Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Here’s the Real Meaning of the Great Commission

It’s Christmas time. Time to consider once again the second most amazing event in human history: that God became flesh and pitched his tent among us. It’s a sign of God’s amazing and unfathomable love and grace that the Son, Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be selfishly held on to, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

The second most amazing event in human history is that Jesus died, a sacrificial death, in our place and was raised again at Easter. Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Some will feel differently, of course, but for me, this is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the time when we can’t help but focus on the fact that the light has come into the darkness. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Then he said, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”

We are invited by the light of the world to become light so that the darkness can be overcome. We are also commanded to take this light and let it shine into all the world that others, too, may be in the light. We are followers of Jesus and also his fellow follower (disciple) makers. Jesus asks us to be his followers and also to make more Christ followers. Truly, this is a great commission!

The Son’s commission to us, ”Go and make disciples of all nations…” reminds me of the Father’s commission to mankind: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”

Have you noticed how we are recently reticent to fulfill either of these commissions? A diminishing number of people have large families any more. We seem to prefer 2 or 3 children to 12. I grew up in a selfish generation. My friends and I grew up believing that we should first “do something important” and then save up money, in order to have children (and only a few) later in life. In other words, the meaning of life was to be found in doing something for yourself, and only secondarily in having a family. My grandparents came from a mindset that family was the most important thing and that children were a blessing from the Lord.

People far smarter than I have been watching this trend for a long time. It has something to do with prosperity: for some reason, the richer we get the fewer kids we have. Maybe there is something to be said about large families having to struggle together, but being stronger for it. I suppose the more prosperous we become, the more we think we have to provide for our children (ipods, cell phones, flat screens, etc) so children become less and less cost effective. Frankly, I like the space we have at our house, more kids would mean there would be less space for me and what I want. But you see, I’m selfish.

God isn’t selfish. He’s magnanimous. He is bounteous. He specializes in abundance. That’s one of the reasons or signs that point to Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God. Wherever Jesus went there was suddenly abundance: water became wine, five loaves and 2 fish suddenly multiplied to fill a multitude and there was still enough left for 12 baskets; fish filled the nets, the dead came back to life. “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”

I remember story time in elementary school. We read a lot of science fiction about the end of the world. On Saturday mornings there were cartoons and dramas (like Ark 2) about how overpopulation and the consequent pollution was destroying the earth. We’d all freeze to death in the dark. Alas, the science has changed and now we’re getting too hot and we now have over 50,000,000 million abortions in this country alone. Apparently we don’t think much as a world about God’s command: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” When it comes to not doing what God commands, just about any excuse will do.

So to the church Jesus gives the great commission, “Go and make disciples.” The great commission is simply God reminding us that as far as he is concerned, more is better. “Fill the earth with my disciples because I want abundant children.” “Let there be more light.”

The church is therefore commanded to grow the family. But we’re big enough, surely? Aren't we cozy as we are? More will get messy! Not for the magnanimous, over abundant, bounteous, grace beyond all measure attitude of God. We need to make room. Oh sure, there will be issues like “what about me and mine?” but hopefully, the joy of seeing new life will overcome those if our hearts are in the right place.

But the house is too small! But the budget is too small! But we haven’t prepared! Doesn’t matter. The fields are white with the harvest. God commands: “Go, make disciples, fill the earth and subdue it. Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify me, your Father in heaven.” The most joyous times in ministry and in my personal life were'nt when there was plenty and everyone had their own space. They were when we were together, bunched up, falling over eachother and there wasn't enough to go around. That made community, it made memories, it made love. In a room crowded with disciples, the light is very, very bright.

It’s not a Christmas hymn but it bespeaks the meaning of season: that God became man so that men might become sons of God, and now asks us to increase the family.
"Going forth with laughter, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained, The child often grieves;
 When our weeping’s over, He will tell us gently, 
We shall come rejoicing to heaven, bringing in the sheaves.
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, 
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves, 
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
 We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading. PJ

1 comment:

  1. John,
    I like your blog. It captures God’s heart. You wrote some very beautiful and honest things. I know that I too have fallen short of glorifying God in his abundant love.
    To keep perspective, remember that the great commission begins with, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” God ultimately is the one who gives the increase in the natural or supernatural birth. In his love and in his plan, he works through us in his good work. Even though it is hard to understand, it is comforting to me that he has all authority. I cannot even mess it up. Merry Christmas.