Is your disciple-making shaped by the Gospel? Sage disciple-makers never lose sight of the fact that they and those they disciple must be shaped by the Gospel. So, what does it mean to be “shaped by the Gospel”? First and foremost it means that we must keep focused on what God has done for us through Christ Jesus that we could not and cannot do for ourselves. This “doing for us” includes the past, present, and future.
Being a disciple of Jesus is part of our identity in Christ. It is who we are, not exclusively what we do.
Our identity as a disciple includes a rational aspect – we are students sitting at the feet of Jesus. We learn from Him. Our discipleship to Jesus also includes a relational aspect. We are part of God’s family, sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The divine family relationship extends to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who indwells the disciple guiding, comforting, and illuminating the Scripture. The dynamic relationship with the Trinity is part of being a disciple of Jesus. Finally, our identity as Jesus’ disciple involves a missional aspect. We are ambassadors of Jesus to the world. As such, God has entrusted us with His message of reconciliation as if He were making His appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). Our ambassadorship is derived from the commission Jesus gave to His first disciples – a commission He has given to all those who subsequently follow Him and call themselves His disciples (Matthew 28: 18-20).
A closer examination of the “Great Commission” reveals that it is a charge to proclaim to the fullest extent the Gospel message in all its facets and in all its power (Act 2; Acts 4:30 Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The introduction to the “Great Commission” denotes whose authority and by implication whose power the disciple is to operate under. It’s not his own authority and power, but that of Christ. Matthew 28:19-20a, provides for the disciple the details or the scope of his commission. That framework consists of four components, which might be labeled – Gospel Going, Gospel Baptizing, Gospel Teaching, and Gospel Observing.
Matthew 28:19, clearly states that disciples of Jesus are sent for a specific purpose. Their mission is to make disciples. The main point disciple-makers must clearly understand is that they don’t go in their own effort, but they are sent under Jesus’ authority and in Jesus’ power. Miss this point, and your effort as a disciple-maker will more than likely fail. Jesus is the bedrock of the disciple-maker’s going. When Jesus sends, He sends not merely to evangelize the world, but in his power to make disciples of all nations. The assurance of success rest in the truth of Matthew 28:20…“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The wise disciple-maker recognizes that his mission of making disciples starts and ends with Jesus – it is Christ-centered from beginning to end. Disciples make disciple by going with the Gospel, proclaiming its essence and its impact. Going with the Gospel is part of God’s eternal plan for expanding His kingdom and reign over all creation.
As disciples go, they also are to baptize those who received the Gospel in faith. Baptism reflects three significant aspect of a disciple’s identity. First, it implies a person has learned the Gospel; they received it with understanding and accept it by faith as true. It signifies a person’s identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. The life that emerges from the baptismal waters is a life that is dead to sin and alive to God. In one sense, baptism is not merely a ceremony of identification with Christ but also a symbol of the good news Jesus preached – the kingdom is near.
Secondly, when a person is baptized they become members of two overlapping communities. The first is the divine community of the Holy Trinity. They are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The second community is the church, the body of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Jesus is the entry point into the divine community and the head of our new earthly community.
Finally, baptism can be seen as our beginning point of participation in the Gospel mission Jesus has given to all His disciples. Whenever someone is baptized, another disciple is sent in the authority and power of Jesus to be on mission making disciples of all nations. That journey starts by learning the teachings of Jesus and understanding His ways of living life to the fullest.
The Great Commission enunciated by Jesus clearly directs the disciple-maker to teach what Jesus commanded or taught. The teachings that Jesus directs His disciples to promulgate are found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and in John. The scope of the teachings include the Christ-centered story revealed in the Old Testament and expanded upon in the New Testament (Luke 24:27), the breath of redemption (Luke 24:46-47), and the depth of later doctrines drawn from the events surrounding the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of Jesus.
Simply put the Great Commission commands us, according to Jonathan Dodson, “to learn the gospel by the gospel”. Dodson goes on to say, “We learn the breadth and depth of the good news by continually situating ourselves in it, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.” In essence, we preach the Gospel to ourselves daily. This involves reminding ourselves of what God as done for us through Christ that we could not and cannot do for ourselves.
The disciple-maker’s endurance to finish the race of life strong comes by applying the Gospel message personally by living daily in the reality of the breadth and depth of its truth. Adherence to the Gospel involves three essential elements: yielding, abiding, and obeying.
Yielding simply put means surrendering your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It involves surrendering your will to His will and accepting Jesus as your master and your place as His servant. As His servant you willingly submit to His direction, His authority, and His power.
Abiding implies connection and rest. As we stay intimately connected to Christ, His life flows through us giving us true life – life that is fruitful (John 15:4-5). Disconnected from Him our life begins to wither away and we become barren, living unproductive lives. Abiding in Christ is also a place of peaceful rest. Scripture testifies that abiding in Christ is not burdensome nor is a weighty obligation. Rather, His yoke is light and by being yoked with Him we can find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
Obeying can be simply defined as an act of following instructions or directions. In the most practical and biblical sense is involves applying the truth of scripture directly to the way we live life on a daily basis. Obeying involves more than merely knowing and understanding what the truth is. It includes the wisdom to appropriately apply the truth to particular life circumstances. The Old Testament scriptures admonish us to seek and gain wisdom because it is of supreme value, even though is it is costly to acquire (Proverbs 4:7).
As a disciple-maker are you taking to heart your commission from Jesus. It is not an option for the true follower of Christ. Are you making disciples according to the Gospel? Are you going with the message of the Gospel? Are you baptizing coverts in the name of the Gospel Trinity? Are you teaching the breadth and depth of the Gospel? Are you modeling for your disciple(s) what it means to yield, abide, and obey according to all that Jesus commands?