Five:
The Great Commission

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A Compelling Mission

Imagine that you had discovered a painless and 100% successful cure for cancer. Wouldn’t you want to pass on this cure to as many cancer patients as you possibly could? You might even feel responsible to do so.

Well, those of us who know the truth about Jesus and His gift of salvation have an important responsibility—to share this good news with others, so that they too can receive eternal life and enter into a relationship with their Creator.

By passing on the cure to cancer patients, you would be saving lives. And by passing on the gift of salvation to others, you are also saving lives—and saving them eternally!

The Bible calls sharing the good news of Jesus with others the Great Commission, which is a mission that Jesus gave to all Christians before He ascended to heaven. He said:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.

Great Commission = Your Commission

In Mark 16:15, Jesus also said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

The Lord has called many Christians throughout history to leave their homelands and to bring salvation to distant and foreign lands. One such person was Gladys Alyward, who felt called to leave her homeland of England to bring God’s message of love to those in China. Listen to her testimony:

Listen: "Why Don’t You Go Yourself?"

“Why Don’t You Go Yourself?”
By Gladys Aylward (February 24, 1902 – January 3, 1970)

I went to China exactly thirty-six years ago. I went as a girl in my twenties, and I really and truly believed that God told me to go. I was saved after I’d left my home and gone out to work in London. I was pulled into a church one night by a group of young people who were standing outside that church door, who had been saved during the previous week in some revival. And they were so happy, they thought they’d got everything in Jesus Christ [and] they were determined everybody else was going to find Him too.

And I that night sat in that church, and for the first time in my life realized that Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, had died for Gladys Aylward. It shook me, it moved me, and it was going to alter my whole life. I went out, not realizing, of course, what had happened inside me, to rush home to the little place where I was living, and threw myself on the bed. And I said, “God, if You’re real, oh please prove Yourself to me. And if You prove Yourself to me tonight, I promise I will do anything You ask.” I had no idea what He was going to ask, but all I can say is this: if I was to be put back tonight to that very moment, I would do the same all over again, in that it has been just wonderful. We have a very wonderful God, and a very marvelous Savior.

I was reading one day a periodical [magazine], and in it was an article on China. The article pointed out that western civilization was going in at a great rate to this great land, and yet there must be thousands, it may even go into millions, of people in China who had never heard the Gospel.

Well, this shook me as much as the fact that Jesus was real, and I thought, “Why, how dreadful! Fancy having to go all through your life without Christ!” Oh, but how dreadful to have to die, and not know where you were going. Well then, somebody ought to be doing something.

I had not been brought up in circles that talked about missionaries and mission fields and all this kind of thing; I didn’t know anything about that. So I felt that somebody ought to be doing something. Weren’t there churches? Weren’t there Bibles? Couldn’t they read them? I discovered there weren’t. Well then, somebody ought to be going and telling them. And I now believe that it is my job to see that at least one person went to China for Jesus Christ.

And so for that next year and two months, every time I went out, I called on somebody, either a relation or a friend or somebody I knew, and later on people who I didn’t know but whose names I saw in the paper, with this one idea that I could persuade them that they were the very person who should be going to China for Christ.

They were all very clever and educated and they had good positions. They were doctors, they were nurses, oh, they were wonderful, and to me they were just the very people who should be going. Well, I’m terribly sorry, not one of them even took me in earnest. They all thought I was a bit funny in my head and asked me such peculiar questions that I came out very disappointed.

And then at the end of that time, I stood in a sitting room at home while my sister was sending off an aunt of mine who had been to visit, and I heard her say, “Aunt Nell, be very careful. If our Glad knocks at your door, don’t open it, because you might find yourself on the way to China before long.” And I decided that even my sister thought that I was a little bit funny up here.

My last try was my own brother. I went home, I caught him in the kitchen, and I proceeded to tell him all that was in my mind. I promised to pay his fare, I promised to keep him if he’d go. All he’d have to do when he got there was to send me a letter with what he needed and I would send it to him. I would work, I could earn money, and this is where it would go.

And he laughed and he laughed and he thought it was the biggest joke he’d ever heard! And he said, “I don’t know what you’re worrying about them Chinese for. Do you know anything about them?” “No.” “Do you know where China is?” “No.” “Been reading any books about China?” “No.” “Well, that’s a queer thing, isn’t it? So what you worrying about them for?” “Because they do not know Jesus Christ, and I feel they should. You wouldn’t go?” “What, me? Uh, oh no, I’m not interested!”

He had already gone out from the door when he turned back, and very boy-like, put his head round the door, and this is what he said: “If you really believe somebody ought to be going, why don’t you go yourself?” Bang went the door, and away he’d gone.

I stood, I don’t know how long, and there went on inside me that battle that goes on inside, [as] many of us know, [like] this, “Shall I? Is it me? Isn’t it me?” All the fors, all the againsts, you know. It couldn’t be me! Why, I’ve never done anything really sensible, and well, I wasn’t educated, I haven’t any money, and I wouldn’t know how to begin. I don’t know anything about sermons, I don’t know anything about church. Oh no, oh no. And then, “Why don’t you go yourself, if you really believe somebody ought to go?”

Eventually, I just made God two promises: The first, “Dear Lord Jesus, if You will open the way and show me how, I will go myself.” The second, “I will never again ask anyone to do something that I believe You are asking me, the person Gladys Aylward, to do.”

Gladys Alyward, Testimony and Challenge

Is it a requirement to leave your homeland to fulfill the Great Commission? Not necessarily!

Jesus needs Christians everywhere, in every country and in every place, who are willing to share His message of salvation with others. He may call you to share His message of love with those you live with, or He may call you as He called others to travel to a foreign country to carry His good news to those who aren’t aware of it. Any Christian, no matter what else he or she does, can carry out this commission.

There may be someone you see every day at your school, at the park, in your neighborhood, on your football team, or in your dance class, to whom you know the Lord wants you to witness. Or it may be someone you have met for the first time. What matters is that you don’t miss the chance to tell that someone about Jesus when God shows you to do it.

Here is a personal account from Merlin Carothers, then an army chaplain, and later the author of the books Prison to Praise and Power in Praise, illustrating how easy it can be to forget to pass on the message of God’s love to those you see on a daily basis:

Listen: "Did I Ever?"

“Did I Ever?”
[After being filled with the Holy Spirit] I returned to Fort Bragg anxious to share with everyone the wonderful thing that had happened to me. The first day I went to our headquarters com­pany orderly room. The First Sergeant was sit­ting behind his desk. He was big and rough and well known for his gruff manners.

"First Sergeant," I said, "did I ever tell you that Jesus loves you?"

To my amazement the tears began to roll down his cheeks.

He said: "No, Chaplain, you never told me anything like that."

I felt my face flush hot with shame. For over a year I had seen him several times a day and I had never told him anything about Jesus.

I walked into the hallway and met the Supply Sergeant.

"Sergeant, did I ever tell you that Jesus loves you and I love you too?"

"No, Sir, you never told me anything like that." Again I felt ashamed, and he said: "Sir, do you have a minute to talk?" We went to my office and he poured out a host of problems I had never known he had. When he was through I asked if he would like to accept Jesus as his Savior. He said he would, and knelt with tears streaming down his face.

Merlin Carothers, Prison to Praise (Carothers, 1970)

A world-class Christian is a Christian who is always ready for Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) to guide him in knowing who he should witness to and how he should do it.

Being a World-class Christian
You'll either be a worldly Christian or a world-class Christian.

Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment. They're saved, but self-centered. They want to use God for their purposes instead of being used for His purposes. In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and were made for a mission. They're eager to receive a personal assignment and excited about the privilege of being used by God. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.

Which type of Christian do you want to be? God invites you to participate in the greatest and most significant cause in history—His kingdom. He's building His family for eternity. Nothing matters more and nothing will last as long. Getting involved as a world-class Christian will allow you to experience a little of what Heaven will be like in advance.

God doesn't want to use just some of His people; He wants to use all of His people. He wants His whole church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world.

If you want to be like Jesus, you must care about what He cares about most; you must have a heart for the whole world! You can't be satisfied with just your family and friends coming to Christ. There are over 6 billion people on Earth, and Jesus wants all His lost children found. The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance.

Rick Warren, Baptist Press, June 18, 2002

Matthew 9:36 When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

Jesus wants us to have the same compassionate feelings for others that He does. He wants us to care enough about others that we are motivated to reach out to them, not just because we feel we have to, but because we really want to do what we can to help them.

Show and Tell

Witnessing is something that we can do anytime. We can testify of Jesus through our actions, with the words we choose to use, how we react to situations, and how we treat the people around us. This is often referred to as “walking the walk.” In other words, you live what you say you believe.

Doing something kind for someone, showing patience when it would be only natural to get frustrated, taking the time to listen when you are busy, etc., can speak louder than any talk or sermon you could give. Once people know that you’re a Christian, they will often watch the things you do and how you react above what you say about yourself and your beliefs, to see if being a Christian actually makes a difference. This point is reflected in the following story:

Converted
Henry M. Stanley found Livingstone in Africa and lived with him for some time. Here is his testimony: "I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. But there came for me a long time for reflection. I saw this solitary old man there and asked myself, 'How on earth does he stop here—is he cracked, or what? What is it that inspires him?

"For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible—'Leave all things and follow Me.' But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it."

Author unknown

You might want to ask yourself these questions:

If I was going to be put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to get me convicted? Would the people that I know be able to testify under oath that I am, indeed, a follower of Christ?

The following clip has some great tips on bringing people to Jesus through being a living example of His love.

Watch it: R Teens "Show and Tell"

Opportunities

God loves to give Christians opportunities. If you get an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, do so! Maybe that person you meet at the park will soon move someplace else. Or maybe your classmate, who always sits alone during break, will become so depressed with life that she’ll harden herself against ever wanting to hear about God. But if you step out and show interest in her and let her know that you care about her in the way God shows you to, it will help her to believe that He cares about her too.

This story was told by Dr. R. A. Torrey, an American evangelist who lived from 1856 to 1928:

"You will never speak to that man again"
One evening when Mr. Alexander and I were in Brighton, England, one of the workers went from the afternoon meeting to a restaurant for his evening meal. His attention was drawn toward the man who waited upon him, and there came to his heart a strong impression that he should speak to that waiter about his soul, but that seemed to him such an unusual thing to do that he kept putting it off.

When the meal was ended and the bill paid, he stepped out of the restaurant, but had such a feeling that he should speak to that waiter that he decided to wait outside until the waiter came out. In a little while the proprietor came out and asked him why he was waiting. He replied that he was waiting to speak with the man who had waited upon him at the table. The proprietor replied, "You will never speak to that man again. After waiting upon you he went to his room and shot himself."

12 FS, Class 10a

Thankfully, not all instances will have such a sad ending, but the moral of this story is this: The best time to witness to someone is right when God puts the impression on your heart to do so. And it won’t always be the ideal time, situation, or location. In fact, sometimes it may seem inconvenient to witness to someone. But God knows what’s in a person’s heart and why that moment may be a crucial time for him or her to hear His message of love.

Here’s a short clip by Britt Nicole, a Christian music artist and performer, encouraging us to step out by faith to share God’s love:

Watch it: Britt Nicole Encourages Us to Step Out

Isn’t that encouraging?! We never have to feel the pressure that it’s about us and how well (or not) we know how to witness to others. All we have to do is step out when God puts His love in our hearts and when the Holy Spirit gives us the impression that we should tell someone about Jesus. He’s the One who wants to win that person. He only asks us to have the faith to step out when He gives us an opportunity to show someone His love and kindness.

Is there anyone around you whose life could be a little better if you showed them you cared? Don’t wait or hesitate! Talk to that person today. If you let Jesus fill your heart with love for that person, He’ll show you what to say.

Here’s a clip that shows the impact that one man’s witnessing had on the lives of others. He took advantage of the opportunity he had to witness and the ripple effect has been felt around the world!

Watch it: A White-Haired Man in Australia

The Greatest Thing in Life…

A famous American preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, said, “The greatest thing in life is to bring others to Jesus Christ.”

When we witness to someone, we are actively participating in a very important part of being a Christian. Witnessing to others also brings our personal faith in Jesus and the Word to life.

It’s in essence living what you believe. It’s the difference between talking about football, knowing the strategy and tactics of the game, the rules, the calls, and actually getting out there on the field and playing. The more you kick the ball, the more you play and practice, the better you become, and the more your skill grows.

Witnessing is getting out of the grandstands of watching the Christian life and into the arena to participate.

When it comes to witnessing, all Jesus asks for is someone who is willing to witness at any time and in the way He shows them to. Doing so can save both souls and lives! The definition of willing is:

  • Ready to do something voluntarily: ready to do something without being forced.

  • Helpful: cooperative and enthusiastic

Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2005

The Bible says:

Matthew 5:14, 16 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Watch it: The Lost Get Found

Is there anyone the Lord has put on your heart to witness to? If so, ask Jesus to give you the love and boldness you need to step out and let His light shine through you! Ask the Lord to help you to recognize those who need you to share His love and salvation with them. By doing so, you will be participating in the Great Commission and saving lives!

(All verses are taken from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.)