When I first became a Christian I was introduced to Jesus’ comments in Matthew 28:18-20 where he told his followers to make disciples of all the nations. One of the first things I learned was how to share my faith with others, and I am grateful to those who taught and encouraged me to do this. The church generally accepts and teaches this part of Jesus’ command. However, I am even more thankful to those who mentored and taught me that Jesus ‘ command was not simply to make disciples, but also to “teach them (all disciples) to obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you.” Jesus concludes his command with the promise that he is always with us. We cripple ourselves when we obey the first part of Jesus’ command, neglect the second and do not live in his promise.
“Teach them everything I’ve commanded”
Jesus’ command to teach everything he instructed is a daunting challenge, but it is possible or he would never have said it.
I’ve seen churches who have developed some excellent programs to teach Jesus’ commands, and these churches experience the immeasurable blessing of a growing, more mature and effective body. To frame their training, they often use images such as a growing tree, seeds and a plant, or the development of a newborn to an adult, and these help communicate that our growth in the life of faith is progressive.
My purpose is not to replace these programs and images, but to enhance them by challenging us to consider seriously the content we should include in such programs as we attempt to teach everything Jesus commanded. I don’t presume to have solved this need. However, I want all of us to begin the conversation to consider what we should teach in order to follow Jesus in our personal lives and local churches.
“I am with you always”
Jesus’ commands come to us with promises, and his promise to be always with us is the central promise in all of scripture. Our lives are transformed as we experience his promised presence.
The first question for us to consider is, what has Jesus taught and commanded?
- On your own, write a list of how the New Testament describes what a Christian should learn in order to obey Jesus.
- Meet with your group, or at least one other who has completed the same exercise. Share, discuss and combine your lists. Spend just a few minutes on the exercise. This is not time for a deep discussion but to explore the possible topics that should be included.
- Does your church have a program to train Christians (new and existing) about obeying Jesus? Even if your church does not have an established program to teach everyone how to obey Jesus, they will have specific subjects from scripture on which they focus. Write these on a list.
- Compare your group’s list with the one from your church’s training program.
We’ll return to our lists. For now, please consider the following graphic which is an attempt to organize the pieces of obeying all of Jesus’ commands. We’ll discuss the way the graphic is arranged in the near future.