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?

Pure vs. OK

I sat down the other evening and put on the TV. There was some superhero movie on which I watched idly. After that, I went to bed and listened to a Christian podcast on the subject of marriage. These two seemingly unconnected things were brought together in my mind as the host of the podcast began to read from Philippians 4:8, which says:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

As I began to ponder that verse, I wondered if the movie I had been watching could be categorised in any of the descriptors Paul mentions here? Was it an “honourable” movie? Was it “lovely”? I got stuck when the word “pure” seemed to leap out at me. Was it “pure”?

The movie itself was ok… there was a bit of action, and no bad language as I recall. It wasn’t rated for adults (an “18” rating here in the UK) and was billed as family entertainment. As I say, it was ok…

But was it pure? No, I can’t say that it was. For however long I was watching it, I wasn’t fixing my thoughts on something pure, I was fixing them on something that was just plain “ok”.

Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?

Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?

One definition of purity is to “be free from anything which contaminates.” While this movie was not bad, it was hardly free from anything that contaminates.

I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not want to compromise the purity and holiness offered by the cleansing blood of Christ. I find myself challenged by a simple movie choice. Am I overthinking it? Perhaps I am. Yet if God is directing me away from such movies, then I will never find satisfaction in them.

I have a fairly demanding job at times, alongside helping to look after the children, manage the household and a whole host of other things. When I get to the end of the day, I am often tired and I guess like most of us, just want to flop into a chair and switch off for a while. As I approach my chair of an evening, the temptation of the TV remote is strong, requiring little effort. My Bible is not far away either, yet the thought of studying the scriptures when tired, seems like effort (I’m just being honest here!). Too often I take the easier road.

In my heart though, I know that spending time with the Lord is far more fruitful. Being tired is a weak excuse (if you pardon the pun).

Isaiah says this:

He gives power to the weak

    and strength to the powerless.

30 Even youths will become weak and tired,

    and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.

    They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

God is the One who gives us strength. While even the young grow weary at times, those who trust in God will have new energy. At night, when we are exhausted, our bodies are refreshed and renewed as we spend time in His presence and enjoying His holy and pure Word.

God’s Word is pure. It is without taint. If you could sum up my calling in a few words, it would essentially be to encourage believers to fully engage with the Bible. The world has a multitude of entertainment offers; music, TV, streaming services, Internet, podcasts, and the list goes on. Yet so little of it could be called “pure.” Some of it may be ok, but why would we – born again, Spirit filled, children of the Most High God – want to dabble with something that is just “ok?”

God’s Word is pure:

Everything God says is pure; he is a shield for those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5 (ISV)

I know that the next time I sit down, I’m going to have that same struggle with the TV remote. Do pray for me that I make right choices. I want to look again at all of my entertainment choices and weigh them up against the benefits of studying the Word.

For balance, I am not saying you must read the Bible solely and nothing else. That, I think, would be too far and legalistic. There are many forms of entertainment out there, and it is possible to find decent material out there. For instance, there are now Christian TV streaming services which you may find far more wholesome than the mainstream options.

Ultimately, as disciples of Christ, we should be on the hunt for purity. We must hate sin in all its forms, and not tolerate watching it for sheer enjoyment. Indeed, if we devote ourselves to purity, such worldly entertainment will seem alien or even detestable.

How do we seek purity? As always, the Bible gives us a clear answer. And I will close this post with these words:

How can a young person stay pure?

    By obeying your word.

Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

God Rather Than Man

Before I launch into today’s post, I just want to say a massive thank you to those who responded to my blog post – Life Happens – yesterday. I really appreciate your support of this blog, and am so grateful to you all for reading it.

Now, on to the rest of Acts 5:

But the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy 18 and laid hands on the apostles, then put them in public custody. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors by night, and brought them out and said, 20 “Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.”

21 When they heard this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and taught. But the high priest came, and those who were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But the officers who came didn’t find them in the prison. They returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison shut and locked, and the guards standing before the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”

24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these words, they were very perplexed about them and what might become of this. 25 One came and told them, “Behold, the men whom you put in prison are in the temple, standing and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain went with the officers, and brought them without violence, for they were afraid that the people might stone them.

27 When they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “Didn’t we strictly command you not to teach in this name? Behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.”

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Acts 5:17-29 (WEB)

Chapter 5 began with Ananias and Sapphira attempting to cheat the church, or rather God Himself, and were judged as a result. This event acted as a warning to those who would infiltrate the church and in some ways brought the group of believers together. In that group, many miracles were being performed and crowds were gathering, bringing their sick to the apostles.

The high priest and the Sadducees take notice of all of this, and verse 17 tells us they were filled with jealousy. Jealousy is an interesting motive here. The high priest is not arguing on points of theology, but on popularity. While of course they do not agree with the apostle’s teaching about Jesus, that is not their focus. They are more worried about the fact that people are responding to the Gospel than to their own teaching of the Law. They care more about what the people think of them, than what God thinks of them.

This jealousy drives the religious leaders to arrest Peter and the Apostles, putting them in custody. God has other plans though… Verse 19 tells us that an angel appears to them at night, opening the prison doors and leading them out. He instructs the apostles to go and teach the people in the temple. I’m intrigued by the phrase in verse 20 – “all the words of this life.”

The apostles waste no time and enter the temple at daybreak. Meanwhile, the high priest assembles the council ready to interrogate the apostles. They send for them, but the captain of the guard returns to say the prison is empty! Not only that, but the doors remain locked and the guards still at their posts. This means the angel led the apostles out through the locked door and past the standing guards. This won’t be the last miraculous prison break we read about in the book of Acts.

The gathered council are “perplexed,” which I imagine is something of an understatement!

It is reported to the council that these very men were now in the temple, proclaiming the Gospel. The captain of the guard is sent to retrieve them, and yet verse 26 informs us that he does it rather more gently this time, for fear of the people.

Peter, not for the first time, is set before the council. They remind him that they have strictly charged him not to speak in the Name of christ, and yet he continues to do so. Moreover, he is showing their guilt in Jesus’ death, and this is a particular point they mention.

Look at Peter’s response, and this is the heart of what I want to say today.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Acts 5:29 (WEB)

Peter says that he (and the other apostles) must obey God rather than man.

I must confess to you that I am a natural people-pleaser. I hate conflict and my natural inclination is to do anything for a quiet life. It is one thing to live peaceably and to try to avoid conflict, but it is quite another to disobey God just to please people.

In Acts, the authorities are instructing Peter to disobey God, and he cannot do that. The same should be true for us. This does not give anyone a green light to disobey the law of the land or to cause deliberate disruption, but it says that we must prioritise what God says more than anyone or anything else.

Living in the Western world, there are very few occasions where my faith in Christ comes into conflict with the law of the land. Things are changing though, and perhaps for my children or theirs, there may be a time when faith in Christ is outlawed. I pray not, but should such a time come, Christians in that generation must be ready to choose God or man.

In everyday life though, you may be making choices about serving God or man. Let’s take a married couple for example, one of whom is a Christian and the other spouse not. Will the Christian continue to go to church? Will they be a generous giver as instructed in the Word, or will they compromise their faith in some way?

For many of us, believing in Christ may not lead to our arrest or death, but that does not free us from persecution. You could potentially be looked over for a promotion at work, or lose friends or family over your faith, or come into direct conflict with the education system over your beliefs. As each of us face these matters, we must put God and His ways first and foremost.

What does obeying God, rather than man, look like for you this week? What choices will you face or make? Pray ahead of time that you have the courage and conviction to make the right choice.

Peter says more than this, but we shall pick that up another time. God bless you this day.