Everything, or to Obey Everything?

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded to you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These are our marching orders. These are the instructions of the Lord Jesus on the day of His ascension. And this is the driving focus of the church. Go and make disciples, and do so wherever you find yourself going. Do it, and then do it again, with the authority of the King of the Universe.

The nuance of the language in those marching orders is interesting, isn’t it? What I mean is that Jesus says that we are to teach those “to observe everything I have commanded to you.”

We are NOT to teach them everything He has commanded.

It’s a slight wording difference but with big implications. We are to teach to obey, not to teach everything. The first is about the Person; the second is about the content. The first is developmental; the second is static. The first fixes our eyes on Him; the second fixes our gaze on our behavior. See the difference?

Think about it in terms of parenting.

Yesterday alone I gave somewhere around 700 commands to my children:

“Get down off the table.”

“Stop ignoring your sister.”

“Stop punching me in the stomach.”

These are commands. And, as a parent with authority in our home, I expect them to obey these explicit statements. But there is something I want more than that as a Father. I want them not only to obey, but to go the step beyond and to learn how to obey. In other words, I want my commands to my children to be consistent enough so that when they come to a specific situation I have not addressed explicitly they know me. They know my character. They know what I would say. And if indeed they do the right thing, they do so not because I have given a specific statement about a specific situation; they do so because they have learned to obey.

Similarly, Jesus knows that in the life of His disciples they are going to come upon situations about which the Bible doesn’t deal directly. We face these things a thousand times a day in relationships, at work, online, and a host of other venues. The disciple of Jesus isn’t one who has a list of Jesus’ commands memorized (though that ain’t such a bad thing). The disciple is the one who has spent enough time with Jesus to know how to bring His character and person to bear on any given situation. The disciple doesn’t only obey; the disciple has been taught and teaches to obey. And that obedience finds its fuel not in a manual of rules but in a Person.

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