The Great Commission and Repentance

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I am getting more and more excited about the upcoming “White Unto Harvest” conference, and I suspect I’m far from alone. In preparing for the address I will be giving – “Profile of the Evangelistic Church” – I have been assessing my own history in the category of the Great Commission. Here is my conclusion, and where I believe we must start: Repentance is required.

It will not do to simply resolve to make progress, or even to admit that evangelism has been a significant shortcoming. We do need to make progress, of course, and for most of us evangelism has in fact been a major shortcoming, but leaving it at that is woefully insufficient. Why? Because there is grievous sin that needs to be acknowledged and forsaken. One fact is clearer to me now than it ever has been, which is that the Great Commission is the natural and inevitable outflow of the Great Commandments.

The Great Commandments

When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus responded this way: “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). The two greatest commandments are commandments of love, and they perfectly summarize all the Law and the Prophets. And they stand in priority. First love God. How? With an all-consuming love – heart, soul, mind and strength. Then love your neighbor. How? As yourself, meaning “a lot.” Two great commandments, supreme and inseparable.

How Does This Relate To The Great Commission?

Okay, so I’ve only said what every Christian already knows, which is that loving God and loving neighbor is the supreme summary of what God requires of us. So what? Here’s what: the Great Commission is simply an extension of this, not a separate category. If I love God with all of my being, His praise is on my lips incessantly. If I love my neighbor as myself, I care deeply about his eternal condition and open my mouth with the mighty remedy of the gospel. Loving God without speaking of His greatness, His ways, what He has done through Christ? Inconceivable! Loving neighbor without speaking to his desperate need? Unbelievable!

Our gospel failures represent more than needing progress. They are indicators that our love for God isn’t what we thought it was, and neither is our love for our neighbor. To persist in the faith without the gospel on our lips is to reveal a profound inconsistency that will have to be dealt with. It can’t simply be swept under the rug as we drum up a new wave of evangelism.

Why It Matters

If we skip repentance and go straight to activity, our new found evangelistic zeal will be short-lived. We’ve all been in the church with the strategy-of-the-year, and we need for the Great Commission to be infinitely more than that. It starts with repentance. My silence reveals that I have not loved my God as I ought. My apathy and fear of man reveals that I have not loved my neighbor much at all, let alone as myself. Friends, this is sin. Long held sin. Revealing and humiliating sin. If we are going to be different five years from now, ten years from now, we must own our sin and then forsake it. Mourn, and then by the grace of God, by the Spirit of God, change.

Brothers and sisters, this is our finest hour, if we will follow the author and perfecter of our faith. There is nothing more exhilarating than to demonstrate a true love for God and for our neighbor by engaging the lost with the gospel for the glory of God. May God give us the grace to love more, spending and being spent for this Great Commission.