Our second full adult education class was awesome! We learned the next two principles of Jesus’ strategy for sharing the truth of the Gospel and growing the Church from The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman.
I wrote about the first two principles last week in The Relationship Plan. First, Jesus selected His disciples carefully; and second, He spent time developing a close relationship with them. The next two principles build upon this relationship foundation.
The third principle is that the disciples who chose to follow Jesus were consecrated, which means they were dedicated or set apart for service to God. And being dedicated to Jesus required their obedience. In John 6:60-69 we see that many of those who had been following Him walked away as His teaching about obedience got harder, but the 12 did not leave Him. Even today His disciples must answer as Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69. In his book, Coleman writes:
“It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more than a joyful acceptance of the Messianic promise: it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission to his sovereignty. There could be no compromise.” pg. 44.
But Jesus’ requirement of obedience was reasonable. He did not expect the disciples to obey what He had not yet taught or what they did not already understand. He knew that learning from the Master was a process developed through relationship. They needed only to be willing to submit their will to His. “Their capacity to receive revelation would grow provided they continued to practice what truth they did understand.” pg. 48.
Coleman argues, and I think rightly, that the problem with the church today is a “general indifference to the commands of God.” pg. 51. Those who call themselves Christian do not want to be obedient if it is not convenient. This reminded me of a quote I recently came across from St. Augustine: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” To be a true disciple of Christ, you must believe Jesus and obey that which you understand Him to have taught you. You must be willing to submit to His authority. The standard that we are required to live up to is that of Love.
This may all seem quite difficult. How can we who are sinners by nature be truly obedient to Christ? The answer comes when we look at the fourth principle, which is the impartation of the Holy Spirit. While He was with them, Jesus made sure the “disciples understood that they were not just keeping a law, but were responding to One who loved them, and was willing to give himself for them.” pg. 53. As the end of His time here on earth neared its planned conclusion, Jesus began to tell His disciples that the Father would be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them when He was physically gone. Coleman points out that “only those who followed Jesus all the way came to know the glory of this experience. Those who followed at a distance [or] . . . stubbornly refused to walk in the light of his Word . . . did not even hear about the work of the blessed Comforter.” pg. 59-60.
I think that is still true for those who call themselves Christians today. Many follow at a distance and only for what’s in it for them, or they stubbornly believe they are earning their own way to heaven. In either case, such Christians miss out on the truth that true faith comes from responding to the One who loves them, and so they miss the blessing of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort them. They also will fail in any attempts at evangelism. As Coleman points out, “It is only the Spirit of God who enables one to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism.” pg. 57. Without the power of the Holy Spirit to give us courage, strength, and wisdom, as well as to regenerate the hearts of those we seek to share the Gospel with, there is no hope for the Church.
Jesus’ plan was based on relationship. He made Himself known to His disciples, and in doing so made the Father known to them. Now that He sits at the right hand of the Father, it is the Holy Spirit who carries on the daily relationship with the believer. “The Spirit of God always insists on making Christ known.” pg. 60. Those who listen to the Spirit will insist on making Christ known as well.