Summary: Jesus commanded His disciples to "teach everything I have commanded you." But, what exactly does that entail?
OPEN: Charles Paul Conn tells of the time when he lived in Atlanta. He noticed in the Yellow Pages, in the listing of restaurants, an entry for a place called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused his curiosity and he dialed the number. A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!" He asked how the restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and the man at the other end said: "Well, we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of God Grill."
APPLY: Jesus said: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Exactly, what is it we should teach them???
I. Some believe we should teach new converts a set of rules. “Do this,” “do that,” “do these things,” “fulfill this list” - and you’ll please God.
Back in the early 1900’s there was something called the “Holiness movement.” It was well intentioned and grew out of a rising realization that people of that day had grown too casual in their relationship with God. People were out partying late on Saturday nights, engaging in gambling, wearing inappropriate attire to church, and so on.
Several leaders got together and determined that a set of guidelines was required to make Christians more responsible in their behavior. Rules included items like: women were to only wear dresses, no card playing was allowed and no dancing was permitted.
Like I said, they were well intentioned attempts to bring a lax community of believers into line. However, these rules led to a spirit of judgmentalism. Those who broke with these man made regulations were considered unspiritual, ungodly, and were even removed from church rolls. The Holiness movement at times confused manmade rules for God’s word.
That’s what happened to the Pharisees. They were masters at creating rules that modified rules that they had made to improve on other rules.
Commenting on this, Jesus declared: “’They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:7-8)
When this kind of “rule making” mentality takes hold, people begin to judge and condemn others. James 4:11 warns us: “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”
That’s why, for years, the Churches of Christ have been suspicious of creeds and books of doctrine. Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t fall into the same trap. It’s just that we know that this practice has destroyed better people than us.
Every church has standards that they try to set intending to respect and honor God. But we should always be aware of the difference between “thus saith the Lord” and “thus saith us.”
II. Other churches believe they should teach new converts morals and social responsibility. That they should be nice people. There’s not a thing wrong with that… except when these teachings become an end in themselves.
There are churches across the US that focus on social programs and social problems. I knew of a church out East that put on a play about the rain forests and how we should save them… as part of the worship service. Rain forests are important, but…
And then there are Churches that (for example) embrace either Republican or Democratic politicians and allow them to preach their agenda from that congregation’s pulpit. Political involvement is important, but…
I’m not about to say that Churches shouldn’t be socially involved. It’s just that these matters should not be our main focus. OUR MAIN FOCUS is found in Matthew 28:18-20 = make disciples, baptize them, and teach that which “Jesus” commanded. During His ministry, Jesus rarely spoke social problems or political conflicts. Instead Jesus focused on the believer’s personal responsibility, and personal obedience to God.
The problem with “socially conscious” churches is that they are often worried more about what THEY consider important – rather than what God does. And there lies the rub.
III. So, what are we to teach new converts??? Scripture would be a good idea.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.