Three Keys to Making Disciples
Topic: Discipleship Passage: Matthew 28:16–28:20
The Discipleship Journey
Grace Community Church
June 5, 2022
Three Keys to Making Disciples
Let’s turn to what has become a familiar passage to us over the past several weeks, Matt. 28.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore 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 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:16-20 (NIV)
Those of you who are older might remember Keith Green. Keith Green was a contemporary Christian artist who sadly died at a young age in a plane crash, but he was well known for his fiery zeal and passion which came out in his music. After he died, his wife put out a record of songs he had recorded but hadn’t yet been released and she named the album Jesus Commands Us to Go.
With all due respect to Keith and his passion for missions, he got it a little bit wrong. Jesus does give us a command in this passage, but the command isn’t to go. It reads that way in the English, but in the Greek the only command is to make disciples.
The question that comes to mind is how? How do we make disciples? Jesus answers that question with three action words that describe how we are to make disciples: by going, baptizing, and teaching.
I want to briefly touch on the first two and spend most of our time with the third: teaching.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations – vs. 19
Going implies we go to where they are. We don’t wait for them to come where we are, we go to where they are. In context of the Great Commission that primarily means going where people are geographically (which is what we see the disciples do in Acts) whether that be to the other side of the world or the other side of the coffee shop. But going also includes going where people are in life. Where they are at emotionally, culturally, spiritually. We try to understand where they’re at, we try to enter their lives, we build relational bridges to them, we care about them.
Jesus did this all the time. He went from town to town and as he went he entered people’s lives from Zacchaeus to the Samaritan woman at the well to Matthew sitting at a tax collecting booth.
We make disciples first by going. Going where people are at. If they’re hurting, we enter their pain with care and try to help them. If they’re skeptical, we try to find out what fuels their skepticism. Same if they’re hostile towards Jesus and Christians, we try to find out why. Was there a bad experience or encounter that has left them bitter and angry?
Going means entering their world with Jesus with the goal of (eventually) introducing Jesus to their world. Questions are a good way of going where people are at and drawing them out.
- Do you believe in God?
- Where are you at in your spiritual journey?
- You say you’re done with church. Did you have a bad experience with a church or a Christian?
Jesus said make disciples by going. Let’s ask Jesus to give us eyes to see where people are at and hearts to care enough to enter their lives with the aim of introducing them to Jesus.
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, vs. 19
Baptism is a sacrament that symbolizes a person’s union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection and declares that union in a very open and public way. We aren’t saved by getting baptized, but baptism is an important step of obedience to Christ and Jesus declares it to be an essential part of making disciples.
In cultures that are hostile to Christianity, baptism is often viewed as crossing the line of no return because it such a public confession of our inner faith in and union with Christ. The Christian faith is both a private matter and a public matter. Romans 10 says,
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (public) and believe in your heart (private) that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes (private) and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses (public) and is saved.Romans 10:9-10
If you are a Christian and haven’t been baptized, determine in your heart to get baptized soon and let us know that you want to get baptized.
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you vs. 20
Jesus doesn’t say, “teaching them to know everything I have commanded you”, he says “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The goal of discipleship isn’t that we know a lot of doctrine, the goal of discipleship is to make us more like Jesus. Knowing what Jesus commanded is always meant to lead us to obeying what Jesus commanded.
Now, talking about obeying and obedience might raise concerns about legalism and certainly there are churches that stress obedience to a certain set of rules or requirements in order to be accepted by God. Typically churches that get legalistic come up with lists that have boxes that can be ticked:
- Hair’s not too long (for guys)– check!
- Hemlines not too short – check!
- Read your Bible every day – check!
- Don’t go to R rated movies – check!
And so on. The lists vary but typically they are religious kinds of things that we can easily measure if we’re doing them or not. The legalist is then proud cause he/she ticks the boxes and looks down on those who don’t. And all this is done in the name of “obedience”.
But notice they typically don’t have boxes like:
- Love one another
- Serve others
- Don’t judge others
- Walk in humility
- Do your righteousness in secret and don’t seek the applause of men
- Show mercy to the fallen and compassion to the hurting
These things are harder to squeeze into boxes and tick off. They have more to do with heart and lifestyle than black and white goals that we can achieve. They are also from Jesus’ teachings.
I submit it’s these latter things that make us more like Jesus. Making disciples isn’t primarily done in a classroom, it’s done in life. As we live, side by side, inviting believers that we trust into our lives to help us grow. And likewise helping others to grow by entering their lives.
I have a good friend who brought me into his struggle with anger towards his children. He opened that part of his life to me because he knew his anger – especially when it bordered on rage – wasn’t Christlike and wasn’t loving. We talked and prayed and I don’t know if I was much help to him but I think his desiring to change enough to be vulnerable and open his life up helped him a lot. God met him with grace to change because he wanted to obey Jesus. His children are all grown adults now and I can say they love and respect their dad so much and what they think of isn’t his anger, but his Christlike example.
But there are Christians and churches today that are going to the other extreme. Their highest goal is discovering themselves and doing what they want. Rather than bowing their knee to Jesus, they have created a Jesus who accommodates what they want. The Bible isn’t their highest authority, their personal views and desires are.
That reminds me of the spiritually dysfunctional days of the book of Judges, whose theme is summed up with the words: n those days there was no king. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. It was a spiritually corrupt and evil time.
The Christian has a King and it’s not us. It’s Jesus.
Jesus said, “if you love me you’ll obey me.” Jesus didn’t say, “if you fear me…” he said, “if you love me…” Obedience is to flow from a loving relationship with Jesus. If we love Jesus, we want to obey him.
We will fail, we will fall, but we want to obey him because we love him. And when we fall, we will obey Jesus by coming to him for forgiveness and cleansing.
Jesus said we make disciples by teaching them to obey all that he commanded us. Here’s one command we must never, ever forget: Jesus said the work of God is to believe on the one God sent. We obey Jesus when we believe in Jesus and Jesus alone to save us.
We are saved by faith in Christ. Obedience is a result of our being saved, not the reason for our being saved. But even here there is the danger of legalism as the question comes to mind: is your faith strong enough to save you? See how that question turns our eyes away from Christ and towards ourselves? I appreciate this quote from Sinclair Ferguson:
“True faith takes its character and quality from its object. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!” ~ Sinclair Ferguson
Even if your faith is weak, turn that weak faith towards Christ. We may have weak faith but we have a strong Christ who saves us by his power and grace. We have a Savior who restores us to God by his obedience.