Matthew 28:18-20, “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.”
Our church just came off of our annual Missions Week. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we read and interpret the Great Commission in our generation. This is my take on how we feel about the Great Commission today.
“Jesus’ twenty-something year-old followers said to him, “I don’t trust any kind of authority, even yours. Therefore, I’ll make my own decisions about my future and if people want to believe in you that’s great. But I’m not going to order my life purpose around this. I’ll only really seek your presence in my life when I feel like it’s needed.”
If this is how we feel, there are some great barriers to obeying the Great Commission in our generation. I’ll try to unpack a few of these barriers over the next several posts. The first great barrier would be our generation’s struggle with authority. In verse 18, the resurrected Jesus says that he has all authority in heaven and on earth. Authority is the right to exercise power or control. Power is about might. Authority is about right. Our parents have authority in our lives because they have the right to tell us what to do as those who care for us. When Jesus says that he has all authority, then, he means that he has the right to tell you what you should do with your life as your Creator and Redeemer. He doesn’t just have the right to do this because he says so. God gave him the right because he humbled himself as a servant and redeemed us through his death and resurrection (Phil 2:5-11). If there’s anyone who has the right to tell you what you should do with your life, it’s Jesus. Nobody else has that kind of authority in your life.
But many of us passively rebel against any kind of authority. I say “passive” because we listen and nod our heads, but in our hearts we choose our own way. In our day, we perceive submission to authority as a sign of weakness and a limit to our sense of freedom. And so we carry this into our relationship with God. He can’t tell us what to do with our lives. We have to discover it ourselves. In fact, nobody can tell me what to do with my life. It’s MY life. But there are consequences to living with this attitude. Tim Keller puts it like this, “People live increasingly fragmented lives… Their identity constantly shifts as they move through a series of life episodes that are not tightly connected to each other. They are always ready to change direction and abandon commitments and loyalties without qualms and to pursue, on a personal cost-benefit basis, the best opportunity available to them.” The result of our passive rebellion is a fragmented life and a never-ending identity crisis.
We go from one life stage to the next without any sense of meaning or purpose. Only a God who has all authority can connect the dots of your life together. God can say to you, “You grew up in this family… so that I can use your pain to make my name known to the nations… I frustrated your plans for the future… so that you can make my name known to the nations… I gave you this job… so that you can use your gifts to make my name known to the nations.”
If the God that you worship doesn’t have any authority, he can’t do this for you. You’ll spend the rest of your life trying to figure out everything on your own. You’ll never know why you went through this or that in the past. And you’ll always be driven by fear as you face the future.
So one of the great barriers to the Great Commission in our generation is that our God is too small.