Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Recently I have been driving down some country roads at night. It always amazes me when I come across people riding a bike along a busy road in the middle of the night, without any lights or reflectors to make themselves visible. One guy was skateboarding at night in a t-shirt and shorts despite below-freezing temperatures, and wearing all black. Fortunately my car headlights always enabled me to see (and avoid) these travelling daredevils.
Light is important. It’s a comforting guide when travelling on a dark and dangerous road. But the light of God’s Word can also be convicting, and even make us uncomfortable – especially when it illuminates darkness within ourselves that we would rather not deal with. Just as headlights penetrate the darkness and enable us to see what’s in front of us, God’s Word enables us to see areas of disobedience in our own lives that may have been obscured by our own false thinking.
But sometimes we would prefer darkness rather than light. Sometimes God’s Word is illuminating an area of our lives where the Lord is calling us to change, but we would rather that area remain in darkness. Sometimes the light of God’s Word enables us to see things the Lord is calling us to do, but we would rather remain blind. So we make excuses like, “The Bible doesn’t really mean that,” or “Jesus didn’t really say that,” or “that applies to some other person, not me.” But Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
I want to challenge us to take Jesus seriously, accept his words as truth even when we don’t want to, and endeavor to do what he says, starting with the last words he gave us while he was on earth: the Great Commission. The Great Commission contains three commands: to go, to baptize, and to teach. The first command is to go.
The Command to Go
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We often think that the Great Commission is for missionaries, or pastors, or people more educated than us, or people with the right training, or anyone other than ourselves. But the fact is that Jesus commands us to go. In Matthew 10, Jesus sent out his disciples “as sheep among wolves,” commanding them not to bring anything on the journey, not even a walking stick, because God provides for those who go.
Noah obeyed when God called him to build the ark, and God saved him and his family. Abraham left everything to go where God called him, and God made him the father of many nations. The young boy David stepped out in faith against the giant Goliath with nothing but a few stones, and God provided him with a great victory. The Apostles left everything to follow Christ, and God worked miracles through them. The Bible is filled with examples of great believers who went when God called them to go. But for each person who went, there were also many who did not go.
The rich young ruler in Mark 10 did not go when Jesus called him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. He counted the cost of being a disciple, and concluded that the cost was too high. He was a wealthy and educated man, a man of authority, who had knowledge of the scriptures and knew the commandments of God. I wonder who this young man could have become if he had obeyed what Jesus was calling him to do. Perhaps he would have become the next Paul or the next Peter. Instead, he walked away from Christ in order to cling to his possessions, which have long since decayed into dust. He could have become a great leader in the early church. Instead, we don’t even know his name.
Jesus is calling us to go, and through the Holy Spirit he works in our hearts to lead us and guide us to carry out the Great Commission in our lives. But like the rich young ruler, we are often too caught up in the things of this world to hear the call of Jesus in our lives. Or, sometimes we know that Jesus is calling us to minister to that person, or to help this person in need, or repent of a certain sin, or give up a certain possession. But instead of doing these things, we choose to just go about our own business and ignore the call of Christ.
But the truth of the matter is this: When Jesus commands us to go, going is not optional.
150,000 people die every day, and the vast majority of them go to the grave having never known Jesus Christ. Some of them have never even heard his name. Many of these people are the outcasts of society – the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the widow. These are people who Jesus cares deeply about, who he died for, and who he is calling his church to minister to. Yet many of these people die without ever knowing the love of Christ. Many are people in our own communities who could have easily been reached, but we didn’t go.
The sad reality is that often, we don’t want to go. We don’t want to evangelize, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or visit those in prison. It takes too much of our time. We would rather live life our way, make money to spend on ourselves, and pursue the American dream. All the while, we believe we are following Jesus, but we are really acting more like the rich young ruler who walked away from Christ.
What can we do to change and become more obedient to Christ’s command to “go”?
Coming Next Week:Three challenging, countercultural ideas on how to put the Great Commission into action in our lives in a real and practical way.