It Starts Here

It Starts Here

“It Starts Here”
(Matthew 28:18-20)
Series: Disciples Who Make Disciples (1 of 7)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

Take your Bibles and join me in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 28 (page 672; YV).

We are embarking on a seven week journey through seven different passages that help us understand what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples. Every Christian is a disciple insofar as we are learners and followers of Jesus Christ. The essence of being a disciple is to be a learner and a follower of another person. We’re watching Him and learner from Him, endeavoring to be like Him in every way.

Picture the little boy who is mimicking his father. He sees his father stand tall, so he stands tall. He sees his father gesture with his hand (finger pointing) and he gestures the same way. His father speaks a certain way, the child tries to speak the same way. His father folds his arms, he folds his. But he is always watching, always imitating, always desiring to be like his father.

Christians look to Jesus. And we imitate Him. We walk as He walked, we listen to Him and do as He says, we speak His words. And we point others to Him. Our discipling others is largely our saying, “Come and follow me as I follow Him.” As Paul said to the church in Corinth, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).”

And we are following Him on a journey. Our lives are a journey of following Him and inviting others to come along as we follow.

This passage at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 28. It’s easy to find because it’s the last words of Jesus in the chapter, in the Gospel. Verses 18-20. Jesus has risen from the dead and some 40 days later He meets with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Because of what the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:6 there may also be about 500 other people there on that mountain that day as Jesus speaks to the crowd. Let’s read what He says.

Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 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,
20 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.” [Amen.]

Please be seated.

Usually it’s what we say last to our loved ones that we want them to remember most. If we’re leaving their house and traveling a great distance, or they are leaving us, we think about what we say last as we’re packing up the car, walking out for the last time to the driveway, or hugging them at the gate of the airport. We tell them we love them and we impart some last message of hope or instruction.

And Jesus does the same here as He embarks on His journey upward to the right-hand of the father. His ascension. Just before leaving, He speaks these words, the words of our text that we just heard. These words the “Great Commission.” As His followers, these are the words Jesus wants ringing in our ears!

“…Make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”

Our church’s vision statement captures these words. We have long identified the importance of our cherishing the Word, sharing the Gospel, strengthening the family, and so on. And these actions are not an end in themselves. Cherishing the Word, serving the community, and so on, these actions are a map. A map we use to get us where we’re going. And where we are going is our church’s vision. We exist to fulfill this Great Commission of our Lord Jesus. We exist to develop generations of God-glorifying Disciples Who Make Disciples from the community to the continents. Let’s see this on the wall:

Vision Statement: “We exist to develop generations of God-glorifying Disciples Who Make Disciples from the community to the continents.”

But how do we get there? How do we fulfill our church’s vision, how do we fulfill our Lord’s commission, His great commission to us? Well, it all starts here with this passage. This text, verses 18-20. The answer to our fulfilling the Great Commission—and consequently our church’s vision—is found right here in this passage of Scripture.

This is why our seven-week study on discipleship begins here. Today’s message is largely introductory and we are laying the groundwork for the following weeks by studying the foundational passage on discipleship. So let’s put a magnifying glass over this passage, look at it a little more closely, and learn some truths from it.

I want to share three encouraging truths for every single one of us who is a learner and follower of Jesus. First, number one:

We Make Disciples with an Authority from the Lord (18)

We don’t recruit and train learners and followers of Jesus in our own strength. We don’t drum up this supernatural energy and empowerment from within ourselves. We’ll never succeed in spiritual endeavors by relying upon our own strength and authority.

We may as well try to fly to Florida by flapping our arms and jumping into the air as we would hope to make disciples, followers of Jesus in our own strength, power, and authority. This need for empowerment explains why Jesus says first what He says in verse 18. Look at it again:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He tells them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Why does He say that? Well, because in the next breath, verse 19, He’s going to tell them how that authority will be used. As these disciples go and make other disciples, disciples making disciples, they will do so under the authority and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This authority was given to Jesus by the Heavenly Father. Jesus says in verse 18, “All authority.” How much authority? All. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” That’s everything because that’s everywhere! Jesus has authority and power over everything. He is in control of all things. All things. This is why we rightly call Jesus, “Lord.” Because He has authority and power over heaven and earth.

Jesus controlled the sunrise this morning. He will also control the sunset tonight. Jesus controls the rainfall, the snowfall, and the wind that blows across the Ohio River. Jesus controls the air that you breathe. He controls the blood that courses through your veins. He is in control of your family, your job, your school, your struggles, your and your weaknesses. He has the power to calm you, carry you, and complete you. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth.

And this authority includes life and death. In praying to the Heavenly Father, Jesus says in John 17:2, “You have given (the Son) authority over all flesh [including, then, the destinies of all mankind], that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”

Jesus has authority over the eternal destiny of every single person in the world. This is precisely why Jesus makes the statement here in Matthew 28, verse 18, because Jesus wants to use you and me in telling others how they can receive eternal life. Jesus wants us to understand that when we share the Good News with people in Henderson this week—and with family members in your house, with neighbors next door, with the sales clerk at Sureway—you are doing so under the authority and power of the Lord.

This is similar to something Bryan Bennett taught last Sunday evening in his message from 2 Corinthians. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Paul says as Christ’s disciples who make disciples of others, we are like ambassadors from another country. We go in the authority of another, we represent Him. We don’t have any authority apart from the One who grants us authority. We act in His authority. We speak in His authority. As we go, inviting others to follow us as we follow Him, we do so in the authority of another, an authority from the Lord.

See, that’s what’s encouraging about this! You say, “Well, I could never do this,” yes you can because you’re not doing it! God does this in and through you. You say, “I’m not a natural-born teacher.” Well, you don’t need to have mastered the Bible or know all the answers to the finer nuances of Christian theology. You’re simply saying, “follow me as I follow Him” and you are modeling what it looks like to be a learner and a follower.

Disciple-making is relational, not just informational. It’s not just information, but imitation.

Most of you learned to fish not by attending a mass lecture on fishing. You gathered together in a large assembly like this and someone said, “Here’s how to fish!” That’s not how you learned. You learned from your dad, your mom, a grandfather, an uncle. Someone took you, just the two of you, and showed you how to bait a hook, how to cast the line, how to catch that fish and reel it in. It was a one-on-one moment. That’s discipleship.

Disciple-making is relational, not just informational. It’s not just information, but imitation.

That’s why we sometimes say, “Discipleship is something that is caught more than taught.” You see it modeled and you follow the example. You get it. You catch it and you pass it along to others.

You guys who learned how to tie a necktie, did you learn by attending a lecture? Someone said, “Now open your tie book and follow along as I share.” No, someone stood next to you and said, “Do this,” and you did that. “Now, do this” and you did that. They showed you by example. Follow me as I follow Him. That’s it.

Who can’t do that? Who can’t invest in one person and say, “Follow me as I follow Him?” Moms can do that with their children, dads to their sons and daughters, Christians pouring into a neighbor, a co-worker, a fellow student in school, a new member of your small group Sunday school class.

See, there is a disciple-maker deep down in every one of us! There is!

So before we go any further, let’s pause and ask for God’s help, let’s go to the One who has all authority, and enables us to do what we do in His authority. Let’s go to God and pray as we embark on this seven-week journey.

Pray: “Father, we thank You for giving Your Son Jesus. We ask that You would help us by way of Your Holy Spirit to be disciples who make disciples of others. During these seven weeks, help us to see that there is a disciple-maker deep down in every one of us. Give us a love for investing in others, pouring into others, saying to others, ‘Follow me as I follow Him.’ In Jesus’ name, amen.”

We make disciples in an authority from the Lord. Second truth:

We Make Disciples as our Responsibility to the Lord (19-20a)

Disciple-making is the responsibility of every Christian. Not just apostle, prophets, evangelists, and pastors, and teachers, but all Christians. Remember that Jesus is speaking this last words, the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus is saying this to all the disciples—all the folks gathered together there on that mountain to see Him off into the sky. Look at it again in verses 19 and following, there in verse 19, Jesus says to all His followers, verse 19:

19 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,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…

Jesus is not speaking exclusively to pastors. He is not even speaking exclusively to some select believers who will be considered the elite disciple-makers of the church! He is speaking to every follower, every learner.

Did you know that the word “Christian” occurs only three times in the Bible? Just 3 times. But the Greek word that’s translated disciple, the word that means learner, is used 261 times! Jesus speaks to every learner, every follower. He tells each and every one of us that it is our responsibility to make disciples.

By the way, what what does disciple-making entail? We have said that discipleship is not just information, but imitation. But hat information is involved in making disciples?

Disciple-making involves everything in verses 19 and 20, leading a person to faith in Christ, seeing that they are baptized correctly, baptizing them in the name—singular—one God, baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons of the Godhead; one God, three Persons. And each of these persons is now very personal to us. He is now our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God now lives personally within us. What joy! We’re having a baptism tonight, by the way.

So baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and verse 20: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” So the Bible must be taught.

The Bible is taught in big group and small group, but that it not enough to teach the “all things our Lord has commanded.”

We must read the Bible daily to grow and become strong and we must teach the Bible to others.

We must mentor and disciple believers, new and old. Every one of us is involved in this teaching process. The pastor is not the one to whom Jesus is speaking exclusively.

Jesus is addressing all of His followers here. He is saying that all Christians are to be involved in this “teaching others to observe all things that He has commanded us.” Every one of us is a disciple-maker and every one of us is to teach others what we have learned.

You have information and experiences that you can pass along to others. You can invest in others. You can visit others, pray for others, encourage others. By focusing upward and outward you not only become a blessing to other Christians, but you become an example to them. They follow your Christ-like leadership.

“Go and make disciples of all the nations.” The word “Go” there is a present participle, probably best translated as “going” or, “as you go along.” This underscores the importance of incidental discipleship. Every Christian is a disciple-maker and every one of us has opportunities to disciple others today as we go about the day. We will rub shoulders with people everywhere this week, people in whom we can invest, people to whom we must share Jesus. It happens incidentally, as we are going.

“As you go along.” Making disciples is just part of being a Christian, a learner and follower. We say to others, “Imitate me as I also imitate Christ. Follow me as I follow Him.”

So discipleship is not a program. It’s not an hour of teaching on a Sunday evening. Remember years ago when churches called the 5 o’clock hour “Discipleship Training?” I mean, good stuff was going on then, but that’s not all that’s involved in making disciples. Discipleship is not just information, but imitation. It is, “As you go, as you go along.” Discipleship is a lifestyle, a life-long learning and multiplying process.

Think about who you are discipling. Is there anyone? If you had to write down a name or two of folks you were discipling, could you do that? At this point, I just want us to think about it.

Before we look at this last truth from the text, be encouraged to know that beginning in March our Sunday school classes in adults and students, we will be going through a curriculum on discipleship. We’ll be going through this great Lifeway resource called, “The Journey.” It’s a great Sunday school resource, a study on what it means to develop disciples who make even more disciples.

And we’re also going to be handing out helpful resources during our Sunday morning worship services in the next few weeks. Our staff and volunteers have been busy putting together helpful material that will empower us and aid us in making disciples.

For example, here is a simple “Growth Guide” (hold up) which helps us in just having a conversation with another person about following Jesus. You just sit down with the person and kind of “find out where they are.” Have they prayed and received Christ? Do they know the Gospel? Have they been baptized, and so on. You can just talk with them and help them along the way. It is a growth guide.

Then, there’s this piece on “How to Study the Bible,” “How to write your testimony.” And more recently, this 21-day devotional called, “First Steps.” This 3 week daily devotional takes a person from the beginning of trusting Jesus and walks them through all the spiritual benchmarks of spiritual growth, including baptism, how to join our church here, and how to have a Daily Quiet time.

So in the weeks to come, we’ll be making these available to you so that each of you can take one home and get familiar with it. Like giving you tools you can practice with as you build and develop and make disciples.

Alright, let’s get to the third encouraging truth as we conclude our study of Matthew 28. We have noted that we make disciples with an authority from the Lord, we make disciples as our responsibility to the Lord, now thirdly:

We Make Disciples in the Security of the Lord (20b)

20 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.”

He is the God who is with us always. He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). He really draws attention to this truth so as to encourage us. He says, “Lo,” I am with you always.

I think I’ve shared before with you about my pastor back home in Georgia. A friend of mine was a pilot and offered to take Brother Charles up in his plane for a ride. My pastor wasn’t too crazy about heights and said to him, “No, I won’t be going with you up in that plane. Jesus says, ‘Low, I am with you always!’”

Well, of course, this is not “Low–L-o-w,” but Lo–L-o.” It means, “Behold,” or, “Look, here,” or, “Pay attention, this is important!” Jesus means to draw attention to this wonderfully encouraging fact, that through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, He is with us always.

Had Jesus remained on earth He would not have been able to say this. In His earthly body, He was only physically with certain people at certain times. Now, Jesus Christ is present, right now, with every single Christian. How? By way of the Holy Spirit who resides within us.

So when you go about your disciple-making this week you do not go alone. When you share your testimony at the office or on the assembly line, you are not alone when you speak. The Lord Jesus is with you always. What an encouraging truth!

Hey listen everyone: every single one of us in this room, we each of us is either a present disciple or a future disciple. That’s it. Every one of us is in one of those two categories.

We’re all either present disciples or future disciples. We’re all either following Jesus or we’re not following Jesus. If we are learners and followers of Christ, we are disciple-makers. We are disciples who make disciples.

We make disciples with an authority from the Lord, we make disciples as our responsibility to the Lord, and we make disciples in the security of the Lord. So let’s get to it this week! Think about the folks around you, who you can invest in, pour into, say to: “Follow me as I follow Him.”

If you’re not a disciple of Jesus, I’m inviting you to follow Him right now.

Turn to Him. He is Lord. Turn away from sin and self and turn to the Savior. He loves you, wants to forgive you, and give you life, eternal life. Follow Him in salvation, baptism, and church membership.

Let’s pray.

Respond now however the Lord is leading you, to join this church, to come for baptism, to come trusting Jesus and be saved. Come as we sing, “Lord, Here am I.”

“Lord, Here am I”

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