“If you look at the great commission,” he said. “we often overlook two important words – ‘to obey'”.
He is so right. In what has come to be known as the Great Commission Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Notice the two words under consideration here, “….teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Grammatically, it is possible to remove those two words while maintaining sentence structure, “teaching them… everything I commanded you”. But theologically, it would be a violation of God’s will.
Somehow much of what we call discipleship has silently edited out these two key words – to obey. It is erroneous to think that if we simply teach and study everything Jesus taught and commanded, we have fulfilled the didactic part of the Great Commission. The danger is that discipleship becomes nothing more than a weekly information dump.
To be fair, ours is not an intentional disobedience. Rather, it is a slow slide to sloth. Human will, like water, flows along the path of least resistance. It is much easier to study what Jesus said than to obey what Jesus said. It takes blood sweat and tears to actually forgive our enemies, deny ourselves and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Here’s a baby step solution. Take the Bible study or passage currently under consideration. Choose one biblical truth from the study and put it into practice to the best of our understanding and ability. Don’t go to the next lesson or passage until an attempt at obedience is made.
I say “attempt” at obedience, because we often don’t obey because we feel we’ll “do it wrong”. We will never be perfectly obedient this side of heaven. We can, however, faithfully take a tentative step toward obedience.
And let’s remember another often forgotten phrase of the Great Commission, “and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” When we obey we are never alone. Jesus himself is with us.