Thursday, January 12, 2017

4L Discipleship – Matthew 28.19

In last week's post (here), I revealed (re-introduced) the 4L Discipleship Model relating it to Jesus’ statement at the beginning of His ministry: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4.19)

This week, I will relate His final statement, as recorded by Matthew (28.19-20), to the same four “L’s” and introduce the fifth “L” which was the basis for Jesus’ commission. “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.”

As is often mentioned, the only word in this actual commissioning portion of Jesus’ words is “Go” and the word is best understood with the idea of “As you go...” Thus, the other portions are what we are to do while going – make disciples, baptize, and teach. While this statement may not be as clearly delineated as Matthew 4.19, I believe we find the same four steps present in this passage as we saw there.

Again, the four steps are Learn, Live, Love, Lead. Let’s begin with these, and then bring in number five. This week, the order is a little different, but the premise holds.

Go: We are told to go. Think about where you go. Mostly, you go where you need to go and where you want to go. These two “places” will change in scope over time (e.g. when we are young we need to go to school), but the general principle is true. So, what would make people go with the gospel? Love – of God and others. Of course, in today’s world, many missionaries are paid to go. But that wasn’t the case in Jesus day. And, it isn’t the case for most people today. Thousands upon thousands of people heed Jesus command to “Go” paying their own way to go overseas and many more than that “Go” to help coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family all because of the gospel. Ultimately, this “Go” begins because of a love for God, but it is maintained because of a love that develops for others as well.

Baptizing and teaching them: The word “teaching” is clearly apart of this statement and learning implies some form of teaching. Additionally, the word “disciple” can be defined as “one who learns” so the Learn step is well represented in this commissioning. But what is to be taught must first have been learned. Thus, Jesus clarifies that the commandment to teach others begins with what they have been taught. That is, they were first commanded and now they are to teach others what they have learned. Baptism is one of those items learned. Truly, baptism is far more than being put under water. Symbolically, it is the picture of our following Christ in death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). But fundamentally, it is an acceptance of following Jesus. That is, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shows our identification with them not with someone or something else. Thus, true baptism can only be made by one who expresses faith in God.

To observe all that I have commanded: One word in Jesus command is often overlooked, but it may be the most important in this statement. The word – observe. Jesus says that His disciples are not just to teach others information. They are to teach people what to do with the information they are taught. For instance, it is one thing to tell people to “Love God and love others” but it is something very different to actually love God and others. Thus, the notion of observing requires authentic living. Think about it, the disciples could have taught others to “Go” but they first had to go themselves. How did they know what disciple-making should look like? They followed Jesus and had His game plan. Thus, they also knew about baptism – the what, the why, the how, etc. Without their observing what Jesus commanded them they were in no shape to do the same for others. Thus, a true disciple-maker not only teaches, but also practices what He preaches. That is, He must Live.

The idea of Lead is enveloped throughout the Great Commission. “Making” requires that we have an idea of what needs to be made and the ability (in this case through the work of the Holy Spirit) to do it. “Teaching” assumes some level of authority over another – even if only for a time and or a particular subject. Teaching to observe, thus, combines the idea of “teaching” and “making” which presumes being further along in some manner than the person(s) who are being taught and made. Therefore, just as Jesus said, “Follow Me” so we should say the same to others leading them in the way that Paul commanded to the church at Corinth, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11.1). We must be good followers, to be good leaders. And leading is what we are called to do.

Why are we called to lead? Because of the fifth “L” which I now mention. Jesus was commissioning His disciples because He was now ready to “Leave.” He had been preparing them for this moment from when they first began following. But now the moment had come, and although He was leaving, He assured them His presence and His authority would remain with them. What a promise for each of us! However, the reality is that we will all leave. In that sense, we are all “interim ministers.” And God chose us to learn, live, love, and lead others so that His work will continue long after we leave as well. Of course, His mission does not depend upon us directly, but He has chosen to use people like me and you, imperfect as we are, to do His work during our life here on earth. The question we must ask ourselves each day is: “How will I respond today to God’s choice to use me for His Kingdom work?”

Having explored the 4L Model against Scripture, we must now begin to make better sense of it in a tangible way. Next week, we will review a well-known teaching of Jesus and see how Creation fits our call to make disciples.

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