The time has come in our series of lessons to consider carefully the main purpose which God has for leaving us here on earth after we are saved. If you think about it carefully, you will realise that we can know God better in heaven than here on earth. The praise and worship is better in heaven, the presence of God is stronger, the blessings are greater. So why has God left us on earth? The reason is this: to bring others to a saving knowledge of God.
“Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
In fact our citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are in the world, but not of the world. We are now born from above, from God. But God has us here as his representatives, his ambassadors. As ambassadors, we are not doing our own business, but the business of heaven.
As ambassadors for Christ, we should be speaking for God, not for ourselves. We should be speaking accurately in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11; Isaiah 59:21). Our mission is to work with God to bring rebels to the place where they will obey the gospel. All men are rebels by nature and need a radical change if they are going to have any eternal future with God. The old must go, the new must come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Everyone Needs Salvation
- Jesus Commands Us to Go in Power
- Other Accounts of the Great Commission
- How to Get Signs to Follow You
- Other Reasons to Preach the Gospel
- The Dedication Required by Jesus for this
- Making Disciples, Communicating the Gospel
- How to Make Disciples
- Church Growth
We have seen in previous lessons that God has provided a wonderful remedy for sin and its effects in the lives of people. We are called to inherit God’s blessings (1 Peter 3:9). To receive salvation from the Lord, one must repent (Luke 13:3), and believe the gospel (John 3:16). It is necessary to OBEY the gospel. (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). God wants as many as possible to receive salvation. He has left us here to help others to receive this salvation and to stay true to Christ until the very end. Our whole lives should be orientated towards this purpose.
The Bible declares that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23), and further, that “the soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4), “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). It follows that every single person on the earth needs to be saved. Christians who have received salvation must remain in Christ, or they too will be cast out as useless branches, gathered and burned in the fire (John 15:6). Since things are this way, and so few people are really obeying Christ in the world, we should dedicate our lives to promoting in people the kind of faith which will lead to eternal life. That Paul the apostle understood this is seen in the following Scripture:
For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Paul realised that if Christ died for all, then all died. All were dead in sin and needed salvation. (Ephesians 2:1-3). All died spiritually. They needed someone to pay the price for them. Every single individual needs the blood of Christ to wash away his sins, or that person must perish eternally.
Paul knew that Christ’s purpose in dying was also to redeem us from sin and selfishness. We belong to God now. We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were bought back. To obey the gospel means to no longer live for yourself, but to live for Jesus, the One who gave His life for you. To live for Jesus means to let Jesus live through you – to become part of His body and be a person through whom Jesus touches the world with His love and His message of salvation.
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
According to this verse, anybody who fits into these categories is on their way to hell. There needs to be a very definite repentance or change in the life of every person who is in any way unbelieving towards God, or putting something before God in their life (idolatry), or being dishonest (lying). Even the fearful are sinning and need to repent. It should be clear that every single person who is alive needs to be saved and give their life to Jesus if they are not obeying God through a living faith (Rom 1:17). That is why Jesus commands us to do something about it.
For the real Christian, the question is not whether to evangelise or make disciples, but HOW.
As Lord of our lives, Jesus Christ’s purpose twofold: to bless us and to make us a blessing. As we will see, He has commanded all of us to be witnesses unto Him, to communicate the gospel and make disciples everywhere. Though we are not yet perfect, Jesus expects us to be His witnesses, to know the gospel and to share it with others intelligently and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The Great Commission is for you, today, as a disciple of Jesus! A disciple is one who learns from a master. If we believe in Jesus with saving faith we will go on to learn from him in submission and obedience, and that makes us disciples of Jesus. Every true Christian is a disciple. “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) Jesus never used the word “Christian” in the gospel. He spoke about being a disciple, or following Him, or believing in Him. The word Christian is possibly the most abused word in any language, because all kinds of people claim the title for themselves without having any personal relationship to Christ.
Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus has all the authority from God the Father to tell us what to do. This passage is God speaking to us. We need no further call. We can see:
1. The things the apostles learned from Jesus – the moral teachings, the commandments, the principles of the Kingdom like dependence on God, and the ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons – ALL THESE THINGS Jesus instructed to be taught to every generation of disciples. After the 11 taught all these things to the disciples they made, these disciples, in their turn, come under the same instruction – to obey this Great Commission also. They must bring the gospel in the power of God to the next generation also, and train disciples to accurately represent the heart of Jesus in all things and carry on this mission of Jesus. We see then that teaching disciples to obey the Great Commission is part of the Great Commission. This same commission now comes to YOU. That means that you must learn or be taught to do all things Jesus commanded in the gospel. Remember that Jesus did not teach only verbally, but also by His example, ministry and life. We teach by our example, not just our words.
2. Disciples, not babies of believing parents, are the ones to be baptised. Since baptism is a total dedication to die to self and live for the will of God, it follows that every baptised disciple has made a covenant with God to make disciples and spread the gospel. This must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit also, since part of what Jesus taught the disciples was to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and abide in Him (Luke 24:49; John 15:1-10).
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:46- 49)
Jesus is telling us that we should preach the gospel – Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the proper response to this when fully understood – repentance, with the result, certain forgiveness of sins. But He makes it clear that we must be clothed with power from on high to do this work properly. The Promise of the Father is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:4,5).
Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
Once again we can see that Jesus sends his disciples in the same way He himself was sent. We are sent in such a way as to depend on God as we endevour to preach the Kingdom and demonstrate it as Jesus did – in His mastery over sin, sickness, disease and death.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
“He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
“And these signs shall follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:15- 18)
This is one of the commandments we must be taught to obey. Preach the gospel! (2 Timothy 4:2). Not just to one or two, or to the races of people we prefer. To every creature! We must do this out of love for God and love for our neighbour. The eternal destiny of those who hear is decided by whether or not they believe. Therefore God commands us to be full of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) when we preach, so that more people are going to believe. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE BEFORE GOD TO BE FULL OF THE SPIRIT AND PREACH THE GOSPEL.
God has promised to cause signs to follow those who believe. If we don't believe signs will follow, we need to repent of unbelief. Jesus said they would follow if we believe. We must act like we believe. We must tell the gospel to others as if we believed it. We must live as if we believe the gospel. A dead faith in the gospel will not impress anyone, least of all God.
This is not a matter of the mysterious sovereignty of God. God is sovereign, and can do things in ways we don't anticipate. However, to expect signs to follow without certain basic prerequisites is tempting God. And not to expect signs to follow is simply unbelief. Either we expect them or we don’t.
1. Be full of the Spirit. Get the Biblical apostolic baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, but don’t stop there. Every day seek God, love God, abide in Jesus and listen to His voice. Keep your life right with God.
2. Be bold. “The wicked flees when no one pursues, but the righteous is bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) In your preaching of the gospel, the Spirit of God wants you to start boldly declaring that Jesus saves, heals and delivers today (Hebrews 13:8). Say it to people like you expect it to happen NOW. Don’t be afraid to call people to repent, to believe, to receive Jesus as Lord, Saviour and Healer. Expect a response.
3. Wait, watch and listen. Wait in the presence of God with a worshipful spirit. As you do this, watch to see what God is doing in the lives of people. Jesus did only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). See how the Holy Spirit is touching people. Move with the Holy Spirit. Also, listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Many times he wants to tell you what conditions he will heal next, what spirits need to be bound and cast out, what actions you must take. Wait, watch, listen and obey. Lay hands on those he shows you to lay hands on and pray for them. (Mark 16:18)
4. Never let discouragement overcome you. Do all you can to build your faith. Like the disciples, you may come to Jesus and say, “Why could we not cast him [the demon] out?” (Matthew 17:19) The answer which follows tells us that it is a matter getting rid of unbelief, not of God’s mysterious sovereign will. And we see in the same passage that we will have to give ourselves at times to prayer and fasting if we want to see the greater miracles of Jesus take place through our ministry in Jesus’ name. Fasting breaks the power of unbelief.
Because of Calvary. A love so great, a punishment so great, a suffering so great. Look upon the wounds of Jesus. He bled for you, but not for you only, but for the whole world. When you see His suffering, you will account your own suffering a small thing. Your own problems will pale into insignificance if you can but grasp the intense misery, pain, heartache and physical agony that Christ endured for you. When you see his love expressed there on the cross, can you not abhor your own selfishness? "Be as constrained by the love of God in preaching the gospel as your Saviour was in providing the gospel."
For the glory, honour and praise of God. Does it not pain your heart that the one to whom angels bow down and worship is so blasphemed on earth. There is a policy in the world of suppressing the knowledge of the true God. How many people give thanks to God for all the good things he has given? Their minds are blinded by Satan, the prince of darkness.
God's love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We ought to care enough to act. To do something. Don't just ask God to save them. Before anyone else cared, God gave his only begotten Son to be led away to die for your most horrible sins.
The Gospel is Good News. We like to bring good news. God has done something for the needs of the world. This is good news. Can you dare to believe that God would do something good for those you know, bound by satanic chains of sin, disease and death? Then boldly proclaim this news and set the prisoners free!
You are the body of Christ. Jesus has no hands on the earth except your hands and mine, no mouth on earth except yours and mine. Being His body, we must express Jesus through all that we are. And His heart is beating for lost souls.
Jesus Christ is in you. You are to abide in Him, and He in you. You must walk as He walked. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10). He did not call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
If Jesus Christ is the greatest lover of your soul, the light of your life, your Lord and master, your leader, your friend and the substance of your new life, how is it that you could keep Him out of your conversation? You'll want to introduce your friend Jesus to the people you know.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
God is calling for nothing less than a total dedication of ourselves to Him. First we dedicate our bodies – our eyes, ears, brains, mouths, hands, feet, stomachs and everything else. Then God’s Word will renew our mind to think according to God’s truth, not the devil’s lies. Then we will live for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. We are soldiers of Christ (Ephesians 6:10- 20)
Jesus is very clear. We must not try to save our life. Rather, we now need to lose our lives for His sake AND THE GOSPEL’S. That is the way of salvation. Those who have done this are finding out that the greatest adventure of living is to do the will of God.
What does Jesus mean by “our life”?
The word here is in Greek “psuche”, which is translated in 58 places in the New Testament as soul. It is the word from which we derive the word “psychology”. Our soul life includes our thinking, feelings and willing. Our soul life which we must lose is then:
1. Any false notions, ideas and philosophies which come from the world system and stand in opposition to the truth of the Word of God and especially the gospel itself. These will vary from culture to culture. Here are some commonly accepted notions, ideas and philosophies that must be lost for Christ if we are going to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.
a. What really matters is how the world sees me. People should like me. I must please them. Therefore I must not say anything which will upset them or get them angry. I must not take the risk that people will call me a fanatic or other names. (Mark 8:38; Matthew 10:32,33; John 5:44; 1 John 2:15)
I. I Am praying for God to save the world. Its not my ministry to witness or preach (Matthew 28:20, Acts 1:8, Ezekiel 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Psalm 96:2; Acts 5:42; Mark 16:15; Isaiah 43:10; Luke 10:25-37).
It is outside the scope of this lesson to pull down each one of these strongholds in detail now. You are referred to the Scriptural references cited here for further study and thought.
2. We must lose our negative emotions that block our witness.
a. Fear. Many Christians need deliverance from the spirit of fear. It is something from the old life. We should give no place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27; 2 Timothy 1:6-8). Being filled with the Spirit will greatly help here. So will training and practise. But still many times there is a demon of fear at work in Christian’s lives. We will consider the important subject of deliverance in a future lesson.
b. Hard-heartedness. Sometimes we need God to break our hearts. We can think we know it all, yet be so indifferent to others and even to the heart of God. If we remain hard- hearted there is a real danger of becoming hypocrites. Hard- heartedness can come through past wounds, unforgiveness, selfishness and greed, unbelief and in many other ways. We need to humble ourselves and let God deal with us if we are going to be what He wants us to be and do what He wants us to do.
3. We must give up all other interests that take us away from doing the will of God as He reveals it to us through His Word and His Spirit.
If we have other interests outside of God’s Kingdom of course we will think about them. And if we keep thinking about them they will take us away from doing God’s will. We will then have divided interests. God will be leading us one way, and our carnal minds in another. We should not even be thinking about how to gratify any lusts of the flesh or mind (Romans 13:14). The way to overcome temptation is to look to Christ, not to the temptation (Hebrews 12:1,2).
We are now in a life or death struggle for souls against the devil and his forces. To do anything to deliberately dull our minds to these realities shows a lack of trust in God’s power to sustain us. Should firemen get drunk while people are burning in flames? Should we get drunk on the spirit of the world? God promises to give us peace, rest, fulfilment and satisfaction as we do His will. (John 4:34, Matthew 11:28- 30). We will not be worn out if we remain in Jesus’s love and power. If we wait on the Lord we will renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).
The thing to remember though in the midst of this is that God never forces us. The decision to put ourselves on the altar of dedication to God must be made every day (Luke 9:23). It is a matter of conscious choice. God is not interested in robots. He wants men and women, boys and girls to dedicate themselves totally to him out of gratitude for their salvation and love for God. The decision to follow Jesus must be taken daily. The decision to be full of the Spirit must be made every morning. I dare to say that our faithfulness or lack of it on this point alone has eternal consequences which resound and vibrate in heaven and hell every day and on into eternity.
To communicate the gospel effectively we must:
1. Know the gospel.
2. Obey the gospel, and have a testimony of God’s working in our life.
3. Receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
4. Prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically.
5. Make relationships of trust with people around us.
6. Actually take the opportunities we constantly have to turn the conversation to spiritual things and then look for openings to share with people.
7. Open our mouth and speak the Word of God to people, beginning with God, then the law, and then the gospel.
8. Know how to challenge people to respond and lead them to Christ in a simple prayer.
9. Have Christian literature, books, tapes or other things ready to give to interested prospects.
10. Constantly pray and work to get people to come to fellowship and church meetings and other events so they can be integrated into the life of the church.
Communicating the Gospel and leading people to Christ is aiming to produce addition in the church and in the Kingdom of God. But God’s strategy goes beyond this. He wants us to be involved in multiplication.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
God calls us to get strong in Him – in His grace, His Spirit, His Word, His Character – so that we have something worth imparting into the lives of others and are able to inspire them. Then, he calls us to share what we have from God and what we have learned from God’s faithful ministers and teach and impart it to others.
We must look for faithful men. We must pray for faithful men. At any time we may only find a few, but it doesn’t matter. Impart all you can in God to them, make disciples of them, encourage them constantly, teach them to obey God and hold them accountable to go on with God! They will be transformed into servants of Christ and then they will learn to do the same. This produces a multiplication effect. If anyone could by God’s grace fully disciple one person every year who would do exactly the same thing the number of disciples so produced would double every year and in 34 years the whole world would be disciples of Jesus Christ. The fact that this has not been done proves the general unfaithfulness of both the church and humanity to the plan and purpose of God. We have allowed ourselves to be too easily distracted. Too often we have not built for the future, but are only thinking for the short term. Even Christian ministers fall into the trap of going for short term things that look good at the time but only produce a superficial effect. Now is the time for all this to change. God is raising up a new generation of dedicated, power-packed disciples who will not allow persecution or worldly seduction to take them away from their humble purpose in Christ.
1. Be a disciple yourself. Learn by the Spirit to do what Jesus says through his Word. Let Him change you.
2. Discipline yourself to pray, study, fellowship, worship and witness until these things become a desire and a delight.
3. Teach the people who follow your example and receive your word step by step, assuming no previous knowledge. Teach them to seek God and develop a personal relationship with God.
4. Take them with you so they can see what you do. Let them participate in what you are doing.
5. Go with them as they do the things they saw you doing. Watch them, ask the Lord to show you about them, encourage them and correct them.
6. Send them out to do things. Give them responsibility and authority. Expect regular reports from them.
7. Be prepared to let them go to other places and to fulfill their personal God- given vision at the time that God indicates.
The purpose of all this evangelism and discipleship is the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). The body of Christ, the church, is also the bride of Jesus. It was for the church that Jesus died and gave His life. Our work in evangelism and discipleship is all for the purpose of giving pleasure and glory back to God, from whom comes every good thing.
Therefore, we must do all we can to build up the church. We must not refuse any grace from God which would build up the church. God wants multitudes to be part of his Universal Church, which is ultimately to be composed of many united local churches in every locality. It will not be this denomination or that one. It will be churches full of the love, power, wisdom and glory of God. Churches that are holy unto the Lord. It is for this bride that the Lord Jesus is coming back.
Therefore all that we do in evangelism and discipleship must serve the church. The church is both the correct vehicle for evangelism and discipleship, and the correct place to which disciples must be gathered. All Bible schools, evangelistic organisations, Christian social movements are there to serve the church and not the other way around. The New Testament speaks of none of these things as being something outside of and independent of the church. We must capture the vision of the glorious local church as something worth dedicating our lives to if we are to share God’s vision.
For this reason we must be dedicated to the kind of evangelism which sees new converts through to a real ongoing and eternal relationship with Christ. Anything short of this is incomplete at best and irresponsible at worst. There has been so much shallow evangelism in the last decades with thousands and millions of “converts” who today are nowhere to be found. Today’s evangelist must think in terms of church planting and equipping existing churches to take in the harvest. Merely scattering seed of the Word and seeing apparent responses and healing miracles is NOT reaping the harvest. The harvest has occurred when the grain is safely in the barn. Why? Because if the people never get into a Biblical church with the real life of God in it, they just haven’t begun to do the will of God for their lives! (Hebrews 10:25). In vain they say they have received Jesus, for they have not let His Word rule their lives. They haven’t been convinced deeply enough. He has not been received yet as Lord in truth. May God help us to see the necessity of true repentance and faith in the work of God.