And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (Mark 16:15, NLT)
Praise his glorious name forever! Let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen! (Psalm 72:19, NLT)
We’ve heard it every day for about a year now: “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” As COVID survivors, we obey those words, but as disciples of Christ, we are to obey by going–by following our Shepherd like sheep follow theirs.
I think about the simple command God gave people to go into the world. This was not a hard command. Yet, they did not obey. Today, the reality is, we can go into all the world without physically leaving our house because of the Internet. But like the people of the Bible, we too sometimes choose to ignore that call and become comfortable in our staying.
God said go.
Instead, in Genesis 11, the people decided to join together and build a tower to heaven. Instead of taking God’s glory into all the earth, the people wanted to be like gods themselves and selfishly ignored God’s command and plan. So, he confused their language so they could not communicate with each other, and they scattered.
Several times in Scripture we see God scattering His people, usually as a result of disobedience, but the result of the scattering was the Word of God and the glory of God being taken to new places. To this day we can see those results as we look at the church in every corner of the world. (for example: Psalm 44, Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 30-31, Lamentations 4, Ezekiel 6, Zechariah 1, Acts 8).
As Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection, we are given the command to go into all the earth to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Two things strike me when I think of God’s command to go into all the earth and our response to it:
- His ultimate goal was to fill the earth with His people and His word—that He could be glorified among the nations, and the earth would be blessed by His people. If we look at all the verses in the Bible that talk about the “whole earth” they mostly speak of God’s glory or God’s judgment. I can’t help but think that His plan was for us to carry His message to the ends of the earth all along.
- We hate change. We don’t want to move away from our comfort zone or our place we are used to (it doesn’t even have to be comfortable—just what we’re used to—and we don’t want to leave it).
Simple obedience and following Christ requires that we see beyond our comfort and our norms to do what He says. We know it will be the best choice for us, and we know that blessings follow obedience. Yet, we often hesitate and even complain or try to bargain with God.
I don’t want to miss God’s best. I don’t want to miss being a part of what God is doing and how He wants to use my life for His glory.
Is that uncomfortable? Sometimes. Is it a little scary? Yes, and sometimes even bordering on terrifying. But what are we to do? We are disciples. We are followers of Christ. Followers don’t sit and watch their leader go somewhere else. They follow where the leader goes.
Maybe our part in taking the Word to the ends of the earth is to reach the people at the end of our block. Maybe it is to go to the end of our sidewalk or the end of our city limits. Or maybe it will mean we go to places we consider the ends of the earth. Only God knows, and only we can obey His calling for our lives and for our families. But we must obey.
We can be certain of this: Wherever God is leading us, we are to be disciples and to make disciples.
We cannot be so prideful like Jonah to try to run the other way or like the people at the Tower of Babel who tried to do their own thing. God will act to discipline and help us obey if we choose to ignore Him. He loves us too much to allow us to stubbornly disobey. And He loves the people of the world too much to keep His word from them.
I feel like we are being asked like Isaiah: Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, NLT)
And like the Israelites: But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NLT)
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT)
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