© 2021 BY Philip A Matthews
“Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be). Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus’ Great Commission
In times of relative peace and prosperity, it becomes safe, even fashionable, to claim to be a Christian. Of course, this is changing these days, after evangelical Christianity has become associated with Trump, hypocrisy, and other social negatives and so many people have turned against Christianity. Some are even calling the Bible a hate book. Whatever, the relative peace and prosperity has resulted in millions of “cultural” Christians, who claim to know Jesus but whose lives belie that fact and prove otherwise. As Paul warned, “They will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power.…” (2 Timothy 3:5).
According to the text, the PRIMARY, UNCHANGEABLE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH IS EVANGELISM (“GO and TEACH,” the spreading of the Gospel to the whole world) and DISCIPLING of the nations (“TEACHING them to observe everything I taught you”—Matthew 28:18-20). The main problem in the church today is that we haven’t really been doing what we were supposed to be doing—making DISCIPLES, NOT MORE CULTURAL CHRISTIANS!
TRUE BIBLICAL DISCIPLING IS NOT EDUCATING PEOPLE INTELLECTUALLY BUT ENABLING BELIEVERS TO:
- EXPERIENCE GOD’S LOVE within and thus to be HEALED, MADE WHOLE, and TRANSFORMED. Once a person believes, we must get them delivered, freed, healed of all their old habits, wounds, and emotional baggage, close all demonic gateways that exist because of bitterness/unforgiveness/occult experimentation/etc. INNER HEALING ought to be routine for ALL believers, especially the new ones. A person who remains under the control of his/her old hurts and wounds will NOT BE FREE to OBEY the Lord’s voice or to find the PEACE & CONTENTMENT that is necessary for stability and permanent victory in life. “Tossed to and fro…” (Ephesians 4:14). ALL the problems in the world and the church are caused by a LACK OF AWARENESS OF HOW MUCH GOD REALLY LOVES US! WHEN WE REALLY FEEL IT, ALL OUR TROUBLES ARE OVER! THAT IS BECAUSE ALL TROUBLES ARE CAUSED BY SOME FORM OF FEAR, WHICH IS THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE. BUT, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” (1 John 4:18 The Message).
In my early Christian experience, I was prone to go through frequent depressions—in fact, hilariously now, every time I got a bill I couldn’t pay! So, like Job, I wished I had never been born. Why had God bothered to give me life? I really don’t want to be here, I’d say. Then, He revealed something to me: Because He is LOVE, He’s compelled to CREATE other creatures like Himself (“in His image”) to be the objects of His love, other beings to lavish His love on and who could RESPOND IN A VOLUNTARY RELATIONSHIP with Him. Somewhere, in the scheme of things, He saw fit to give ME life, evidently to LAVISH HIS LOVE UPON ME as I lived out His purpose in this crazy world I was born into. Now WHY would I reject such a loving act from such a loving God? Obviously, it was for my own good.
And, truly, the greatest blessing known to man is TO EXPERIENCE THE FULLNESS OF GOD! THE FULLNESS OF HIS LOVE! THIS IS HEAVEN ON EARTH! WHO WOULD WANT TO MISS THAT?! TO MISS THIS IS THE GREATEST TRAGEDY KNOWN TO MAN: TO BE STUCK HERE ON EARTH WITHOUT FEELING HIS LOVE! A MOST MISERABLE LIFE—THAT MOST PEOPLE LIVE! CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW CALM, HOW PEACEFUL, HOW DEEPLY JOYFUL, HOW UTTERLY UNCONCERNED ABOUT EVERY NEGATIVE, HOW TRUSTING, HOW SATISFIED, HOW SUBMISSIVE TO GOD, HOW ABLE & EMPOWERED TO LOVE OTHERS, IS THE SOUL WHO FEELS THAT LOVE!? A CHURCH FILLED WITH THIS KIND OF PEOPLE WOULD BE THE MOST POWERFUL ORGANISM (NOT ORGANIZATION) ON EARTH! A CHURCH FILLED WITH THIS KIND OF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE ONLY LOVE, PEACE, COLLABORATION, UNITY, SELFLESSNESS, AND ABSOLUTELY NO RACISM IN IT—OR ANY OTHER SINFUL MESSES!
This is the first goal of true discipleship.
- True biblical discipleship must also enable believers to FEEL and HEAR God’s Spirit directly, leading, directing, providing confidence and authority to live and move in the power of God. What we SEE & HEAR, through dreams, through the prophetic word/rhema or the inspired word/logos, through the voice of the Lord, through regular COMMUNION, PRAYER, & WORSHIP in His PRESENCE, and through other means of spiritual communication—these are the WORDS & MESSAGES THAT GIVE CONFIDENCE, INCREASE FAITH, REVEAL SOUL-FREEING TRUTH, and PROVIDE AUTHORITY (“I don't have any silver or gold, but I'll give you what I do have. (I DO have the authority to say), ‘In the name of Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth, walk!’"—Acts 3:6).
- Third, true biblical discipleship must enable believers to become MATURE enough in their faith that they in turn are empowered to make even more disciples. None of this typical Christian behavior where a new believer comes into the church, then spends the next 30 years doing nothing more than helping keep the lights on and the doors open. Jesus’ grand vision—The Master Plan—was for the church to be the first “network marketing” organism (not, organization), where “each one reached two” until the whole world was saved! We need to CREATE SOME LISTS of people who desperately need God and PRAY those people into the CHURCH! When we think about it, almost ALL of us had somebody praying continually for us to come to our senses, repent/turn, and come to God. It doesn’t just happen on its own! It is a direct function of prayer, as we would say in mathematical terms.
If everyone who claims to be a believer in Jesus were really to be discipled in such manner and to this extent, the church wouldn’t need ANY political power or pet politicians at all! We wouldn't need to concentrate on social issues directly because society itself would automatically be radically altered as revival changed more and more individuals! The original promoters of Christianity “turned the world upside down” with nothing more than the glorious LIVING presence of Jesus Christ in their midst (Acts 17:6; Acts 4:13-14)!
True discipleship—TRUE CHRISTIANITY, actually—is NOT living by and trying to obey the Bible. True Christianity is being so filled with the Holy Spirit that we continue to WRITE the Bible! The Acts of the Apostles was not something the disciples were trying to measure up to and pattern their lives by. The Acts was merely a written record of how the Spirit of God moved in and used the disciples. Their LIVES wrote the Acts! Relatively few Christians have a biblical worldview or pattern their lives by the Bible. This is not because they don’t know the Bible but because they don’t possess the same Spirit, the same commitment, the same closeness to God, and the same degree of His divine presence in their midst.
May God bless these words in our hearing. I personally have some praying to do! I feel called to be more like Jesus, as in this song (introduction to our musicians version): https://youtu.be/q2fTYPmZagY .