LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 12 January 2020
Sermon Text: Matthew 28:16-20
I. Called to baptise people in the name of the Triune God
II. Called to teach people to observe all that Jesus has commanded
III. Called to behold Jesus’ presence with us to the end of the age
IV. Disciple making on an ordinary day
We’re continuing today alongside last week with the subject of Christian discipleship. And the last Sunday’s topic was that we were ‘called by Jesus as His disciples.’ I believe you remember the main point of that message. If I may remind you of that message, a disciple of Jesus means that everyone who believes in Him as Lord and Saviour, all who come to know and love and follow Him are Jesus’ disciples. In this sense, a disciple of Jesus simply means a Christian. If anyone talks about discipleship or being Jesus’ disciple, he means who Christians are and what they’re supposed to pray and do. So, all Christians who read and meditate on the very word of God and Jesus are the Lord’s disciples; all Christians who worship, pray to, and seek to glorify God in and through Jesus are Jesus’ disciples. That’s the simplest description of Christian discipleship.
So, all things Christians do are the things of discipleship. We read the Bible, study and meditate on it; we worship the Triune God and pray to the Father in the name of the Son and by the help of the Holy Spirit – all these are the things of discipleship. We commit our life to Jesus and love Him as well as our neighbours – these are the things of discipleship.
But, as we heard last Sunday, in the minds of many people in our generation there seems to be a discrepancy, gap or division between two words – that is, Christian and discipleship (or disciple) – which could never be severed from each other. Many people see themselves as Christians, but not the same number confess that they are Jesus’ disciples as much as they’re Christians. What is inseparable, indivisible, has been severed. The word ‘Christian’ and ‘disciple’ have become in their minds two separate concepts rather than the one and same meaning.
That’s not what the Bible teaches. And what is unbiblical should be dropped off from our mind and life, and what is biblical and true must be recovered. So, again in our faith and life, Christian should mean disciple, discipleship should imply the way of Christians. As we heard last Lord’s Day, the beginning of this recovery is for us to remember and recover two things – that is, first, how great and amazing our call is in Jesus and, second, how blessed we’re in this call. Our call is not made by any human being or any earthly mundane office-bearer. It’s not the PM of Australia, nor the Queen, but the King of kings and Lord of lords – Jesus – and He called us to be His own people! What a thrilling and exciting call this is! Moreover, we’re called to be, live and reside in the dwelling place of Jesus, the Lord of the universe! That means, His kingdom! So, all things we do are divinely ordained; all things we carry on are done together with Jesus and for His glory. So, Christians are the Lord’s disciples and the disciples are Christians.
Some of you might wonder why I remind you of last week’s message this long and rather extensively. There’s a reason. Today’s message starts from this teaching we heard last week. In other words, we need to know first and foremost that Christian and disciple are synonyms, and what we do as Christians is discipleship. Understanding this, we’ll be able to move on to the next characteristic of our call, that is, we’re ‘called by Jesus to disciple’ others.
As much as we’re called to be Jesus’ disciples, we’re called to disciple others so that they could also be Jesus’ disciples. This aspect of our call is so obvious in the Bible that no one could miss it or dismiss its significance. Our text passage for today from Mt. 28, especially v. 19, is the apex of this in the Bible. In this verse, we’re summoned by our Lord Jesus to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ In fact, this is the fulfilment of God’s promise made to Abraham, the father of all believers, of all disciples as we’ve read from Gen. 12.
Understanding this as well as the pleasant weight of our call is so important because, if the amazing nature of our call drives us closer to Jesus and makes us happy with our discipleship, this characteristic of our call to go and make others Jesus’ disciples gives us a directional sense – I mean, our walk with the Lord is meaningful, aiming for a sure harvest its result. Also, our going and making people Jesus’ disciples opens our eyes to find that Jesus is the living and powerful Lord of all.
Now, let us hear from Jesus what it means that we go and make disciples. We have three points to consider, not because any sermon should have three points, but because the text itself gives us three points, such as we’re called to (1) baptise people in the name of the Triune God, (2) teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded, and (3) behold Jesus’ presence with us to the end of the age.
I. CALLED TO BAPTISE PEOPLE IN THE NAME OF THE TRIUNE GOD
So, we begin with the first point, ‘called to baptise people in the Triune God’s name.’ It means, baptising people in God’s name is our disciple making. Jesus called us to do this. In a word, we’re Jesus’ disciple-making disciples and we baptise people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
While this signifies our role as a guide for people to God and Jesus, baptising people is not what we as individuals usually do. Rather, this is what Christ’s church does as a corporate body of Christians/disciples. So, this first aspect of our call is more about individual’s membership to the church than about each one’s work. Lord willing, our call to Jesus’ body will be dealt with next Sunday with a title, ‘Called into God’s family.’
Yet, there’s something you and I need to know and remember with this first point, that is, our baptising people in the Triune God’s name implies an absolutely important truth of guiding them to Jesus by authority from heaven, and not of man. We lead people to Jesus by the authority of His word; we escort them through the way God has told us and shown us in His word. We never invent any other way; we never devise any shortcut. Instead, we disciple them as Jesus has discipled us to Himself. We must never forget this.
So, we’re called to disciple others through baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
II. CALLED TO TEACH PEOPLE TO OBSERVE ALL THAT JESUS HAS COMMANDED
The next point is that we’re ‘called to teach people to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.’ What has He commanded us to observe? The whole Bible, every word in the holy Scripture, that’s what Jesus has commanded us to observe – in other words, to ‘obey’ or ‘keep on, continue or guard.’
About all that Jesus has commanded, listen to Jn. 20:31, “(The Gospel according to John is) written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Listen to another NT verses, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, that tell us about ‘all Scripture’: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Let me give you another verse from the OT – Dt. 12:32, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Why does God warn His people not to add to or take from it? Because all that He has spoken to us through His word is about our life and kingdom as Rev. 22:19 repeats and reemphasises in these words, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” ‘This book’ means the whole Bible, all that the Lord Jesus has commanded us to observe.
Jesus called us to teach people to read and know and obey Him always. Hearing this, I think some of you might lose your interest in carrying this out. You might say in your heart, ‘Teach others all things of the Bible to observe? That would be impossible; I can’t know all things of the Bible, then, how could I teach others to observe and obey all that the Bible speaks?’ I know exactly what that thought of yours means because I can’t say that I know every word on each page of the Bible though I’m a minister. In this sense, you and I are on the same page. But, I encourage you not to be so quickly discouraged with this difficulty because our need to teach God’s word to others means something slightly different; we’re not called to be lecturers or professors of theology. Hold this thought with you as we’ll come back to this point in a minute.
So far, Jesus’ call is for us to make His disciples by baptising people in the Triune God’s name and through teaching them the entire Bible.
III. CALLED TO BEHOLD JESUS’ PRESENCE WITH US TO THE END OF THE AGE
Then, the third one is that we’re ‘called to behold, picture, discern Jesus’ presence with us to the end of the age.’ Whereas the previous two are to interact with others, this third point is for altogether, side-by-side, to observe, lay our eyes on Jesus who is with us now and forever. We’re called by Jesus to stare at, if you like, or fix our eyes upon Jesus. We’re asked to not remove our attention from Jesus, but always fix our eyes on Him! The nuance it carries is that the less we blink our eyes, the quieter we breathe in order to constantly peer at Him, the clearer and firmer we would find His near presence with us.
This is not like staring at any autostereograms, simply known as ‘magic eye’ pictures. To see a hidden shape in a ‘magic eye’ picture, you need a special angle of sight. But, fixing our eyes on Jesus to find His near presence with us is not like that. Rather, it is more like your observance of a puzzle. The more you focus on each piece in light of the whole picture, the more you find its beauty and appreciate its benefits. Likewise, you keep focusing on Jesus, you behold His presence with you, then, your soul is filled with ever-growing joy due to your discovery of Him in your life, due to your discovery of His providence in your faith. Such is the nuance this last point carries when Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
IV. DISCIPLE MAKING ON AN ORDINARY DAY
In this way, we’re called to disciple others by baptising, teaching and together beholding Jesus. Then, how can these be done on an ordinary day for ordinary disciples like you and me? I know that some of you might disagree and say, ‘Ah, a minister is not really an ordinary disciple.’ What I mean is that you and I are not different in our ordinary life in this world. When we gather together at church for such activities as worship, prayer, fellowship or at any private place for various other Christian activities, we could function differently in a local body of Christ as a minister and lay people. But, at our homes, on the streets, or around coffee/tea tables, we’re equally same as Jesus’ disciples. Especially, to the eyes of this world, we’re Christians separated from the world.
So, in this sense, how are we to apply these three faceted characteristic of Jesus’ call in our ordinary day? As I’ve pointed out earlier, individual disciples don’t baptise people, but as a corporate body of Christ. We don’t always carry our Bibles and bash each other’s head to teach what it commands us. We don’t stay still and stare at a wall or a door or a window or anything else to find Jesus. That’s not how we apply these three points on our ordinary days.
Our disciple-making works like this – we, Jesus’ disciples, live our lives in obedience to our Lord Jesus in the presence of other people. We simply continue what we ought to do in our life as Jesus’ disciples and let others see us and what we do in our Christian faith. It might sound as inactive and passive to someone’s ears. But let me give you an undeniably sensational example of this from the life of the early church existed in Jerusalem. This is also the vision of St Columba’s. It’s Acts 2:42-47. All of that first church simply continued their life in the Lord – that is, learning, loving and worshipping – and v. 47 tells us what happened: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” That church and all her members – ordinary disciples just like you and me – were continuing what they were called to do, then, through that, many people were added to their number – that is to say, being baptised in the name of the Triune God and taught with all things that Jesus had commanded them! And they altogether beheld, paid their full attention on Jesus their Lord!
A brother in pastoral ministry from the USA put it in our 21st century language and I’ve borrowed his idea to explain it to you. A Christian man senses that a brother in the church they both attend might have a problem. So he begins speaking to him to find out what troubles him in a friendly and loving way. Having realised his problem, this Christian man gives his guidance and help to his brother in the Lord, praying and seeking a biblical answer together with him. He occasionally meets him to talk about his progress. This is disciple-making happening between the two Christian men.
A work colleague swears in his conversation with others at work, and a Christian who works together with this guy guides him gently and thoughtfully to not only stop his swearing, but also change his focus on conversation, possibly to realise his spiritual need of a Saviour like Jesus. This Christian worker never gets discouraged with his progress, but continues in doing that for his colleague perseveringly, seeking the Lord’s guidance. Disciple-making is happening there at his workplace.
Seeing her child’s attention on her spiritual growth diminishing, this mum takes her daughter out to a coffee shop at a shopping centre, and over a cup of coffee, have a time to talk to her about various things, not just the daughter’s faith. Then, she shares this with her husband and starts praying together for their daughter, seeking to work together for their dear child. Disciple-making is happening not only between mum and daughter, but also among all of them in the family.
Disciple making also happens when someone senses another’s discontentment in being alone. She makes it a point to come alongside of the other for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
What do you think would happen when all of us continue our life in the like manner? Surely, more people will be baptised; more converts will be educated; more Christians will be counted as the mature in our church. And altogether will behold Christ Jesus, give Him all glory and honour due to Him alone, waiting eagerly for His coming to us again. For this, Jesus called you and me as His disciple-making disciples.
Such was the life of the apostle Paul as expressed in Col. 1:28. Please listen carefully to these words and I commend you to read it again when you go home at your quiet time and meditate on what this verse is about, especially in terms of our disciple-making discipleship: “Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Amen. ***