It’s the beginning of a new year, and we naturally think about how we might change our lives for the better in the coming 12 months. After a discouraging election cycle and several natural and manmade disasters, a lot of us would like to put 2012 behind us, as quickly as possible!
Well, whenever I’m on a journey, I think about three things first. How did I get here? Who or what will be my guide? And where do I go from here? If it’s a trip to the mountains, my GPS will generally take care of those issues. But if it’s my life we’re talking about, I need something much more reliable. So how do we answer those important questions? For the Christian, the Bible offers satisfying answers.
So how did we get here? Turn to Genesis 1, beginning in verse 1. “In the Beginning.” You can stop right there. What a great truth to cling to! While our evolutionist friends while away the hours, looking back farther and farther into pre-history, hoping to find some first cause, Christians have the confidence of knowing exactly how we got here. “In the beginning, God.” Awesome! We don’t have to guess what happened in the beginning; our God was right there! “In the beginning, God created.” There’s your First Cause! Where did everything come from? God created everything, as the theologians say, ex nihilo—out of nothing! In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” No random chance, no Big Bang: God doesn’t need something to work with. He speaks, and the limitless universe springs into being. Genesis 2 goes on to say that man was created from the dust of the ground, made in the image of God, and inspired by the very breath of Heaven. Wow. So we know how we got here. But Who will be my guide?
For that answer, we go to John 1…a passage that sounds pretty familiar, if we took the time to read Genesis 1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life,and that life was the lightof men.”The Word? What is “the Word?” Well, the Jews who heard John’s opening statement would have likely recognized that reference from passages like Psalms 33:7—“By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Now, John identifies the Word of God, not as mere speech, but as a person. Not just a bystander, an onlooker at the moment of creation, but this Word WAS God. And through Him all things were made. In just 3 verses, the beloved disciple has identified Jesus Christ as God…not just God, but Jehovah—the Creator God! The very source of life and light for men! What better guide could we hope for?
So we know how we got here, Whom our Guide should be, but the question remains: where do we go from here? Well, we know our ultimate destination, and looking forward to THAT journey’s end is the Blessed Hope of every believer. Maybe a better question would be HOW do we go from here? Fortunately, our guide left specific instructions, so let’s read them together: Matthew 28, verses 18 through 20. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
So He’s a most trustworthy Guide, and His “GPS” is installed within every believer, and is constantly updated without a USB connection: His Holy Spirit is our personal guide on the journey. His directions? “Go and make disciples of ALL nations”—now, that’s not just foreign missions. ALL nations includes THIS nation…this city…our community. Are we missionaries to our neighbors, family, and friends? Then, there’s that OTHER part of Jesus’ guidance: “teaching them everything I have commanded you.” Are we as passionate about teaching and studying God’s Word, as we are about sending our missionaries overseas?
But there’s one more point to be made about what Bible scholars call “the Great Commission.” Webster’s defines “commission” as the act of granting powers or certain authority to accomplish a task or goal.” That’s why Jesus is clear to remind us, in verse 18, that “all authority in heaven and earth” has been given Him. In the Great Commission, Jesus is granting the power and authority to US, that we would be used by God to accomplish His most important task here on Earth. Do we live and act, as Christians, like people given the power and authority to share His Gospel with everyone He brings into our lives? Or, are we living like we purchased our ticket, and deserve a smooth ride to the Promised Land?
No…He purchased the ticket with His own blood, sweat, and tears. How will we respond? Interesting: in the two verses before the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel, we read that “…the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Can you believe that? Some of the 11 men who followed His every step, and drunk in every word He spoke for 3 years; the 11 talmidim who saw Him brutally murdered, then very much alive a few days later. Some of those 11 who watched Him heal the lame, cure the sick, and raise Lazarus from the dead, THEY still had their doubts!
The late Dan Fogelberg wrote of “joy at the start, fear in the journey, and joy at the coming home.”* Certainly, our journey with Jesus will not always be easy, no matter how reliable our Guide, no matter how sure our destination. Sometimes, we might doubt where we are going, and there will not always be clear signposts along the way. If you occasionally experience some apprehensions about your decision to follow Jesus, please understand that it’s totally normal to feel that way. That’s when we turn to His Word, to our heavenly Father in prayer, and to other sojourners that have been on the path a bit longer than ourselves. But we must travel on! For we must make disciples of all nations, that our Faithful Guide might return to carry us home.
*”Along the Road,” music and lyrics by Dan Fogelberg ©EMI Publishing