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“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

Christian Teens Tell Churches: Challenge Us, Don’t Water Down Gospel, Christian News

For years I’ve been saying that our watering down, liberalizing, and softening of the claims and demands of the kingdom of God (and the Gospel) is the problem with reaching our culture with the truth of Jesus. The false logic goes like this: “If we make receiving and following Jesus easy and palatable then more will choose to do so.” Not only is that awful theology and an inexcusable compromise but it doesn’t work either. People (youth in particular) are looking for something so extreme they are willing to “sell out” to it. Look at much of what our young people have become attracted to (such as Goth or gangs – there are a lot of ugly subcultures into which our youth are willing to submerge themselves) and see their passion once they commit to a lifestyle or “cause.”

People are looking for a radical calling to devote themselves. And there is nothing more outrageous than the claims of Christ and the demands of discipleship. Die to self, hate your life, take up your cross, sell all, lose your life that you might gain something far greater (Jesus) – these are the drastic messages of true, undiluted Christianity. And this is not only the truth but also what people or hungry for. They don’t long for some passionless, stoic, simplistic, easy, lazy, disengaged belief system. They don’t desire to just go through the motions of shallow religion. They want to live for something worth dying for!!! This article is just another reminder that our weak, fearful, faithless approach to reaching people is actually turning them off. They want the real deal, the real Jesus (the Lamb and the Lion), and His extreme calling. And the real Jesus is the real deal!

I think a personal story is in order. Several years ago at a Christian youth rally the leader of the band that was the focal point of the meeting concluded the service this way: “Please remain seated and don’t bow your heads. We are going to stop the music now. If you are interested in surrendering to Christ and following Him please stand. While everyone watches, please come forward. We would like to spend some time with you and more fully explain what receiving Jesus means.”

Out of an audience of over 2000, 3 young people stood.

The worship leader continued: “Now come to the front so that a counselor can spend some time with you. We want you to know why we are doing this. If you choose to follow Jesus tomorrow there will be no background music and all eyes will be on you to see if you meant what you said when you made this decision to give all of yourself to serve all of who He is – and rely upon Him to live the way He calls you to live.”

The 3 young people walked to the front and were greeted by counselors.

Can you imagine the uproar from pastors and youth leaders? They were livid! “The world makes it hard enough to become a Christian, we don’t need to make it any harder,” they screeched. “Last year,” one said, “we had dozens come forward.” The band leader softly and graciously replied, “I’m sure you did. And I’m also sure these 3 are more likely to continue in the faith.”

The thing that made such an impression on me, and I’ll never forget it, was what I learned when I spoke to all 3 of those kids. All had come to the front the year before. And they all said essentially the same thing: “It wasn’t real last year. It was pure emotion. It seemed like the popular thing to do. Now I have a better idea of what I’m signing up for, what it means to follow my Savior.”

And, I believe, follow they will.

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…a continuation of the previous post . 

“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). 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

Fifth, our going and making disciples is vitally linked to Christ’s presence with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. This leads to a critical and profound question: Do we go because of His presence or do we more fully experience His presence when we go? I would answer, “Yes!” His presence in us compels us to go and share and disciple. But, simultaneously, the more we do these things the more, it seems, we experience intimacy with Him. What a beautiful continuum: We go because He is in us, in our going we experience a greater sense of His presence, and this intimacy and fellowship with our Savior motivates us even more to go and disciple. Understand, He goes both before us and with us as we live out His commission to see true Gospel transformation. “The LORD your God is with you. He is mighty to save…” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV). It is good for us to be reminded of Moses’ words in Exodus 33:15 (NIV): “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us…”

Number six is that the tactical process to deploy the Gospel to all nations is found first in the word, “Go.” This could be translated “as you go” – as you go to the store, to work, to church, on vacation, etc. This denotes a lifestyle of leaving the fragrance of the Gospel as a trail-finder everywhere we journey. Another feature in the game plan for expanding God’s kingdom is that the spread of the Gospel starts at home (Jerusalem) and moves out (until it reaches the ends of the earth). Let’s not gloss over this. We all have a Jerusalem (work, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, etc) and we are called to go there first. The harvest is ripe in our own sphere of influence. Although we are to promote global missions we are not to do so at the expense of the harvest outside our front door. I would even venture to say that one of the greatest mission fields in America can be found in church pews on Sunday morning. 

And last, although not explicitly mentioned in these two texts, I believe that prayer must undergird all going and making of disciples in the name of Jesus. Although this includes praying for missionaries it also means that we must have prayer-saturated lives in order to most effectively carry out the command to spread His life-transforming Good News. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 4:2-6 is pivotal on this point. In the context of sharing the Gospel, Paul taught the church at Colossae to devote themselves to prayer and even asked that they pray specifically for him as he sought opportunity to articulate the Good News. This more than suggests that we need to pray for ourselves and others as we seek to make this mandate a Great Commission (not omission) in our lives, the lives of others, and throughout the church universal. 

So I will leave you with the words of Jesus Himself. Words that, when combined with the texts we have studied, should give us a sense of urgency to go, share, and make disciples for His glory: 

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38). 

May each of us fervently and consistently pray this prayer and know that we are undoubtedly one of the laborers called to go, share, and disciple in the field where God has placed us. May it never be said that we are the omission in The Great Commission.

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