Following the Great Commission and Commandment: An integration of the two

Over the past few weeks my church has been going through a series on Wednesday evenings entitled “A Christian’s top ten list.” To my dismay I have missed a few of these discussions due to previous obligations. Last night we discussed the relationship between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Pastor Eric Puschman reminded us that we must not bypass the Great Commandment in order to do the Great Commission. In this post I hope to share with you what I was able to take away from Bible study last night.

Defining Terms

Most of you are likely already aware of the terms Great Commission and Great Commandment. The Great Commission refers to the last words Jesus gave to his disciples. Those words are found in Matthew 28:18-20.

18  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  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, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 

Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations. This means that we are called to spread the Good News to all people everywhere. These last words of Jesus have not always been called the Great Commission no one really seems to know how this phraseology began to be used. Regardless how the term came about it is clear that these words have great implications for the church and the individual Christian.

Now to define what is meant by the term Great CommandmentAny good Israelite would have been familiar with this commandment. It’s origins arise with Moses’ sermon in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. 

4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (ESV) 

This Scripture became one of the most pivotal in the Jewish faith because Yahweh’s oneness is what distinguishes Him from false gods. All good Jews would memorize this passage, known to them as the Shema. Moses called the people to worship only the one true God. Jesus shows that that if we truly worship Him then we will love others. Jesus reminds us that the entire law system depends on our love for God and others.

36  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment. 39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) 

So the Great Commandment is that we should love God above all else. He alone has earned the right to rule on the throne of our heart. Because we have been loved by God we are called to love those he has created. This is the Great Commandment. If we began taking Jesus’ words seriously we would live in a much better culture. Many times we think of commandments as burdensome. The Great Commandment is not a burden at all. We are called to come to God just as we are and give ourselves to Him. In God’s economy all things are moved and motivated by love.

The integration of Commission and Commandment

Pastor Puschman asked us to define the relationship between commandment and commission. Through prayer and observation of the Bible I see that commandment and commission are inseparable. It is absolutely impossible to have one without the other. They are intertwined in a way similar to a flower and its root system. The root system of Christian faith is the Great Commandment to love God and others. The beautiful flower established by God is the Great Commission. This flower represents people from every nation, tribe, and tongue who have faithfully responded to and proclaimed His Good News.

Some churches are guilty of emphasizing the Great Commission over the Great Commandment. For some, the ends justify the means. In other words, our method of reaching people doesn’t matter as long as “decisions” are made. God has called us to love those who are outside the faith. To be clear, we must stand with the Bible and not compromise our morals. I just think that sometimes our approach to reaching people is done in judgment. We look down at those who have not yet received God’s grace. May we never forget that at one time we also were far away from God. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:11.

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

This is where commission and commandment meet. Jesus has called us to share his soul-satisfying truth with everyone, regardless what they may look like or how they may smell. We must remember that God is relentlessly pursuing rebels who deserve nothing from Him as we seek to obey the Great Commission. We cannot reach people from every nation if we do not first love God and worship Him above all else.

The next time you are tempted to talk bad about an unbeliever, don’t. You may have people in your life who act like heathen all the time. That’s because they probably are. We are all heathen until we meet Christ and accept his imputed righteousness. Both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment directly affect the life of the individual Christian and the church. Let’s work to maintain a missional mindset motivated by love.

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The Wonder of the Word

Psalm 19 has become one of my favorite Psalms because it connects general revelation (created order) and special revelation (the Bible). In Psalm 19:10, the David tells us that God’s Word is to be desired “more than Gold”. That message appears odd in a culture that values money and success above all else. How many of us would be willing to go to the market and exchange our monthly salary for a Bible? The Psalmist is urging and pleading with us to delight in the Word more than anything. God’s word should be our greatest delight because its pages reveal God’s plan to redeem rebels. My prayer is that this post will move you to stand in awe at God’s glorious word.

Recently of my Welch College professors, Mr. McAffee, made the following statement,

If you want more of the Spirit, get more of the Scripture. A lot of our churches are starving for the Spirit-filled life that the Word produces. It is as simple as following the means of faith found in Scripture. If we truly believe that the Spirit gives us the Scriptures and works through the Scriptures, we must have a certain level of faith in this means of faith. It is about being prayerful and seeking the Lord. The mundane, repetitious, reading and praying Scripture is what brings life to the people of God. Let the Scriptures guide us in our worship!”  

These convicting comments were made following our discussion on the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. As I reflected on these things, I was reminded that God’s word should bring wonder to His people. Wonder is a sense of awe or amazement at someone or something. David recognized his proper place was at the feet of his Creator, gladly submitting to His instruction. David stood in awe of God’s word and we should too. God’s word is the conduit by which sinful rebels are converted into saved sons. Many times churches celebrate when a person receives Christ as Lord but they never teach new believers the importance of the Word. Discipleship cannot happen without the consistent study of the Bible.

The emphasis on this awe invoking Word is one of the main reasons I love Welch College. God’s word is central to everything we do at Welch College. Wednesday evening services have given me a new appreciation for the Word. We open campus church with a Scriptural call to worship, followed by scriptural songs, followed by either a responsive reading or testimony, followed by more scriptural songs, and then we listen to the preaching of the scriptures. Many times I have come into these services discouraged and defeated, but at the conclusion of the service my heart is encouraged and my mind strengthened. God’s word is uniquely changing the lives of young people at Welch College.

God has chosen to reveal Himself through the created order and His word. It is amazing to think that God reveals and calls the nations to himself through His word. God’s word is readily attacked by those who do not believe, but we should not be surprised. God’s word has been under attack since the Fall of Man recorded in Genesis 3. Satan posed the question, “Has God really said that you should not eat this fruit?” As Christians we must continue affirming the inerrancy of Scripture. That is, we accept God’s word as true and reliable. For more on inerrancy, see this great article from Answers in Genesis.

Learning to delight in the Word

You will not gain a deep appreciation of Scripture right away. It takes time. Reading the Bible should never be something you do just because you feel like it is required of you. It should be something you enjoy doing. A disciple of Jesus delights in the words of Jesus. (See Luke 10:38-42.) I have incorporated the following things in my own devotional life and they have helped me delight in Scripture.

1. Pray the Scriptures. A good place to start is Psalm 19. I can explain more about that if you are interested.

2. Get involved in a church where Bible teaching is top priority. Many churches are more concerned about music than they are about the Word. Music is a gift from God and should be done in excellence, but it should never take the place of solid Bible teaching. If your church does not make Scripture the main priority, then you are likely attending the wrong church.

3. Commit to spending 10 minutes more each day reading the Scriptures. It is not about quantity, but quality. Spending time in God’s word is the only means by which our minds can be renewed.

4. Find a small group to meet with in which Scripture is discussed outside the church walls.

The end of the matter

I stand in awe of God’s word and hope you do as well. From beginning to end the story of the Bible is about redemption. Although the Bible was written over a span of several hundred years by multiple authors it remains the most reliable book on the planet. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book. In the pages of the Bible you will find that God is relentlessly pursuing you. That is pretty amazing because none of us are worthy of His pursuit. (Romans 3:23)

 

 

Changed for the Better

Change is that one word none of us like very much. Change forces us to get out of our comfort zones and do things differently. Sometimes change is a good thing even though it may happen through a difficult process. I am writing today to share with you the greatest change that has ever happened in my life, which was being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

Where my journey of faith began

I was raised in a broken home and for a period of time my family had no interest in God or church. My grandparents had taken me to church as a young boy and I know God certainly used their faithfulness to bring me to himself. It wasn’t until I was twelve years old that I made faith personal.

One Saturday afternoon I returned home from working with my grandfather. He was actually my step grandfather, but he always treated me like I was his family. Pastor Edward Puckett and youth pastor Andy Stidham from the Hamilton FWB church visited my family and invited us to church. My family decided not to go to church but thankfully the Hamilton FWB church had a bus ministry. The following morning I excitedly awoke and dressed for church.

About 3-4 months later I was sitting in one particular service and God was dealing with me. I remember Pastor Ed Puckett concluding his message by stating, “Some of you could leave here today and face eternity. If you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord you will not go to heaven.” In that moment I knew that if I were to die I would not to go heaven, so I walked forward and asked Jesus to forgive me and make me new. There is more to the Christian life than escaping hell and entering heaven, but this is the Truth that convinced me that was desperately in need of a relationship with God.

My journey of faith began in May 2005.  There have been good days and bad days since I became a Christian but through it all I have no regrets. Following Jesus is the greatest decision I have ever made. I have been changed for the better.

YOU can be changed for the better

Before change can happen one must recognize their need for it. We must realize that we are utterly hopeless without God. We must recognize that God alone can transform us into His image. God created man in His own image, but that image was seriously maligned after we rejected Him in Eden. Through Christ, God is renewing His image in the worst among us.   You will be changed forever when you accept His amazing work of Grace.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV) God’s holiness demands that there must be a sacrifice to become our sin offering. Jesus the Messiah stood in our place as our sin offering. He alone was righteous enough to cover our sins. Jesus covers us with his righteousness when we accept him by faith.

If you are tired of going through the motions of life and faith, I ask you to join me at Jesus’ feet. He will transform you when you humble yourself at his feet. You too can be changed for the better by giving your life to him. We are transformed into new creatures when we fill our hearts and finds with the Truth of Scripture.

Kyle Idleman has written a great book on this subject entitled AHA. He says that three things are essential to change in one’s life of faith:

1. Awakening: This is the moment where you recognize that you have a problem. For my purposes here we will call this a sin problem. Maybe you have given your life to Christ but you have found yourself repeatedly visiting your old sins. The moment of awakening is the moment that the Holy Spirit speaks to you about your need for change.

2. Honesty: This is the moment where you come to grips with the fact that you have failed God miserably. You know that you are not living up to your God-given purpose.

3. Action: This is the most difficult part of the process because it involves correcting the problem. Idleman uses the illustration of hitting the snooze button rather than getting out of bed. If you have not been living your life for God, now is the time to recommit yourself to Him.  If you truly want to be changed for the better you must decide to do something about it.

Years ago Nike emphasized the phrase, “Just do it.” This phrase is also true of our lives. We are changed for the better when we do something about our sin problem. You see, our human nature does not naturally long for the things of God. We must feed ourselves on the Bible and prayer. When we consistently read, study, and pray the scriptures God reveals who He is and what he expects from us. To be clear, this is not a means of “earning favor” with God. He favored us when He sent his son to die for us.

I have been amazed how God has continued to work in my own life. I still have so much growing to do, but I have been changed for the better. I am longing for the day when His work in me is complete and when my new nature is fully realized. God’s work of renewing His image in all creation will continue until Jesus returns. God will transform you by His grace if you allow Him to.