”teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
As Baptists, we have often focused on the first command in this section of Scripture – “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, …” (v19b), hence our name! To our fault, we have tended to see baptism as the end and move on to the next person to be converted. Conversion (signified in baptism) is the beginning – the beginning of a new life in Christ, an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But what does that new life look like?
The new life is a life of obedience to the commands of Jesus. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John reminds us. The word “observe” in this passage is to keep and protect, that we must faithfully keep and protect the commandments, being sure they are clear both in how we live them out and how we explain them. His commands come from His Word, and we must handle the Word carefully, precisely, and accurately.
We can’t teach what we don’t observe ourselves, at least we cannot teach it authentically. One of the issues many non-believers have with our faith is the way some Christians live it out. Non-believers may even agree with many principles at the root of our faith, but some living in the name of Christ betray those principles. When we do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control – we do not witness for the Kingdom. These are characteristics of the obedient life.
As we are discipled, so we must disciple. Often, we think this occurs in small groups or in classroom or lecture settings, and sometimes it does. Many times discipleship is shown as well as spoken – we teach others to observe His commands in our actions, our lives, backing up our words. Our faith is a spoken faith (the Word became flesh), but true faith is expressed in humble, obedient, fruitful lives.
- Are we living lives that exhibit obedience to the commands of Jesus? What kind of witness would that be to our lost world if we did?
- Are you teaching other believers those commands? Does your life confirm the Word we confess to believe?
Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard
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