To Observe – Matthew 28:18-20
Some of us oldsters bite our collective lips when new technology is introduced. Not because we’re early or late adopters, but because the new tech is likely replacing something we understand. As things get easier and easier, other things are used less, stored, discarded, forgotten.
We become more dependent on microchips and less dependent on practical knowledge, skill, and judgment. Our edge gets dull and, as a culture, we become practically ignorant and embarrassingly impressionable. It’s not good.
Take GPS. Global Positioning Systems. I have a friend who designs satellites for other purposes, a nuclear physicist. He was telling me about futurist gadgets like this when cellular phones were still the size of a man's loafer.
“One day soon you will tap a few buttons on your watch, and a voice will guide you, actually give you street by street directions, to anywhere in the world,” he said.
I didn’t get it. I was still trying to figure out how to make a spreadsheet on my translucent iMac G3.
Fast forward twenty years, and voilá, GPS.
Now, I’m the guy who went to Triple-A for maps to prepare for trips. I studied routes, landmarks, problem areas. I was the guy who bought the Rand McNally US Road Atlas the moment they hit the shelves. I actually taught all my kids to use the Road Atlas like a Bible, a line of personal defense against ever being lost. My kids could navigate a cross country trip from the back seat of our car, informing me of every turn, every new road, and distance to the next potty stop…
Hand a kid a map these days and they wouldn’t be able to refold it, let alone navigate from it.
This is especially bad for Christians. The church is never too far behind the world when it comes to technology, so, if we read at all, it is now, likely, on some kind of device. Gone are the Christian Bookstores where knowledgeable professionals could give practical advice on everything from choosing a Bible, a book about marriage, prophecy, or personal finances.
Bible verses at church are projected on giant screens with colorful backgrounds, with timing cued to the pastors' sermon notes with Ted Talk precision, keeping all eyes forward. Gone are the days of lugging heavy study bibles to church, for all but a few stalwarts.
I remember sitting in a church and the pastor paused and smiled after announcing the passage he was speaking on, because of the sound made by hundreds of bible pages being turned. “I love that sound,” he said.
You don’t need a concordance anymore, just ask your electronic assistant to find a verse for you. Type a few words into a search engine. We all do it.
But it takes real effort to carve out the time, quiet your heart and mind, and actually read your bible with an open, obedient heart, expectant and reverent. It is much easier to subscribe to a verse for the day or scroll social media for an inspirational meme.
Here is our mission, according to Jesus:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
Each Christian is commissioned by Christ, to go out, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and make disciples of Jesus throughout the world. We are supposed to teach these new disciples to observe all the things Jesus commanded.
What did Jesus command? Herein lies the problem. We can’t teach what we don’t know.
Most Christians can get the Big Two – Love God and love your neighbor – and these are the sum of the matter, to be sure. But there are more. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are like that Rand McNally Road Atlas, they’re a road map of Jesus life and teaching – and there are dozens of instructions – commands, that He gave for us to know, apply to our own lives, and teach others.
In fact, Jesus says it himself, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” That word, observe, means to obey, or to keep, or to navigate. We are to know, personally, through being with Jesus and knowing His Word, how to navigate life according to His directions, and then teach these things to our children and other followers of Christ.
We must find our way back to the old-school study of God’s Word, dear ones. We can’t personally apply, or practically teach, what we don’t know. Let’s open God’s word and find out what Jesus has commanded. And, like my little ones with the atlas in the back seat of the Taurus, we will understand His will, or “road map” for our own lives, and, be able to give precise directions to those who need them.