Among the last words Jesus gave His followers are those known as “The Great Commission.” He instructed His followers to, “Go into all the world and make disciples of the nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them.” It is obvious believers have failed to fulfill the Great Commission because of a Great Omission. We have gone forth preaching and proclaiming the Gospel, but not necessarily teaching the importance of becoming disciples of Jesus. Too often we have omitted the truly weightier matters of the Word. Christians are failing to grow in the grace they were born into and do not live under the influence of this transforming power in the here and now.
Jesus told perhaps the most religious person He ever encountered, Nicodemus, he would never enter heaven (future) or have life now unless he was “born from above.” Jesus was describing a supernatural birth. The result of this spiritual birth creates in the heart a desire to be fruitful. Any lack of desire on the part of professing church members to be fruitful is a legitimate reason to “examine yourself whether you be of the faith.” Believers are misguided when they try to be like other church members rather than holding on to Jesus.
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:3-8)
There is no clearer evidence of spiritual birth than the desire to know and please our heavenly Father.When born again believers are challenged to become Christ-like, there is a supernatural witness within their heart. The garden of God longs for the light of His presence and the water of His Word necessary to be fruitful. Pastors and church leaders must encourage this desire.
We have substituted the commission to “make disciples” with “making church members.” Membership has been substituted for relationship. People are misled into becoming part of an organization rather than part of a living organism – the church, the very Body of Christ. The light of God’s glory, grace and truth is consistently hidden by conformity, comfort and compromise. Without question, far too many professing to be Christians have substituted “going to church” for “being the church.”
In recent days as God has made me more aware of Kingdom reality, power and presence, I have become equally aware of the importance of discipleship. I have never been attracted to religious people who have become like one another, but not necessarily like Christ. It has been easy for me to observe when I am guilty of the tendency or witness in others the futility and foolishness of “measuring ourselves among ourselves and comparing ourselves” by this incorrect standard and living being “void of understanding.” I have always been turned off by lifeless, religious activity. The standard has been set too low. Too often we have settled for at least being as committed to our faith as other church folks we observe. Even in people who are gifted and highly effective, it is the Giver of the gift and Jesus being exalted that attracts me. I am attracted to Jesus in the lives of those who profess faith.
I have seldom used the word “disciple” because it sounds too much like discipline. It sounds like another rigid, religious system of rule keeping and an attempt at mere sin management. I do realize the importance of necessary self-denial and commitment to obedience that doesn’t come naturally. The very term “disciple” is often equated to some kind of serious regimen like daily workout routines, lifting weights, or jogging a few miles in order to live up to an expected standard. I think this was an effective tactic of the enemy to keep me from understanding the indescribable and meaningful result of spiritual disciplines.
I am discovering something now as I recognize what I referred to in a previous commentary as “spiritual gravity.” The weight of God’s presence when acknowledged has an amazing, transforming affect. Let me give you some examples: I am naturally impulsive and impatient. I can quickly respond to what I consider to be foolish behavior or inappropriate actions and quickly put someone in their place – “straighten them out,” so to speak.
What is happening now in my life even beyond Holy Spirit correction and conviction is Kingdom presence making me aware that I am living in the shadow of the Almighty. Disregarding or disobeying a direct command of the Lord is defying far more than natural gravity. I would be literally bowing my neck against the liberating truth of God. I am becoming increasingly aware of not only the weight of God’s presence, but the value of His principles and precepts as well as the beauty of His promises. When people offend me, I am experiencing the supernatural ability to just forgive. I don’t even have to think about it. It’s automatic. It is like breathing. In the past, the Holy Spirit would have to convict and correct me for the feelings that were rising up inside. Of course this is appropriate and is part of growing in Kingdom reality – becoming a disciple. The Holy Spirit is guiding me to the fact that Christ’s character can actually be shaped in us. As Paul said, “We are changed from glory to glory.”
God’s transforming grace is lifting me above the normal response into supernatural living. When living rooted and grounded in love and truth, I am bearing fruit without even having to think about it. The God-consciousness has become so overwhelming; I am witnessing expressions of patience of which I have none naturally. This is part of the fruit of the Spirit and necessary in the lives of true disciples of Christ. As God’s Kingdom presence shapes my character, I am experiencing joy, peace and patience in the very middle of storms and challenges. I am actually learning to “count it all joy when I come into trials.” This sounds crazy, but the fact is, it is spiritual reality. The weight of God’s presence and glory shape our character. This is possible for everyone who will trust and obey.
I am asking God to help me inspire all believers to become disciples, to become Christ-like. Let’s work to be good apprentices of Christ, not just good Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics or whatever. The grace of God will enable us to become expressions of the Christ life. We are invited to live continually with awareness of His presence. I know pressure can drive us into the presence of God, but I want the invitation to live in His loving Presence to draw me. God uses both, but we should all prefer to be drawn to God rather than driven to God.
This is His promise: When the glorious pursuit of His holiness becomes our passion, it will then become the full expression of who He is in the here and now. If each one of us will seek His will and obey His commands faithfully, the very Word we often carry to church in our hand will be hidden in our heart and begin to carry us. The Christ living in us will be revealed first to us and then through us.
I have been on this faith journey for over 50 years and I am telling you it is getting more exciting every day! The very thought that the difficulties and challenges I have faced and the areas where I have failed or missed the mark can be overcome by the power of His majesty is exciting beyond words! This is what He promised, not as mere wishful thinking or some vague future possibility, but present reality. True disciples will make a Kingdom imprint in every area of life on this earth.
I am blessed to share life with a true disciple, and the disciple’s name is Betty. She was a dedicated church girl, but came to realize membership is not relationship. On a Sunday morning she came down out of the choir (robe and all) and dropped down on her knees. She gave her life to the Jesus who gave His life for her. She was born from above and from that moment determined to follow Jesus. The enemy assaulted her with fear and insecurity, but God delivered her and filled her to overflow with His Spirit. I watch as every day she seeks to become more like Jesus. On more than one occasion I have asked her, “Why are you so determined to be good and always please God in every way?” She said, “Because good is good, right is right, and obeying Him is life.” Betty is such an inspiration because with all her heart she desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is beautiful to behold.
We fell in love with Jesus and one another while we were teenagers. We may not have known how to describe the longing in our hearts, but it was to be His disciples. We are learning more about what this means every day. Please pray for us and be assured we are praying for you that together we will inspire believers to overcome the Great Omission and fulfill the Great Commission.