he moved home and thus changed to a different fellowship, he became involved in serving at the church. One day when the pastor was teaching on the subject of baptism, he came to the decision that he must be baptised as a sign of his belief.

Did it enhance his faith in any particular way? Was he not “properly” saved until he was immersed? Was it just a good excuse for a get-together? The likely answer is no to all of these (although some may disagree) but the point is it was a definite step of obedience. Baptism is a command of Christ, and this man fulfilled it.

As he climbed down the steps into the water, it represented the death and burial of his old life of sin. As he emerged from the surface of the water, it depicted his freshness as a “new creation” in Christ. This is what baptism is all about.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Jesus instructs His followers to baptise in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be honest, there is some debate about this point. Are these not titles, rather than names? Some will ask. Is it not sufficient to baptise in the “name” of Jesus?

There is something of a rabbit hole to avoid here. The issue is not unimportant of course, and I urge you to investigate it for yourself. We do not have time in these brief words to give the topic justice.

The critical point for me here is that we are not baptised into any old name. We are not pinning our colours to any random mast. Instead, we are dedicating ourselves to the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the Bible, and the One who raised Christ from the dead. You cannot easily separate the Father from the Son, nor the Spirit from Jesus. They are One God, in three Persons. To fully understand this is to comprehend God Himself, which is beyond any of us.

How we baptise is a matter for study and debate, and various church traditions have grown up over time with differing views. The point is we are to baptise.

Having gone out, as Jesus told us, and sharing the Good News about Christ, a natural step for those who believe is to be baptised. For many people, it is a key event in their lives of faith. Often it marks the beginning of something too.

Jesus was baptised by John in the River Jordan, which you can read about in Matthew 3. This was not to cleanse Jesus from sin, as He was without it, but instead marked the coming of the Spirit and the beginning of His earthly ministry.

In a similar way, perhaps you need to experience baptism for yourself, or renew the promises you or others made for you?

What will you do?

Some questions for you today:

  • Have you been baptised, and if not, does this encourage you to explore it?
  • Does your church teach about baptism and encourage it?
  • If you were baptised as a child, why not review the promises that were made on your behalf today, and commit yourself to keeping them?

Make Disciples

The Great Commission #3

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

In the full power of His authority, Jesus tells His disciples to go. Giving specifics now, He instructs them to complete three primary tasks – the first of these being to make disciples. In subsequent posts, we will look at the other two instructions which are to baptise and to teach.

Firstly, what is a disciple? We cannot hope to “make” them if we are not clear what they are.

A disciple is simply a “follower.” A disciple of Jesus therefore, is one who follows Him.

Following someone is most commonly used in physical terms. We follow someone when they are showing us the right way to go. Perhaps you are going to a new place and you do not know the way, if you follow a friend then they go on ahead and you tag along behind.

We can follow in many more ways than just physical however. You may, for example, follow your favourite sports teams; keeping up with their scores, team news and key stats. Likewise, you might follow a singer or band, streaming their latest music and “following” them on the socials.

To follow Christ means something rather deeper. It implies a firm commitment to Him, and not to be a mere “fan” of His, but instead to devote your life in His service. Following Jesus is to follow in His footsteps, and again, I do not mean physically. We aspire to be more and more like Him; walking in love, being unselfish, caring for others, but most importantly, bringing people into a deeper relationship with the Father.

To be Christ’s disciple is to put aside all else, and follow Him with your whole heart.

To be Christ’s disciple is to put aside all else, and follow Him with your whole heart. #Bible #Christianity #Jesus

We learn about Him yes, but we learn with Him. We do what He asks of us, and we put Him first above all else. We follow Jesus into blessing, and we follow Him into troubles and trials. We sacrifice what this world has to offer and instead choose His glory. We put our trust in Him, relying on Him for our life in this world and the next. That is what it is to be a disciple.

So how do we “make” them?

Earlier on, I asked how you would sum up the Great Commission, and pointed out that many might answer by saying “Telling others about Jesus.” Sharing the Good News about Christ is the first step to making disciples.

For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”Joel 2:32 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? 15 And how will they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News of peace,

    who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:13-15 (WEB)

They cannot call on the name of the Lord and begin to follow Him unless they are first told. To begin making disciples, we must tell them the truth. We tell them the Gospel, which is that Christ came, He lived and died, and on the third day He rose again to new life. Whoever believes in Him will live and have eternal life! Praise His Holy Name!

Is telling those who do not know Jesus enough to make disciples? For some it might be. They hear the word preached to them, and the Spirit of God stirs up their hearts to make a lifelong commitment to Him. For others, they may start to accept and believe the truth of the Gospel, but will then need love, support and guidance. For all of us, there is a substantial journey between the moment we give our lives to Jesus, and the time we reach maturity in the faith.

This is why God has given the church a variety of gifts and offices:

He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers;

Ephesians 4:11 (WEB)

Our goal in making disciples is not simply to get someone to mouth the words “I believe in Jesus,” but rather we want them to experience the changed life that comes from being a true follower of Christ. At times we need to be taught the truth, and at other times we need the care of the shepherd or pastor. There are times we may need the warning or encouragement of the prophet, and many begin our journeys responding to the call of the evangelist. All are involved in making disciples.

All Nations

Carefully reading Jesus’ words again shows us that “make disciples” is not the full command, instead He tells us to “make disciples of all nations.” This shows us that no one is excluded. God wants His Gospel preached everywhere, and to have disciples present in all places. You might consider the collective disciples as the global church, which is God’s hands and feet, reaching every corner of the globe.

No one person can do this. If you are worried you might have to travel far and wide to begin making disciples, then let me reassure you. There are plenty of opportunities on your doorstep. Perhaps God may call some of us to go to far off places and make disciples there, but for the most part we are to do it in our own backyard.

We can make disciples in our own family. We can make disciples of our work friends. We can make disciples of our neighbours. We can make disciples of our followers on social. And if we write, we can make disciples of Christ of our readers.

One of the great things about writing a blog is that the stats tell you where your readers come from. I live in the UK, and many of my readers come from there, but I also see readers from places I am never likely to go. It is humbling that my words, such as they are, reach such places. It remains my continued prayer that those who do read will become more and more like Christ. That is, surely, what making disciples is all about.

What will you do?

Some questions for you to think about:

  • How well are you following Jesus?
  • What is your role in making disciples, do you think?
  • Can you think of someone who may need encouraging in their walk with Jesus today?

Go!

The Great Commission #2

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

Having established His authority, the Lord Jesus begins to command His Eleven disciples. Jesus is neither vague, nor unclear. He sets out for them several things they must now go and do to fulfil this Great Commission, and we will examine each in turn in the coming days.

Every journey must begin with the very first step. For the Great Commission, the first step is to simply “Go!”

To go is an action. It is not standing still and letting the world pass you by, but it is to move, and move forwards.

The Eleven would never fulfil this mission if they had set up camp on that mountainside. Had they stayed there, discussing what Jesus had told them or all the things that had happened, then we may never have heard of them again. Had they formed a committee to decide the best course of action, taking a vote on the right direction to travel in or what was the best approach to teaching, then they would have been paralysed on the spot.

There is a place for discussion, planning and committees, don’t get me wrong, but there is also a time for action. I do not advise you to jump into something without prior thought, but neither do I suggest you sit around shooting the breeze.

Go! Says the Lord, move out and together we will change the world.

It does not matter how far you go, as long as you do go. Whether you walk a dozen steps to your neighbour’s house, travel half a mile to the local town square, or cross the globe to a far flung nation, go and take the message of Christ with you.

Using a Bible search engine, the word “Go” appears over 1400 times in the KJV version of the Scriptures, whereas the word “stop” only occurs 7 times! Clearly God wants us to get the message that we are to go, pressing on and doing the work He has called us to.

Philip was told “Go!” and he went to Samaria:

Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip when they heard and saw the signs which he did. 7 For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 There was great joy in that city.

Acts 8:5-8 (WEB)

Paul followed the command to go, and he went to the Gentiles, Peter did likewise, but to the Jewish people:

Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. 2 I went up by revelation, and I laid before them the Good News which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before those who were respected, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the uncircumcised, even as Peter with the Good News for the circumcised— 8 for he who worked through Peter in the apostleship with the circumcised also worked through me with the Gentiles

Galatians 2:1-2, 7-8 (WEB)

Moses was told to go to Pharoah. Jonah was instructed to go to Nineveh. God told Joshua to go and conquer the land. Elijah told the widow of Zarephath to go, and bring him a cake, and she went, receiving a miracle. Likewise, Elisha told another widow to go and get empty jars that they might be filled with oil, and she, too, went.

Where is God telling you to go?

The point of my post today is not some deep theology, but rather to encourage and inspire you. I am not revealing some great doctrinal truth, but instead am directing you to action. We will never fulfil the Great Commission without it.

For you to go may mean a shift in your attitude, habits or thinking. It may not mean a change in physical location, but a definite decision to alter your mindset and do whatever Christ is calling you to.

When you go, you may need to leave certain “baggage” behind you. Gossiping friends, TV addiction, the comfort of familiarity or just plain old worries may need to be discarded so you can fully go for the Lord.

The word “go” means to move or proceed, as I think I have emphasised above. It can also mean to  start or begin, as in to fire the starting gun on the race track.

This exclamation – Go! – is a trigger for us to begin. When that starting gun fires, the runners do not amble along, enjoying the sunshine and having a chat! No, they leap forward with energy and vigour, and that is precisely how we ought to launch into the Great Commission.

I do not want you to proceed without haste; to just quit your job, up sticks and charge ahead without clear direction from God. That is not wise. I do want you to proceed with urgency, energy and excitement however, giving this all you have.

Make a firm decision today that you are going to follow Christ and all He commands with everything you have. Join me, and let’s go!

What will you do?

My questions to you today are:

  • What does it mean for you to “go?”
  • Is there anything hindering you, or holding you back from going?
  • Can  you think of anyone else from the Bible who was told to go, and what can you learn from them?

Bowing & Doubting

Great Commission #1

I want to spend this week on the blog focusing on the Great Commission left to us by Jesus Himself. Matthew’s Gospel records a set of commands which Jesus gave to His disciples, and these extend to us as well. They have become very familiar words, and the phrase “Great Commission” is famous among churches. But do we really know what it means?

If I asked you to sum up the Great Commission, what would you say? I wager that most would answer by saying, “Telling others about Jesus!” This is true, in a broad sense, but the Great Commission is rather more specific than that.

Matthew’s Gospel records the following:

But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him; but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:16-20 (WEB)

Bowing and Doubting

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He makes an appointment with His disciples to meet Him in Galilee. This is a town in the north of Israel, and meant the disciples having to travel up from Jerusalem after Jesus’ death.

Before we examine Jesus’ commands,, let us first look at the important words leading up to them.

Verse 16 shows us that they went to Galilee, and then up the mountain as agreed. There, Jesus appears to them, and it records that they bow down. This, to me at least, implies that all eleven of them did indeed bow to the Risen Lord. They recognised Him, and not just the Person of Jesus, but His now revealed power and stature as the Risen Christ. Recognising His divinity will be important when we consider Jesus’ authority in a moment.

Then, verse 17 makes a note that many of us may skip over. Some of them doubted… This is astonishing to me. This is not some large group barely familiar with Jesus, but the Eleven, the inner circle. They have travelled with Jesus for three years, seeing Him heal and raise the dead. They watched as He was crucified, and yet now stands before them, alive and well. Still, some of them doubted.

They all bowed, but some of them doubted. Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive it seems #Bible #Jesus #GreatCommission

What this says to me is that faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive. We can have faith at the same time we are wrestling with doubt. Putting it another way, faith is not the absence of doubt, and nor is doubt the absence of faith.

We know that these men went on to die for what they believed, and some in horrendous ways such as Peter who was crucified upside down. Despite having “doubts” they did not allow them to hamper their world-changing faith.

For us, I think the lesson is that it is ok to have questions. There is much we do not understand, and it is simply not possible to have all the answers before we commit to Jesus. We should take our questions to the Lord and prayerfully seek the truth.

All Authority

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

Matthew 28:18 (WEB)

Before we examine Jesus’ commission to us in the coming days, we must first understand His authority. Here, He states quite clearly that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. That means, simply put, He is in charge.

Jesus does not offer guidance here, nor advice, nor encouragement. Instead, He sets out His total authority over all things and then tells us what to do. It is not optional, and we cannot ignore it.

Consider if you went to court and the judge ordered you to do something. It is not optional for you, but the authority of the court now compels you to follow its instructions. To not comply could lead to hefty fines or worse incarceration.

When Jesus gives us these commands, He expects them to be followed and He is backed by all authority under heaven. Do we treat His words accordingly?

The point I want to make, as we begin this series, is to understand that Jesus sets out His authority because He expects us to do what He says. We will look at what is involved in this in the coming days, but let us begin by submitting to His authority, and deciding in our hearts that we will do whatever it is He is about to ask us.

What will you do?

At the end of each post on the Great Commission, I will ask you this question: what will you do in response to what you have read?

Today, I ask:

  • How can you bow down to the Risen Christ?
  • Do you have doubts? If so, how can you bring them to the Lord?
  • Are you prepared to fully submit yourself to Jesus’ authority? Be honest, and take the answer to God in prayer.

Kindness and Favour (Proverbs 3:3-4)

I know that I am only taking bitesize chunks of Proverbs, but the text is so rich I do not want to miss any of it! I today focus on two more verses from chapter three, focussing on something very important.

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

    Write them deep within your heart.

4 Then you will find favour with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Proverbs 3:3-4 (NLT)

Kindness

Verse three tells us plainly to never allow kindness to leave us. This simply means that we should always be kind to those around us. It sounds so straightforward that Christians should be kind, and yet some things that don’t need to be said, need to be said!

We have all seen or heard of examples of Christians not being kind. When that happens, it harms the witness of not only that individual, but of the church as a whole. “Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites!” they say, and this stems from those who say they are Christian but act like the devil!

Don’t call yourself a #Christian and then act like the devil! #Bible #Christianity #Jesus

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) and is something we should all practice. It is not always easy to be kind, especially when we are being badly treated, but it is a powerful act of love.

Kindness need not be costly either, and every one of us has the ability to do it.

Some suggestions might include:

  • Smile, just smile!
  • Pay someone a compliment
  • Be encouraging
  • Help someone in need
  • Give someone a lift
  • Pick up a neighbour’s shopping for them
  • Tip well in a restaurant

There are countless examples I could give, and I am sure you can think of many of your own. If you can make a big enough list, why not write them down on Post-it/sticky notes or slips of paper, put them in a jar and draw one out to do each day.

Make kindness your mission. It will be fun! See how many people you can bless and be kind to, it won’t be long before someone asks you why, and you can tell them about Christ!

The verse instructs us to tie them around our necks, this is a way of remembering. You can certainly wear a sign like a sandwich board to remind you if you wish, but a more convenient method might be to set a reminder on your phone! Whatever works for you!

The more you do this, the more kindness will become a part of you. As verse three concludes, kindness will be written on your very heart. Kindness will become second-nature, it will be an automatic response for you. You will be known for your kind ways.

Why? Why go to all this trouble just to be kind? Because of…

Favour

4 Then you will find favour with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Proverbs 3:4 (NLT)

If you are kind, then you will find favour with both God and man.

Favour is something I pray over my children regularly. When they go to school, I ask the Lord to bless them with favour; with their teachers, with their classmates, with the bus driver… with whomever they meet.

Favour is to be favoured, that is, to receive some form of special treatment in deed or attitude. When I ask for favour for my children with their teachers say, I am asking God to ensure that the teacher is particularly aware of my children’s needs, treats them well and takes special care of them. When I ask for favour for their friendships, I am asking God to ensure they make the right friends, and friends who will benefit them and not pull them away from their faith.

Favour is to have doors of opportunity opened to you to share the Gospel. It is also to find just the right parking spot. One way to describe it might be a nod from God in our direction, in a big or small way, to know that He is with us and preparing the way ahead of us as His own children.

This is not to say that everything in life will be easy and smooth, and that we’ll never hit any problems. That is not realistic. We will face trials and difficulty as long as we walk this Earth, but favour comes from being a child of God. Even if my children face troubles, I will still be there to help them and make it easier if at all possible. God is a better Father than I am.

Kindness breeds favour because it marks us out as people who go a little further to help or assist. When people see us being kind, they remember it, and that may open a door for us in future. There will always be people who try to take advantage of us for being kind, but that should not stop us. While some may abuse our kindness, God’s favour on us will override it.

Favour also means to have a good reputation, as verse four points out. Reputations are hard to earn and easy to lose. Having a good one in our career, church or community is a real blessing and can strengthen our witness in many respects.

Reputations are hard to earn and easy to lose #truth #Christianity #Bible #Wisdom

Be kind. Gain favour. And build a good reputation.

Dear Lord,

We thank You that You are the perfect example of kindness. Help us to follow Your lead and be kind to all that we meet. Please give us creative ideas of how we can show love and be generous to the people in our lives.

We ask for Your favour today and every day. May we have favour with our families, friends, employers, teachers and all those we interact with. Let Your favour go before us, preparing the way, and please open doors for us to share Your truth with those who need it.

May You help us to build a good reputation that we might have a powerful witness, and that those who see us will want to know more about You and Your ways.

Let our goal not be to gain favour with men, but to please You in all we do. In Jesus’ mighty Name!

Amen!

Every Christian is a Teacher

Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled – Confession Time – and part of that featured the following verse from James’ epistle.

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.

James 3:1 (NLT)

The phrase “heavier judgement” caught my attention, and reminded me (and hopefully you also) that those who teach, will be held to a higher standard because we are supposed to be leading the way for others to follow.

I made the point that this was not restricted to church pastors, but indeed anyone with a ministry (including bloggers!).

As it happens, I am reading a commentary on James at the moment, and there was a point made about this verse that every Christian is a teacher of one form or another. While we may think of those stationed in the pulpit as “teachers” (and they are), it is not restricted to that.

For instance, parents are teaching their children all the time. Whether directly instructing the children, or in turn being observed by said children, parents are very much passing on information to the next generation.

Perhaps you are not a parent, but we can find other examples. Business men and women in leadership “teach” their employees in one way or another – especially if they are known to be believers. Doctors and medical professionals impart knowledge to one another and their patients, teaching them how to care for themselves and others. We could go on…

I do not want to stretch this too far, as clearly James had in mind those who were teaching the Word of God. We naturally include in this: pastors, teachers, preachers, evangelists, home group leaders and Sunday school leaders. Each one of those is sharing knowledge of the Bible with others.

It would be rather easy, if outside of one of those categories, to assume that James 3:1 does not apply to you. I would challenge that however. If you are going to witness for Jesus, as every Christian is called to do, then you will – at some point – need to “teach” someone else about Him. Even if not called into full time Christian ministry, you are called by Jesus Himself to share your faith.

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 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

Notice that first word of verse 20… “teaching.” If you believe that Jesus was giving each one of us this Great Commission, then you must accept the responsibility of being a teacher.

School teachers spend many hours preparing for class. And pastors giving sermons on a Sunday must also give sufficient time to preparing their messages. How much time have you spent preparing to share your faith? Do you have your testimony memorised? Could you give a clear explanation of the Gospel if the opportunity arose?

Peter says:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear,

1 Peter 3:15 (WEB)

Are you ready to give that answer? Mine could do with work if I am honest. The key is to be clear and concise. Most people will give you around 45 seconds to say your piece before they decide if they want to hear more or not. That really isn’t long. Most of us could prepare and rehearse a short few words setting out the truth of the Gospel, so that we are fully prepared to teach someone who is asking.

Do not squander those opportunities to share your faith. Do not allow yourself to be caught unprepared. As it has been said, you may be the only Bible some people ever get to read, so make the most of the chance. If your memory is not all that good, then keep a flash card in your pocket, wallet or purse so it is there if you need it.

Every Christian is a teacher. That includes you dear reader.

Don’t let this post just pass you by. Set aside some time and prepare you answer. Write it down and memorise it. You do not know when the next opportunity may come. Be ready when it does!

God bless you.

Move them one step closer (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Move them one step closer to Jesus

When it comes to sharing our faith with others, most of us feel pretty inadequate. We often let fear overrule us, and do not seize every opportunity as we should. We are not perfect. Most of us want to tell others about Christ, but are not always sure of the best way to go about it. Fear of rejection may stop us even trying.

I want to try to take some of the pressure off of you today. It is vitally important we tell others about Jesus, of course, but it is not our job to convict, convince or persuade them. Our job is to witness to the truth, and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Instead of trying to win every argument, and feeling like we have to get everyone to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” just bring someone one step closer to Jesus.

Coming to faith is a journey, and while we may want to be the one to bring them over the finishing line, it might be our job to cheer them on halfway through the race. To put it another way, you do not have to supply all of the jigsaw pieces. It may be your role to give them one piece, answering just one question they have. It may not complete the picture for them, but it certainly will help.

I am sure there are people in your life you want to share Christ with. Don’t try to do God’s job for Him, but instead just move them one step closer to Him. What might that look like for you? Is it a prayer? Is it to answer a question they have? Is it just to display Christ in your own life so they can see Him plainly?

Whatever it might look like for you, take a step of faith today. You may not see instant results, but rest assured God’s word does not return to Him in vain.

Be A Candle (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Even the dimmest, most tiniest of candles can cast a great light in a dark room.

Are you the only Christian in your family? How about your place of work? Your school perhaps? It can feel extremely tough to be the only one with Christian beliefs or values. It can be lonely, and each day can feel like a slog or struggle.

But don’t give up!

If you really are the only Christian in that setting, then you are the only source of light that this dark place has. If you give up and extinguish your light, then it truly will be a dark place.

You may feel as a tiny candle trying to hold back the darkest of nights, but even a nightlight draws people in. God has placed you in the exact place you find yourself for that very purpose. Be the light of the world! Be a candle! Shine your light and draw others to Christ.

When you feel alone or weary, tell the Lord and seek His refreshment. Focus on those around you who no doubt need to hear of the love of Christ. Show them that love which you have received from Him. It may change their life, not just for the here and now, but for all eternity!

Have a blessed day, and be a candle in whatever way you can.