Just before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus told his closest followers:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
What we THINK Jesus said; “Leave your homes and go to the farthest corner of the world, make converts of the heathen, and indoctrinate them in the ways of the church.”
What He meant; “As you go about your world, at work or home or market, tell everyone about Me. Teach them how to be My student. Help them learn to be immersed in My very character.”
That is the Great Commission!
The two ideas that stuck with me throughout my time in the college course, Evangelism: Presenting Grace, are Evangeliving and Thoughtless Witnessing. The biggest concern I had with the class, indeed with much evangelism teaching, is the seeming underlying assumption that the job of the evangelist (or witness) is over when the person is converted.
Evangeliving is a great concept and I think carries with it the meaning that Jesus had when He said “go therefore”. Evangeliving means that I am living out the power of the Gospel in such a way that others are drawn in and desire to know what the difference is in my life. Others can see that while there are struggles in my life, I do not respond the way everyone else does. And that intrigues them.
Evangeliving assumes that there IS something different in my life, of course. I cannot give to others what I myself do not possess. Evangeliving also requires that I have ‘earned’ the right to speak into your life. It means that I have spent time with you and listened to your story as you have listened to mine. One of the greatest problems with some types of evangelism is that we never take time to invest ourselves into the other person’s life, we just spew some generic Gospel presentation and move on to the next prospect when we get no response.
Thoughtless Witnessing is the idea that I am so conversant with the Gospel that I do not need to recite a program or look things up. Rather, I am able to spontaneously tell you what God has done in and for me and how He can work in your life too. It means that I am able to walk you through God’s plan of salvation without it seeming forced or stilted.
Many of us have a hobby or interest that we are passionate about. We are able and love to talk about it to anyone and at any time. That is what Thoughtless Witnessing is. It doesn’t mean we ramble on when the other is clearly not interested or just prattle off some bible verses. It means being passionate about sharing God’s story with whoever will listen.
The second part of Jesus’ command to His disciples, and to us, is to make disciples not just converts. He said to teach all that He has commanded us. If we stop witnessing as soon as someone comes to faith in Christ, we will have failed in our assigned task. Remember Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils (Matthew 13:1-9)? The second and third soil were rocky and thorny ground in which the seed sprouted then quickly withered. Perhaps part of the reason many fall away from God soon after conversion is that they were not properly discipled, IE. taught and led by mature believers into a strong, mature faith?
The third part of Jesus’s command is to remember that He is with us always, to the end of the age. We are not alone in our witnessing or in our life. Indeed as soon as we try to live out the Christian life on our own is when we fall flat on our face.
As a student of Chaplaincy with a mission to help men and their marriages, I understand that discipleship is crucial. God desires not just that men and women know Him, but that they learn to follow Him too. As a chaplain to truckers, I will seek out men who need to hear the Gospel and experience God’s redemptive power of salvation. Being prepared to share what God has done and what He can do will be critical.
Currently, as a driver trainer, I have the opportunity every few weeks to spend a month or so in the cab of a truck teaching driving, and hopefully getting a chance to tell my story of what God has done in my life. I get to plant the seeds of faith and hope in few men each year.
God loves you! He made you! He created you to be like Him, to love Him and to be holy (to live right).
BUT, there’s a problem. We don’t love God. We choose ourselves over Him. God calls that sin. That sin has made us bent and broken people. Our sin has made us dead, unable to even call out to Him on our own.
But He still loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His own Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He offers us the chance to be alive again, to be able to love Him, to be able to live right. He offers us forgiveness.
God promises that if we:
• BELIEVE in Jesus,
• ACCEPT his offer of forgiveness,
• REPENT of our sin, and
• CONFESS Him as Lord,
He will make us new, living creatures and will adopt us as His children. These are not separate steps, but rather all needed aspects of coming to Christ.