In March, our church is organizing and hosting a Missions’ Conference. We want to motivate our members and the people of our community to get involved with missions both locally and globally. God is all about missions. He was the first missionary, going to the lost in the Garden with the message of salvation. He entered human history once again almost 2,000 years ago as a missionary in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that we have a lot to learn about missions from Jesus. I would like to share these thoughts with you here. I will teach a track for children and for teens during the conference so I would like to think through the process here and share it with you so that I can better prepare my thoughts. The idea behind missions and discipleship is missionaries who are disciples of Christ who seek to make disciples who will make more disciples. In order to better understand Jesus’ mission, we need to read Matthew 4:17-25.
I. Discipleship and missions begin with a calling
Jesus came to this earth as a missionary. He came to reconnect us with God. In order to do this, He gave a calling to the people around Him, repent of your sins and follow Me.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4)
When Jesus shared His messages, He began with calling people to repentance. Repentance implies confronting sin and showing the solution. As a missionary who is on a mission to make disciples, I must share this calling with the people around me. It does not take much to convince a person that he is a sinner. There are several ways that Jesus did this. I would like to focus on His methods in the sermon on the mount. Here are some of the sins that He confronted.
- Murder (Matthew 5:21-22) – Jesus explains that physical murder is wrong, yet, just as wrong is hating someone and playing out the murder fantasy in your mind because that is where physical murder begins to take root. Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever degraded God’s creation by calling him a fool (worthless in the Greek)? Have you ever played out a murder fantasy in your head? You are guilty and in need of salvation.
- Adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) – Jesus again explains that the physical act of adultery is wrong, and just as wrong is lusting after a woman (or man) you have seen or know. Have you ever had sexual fantasies in your mind about a person who is not your spouse? Have you ever looked at porn? If so, then you are just as guilty in the eyes of God as the man or woman who has physically committed adultery. You and I need salvation, as well as all the rest of humanity.
- Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32) – Have you ever been divorced for any other reason than adultery? In God’s eyes, irreconcilable differences does not hold water. You are in need of salvation. Since 50% of the marriages in the USA end in divorce and a large majority are for other reasons than adultery, we are in need of salvation.
- Making false vows (Matthew 5:33-37) – Have you ever NOT kept your word? Have you ever said one thing and done another? If you have, then you are guilty before the Lord. Since He always keeps His Word, He cannot tolerate those who do not and will punish them. You and I, along with the rest of the world are in dire need of salvation.
- Revenge (Matthew 5:38-42) Have you ever taken revenge on someone for doing something to you? If so, then you are guilty, just as I am and in need of salvation. Again, if you have played out the fantasy in your mind then in God’s eyes you are already guilty.
- Loving and serving your enemies (Matthew 5:44-48) Have you always tried to love and serve your enemies? How do you pray for your enemies, that God would punish them as they deserve or for His mercy and their repentance and salvation? I am guilty of not doing this and need salvation, as we all do.
This is a very simple list that covers all of humanity. Some would claim that they do not need salvation because they have religion. What would you say to that? One, if your religion did not change your attitude toward hatred, murder, lust, divorce, revenge, keeping your word, and loving your enemy then it is pretty much useless. Two, Jesus turns the sword to the other edge and cuts the “religious” people who are righteous in their own eyes.
- Giving (Matthew 6:2-4) Why do you give? Is it really to meet the needs of the poor around you or is it to make yourself feel better? Will you give even if you never get any recognition for it? Would you continue to give if never any chance of being recognized? What motivates you to do what you do? If your motives are wrong then you still need salvation despite the fact that you have religion.
- Praying (Matthew 6:5-13) Do you even know how to pray or do you just reproduce memorized prayers? Do you pray because you genuinely want to talk to God or do you do it because you are supposed to do it? Do you pray at home in private when no one sees you or only in public so that everyone can see you? Do you repeat the same memorized prayers over and over again or is prayer an actual time when you converse with God?
- Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18) Do you fast because you are seeking answers from the Lord and you want to use it as a time to draw near to God or do you fast because the calendar says so? Do you fast so that others will see how faithful you are or is it out of a genuine desire to hear from the Lord? What motivates you to do what you do?
- Possessions (Matthew 6:19-24) Do you see all of your wealth, all of your possessions, all of your time, talents, and resources as being gifts from the Lord that you administrate for Him or do you see them as yours and you share some of them with Him? How do you spend the majority of your time and money? Whose will do you accomplish with the majority of your time and money?
- Worry vs. Trust (Matthew 6:25-34) Which controls and consumes you, opportunities to trust in God’s goodness based on His Word or worrying about what you will eat, what you will wear, and where you will sleep? Do you spend the majority of your time working for what you will eat, drink, and wear or working for the kingdom of God, trusting Him to provide for the rest?
These are all some tough situations but they are situations that we face daily. Your answers to these situations will let you know quickly if you need salvation or not. Based on these situations, we all need salvation. On a side note, when the Bible refers to salvation, it does not just mean forgiveness of sins and heaven when you die. Salvation is for daily living. Salvation will help you deal with all of the above situations. Genuine salvation, not the fire insurance taught by many, changes your daily life forever. If your salvation experience does not help you deal with the previously described situations then you really need to examine what kind of salvation that you have. Jesus’ audience did not see their need for salvation because of their religion, they assumed that they already had it. Once He finished His message, the people literally fell over from shock. They realized that their “salvation” was useless and that they needed what He was teaching. Jesus had given them a calling. Some answered but many chose to remain as they were, just like today. Jesus did not change His message, He continued on His mission.
Step two in the process of calling is once that you have repented and turned away from your former way of life, you must choose to follow Jesus Christ.
18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea ; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets ; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4)
Following Christ is not a one time event. Following Christ is something that you do on a daily basis. Moving back to the sermon on the mount, not only did Jesus confront their sins and call the hearers to repentance, He called them, in essence, to follow Him. Here is how He did it.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house ; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. (Matthew 7)
Following Christ means hearing His Words and acting on Them. In other words, building your life on the Word of God by willing to be taught daily by Christ’s Words. This is what happened to the disciples. They followed Him daily, learning from Him and learning to depend upon Him. Are you following Christ daily? Are you feeding on His Word daily so that you can obey Him?
Are you ready to be a missionary? Have you dealt with all of the above issues in your own life? If not, then how will you go to others and share this good news with them? Being a great missionary starts with becoming a disciple of Christ yourself and then applying what you learn and sharing it with others. This is the key to success.
II. Discipleship and missions involve teaching the Word of God
23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Matthew 4)
As Jesus was teaching people the Word of God, He accomplished a two-fold purpose; He taught and confronted people’s sins opening the door to the good news of the Gospel as well as taught His disciples how to minister through hands on experience. They were with Him, watching, helping, and learning. As a missionary, I am not the one to do all of the work. I invest in others by teaching them the Word of God and taking them with me to serve. They see first hand how I apply the Word of God and they learn to do the same. I don’t just give them theory. I also give them practical application opportunities. This was Jesus’ model and He was very successful. We need to learn from Him. We cannot get so caught up with serving that we forget about teaching the Word, the good news of the Gospel and we cannot get caught up in theory without actual practice. There has to be a balance. Jesus spent 3 years investing in those 12 disciples, teaching them how to know Him and depend on Him, preparing them for His departure and their future work. They were well trained because they had the right balance of teaching, application, and practical experience.
As you continue to invest in disciples the way that Jesus did, the ministry will grow. Word will spread very quickly.
24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria ; and they brought to Him all who were ill , those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics ; and He healed them. (Matthew 4)
Many times we reverse the roles, thinking that we need to focus on ministry to get to discipleship. That is backwards from what Jesus did. He focused on making disciples and as they applied what they learned and walked with Him, the ministry came to them. Instead of being results (numbers) driven, we need to focus on the methods that Jesus applied and watch what He will do. The results will come because He will cause it to happen.
25 [as a result] Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4)
Focus on investing the Word of God in people’s lives and then sit back and watch how God works.
This same process is spelled out in the Great Commission.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
Here are the previous points outlined for us:
- Make disciples (go, invest in others by preaching repentance and teaching them the Word of God. Teach them to apply the Word and help them live it out practically)
- Baptize – in order to be baptized, one must come to terms with his sin nature, repent of his sins, and choose to follow Christ.
- Teach them – the what is explained, all that Jesus commanded, as found in the Word of God.
- Observe – this implies application via practice
- Repeat – until the end of the age or until Jesus returns
III. FBC Jerusalem; a practical example
Acts 2 gives us a perfect, flesh and blood example of all of the theory that we just covered. The chapter begins with the coming of the Holy Spirit. A good missionary must be indwelt with and led by the Holy Spirit or all of his work will be done in vain. The chapter continues with the men and women of God who are indwelt with and led by the Holy Spirit speaking with all who care to listen about the mighty deeds of God. They are giving the calling to the hearers. They crowds are listening and then some “religious” folks begin to mock the missionaries. Peter takes his stand and preaches the Gospel. The hearers are pierced to the heart because of their sins and the fact that they had their sins confronted. They wanted to answer the call and know what to do. Peter calls them to repentance. About 3,000 of them answer the call and repent and are baptized. Immediately the process of discipleship continues (notice that I did not say “begins”). The process of discipleship had already begun.
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The Apostles has been trained well. As people answered the call, they were organized into groups and continuously studied the Scriptures, learning how to know God and walk with Him on a daily basis. The Apostles applied Jesus’ Words, “teaching them”.
As the new disciples were learning God’s Word, ministry began to take place. Do you remember how Jesus took His disciples with Him daily so that they could see how He ministered and eventually join in with Him? The Apostles understood that and ministry began to happen daily. They did not have to go out and “look” for ministry opportunities. The opportunities appeared as they met with the new disciples daily, teaching them the Word of God.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe ; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.
Word spread quickly as people began to apply the Word of God to their daily lives. Coworkers began to notice a difference in the lifestyles of the new believers. Spouses saw the change. People were now filled with the Holy Spirit and walking with the Lord. The new disciples had been born again to a new way of life.
The results came and the Lord was the One who received the credit. He brought the new people in daily. How did He do it, practically speaking?
And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2)
I believe that it was through the transformation that was taking place in the lives of the new disciples. They were going home and back to work as different people. They were sharing, with enthusiasm, what God was doing in their lives through His Word. They had fresh truths to share daily, because they were learning God’s Word from the Apostles. Acts is still relevant, and things like this still happen today when we follow God’s plan as laid out in His Word. The Apostles stayed connected to the source and they taught the new disciples how to stay connected to the source. People were receiving the theory of God’s Word, challenged to apply It, and then motivated to practice what they were learning by sharing with others. Discipleship was happening, not a discipleship program, but genuine discipleship, the way that it was meant to be. As a missionary, this is my goal, to invest in others the way that Christ did, the way that the Apostles did, and watch God cause the growth as He opens more and more ministry doors.
IV. The value of one on one mentoring
Mentoring is almost a lost art in our Western world, yet if you open the Bible to any section, you will find mentoring taking place.
- Abraham and Lot, as well as Abraham and Isaac
- Jonathan and David
- Daniel’s parents and Daniel
- Mordecai and Esther
- Eli and Samuel
- Moses and Caleb
- Moses and Joshua
The list could literally go on and on, but we will stop here, for now, and shift our focus to Paul and Timothy.
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16)
Paul was on a mission for the Lord. He was a great missionary. As he was going and making disciples of the pagan Gentiles, he came across Timothy, a believer because of the example of his mother and grandmother. His father was a Greek and probably not a believer. Timothy was already walking with the Lord so Paul invited him to join in on what God was doing. Paul took Timothy under his wing and taught him how to minister, specifically, how to make disciples. Paul was taught directly by Jesus Christ and worked according to the discipleship plan that Christ modeled for us.
10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, (II Timothy 3)
I do not think that it is by chance that Paul begins the list with teaching. Jesus taught His disciples to make disciples by teaching them. Paul follows that example. When a person is taught God’s Word and counseled in application of the Word, his conduct, or, lifestyle changes. This is what we saw in Christ’s disciples and this is what we saw happening with the second generation disciples in Jerusalem. As we are taught and as we teach others the Word of God, this leads to a purpose in life, the ministry of making disciples. As we apply these truths, our faith grows right along with the ministry. As a missionary, this is your goal, to model growth in your own life and to help it come about in the lives of others. Are you doing that?
Paul takes it a step further. Once you have embraced the method of discipleship as a way of life and you are being transformed, you will want to invest in others. Here is how Paul states it:
2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2)
Timothy is to make disciple-making disciples. Timothy understood that and put what he had been taught into practice. The world is a different place because of it. The world was literally turned upside down by discipleship, one person being invested in, changing, and then investing in others. Could this happen today? Yes, and it still is, all over the world.
In conclusion, I would just like to ask you a few questions. Do you have a Paul in your life? Is there a person who is training you how to be a disciple? As you are being discipled, are you looking for a Timothy? This is what it means to be a missionary, being discipled and discipling others. Are you investing in the people in your own house, in your relatives, neighbors, coworkers ect. ? If not, then why are you not? May the Lord help us be ever ready to mentor others in this process of discipleship as laid out in God’s Word.