Monthly Archives: January 2014



Consider with me Jesus’ words, we call “the Great Commission” set in Matthew 28:18-20.

All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth, therefore …..

This authority given to the risen, glorified, Jesus is what makes such an impossibly huge and risky task set before his stunned and vulnerable followers, not only possible but doable! It is only on the basis that the Father has given Jesus all authority, not only in the heavenly places but also on earth. Right where they were. Right where we are.

Such an authority has been given to the man Jesus who is risen from death and is gloriously Lord! The authority is given to Jesus alone, but will flow through to those who are joined to him and when the Holy Spirit is at last poured out upon them.

This promise to his followers was given well before the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. It is this coming of the Holy Spirit that will make all the difference: the authority given him, and only to him, will flow onto them. Why? For what purpose?

……… make disciples of all the nations …….

This means making disciples of Jesus, and not of us, our ideas or our agendas. It is his kingdom not ours. They must follow Jesus, be like him, reproducing, sowing seeds.

What is meant by “the nations”? For a Jew, typically it meant going to the Gentiles. It means peoples everywhere, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans, Africans, Asians, Chinese, Americans, Westerners, East and West Europeans, indigenous. It means rich, poor, males and females, young, old, everyone. The whole world.

… baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit …

The consistent practice of the first followers was to baptise in the name of Jesus. But Jesus’ emphasis in this context is about plunging disciples into a relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and not merely into water. True baptism involves becoming children of the Heavenly Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

….. teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….

It is Jesus’ commands that are important. In the hearts of his disciples Jesus’ words must take the place of all others, previous and yet to come: receive the Holy Spirit, make disciples, bear witness to me, proclaim the Kingdom of God, serve one another, humble yourselves, love one another, glorify the Father …. to mention only a few.

In fact, dare we add to what he asks? Dare we introduce practices, traditions and religion now we have such a momentous and perfect revelation of the mind of the Father in the person of Jesus?

Have we so quickly turned away from the great commission and instead pursued agendas of our own – a great omission – and now we have the great substitution, mere religion?


He witnessed that stunning, blinding change in Jesus’ appearance and he heard the voice from above and experienced intense pain in his heart, when Peter, true to form and following his inbuilt Jewish instincts, wanted to memorialise the three, Moses, Elijah and Jesus, by constructing 3 sacred tents. And the awesome voice which must have exploded in their ears “This is my son, my beloved! LISTEN TO HIM!”

When, with their faces on the ground, and intense pain in their hearts, Peter and his two companions opened their eyes, the two prophets from the past had disappeared and there was Jesus alone.

Jesus alone.

After that fearful experience, dare they listen anymore to those greatly esteemed voices from the past?  (or voices from any other for that matter). As the great John the immerser acknowledged, HE must increase, he – and all others, decrease.

Thus we find Jesus in all the scriptures, including the Old Testament texts. He showed this to the two despairing disciples on the way to Emmaus and then again to the spooked apostles. The law, the writings and the prophets – they are all about him! And now he is its interpreter. He alone.

We all have many esteemed voices floating around in our heads from well loved parents, friends, writers, preachers, teachers – and even prophets. But these must give way to Jesus’ voice only. He must take precedence. Other voices must decrease.

We are so prone to act on assumptions. We assume that the way we are doing things, serving God, going to church, running programs, what we have picked up over time, sampled from the smorgasbord of religion, is OK because countless people have travelled that road. But are these what he commanded? Are these what HE told us to do? Have we heard HIS voice? Are we listening now?

We must listen to him.

Imagine you and I were there climbing that mountain, following Jesus, wondering what this was all about. What next is going to happen? What is he going to do next? Why just us and not all the others? Who next will he upset? What new teaching will he give to shatter our illusions, change our course, renew our minds? What new wine will he bid us drink? What further claims will he make upon us? Where will it all end? Where am I going by following this man? What will I have to rethink next? What more long-held beliefs or precious traditions will I have to abandon? Where will he lead me?

We are still not used to this man who says the most extraordinary things, narrates the most explosive stories, makes the most stupendous claims, loves with such compassion and sovereignty, draws such interest, curiosity, inspires, heals all sicknesses, inspires true sacrifice, calms storms and walks on turbulent waters ….

Following Jesus closely is a life of surprises, the unexpected, the unfamiliar. No clichés. No formulas. No laws on stone.  Our assumptions evaporate. Once experienced, all other alternatives appear shallow, pale, lifeless. We who have tasted his new wine, his sublime goodness are spoilt for anything less.

Lord, to whom else shall we go? Though challenging, only your words are the words of eternal life.


“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.