For me, the Bible is the touchstone, the fulcrum, the foundation for all of life. People may understand various Scriptures in different ways, but God’s Word is a guide without equal as a source for inspiration, information and boundaries.
Several New Testament passages deserve special attention if we hope to fulfill the mission the Lord has entrusted to us. I will refer to three of them over the next few issues, beginning here with the Gospel Commission:
“Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’” (Matt. 28:19-20*).
It’s because He has supreme authority that Jesus can command us as He does. And what exactly does He want us to do? “Make disciples.” Jesus Himself did that, making 11 disciples who remained faithful during the crucifixion holocaust. How did they survive? Yes, there was preaching, healing, teaching and prayer time. But there was also His 24/7 presence.
The big word involved here is “incarnation.” It means that God chose to become one with us in His Son. He became a man among us—living and dying as a man, then rising again as a first-fruit of the resurrection of humanity. He was perfect. “Not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity” (Ellen White, Faith I Live By, p. 49). But His perfection did not stop Him from “pitching His tent in our camp” (see John 1:14). He did not simply preach from some heavenly outpost among the stars. No. He lived among people, in Nazareth, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Sychar and all over Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Lepers touched Him, children climbed on His lap, crowds jostled and often delayed Him. He knew what it was to sweat, to be exhausted, hungry, lonely, ignored, rejected and finally, to die.
Apparently Jesus could not make disciples any other way than to be present with them where they lived. He not only lived among us but also suffered our pain, ultimately on the cross. Our salvation was unattainable any other way.
Likewise, if we are to carry forth Christ’s disciple-making command, we cannot withdraw from or back away from a ministry of presence in our communities—even though that will bring us inconvenience and even suffering.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matt. 5:13, 15).
Too often we hoard ourselves in the saltshaker we call the church. Salt in the right amounts brings flavor, preservation and even healing. But too much salt in high levels of concentration, over time, can be corrosive. Likewise, light in a dark place makes vision possible. But a concentration of light in a place that is already bright may blind the eyes. In a world that needs both the beneficial properties of salt and the illumination of light—hoarding it amounts to the same mistake as burying the treasure in Christ’s parable of the talents.
We cannot simply preach from a pulpit, a storefront, a radio station, a TV tower, a satellite beam, or an Internet connection and then wash our hands declaring, “They have been warned.” Media ministry does wonderful things but is limited in its life-changing effect. Disciples are made by other disciples. This takes time and presence. Impersonal public ministry is a wonderful tool to assist discipleship but cannot be the whole process. Disciples are not developed by remote control.
Too often we get the idea that a decision for baptism is fulfillment of Christ’s commission. A decision is important as a first step, but if we would truly make disciples, much deeper involvement by the church is required. Congregations must engage with the larger community.
Which leaves us with the question: Is the gospel incarnate today—in me? In you? In us? Yes—if we are true disciples of Jesus.
*All Scriptures are from the New King James Version.