2018: Comfortable or Courageous?
Will 2018 be the year you escape your comfort zone to live courageously for Jesus?
Some Northwest Adventists devote themselves daily to pursuing Jesus and helping others find Him. They do this amid life’s demanding responsibilities in the marketplace, in the classroom or at home caring for loved ones young or old.
Meanwhile, others of us are merely aspirational. Someday I’ll do something for Jesus! Then another year goes by with our witness stagnant or sporadic, compartmentalized from daily life.
If that’s your experience entering this new year, please don’t feel guilty. We all fall short of what we could be as ambassadors for Christ. But if you want to narrow that gap, let’s take a fresh look at Christ’s Great Commission.
First remember that worshipping our Lord precedes service for Him. Unless we come to Jesus and rest ourselves in Him first thing every day, everything we do for Him is diminished and dysfunctional. So enjoy a morning Psalm or a story from the gospels and pour out your heart to God in prayer. Then what?
Christ commissions us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing” and “teaching them” (Matt. 28:19–20). But how can even the most devoted layperson find time to “go” and do something significant for Jesus when inboxes are scolding us with unanswered duties?
The remedy is apparent in a compelling insight into the meaning of the Great Commission: Jesus may not want us to interrupt our work to “go!” somewhere and share the gospel. You see, the entire Great Commission passage has only one explicit imperative verb — to “make disciples” or, literally, “disciplize.”* The other three verbal words are in participle form — which means that “go!” should be translated “going,” just as “baptizing” and “teaching” are.
So what? Here’s the point: Jesus doesn’t ask us to “go” and do discipleship as a separate function of life, different from what usually keeps us busy. Instead, as we are going about our lives, He wants discipling mingled into everything we do — a lifestyle activity. As we are “going” about daily duties, Jesus commissions us to keep an eye out for people who need His love.
Do you see it? Jesus wants us to be incarnational — that is, interacting within our everyday world as ambassadors of heaven, fully engaged and engulfed in discipleship — not just as an overseas mission trip but as a whole life experience. That’s because the Great Commission is not about cold contacts but about warm relationships. It means more than “go” knock on doors of strangers, interrupting their TV ballgames in hopes of persuading them to enroll in a depersonalized Bible correspondence course. (Yes, there is a place for self-study lessons online and by mail — augmented by local fellowship, if desired.) As we are going about our daily lives, we can make friendships for God with the people He entrusts to our witness in the workplace, marketplace and classroom.
It seems trite yet it’s true: People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. Many colleagues and neighbors are weary of the world, sick and tired of the antics of celebrities and politicians. When they sense the fragrance of Christ with us, they get curious about what makes us different. This opens the door for us to give a reason for the hope that is in us — not arrogantly but respectfully.
Is there still a place for traditional public evangelistic meetings? Only, in my opinion, if the people invited have experienced our compassion, joyfulness and integrity. Then they will entrust us with their questions about the meaning of life and death, pardon and power, the past and the future. Finally they are ready for answers only Seventh-day Adventists can give. After being baptized, these endeared souls will endure to the end with us — becoming not just disciples but disciple-makers, winning new souls to the incarnate body of Christ.
Only thus will the Great Commission be fulfilled, and finally the work of God will be finished in the world and in the North Pacific Union. Jesus will come and take us to heaven. Just imagine strolling along the streets of gold beside the River of Life. Or feasting at God’s table with your favorite Bible character. Joys now unimaginable will become eternal.
But there’s one thing we can’t do in heaven that we can and must do here and now: shining for God amid the darkness of apathy and apostasy. 2018 can be your breakout year. Pray that it will be mine as well.
*Some Bible translations pick up this morphology in the original New Testament Greek, such as Young’s Literal Translation and International Standard Version.