The last words of the Lord Jesus in the gospel of Matthew are as following, “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.” (Matthew 28:18b-20) We call it the Great Commission and it is a call to discipleship and evangelism. Often times the emphasis in preaching/teaching this text is on evangelism. It certainly teaches the importance of spreading the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations. The gospel of the Kingdom encompasses all nations. But the imperative with the most emphasis as I understand it is upon making disciples.
I’ve been thinking much about discipleship lately. About what it is and what it isn’t. Often times in the denominational life I’m saturated in discipleship isn’t often thought of as a biblical lifestyle. Discipleship is often thought of as a set of programs, classes, or the thing you do once a year in youth group called a D-Now. Those are certainly things that can be used by God to grow his church into his likeness. God in his sovereign grace chose his church to be predestined to salvation so that they might be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29-20) The gospel imperatively calls for conformity to the image of Jesus. My desire is to see a push away from program evangelism to living gospel lives in gospel community. In other words, I want the church to be what the church is supposed to be. I want the church to be conformed to the image of Jesus. But we seem to be stamped often times with the mold of the world, and slip out of that mold when we go to Bible study, or corporate worship, or the struggle and great danger for students like myself: the classroom.
There are two things that most of us do all the time. Some of us (like myself) do them more than others. We talk and we think all the time. These are two catalysts that can be used every day to further the call to Christian discipleship. If we focus our thoughts and conversations upon the things of God we’ll grow in grace.
Think upon the gospel if you’re to be a disciple.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:4-8
There are many ‘principles’ if you will to discipleship in that text. It speaks much of the spiritual disciplines that are involved in the Christian life that we’re called to as disciples of the Lord Jesus. What they do have in common is that they are continual practices. Continual rejoicing. Continual prayer. Continual peace. They involve our hearts and our minds. Continuous rejoicing in the Lord, constant petition to him, and living in the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus. Praise the Lord that the preposition remains on Christ. Our peace is found in him. Likewise is our conformity to him. Our salvation will be ‘worked out with fear and trembling’ but only because ‘it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’
If we seek to be disciples, we must be continually focused on the one we follow. This includes the things we dwell upon. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Think gospel. Think Jesus. It might not make for very good programs or LifeWay curriculum. But it does make for discipleship. Gospel practice makes for disciples of Jesus. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) Beloved, the proclamation of the gospel isn’t just for conversion and administered from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. It should be continually before us.
Talk about the gospel if you’re to be a disciple.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:2-6
The text in Philippians spoke to keeping the gospel in our thoughts. The text before us in Colossians speaks to keeping the gospel in our speech. There are again gospel imperatives for the Colossian believers just like the Philippian ones. Ones of prayer and thanksgiving. What I’d like to draw attention to in the text is making the best use of time and having gracious salted speech.
We get one life. Every moment passed is forever gone. I’m certainly not the best example for making the best of the time I’ve been given. But I’d like to be a better steward thereof. We’re to conduct ourselves in holiness. The world is watching and how we act is a reflection of Christ. It is a reflection of our discipleship. He calls us to have conversation that is gracious and seasoned with salt.
Albert Barnes commentates on being seasoned with salt:
Here the meaning seems to be, that our conversation should be seasoned with piety or grace in a way similar to that in which we employ salt in our food. It makes it wholesome and palatable. So with our conversation. If it be not imbued with the spirit of piety, it is flat, insipid, unprofitable, injurious. The spirit of piety will make it what it should be – useful, agreeable, beneficial to mankind. This does not mean that our conversation is to be always, strictly speaking, religious – wherever we may be – any more than our food should be mere salt; but it means that, whatever be the topic, the spirit of piety should be diffused through it – as the salt in our food should properly season it all – whatever the article of food may be.
So it should be. We need to keep the gospel in mind in all of our conduct. There isn’t a compartment of our lives that is for the gospel and another for all other times. When Christ calls us, he calls us come and die. We’re called to glorify God in all that we do. That includes what we think upon and the words that leave our lips. Might we keep our eyes upon Christ as we are conformed to his likeness. Might we always things worthy of contemplation upon our mind; and have gracious, salty, pious conversation in the day to day.