Romans 1:13 “I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.”
It’s that time of the year for the farmer. He has plowed the land. He has prepped the soil by fertilizing it with nutrients. He has laid seeds and carefully watered his fields. He has watched his seeds sprout and grow into big, healthy plants. And now, after much hard work and great patience, it’s time for the harvest. He gazes over his field to find…none of his plants have produced any fruit?
That scenario seems silly doesn’t it? Minus a catastrophe, a farmer who has put a lot of hard work into planting a field expects to see fruit when the harvest comes. In the same way, when we invest our time and resources into others, we should expect to see the Lord do a work in peoples lives. Paul didn’t say I want to work among you and maybe I’ll see some of you grow. He said I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit. Why? Because he had seen the Lord work in these people before and expected Him to do it again.
Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I do invest in people at the church and I have seen people grow in their walk with Jesus. It’s worth pointing out here who Paul is speaking to. Paul is speaking to the Gentiles. A people group that was far from God and considered wretched and unclean. See where I’m going with this? Did you just get a little uncomfortable in your seat? Good, because I know I just did and I’m the one writing this devotional. While it is not only good, but it is actually God’s will for us to disciple the next generation, He has also called us to reach out to those who are far from Him. Those who are wretched and unclean, as we all once were. Those who are outside our church walls, and outside of our comfort zone for that matter.
We can’t choose one or the other. God is inviting us into His work, and His work involves both discipling and reaching the lost. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Will you work the fields today? Better yet, will you work the fields today expecting Jesus to do a miracle is someone’s life? I pray today that if anything has prevented you in the past from reaching out to someone, just as Paul was prevented from reaching out to the Romans, that God would give you the opportunity and the courage to be bold in His name.
Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
When it comes to missions, every Christ-follower has been given one. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 is for all of His people. Go and make disciples. This is the mission for every one of us.
We don’t all go about that mission in the same manner, however. We’ve each been given our own talents and abilities that best suit us to do certain tasks in the big plan. Some of us are better at certain things than others, but we’re all still called to make disciples.
An interesting bit mentioned by the Apostle Paul is that God gifted His people with some people in particular that He wants to lead and to train. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers are all set apart to equip the rest of the body for ministry. All are called, but some are chosen to build up the body through special assignments. What’s your job that fits into the mission of God?
Ephesians 3:7-13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
We’ve all been given a ministry and the Lord has equipped us specifically for the role He’s given us. What’s your ministry? If you’re not sure, take an inventory of your circumstances, talents, abilities, resources, and even what burdens you.
The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church with his own specific burden. No one else quite cared the way Paul did about certain people or certain issues they faced. He had his own ministry that was no one else’s. You and I also have to live out our own calling, not one that belongs to someone else.
Just when you may object to the idea that you are a minister of any sort, look at Paul as an example. He not only calls himself the least of all the saints, but if you know anything about his history, you know he’s not exactly who one might have expected to be used in such a huge way to see people converted for Christ. If Paul’s the least of all the saints, the chief of sinners in his own eyes, how can you be any worse? You’ve received no less grace than Paul. Isn’t it time you had “boldness and access with confidence through [y]our faith in him?”
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Where should I go on mission? Your first mission field is at home. If you’re a parent, then your primary assignment on mission is to reach your family and make them disciples. This is an ongoing task that never ends and your job is never done. If you don’t have family at home, you still have a mission right around you. Can you think of some neighbors you could help out and show the love of Christ?
All around you are opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Faith begins with hearing, so tell everyone you can. Tell the cashier at the checkout line, tell the taxi driver. Tell your teacher or your partner. Share the story of what God’s done in your life and let it be known that you are His.
Tell His story through words and through actions by the way you live your life. Share with those who will hear and always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you because of Christ Jesus. Tell people the Gospel, but do it with gentleness and respect, never with arrogance or judgement. Love God enough to tell everyone about Him.
Romans 10:14-15 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
How can we reach the whole world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It happens through sacrifice. In order to reach them we’ve got to give of ourselves. We’ve got to be willing to do without so that they can hear the Good News.
We may be required to give financially so that resources and supplies can be purchased or travel can be accommodated. We may need to give of our time to help mobilize a team or to go out on a mission trip. We may need to give up our own comfort so that others can be reached. All of this can extend around the world or be true of our own home town. Giving for the sake of others knowing Christ might be allowing someone else to have your seat in church so that they can hear the message. It might mean sitting through an uncomfortable sermon that others need to hear. It might mean interacting with “sinners” and stepping out of our comfort zone to love them for the sake of Christ. Giving sometimes hurts, but it’s for a good cause.
Giving may be this or it might be that, but there’s one thing it’s not: optional. All believers are called to reach others for Christ and the kingdom of God grows through us. But if we won’t give, they won’t be reached and we hinder the Holy Spirit’s work. Let’s choose to give so that they might hear.
Romans 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
What if I can’t go on a mission to spread the Gospel? Am I being disobedient to God? Realistically speaking, not everyone is capable of mobilizing for the kingdom of God. Not everyone can walk away from their life situation to visit another location to preach the Good News. But, everyone can do something to send someone.
Some have been gifted with financial ability and can help fund a missions trip or even a local mission project. Some have less means but have great faith, faith greater than many others, and those people can pray and believe for great things to be accomplished. Some may not have money but have connections. To get into some nations it takes a great miracle to pull things off. Connections may be what makes it happen.
Whatever it is that God has given you, you have something that will help make His name famous in all the world. Whether it’s your skills, you money, your friends in the right places, or your prayers, you need to take an inventory of how you can make things happen. If you can’t go, you can send. So send for the glory of God, that others may hear His Good News and believe.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The whole world? Then the end will come? It’s God’s desire that everyone would turn to Him and be saved. He doesn’t want anyone on this earth to perish and to be without Him for eternity while they suffer in hell. But He leaves the choice to us. But before anyone can receive or reject the Gospel, they have to hear it.
There are still people on this planet who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. They don’t know that there is a way to God through the forgiveness of their sins. They don’t know there’s atonement, propitiation, imputation, or any of that other theological stuff. They’re in the dark spiritually. And we have to reach them.
We’re given the Great Commission because God’s calling if for us to reach out to the entire world. We have to tell every man, woman and child, every language group and tribe, about the message of Jesus the Messiah. They have to know and we have to reach them.
Pray. Pray that the people groups we’ve never encountered will be found and that missionaries will be sent into the population. Pray that languages will be translated quickly and that Bibles will be printed for the message to be taught. Pray that supplies will be plentiful and that the workers will be many. Pray for them and pray that we reach them. For the glory of God.
Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus didn’t call us to make converts, He called us to make disciples. This means the work doesn’t end when a person puts their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The next step for us is to teach them all that He taught. They must know His ways.
What is teaching? Not all of us are cut out to tutor someone on the Bible, so surely we’re off the hook; right? Not quite. Teaching someone what they need to know about following Christ begins with modeling it. Making a disciples begins with living like one. We teach through our lives, and then we teach what’s on paper. They both happen.
We don’t have to be theological geniuses to mentor someone. There are steps to understanding the Bible, and we only need to get the new believer started on learning basic biblical truths, motivated by love for Jesus, and heading in the right direction of obedience. Then, after they show that they are committed to growing, we let them branch out on their own, little by little, feeding themselves. We can only teach what we know, so we have to be constantly learning too.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Why baptism? What’s so important about water after conversion? Jesus told His followers to go into all the nations to make disciples and then to baptize them. Why do you think this was so prioritized?
When we’re saved, we belief on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. The Holy Spirit comes to reside inside us, and we’re made into a new creation. But no one can see the Holy Spirit in us until we start bearing spiritual fruit. For some of us, that isn’t right away. It may not be obvious that we’ve become a Christian. But baptism solves that problem.
Among the many, many reasons for baptism is the idea that this is a public proclamation of our faith in Jesus. It’s been said that this is like putting on a wedding ring. We’d still be married without a ring, but we make it known by wearing the ring. Likewise, we’d be Christians without the baptism, but the act shows the world that we aren’t ashamed of our new life and it preaches a message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
Baptism is the first step of obedience for a believer. When making disciples, getting them to take the first step of obedience opens the door to many more acts of obeying. There’s just something about that first decision to follow Jesus’ example that makes it all the more likely that they’ll continue in their walk of faith with great strength.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
How do we make disciples? Most of us probably know how to make converts; we share the Gospel. If someone responds to the Good News of Jesus Christ, there has been a rebirth. A new Christian has been made. But has a disciple been made? How do we know?
A very well known disciple-maker has said that if a person is reading God’s Word daily, praying with his or her spouse, obeying God, and sharing his or her faith at every opportunity, you can be pretty sure you’ve made a disciple. Discipleship is not simply about behaviors and disciplines, however. The Fruit of the Spirit? A disciple should be showing those characteristics. It won’t all happen overnight, but you can tell when someone is growing more mature and when they’re not. Sadly, most Christians today are not growing and not becoming more like Jesus. They’re just sitting on the bench, waiting for Him to come back.
But what do we do to make disciples? How do we get people off the bench? The most essential element in disciple-making is relationship and time. You’ve got to share one-on-one time with a person to make a disciple. Classes and theological training are good, but caring for the person and talking to them directly has more impact. Probably second most important is modeling discipleship. You can’t make a disciple if you aren’t living as one. Preach what you practice. Encourage, love, pray with, study with, and be there for people and you will make disciples.