Overcoming Fear of the Great Commission
There are as many methods as there are fears for Christians when they read and consider the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. Many of us would agree that it is not easy to share our faith with friends, family, and especially….gasp….strangers. We fear rejection, we fear stumbling over our words, etc. But maybe something is there in the words Jesus spoke to his eleven faithfuls that we’ve missed, and maybe it’s the secret to vanquishing our fears of evangelism. Let’s read the Commission together, Jesus and his disciples have just met on the mountain in Galilee where they have worshiped Him for the first time as their resurrected Lord.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 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 ESV)
Think this is a passage just for global missionaries? It could be wishful thinking, but it’s not true, Jesus said this to his disciples and by saying it to them he said it to us, and by us I mean all of us Christians. If you’re thinking that evangelism is a gift for certain, special, chosen individuals, read 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,
(Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)
Yep, you read it right. The ones who’ve been given the “gift of evangelism” are responsible for “equipping the saints“, in other words, for “teaching the saints how to evangelize.” No one is exempt from this call, this “Great Commission”, and it’s possible we’ve been afraid of it only because we haven’t learned the secret to carrying it out. And I’m not talking about another method.
Before I share the secret to the Great Commission I just want to pause and say that a few years ago I was asked to teach a course on evangelism at the church I was currently attending. I had shown some zeal for sharing my faith but I had very little theology behind it which caused my eager efforts to produce a meager amount of fruit. However, in preparation for my class I providentially discovered Way of the Master (a ministry of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron). And their course on evangelism, “Conquer your Fear, Share your Faith”, drastically affected my thinking on more levels than just a different method for witnessing. (Another great resource is Mark Cahill’s book “One Thing you can’t do in Heaven”.)
The secret to the Great Commission is in Matthew 1:23.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
(Matthew 1:23 ESV)
One word….no, One Name; Immanuel (God with us). Jesus didn’t give us an impossible command he gave us himself. Matthew 28:20b (of the Great Commission) “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I hope you’re not disappointed because it is amazing that he ended his mandate to preach the gospel to all nations in this way. The reason we are so fearful when it comes to sharing our faith must be because we have either forgotten or overlooked this most important promise of Jesus. We are not expected to “make a go” of this thing alone. He is Immanuel, God with us.
The Power of Immanuel
If we are going to make disciples and teach them to obey all of Jesus’ commands it will require an inward transformation that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit as He fills us and teaches us to obey Jesus’ commands by continually conforming us to become more and more like Christ. What does that look like exactly?
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
(Matthew 10:24-25 ESV)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
(Romans 8:29 ESV)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
These verses explain that it’s a miraculous work of the Lord who is the Spirit, that we have been chosen to be conformed to be like Jesus, and we can expect to be not only rejected but “maligned“, which means to “speak harmful untruths about; speak evil of; slander; defame“. That last part may not seem like the kind of encouragement you were looking for to get out there and fulfill the Great Commission, but it is if you understand that Jesus is Immanuel.
In order to understand the weight that the name Immanuel holds, let’s take a second look at verse 18 of Matthew 28,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
(Matthew 28:18 ESV)
What kind of authority does Jesus have? All, every last ounce, all-inclusive, complete and 100% control, power, dominion and rule. Jesus Christ is Sovereign, it has been granted to him by the Father. There is no room in his statement for any exceptions. All things spiritual, all things physical, the angels, the demons, animals, weather, government, people….all final authority belongs to Jesus. This means that Jesus sits on the highest throne and rules in his great wisdom which is beyond our comprehension. Jesus allows things to happen according to God’s good purposes, he saves all who will come according to God’s choosing (John 6:37), and “no power of hell, no scheme of man” has authority to change his plans. What sweet peace this should bring to those who trust in Him. Our God has all authority in heaven and on earth and our God is “God with us”.
If He is your King….
A final thought on what our response will be to Jesus commission; if all authority belongs to Christ and he commands us to “Go therefore and make disciples” and we say no, give excuses, or look for loopholes elsewhere in scripture are we really his disciples?
In the days of old if a subject to the King refused a command given from the throne they likely would have been executed or imprisoned. In modern times, if an employee of the President or Prime Minister disobeyed or neglected his orders they would probably be fired on the spot. God is merciful and shows us unbelievable grace, but if we claim that Jesus is our King then He is also our Ruler, and more than that he is our Savior. So our obedience to him should flow out of more than mandatory submission (which it does also), but from our of deep love and eternal gratitude for saving our souls from deserved wrath of God and an eternity spent in hell.
I gave a gospel tract to an elderly woman a couple of weeks ago when we were out for lunch after church. She had been eating alone and made conversation with our family a bit. I wish now that we had invited her to sit with us, but as I put the message of the gospel into her hands I was overcome by the nearness of eternity to this woman, especially at her age. When we left the restaurant I gave our waitress a gospel tract as well because I realized that eternity was just as looming for her at her young age as it was for Carol Burdett, the elderly woman I had just met. We have Immanuel, God with us, living in us and people all around us are waiting in line for entrance into eternity. Share Him.
Preparing the Way,