It is not uncommon for my wife and me to show up for a meal with my family only to be introduced to a couple or an individual we have never met. My parents have always been a great example of living out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), especially by practicing Christian hospitality. In the Great Commission discipleship is the central command. In order to make disciples, we must be willing to invest time in others and allow others to invest time in us. When I see my parents with someone I have never met, it is most often because they are discipling that person, investing in another’s life for the glory of God.
As the late Theodore Roosevelt is credited saying: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
With that in mind, discipleship is time-consuming and hard, even risky. The early morning fellowships over coffee are not even half of the disciple making process. Discipleship includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is living out Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It is seeing the potential for a person to be reconciled to a living God and introducing him to a personal relationship with Jesus. Then it involves teaching him all that God has taught us and continues to teach us as part of our own sanctification process. Learning and living God’s Word together is essential in the process. It becomes a lifestyle for a lifetime, and grace is necessary for such life.
Grace must remain at the forefront of our efforts to make disciples. When we consider helping someone that God puts in our paths, we must always remember that we never surpass the need for His grace. We need it just as much as the next person.
The really hard part of discipleship is when God impresses our hearts to reach out to someone who is different, who has a stained past, perhaps even a criminal record. My parents have “been there, done that” before. It is in those situations that we are quick to make excuses. For example: He has been in and out of jail, so we can’t trust him. She did that to herself, so she can just figure it out. They are on drugs and are doing all kind of sinful things, so I am just not going to get involved.
But my parents took what some would call a risk, reached out to a couple with a criminal record, and considered it a spiritual investment. They were prompted by the Holy Spirit, obeyed God, and left the results up to Him.
Let me stop here and say that I believe there are personal limits to evangelism. You can read about them here. But I must also say that I am so thankful that Jesus did not make excuses similar to the ones I mentioned above when I came to Him a few years ago completely broken from my self-righteousness. I repented of my sin, and He said to me, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).
However, we do make excuses because we often forget that before we were motivated by God’s grace to obey Him, we were lost. We were criminals who had broken God’s law. We were separated from a relationship with a righteous, loving, and caring God.
But thankfully God intervened. Though it is easy to look at our redeemed lives and think we are partly responsible for our redemption because we attend church faithfully, read our Bibles daily, and live the Christian lifestyle, it is quite the opposite. It is only because of God’s grace that we are able to obey Him and His Word.
We must never forget that we were once criminals in God’s eyes before we experienced His gift of salvation. We are in constant need of God’s grace, and we never graduate from extending it to others.