Recently, I’ve wrestled with a rather simple, though critically important, question for believers. What is the primary task of an ordinary disciple of Jesus?
We remember where we used to be before Christ, in His mercy, sought us out, rescued us and transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into His glorious kingdom of light. Although, why does Jesus leave us here as sojourners in the world, rather than immediately taking us to be with Him on the day of our salvation? Simply put, He has work for us to do.
Did Jesus save us by the power of the gospel from our own sin and rebellion? Yes. Did he save us unto the Father? Yes. Did he save us into His community of faith — the church? Yes. Although, none of these reasons for salvation lend themselves to be the purpose for which He leaves us here in the world. Jesus also saved us to see His glory extended to all nations. This is the work He has for us to do, the very work He is doing, to see many from every nation, people, tribe and tongue represented around His throne. The two critical components of this work are when ordinary disciples of Jesus glorify God by loving our neighbors and by making disciples.
Neighbor-love to the glory of God
A teacher of the law once asked Jesus what He considered to be the greatest commandment. Jesus answered Him saying that the greatest commandment was wholehearted love of God and sacrificial love for others (Matt. 22:34-40). In His response, Jesus established the foundational posture of love that His disciples must have toward God and others. The primary motive for all we do must always be love — love of God and love for others.
He calls us to love people genuinely and sacrificially, engaging with them so as to wholly care for them (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). Neighbor-love must never be a means to an end but as a particular end by itself. Ultimately, our neighbor-love is incomplete if we provide meaningful care to people but never proclaim the gospel to those who will die and spend an eternity in hell.
Ordinary disciples of Jesus glorify God by loving our neighbors and making disciples.
Disciple-making to the glory of God
Jesus not only calls us to love God and others, but to pursue in love those who are far off and in need of being reconciled to Him through the gospel. In the same way He was sent by the Father to seek and save the lost, He sent His disciples to share the gospel and make disciples throughout the whole world.
Every disciple is sent by Christ to enter into the lives of lost people wherever they may be found, to evangelize and disciple them in community with other believers to love God, love others and make more disciples.
Since this missional work of disciple-making involves the spiritual transfer of a person from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, any such endeavors must be initiated and sustained in fasting and prayer. To avoid disingenuous relationships with lost people, we must share the story of our own redemption through the love of Christ in the gospel. While a conversation with an unbeliever about the gospel does not necessitate a longstanding relationship, it must be predicated by a loving encounter. When we enter into the lives of lost people and authentically communicate the gospel with them, we cannot stop there. What if they express an interest in knowing more? What if they want to repent and place their faith in Christ? When a person wants to know more or give their life to Jesus, we must disciple them in the love of God and others and to know and obey all Jesus taught His disciples.
Where do we go from here?
Here are a few helpful questions every ordinary disciple might consider to begin loving others and making disciples. These questions are best used in the context of Christian community.
1. Who do you know who is far from God where you live, work, shop, play or among your family? Where are the people in your neighborhood, city or town who are far from God?
2. How can we help one another to love and share with the people we know who are far from God?
3. How could you invite other believers to be with you when you spend time with your unbelieving friends?
4. What needs to change about when we as Christians gather together to help one another sustain patterns of neighbor-love and disciple-making in our lives?