When I was six, my dad told me, “Son, you have a God-given talent.” I just finished my first football game and had a good game. For better or worse, those words shaped my identity for years. I doubt he knew how significant they were. Well-placed words can be life-shaping. Jesus states in Matthew 28:18–20,
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).
I believe disciple-making is not a ministry of the church; it is the ministry of the church. Disciple-making is the vision God has for His people, not a suggestion.
At the beginning and end of the Great Commission, Christ declares His lordship and challenges us to place Him in a place of preeminence. Understanding who Christ is, is critical to our understanding of who we are.
Many of us have Christ as prominent but not preeminent. Prominence in our life might look like the statement, “I put God first, then my wife, kids, and family.” Jesus is after more than that. Scripture says that if you want to follow Christ, you have to hate your mother, father, brothers and sisters. Is Christ really Lord of your life? It is critical for us to recognize the authority of the One who gave us the Great Commission, to understand the gravity of the Commission.
Go make disciples of all nations
How you interpret the first part of this text is critical. I like to interpret this first verb as “while you are going.” This idea presupposes that one would have gone forth before making disciples.
I think Jesus makes the assumption that disciples are following Him so they are going. Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 9:16–17, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.”
Wherever Paul was, he understood he was sent. If shipwrecked, in prison or in a university town, people were coming to know the Lord. I believe this is critical for us who are laboring among wolves. God has brought the nations to our doorsteps. Let’s assume we are the sent-ones of God.
The process of baptizing is about adopting our new identity. First Corinthians 15:33 states, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” And for many of us, bad company and bad words have formed too many of our identities. Why do we more readily identify with the things that bring division? This is why baptism is important for us to understand in shaping our identity in Christ. Identity drives our activity, and our activities reinforce our identity. This is very important for those of us ministering in urban contexts, as we strive for harmony in the dense and diverse chaos that cities bring. Baptism is commanded by Jesus, and necessary if we are to be obedient to Christ.
Teaching to observe all that I have commanded
To observe all that He has commanded means that we love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Paul states, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NASN). God is calling us to live out the Great Commission. Christianity is simple in its message, but supernatural in its application. The reason it’s hard to live authentically Christian in the urban context is because we are called to supernaturally love those who don’t look, talk, or act like us. We desperately need God’s presence to do the things that we want to do.
I will be with you
Matthew ends his gospel in the same way he began, with the promise of presence. My prayer as we embrace the call to labor among wolves is that we would commit to continually show up. And then trust in Christ and the power of His Spirit to do the rest! We need to recapture the commission and the art of intentionally making disciples in the everyday. God created man in His own image and God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples as followers of Christ. Yes, we are ministering among wolves, but our God is Lord of the harvest.
This blog was an adaptation from Dhati Lewis’ latest book Among Wolves. When Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples and I will always be with you,” He is going back to every movement. Check out the Among Wolves Masterclass on the City Syllabus to dig deeper into each of the Eight Movements of Matthew.
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