[b]THE GREAT COMMISSION[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
Our Lord Jesus gave us His great commission in two passages of Scripture Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:18-20.
He said that we are to GO to every nation in the world and fulfil these FOUR ministries :
1. Preach the gospel to every person (Mk.16:15)
2. Make those who believe into disciples (Mt.28:19,20)
3. Baptize them in the Threefold Name (Matt 28:19,20)
4. Teach them to do EVERYTHING that He commanded (Matt 28:19,20).
Out of these four ministries, my observation (after 50 years of being a believer) is that:
(a) Most believers never obey any of these four commands.
(b) Out of the few believers who do obey:
(i) About 95% obey only Commands 1 and 3 (above).
(ii) Only about 4% obey Command Number 2.
(iii) Only about 1% obey Command Number 4.
These four commands are for the whole Body of believers (worldwide) to obey and not for each individual believer to obey. Each of us has a different calling in the Body. But it is good for all of us to look around and see which of these 4 ministries are NOT being fulfilled IN OUR GEOGRAPHICAL AREA and IN OUR TIME. Then we will see where the need is the greatest in our time and in our area.
Here are TWO principles of ministry that we must bear in mind from Jesus words in John 4:35 and 34:
1. SEE WHERE THE NEED IS THE GREATEST. "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest (John 4:35)
2. SEEK THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOUR LIFE AND MINISTRY. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work (not to meet all the needs in the world)." (John 4:34)
To observe the need is important. The following Scriptures teach that and this principle can be applied equally to giving our ministry as to giving our money:
"He who gathered much (manna) had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had enough. So you also should help the (ministry that is) most in need." (2 Cor.8:15).
"The godly man gives generously TO THE POOR (where the need for ministry is the greatest)" (2 Cor.9:9).
"He who gives (his ministry) to the RICH (those ministries which are already being engaged in, extensively) will come to poverty (spiritually) " (Prov.22:16)
Having said that, it is also important to know that the need for any particular ministry (by itself) is not a call to engage in that ministry. Once we have seen the need, we still need to seek God in prayer to know His specific will for OUR OWN ministry. Then God will give us His burden and show us the ministry he has planned for us in Christs Body. The burden God gives us in our heart is the means by which He shows us His will for us - our specific ministry in the Body of Christ. Romans 12: 2 says that when we allow our minds to be renewed (as we learn increasingly, to think as God thinks), then we will know Gods PERRECT will for our ministry.
Jesus once saw that the greatest need in one place and at one time was for shepherds and not for evangelists (Matt.9:36-38) - and He asked His disciples to pray that God would send forth shepherds into the harvest field. But these verses are misquoted today by some preachers who urge all believers to become evangelists! This is because they have not read their Bibles carefully !! We are all called to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1:8). But we are NOT all called to be evangelists (See Eph.4:11).
Some are called to go after the lost sheep. Others are called to teach the 99 sheep who are in the fold to live in purity and love and peace with each other so as to make the fold a good place to bring that lost sheep in to. But most sheepfolds (churches) are in such a pathetic condition of impurity and disunity today, that that one lost sheep is probably safer out in the wilderness than if it came in to such a sheepfold for it could catch the diseases of worldliness, gossip, backbiting etc., by coming in! What an urgent need there is therefore to make our sheepfolds healthy places for lost sheep to be healed and to grow up in!
Here is an extract from Chapter 7 of my book LIVING AS JESUS LIVED :
The need of men, by itself, never constituted the call to action for Jesus, for that would have been acting out from Himself - out of His soul. The need of men was to be taken into account, but it was the will of God that was to be done. Jesus made that very clear in John 4:34,35.
The need (v.35): "Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping....."
The principle of action (v.34): "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God Who sent Me, and from finishing His work." (Living)
Jesus did not do the many good things that His friends suggested, because He knew that if He listened to men and did the apparently good, He would miss the best that His Father had for Him.
Once, when men begged Him to stay in a particular place, He said He could not, because He had heard His Father's voice calling Him to go elsewhere. Humanly speaking there were very good reasons for staying where He was, because of the unusual responsiveness of the people to His message. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts and God's ways are not as man's ways (Isa. 55:8). Early that morning, Jesus had gone out alone and prayed, and He had heard His Father's voice (Mk. 1:35-39), before He heard Peter and the others with their suggestions. Jesus did not rely on human reasoning. He obeyed the Word which said, "Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5,6). He leaned upon His Father for guidance in every matter.
In a prophetic reference to the Lord Jesus in Isaiah 50:4, we read, "Morning by morning, He (the Father) wakens Me and opens My understanding to His will." That was Jesus' habit. He listened to His Father's voice from early morning and throughout the day, and did exactly what His Father told Him to do. He did not have discussions with men, to decide on what to do, but had prayer-meetings with His Father. Soulish Christians plan through discussions with men. Spiritual Christians wait to hear from God.
Jesus lived by His Father (Jn. 6:57). To Jesus, God's Word was more important than food (Mt. 4:4). He had to receive it many times a day, straight from the Father. Having received it, He obeyed it. Obedience too was more important than His daily food (Jn. 4:34). Jesus, lived in dependence on the Father. His attitude throughout the day was, "Speak, Father, I am listening."
Consider His chasing the money-changers out of the temple. There must have been many occasions when Jesus was in the temple with the money-changers there, when He did not chase them out. He did so, only when led to do so by His Father. The soulish Christian would rather chase out the money-changers perpetually or never at all. He who is led by God however, knows when, where and how to act.
There were many good things that Jesus could have been done, that He never did, because they were outside the scope of His Father's will for Him. He was always busy doing the very best things. And those were enough. He had not come to earth to do good things, but to do the will of His Father.
"Did you not know that I had to be in the things of My Father," He asked Joseph and Mary, at the age of twelve (Lk. 2:49-Literal). Those were the only things that He was interested in accomplishing. When He came to the end of 33½ years on earth, He could say, with real satisfaction, "Father, I have finished then work YOU gave Me to do" (Jn. 17:4).
He had not travelled the world, He had not written any book, His followers were few, there were still many unmet needs in many parts of the world, etc., etc., But He had finished the work that the Father had appointed for Him. That, and that alone, matters ultimately.
Jesus' life was a life of perfect rest. He had enough time in 24 hours every day to do all His Father's will. But if He had decided to do what appeared good to Him, then 24 hours a day would not have been enough and he would have ended up in unrest on most days. Jesus could rejoice in every interruption that came to Him, because He accepted the fact that a sovereign Father in Heaven was planning His daily schedule. And so He was never annoyed with interruptions. The life of Jesus will bring our inner beings into perfect rest too. This does not mean that we will do nothing, but that we will do only what is in the Father's plan for our lives. Then we shall be more eager to finish the Father's will than our own pre-determined program.
Soulish Christians are so intent on doing `their own thing' that they are frequently irritable and restless. Some of them end up having a nervous or a physical breakdown finally.
It was impossible for Jesus to have a nervous breakdown, because He was in perfect rest in His inner man. He says to us, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from My example, and you too will find rest in your souls" (Mt. 11:29).
Jesus was a servant of His Father. And "the most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to" (1 Cor. 4:2-Living). He spent His life listening to His Father, and thus accomplished all His Father's will, without exhaustion or frustrated `busyness. He put His own human interests to death. He was not soulish. He was spiritual.
May the Lord help each one of us to fulfil His perfect will for our ministry in Christs Body.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon