Last Sunday was our final sermon in the four-part “Paul & series”. The series focused on what we consider to be our “family traits”—the essential qualities that we hope characterize the people of Damascus Road Church. I say hope because we’re sinners and will, until we die, consistently fall short of God’s glory. In other words, we will never perfectly exemplify these traits as we ought; in this life they are disciplined pursuits we aim to mature in as the gospel goes deeper into our hearts.
In the past four weeks, we examined what these traits looked like in the various relationships the apostle Paul had with others. From Paul & Barnabas we learned how the gospel transforms us into an encouraging people; a people devoted to helping others hope in the cross in our failures and to boast of the cross in our successes. From Paul & Peter we learned how the gospel transforms us into an admonishing people; a people who fear God more than men, a people convinced that the power to change a heart rests with God’s Word. From Paul and Rufus’ mom we learn how the gospel transforms us into a loving people; a genuine family who takes responsibility to fulfill our roles in loving those in our care.
Finally, we have the relationship between Paul and Timothy. From this relationship we learned that the gospel transforms us into a discipling people. Community for the sake of community, or gathering together simply for friendship, even support, is not the primary mission of CHURCH. While these things are necessary to an effective mission, according to Jesus, we have something more to do than gather together each week to encourage one another to love Jesus and admonish one another when we don’t . He spelled out the mission quite plainly to his disciples before he ascended to heaven:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.19-20
Paul gave his life in obedience to this command. He did not do this because it was popular, easy, or comfortable. He followed to his death because he, like the disciples who dropped their nets, believed that LIFE was found in knowing Jesus AND in making him known–and no where else! And, in this final letter (2Timothy) to a young disciple of his own, he tells Timothy that he must do his part to make more disciples–to carry on the mission of God. The conclusion that we must all individually, and corporately, come to is that there are a lot of things we CAN do as people, as Christians, and as churches. But there is one thing we MUST all do–make disciples. If we do not believe that making disciples is our primary role while we still breathe then, at some level, we do not believe Jesus. And at the heart of our refusal to obey the Great Commission is a personal unbelief in the gospel. Our attitudes and behaviors reveal that either we do not love the gospel as the one source of life OR we do not love people enough to share that source with them. We are ashamed of Jesus.
When, by grace, we are made alive, we are also made ambassadors of that life! We are each uniquely called to play a role in the mission of God. Every Christian, young and old, is all called to fight like soldiers, to run like athletes, to work like farmers–not just to be “Christians”– TO MAKE DISCIPLES. Granted, we do not all fight the same style, run the same speed (or form), or farm the same kinds of crops the same way. But I know, as do you, the difference between a fighter and a citizen, a runner and a spectator, or a farmer and a consumer.
The question is now IF we should obey Jesus’ command, but HOW we individually will endeavor to do so.