Yesterday we continued our series at Southampton Student NAVS with our fifth session entitled “An Invitation to Go – A Vision to give our lives to”.
Our fifth session is the culmination of the series so far and builds heavily on the ideas and concepts developed especially in the session on the Invitation to Labour. We are now talking about the overarching vision that holds together our desire to labour in God’s harvest to help others to follow Jesus, grow in faith and build them up. This is a vision that by very nature is defined by a desire to be intentional (working with purpose in the lives of others), relational (because it is by nature people we are working with) and reproducible (so that we might have an impact through the generations). This is not some new-found vision that will come and go like the latest Christian fad; no this is the vision of God’s heart which has spanned the centuries. This is the vision lived out by Jesus as He invested His life in the few in such a way that they would be equipped (with the help of His Holy Spirit) to take Gospel to the ends of the earth once He had returned to His Father.
The Life of a Disciple – Up until now we have deliberately focused on being followers of Christ but this week we introduced the word ‘disciple’. To be a disciple is to be a learner, follower or an imitator. Dallas Willard writes “The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy duty model of the Christian… He or she stands on the pages of the NT as the first level of transportation in the Kingdom of God.” If we are following Christ then we are by definition a disciple and yet the life of a disciple is not a static label. Rather we are on a journey that will see us grow from infancy through childhood to maturity. We are involved in a process that we saw will see us laying foundations and building to last. Disciples are to be those who are involved in the harvest as workers in the harvest. Disciples who remain in Jesus will be fruitful in this harvest as we give our lives to the sake of others.
Lessons from The Great Commission – A vision might be defined as “something that comes into view or into clear perspective”. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15, John 21:20-21, Acts 1:8) helps bring the Vision of God’s heart into clear perspective for us. In these four parallel accounts of the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples there are three parallel lessons that run through each:
Firstly there is the fact that the Great Commission comes with Power & Authority. Jesus sends us out as His representatives in His power and authority. A commission means “to be entrusted with a task” or “a warrant conferring authority to those being commissioned.” We have a warrant that confers the authority of Jesus as we go out to make disciples. Secondly the Great Commission is applicable Here & Afar. Jesus sends us out to make disciples of “all nations” and we are to preach the gospel “to all the world. The nations are always in view when we talk about the Great Commission but the nations are increasingly all around us. We start where we are at and so this commission is applicable to each of us in all the varied and diverse contexts which God has placed us in and with the people God has brought into our lives. Thirdly the Great Commission is about Being & Doing. There is a very active side to this commission as we give ourselves to the tasks of “going to making disciples” and “preaching the gospel.” The word “go” literally means “as you are going” and so it does not necessarily mean going far away but is primarily rooted in the context in which we find ourselves in. It is not a passive ‘wait and see’ what happens but an intentional and deliberate activity. The desire to make disciples gives purpose to our going and yet it is not just about ‘doing’ because it is also about how we live our lives. Luke’s account speaks about the fact that we are witnesses to Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is about life and mission!
Encouragements as we go – This is serious business and this Commission that God is giving us is far beyond our comprehension in its reach, its thinking, its outlook and its longevity through the generations. Yet there is much encouragement in the fact that even some of the disciples doubted (Matthew 28:16). They were not super-Christians but ordinary people like us and yet Jesus worked through them to change the world. Likewise Jesus does not commission us and then abandon us. No Jesus promises that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20). We co-labour with Jesus and He goes with us as we work out this commission. Who knows where this commission will take us. God may well ask us to “go” to the other side of the world but He will most definitely ask us to start where we are at with the people that He is placing in our lives, the people we are working with, studying with and living with.
Multiplying our lives through the generations – The kind of disciples we are talking about here are the kind of disciples who make disciples. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 instructs Timothy; “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Contained within this instruction are four generations, namely Paul, Timothy, Reliable people and Others. Jesus spent three years with His disciples to prepare them to carry on His mission. He gave His energy not so with “the multitudes but with men the multitudes would follow” (Robert Coleman). The disciples were charged to make disciples in such a way that the next generation could do likewise and so see the gospel passed on from generation to generation. Paul explains his method saying “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess 2:8). For Paul making disciples was a way of life. It was life on life with those he was spending time with, living with and travelling with. He was not removed from the people he was trying to help but deeply involved to the point that he was able to say; “you know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings (2 Tim 3:10-11)
Making it count – In so many ways the outworking of this vision is how we make our lives count. D.L. Moody famously said “said “The world has yet to see what could be done with the man or woman fully devoted to God …and by the grace of God I will be that man.” The challenge for each of us is ‘do we want to be that one man or woman?’ There are so many great things and causes that we could give our time, energy and resources to. God also calls different ones of us to some of these things because they are also on His heart. This too is part of working in God’s harvest and part of His plan for our lives. And yet we can say without question that God also wants all of us to be involved in making disciples of the people He has brought into our spheres of influence. We are commanded to “make disciples” and it is not optional!
One day we will go to be with Jesus forever but what impact or legacy will we leave behind? Ultimately it is the people that we give our lives to who will be our legacy. Will you join us in giving your life to this incredible vision?