Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
Thank you for joining us for episode 186 of Missions on point. And thanks for listening to this series we have been in. We have now reached the end of this series on the church in the Great Commission as seen in Matthew 28. Jesus commands his disciples to make more disciples. We have been using a definition of discipleship as the Christ-commanded, Spirit-empowered equipping of all true believers everywhere through the church to fully know and obey Jesus. We have covered all of the other aspects of discipleship already. And today we come to the fifth and final one. We have already seen the authority, scope, beginning and goal of discipleship. And today we consider the power of discipleship.
Each of the five aspects of discipleship are essential. We can’t leave any of them out. But I hope that as you have been listening to this series that you have sensed a real need for this final one. We especially sensed it in our previous episode as we considered the goal of discipleship being that we are to obey all that Jesus has commanded us. Jesus calls for nothing less than 100% complete devotion to him. Yet if we are honest with ourselves, this is a dauntingly impossible task to undertake if we were to do so with our own power. We do not have the ability in ourselves to obey everything. We do not have the ability to summon the strength we need to accomplish this mission. We are weak and limited and the task is too great.
The Gospel of John chapter 14 situates us well in the predicament that we find ourselves in. John 14:15 says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And I confess, yes, I love Jesus, but how often I wrestle with that next line. My love wavers and I don’t always do as he has commanded. How many Christians have found themselves echoing the words of Romans 7, doing the things they do not want to do and not doing the things that they do want to do? Thankfully we find comfort knowing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And thankfully, John 14:15 doesn’t end there as well. Continuing to read in John 14:15-18, it says this, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
This is the comfort and help and strength that we need to endure in this life and live faithfully until the end. We need the promise of Jesus’ personal and powerful presence in our lives. And this is the promise at the end of the Great Commission that makes all of it guaranteed. Everything up until this point might seem to have been dependent on mankind to work out. But now Jesus assures us with these last words in the book of Matthew, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The authority in discipleship is the resurrected Jesus ruling over all. The scope of discipleship is all believers in every tribe, nation and language. The beginning of discipleship is the obedient public profession of faith in baptism into a local church. The goal of discipleship is life-long obedience to all that Jesus has commanded in his word. And now the power behind it all is the reality that the Holy Spirit indwells believers. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us as well.
I think that Christians can sometimes have a rather deistic view of the Christian life. Deism is the idea that God is like a clockmaker, he just sets everything in motion, but for the most part is disengaged and uninvolved in the outworking of our lives. We might believe that God comes in to save us, through sending Jesus to die on the cross, but then we think the Christian life is mostly up to us. Thinking this way, we fall into the Galatian error of beginning by the Spirit but then being perfected by the flesh.
Of course, this is not how we are to live the Christian life. We are just as much dependent on God for our sanctification as we are for our justification. This means that the burden for our discipleship rests in the same place as the burden for our salvation. In God alone. And this is solid ground for our growth in faith. The promise is put this way in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” The good news of the gospel is not simply that our sins are forgiven, but that we also have been given the righteousness of Christ. Not only that we have died to sin, but that we have been raised to a new life in Him. The gospel teaches us not only what we have been saved from, but what we have been saved for. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us of the goal of discipleship, saying, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Put another way, we could say that Jesus accomplished something in our justification, in order that he might accomplish something in our sanctification too. We are saved for a life that is abiding in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the reality of the truth of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit continues to renew us every day through our communion with God. We cannot be holy without the Holy Spirit.
This is what Moses was praying for in the face of the prospect of accomplishing what God had called him to do in entering the Promised Land in Exodus 33. Moses realized that he couldn’t do what God had required unless the presence of God went with him. And God graciously promised it to Moses, like he does for now for us. Exodus 33:14 God says, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
So, here is the rest and the comfort for every evangelist or missionary seeking to persuade others to be reconciled to God. Here is the comfort for every minister of God’s word, whether a preacher, a parent, or a counselor in a difficult situation. The power to accomplish what God requires does not come from us.
So, the obvious question is, “How do we get this power? Where do we find the Spirit? The resurrected Jesus promised his followers that he would be with them until the end of the age. And then he ascends to heaven. But his presence is not physical, it is spiritual. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. And Jesus gave us plenty of teaching about the Holy Spirit before he ascended.
John 16:13-14 says, “13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The Spirit is present where the truth of God is authoritatively declared. And as we have already seen in the Great Commission, when Jesus claims all authority and commands us to make disciples by teaching his word, the church is the preeminent place where this happens. The church is now the temple of God, which God has built to be a dwelling place for himself. If you want to find the presence of God in this world, go to his home. If you want to know authoritatively the truth of what God has said in his word, then the church is the place where you go to find God.
This is the hope that Paul tells the Corinthians for when unbelievers enter into their fellowship. In 1 Corinthians 14:25, an unbeliever is convicted of his sin, because the truth of God’s word is clearly proclaimed, and he falls on his face in worship of God declaring that God is really there in the church. The church is to be characterized as a spiritual gathering, where believers exercise their spiritual gifts. What makes the church a unique kind of gathering, distinct from every other group of people on the earth, is that the church is the place where the Holy Spirit is present. He is evident because the fruit of the Spirit is on display in the lives of believers. The church is where the many “one another” commands of scripture are obeyed. Christians display in the church, the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that can only come from the Holy Spirit. The church is the family of God where unbelievers are invited to come and be adopted into the love of God.
This is something that a missionary cannot bring on his own, when he goes across cultures in obedience to the Great Commission. But what a beautiful thing it is when someone goes out from his church with the love of his church supporting him, and he seeks to create another fellowship of believers who share that same love. This is the great miracle of missions, that a missionary would see a church both behind and before him, and both places would have the same Father in heaven, the same Savior and Lord, and the same unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Jesus promised to us that he would be with us until the end of the age. And what a great comfort that is, knowing that his Spirit is with us. And Jesus has given to us his word that we might know the truth. And Jesus has given to his church gifted men who can authoritatively teach and rightly apply that truth to our lives. And here is where the Spirit of truth guides us into all truth. And what a joy it is that Jesus has given to his church the gifts of many different members, all using their unique spiritual gifts for the building up of the body. What a joy it is that we can submit to one another. For there is no other place where we can obey all that Jesus has commanded us, most importantly the greatest command of all, and the new command that Jesus gave us, to love God and love one another.
Any missionary who has crossed cultures and is making disciples, will soon need to see those disciples joined together in a church, so that they too can grow into maturity in Christ. And there is no more effective place for disciples to be made. Jesus’ personal presence with us through the Holy Spirit is the power we need for disciples to be made. God, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the strong. A church that faithfully preaches the gospel and loves one another seems weak and foolish to this world. And unfortunately, the church is too often discarded by the missionary as well. The church can seem inefficient and weak. The church can appear powerless in the face of cultural forces. But the church has something that no one else has: the gospel of Jesus Christ preached from his word, and the power of the Holy Spirit as sinners forgive and love one another. There’s nothing more powerful than this, a life that has been raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.
Our resurrected Lord is with us. And, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at Propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
Please login to comment.