This morning at one of the two church services I attended, the message centered on the need for us to proclaim our faith both in words and actions. This church has as its purpose statement, “Love God, Serve Others, Show the Way;” and in the third of three messages, the focus was on the discipleship process.
Each of us is called to be discipled, but then to make disciples. We should have a deep desire to reproduce ourselves.
Question: How many of you have ever been present to witness the birth of a baby?
Next Question: How many of you have been present to witness someone’s spiritual birth?
Some people know what it’s like to lead someone else in a commitment to making Christ Lord of their lives, but sadly, others wouldn’t know where to begin. Yet nowhere in what we call “The Great Commission” is there indication that this is for some to do, but not others.
Eugene Peterson has given us a great gift with The Message Bible. I know I quote it often here, but I have great respect for it, and as he worked from original languages, I regard it as a translation, not, as some say derisively, a paraphrase. This is how he translates the passage:
Matthew 18-19 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.
Why does it say “undeterred”? The previous verses give the answer:
Matthew 16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
The process of leading someone to Christ does take some personal risk. A few weeks ago I was challenged to say to someone, “Are you ready to make that move? Do you think you want to cross that line of faith?”
This person replied that they were “heading in that direction;” but that this wasn’t the time. That’s fine. I considered that a good and honest response. However, what you need to know is that I actually broke off the conversation twice before returning a third time, to ask this question. I felt God prompting me to do so, but in my mind, I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t do this at that time. [Read more on this topic at Turning Up The Audio on God's Whispers.]
Someone once asked me how many children my wife and I have. I told him, “Two;” and he said “Oh, so you’ve only reproduced yourselves.” It turned out that his take on Christianity included the “Quiver-full” teaching that Christians should have as many kids as possible.
But how many of you have begotten spiritual children? Some of you perhaps have never reproduced yourselves at all. You could say, “I can’t do that;” but if you explain childbirth to a young woman it sounds equally daunting and impossible, yet many women bear children. [Read more on this at Apologists Speak from First-Hand Experience.]
Before the early disciples of Jesus were called Christians at Antioch, the movement was referred to as “the way,” or we could even say, ‘the path.’ Our goal should be to lead people to “the way,” which not only describes the fledgling breakaway sect Judiasm, but is a term that Jesus used to describe himself:
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NLT)
[Watch an actual encounter between an apologist and a student in the comments section of this blog post. Note: This uses a formulaic approach that may not be effective in all cases. 13 minutes.]
I thought I’d leave us today with a song by the band Newworldson; I hope you enjoy it. You might even send the link* for the song to someone you know to start the faith conversation.
*double click through to view the image at source, then copy and paste the URL from your browser