- "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. "
This text was the last words that were recorded of Jesus on earth before He ascended into heaven. His last words. If you knew you were going to die, or move far away from family and not see or talk to them for years- maybe your entire lifetime, what would you want to say to them? Something important, right? Maybe something valuable, something intimate or something you've wanted to say for years and haven't? These were Jesus' last words... and they were of great importance, hence the title for this section: "The Great Commission". Read the text again. What does making disciples mean? I believe it means building up others in prayer, teaching them according to God's Word, coming along side of them in encouragment, exhortation and mentoring to deepen their roots in Jesus so that they are able to go and make disciples themselves . I have made mistakes in my past- leading others to Christ, and then letting them figure it out on their own. I tell you the truth that most of them are not rooted in the Word or in a good relationship with Jesus. As one who makes disciples, we need to stay along side of the new believer to help them connect with the right people, ministries, small groups, church, and most importantly connect with Jesus. We can be there to teach, answer questions pray etc. God gave me an illustration that I am excited to share with you today.
When you want a tree, you need to plant one. Some people may plant a seed, a sapling or buy a tree a few years old and plant that. For my illustration, we are going to look at planting a sapling. No one plants a sapling wanting it to die, right? You want it to grow into a strong, mature, beautiful tree. In order to do that, there are a few things you can do. The thing I want to focus on is: supporting it. When a sapling gets to a certain height, you can place a stick or a small piece of lumber next to the tree with a string tied to the trunk of the sapling. As the tree grows, it's support comes mainly from the lumber, since it's own trunk is too small to hold it straight in strong winds or a storm. The lumber would stay in place, until the tree has deepened it's roots well in the soil that it may grow straight and stand it's own when the winds get strong.
The same is true with discipleship. The one discipling acts like the piece of lumber. It is stronger than the young, immature sapling. It partners with the new believer until they are strong enough and rooted deep enough in their relationship with the Lord and His Word that when a storm hits (life's circumstances), they won't be uprooted, be knocked over or destroyed. Although the storm may blow 'em left and right, their roots are deep enough, that after the storm passes, they are still rooted in the same patch of soil, and they are standing straight. One who disciples should continue to do so until that new believer is able to withstand a storm, has begun to produce fruit, and when that person seems to become more independent in their walk with Christ. Then that person may be able to disciple others.
It may seem like a lot of responsibility on one person, but that is our call as believers. Without discipleship, people come to faith by hearing the gospel, but the seed is scattered on the path, along rocky ground, or among thorns. We want to plant the seed purposefully, and that requires cultivating the soil and supporting the growth from the seed until it's healthy.
Matthew 13:3-8~ "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." Jesus explains the parable in Matthew 13: 19-23~ "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has not root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty and in another thirty."
Only Jesus can change lives. But He does give us the command to make disciples. I want to make sure I am doing my absolute best in planting good seed on good soil that becomes fruitful. If you are not currently discipling someone, ask God to reveal who He would like you to come along side of. This discipling relationship isn't daunting, it's rewarding. It's amazing to watch someone young and immature in their faith, grow into a strong believer. And since you are the support until they are healthy enough to stand on their own, you get to watch it all firsthand! The great news is: Jesus said, "I will be with you always, to the end of the age." You are not discipling on your own, for Jesus is the Great Support of you and them!