An excerpt from Revisiting the Master Plan of Evangelism By Bobby Harrington and Robert Coleman
Consecration is another way of saying we have to teach disciples to obey. In fact, that is spelled out in the Great Commission, not just to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but also to “teach all that I have commanded you,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:19-20). That is the witness of our faith, and in a way it’s the expression of our love.
The invitation of Jesus to the disciples was simply “Follow me.” He didn’t ask them to recite a creed, or to shake His hand, or to kneel at an altar or anything except, “Do what I am doing; you follow Me.” That is what makes a disciple. The word discipline is from the same root as disciple, and this is what we all need. Growing up, we all learn discipline in the family. Consecration means that you commit yourself to trust and follow the teacher, and this is what you see with Jesus as He is leading these disciples.
“Not everyone who said ‘Lord, Lord’ is my disciple,” He said, “You are my disciple if you do what I command you” (Matthew 7:21). It is love, of course, that constrains obedience, which is the way we continue to learn. If we just keep following, eventually we’ll learn what He wants to teach us. Most of us are slow learners. It takes us awhile to learn some things, and we have to go through the same lesson again and again, but if we’ll just keep following, we’ll get through. “He that has my commandments,” Jesus said, “is the one who loves me” (John 14:23-24). We’ve talked about how incarnation flows out in love, and, that’s also the motivation in obedience.
What about those of us who stumble and fail?
The last chapter of John’s gospel closes with a story and a question (John 21). The disciples have gone back to fishing after the resurrection. Jesus finds them there one morning, asks them how they had come along with their catch, and they hadn’t caught anything. They were discouraged of course, but He said, “Cast your net on the other side,” and they did. When Peter heard that voice, he dived in and swam ashore and left the others with the job of pulling in the nets that now were full of fish. When they got ashore, there was a fire and Jesus invited the disciples to come over for breakfast and bring some of their fish. When they had eaten, Jesus turned to the big fisherman and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Remember Jesus asked the question three times. Each time, Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep and follow me.” That third time Jesus asked the question, Peter was grieved. Jesus wasn’t referring to how many bitter tears Peter had shed in repentance, but Peter’s love. That’s the issue. That’s always the issue in consecration and obedience.
Why is our love for Jesus so important in obedience?
God wants us to be obedient because we love Him (John 14:23-24). Yes, we will stumble and fall. But do we love Him? If we do, we can always start again. I remember when my son was just past his fifth birthday, and I was cleaning up my garden here in Wilmore. Jimmy looked out the back door and saw me working. It was a hot day and it occurred to him that I was thirsty. He pulled up a chair to the kitchen sink, and filled a dirty glass full of water. The next thing I knew, Jimmy was handing me this dirty glass of hot water. There was a smile that stretched all across his face when he said, “Daddy, I thought you was thirsty so I came to give you a drink.” Now you might say, “Couldn’t he do better than that? That’s not even pure water,” and you’d be right; but when you saw his face, you’d say that was pure love. He was doing the best he knew to please his daddy.
Love is what makes us want to reach out and help people, and it’s the motivation for our obedience. Love flows out of the incarnation of Christ and displays obedience of the great commandment to love God with all of your mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as you love yourself. You want to follow Him because you know God has something better for you. He wants to lead you on, and that’s a principle that follows us all through our lives, and makes possible all the other blessings of the Lord.
How do church planters and leaders lead people into obedience?
Your example becomes a pattern for them, and you don’t ask them to something you’re not willing to do. When they know that you really care about them and love them, they are not disposed to disobey what you ask them to do. It should not be unreasonable, or not suited to them and their gifts. We ask people to do things because we love them; their expression of love in that act encourages them to want to do more, to want to follow and learn more. We live by faith. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. The just live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
Faith and obedience then, are two sides of the same coin. You can’t really believe in Jesus unless you obey Him. Not everybody who professes to belong to Him actually obeys Him, but if we truly believe Him, we will obey Him, because what we do reveals the true condition of our faith.