Teach Them To Obey

In the passage known by many as the “Great Commission” in Matthew chapter twenty-eight, Jesus gave His disciples the instructions for carrying the message of salvation to the world. In verses nineteen and twenty we read that they were to go, make disciples of all people groups, baptize them and teach them to obey all of Christ’s commands. Each of these commands are essential to seeing people come to Christ, but also to seeing that message continue to go forth past the first few believers. For many years of my life, I focused on the “teach” aspect of the final command. It was all about instructing new believers in the fundamental principles of Scripture, basically telling them, “This is what you should believe”. I’m afraid our knowledge and fact-based world has promoted this way of training believers, not only when they first come to faith but also as they grow to what we might call “maturity”. The definition of maturity in my mind for many years was having a grasp of a great deal of facts about the Bible, being able to answer any question like on a Bible quizzing show.

God’s heart is not for us to know a great many things, but rather to obey the things that we do know. As we gain more and more knowledge, are we becoming more and more obedient? By focusing on the first part of the command to teach, we miss the crucial element that we are to teach them to obey all of Christ’s commands. My class with Kent and Erika helped me see again, and perhaps more than before, how this is important to keep a church planting movement going. First, instead of telling new believers what to do, we need to let the Holy Spirit and authority of God’s Word serve as the guide as they learn and grow in their faith. An important question to ask after studying a passage of Scripture or Bible story is: “What am I going to obey this week?” I have been thinking about the possibility of working in Cambodia and one of the things that has been on my mind is Cambodian believers being sent not only to their own people but to other people groups and nations as well. I have been wondering how to do that without flat out telling them, “You need to send out missionaries”. As I pondered our class discussions on obedience, I realized that it is much more powerful for the Holy Spirit to show the Cambodian believers that they are to follow the exact same Great Commission that I am following. As they learn the stories of the believers in Acts and seek to obey all of Christ’s commands, then the conviction to go will come from the authority of God’s Word rather than anything I might say. This is true of many issues that a missionary might naturally want to fix. As the local church obeys God’s Word they will feed the hungry, care for the widow and orphan, and make disciples that will make disciples. Jesus did not instruct us to build more buildings, or even to plant churches, but rather to make disciples and teach them to obey.

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