Turns out they haven’t added any new books to the Bible this year, which means the operative Scriptural principle this year remains Matthew 28:18-20 (ISV):
18Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.”
Teach them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. He said it like it was possible–like, in fact, it was something you could do, in Jesus’ words, “as you go.” The command is fascinating when you compare it to other possible formulations Jesus could have used, like:
- “As you go, look for opportunities to make and meet with Christian friends at Starbucks, hearing where they’re struggling in life and looking to provide them relevant, Biblical counsel.”
- “As you go, exposit the Scriptures verse by verse with (or for) people, providing relevant teaching for real-life application.”
- “As you go, study the Bible through a variety of lenses, especially in a small group context. Keep it fresh, changing up the content often. Usually 8- or 10- week studies work really well and are practical because then you can take a couple of weeks off a year from meeting, like during the holidays or the summer when people are on vacation.”
Jesus’ admonition, in other words, is not to help Christians acquire general facility with the Scriptures (that’s necessary but not sufficient), nor to aid them in thinking Scripturally about the challenges and opportunities they’re facing in life (that’s helpful but at times alarmingly backwards, since “real life” becomes institutionalized as the core focus and the teachings of Jesus become the supplement). Instead, Jesus’ admonition is that as you go, you disciple people. This consists of baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and then teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.
What is your plan to teach someone to obey everything that Christ has commanded you?
Answering this question would mean that you have identified someone, that you are committed to teaching them, that you have identified all that Christ has commanded, and that you have a plan to impart this to them. Given that Christ has given this to us as a command, we have significant motivation to undertake it with the utmost seriousness.
If you are lost in accomplishing this, you are not alone. The idea that Christ has enjoined on us something specific, rather than just a general call to personal religious observance, is a surprisingly radical notion. Don’t despair over that. My experience has been that more Christians than one might expect actually do find this call compelling and appealing. They simply have no idea how to carry it out. Given the general lack of campaigns being undertaken by denominations, churches, or nonprofits to help in this regard (there are a lot of Bible reading campaigns and a lot of mentor-style discipling programs, but few campaigns strategically committed to equipping Christians to carry out the simple and specific directive to teach others to obey all that Christ has commanded), that is understandable.
So let’s work on changing that this month by doing a better job at it ourselves. Where do we begin? With what I think may be the most often overlooked discipleship passage in the modern history of Christianity–one that tells us exactly where and with whom to begin undertaking the Work of Mercy of making disciples. We’ll take a look at it in our next post.