Great Commission

What Should Motivate Our Obedience to the Great Commission?

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If we’re honest, many of us would probably admit that sharing the gospel doesn’t always come as easily as we would like. With the greatest news in the world, it seems we would naturally be compelled to share with anyone who will listen, and even some who won’t. Yet, we can identify churches, groups, or individuals who are not involved in the work of the Great Commission and perhaps even recognize that hesitation in ourselves. Our hesitation often originates from misplaced motives and a better response rests at the heart of two key relationships for believers: relationship with God and the church, and relationship with the lost.

What are those misplaced motives that cause our hesitation? Sometimes our lack of involvement results from a motivation spurred on by guilt. This guilt could be out of fear over the lostness of the world or it could be a guilt claiming one must share the gospel because God is forcing the task on believers. This motivation is unsustainable because guilt grows from deficiency rather than fullness. As believers, our participation in the Great Commission finds its greatest power when we are filled with the strength and love that come from God’s own love. Guilt will not bring the results we seek.

Other times the lack of involvement is a result of fears or anxieties over the unknown, the unfamiliar, unpreparedness, or of rejection. Stepping into another person’s world with a convicting and life-changing message can feel extremely intimidating. We feel inadequate and uncertain. This fear is accelerated as we look increasingly toward our own shortcomings. Just as with guilt, this fear-filled hesitation inhibits our obedience to the Great Commission. Fear causes us to forget the need of our neighbor and takes our eyes off Christ and His promised presence.

So how do we build a better foundation from which to fulfill the Great Commission? How do we find a motivation that is not based on guilt, and how do we surrender the hesitations grounded in fear? How can we be obedient to Christ and His Great Commission? We must start with relationship.

Intentional relationship with God and investing in and loving His church propels us to see the church grow and multiply.

Here we find the two key relationships that are important for the right obedience to the Great Commission: relationship with God and His church, and relationship with the lost.

Relationship with God and the church

The first relationship, and the most important to the foundation of the Christian life, is relationship with God and the church. As we grow more deeply in relationship with God, He continues to transform our lives. John 15 shows that to grow as believers we must first abide in Christ. Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). From that abiding, we continue to grow in Christlikeness and God supplies the strength for His mission.

Additionally, we must have relationship with the church. Not only do intentional relationships with God’s people help to strengthen us and spur us on to good works, but it is within the Church that our theology is developed. Our understanding and practice of what Scripture teaches are molded and shaped as we encourage, exhort, and wrestle through questions from Scripture together. Then we grow as believers together and our affections for God’s people grow too. Intentional relationship with God and investing in and loving His church propels us to see the church grow and multiply.

Relationship with the lost

The second relationship essential for obedience to the Great Commission is relationship with those who are lost. God did not call us to an insulated faith lived out only among fellow believers. He called us to go and make disciples which necessarily includes evangelism. As we love those around us, our affection for God’s mission is increased because we now have experience with those He loves and desires to save. Relationships with the lost invite us to know their needs, their hurts, and their hearts. It also opens our hearts to them and grows our love for them. Suddenly the Great Commission is no longer a distant commission but a real, person-filled privilege.

Perhaps as we take time to build relationships with those God longs to save, we will grow to see the Great Commission as He does. The Great Commission is given by God who knows and loves those He has created. We must also take the time to know and love the lost in order to ever understand the Great Commission as given by Christ. Remaining disconnected from the lost means we do not grow to know the people in the world, the people to whom God is calling us to share the gospel. So perhaps, as we build intentional relationships with the lost and see the great need for the gospel in their lives, we become even more aware of the gift of grace in ours and are further stirred to share the gospel with the world.

These relationships stir our affection for the Great Commission which far outweighs our fears and inadequacies and corrects our misplaced motivations.

We can easily avoid evangelism out of fear or do it poorly out of guilt. As Christians, we need to pursue evangelism from joy, from the overflowing gratitude of the beauty of the gospel and the transformation of our own lives through our relationship with Christ. This is found as our affections grow through relationship with God and His church and through intentional relationship with those who are lost.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). Our first relationship is to love God. Out of that love, we are then given the strength and love for relationship with our neighbors. These relationships stir our affection for the Great Commission which far outweighs our fears and inadequacies and corrects our misplaced motivations. What necessary humility we experience when we remember that we do none of this work in our own strength. It comes from God, for His glory, and for our good. What a privilege to humbly serve Christ. What inspiration we can experience when we look at such a massive task and realize that the motivation for obeying the Great Commission comes from a deeper relationship with our Creator and the joy of sharing His gift with others.

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Rachel Alley

Rachel Alley earned her Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from North Greenville University. She spent the early years of her life overseas when her family moved from western North Carolina to serve on the mission field. This early experience overseas and continued ministry in multicultural settings created her desire to help the church build relationships and share the gospel with their neighbors.

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