Matthew 28:16-20 (Part 5) – A Lump of Clay Into Something Useful

Posted: May 13, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 28:16-20 (Part 5)

Jesus Gives the Great Commission

When I was young kid back in vacation Bible school days back in summers when I was like early elementary school years, we would have arts and crafts time. Back in those days, late 60s-early 70s, America had not yet fully embraced its phobia against smoking. Therefore, in vacation Bible school, it was uncommon for us, during arts and crafts time, that were not talented in the arts to make clay ashtrays for our parents. We would mold them one day and let them set up overnight and then we would paint them the next day. Ashtrays are not hard to make so being less than Van Gogh-esque in my artistic talents, that was right up my alley. We would mold the clay by giving a flat bottomed surface and then build up the sides. Then we would make an impression in the middle to form the tray for the ashes and then we would fashion little indentations on the sides for the place that a smoker would put a cigarette down in the ashtray. Then, the next day, with what little artistic talent that I had at the time (which is not too much better now these 45-50 years later), I would paint the ashtray with a base color for the whole thing and then make designs or whatever on top of the basic color to give it flair. As you may remember from those days, ashtrays were often decorative coffee table pieces. I was aiming for placement on the family coffee table. But those ashtrays always ended up in my room for some reason. I guess Mom didn’t see my ashtrays as the artistic centerpieces of the family coffee table as I did. Those were the days! Molding clay into some kind of art work at vacation Bible school! Taking a raw clump of clay and turning it into something artistic and useful was a way to keep us kids busy and it allowed us to be creative with what artistic talents we might have had. It was to teach us how we can be transformed from something raw into something usable. It was kind of like how we are in the hands of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of more mature Christians.

 

With that in mind, Let’s re-read, Matthew 28:16-20, with special attention to vv. 19-20a:

 

 

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

In my last blog, we spent time talking about going. About how the verbs used in this passage are in the active tense. As a result, we are to be actively going into the world and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. As we enter this new age of church that we find ourselves in during the 21st century where we are now entering 2nd and 3rd generations of completely unchurched families, we must go. We cannot stand still and wait for people to come to our churches. In past generations, it was simply culturally expected that you chose a church and you went each Sunday. No longer is that the case in our society. Therefore, we must go! We must meet folks where they are but doing unusual things at times to draw them into our modern style of worship. Just as the first century disciples were breaking hard ground in every place they went, so too are we in 21st century America. We must be unique in the ways that we get out into the community. We must be unique in the way that we show our communities love and compassion. We must be unique in the ways that show them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ in a world that either does not know Him at all or does not think that they need Him anymore.

 

And it seems that the new wave of modern churches are doing a decent enough job of that. Modern churches pride themselves on being attractional. We pride ourselves in tailoring our message to the modern sensibilities of the generally unchurched world in which we live. And, yes, we NEED to be attractional. We need to be unique. We need to take the timeless message of the gospel and present it in ways that connect with those who have run away from the church for generations now. And, yes, while the church as a whole is declining in total membership, it is the modern new wave of churches that are actually growing. You look at the fastest growing churches in America, virtually all of them are less than 30 years old. Some are less 20 years old. These churches are the ones that are getting people in the doors through unique outreach activities and through modern worship styles and yes that is needed in this generation. The church cannot change the message that we have in God’s Word but we have to continually reinvent the way that we present that message.

 

But, Jesus tells us here that the finish line is not simply getting people in the door and letting the Holy Spirit do his thing (salvation). We must make disciples. We must do more than simply get them to the cross. We must teach them life after the cross. We must make disciples. Many of our new wave churches have failed in the making disciples part. We have been good at getting people in the doors with our attractional style and attractional actions, but we have done poorly at making disciples. We are to make more than converts. We are to make disciples. We are to teach and educate and lead and mold these lumps of clay, new baby Christians into mature Christians. We are to teach them about being more and more like Christ each day. We are to teach them to understand why we believe what we believe. We are to mentor them to examine the sins in their lives and help them move beyond them. We are help them grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to encourage them to read God’s Word and teach them to meditate on how to apply it to their lives. We are to teach them about prayer and how it should be not only an ongoing conversation with God but it should also be times of intense “alone time” with God. We should teach them about all the various disciplines of the faith that help us grow and mature. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. “Salvation”, as one of the elders/pastors at our church, Hayden says, “is not the finish line. Salvation is really just the beginning of the race!” The only way to create more than baby Christians is to disciple them. This is not only the church staff’s responsibility, it is also the responsibility of each one of us a Christ followers. We should be seeking to shepherd along new Christians that we know. We should be leading and teaching and challenging new baby Christians. We must mentor them one on one. We must disciple not only other baby Christians that we know but we must also disciple our families well. We must make discipling the heartbeat of who we are. Jesus did not say go and make converts. He said go and make disciples. We must not only lead people to the cross of Jesus Christ but we must lead them beyond the cross. Leading beyond the cross is often much harder that simply getting people to the cross (which is often very difficult itself). Leading people after their salvation requires commitment and investment in their lives. It requires us to live by example. It requires us to teach. It requires us to be all-in all the time. It requires us to be a part of people’s lives. It requires intentionality.

 

Help us, oh Father in Heaven, to make disciples of your glorious Son. Help us to not leave people sitting at the foot of the cross and wondering what comes next. Help us to make disciples not just converts. Help us to help them run the race to which You have appointed for them. Help us to challenge and teach. Help us to help them grow! Amen and Amen.

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