Life is full of surprises.
It might be as simple as reaching out to turn of the light and getting a jolt of electricity.
It might be as bad as coming back from holiday to find your house has burned down.
For the first followers of Jesus, it was finding out that their master could be killed.
They had given up everything to follow a mystical man of incredible power who performed awesome miracles. He walked on water, he healed people from terrible ailments, he could cast out demons, he brought the dead back to life. He was not in any way an ordinary man.
Some people saw Jesus as the Messiah who would bring salvation for God’s people.
His disciples walked beside him and watched as the blind were given sight. They heard Jesus forgive the hopelessly unrighteous and restore the lives of the broken. They helped pass out bread and fish as Jesus miraculously fed huge crowds. The disciples were more aware of Jesus’ true identity at some points than at others, but they followed him until the end. They believed he would restore the fortunes of God’s people.
And then Jesus died! Just like that, it was over. It seemed that Jesus could do absolutely anything, that he had power over sickness, death, every person, and every thing. By this power, Jesus was bringing the healing and redemption that the world so desperately needed. But the disciples’ hopes of a better world died as Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross.
And so the disciples spent three days in confusion and disillusionment. Everything they had hoped for was gone. Perhaps they had wasted their time following this mysterious person for three years. What a shock. What a let down.
And then another bigger surprise. He came back from the dead. Now they were on fire with belief. If he could do this, he truly could change the world in an instant. Instead, he shocked them again. Jesus basically said he had just popped in with one last instruction before he left them and went to heaven.
Jesus told them he was going and they should finish what he had started.
Almost his last words on earth were: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”
How would you have reacted if you had been a follower of Jesus? Think about that. What comes to your mind? When you have read these words, did you think they applied to missionaries or to pastors. Were they for special people?
What we see when we read the Bible is that all the disciples, every follower of Jesus, took these words seriously. They worked together in obedience to this command. Some of them travelled to other countries with the message. They all focussed their efforts on making disciples.
That is what we see in the Bible. What do we see in our church?
Do we really believe that Jesus told his early followers to make disciples but wants us to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a culture where the paid ministers do the ‘ministry’ and the rest show up, put some money in the offering and leave feeling inspired or ‘fed’. We have moved so far away from Jesus’ command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.
So what does disciple making look like? You may think it is a programme or a course. The pastor runs the discipleship course and you invite a guest or attend on your own. But that is not what it is like. Disciple making is a way of life.
It’s incredibly simple in the sense that it doesn’t require a degree, ordination or some sort of hierarchical status. It’s as simple as going to people, encouraging them to follow Jesus (this is what baptism is all about), and then teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands (which we find in the Bible). The concept itself is not very difficult.
But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult. We often think that builders build, drivers drive, ministers minister. In Ephesians 4 Paul says the “responsibility [of apostles, prophets etc] is to equip God’s people to do his work”. The pastor’s job is to equip you to do the work. Making disciples is your job. Jesus commanded you to make disciples!
Most Christians have one or more reasons why this command is unreasonable. “I don’t feel called to minister.” “I just have too much on my plate right now; I don’t have time to invest in other people.” “I don’t know enough.” “I have too many issues of my own. I’ll start once I get my life in order.”
Jesus didn’t give any exceptions. His command is for all of us today. What did Jesus say to the people who gave excuses in Luke 9? Read it yourself later and find out.
One of the big barriers to obeying this command is hiding in our excuses. It is called ‘perfectionism’. Christians are called to be perfect, but perfectionism is Satan’s counterfeit version. Instead of making us holy people, it turns us into neurotics and spiritual Pharisees.
The perfectionist believes the lie that Satan has planted in them. They have a false idealised image of what they should be like. This is the super you, not the real you.
Super you is imaginary. You believe nobody could love the real you, including God, so you strive to become super you. You think that is the only way to gain love and acceptance. Your view is so distorted that you cannot see God clearly. You know he is perfect and he demands this of you too.
You know you aren’t perfect. You know that if you try to make disciples, the truth will come out. You make excuses, and one of many excuses is to say that soon you will be good enough for God but not now.
Super you believes the myth, we’ve always got to be super-happy. But are you always happy? Never depressed? Bubbling over with ‘Praise the Lord’? Is there never a time of struggle? Is there never a time when the heavens seem brass? When you do things out of sheer duty, without happy feelings? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to his disciples, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” He was writhing on the ground; he was sweating profusely and undergoing a terrific struggle between his emotions and his will. His emotions were saying, Don’t make me do it; but Jesus kept saying, “I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Forget being happy. The word happiness has its roots in the word ‘happenings’. Happiness depends on happenings, on what happens to us, externals that we can’t control. Joy is the right word for what we Christians are to expect. For joy is an internal word that has to do with relationships, not circumstances or happenings.
When you waste time and energy trying to be Super Self, you rob yourself of growth and the friendship of God. And you never let God accept and love Real You for whom Christ died. This is the only you that God really knows and sees. Super You is an illusion of your imagination, a false image, an idol. God can’t even see Super You. You can be yourself in Jesus, and you need not compare yourself to anyone else. He wants to heal you and to change you in order that Real You can grow up to be the person he intended you to be.
God made Real You. His command is for Real You. He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task. Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves.
Being a disciple maker means that you will begin to look at the people in your life differently. Every person in your life is created in the image of God, and Jesus commands every one of them to follow him. God has placed these people in your life so that you will do everything you can to influence them.
Following Jesus means that you will be teaching other people to follow Jesus. The real you reaching out to the real them.
One struggling disciple inviting another struggling person to be a disciple.