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The Great Commission and Discipleship

• Erwin McManus

There is much confusion in the church today concerning what the word “disciple” signifies. In many cases the church has separated the term from its original, Christ-given meaning. Erwin McManus, of the Mosaic church in East Los Angeles, began his message today by highlighting this incorrect definition of discipleship. A disciple is not simply a person who wants to learn more about God, form new relationships at church, and be mentored by an elder; the life of a disciple entails so much more. Being a disciple is a radical way of life in God. One does not become a disciple by attending church or reading books on Christian living. Instead, Erwin spoke of two definable characteristics, unobtainable through earthly channels, that are always true of someone who follows Jesus Christ.

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There is much confusion in the church today concerning what the word “disciple” signifies. In many cases the church has separated the term from its original, Christ-given meaning. Erwin McManus, of the Mosaic church in East Los Angeles, began his message today by highlighting this incorrect definition of discipleship. A disciple is not simply a person who wants to learn more about God, form new relationships at church, and be mentored by an elder; the life of a disciple entails so much more. Being a disciple is a radical way of life in God. One does not become a disciple by attending church or reading books on Christian living. Instead, Erwin spoke of two definable characteristics, unobtainable through earthly channels, that are always true of someone who follows Jesus Christ.

First, a disciple is taught by God. Jeremiah 31 tells of the new covenant God made with humanity through Jesus Christ. In speaking of this new covenant God said, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me…” As members of this new covenant, God speaks to our hearts and minds directly. The religion of Christianity that is often referenced and heralded today has veered from Christ’s teaching. While the former emphasizes the importance of talking to God, the latter speaks of a radical relationship in which two-way communication occurs between God and the disciple. A disciple of Christ not only speaks to God but also listens and follows the voice of the Creator, that is, the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Erwin gave an excellent illustration of this point in talking about his son’s experience at church camp in which his son heard the voice of God and obeyed.

Second, a disciple is moved by God. Ezekiel 36:26-27 tells of God’s plans to give the house of Israel a new heart, put the Holy Spirit within them and move them to act according to the statutes of God. In the same way when we become disciples, our loving Creator takes our passions and moves us toward righteousness. Our longings begin to align with God’s will. Thus, the acts we perform are not done for the sake of legalism but for the sake of love. Until we are God-moved, we are not disciples of the Most High God.

To be a disciple requires a step of faith. God desires to do amazing and radical things in our lives. Christ died to usher in a movement of dreamers and visionaries (see Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). Yet until we are willing to step beyond our comfort zone, we will never experience what God has in store for us. A disciple is God-taught and God-moved; no human can manufacture what God does in the life of a disciple. It is with this understanding of a disciple that the church must humbly approach the Great Commission.

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 28:18-20

    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 [a] 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.”

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