Our focus this year is on the Great Commission spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Of this, one person writes, “Christ commanded the church to make disciples. The command is the responsibility of the church, not simply a command for individuals.” In this call to duty, there is something that is often overlooked. Let’s look at what Jesus says.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
The progression Jesus uses is important to grasp: first there is need to make disciples; that is, learners and followers of Christ. Next, there comes the joy of relationship, becoming one with our God through baptism. Being cleansed of our sins, united in His death, burial and resurrection (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4) are just some of the marvelous things God does in that simple, yet profound event: But here is where the problem surfaces. What happens when we arrive at salvation: When, through God’s marvelous, redemptive plan, we cross that threshold between darkness and light, entering into the “kingdom of the Son of His love”? (Colossians 1:13)
According to Jesus, the process has more to it than that, for His desire for His children is to “observe all things that I have commanded you.” Why is this so important: Because our call to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) is akin to a race. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1) and we do this by fixing “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Paul explains it this way, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” (1st Corinthians 9:24-26) In this race, disciples should be striving to get the prize by going into strict training, focusing their attention on Jesus and His teachings.
One day, all of us want to repeat the words of Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2nd Timothy 4:7-8) May we who long for Him, run the race marked out for us, growing in Christ and encourage the world around to join in the race.