THE GREAT COMMISSION SERIES PART I
-Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I came to a place where I desired to do all that God wanted me to do, so I realized that I needed to examine myself and ask myself some questions: Am I a disciple of Christ? Do I desire to win the lost to Christ? Am I winning the lost to Christ? Am I spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? These questions arose in my mind at different times and over a span of time. The Lord was faithful to answer them all and to show me the way. If the answer to any of these questions was “No”, then I prayed that the Lord would change those answers to “Yes” by working in me and in my life to equip me. I still ask myself these questions.
Obstacles – Understanding and Communication
The prophet Isaiah tells us that “all our righteousness are as filthy rags.” Even our righteous acts are tinged with sin and carnality, so we must be careful about how we communicate and what’s coming through us. There are times when we, as Christians, will experience righteous anger. Many times, it is because we have come face to face with some form of wickedness. Even then, if we are to be effective at doing what God has called us to do, we must train ourselves to communicate like Jesus--not saying that we must speak exactly like him because we are all unique but that we must have the same foundation and end goal: love and winning the lost to Christ, respectively. Oftentimes it is the experience of being brought low, humbled, and then loved back to wholeness by Christ that transforms our hearts. It is from this place of humility that good words and right delivery come forth. We understand that it is from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Whatever is in our heart will find its way to our tongue and through our lips. A heart made humble and then made whole is a great foundation for effective communication with lost, broken, and hurting people. If I could go back to do it again, I would not go the route of being made humble. I would humble myself before God and yield to His desires for my life. This journey would have been much, much easier. Experience with being brought low is only one path toward effective communication. Humbling ourselves before God in prayer and asking for the right tools to win the lost is the better way; take it from someone who knows. He will bless those who seek His kingdom with whatever they ask for in Jesus’ name. He wants to equip us to win the lost to Christ and to spread the Gospel.
When I was regularly making contributions to the sin in this world, Christians, who in hindsight were probably righteously angry at me, were SUPER annoying to me. However, many of their prayers for me and their investments in me probably helped me more than I ever realized. Though their attitudes toward me and communication with me left something to be desired, I’m still thankful for them—especially now that I’ve walked in their shoes. I see now that I sensed self-righteousness in their delivery though I did not recognize what it was back then. They did the best they could. BUT, when I met Jesus. . . HALLELUJAH!! My God! He was so kind toward me, gentle with me and much more accepting of me than anyone I had ever known. He loved me and guided me like I had never been guided before. He corrected me gently and even when He had to give me a good dose of stern correction or a sharp rebuke, I still felt His love. His style of communication and correction could hardly be confused for condemnation or a prideful rebuke because its basis was LOVE. Oh, how I long to communicate like that with the lost and with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Basis – Why does He Set Boundaries for Us? Why does He correct us or rebuke us?
Oftentimes we are not as effective at winning the lost as we could be because we either forget or are ignorant of the truth about the basis for God’s boundaries and correction, which again, is His great love for us. Sometimes we point to scripture as the biblical basis for us to correct others which is great, but we oftentimes forget the foundation on which scripture was written. If we are thoughtful, intentional, and careful about our words, like the Lord advises us to be, we are more likely to remember the basis for God’s scripture before we speak, and it might change how we communicate. In fact, I believe that it WILL change how we communicate. Imagine opening a conversation with a person who you believe is in need of Godly correction and starting it off by saying, "Do you know why God says it's not okay for you to behave that way? Do you understand why he put these boundaries in place for you and for me?" Just imagine the type of response we might get. Just imagine the hearts that would be open to hear about God's love. Some believe that the "why" does not matter. I disagree. Too often we attempt to use scripture to correct others before we truly understand the Love of God. The catch here is that we don’t always understand the love of God until we’ve been through a storm. I’ve been there—quoting right scripture in the wrong spirit and operating in ignorance as to how much God truly loved me. The result: little to no effect on whoever I was talking to. Eventually, I got tired of hearing myself talk at people while the people around me were, for the most part, unaffected. I could tell my words did not carry much weight. Although I thought my heart was in "the right place", I could tell that my words did not hold power. Perhaps my head was in the right place (knowledge), but my heart was not. You see, I was afraid to offend so I hid behind scripture. I was afraid to be myself and was ashamed of my past behavior and that someone might bring it up. At the same time, I was judgmental of people who were suffering from some of the same afflictions that I had suffered. I was a coward and critique at the same time. It was a mess—a hot mess. I didn’t know what I was doing because I didn’t spend much time in the Word of God getting to know His character. I didn’t even really know my own character because I was not in the practice of examining myself. In essence, I was operating in a spirit of dishonesty because I was not willing to face the truth about myself. I didn’t know much of anything, but I sure thought I knew a lot because I was saved and because I went to church regularly. I was all over the place. I was learning, and I was trying to do what I thought God wanted me to do. However, I lacked any significant power to affect change because I didn’t have love, humility, or a right understanding. I was operating from a place of religious duty and self-righteousness, not of love and truth.
Keys to Effectiveness
It was not until I began to understand God’s love for me that I understood His love for others. Understanding God’s love for me broke me free from every single chain that kept me bound. Today, I am no longer ashamed of me, or hypercritical of others. I am no longer concerned about how people perceive me. I am no longer resistant to submitting to authority. I am free indeed. I am out of harm’s way. With this freedom comes a boldness to be truthful about who I am and where I am in my walk. I feel no pressure to pretend or to please anyone other than my Lord. Now, not only can I communicate more effectively with the lost and help them to see the Lord, but I can actually enjoy the life God has blessed with me. No, it’s not all peaches and cream or always easy, but it IS GOOD.
I would love to say that “with every fiber of my being” I long to be effective at serving the Lord and leading people to Christ. That sounds so poetic and deep. I actually wanted to say that here. But, if I’m honest, I must acknowledge that some of the fibers of my being are lazy and want to do what they want to do. Sometimes they want to sleep, sometimes they want to play around outside. Sometimes they want to indulge in the spiritual junk food that’s on the worldwide web, and sometimes the fibers of my being just want to steal away into my prayer closet and spend hours with God and in His Word. My fibers don’t always want to do the work of pursuing the lost effectively. Sometimes my fibers don’t want to do any work at all. But God. He motivates me daily. He has given me His Holy Spirit and His Word that encourage me and comfort me when I feel overwhelmed or burdened by what He requires of me. He keeps my adversary in check and He blesses me with this wonderful, wonderful joy. He helps me to be honest with myself and to quickly apologize and ask for forgiveness when I have wronged someone. He frees me from taking on the burden offense.
Receiving God’s love, getting set free from all kinds of bondage, learning how to love Him back, learning about Him, about His character, has helped me to better communicate with the lost. God sends people to me often now. I’m always so honored when He does this because I know that He trusts me with them. There’s no feeling like knowing that the Father has confidence in you and trusts you with His children. I am praying that each of you is experiencing or will experience that same feeling on your journey as you endeavor to do your very best on the assignment you've been given.
I have prayed that Part I of this series will bless you. Please chime in with discussion in the comment section below!