Making Disciples who Make Disciples — Part 2

Why make disciples?

The easy answer—and the most straightforward answer—to why we should make disciples is “because Jesus told us to do so.” I mean, that should be enough, shouldn’t it?

When you ask your 5-year-old to do something and he says to you, “why?” In a moment of parental exasperation, we say, “Because I told you to. That’s why!”

While this answer is true, it’s often not adequate. There’s more to the why question than a matter of simple obedience. The “why question” might be reframed into a “what question.”

What exactly is happening when a person becomes a disciple of Jesus?

And here we need to understand that every single human being on this planet—all who have ever lived and all who ever will live—every single one of us are born “on the wrong side of the tracks”—spiritually speaking.

The Bible teaches us that at one time we were all “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), and we were spiritually dead in our trespasses (Eph 2:5). Our sin had separated us from God so that there was a wall between us and God (Isa 59:1–2).

We all deserved God’s wrath to be poured out on us. We weren’t innocent—not one of us. We have earned his righteous wrath (Rom 6:23).

But God in his grace sent his Son into the world. His Son lived a perfect life. His Son was innocent in every sense of that word.

And then that innocent Son went to the cross to bear the penalty that we owed for our sin. As he died on that cross, he wasn’t dying for his sin—remember, he was innocent. No, he was dying for our sins. He was paying the price that we owe.

And then after he died, he was buried, and on the third day he rose victoriously from the grave and defeated even sin, death, and the devil.

So, let’s return to the original question. Why do we make disciples? Yes, we do it because God told us to, but more a important “big picture” answer. The reason we make disciples is because this is the way God rescues sinners from the punishment they deserve.

When you speak to “Unbelieving Bob” about Christ, and Bob turns from his sins and trusts in Christ, let me tell you what just happened. At that moment when Bob trusts in Christ, God rescued him from an eternal hell.

The reason we make disciples is because it’s God’s means of rescuing lost sinners into a relationship with him.

Do you know any sinners in need of rescue?


[I’m grateful for Colin Marshall and Tony Payne and their book, The Vine Project, available here. Many of the ideas in this series of blogs have come from this book.]

Making Disciples who Make Disciples — Part 1

What’s the main point of the Great Commission?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard countless sermons on the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18–20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”

But as much as we hear this passage preached, so many people still don’t really have a grasp on what the main point of this passage is.

Is the point of this passage the “authority” that Jesus has? He tells us that he has ALL authority in heaven and on earth—that’s a lot of authority! But, as important as that authority is, that’s not the main point of the passage.

So, maybe the main point is the “going.” Jesus tells us in verse 19 to “go” and make disciples. I know at least half of the sermons I’ve heard on this passage have made “going” the major thrust of this passage, but as important as “going” is, it isn’t the major thrust of the passage.

The word that’s translated, “go,” in the English is actually a participle in the original Greek language. Participles usually serve as adjectives and nouns, rarely (if ever) as main verbs, so we know this isn’t the major thrust of the passage.

There are two other participles in this passage. They are the words that are translated “baptizing” and “teaching.” Once again, “baptizing” and “teaching” are very important, but these things are not the main point of the passage.

In fact, in the Great Commission there’s only one command given. There’s only one thing which Jesus tells his followers, “DO THIS.” And that one thing is found in verse 19. Jesus tells us to “make disciples.”

Really, it’s that simple, friends. Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, his final command given to his disciples was to make more disciples.

Over the course of the next few blog posts, I’ll be unpacking what it means to make disciples who make more disciples.

Radical Individual Autonomy and Physician Assisted Suicide

It’s been a slow and steady progression, but little by little contemporary culture continues to chip away at the biblical notion of human dignity, and ironically enough, the method used to chip away at human dignity is radical individual autonomy. In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision gave the woman radical individual autonomy over the baby in her womb. No one could compel her to carry the baby to full term. It was her choice and her choice alone. In 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision gave individuals radical autonomy over whom they could marry. And today the LGBT movement promises radical individual autonomy even over one’s gender (or “perceived gender”). One’s gender identity has become sacrosanct.

Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is yet another example of radical individual autonomy. With PAS, individuals have radical autonomy over when and how they choose to die. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize PAS. Since that time, other countries have followed suit, along with five US States (California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington). The State Legislature of Maryland tried unsuccessfully as recently as this past March (2017) to pass PAS legislation, but the bill was thankfully defeated.

Christians must learn to think through this issue from a biblical worldview. How does the Bible help Christians when it comes to this important issue? PAS denies two equally important biblical realities. First, PAS denies that God is the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is not only the Creator of life (Gen 1:1), but he is the author of life. God alone has the authority to write the script of human life. He created human beings in his image (Gen 1:27) so Christians recognize the sanctity of all human life—from conception to natural death. Human beings have inherent dignity and worth. God has ultimate authority over life and death (1 Sam 2:6; Ps 139:16).

Second, PAS sees suffering as unprofitable, but this is not true. The author of Hebrews writes that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (5:18). The Apostle Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:28–29). Suffering, for the believer, serves the important purpose of conforming the believer into the image of the Son. Suffering is not pointless. Nor is suffering pointless for the unbeliever. Suffering points to the reality of sin and brokenness and to the need for healing and restoration that are ultimately found in Christ Jesus himself. There is much to profit from suffering.

But, some still argue, aren’t Christians supposed to have compassion? Isn’t that what Jesus modeled? True compassion is not found, as some suppose, in escaping suffering, but true compassion is found in recognizing that the Creator has a purpose for allowing suffering to be a part of one’s life (Rom 8:18ff; 2 Cor 4:7–12; 2 Cor 4:16–5:9). Part of that redemption involves making sure that pain and suffering are alleviated while the living still live, not by causing that life’s end.

Suffering itself is not anything new. Suffering has been a part of human life since Genesis 3. The Christian recognizes the reality of suffering in this broken world. Sin has thrown God’s good creation into chaos and God’s image bearers suffer as a result. But with advances in modern medicine, one need not turn to PAS to relieve suffering. Palliative care is a viable option for suffering. Compassion can and should be shown by providing palliative care to those who experience tremendous suffering.

Christians should be the first ones to recognize and decry suffering in this world, but even in the midst of suffering, Christians trust the hand of the all sufficient and benevolent Creator who has a purpose for everything he does. Christians must stand against the rise of radical individual autonomy that sees matters of life and death as individual choices. Christians should stand united against PAS as they recognize the value and dignity of all human life.