"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Elwood Blues (yes, I am going to quote one of the Blues Brothers) once claimed that he and his brother Jake were "on a mission from God". Of course, their mission was to get a fictitious band back together to complete a movie plot. Our mission, however, is direct from the Captain of our salvation and Lord of the universe. And it involves something far more important than the comedic elements of a Saturday Night Live spin-off. It involves the eternal destiny of everyone with whom we come in contact.
You see, for reasons known only to God, He has given us a major responsibility and privilege in being a part of the growth of His kingdom. I call it a responsibility because Matthew 28 (and the other parallels of this passage) is a command. He doesn't make this an option. A former pastor of mine, who I greatly respect, many times would remind us that "the Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed". We aren't allowed to opt out of making disciples. We simply must obey our Lord's command.
I call it a privilege because I can't believe that we get to be involved in God's saving work! This is not a drudging requirement. It is something to rejoice in. God uses US to keep people out of hell! He allows US to be a small part in his glorious work of salvation! He calls US to evangelize the lost.
Evangelize the lost. What does that mean? There are two parts of this to understand. First, what does it mean to evangelize? And second, who are the lost? So, technically speaking, "evangelism" comes from the Greek word "euangelizo", which means to proclaim good news. The good news that we proclaim consists of the historical facts of the gospel - the sinfulness of every human being in the eyes of God, the sinless life of Jesus (the eternal Son of God), the sacrificial death of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus. Along with the historical facts, we also need to proclaim a call to respond to those facts. Biblically speaking, we are to call people to repentance (to turn from their sin) and faith (to turn to God by trusting in Jesus alone). If we fail to give either the historical facts or the plea to respond, we have failed to evangelize. We have failed to share the gospel.
The second question involves to whom we are to share the gospel. Who are the lost people we are to reach? The simple answer to this question is EVERYONE!!! The person who lives in Iran and knows only Islam is lost and so we are to send missionaries (and go as missionaries) to reach them with the gospel, sometimes at great peril to our own lives. The person who lives next door to us and knows Jesus as only a curse word is lost and so we are to build relationships with them in order to share the gospel with them. Our family members, our coworkers, friends and anyone else we come in contact with are lost and in need of the gospel. Our evangelistic responsibility knows no ethnic barriers, no culture barriers, no social class barriers, no gender barriers, no barriers at all. We are to share the gospel with everyone.
And, as we do, God saves some. This is the joy of our work. God uses us to reach people and we get to see them come to know the Lord. We get to see the Lord convict them of sin. We get to see the Lord change them from hating Him to loving Him. We get to see them experience forgiveness of sin. We get to see God cause them to grow in their faith. We get to see them go out and share the gospel with others.
This is the only reason we are still breathing. God has left us here to share the gospel with the lost. Let us never shy away from this awesome privilege. Let's get to work!