The Great Commission as a Means of Grace

4. Disciplemaking teaches us to lean heavier on Jesus.

Disciplemaking is often messy, difficult work. You will see your weaknesses and failures and inadequacies like never before, and with God’s help, it will teach you all the more to lean on Jesus.

Good disciplers must learn, in reliance on the Spirit, how to deal well with failure. And the Christian way to deal well with failure is take it to the cross.

As simple as disciplemaking may sound, it will not be easy, and if you are honest with yourself, it will not be without failure. Failures in our love. Failures in initiating. Failures to share the gospel with clarity and boldness. Failures to share our own selves because of selfishness. Failures to follow through, and sufficiently equip, and pray without ceasing, and walk in patience.

Disciplemaking hems us in, exposes our weaknesses and teaches us to draw our daily strength not from ourselves but from Jesus and the gospel, which are the essence of disciplemaking. The gospel is the baton to be passed, after all. This is the content, “the deposit” (1 Timothy 6:20).

We disciple not to clone ourselves, not to reproduce our idiosyncrasies and personal hobbyhorses. Rather, we make disciples to pass on the gospel. We don’t center on ourselves, but on Jesus, who is not only the great model but also the content of disciplemaking. We baptize in Jesus’ name, not ours. And we teach them to observe everything that he has commanded, not what we personally would advise.

But Jesus and his gospel are not only the main content of disciplemaking. He is also the flawed and failing discipler’s Great Comfort, who frees us from having to be the perfect discipler. There has already been one—and he was perfect all the way from the shores of Galilee to the cross of Calvary, where he took our sins and failures. We need not imitate his perfection in disciplemaking. We cannot.

But we can take great comfort that in him our failures are covered, and that the sovereign one who promises to build his church (Matthew 16:18) loves to sanctify half-baked, substandard disciplemaking and make himself look good by showing himself, not the underling discipler, to be the great power source behind it.  

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.