We’ve previously talked about our calling as followers of Jesus being rooted in the ideas brought to light Matthew 28:19-20, “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus’ claim of all authority is an unequivocal assertion that He alone is King. King Jesus has charged His followers with the assignment of making disciples of all nations. This is not so much a mandate for missionary service as it is a charge to help people of all ethnic groups learn what it means to be followers of Jesus. This not so much a call to target certain people with the gospel as it is a statement of Jesus’ desire for the purposeful inclusion of all people in the kingdom of Christ.
In my estimation, the most important thing for those who want to be part of what Jesus is doing through His kingdom presence in the world is to develop a disciple-maker’s heart. What better place to turn to learn about such zeal than to the Apostle Paul, whose life epitomizes the what every disciple-making follower of Jesus should aspire to be? In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, we are given a personal tour of Paul’s heart. We learn what is was that caused the evangelistic fires to roar deep within his soul. In The Message, Peterson translates these verses as follows:
12-14 I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.
15-17 Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.
What does Paul’s life teach us about developing a disciple-maker’s heart?
First, he “saw” what the Lord can do… His former folly is summarized in verse 13: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” But, something happened. Paul saw the light! He learned that his life was being lived against God, instead of for Him. In mercy, however, God spared him; and by His grace He saved him. If ever a man needed unmerited favor it was Paul, right? Praise God! Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! God gave Paul what he needed; not what he deserved!
Second, Paul “saw” himself in the proper light… This was not morbid musing over past failures. It was realistic reflection, which produced genuine appreciation for all that God had done for him. Though he was saved from sin, he did not begin to think of himself as somehow superior to those still lost in sin. He knew—always knew and never forgot—it was God’s grace that made him what he was! In another passage he said: “By the grace of God, I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Third, Paul “saw” the potential for others… Can you visualize this? The “worst” sinner is God’s chosen vessel to Gentiles. The former blasphemer and persecutor, who violently opposed Christ, is appointed to service by Christ. This is no fluke, either! God did it on purpose to show his unlimited patience. What He is willing to do for the worst sinner, God is willing to do for all sinners! Thus, no one should be written off or arbitrarily excluded. No matter what package it is wrapped in, sin is sin! Sinners outside of Christ, one and all, are all in the same condition. Lost! And, Christ Jesus came into the world to save who? Lost sinners! Because Paul saw through the sin and saw the potential of salvation in Christ Jesus, he enthusiastically became all things to all men that he might be all means possible save some!
May we all strive to develop a heart for the Lord and making disciples like that of the Apostle Paul’s.
© Bill Williams
August 23, 2006