Read The Instructions

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

My head felt like a furnace as I frantically attempted to empty out all of the information I had crammed into my brain for the last two weeks. It was math test day, and being terrible in math, I had been studying very hard for this exam. And to my complete surprise, I found myself having no problem coming up with the answers that I was now seeing on the test. I couldnt believe how easy it was! It felt like my pencil could not move fast enough. It was like I was so surprised I knew the answers, I felt I had to get all this information out of my head and onto the paper before I had a lapse in memory. Upon completing the very last question, I saw that I was one of the first kids finished.

Eager and satisfied that my work was done, I proudly took my paper to the teachers desk. The next day our teacher called each of us to her desk to pick up our graded copy of the test. I just knew that I had made a very high grade. It was so easy, I had no difficulty at all.  I had heard my friends whispering about how hard the exam had been. I thought to myself, “They should have studied hard like me.”

Finally my name was called. Confident, I marched up to the teachers desk and grabbed my exam. And to my complete surprise, my grade was not one of the top letter in the alphabet. It wasnt even a passing mark. I had failed the exam. I was confused, and I wondered how this could have happened! I glanced over the test to see that I had answered most of the answers correctly. Still confused, I brought this to my teachers attention. I asked her,”How could I get a failing mark on this exam! I answered most all the problems correctly!

She looked at me with a disappointed and compassionate look. “Im so sorry Charlie”, She said. “But you didnt read the directions completely” Not knowing what she meant, I read over the directions. And I realized my folly. The directions instructed me to complete the problems on the page, and then complete part two of the test on the back of the paper. I was so eager to dive into the test and answer the questions, I forgot to pay attention to the instructions. I thought I knew what to do. But I didnt realize there was more to it than just the first part of the exam.

When we think about our mission as Christians, we think of preaching the gospel to all people. Sharing Jesus with friends, family, and others who may not know him. Thats the way many of us test ourselves in our walk with Christ. We must ask ourselves, “Are we effectively sharing our faith with others?”  And sadly, many Christians are failing that test miserably. A complacent Christianity looks nothing like Jesus. And if we are not continuing to look more like Christ, then we’ve never met him.

However there are many Christians who are being active in sharing their faith. I find this spiritual test easy, being that my job is ministry and I have the opportunity to regularly share my faith. But a few years ago, upon a closer examination, I realized that I was in grave danger of failing the test. You see, I made the same mistake in ministry that I had made in the math class of my youth. I had skimmed over the directions and left some problems incomplete.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19.

These are the basic instructions that Christ gave to his disciples. Many christians and even preachers can fall into the trap of not taking time to comprehend these orders. We are so excited when someone walks down to the front of the church and claims they want to be baptised. And in the same way, people are excited to make that initial decision. And after the decision is made and the person goes through with believers baptism, more times than not, we praise God for another saved soul and move on to the next person.

And this is so dangerous, because forgot to turn the page over. We are so excited to pat ourselves on the back for helping someone come to their decision, that we forget that there is still more work to be done. Jesus never ordered his followers to go and make converts to Christianity. His command was much more intense. He said go and make disciples! Today we raise up believers and tell them to go and preach the gospel to people. But if we take seriously the instructions Christ has given to us, the orders should be two fold.

First, go and preach the gospel to all people. And secondly, and this is the part of the instructions we so often neglect…..teach them to preach. We miss the point of Christianity. It is not to get people to jump into the baptismal pool and say the believe in Christ. Most new believers know they need Jesus, and after they make that decision to follow him, they have no clue how to be a disciple! Sure, we tell them to come to church and to read their Bible. But they can still be confused as to how to do this.

A few years back, Lacy and I owned a gym and had all sorts of state of the art equipment. It was simple for me to use because I knew about working out, fitness, and I understood what it took to get in shape. Imagine someone who knew little to nothing about working out had come to the gym and said, “I really want to get in shape.”

In response, the personal trainer says, “Great, lets sign you up to be a member of this gym!” (Think baptism here.)

Then the trainer says, “Now that you are a member, you have access to all this great state of the art equipment! So use it everyday and good luck!” With this, the trainer provided no further instruction on how to use the machines or even get in shape.

That personal trainer wouldnt have a job very long. And the people joining the gym would soon get frustrated at their lack of understand and shortly after, stop coming.

One of the big reasons people stop coming to church is because they get nothing out of it.

The reason they get nothing out of it is because they are not growing in their faith.

The reason they are not growing in their faith is because they are not spending time in Gods word, bathing in the gospel. 

The reason they are not bathing in the gospel is because they dont have a proper understanding of just what Jesus did for us and how that affects our lives.

The reason they dont have a proper understanding is because they were taught how to say the sinners prayer but never taught how to live a new life as a disciple.

And finally, the reason they dont understand how to be a disciple is because someone who was instrumental in leading them to make a decision for Christ failed in the second part of the exam…..discipleship.

If we are going to be missional about sharing our faith, then we need to be prepared to invest our time into those whom we are preaching.  We need to be careful when someone proclaims they want to be saved instead of rejoicing. Yes it is an exciting time. But the worst thing that could take place is for that person to make a commitment and have no clue as to what they are committing to. Becoming a follower of Christ is a life long commitment. Major changes must take place, transforming them from a life that was formerly self centered and grounded in sin, to now in Christ abandoning those fleshly desires in exchange for pursing righteousness.

When someone has a drug addiction and commits to get sober and cleaned up, they go through an intensive detox program to assure that they never fall into that hurtful lifestyle again. And even before detox, rehab programs seek to really find out if the person is sincere in wanting to break their addictions. Yet when a person who is addicted to a lifestyle of sin comes to church and says they want to change, many times we rejoice with little to no questions asked. We make them commit to abandon their sinful ways and then leave it up to them to navigate in their new life.

Show people their need for Jesus. But dont stop there. Raise them up as you would a child. Feed them the word of God and teach them His commands. And teach them how to lead others to Christ. Share with them one of the fundamentals of the Christian faith is to GO!  Once we come to Jesus, our life transforms into a ministry. Glorifying Christ is to become the very most important thing in our lives. If we allow people to think of Jesus as just an accessory they add to their lives and not their treasure in which they would forsake everything else, then we’ve missed the point.

Our life’s mission as believers in Christ should not be to make Christians. It should be to make disciples. The goal is not to baptise people into a short lived faith. The point is to direct them to the savior who can break their chains of sin. I dont want to stand before the Lord one day and hear him declare that I failed for lack of following instructions. I want to meet His standards in this exam we call life.  There is a huge blessing in intentional discipleship. Not only do you get to play a part in leading someone to the Lord, but in each discipleship, you become a little more like Jesus. That is the reason for all that we do. It’s always about Jesus!

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