The Paradox of Discipleship
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This would seem to imply that we are able to make disciples. After all, why would Jesus command us to go and do something that we cannot do. That wouldn't make sense, would it?
Let's look at some of the other commands scripture lays out for us and see what we find.
Here is the scripture commanding husband how to relate to their wives in Ephesians 5:25.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
I don't know about you, but I cannot do that. I do not have the ability to love my wife like Jesus has loved me. I just can't do it.
What about scripture's command to me about my relationship with God and other people? Here is what Matthew 22:37-40 says:
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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I can't do those things either. No matter how hard I try, I always find myself holding back parts of myself from God and I certainly do not love others the way I love myself.
What can we conclude from these commands? I think there are a few take aways here.
1. Jesus has no problem commanding us to do things that we have no power in ourselves to accomplish.
2. Jesus absolute expects us to be obedient to these same commands. Therefore,
3. Jesus provides us with a power outside of ourselves to enable us to be obedient to these commands.
That power is the power of His grace through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I cannot possible muster up the ability to love God, love my wife, or love others like He has called me too. His grace working through me, however, can accomplish those things. All of our walk with Christ looks like this. He has told us what a follower of His looks like, but we have no power in ourselves to accomplish any of it. We are totally dependent on Him to empower us with His grace to accomplish anything.
It also means that if that is all we do, we will fail. Just as I do not have the ability to love like God commands, I also do not have the ability to do the heart work necessary in another person to make them love God the way He commands us too.
In order for me to fulfill the Great Commission personally and in order for our churches to fulfill the Great Commission corporately we must be intentional and create structures and then we must saturate them with prayer. We must persistently ask God to move in the hearts of His people and we must constantly ask Him to guide our structure making so that we do not create a structure that we believe negates our need for Christ.
God has commanded us to make disciples, but we cannot do so without a supernatural work of His spirit in us and in those we seek to make disciples of. Create, dream, plan, and implement what needs to exist to make disciples but never, never stop praying that God will be moving. Discipleship is just like everything else that God has told us our faith is: required and impossible.
We are commanded by God to make disciples and we are dependent on God to make disciples.
That is the paradox of discipleship.