The Great Commission – The Church’s marching orders from Jesus! These are Jesus’ words engrained upon my heart and calling, driving much of what I feel led to do and write as I press deeply into the call that God has placed over my life!
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.”
Yet, with these verses on the tip of my tongue, God has taught me another lesson from this passage that resonates with me deeply. As with all of scripture, reading verses in context makes all the difference in the world! And the previous two verses (16 and 17), often ignored or read over completely in the Great Commission, do just that:
Matthew 28:16-17 – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
There are four distinct stages documented here as to first steps the disciples took in fulfilling the Great Commission that are often overlooked as we enthusiastically dive into making disciples – and all four are personal steps disciples will go through at various times in their life and ministry.
- Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee… – Galilee was (and still is) one of the most serene areas in all of Israel – it was also the place where Jesus and the disciples spent a lot of their time during Jesus’ three years of ministry. Jesus knew the disciples needed to get away for renewal, refreshment and regrouping before they began the quest Jesus’ was calling them to pursue. We are no different! In seasons of life and calling, as we embark on new endeavors, new challenges or even new career and/or ministry paths, we are wise to get away, alone with God, and focus on the next step in front of us. This allows us uninterrupted connection to the Father in prayer and His Word, clarifying His direction He has planned for our lives. Distraction-free environments help us see the next step God is asking us to take as well as discern how that step lines up with the direction God is calling us go. So where is your Galilee and have you scheduled a time to go there soon? Now may be the time to make those plans!
- … to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. – Jesus made His appearance to the disciples after the resurrection and told them to go to the mountain of Galilee He directed. In obedience to Jesus, they went…and the rest is history! Obedience to Jesus is necessary because if we are not in the will of God, our best laid plans will fail. If we hear in our heart the still small voice of God prompting us to take a step of faith, have a conversation with a person, make a career move, stand up for what we believe, etc., our response is to be obedient to God and take that step. But how do we know it is God’s voice prompting us? If what we are “hearing” lines up with the character and nature of God, it is likely the Holy Spirit calling us out! The bottom line for the disciple is this – if God asks you to go to the mountain, go! When He leads, and we follow, He will use us to change the world for His Kingdom sake!
- And when they saw him they worshiped him. – The disciples went to the mountain in Galilee, and when they saw Jesus approaching them they went into full worship mode! When the risen Savior approached, how else could they react? In our journey as we get away and alone with God, listening for His guiding voice that will direct our path as called by Him, our response is always to worship Him! Not because He needs it, but because we need it! He loves our worship, and when we show our love for Him through worship, we are reciprocating a love that is pure and honorable and lovely – which fills us with joy, peace, goodness, etc! The only way we can truly honor God’s amazing gift of grace is full on worship! He deserves no less!
- but some doubted.– As Jesus approached the disciples, some still doubted He was who He said He was. Some doubted that they would be able to fulfill the things Jesus was calling them to do – change the world! Don’t we do this all the time as well? When we feel a tug at our heart to, say, end global hunger…it seems overwhelming to think we could have any part of something so huge, doesn’t it? Or we feel the nudge to talk to someone about Jesus who has been hostile to anything they deem “religious”. Every time God calls us to one of His “missions”, we may have a bit of doubt that we will have to work through. I thank God this verse was included in the Great Commission showing that the guys who formed The Church had doubts even though Jesus was right in front of them! It also makes perfect sense why we would have some doubt about our calling since we can’t see Jesus in His earthly form. Doubt is at the very essence of our calling from God because doubt drives us to dig in and discover why God is calling us and how it all relates to His character and our destiny. Faith is not the absence of doubt…it is the choice to believe in Jesus, trusting He knows what He is calling us to be part of and knowing He can accomplish anything through us if we will simply trust and believe!
Broken down, here are the four ways to connect with God in the midst of His call as modeled by the disciples during their commissioning from Jesus:
- Get alone with God, away from distractions that hinder hearing His voice through prayer and His Word.
- Obey what He says; discerning what is right and from God. If what you are “hearing” lines up with God, trust it and obey!
- Worship Him through music, nature, poetry, reading His scriptures, etc.
- Understand that doubt is not the enemy; it can strengthen the understanding of the call and drives us to dig deep!
These four steps can and will help you discern the call God is placing in your life! Simple guidelines as to how Jesus led the disciples as He commissioned them, and us, to change the world! Now it’s your turn! Discern the call God has for you, and change the world for Christ! This world will never be the same!