LIFE FOREVER PRESENT
SERIES: HE IS ALIVE! AND HE IS STILL ALIVE!
By Ron Ritchie
A wonderful thing happened as we were planning for our men's retreat last
winter. The committee had invited all our men in the mission field to come
and enjoy the retreat with us. Shortly after the invitation went out to
them, I began to receive some phone calls. Dudley Weiner called me from
Paris and said that he was delighted to be asked and that he was planning
on coming. After a pause he asked, "Ron, would it be all right to invite
my disciple Philip to join me?" Of course the answer was, "Yes,
yes!" Shortly after that phone message Ed Woodhall called me with the
delightful news that Heime, our Mexican brother who had been the key player
in the prison ministry in Columbia and who is now in Mexico City, was coming
to the retreat, and he was bringing one of his disciples, Alfredo. Then
I received a call from Carl Gallivan who was coming in from Germany, and
he wanted to know if he could bring Mirko and Manfred. Mirko, a Croatian
ex-priest he was discipling in the word of God, owned a bar in the little
German village of Reichelsheim. And Manfred ministered in the Castle, at
which many of us have stayed and ministered, just above the village.
That was just of the beginning of scores of stories of disciplers inviting
disciples to the men's retreat. This same phenomenon was repeated at the
women's retreat. All this happened because these men and women were being
obedient to the command of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: "Make
Let's review the events leading up to this point before we examine this
command of Jesus. On the first Easter morning some women followers of Jesus
Christ had gone to his tomb to anoint his body, only to find the stone rolled
away, the guards acting like dead men, and two angels waiting by the cave's
opening! One of the two angels had said to the women, "Do not be afraid;
for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is
not here, for He has risen, just as He said...And go quickly and tell His
disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before
you into Galilee [see Isaiah 9], there you will see Him...." (Matthew
28:5-7.) (Later the chief priests and the elders paid the failed guards
some hush money and conspired to circulate the lie that the disciples had
come by night and stolen the body of Jesus [see Matthew 28:11-15].)
According to a harmony of the Gospels our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
then appeared eleven times over a period of forty days before he ascended
to the Father in heaven. On the first Sunday in Jerusalem he (1) met with
Mary Magalene (see John 20:11-18), (2) then with all the other women who
had first gone to the tomb (see Matthew 28:9-10), (3) with two followers
on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-32), (4) and then with Peter (see
1 Corinthians 15:5). Finally on that evening he (5) met with all the disciples
except Thomas and then (6) some eight days later with all of them including
Thomas (see John 20:19-31). Then in Galilee Jesus (7) met with seven of
his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias (see John 21:1-25), and
then (8) with the eleven disciples on a mountain (Matthew 28:19-20). Some
biblical scholars think that Jesus also met the "over" five hundred
brothers mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6 at this same time. He then (9)
appeared to James (see 1 Corinthians 15:7) and then went back to Jerusalem
where he (10) appeared to all the disciples (see Luke 24:36-49; Acts 1:3-8).
And finally on the Mount of Olives by Bethany he (11) blessed his disciples
and then ascended into heaven, with the angels promising the disciples that
he would return in like manner (see Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12).
It was on the eighth time Jesus appeared that he gave them their commission:
"Make disciples." But first he told them....
All authority has been given to me!
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain
which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but
some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All
authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."
On this third time that Jesus met his disciples as a group, some of them
were still a little shaky. Notice that they obeyed him, then worshiped Him,
and then some doubted him. Their faith in him was growing each day, but
when some of them saw him, they were uncertain about who he was and how
he was going to establish his kingdom on earth. Only two weeks earlier they
had walked with thousands of cheering men, women, and children hailing him
as their Messiah, and now here they were---eleven men on the Pharisees'
most wanted list, alone on a mountain with their risen Lord whom they had
seen crucified, and no army behind him. But the first words he said to them
diminished their doubts and fears: "All authority has been given to
Me in heaven and on earth."
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful
one, God Himself, became flesh and voluntarily became restricted in presence,
knowledge, and power. As the apostle Paul would later write, "...Although
[He] existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as
a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even
death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8.)
At Jesus' trial the high priest Caiaphas said to him, "I adjure You
by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son
of God." And Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless
I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right
hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:63-64.)
Then he went to the cross to pay the price of his life and blood for our
sins and our redemption. After his resurrection and ascension, Paul continues
in Philippians 2:9, "Therefore also God highly exalted Him...."
and placed him back into the position he had held before he arrived on earth
in Bethlehem. And so "at the name of Jesus every knee [shall] bow,
of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and...every
tongue [shall] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father" (Philippians 2:10-11). A thousand years earlier David had prophesied
in Psalm 110:1,
"The LORD says to my Lord:
And five hundred years earlier Daniel had spoken of Jesus and his resurrection
'Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.'"
"I kept looking in the night visions,
Jesus had always had authority, or the freedom to act with absolute and
unrestricted right and power over all creation and creatures. He submitted
to restriction in his humanity, but now as our risen Lord in the age of
the Spirit he has the power to begin his church, the body of which he will
be the head, which "the gates of Hades shall not overpower." It
is through his church that he will now offer the gift of salvation and eternal
life to all whom God the Father has given to him, Jew and Gentile alike
(see John 17:2). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:22 that because of our
Lord's resurrection, all who are in Christ shall be made alive. Then at
the end when his work on earth is finished, he will deliver up the kingdom
to God the Father "after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and
power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he 'has put everything under
his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it
is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under
Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject
to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all."
(1 Corinthians 15:24-28.)
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language
Might serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed."
Our Lord was not asking these disciples to move out into the fallen, demon-infested,
and politically and socially corrupt world in their own strength and power.
Rather, all authority had been released to him by his Father, and he was
going to make sure that it was his power working in and through them that
would enable them to carry out his commandments in building his church as
they moved out into their communities and eventually to the ends of the
This power and authority would first be seen when Peter stood up on the
day of Pentecost, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he preached to them about
the resurrected Jesus who was still their Messiah. Some three thousand men
repented and became Christians. Later Peter and John were hauled before
the Jewish supreme court and asked, "By what power, or in what name,
have you done this [healed the former lame man]?" "Then Peter,
filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the
people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to
how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all
the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom
you crucified, whom God raised from the dead---by this name this man stands
here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you,
the builders, but which became the very corner stone. And there is salvation
in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given
among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:8-12.) The power and
authority of our risen Lord Jesus was given to his disciples so the church
could grow and become salt and light in a fallen world.
And because all authority in heaven and earth has been returned to our risen
Lord and Savior, we as his disciples can now have the confidence and power
to move out in obedience to his commands, just as the original disciples
In your going
Jesus said, "Go therefore...." This could also be translated,
"In your going...." or "Having gone...." He was saying,
"Go, because as your Lord I have promised to impart the person and
power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide you in your mission. [See
John 16:7-15.] And go because I told you all in Caesarea Philippi, 'I will
build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.' Now, my
church will not be a renewed Israel or a spiritual Israel, but it
will be made up of men and women (both Jew and Gentile) out of every nation,
tribe, and race who respond to your presentation of the good news that
I am the Messiah, the son of the living God. And if they place their faith
in me, they will be delivered out of the domain of darkness and transferred
into the kingdom of light [see Colossians 1:13], and they will be given
the gift of eternal life. This plan will begin on the day of Pentecost,
and it will continue until I come again at the end of the age of the Spirit."
Jesus was speaking of taking his gospel to the world, but it would all begin
in Jerusalem, then move beyond the walls of the Holy City, then go up into
the hills of Judea and Samaria, and finally travel to the Gentiles around
the known world. He used the apostles to set the model for each generation.
Each one of us is given different communities, different work-places, different
countries, different societies, different families, and different spiritual
gifts. But regardless of all those differences, our risen Lord wants us
as his disciples to move out into the world---some right where we are, and
some to different countries, either for a period of time or for the rest
of our lives. We allow our hearts to be motivated by our risen Lord Jesus
to move out daily with the messages, "Jesus is the Son of the living
God," and "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no
other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must
be saved." We are called to be ministers of reconciliation with the
message "...that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,
not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the
word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though
God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled
to God." (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
At our January men's retreat we were privileged to not only invite our twelve
men home from their various mission fields, but we also had the joy of hearing
how our risen and present Lord was using them and their families to minister
in many foreign countries. In addition, during our Sunday morning "body
life" time a young man stood up and introduced to us a man he had led
to the Lord Jesus the night before, our new brother in Christ---and also
his father. The key to each situation was that by the power of our risen
Lord Jesus these men moved out in obedience to him where he had placed them
with the message of reconciliation.
Jesus is not only the source of our power in our going, but he is also the
source of our focus....
"...And make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you...."
Make is the main verb in this sentence. It is a command not a suggestion,
this is an order from the King of kings to his disciples! All of us who
have accepted him as our Lord are now called on to make disciples. Once
a Jew or Gentile gave their heart to Jesus, then they were to give him their
minds and will as well, and willingly become a pupil or a learner, one who
was willing to come under the discipline of the teacher, Christ Jesus himself.
And Jesus was not asking these men to do something he hadn't done himself.
Isaiah, speaking of the coming Messiah's being discipled by his Father,
said in 50:4-7,
"The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples,
He was obedient all the way to the cross.
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord GOD has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient."
So when Jesus took on humanity and then walked the shores of the sea of
Galilee at the beginning of his earthly ministry, he understood discipleship
clearly when he said to Peter and his brother Andrew who were casting nets
into the sea, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men"
(Mark 1:17). Thus began the process of their being discipled: First came
the relationship with Jesus, with the understanding that they were to put
him above their own selfish motives, hopes, and dreams, and even above their
families. Then they were to take up their cross daily to follow him, and
be willing to give up all their possessions (see Luke 14:26-33). The goal
of discipleship was very well expressed by the apostle Paul to the Colossian
believers: "...that we may present every man complete [mature] in Christ"
(Colossians 1:28). The objective of discipling is to bring men and women
to a place where they are no longer depending on themselves, their friends,
family, or possessions, or their discipler; but their total dependence is
in Christ each and every day. They understand that Jesus Christ is their
life, their power, and their resource; and they are independently dependent
upon the Lord Jesus Christ to enable them to function as a disciple by his
Spirit and his word.
"...Baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit...." Paul would write to the Romans, "...Do you not know
that all of us who have been baptized [placed] into Christ Jesus have been
baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through
baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through
the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
(Romans 6:3-4.) Now, this spiritual baptism of being placed into the body
of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:13) would be symbolized by each new believer
when with this spiritual knowledge they submitted to water baptism. Water
baptism is a public physical shadow of an inward spiritual reality. Being
baptized or placed into water demonstrates outwardly our spiritual identification
with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life
we have in him, which began at the moment of salvation.
The new believers are to be baptized in the name (not names) of the one
triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are to publicly acknowledge
that God is their heavenly Father, that they have repented of their former
view of Jesus and their sins again him and now acknowledge that he is their
Lord and Savior, and that the Holy Spirit is the one who indwells, seals,
empowers, and teaches them in their new life in Christ.
This verse leaves no room for infant baptism, for all who come into a relationship
with Jesus Christ come with the full knowledge of what they are doing. The
new believers at Pentecost were baptized immediately. So were the Ethiopian
eunuch, Cornelius and his household, Lydia, the jailer in Philippi, etc.,
etc. And there is no biblical restriction as to who should do the baptizing;
any baptized Christian can baptize any new Christian. Neither is there any
restriction as to where one should be baptized---rivers, lakes, oceans,
bath tubs, hot tubs, or swimming pools. What matters is that baptism is
an act of obedience to the Lord on the part of the new believer as well
as a public demonstration to their family, friends, fellow Christians, and
community of the importance of their new relationship with Jesus Christ.
"...Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...." Teaching
is the Greek verb didasko, to give instruction. The experience in
the Upper Room was very important in Jesus' preparation of his disciples
for his departure and their future ministry. First he told his disciples,
"...I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who
sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. And I
know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak,
I speak just as the Father has told me." (John 12:49-50.) Now, he knew
that they knew that all the Law was summarized in this: "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."
(Luke 10:27.) He had also taught them that they could not keep those commandments
unless they understood clearly, "I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me
you can do nothing." (John 15:5.)
But then in the Upper Room Jesus also gave them a new commandment that he
repeated three times: (1) "A new commandment I give to you, that you
love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one
another." (John 13:34-35.) (2) "This is My commandment, that you
love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:12.) And then
he explained the type of love he had in mind: self-sacrificing agape
love- servant love. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay
down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.) (3) "This I command
you, that you love one another." (John 15:17.) Once our relationships
with God and his Son and between ourselves and our spiritual brothers and
sisters are in place by his power, then all his other teachings fall in
line, to his glory and our joy. And the world is attracted to Jesus as a
The other night I was sitting at our elders meeting, and I became aware
that all our elders, including myself, had been discipled by other loving
and faithful men, some of whom have now joined the Lord and some of whom
are still among us. I also realized that all those men were in turn discipling
other men among us. Then I began to think about our staff of men and women,
and I was delighted to realize that they too had been discipled and now
were presently in the process of lovingly discipling many men and women
among us, of whom many are now themselves in positions of spiritual leadership.
"Make disciples" has been a foundation stone among the elders,
staff, and people since our beginnings. The principle is seen clearly in
the words of Paul, who was about to be killed for Christ's sake, when he
wrote to his disciple Timothy: "You therefore my son, be strong in
the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from
me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who
will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:1-2.)
Our commission from our risen Lord, because of his authority, empowers us
to move out into our communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. As
we have the privilege to introduce men, women, boys, and girls to Jesus
Christ, we are then called upon to "make disciples" of them, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and then teaching them
to observe our Lord's new commandment. We are to continue until we can present
everyone mature in Christ, so that they can begin the same discipling process
themselves by the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church understood
this, and they walked in obedience to our Lord's command. In the book of
Acts you will find many stories of the early disciples in Jerusalem and
then in Samaria, Joppa, Damascus, Antioch, Asia, Greece, Rome, Ephesus,
and Caesarea, to mention but a few of the many cities in which believers
were discipled by the apostles and other mature believers.
Their courage in the midst of pressures from the world, the flesh, and the
devil was built on the firm foundation of a promise from our risen Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ....
"...And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the
Lo means surely, remember, take note, or pay close attention! No one less
than the great "I AM" is with you always, moment by moment, day
in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year after
year, until the end of the age. Jesus was saying, "I am alive and present,
whether invisible or visible, in your joys, trials, suffering, confusion,
and difficulties; and I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore,
fear not. I am going to send you out to Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit arrives.
And I am going to send you to the Jewish communities of Judea surrounding
the Holy City. And then I am going to send you to the hated half-breeds
living in Samaria. And then I am going to send you to all the nations around
the known world and eventually even the unknown world, where men and women
and boys and girls are being held captive by spiritual forces, demonic cultures,
vain philosophies, and the world system, not to mention their own "lust
of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life"
(1 John 2:16). And no matter where I send you, when I send you, or in what
generation I send you, even if you cannot see me, look with the eyes of
faith and truly believe that I am with you always until my redemptive work
on this earth is done---even unto the end of the age of the Spirit."
The key to our Lord's commission is, "I am with you right now!"
God promised to send a Savior through Isaiah the prophet, and seven hundred
years later he told Joseph the husband of Mary that the baby in her womb
was that Savior. He said, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child,
and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated
means, God with us." (Matthew 1:22.) Alcoholics Anonymous has a great
quote: "If God seems far away, who moved?" These eleven humble
fishermen and blue-collar workers were sent out to carry out the greatest
task in the world, but with them always was the greatest presence in the
world, our risen Lord Jesus.
Jesus is still with us each and every moment. And he wants to not only live
within us but to express his love through us to each other and then to the
hurting world all around us, so they too can come into a personal relationship
with him and be given the gift of eternal life and the person and power
of the Holy Spirit. And then we are called upon by our risen Lord and his
power to take those new believers and "make disciples" so that
they will become spiritually mature and be equipped to pass this eternal
truth on to the next generation, until the end of the age. Jesus is not
only with us in this calling, but he is the one who will empower us to begin
the process of walking in obedience to this major command.
Where are you at this moment in your Christian life? I hope it is the same
place that so many around you are in: one of obedience to our risen Lord
in carrying out his great commission with the full knowledge that Life is
forever present! and that Life is our risen Lord Jesus.
Catalog No. 4364
April 10, 1994
Copyright © 1994 Discovery
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