THE GREAT COMMISSION
BY LUIS PALAU
“Lord, I promise to help fulfill the Great Commission in my world for Your glory. ”
It’s a gutsy commitment to make, no question about it. It’s not one to make lightly, flippantly, or without counting the cost.
But now is the time to re-evangelize America! And we men should lead the way–in our families, our churches, and our communities. I can think of no greater thrill than obeying the Lord in this area of personal involvement in, and commitment to, evangelism.
People Are Searching
A few weeks ago, a successful businessman came to a Bible study I was leading. As I spoke about having the assurance of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, I noticed he had tears in his eyes.
On the way out, this man and I talked about the companies he owns. When the elevator stopped at the floor occupied by his investment company, he commented, “I have insurance, but no assurance.”
Before parting, this gentleman agreed to have lunch with me. The next day, while we dined and talked, he understood at last that salvation is a gift from God, not something he needed to work hard to earn.
Right there in the restaurant, the man bowed his head, opened his heart, and prayed to receive Jesus as Savior. The transformation in his life was instantaneous. He finally had eternal life–and he knew it!
No Greater Thrill
Leading people to Christ is exciting! The miracle of winning someone to faith in Christ surpasses any thrill this world has to offer.
Have you had that experience yet?
If not, I urge you to consider the Lord’s Great Commission anew as you continue reading this chapter.
God is calling you to be a Promise Keeper, a man of integrity. You know that. But have you grasped that the Lord is calling you to be a godly man who–as much as anything else is committed to influencing his family, friends, neighbors, work associates, countrymen, and others around the world for Jesus Christ?
Incredible? Idealistic? Impossible? Listen to what the Lord Jesus said:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)
“Well, Luis,” you may say, “I agree, the Lord does want us to help fulfill His Great Commission in our generation. It’s just that, um, I suspect He’s thinking more of using you than using me. After all, I certainly don’t have the gift of evangelism.”
I don’t see anything in the Great Commission about gifting or talent or ability or personality or even opportunity.
The Lord is clear: “You . . . and you . . . and you, I’m calling all of you men to go, make disciples.”
It’s not a matter of gift, it’s a matter of obedience.
“Lord, I promise to help fulfill Your Great Commission.”
It’s not a matter of gift, it’s a matter of heart.
Heart for the World
Thousands of godly men have helped fulfill the Great Commission throughout the world during the closing centuries of this millennium. How can we be like them?
I’ve studied that question and found the answer has little to do with method or technique. Some have preached before the masses, some in churches. Some have presented the gospel in small groups, mostly one on’ one. Most have used a combination of approaches. But that isn’t what made them effective fishers of men.
What I’ve found is that the great “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19) over the years all have shared 11 distinctives that gave them a tremendous heart for the world. Both Scripture and church history speak
to the importance of these distinctives that should shape every Christian man’s heart and life:
–passion for those apart from Christ
–holiness in every area of life
–vision to reach the great cities
–boldness to try new methods
–willingness to endure criticism
–commitment to a local church
–love for the whole Body of Christ
–sacrificial financial giving
–seriousness about private prayer
–faithfulness to the end
Sounds like a Promise Keeper, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, today, the first distinctive listed above is sorely missing in our churches. So many lack any measure of concern for those who have not yet trusted Christ as Savior.
How’s your heart? How can we sit around while so many press forward all that much closer to an eternity without Christ? For heaven’s sake if nothing else!–we must do something.
Almost all of us get nervous about witnessing. At least I do, even after all these years. But when we willingly obey the Lord, He uses us.
A Willing Heart
Today, before another hour goes by, let’s look to the Lord and say, “Yes, I am waling to help fulfill Your Great Commission.” ” That’s prerequisite to all else.
Unless we’re willing to say yes to the Lord in every area, there’s no use pretending we’re a Promise Keeper in any area of life, wouldn’t you agree?
A Profound Message
Second, let’s begin to take pride in the good news of Jesus Christ. Like the apostle Paul, let’s affirm, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why? “Because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
It’s sick what pride the world takes in its debauchery and sin. As Promise Keepers, shouldn’t we be all the more proud of the liberating, life-changing gospel of Christ?
What is the gospel? It’s “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve,” and then to the five hundred (1 Cor. 15:3-6).
It’s no more than those great truths, no less. It’s simple enough for a child to understand, profound enough to amaze the most brilliant theologians.
Are we proud enough to share this good news with others?
A World of Confusion
Third, let’s gain a better understanding of those outside Christ. To me, the word that best describes our society today is confusion. According to the latest Gallup polls, an astounding eight out of ten Americans claim to be Christians. But ask the average American to define what he or she means and you’ll be in for a surprise. Here are some of the most popular myths about what makes someone a Christian:
–being born in America
–living a good life
–giving to others
–receiving a sacrament
–believing in God
–talking about Jesus
–reading the Bible
Those are all good things, but they’re not good enough! Let’s take God at His Word and not believe everything men tell us. Just because someone says he is a Christian doesn’t mean he’s right.
A Message for All Men
Fourth, let’s remember the gospel isn’t just for “nice” people. When God calls us to become Promise Keepers, He is not calling us to shun those whose values, beliefs, and actions are diametrically opposed
to ours (see I Cor. 5:9-10).
Moments before Westley Allan Dodd was executed by hanging at Washington State Penitentiary in 1993, the convicted serial child killer was given the customary opportunity for last words. Here was a man who had viciously abused and mutilated three young boys, a man who said he’d do it again, a man who said there was no hope he’d ever be released from the hideous darkness within his soul.
His final words came as a shock. “I was wrong when I said there was no hope, no peace,” Dodd said from the gallows. “There is hope. There is peace. I have found both in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to a reporter who witnessed the execution, the father of two of the boys murdered by Dodd “hissed quietly” when Dodd invoked Jesus Christ’s name.
No one can fault this father for the hiss of contempt and skepticism. Until the last hours of his life, Dodd had shown no signs of remorse. If we’re honest, we Promise Keepers will admit to the same skepticism when we hear that a Dodd or a General Noriega or, 20 years ago, a Charles Colson has turned to Jesus and found forgiveness. Though we proclaim otherwise “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13)–do we ever act as though the gospel is really only for nice people?
In reality, it’s much harder for nice people to find salvation than it is for bad people. C.S. Lewis wrote: “There is even, when you come to think it over, a reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater numbers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during his life on earth: he seemed to attract ‘such awful people.”‘
Take Zacchaeus, for example. Jesus’ encounter with that tax gathering cheat was the context for His statement that the “Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). When Jesus was
invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee, “a woman who had lived a sinful life” wet His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and poured perfume on them. Simon expected Jesus, if He were a prophet, to rebuke this woman of ill repute. Instead, Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:37, 48; see 36-48).
Another tax collector, Levi, invited Jesus to a banquet at his home. The Pharisees complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:2932).
Scripture is filled with “who would have thought?” conversions, including a fair number of skeptics. Saul of Tarsus was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Tim. 1:13). Ananias wondered if such a man could ever be changed by grace, let alone overnight. But even “the worst of sinners” was shown mercy. In this context, the apostle Paul could write, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves
full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15).
If it seems that grace is being pushed to the limit in rescuing child killers, drug traffickers, and those who vigorously oppose us, we haven’t begun to fathom God’s ocean of grace and mercy. Nor have we peered long enough into our own hearts.
Years ago, I met a Methodist minister who worked in the inner city of Bristol, England. Asked what he did there, he replied, “I minister to the last, the least, the lonely, and the lost.” That was precisely the mission of Jesus.
How often we hear the testimony, “If God can save me, He can save anybody.” Yes, He can and does. Together, let’s ask God to save the not-so-nice people we meet in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and marketplaces.
A Lost World Around Us
As well, let’s embark on out-and-out evangelism here in America, before it’s too late. In a 1993 Time magazine cover story on “Kids, Sex & Values,” a high’ school teacher in New York City said teenagers’
lives are “empty, and their view of the future fatalistic.” One 19-year-old said, “I believe in God. If he wants something bad to happen to me, it will happen. Anyway, by the time I get AIDS I think they’ll have a cure.”
Lakewood, California, was shaken not long ago by the teen sex scandal of the “Spur Posse,” whose boastful members tallied their conquests of adolescent girls. As alarming as their behavior, however, was the “boys will be boys” condonation by some parents. The director of research at the University of Minnesota’s adolescent-health-training program told Newsweek magazine, “What we see is what’s in the society at large.”
What else does society hold? Some 1.6 million elective abortions last year. More than a million out-of-wedlock births. Broken families. Brutal violence on the streets and in the media. Drug addiction.
America needs Promise Keepers committed to evangelism like never before. Billy Graham once said, “It’s either back to the Bible or back to the jungle.” The jungle truly is creeping up on the United States. Theologian Carl F.H. Henry put it this way: “The barbarians are coming.” Dr. Henry could see that without a wave of evangelization that converts hundreds of thousands of people to Jesus Christ, barbarians are going to take over the land–not foreigners, but our own unrepentant children and grandchildren.
The problem is in the heart, not just the outward behavior. God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9, KJV). What’s needed is not more good advice but the good news–“the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
Political campaigns, family counseling, and education do nothing about the inner condition of human depravity. Unless there’s a change of heart, nothing has happened to change a person. And unless millions of hearts are changed, little has happened to change America.
The United States today is similar to eighteenth-century England, which also was in a disastrous moral condition. The slave trade was at its worst. A barbarous prison system entertained the public with outdoor hangings. Gambling was a national obsession–one historian said England was a vast casino. Drinking gin dominated English men and boys. False rumors manipulated the financial markets.
Likewise, the national church and its pulpit were in decay. Zeal for Christ was considered highly dangerous. Twenty percent of the clergy were dismissed, victims of an anti-Puritan purge. Bishop George Berkeley wrote at the time, “It is to be feared that the age of monsters is not far off.”
The stage was set for John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and the young men at Oxford known as the Holy Club. They made what we would call today a mission statement. It said, “We want to reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land.” And beginning with that small group of committed men, evangelistic action changed the nation, perhaps sparing England the
kind of revolution that bloodied France.
God alone knows what awaits an unrepentant America. Yes, it is time to re-evangelize America. Only the gospel gets at the root of the problems destroying the nation:
A spirit of despondency. Many people have lost hope. They need a positive message of God’s love, of what Christ can do for broken families, the lonely, the addicted, the dying.
A spirit of separatism. We’ve got to get over this business of being hyphenated Americans. My passport doesn’t say Hispanic-American. It says citizen of the United States of America. As discussed in the preceding chapter, Christ alone can bring reconciliation–a deep, sincere love for people.
A spirit of impurity. We have lost our sense of what is proper and honorable. Now we’re talking to eight-year-old girls and boys about condoms and “safe sex.” Have we no shame? America needs a restored
spirit of holiness. We need it in the church; we each need it in our own soul.
A spirit of guilt. What America needs most is forgiveness preceded by repentance. God is ready to forgive. He will forgive young women who have had abortions. He will forgive adulterers and fornicators and practicing homosexuals. He will forgive murderers and rapists and embezzlers. He will forgive the self-righteous and hypocrites. He forgives all of us sinners the instant we believe Him with a repentant heart.
That message–that God forgives sinners and offers everyone the chance to start over–has transformed millions of lives all across the Americas in the past 25 years. Evangelicals, many of them illiterate, have stood on street comers of the so-called Third World preaching John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 and testifying of God’s grace. Millions of Latins have said, “That’s the gospel? I want to know this God and
live for Him.”
But in the United States, we evangelical men have acquired a reputation as harsh, unloving, bitter people, with no sensitivity or compassion for those who have failed. We’re known for what we’re against, not what we’re for. If we Promise Keepers will stand and, with pride in Jesus Christ, proclaim His gospel in all its purity, I think we’ll find many willing to be converted to true Christianity.
Evangelism is good news. More than ever, that’s what America–and the world–needs.
A World to Win
Finally, let’s gain a new vision of helping fulfill the Great Commission in our generation. When you think about those who have never committed their lives to Jesus Christ, who comes to mind? Write down the names of at least five people you’d like to see trust Christ. Begin praying daily for their salvation. Ask God to draw at least one of them to Himself before the end of the year.
Then think about the crowds you see in the cities–at the airports, in the streets, everywhere. How do you feel when you think about them?
Scripture tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). We need to ask God to move our hearts with the same compassion that moves His.
Two of the greatest dangers we face as Promise Keepers are cynicism and a cool detachment: “So more than 3 billion people don’t know Christ. That’s too bad.” We must not forget the actual people including those we know and love – behind that number who live “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
The Lord pointed out the urgency of helping fulfill the Great Commission by reminding His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37). We must sense the urgency of our time. How long must people wait before they hear the gospel? How many more generations must pass before some parts of the world hear the message for the first time?
It’s exciting to see the tremendous harvest being reaped in most of the so called Third World today. Several nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia could become 51 percent Christian within ten or 15
years. Right now the doors are open as perhaps never before. Mass communications have made it possible to reach even “closed” countries with the message of life. All of this is before us now, but it could
pass in such a short time.
Our task is urgent. That’s why Jesus commanded His disciples, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38). Our Bibles end the chapter right there, but don’t stop reading! In the next five verses, the Lord gave His disciples authority and sent them out into the harvest. The twelve became an answer to their own prayer!
To finish the task, we must have the authority of God that comes from a holy life. Paul told Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). I like to think of that as holy boldness.
The unfinished task of winning the world to Christ is enormous. Are you willing to gain a compassion for the unsaved and a sense of urgency in reaching them for Christ? Are you available to serve God with holy boldness as a Promise Keeper? Let’s press on to finish the task set before us.
A Man and His World Personal Evaluation
1. If you haven’t done so already, make a list of everyone you don’t like or who has hurt you in the past and you find hard to love. This list should be kept private, for your own spiritual help. Now pray for each person on that list. Can you decide today to love each of them by faith?
2. Are you willing to help fulfill the Great Commission in your world for the glory of God? _ Yes __ No __I don’t know
3. Make a list of people you know who probably do not know Christ.
Now begin to pray for their salvation daily.
In the Group
1. Complete the following statement: The reason I find it so hard to love someone who has hurt me is . . . (Each member should do this.)
2. How will you know you are loving someone by faith?
3. Has anyone in the group had the experience of leading someone to faith in Christ? Those who have, tell about one experience and how you felt as that person responded.
4. What are some ways we can reach out to those non-Christians around us–for example, in our work or our neighborhoods?
5. Read silently the epilogue by Coach Bill McCartney. Then look over the list of seven promises of a Promise Keeper. Are you committed to living by them? If not, why not? Talk about what your lives would look like if each of you were. If someone in the group is not ready to make that commitment, be encouraging. Help him pray about it and count the cost.
6. Review the list of seven promises again. Of the seven, which one requires your primary attention now? Tell the group what you plan to do to strengthen that commitment. (Each member should do this.)
7. If the group wishes to continue to meet, further resources listed in the back of the book will allow you to go deeper into each of the promises. You might consider choosing one of those books and working through it for the next eight to 12 weeks.
Memory Verse: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Memory Verse: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”‘ (Matt. 28:18-20).
On Your Own Review the response page in the back of the book. If you’re ready to identify yourself as a Promise Keeper, committed to living out the seven promises, sign the page, remove it from the book, and mail it to Promise Keepers. You will then receive a certificate suitable for framing, plus other helpful materials.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PUBLISHING, 1994, PAGES 193-204.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.