By Eric Newton
Everyone from Aldi to Dick’s Sporting Goods to the local chess club seems to have a mission statement these days. Someone on a mission focuses on a preeminent goal and sets aside peripheral matters. Think of a runner setting aside all weight that would hinder his progress in the race. Or a soldier who refuses to be entangled with civilian activities so that he can focus on war.
While mission statements are modern, living for an ultimate goal isn’t. The original eleven disciples lived missionally. In Twelve Ordinary Men John MacArthur writes,
“They certainly struggled with pride and arrogance like every fallen human being. But the driving passion of their lives became the glory of Christ. And it was that passion, subjected to the influence of the Holy Spirit—not any innate skill or human talent—that explains why they left such an indelible impact on the world.”
To put it simply, the disciples obeyed the Great Commission. They took Christ at His word.
It’s no different for us. Sometimes we wrestle with a call to missions, but the question isn’t whether or not we should go. The question is whether or not we’re going to obey and honor God. We shouldn’t read the imperative at the end of Matthew conditionally, like a Mission Impossible script: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .” Jesus commands us, “As you go, make disciples.”
This doesn’t mean God calls everyone to move time zones. Perhaps your disciplemaking mission is on the very street where you currently live. But we have to reckon with the reality that the Great Commission is God’s will for all of us.
How do we know this command to a few people on a mountain nearly two thousand years ago applies to us in this zany, contemporary world of ours? Several aspects of these verses clearly indicate that the Great Commission is for us. One of the prominent features of Matthew’s final paragraph are the universal statements.
In other words, as long as Christ has authority and people need discipled and the commands of Christ are in effect and the world hasn’t yet ended, we must obey the Great Commission.
The second feature that confirms the ongoing nature of Christ’s directive is how the paragraph ends. There are five previous sections in Matthew. Each is completed by Jesus’ teaching. The final narrative concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection concludes, not with an extended discourse, but instead with this divine charge to the disciples. The teaching is a call to make disciples.
In fact, Matthew’s gospel concludes in an ironic way. Matthew does not mention Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This does not mean Jesus stayed on earth, of course. But by omitting an actual reference to the ascension, the Holy Spirit reinforces the ongoing necessity of the disciples’ role in carrying out Christ’s mission. Instead of a period, there are ellipses marks. The work of the King to rescue worshipers continues on through the evangelism and discipleship of the church.
Most of us have understandable questions about what we should do with our lives. We have specific decisions to make about next summer and next year, not to mention next month. But in our quest to know God’s will, regardless of the specific situation at the moment, we must keep the Great Commission in full view. It is God’s will for all of us. It is our mission.
By Pearson Johnson
Last week, we had our first fall discipleship seminar. Our goal with the seminars is to, over the course of two years, provide training for our Group Leaders and Assistants Group Leaders. The topics will focus on the seven statements from the Group Leaders Guide that describe discipleship at BJU. Dr. Pettit spoke last week on the first point, "discipling leaders who will boldly declare the gospel in a hopeless world." Our particular goal was to see leaders equipped in sharing the gospel in their discipleship group. Since our students are professing believers, he also shared some very helpful advice on discussing the topic of one's assurance of salvation.
Dr. Pettit initially encouraged our leaders to have the students share their testimonies of salvation during group time. The simple main points to cover are:
If someone in your discipleship group would like to talk more about their salvation or assurance, please do not hesitate to bring them by the Student Care Office or email for an appointment.
Think about how often we communicate with our close friends on campus either in person or through technology. Imagine seeing a friend several times in one day and yet not communicating with them. How would your friend feel if you never talked to them or even acknowledged their presence throughout the day? Yet how often do we go an entire day without acknowledging God’s presence (except to thank Him briefly for our meals) or fellowshipping with Him in prayer? “If we communicated with our friends as infrequently as some of us communicate with the Lord, those friends might soon disappear.” (John MacArthur, Alone with God)
How do you practically “pray without ceasing?” This does involve setting aside specific time to pray. However, let’s think about being in the attitude or spirit of prayer at all times. As John MacArthur puts it, “I think of praying at all times as living in continual God consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our Heavenly Father" (Ibid.). How do we live in this kind of continual fellowship? Foremost, we must have a right view of God. When we see God as our Creator, Heavenly Father, and Best Friend, we desire the close communion that is possible only through prayer.
Let’s consider 3 aspects of praying at all times.
1) Praying at all times is a command. The New Testament contains over 30 commands to pray and many examples of Christ praying. One of our biggest motivations to prayer should be the fact that God commands us to pray. As you may have learned from a catechism, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Enjoying God can only happen when we fellowship with Him! So prayerlessness is denying our chief end as a believer. Prayerlessness is, in fact, sin.
2) Praying at all times is an expression of our dependence on God. When we pray, we are living in awareness of our omnipresent God. Praying at all times includes asking, interceding, thanking, pleading for help in temptation and much more! These are all expressions of reliance on our Heavenly Father. How can we put on the armor of God expecting victory and not depend on God through prayer? Look at how often the Gospels show Christ praying. If Christ—the very Son of God—prayed as often and as fervently as He did, how much more do we need to be devoted to prayer?
3) Praying at all times is linked with thankfulness. Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (also Phil 4:6, 1 Thess 5:16-18). How often do we thank God for the little blessings of the day? I can remember multiple occasions when driving that I voiced my thanks to God for a close parking spot when it was raining or an escape from a near-accident. And how often do we thank God for the challenges of the day? I love how one author puts it, “I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can't worship without giving thanks" (Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Grattitude).
Here are some practical suggestions for praying at all times that I’ve tried to incorporate in my own life:
Overall, ponder how you can cultivate an intimate relationship with the Lord, so that communicating with Him becomes instinctive.