Motivation for the Mission—1

Obedience to the Instructions of Christ.
“Go, make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)

God is growing a kingdom among us and wants us to be involved in its growth. He is not limited by us, of course, but in his sometimes incomprehensible wisdom, he has chosen to work through human beings. I have written elsewhere about our having this responsibility (see post, post, post). In this series I want to address motivation for the mission of growing the kingdom of God.

We have often focused on the need to reach out to other people and sometimes focused on how to do so. We have not spent enough time, however, developing wholesome motivation for doing so. Motivation is a powerful resource. If we do indeed have motivation, we are much more likely to fulfill our responsibility. God has given us ample motivation, and in so doing, he is providing us with divine resources and provision to do what he has called us to do.

I begin this series with a motivation that is often mentioned, whenever we do address motivation, namely, obedience to Christ’s instructions. Please know both that this is a really important motivation and also that it is not the only motivation. In this series we’ll describe several others that may be even more powerful for you than this one.

The classic passage on obeying Christ as a motivation for reaching out to others is:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Some have denied the relevance of this passage for us by saying it applied only to the apostles. It is true that it was spoken directly to them, and the reference to “all nations” would seem to have particular relevance to them.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t apply to us, that would mean these words no longer apply to anyone, and it is difficult to think the Lord no longer cares about this mission. What’s more, Jesus tells the apostles to teach new disciples “to observe all that I have commanded you” (v. 20). One thing he commanded them that they would need to teach others is the very command contained in this passage, namely, to make disciples. So, the commission Jesus gives here contains its own perpetuation. It applies to all disciples of Jesus.

It is important to recognize that this instruction comes from the One to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given. Upon his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended to the right hand of God as the supreme Lord of the universe (Acts 2:33; 5:31; Ephesians 1:18-23; 1 Peter 3:21-22). The “therefore” in Matthew 28:19 shows that the commission that follows in vv. 19-20 is based on Jesus’ absolute authority in v. 18. And the specific thing Jesus told us to do right after emphasizing his absolute authority is to make disciples.

Jesus’ authority is much greater than some of the lesser authorities we sometimes follow instead. The authority of Christ is greater than that of a secular society who says we shouldn’t discuss religion or that to do so is judgmental. The authority of Christ is greater than that of Christians who say the words no longer apply. The authority of Christ is greater than that of my own personal feelings. We could multiply this list endlessly. In Matthew 28, the greatest authority in the universe told us to go make disciples. (For more depth on this great passage see this post).

In addition to this seminal passage, Jesus sometimes charged individuals to tell others about him. After casting a legion of demons out of a man, and thus restoring his sanity, the man wanted to accompany Jesus. But Jesus told him to, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). So he did (v. 20).

Another man told Jesus he would follow him but first wanted to bury his father. If his father had already died, he probably wouldn’t have been where Jesus was, so he was likely saying he wanted to be with his father for the rest of his days and then he would follow Jesus. Regardless, Jesus’ message to him was that the dead should bury their own dead, apparently meaning people who are dead spiritually can handle such matters of this life. He then tells him something I believe he is telling us all, “but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).

Jesus also said, “Whoever acknowledges (or confesses) me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). I used to think he was here describing the way people who hear about Jesus should respond to him, and that may indeed be correct. But the context of this saying is that he is instructing and sending out his followers to proclaim the kingdom (v. 7). More specifically, the context of vv. 32-33 is the danger of being intimidated by persecution or death to the point that they failed to speak (see vv. 26-32). Jesus urges them not to fear people but to fear God and “acknowledge me before men” (vv. 32-33). Faithful followers acknowledge him to others.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, his followers took his instructions to heart and did indeed proclaim and confess him to others. On one occasion, when a Jewish audience rejected their word, they determined to speak the to the Gentiles instead. They quoted Old Testament Scripture as a rationale for doing this:

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 13:47 quoted from Isaiah 49:6

Significantly, though, they introduced this quotation with the words, “for the Lord command us” (Acts 13:47). Us! They viewed this statement from the Old Testament Scriptures as a command from the Lord to them. And so they obeyed it. The word “for” at the beginning of v. 47 shows that this word from the Lord to them explained why it was necessary for them to speak to the Gentiles.

The Lord also instructs Christians at large to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Though Peter penned the words, he was inspired by the Spirit of Christ (for more on this passage see here).

Similarly, Paul penned the words, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6). These words, too, are inspired by the Spirit of Christ (for more on this passage see here).

In multiple ways and occasions, then, Christ has instructed us to be involved in his mission of growing the kingdom of God. It is a part of our responsibility as subjects of his kingdom.

I recognize that this may feel like a burden to some of us. I’ve been there. The solution to this feeling, however, is not to try to evade our responsibility nor to just go out and blurt something about Jesus to the first stranger we see. Rather, it is to listen sincerely and rely humbly on the Lord. We are not on our own in this responsibility; He will be with us (Matthew 28:20) and empower us (Acts 1:8). He will give us everything we need, including additional motivations that will help us obey him.

What’s more, getting directly involved in the growth of his kingdom will be a good experience, even if it is difficult at times. As we learn to “do all things for the sake of the gospel,” we will “share in its benefits” (1 Corinthians 9:23). And, “Whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). Real life is found by sacrificing our lives for the Lord and the most important mission in the world.

This series of posts will explore multiple additional motivations for obeying the instructions of Christ.

Published by Marvin Bryant

After serving as a minister for churches for forty years, Marvin founded the Empowering Subjects to equip subjects of the King to change the world like Jesus did.

8 thoughts on “Motivation for the Mission—1

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