This past week I had the honor of guiding the Texas Baptists’ Great Commission Team through a portion of their retreat as they sought fresh vision for what it means to make disciples of all the nations.
And knowing that the words of Jesus from Matthew 28:16-20 were spoken for you and me just as much as they were for these who have given their lives to this disciple-making mission, I want to share with you today some of the key points from my time with them.
Disciple-Being & Disciple-Making
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said:
“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.”
My tendency in reading these words of Jesus is to immediately look outward to the work in front of me. But when I read this passage afresh, making space for God to speak a new word to me, an interesting thing happened. I sensed him directing me to look inward before I look outward.
I sensed God convicting me that the principle work of making disciples is simply being a disciple. That God is concerned first with how continuously, how closely I’m allowing him to disciple me before I seek to make someone his disciple.
And in the midst of that conviction I realized God was illuminating two gospels I can invite someone into.
The first gospel, the false gospel, is a gospel of works.
A Gospel of Works
The primary way we preach the reality of the gospel is through our lives, not our words. And if passages like the Great Commission from Matthew 28 immediately launch us into action rather than prayer and conviction, we’re far too often preaching a gospel of works.
You see, God doesn’t want you to work for him, he wants you to work with him. And when we work from our own strength, striving to change a world into the picture we have for it in our minds, we’re far too often inviting them into a gospel of works.
A gospel of works is a gospel built on what we can do for God, rather than what he’s already done for us. It’s a gospel where we do to become, live with fear rather than faith, and trust in our plans, our strategies, our messaging to guide those at enmity with God into the fullness of relationship with him.
An in fact, the great need we see in the world around us should show us how impossible it is to fulfill this command from Jesus on our own. It should show us how impossible it is to make a disciple apart from the power and anointing of God working in and through us. And it should lead us to prayer and humility before action and strategy.
And presenting a gospel from a place of prayer and humility I believe looks and sounds totally different from a gospel of works. Prayer and humility empower us instead to present a gospel of rest.
A Gospel of Rest
What our world needs isn’t a transactional gospel, a gospel where you do to become, where your identity and worth is linked to your actions. The world needs a gospel of rest, where God has done it all already and all we have to do is simply receive what he longs to give.
The world needs a gospel of rest, where we look to a God who restores all things, is powerful when we are weak, and leads us into a lifestyle of true rest in him in the midst of it all.
As I asked God how he would have me be a truer disciple of him in response to his conviction, one verse stood out in my heart and mind:
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
God is inviting us into a gospel of rest, of stillness, where every action is birthed from a place of faith and trust. He is asking us to go and make disciples while trusting in our hearts that he has already promised: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The work God has set before us he has already promised to accomplish through us. And only when we work from a place of stillness, a place of rest, a place of abiding, can we invite others into the true gospel that has the power to change every facet of their lives.
As we’re thriving on the inside, empowered through stillness and abiding to guide others into true relationship with a God of grace, he has one principle work for us to do: love.
I’ve probably shared this quote from Thomas Merton before, but it’s too good not to share it again:
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
God is calling us to love others as they are now, not for who they could become. He’s calling us to illuminate within them the “imago dei,” the very image of God within them. He’s calling us to make them a disciple by being the only ones truly empowered to see them the way God sees them, and to guide them down a path to find his heart for themselves.
So as we seek to align our lives with this Great Commission from our Good Shepherd, let’s look first in our own hearts to discover how truly – how closely we’re allowing God to disciple us. Let’s allow him to draw us into a posture of stillness and rest that only faith and trust could bring. And let’s work with true love in our hearts, to invite the world into a gospel of rest and restoration.
This is the prayer that’s been continuously on my heart. May it serve as a guide as you make space for God to disciple you, empower you, and use you to make disciples ushered into a gospel of rest.
~Convict us God. Meet with us God. Use us God.~