New Year’s Challenges for 2017

 The first challenge is a renewed commitment to the Great Commission to make disciples not converts. 

Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV) — 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As followers of Jesus it is imperative that we seek to keep all of his commandments.  Here is a commandment. The gist of this commandment is that disciples are to be made who follow Jesus.  We must go. We must teach. We must baptize those who want to follow Jesus.  Someone who converts to Christianity may or may not seek to make other disciples of Jesus.  The temptation is simply to get individuals to intellectually see the value of Jesus as their Savior but not follow him in obeying him in everything he commands.  Followers of Jesus love Jesus.  Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments.

A second challenge for the New Year is to love God and our neighbor.

Matthew 22:34–40 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Here is another commandment.  Loving God, not partially but with everything we are.  He did not say, You shall love the Lord your God with part of your heart, and with part  of your soul and with part of your mind but all. As one missionary said, all means all and that’s all it means.  Loving God boils down to obeying Him in everything he commands us. We do not pick and choose which commands to obey but obey them all.

Jesus defined for us who our neighbor is.

Luke 10:25–37 (ESV) — 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jews hated Samaritans.  They were half breeds.  Fellow Jews, a priest and Levite, ignored the man in need and had no compassion on a fellow Jew.  Along comes a Samaritan who shows mercy to the Jew that is robbed and beaten.  This Samaritan would have been hated by the Jew who was lying on the road have dead.  The point is that the neighbor is the one who has mercy on the person who hates him.  Jesus said in Luke 6:27-36 that we are to love our enemies and do good to those hate us.

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

The context is clear. We are to be merciful as God our Father is merciful.  The point is that as we make disciples some of them will be those whom we would never associate with unless we love God and obey his command to love our enemies. 

The last challenge for the New Year is putting on the armor of God every day.

Ephesians 6:10–18 (ESV) — 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

We are in a Spiritual War.  Fighting a Spiritual War requires spiritual armor. Once again here is a command from the Lord—to put on all not part of God’s armor. Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, salvation, God’s word, and prayer are God’s weapons for warfare against the Devil.  The Devil opposes the Church that stands for God’s ways.  Therefore warfare is imminent when seeking to make disciples for the Lord.

Therefore, let us make disciples not converts; love God and love our enemies; and put on all the armor of God everyday of this New Year.