Every Christian is a disciple of Jesus. It’s our new identity. Our calling is to make disciples of Jesus. It’s our purpose and mission. When we live in our identity and live out our purpose, we are disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus. In short, we are disciple making disciples.
One of the great encouragements we have to live as disciple-making disciples is the powerful promises of God. They are God’s provision to keep us from living in unbelief. Have you ever considered how the Great Commission is sandwiched with the power and promise of Jesus?
Jesus begins, “All authority (power) in heaven and earth has been given to me.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Everything that ever existed or will exist is subject to Me. Nothing is too hard for me.” Therefore (“because I’ve made this provision FOR YOU”), go and make disciples. The power of Jesus entails a promise in making disciples that no heart is too hard, no sinners is so enslaved, no eyes are so blind that Jesus can, with a word, utterly and entirely save and transform their life. Let Saul of Tarsus enter your mind, or Lydia, or Matthew, or perhaps even your own life.
Jesus ends, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” There will be moments in living for Jesus that you feel all alone. Taking up your cross may mean laying down everything and losing everyone that liked the old you (not the one that makes much of Jesus). But Jesus, knowing the challenges we will face, gives us greater comfort to overcome those challenges. Internally, we experience the promise of Jesus through the witness of the Spirit who again and again testifies of our adoption into the family of God. When we proclaim the good news to sinners and face being ostracized, the same Spirit who empowers us to witness is the same one who comforts us with the adoption love of God, crying out “Abba, Father!” Externally, we experience the promise of Jesus through the good hand of our providential God. We know that God does all things well and orchestrates the events and circumstances of our lives for His glory and our good. Therefore, we can enter the unknown not having to know what the future beholds, but rather risk our lives in making disciples because the One who holds the future knows my name.
Let me give one other example of the promises of God for making disciples.
Think of the kindness of God that He would illustrate His promises through ordinary things we see every day. How often do you see birds in the air? How often do you see grass on the ground? Did you know that birds and grass are ours to see the promises of God? How different would our lives be if every time we say a bird or blade of grass, what came to our mind was, “Promise! Promise! Promise!”?
Yet when we are living with eyes of faith, we will indeed see it the way Jesus taught us. Could it be the reason we are not making disciples of Jesus is because we fail to believe the promises and power of God? Why were they given to us? According to Jesus, they were given so that we would not get preoccupied with our lives but rather the kingdom of God. Unbelievers worry about daily provisions of what they will eat and what they will wear. Disciples of Jesus have a heavenly Father who makes provision for these things, and His promise is that “all these things will be added unto you” when you “seek first the kingdom of God.” The promise that “all these things (the legitimate stuff that often keeps us from making disciples) will be added unto you” should liberate us to live sacrificially and single-mindedly in pursuit of the kingdom of God. And how often do we need to believe that promise? Every time we see a bird flapping in the air or a blade of grass blowing in the wind.
A failure to make disciples isn’t just disobedience to Jesus, but it is unbelief in the power and promises of God. The purpose of God for our lives (making disciples) was sandwiched between these two realities because they were intended to press down on our purpose and smother us with Jesus’ omnipotence and nearness. May God give us eyes of faith to see the world the way Jesus intended it and cause to join Him in the mission of seeing His kingdom come through the making of disciples through the power of His promises.
If you believe in the centrality of the gospel, you know that the good news of Jesus Christ is not just the door to the Christian faith, but it is the entire house. It is not only the entrance point but the pathway on which we walk our entire Christian life. Therefore, the journey of the Christian experience is growing more and more in the gospel.
There has been some discussion and even debate as to whether all the talk about the power and centrality of the gospel is neglecting the power and necessity of being filled with the Spirit. Are we talking about the gospel to the neglect of the Spirit’s working in our lives? Are we substituting the gospel for the Spirit when explaining how we operate as Christians in the world? I think those are valid questions, and I want to briefly attempt to answer the question in this post.
I am convinced that the overarching purpose of the Holy Spirit in the world is to magnify Jesus Christ. One of the most fundamental ways to know if you are filled with the Spirit is whether Jesus is being magnified and glorified in your life. That’s what the Spirit does. Jesus is magnified in the Gospel–because it is all about who He is and what He has done for sinners. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Spirit’s magnification of Jesus will be through sinners reveling more and more in the glorious gospel of our Lord.
That’s the logic I see in Scripture, but how does it work out practically?
God’s gospel is robustly Trinitarian. God the Father administrates salvation; God the Son accomplishes salvation; God the Spirit applies salvation. In His application of the gospel, the Holy Spirit brings us a true understanding of and genuine experience in the grace of Jesus Christ. Without the Spirit’s application, the gospel would not only be theoretical but our treatment would be at best superficial.
“To possess such a kingdom God had to
(1) prepare a body for the Son to be hypostatically united to (Heb. 10:5)
(2) anoint Him with the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34) in order to furnish Him with the requisite endowments for being a godly king (Isa. 11:3)
(3) publicly declare that Christ is King (Matt. 3:17; 17:5)
(4) give Him a sceptre of righteousness, put a sword in His mouth, and enable Him (as a Prophet-King) to reveal the will of God to mankind
(5) honor Christ with ambassadors and servants (Eph.4:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:20)
(6) grant to Christ the souls of men, not just Jews but Gentiles also (Ps. 2:8; John 17:6)
(7) give Him power to regulate the church according to divine law (Matt. 5; Col. 2:14)
(8) provide Him with power to judge and condemn His enemies (John 5:27)
(9) empower Christ to pardon sins (Matt. 9:6).
These privileges are give to the Son are given to Him as the God-man.”
- Edward Reynolds, An Explication of the Hundred and Tenth Psalm (London: Religious Tract Society, 1656), 6-7. Excerpted in A Purtitan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle edition), Loc 13792-13806.
Yesterday morning, Dr. Tom Nettles preached on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 at Grace, pointing out the significance of his name and offices. As a type of Christ, Melchizedek functioned as prophet (blessing Abraham), priest (of the Most High God), and king (of Salem). The offices of Christ and his role as mediator of the New Covenant is one of the richest topics for sustained meditation and gospel enjoyment.
But today, I thought about the spiritual perverseness of substituting myself in the role of being prophet, priest, and king of my own life. I know that sounds crazy, but if we are honest with ourselves, we are more prone to this manner of forgetting the gospel than we realize.
When I Am My Own Prophet
Jesus not only faithfully proclaims the truth, Jesus is the truth. Jesus not only gives us direct Word from God; Jesus is the Word made flesh. As the writer of Hebrews explains, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). Paul Tripp rightly notes that no one speaks to you more than you do; therefore, no one has more influence over your thoughts than you. Each and every day, we have the option to have Jesus as our Prophet, or we can speak things into our own lives in our self-salvation project.
When I am my own prophet, I am willing to believes half-truths or complete lies rather than the what God says about me in Christ. Is Christ words not enough? In the words of Joel Osteen, is it that I have to declare things over me, or is not what Jesus declares sufficient? If I am in Christ, I am to be defined by the Gospel word, having the good news as the most important and constant message that shapes my identity. When I am my own prophet, I foolishly substitute counterfeit messages that might comfort for the moment but cannot heal, pacify but cannot bring peace, help you cope but cannot save.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
In Jesus = peace
In the world = tribulation
Let’s invert the words of Jesus for a moment:
Outside Jesus = judgment
Of the world = acceptance
For those who are in Christ, there is peace with God (Rom. 5:1) because of the warrior king (I have overcome the world) who is to us, the prince of peace (Isa. 9:6). For those outside of Christ, there is judgment from God while there is acceptance with the world.
As I thought about this, I began thinking about all the songs from various artists that focus on world peace. The list of artists and musicians is a who’s who list for sure: Elvis, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, U2, The Eagles, and Michael Jackson. These are songs with lyrics like:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
- John Lennon
What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son…
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores
- Michael Jackson
Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights.
- Bob Marley
These men have written the songs of our age–an age desperately seeking peace in all the wrong places. The words of Jesus are a calibration to our course of living in the world. What we can expect from the world is not peace but tribulation. The world is groaning for redemption it cannot produce. Jesus is make all things new, and the kingdom inaugurated in his life, death, and resurrection is being established in the hearts of men who were once hostile in min and by nature children of wrath. Such men and women made new by Jesus, in whom we have enduring peace.
We need to correct our expectations so that we can have greater participation in the work Jesus has called us to do. Calibrated expectations will directs our efforts so that the peace the world is desperately longing for will be found in an old-rugged cross and empty tomb. Jesus has overcome the world so that we would enter into it with the gospel of peace.
LOVED this. Lyrical theology at its best.
What is hypostatic union? David Mathis (Desiring God) answers here.
Last Sunday, in my disciple-making training, we did a little excursion from our normal schedule to think about Christmas. As disciples of Jesus, we should seek to leverage every opportunity to make much of Him, including (or especially) the season of Advent. However, not everything is as “wonderful” this time of the year as we think. For many, it is the most stressful, demanding, and overwhelming time of the year, with challenges awaiting from all facets of life.
On a cultural front, we are constantly hearing news about the culture war, in particular how the tide of our culture is washing away any remnants of Christianity. Whether it be nativity scenes in the square, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, or the marginalization of Christmas carols that have anything to do with Jesus, each Christmas is another incoming tide of secularism in our country.
On a financial front, we are faced with the onslaught of consumerism. Covetousness is the fuel, and our credit cards are the engine. Materialism is king. The season begins with “Black Friday” and ends with bank statements of higher levels of debt. In the end, Christmas, especially for little children, is a season about me . . . and all the stuff that I think I deserve.
On a relational front, we are faced with potentially volatile situations when we gather in close proximity with relatives we usually don’t see throughout the year. Some have differences in traditions and particular ways Christmas is celebrated (or not). For others, debates and arguments may arise over things like politics or other preferences they are passionate about. Or, it could just be the awkwardness of the moments when you know you should be closer to one another than you really are, and you kinda just go through the motions, doubling down on your pretending, and anxiously await the absence of such awkwardness.
On a personal front, we are often faced with frustration and stress. We are busy with more shopping to do, more parties to attend, more food to cook, more people to entertain, more of just about everything. The intensity of the season leaves little room for margin to think about anything else than the next thing you have to do. For others, the personal complexities are filled with grief, sadness, and loneliness. For all the years together and traditions made with the ones you love, they have died, and each little moment brings back the memories once shared together and now seems like a constant stream of tears.