The first of the top ten teachings of Jesus demands that we must own Him unashamedly as Lord in a total commitment to His way and will. Total
commitment. We are to be His disciples wherever we are, and people must know that. Wesley Mission, through all of its 450 centres and activities, including Wesley Institute for Ministry and the Arts, unashamedly calls people to make a total commitment to Jesus Christ.
There are 270 references to "making disciples" in the New Testament. It was the focal point in the ministry of Jesus, central to the witness of the disciples, foundational to the thrust of Paul. It is the heart of the missionary movement and is the centre-point to our urban mission. We were never told by Jesus to help people make decisions to follow Him, but to make disciples. Disciples, not decisions! That means total commitment!
A disciple is more than a believer, more than a follower, more than an enthusiast. A disciple identifies his life together with His Lord in His words, behaviour, attitudes, motives and life?style: seeking, saving and serving. The trouble is, some of us follow the way of Jesus but without total commitment. If most of us belonged to the J.W.'s, we would not reach the rank of Jehovah's Witnesses, we would be called J.O.'s ? Jehovah's Observers! Jesus put the call to total commitment bluntly: Matt 10:32-9 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
1. "WHOEVER." Here is the great option. Jesus calls and whoever likes, may respond. That was the point about the early disciples. They were a very mixed lot. It was also the case with Paul, whose only claim to fame was as a persecutor of Christians. Yet he became the greatest missionary, church planter and evangelist of all. Augustine, Francis, Luther, Wesley, none of them would have been in our team of selected disciples. But Jesus called and they responded. He made them the world shapers they were. So to our call. Jesus does not call us because we are worthy. We are made worthy because He has called us. He does not chose us because we are useful to Him. Because He called us, we are made useful. His call is solely of God's grace. Our own merit, worthiness and usefulness to the Kingdom has come because of His call. All we need do is respond.
2. "WHOEVER ACKNOWLEDGES." Here is the grand invitation: "whosoever will may come". No person is too bad that she or he can not respond, no person so good that she or he need not respond! Within the church there can be no racial barriers, no colour bar, no social class, no national preference, no cultural circle, no language groups, no denominational exclusiveness, for "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that who?so?ever... everyone...whoever!" The church is the world's largest multi?cultural, multiracial multinational. This congregation has people of 36 ethnic origins. My sermons are translated into many languages. We conduct services in 8 languages! Everyone is welcome. We desire everyone to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and obey Him as a committed disciple. Total commitment.
He gives to us the dignity of responding personally in our way at our time. We can reject Him if we desire. This is the great option. "If anyone would follow me...if..!" "If anyone would take up his cross and follow me...if..!" He could have made us, directed us, forced us, but with divine patience He stands waiting outside the door knocking, and if anyone opens He will come in. We must so challenge people that they will then be faced with the decision to respond or to reject him. Have the churches blunted the cutting edge of their evangel? Do churches still call people to a "YES" or "NO" response? Have we become so respectable that we want all people to think we are nice? The church has no integrity if it ignores the majority of people who have never been given the opportunity to respond! Whoever - regardless of circumstances - may acknowledge Him and follow Him - total commitment!
3. "WHOEVER ACKNOWLEDGES ME." Here is the essence of Christianity. It is not adherence to a series of beliefs, allegiance to a creed, a code of ethics, a standard of behaviour, a kind of culture. Essential Christianity is a relationship: "Whoever" and "Me". It is a one on one personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus called the disciples, "that they might be with Him". I have lectured often at Wheaton College, USA in their Graduate School. I know of some of the distinguished alumni who went from this college to serve Christ. The five missionaries martyred by the Aucas in Equador included Jim Eliot the jungle pilot who wrote: "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". They who belong to Jesus in total commitment know that certainty.
Every church must have a planned strategy of spirituality to help people grow closer to Christ in their personal, devotional, and corporate life. Wesley Mission emphasises personal spirituality, the Christian walk, corporate holiness. We expect that all without our influence will grow more like Christ, and to really belong to Him in total commitment.
4. "WHOEVER ACKNOWLEDGES ME BEFORE MEN." Here is the germane requirement: no secret Christianity, no light hidden under a bushel, but public declaration of discipleship. Within the church there can be no secret society, no mysterious membership, no hidden agendas. Taking up a cross to follow Christ is a very public declaration. That is what so many have forgotten about the ordinance of baptism: it is not a individual experience, provided as an optional extra for a Christian. It is an imperative to be experienced in the presence of the church as an open witness to discipleship. It is an obvious total commitment.
Christianity is no hole in a corner affair, hidden from the world. That is why every week I call people publicly to commit their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord. That is what He commanded. Public declaration may be costly, but while God's grace is free He never says it is cheap! We expect people to openly and proudly accept Christ and Lord and testify to His saving grace.
5. "WHOEVER ACKNOWLEDGES ME BEFORE MEN, I WILL ALSO ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE MY FATHER IN HEAVEN." To all of this Christ gives a promise: "I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven."
Martyrs have gone to their graves singing His praise because of this promise. It has sustained them, and will sustain the church that teaches it. Jesus will declare that we belong to Him to the Father. That is the essence of salvation, the result of the Cross, and the meaning of justification in one promise.
But to the promise He adds a warning: "BUT WHOEVER DISOWNS ME BEFORE MEN, I WILL DISOWN HIM BEFORE MY FATHER IN HEAVEN." Has the church become silent on the consequences of rejecting the Cross? Have we failed people by not warning them? Paul declares: "So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn every one and teach everyone in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature individual in Christ." Coloss 1:28 Discipleship starts on earth with you declaring that you belong to Him, and ends in heaven with Him declaring: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
The first teaching of Jesus demands from us a total commitment. But do modern day Christians demonstrate that total commitment? The answer is that millions do! I could illustrate that commitment from among our members and staff at Wesley Mission. But here is news I have just received this Friday from Rolland and Heidi Baker, who serve Jesus Christ with total commitment in Maputo, Mozambique. I pray for them and they sent me this report Friday about how they are managing in the terrible floods of Mozambique which you may have seen featured on the TV news. I had been in the floods in Northern NSW bringing relief, but their floods begger description. Rolland e-mailed me:
"The rivers of central Mozambique continue to rise, cutting many thousands of our own church members off from food supplies and medical help. Last week, a terrible outbreak of cholera hit our centre in the capital city of Maputo. The cholera was introduced by contaminated food brought in to a wedding in our church. The disease is wildly contagious. Within days we had taken 70 children, pastors and workers to a special cholera hospital. This is actually a big tent, strictly quarantined, filled with "cholera tables," bare wood beds with a hole in each and buckets underneath for non-stop diarrhoea and vomiting. Every patient was on a IV drip. Many have died in this emergency hospital.
Maputo's health officials were terrified of a city-wide epidemic. Maputo's Director of Health put her finger in Heidi's face and told her, "You will be responsible for killing half of Maputo!" Every day health officials came to our centre, desperately trying to contain its spread. Soon the city police were intent on shutting down our entire ministry. For days nothing seemed to help. We were washing and disinfecting everything. Our trucks were making hospital runs day and night. Our own clinic was filled with children on IVs. Our staff was completely exhausted. Only Heidi was allowed to visit in the tent hospital. Every day she would go in and spend hours and hours with our kids, holding them, soaking them in prayer, declaring that they would live and not die. They vomited on her, covered her with diarrhoea, and slowly grew weaker. Many were on the edge of death, their eyes sunken and rolling back. The doctors were shocked by her lack of concern for herself, and were certain she would die along with many of our children. Our stress level was the highest ever.
We had rescued the children out of the streets and rubbish dump. Now they were slipping away right in front of us. Twenty of our pastors from the north were also in the tent dying. Heidi and I were ready to quit if God did not do something. A strong spirit of intercession came over our stronger pastors, who would pray all hours. Three days ago our future in Mozambique was in question. No one had any more answers. Our weakness was complete. Then some of our children began coming home from the hospital, even as others were being taken there. Then there were no more new cases. Extraordinary! And then yesterday everyone was home! Just like that, the cholera is gone. And Heidi is fine. The doctors and nurses at the hospital are in a state of shock and wonder. The Director of Health again put a finger in Heidi's face: "You! This is God! The only reason you got through this was God! You and dozens of these children should be dead!" Eight of the medical staff there want to work with us now. "This is miraculous! You know God! We've never seen God do anything like this. We've never seen such love! We don't want to work here anymore. We want to work with you!" And so they will. So many people died. We did not lose a single person who lives with us. Last night we worshiped to all hours, beholding His beauty in our hearts and enjoying His company. In His great love, Rolland and Heidi Baker."
I have overwhelming admiration for the total commitment of these two friends. I have no right to ask you to do what Heidi has just done. But I do have a right to ask you to totally commit yourself to Jesus Christ as Rolland and Heidi have done. That is what Jesus demands - total commitment! Give yourself to Him - now!