We just had the joy of having our son, Grant, his wife, Arika, and their two children, Luke (10) and Lacey (soon to be 8) with us for the past week. Grant and I put on a tennis clinic here three mornings and one evening and the rest of the time was packed with activities. We went huckleberry picking, shooting, bike riding (several times), playing at the creek, swimming in the pool, going to a water park in Kalispell (90 miles away), hiking to a mountain lake (and picking huckleberries and fishing), floating the Kootenai River in a rubber raft, playing tennis, disc golfing (4 times), going for a walk, going to a nearby lake to fish for bass, playing Wiffle Ball, playing badminton and playing ping pong. As we start a new week and catch up on laundry, gardening and tennis lessons, we are a bit exhausted! But what a fun time to have family around and enjoy doing things together. Earlier this summer we had a couple of our daughter’s children here for several days and again enjoyed many outdoor activities together. It was especially rewarding and fun to see how much our grandchildren have matured, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
One of the things that Luke and Lacey love to do when they come to Montana, is to go fishing. They got to catch their first fish ever on previous trips here. When I first took them fishing, I had to do most of the casting and just let them reel the fish in. At first Lacey wasn’t even sure she wanted to do that much, but now they can both cast and reel in their own fish. Occasionally if we need to make a long cast, I will still do it for them. Luke also loves to net fish when we get them in. The next step will be to help them learn to bait their own hooks and clean their own fish. They did like eating the fish they caught!
I couldn’t help but think about Jesus’ command at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, often referred to as “The Great Commission.” Jesus, speaking to the eleven disciples, said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20). Jesus has authority over the spiritual world and the physical world and has authority to send us into the world with the good news of the Gospel (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ…I Cor. 15:1-4). He has also given us specific instructions: we are to be disciple-makers. The text literally says in verse 19, “Having gone (or “wherever you go”), make disciples…” And Jesus promised to be with us always. We can’t excuse ourselves from disciple-making because we lack strength or ability. As long as He is with us, we have all we need to obey His command. When Jesus first called His disciples, He told several of them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). But, before Jesus sent any of them out to “fish for men” and to “make disciples,” He spent time with them, talking about fishing and demonstrating to them how to “fish for men.” They were with Him on numerous occasions when they got to observe Him dealing with individuals about their need for forgiveness and eternal life. Then, after about three years of training them, Jesus sent them out to share the message of the coming Kingdom with others. When they finished, they got back together and shared the stories of their encounters. Finally Jesus told them He would be leaving and going back to heaven, but that the Father would keep His promise and send the Holy Spirit to empower them and then they were to be witnesses “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ).
There were probably only 500 (I Cor. 15:6) or so followers of Christ when Jesus returned to heaven. He entrusted them with the task of reaching the whole world with the Gospel of Christ. Wow! But it obviously worked, because today there are Christians scattered over the globe and many continue to come to Him for eternal life each day. Not only did they go and reach people for Christ, but they discipled them, helping them to become grounded in the Word so they in turn could reach others. It is called the “multiplication principle.” Each one we introduce to Christ should be trained so that they in turn can bring others to Christ and disciple them to do the same. We see many examples of this in Scripture. One is the Apostle Paul, discipled by Barnabas, who in turn helped a young man by the name of Timothy come to salvation. Timothy had been taught the scriptures by a godly mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois), and then likely came to faith when he heard Paul preach as he came through their town on a missionary journey. Paul began discipling Timothy who in turn became the pastor of the church at Ephesus. In His final letter before his martyrdom, Paul wrote to Timothy, including this exhortation: “You therefore, my son (in the faith), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2). Note that in the progression of discipling we have Paul, Timothy, faithful men, others. Through Paul’s discipling of Timothy and then giving him responsibilities, many others came to Christ and continued to make disciples.
When I used to travel around the northwest corner of Montana conducting Bible studies, I tried to—as often as possible—take someone with me. Not only was it enjoyable to have someone along for fellowship, it also gave them an opportunity to learn how to conduct a Bible study of their own one day. A couple of those who went with me in those days later became pastors and Bible teachers. That’s the principle that Jesus was laying down for us in Scripture regarding “making disciples.” It is the same principle that I applied in helping our grandchildren learn to fish. First you talk to them about it and then you demonstrate it to them to get them excited about trying it. Then you help them do it, and finally you let them do it on their own. Thus I am able to pass on a skill taught to me by my dad and older brother.
In the second longest Psalm in the Bible (119 is longest), Asaph gives a challenge, writing: “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Ps. 78:5-7).
It is fun and rewarding to pass on skills and passions to our children and grandchildren, but most of all we should be passing on our commitment to Christ, by going and “making disciples.” Who are you discipling? (Remember, it is a command, not a suggestion!)