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Christ’s Challenge to Christians!

Atheistic humanism, the idea that there is no God and that man is his own god, had very little sway in 19th century America. It was looked upon as an aberration that affected only the fringes of society. Mainstream Americans went to church and believed that God was in His heaven and all was well in the world. Sure there were still problem areas that needed attention but most felt that, in time, these would be attended to and moral and spiritual conditions would continue to improve.

The latter half of 20th century demonstrated the foolishness of these notions. Christianity was asleep but its enemy was not. First the universities and the public schools, then the news and entertainment media and finally the centers of government, federal, state and local, were taken over and steadily stripped of Christian content. Today, while there is still a modicum of lip service given to Christian principles, they have little influence in these centers of power.

The majority of Americans believe in God but the nation is ruled primarily by unprincipled, godless, men and women whose only real concern is for themselves. Those that have any principles at all are humanists that despise God’s law. They teach their atheistic philosophies to captive children in America’s schools and to young adults in her universities. Generation by generation, they are leading Christian America farther and farther away from their God.

Don’t think we’ve just reached a new low where we can expect to see some stability. This is a straw that Christians keep grasping at. The school curricula, media moral standards and the laws of the land drop to a new low at every point of change. How long will it be before we find the Christian faith forced underground? Christians really need to stop deluding themselves, face the reality of the situation and take action!

But what can we do that would make a difference? Is there anything we can do other than pray? To answer these questions, we must recognize that we took a wrong turn somewhere and are not doing what we should be doing. Then we can look back to see where and why we went wrong. Let’s begin by examining with some care exactly what Jesus told us to do.

Jesus’ Instructions
Very near the end of His time on earth Jesus spoke to His disciples. His words are recorded at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew:

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28)

The Commission

1. He begins by stating His authority: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” He declares that He is the ultimate ruler over all the nations in the world.
2. He empowers His disciples to exercise His authority over the nations by baptizing them and teaching them to observe all His commandments.
3. He promises to be with them “even unto the end of the world.”

These are truly amazing and earthshaking statements. Let’s consider some of the implications:

1. Every form of human government is subservient to Christ. Kings or governing bodies are not sovereign entities. They are subject to whatever commandments Jesus has prescribed and may not violate His law-word.
2. In this area of teaching the nations, Jesus’ disciples were given specific authority. It surpassed the authority of kings, parliaments or any other form of human authority. They were to proceed with this work regardless of governmental opposition (Acts 5:29).
3. Jesus’ promise to be with them to the end of the world shows us that he wasn’t speaking to just these eleven men. They would not live that long. He was speaking to His entire body, to all the faithful, to all true Christians. So this commission, this responsibility to baptize and teach the nations of the world is given to every individual believer. Some may do more and some less but the task is to be accomplished by the aggregate effect of all the individual contributions.
4. This is truly a “Great” Commission. It is a repeat of the command God gave Adam and Eve; they were told to be fruitful, to multiply and to take dominion over the earth. They were to produce a world full of God-fearing, God-obeying people or, what we would call today, a Christian world. Adam failed but Christ, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) assumed the task. His work is done; the rest, the mopping up operation, He has delegated to His people, the members of His body, each and every Christian.

The Response

The early Christians (AD 100-300) made good progress toward the fulfillment of this commission. Christianity grew from just a handful to become the official religion of the Roman Empire. But the rate of progress declined when the church leadership redefined the boundaries of God’s kingdom to be the church institution itself. Jesus declared that His kingdom was all of heaven and earth but the church excluded everything outside its walls. This, of course, denied Christ’s claim and slowed to a crawl the work of the Great Commission. The excuse given was that the Commission was meant to be just a call to preach the Gospel, not to actually accomplish the conversion of the nations. The goals were redefined so as to be brought into line with the results. This idea took root more than a thousand years ago; even the Reformation that came later did not change it and it is still held to be true in most of today’s churches.

The argument in support of this is that Jesus was speaking, not to all Christians but to His disciples and to their successors, the ordained clergy. This may be sufficient for the limited goal of preaching the Gospel but not the broader goal of actually teaching the nations obedience. But the words do not say preach the Gospel; they say teach the nations to obey. But to teach the nations is to teach the peoples of the nations and just how is that to be done and why does it involve all Christians?

1. Teaching begins at home but it soon moves to the school, which in turn says that the schools of the nations should teach God’s law (Christ’s commandments). America’s schools today teach atheism; God’s law is anathema within their walls. This is not something that could be corrected by the clergy acting alone; nor is it within its charter. It is the concerted effort of all Christians that would be needed to make a change in current practice. Supposedly, Christians are a majority in this country; were they of one mind in this, they could easily make a decided difference.
2. Teaching continues in the acts of the legislatures that form the laws of the nations. Here again the clergy’s ability to influence is limited. It is the votes and the concerted political action of the great body of Christians that are needed to significantly affect the kinds of laws that are instituted.
3. The news and entertainment media reinforces the teaching of the school system. Here is another area that would require the efforts of all Christians; they buy the products of the sponsors and have the influence that can be used to effect control over the programming.

So we see that the full scope of the Commission involves much more than preaching and baptizing and, while beyond the means of the clergy alone, is well within the capability of the full body of Christ. The Lord tells us that Christians should place a very high priority on this task. He says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God” even before food, drink and clothing (Matt. 6:31,33). Likewise, the first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) are for the establishment of His kingdom, only after these do we find personal requests.

We Christians seem to have forgotten that Jesus called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are not responsible just for our families and ourselves but for the whole world! We are called to be “instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13) and to “reprove the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). We need to broaden our vision. God has given us real responsibilities that we must not shrink from. He has placed the future of the unbelieving world in our hands. Are we to selfishly ignore His commandment?

Furthermore, it is not only unbelievers that are at risk in this. Many Christian families are heartbroken by wayward youth as a consequence of their exposure to the influences of a surrounding apostate world. God warned of this danger with respect to the godless peoples that bordered Israel (Deut. 7:2-6). Regardless of what we might wish, Christianity cannot continue to live hand in hand with atheistic humanism; it must either dominate the culture or submit to it.

Implementing and maintaining Christ’s kingdom in America would have been a far simpler task had it begun a century or two ago, but it is not out of reach today. What is needed is for the clergy to do the task that God assigned them, to teach the whole counsel of His word. This must include the teaching of the Great Commission to its full extent and meaning.

When America’s Christians come to a true understanding of the responsibilities God gave them and begin to obey the Commission of their Lord, we will see real change begin to take place. This nation and then the entire world can and eventually will be won for Christ. All Christians, as they are able, will play a part in this, some will do more and some less but all need to participate.

This is not an impossible task and it’s what Jesus wants us to do with the life He gave us! He will not do it for us but He promised to be with us to the end of the age. Do we need more encouragement or support than that? All we need to do is believe and obey. When we do so, really do so, God will give us all the support we need.