Summary: The death and resurrection of Christ give Him the authority to command us to disciple beyond superficiality, to reach even the marginal, and to have a global scope to our mission.
Somebody out there has a plan for your life. Somebody has a plan for the world you live in. Time and again I see evidence that there are those who believe that with enough planning, enough energy, and enough work, they will get you into their orbit. They have a plan for your life and for your world.
Some of these folks are the merchants who bombard the airwaves with advertisements. My radio keeps on blaring, on behalf of a tire manufacturer, "Sooner or later, you’ll own Generals" Sounds more like a threat than an ad, doesn’t it? "Sooner or later, you’ll own General Tires". This manufacturer seems to have sane sort of global plan to gobble up all the tire business.
Others are the ones with projections of the future, the ones who have figured out that by the year 2000 everyone will have to be computer literate, or have calculated that by the year 2020 the Social Security fund will be bankrupt; the folks who will tell you that in a few short years there will be no ozone layer, no whales, and no gasoline. I don’t know whether any of those things are true; but I do know that we are surrounded by people who have plans for our lives and for our world.
Even worse, there are those with grand ideas, grand plans to sell you and me and the whole world their ideas. Every now and again, some person comes along and announces an intention to conquer the world. It seems pretty frightening, this kind of person with a plan. Do you remember Hitler and his thousand-year-Reich? He had a plan for permanent world domination. Or the intention of imperial Japan to spread its empire across the Pacific? Or Communist Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the United Nations and shouting, "We will bury you?" There is nothing more frightening than people with plans for you and me and for our world, ideas that are designed to take us over. We don’t relish the thought of being taken over.
On this Independence Day weekend, you and I as Americans are reminded that we have fought and died against totalitarian systems; we have shed blood so that there could be individual, personal freedom; and we have created on this continent a land whose ideal it is that each person be free to live out his own sense of destiny. We as Americans fear people who have plans, big visions, for our lives and for our world.
And so, given all of this, what do you say to the command of Jesus to "Go and make disciples of all nations"? If we believe in personal freedom; if we foster the "live and let live" philosophy, then what do we do with Jesus’ insistence, "Go and make disciples of all nations"?
Is it really worth it to disciple everybody? Is it worth the cost, the effort, and the frustration to work at sharing the Christian faith with all persons everywhere? If you cannot stomach the Communists’ saying that they are out to dominate the world, what’s the difference when our Baptist Foreign Mission Board says that it wants to give every person in the world a chance to hear the Gospel by the year 2000? What’s going on here?
This is a fundamental part of the Christian message. This is a fundamental aspect of the mission of Christians and of the Christian church. So I want to make a preliminary statement about it, and then I want to break down Jesus’ word, "Make disciples of all nations". I’ll want to talk about making disciples; about making disciples of all; and then about making disciples of all nations.
Now first, I want you to notice that the essential reason why we as Christians are about the business of discipling all nations is simply that Christ commanded it. Is it worth it to disciple everybody? The Lord Christ commanded it, and that in and of itself ought to demand our attention and our obedience.
Notice how the Great Commission is introduced by Jesus. The scene comes at the very end of the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. By the time we get to the end of Matthew’s account, Jesus has gone to the cross to suffer and bleed and die; he has been raised from the dead; and he has appeared, more than once, to his followers. Now he is about ready to leave; he is preparing to turn over the redemptive task which he started. What do you hear Him say: "It would be nice if you would win some other people to this way of thinking?" "If you feel like it, and if it’s not inconvenient, and if you can work it in between bridge club and the tennis matches, how about telling somebody else what it’s like to be a Christian"?