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“…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20, NIV
This is part of the Great Commission. Jesus gave orders and authority for His disciples to go into all the world, teach all people and baptize. There have been countless messages and sermons on this subject, and rightly so. These are some of the last words of the risen Christ.
Today, I want to look at it from a slightly different angle. We believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the original autographs - or manuscripts - were without error. This is the Word of God to you and I.
We also know that Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the Living Word of God. Every Word in the written Word of God is the Word of Jesus. Some people like to focus on the “red letters” - the words that Jesus is recorded as having spoken in the Gospels. This is to miss the importance that every word in the Bible is the Word of Jesus.
While we are to teach everything Jesus commanded according to Matthew 28, the modern church seems to focus on three different topics.
Evangelism is, of course, a major topic. It is a fulfillment of the part of the Great Commission that says GO. We go out into our world and share the good news that Jesus Christ has set us free from sin, given us new life, and it is a free gift from God. All we have to do is accept it. Nothing to work for or earn…just accepting the finished work of Christ on Calvary and believing in His resurrection. That is good news. That is the gospel. It should be a vital part of our life. We should be trained how to do it effectively, although without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit no training will be effective.
Evangelism is definitely part of the “all things” we are to teach. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour is the beginning, it is getting people to the starting line. It is vital, but it is not all there is. Teaching to obey all things means more than getting your foot in the door.
I have just released a book that will help you reach your unsaved family and friends. This book is called How To Know For Sure God Loves You and is available on Kindle and paperback from Amazon and other digital publishers.
A second popular area of Christian teaching is what I would call life improvement courses. The Word of God is an instruction manual on how life works. God wants us to have healthy, well-adjusted lives. He wants us to have strong marriages, God-centered families, stable finances, victory over sin and trauma, etc. This is also a perfectly legitimate and necessary area of teaching. We need to know how to live and how to get our lives and families back on track.
However, we must be careful. If this is all we are interested in, then we are just using God as a Divine self-improvement program - just a Christianized version of self-help programs. We become the centre. It becomes, not about how I can please Jesus, but how I can get the life I want [and feel I deserve]. It is interesting that Paul’s instructions on life improvement always follow a focus on Who God is and what He has done.
The third popular area of Christian teaching is Bible prophecy concerning the End Times. I want to be careful how I say this. All Christians believe in the Second Coming - or Final Coming - of Jesus Christ. The disagreements are on the “how and the “when.” It is important what we believe about the Second Coming. What we truly believe governs our actions. So while we are to occupy until Jesus returns and not be preoccupied with His coming, we need to understand His coming and life after death. Jesus and the apostles were not shy about believing that they were earning eternal rewards for the sacrifices they were making in this life. Jesus specifically said to make sure we were storing our treasures in heaven.
Unfortunately, most of what is popularly taught on this subject is entertainment and fiction designed to distract Christians from the life Jesus wants them to live. They are the “Christian” version of the chills and thrills of the world’s horror and thriller stories. They have caused incredible damage to the Church and Christian’s lives since the ideas were first introduced by John Darby in the 1800’s. Ideas have consequences. For example, we know of Christians during World War II who risked their lives to hide Jews and others, but other Christians refused to oppose Hitler and help the Jews and others in need because they saw these events as a fulfillment of Bible Prophecy - and who wants to be found opposing Bible prophecy? It can result in a hardness of heart to the suffering of people because it is the supposed fulfillment of prophecies in the Book of Revelation.
So, while the study of the Second Coming and life after death is a perfectly legitimate area of teaching [see our Bible Study page], much of what is taught on this subject is pure garbage. At best it is cheap entertainment, and worst it distracts Christians from living the Life God has for them, hurts suffering people and actually delays the coming of Jesus!
So these are the three main areas that are popular with Christians. All of them are legitimate fulfillments of the command of “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” As long as a teacher sticks to one or more of these areas, he or she will probably have a reasonable audience. However, as soon as we move into other topics the crowds dwindle to a few…or none. If a course on improving your marriage is offered it will likely be well-attended, but if a course on the doctrine of salvation or Christology is offered few if anyone will show up. These are not “exciting” courses, you understand. Everything must be practical and we have to see how it interests or benefits us.
If we are going to obey the Great Commission we must broaden our horizons. As disciples we must begin studying, searching and teaching the entire Word of God from Genesis to Revelation. This is not just for full-time ministers - although they can certainly make it easier for us. This is for every disciple of Jesus Christ. There should be a hunger in our heart to know and obey everything we can about the Word of God because it reveals the One that we love and pursue. If we only interact with our spouse when we perceive a personal benefit, then we are going to have a poor marriage. If we only interact with Jesus and the Word of God when we perceive a personal benefit, then we are going to have a poor Christian life.
I encourage you, let us together work on truly fulfilling the Great Commission. Let us Go to the world around us, sharing the Good News, making and baptizing disciples and learning, teaching and obeying every Word of Christ together.
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