“Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20
Who should go?
These verses from Matthew 28 are commonly called “The Great Commission” given by Jesus before He ascended to heaven. The command to “go and make disciples of all nations” was not only for the disciples who lived in Jesus’s day, but for all of us who follow Christ. The fact that there are still nations today who have yet to hear the message of the gospel is a humbling reminder that we as the body of Christ have not yet completed this task.
We find a similar command in Mark 16:15, “And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’” Jesus didn’t say, “A few of you, go into all the world,” or “You really adventurous ones, go into all the world.” He simply says, “Go.” While you may not be called to actually move to another country to live long-term, I do firmly believe that each of us is called to go to the nations in one way or another, at one point or another. The reason for that may be different than what you think.
Why do we go?
As a missionary, my heartbeat is to see people know and be transformed by Christ. When we moved to Southeast Asia seven years ago, it was for the sole purpose of taking the gospel to people who have never had access to it. That continues to be our motivation, but I can tell you that our experience in living out the command to GO has been just as transformational to us as it has been to those who we have shared the gospel with. I believe that Jesus wants His followers to GO, not just so disciples can be made of the nations, but so we can be made into disciples as well.
When we become followers of Jesus, we are committing ourselves to studying His life, spending time in His presence, and becoming more like Him. One aspect of the life of Jesus that we don’t often focus on is that He lived His life on the go. Not in a hurried sense-He was never in a hurry but lived life at a much slower, more intentional pace than what we often do- but in the sense of constantly going to places and people the Father was leading Him to. He traveled from town to town, sharing that the Kingdom of God was near. When a religious leader told Jesus that he was ready to follow Him, Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20) Jesus was letting this prospective disciple know that the cost of following Him would mean relinquishing the comfort of a place in order to go to a people.
If we want to truly become like Christ, we must accept the invitation from Him to GO. If we don’t, we are missing a vital component of what it means to become like Him. When we go to the nations for the sake of the gospel, there is a sanctifying work that happens in us that can be accomplished no other way.
How do we go?
Whether you respond to the call to go by going on a short-term missions trip, giving a year or two to serve overseas, or committing to a lifetime of missionary work, there are a few things that are important for us to consider about how we should GO.
- We go in the authority and power of Christ.
The verse prior the ones I shared from Matthew says, “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18) We do not go in our own strength, but in His. It is imperative that we are deeply rooted in Christ before we attempt to take His name into the darkness of the unreached world. We are not able to save anyone- only Christ can do that. We have to understand our desperate need for the power of Christ at work in us if we hope to bring Good News to the nations.
- We go in humility.
Much harm has been done in the name of “missions” by those who have gone to the nations and, rather than making disciples, they attempted to make Americans (or other western cultures). The gospel is not a culture, and is not lived out rightly in only one particular culture. When we go into other cultures, we must go in a posture of humility, seeking to understand those whom we desire to love. Whether you go for a short time or a lifetime, go in humility, recognizing that different isn’t inherently bad and that your culture isn’t necessarily better. You may be surprised at how you see the Image of God displayed in the very people you’ve come to reach.
- We go with Jesus.
The final part of the Great Commission is a reassurance from Jesus that He is with us to the very end. Not only do we get the authority and power of Christ, we get His presence with us. There are days when living and working in a foreign country can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. People back home won’t fully understand what you’ve seen and experienced. There is risk we face- in body, mind, and spirit- when we go to distant lands for the sake of the gospel. But we do not have to go in fear, because Jesus is with us. He has gone before us to the very places He calls us to go, and He promises to be with us every step of the way. Going to the nations brings us to the end of ourselves; our knowledge, skills and efforts mean very little in foreign lands. Praise God, in our weakness He is strong. I have never experienced the nearness of Jesus as powerfully as when I have answered the call to go.
May I challenge you to spend some time praying and asking the Father, not IF He is calling you to GO in this upcoming year, but WHERE? Find out if your church or a group in your area is going on a short term missions trip. Consider spending the summer serving with a missionary in a foreign country. Ask the Father if He is calling you to leave comfort behind and GO to a nation to spend your life for His name’s sake. Whatever His response to your prayer, I am confident you will find His grace sufficient, His provision abundant, and His presence ever-near as you follow Christ’s example to GO.
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