As more and more Christians rub shoulders with their Muslim neighbors, one cannot but help but ask about what might motivate Christians to bear witness to them to the fact that Jesus is Lord. Is it guilt, fear, the threat of hell, or something else? Let us examine a few options and conclude that only the worthiness of King Jesus will cause the Christian ambassador to leave his/her comfort zone and to "declare the excellencies" of Him who brought us out of darkness into light (I Peter 2:9).
You likely have heard the speaker say something to this effect: "The Great Commission says go. Since you have not gone, you are committing the great omission." The result? A person is filled with guilt. But guilt is a poor motivator, because as soon as it wears off, then the motivation ceases.
Not only that, in Matthew 28:19 Jesus, who is the master-disciple maker as he was going along in his preaching, teaching and healing ministry, tells his authorized heralds literally, "Having gone" or "as you are going" make disciples. That is to say, He is the one with complete authority, and now he is bestowing his authorized agents with that authority to make disciples as they are going along. Likely the picture of a herald who announces the coming of the king is behind this verse. Remember that Joseph had a herald who went ahead of him and cried out "Bow the knee" (Genesis 41:43).
Thus the "go" of the Great Commission is less about crossing seas and mountains, but more about pronouncing the Great King as one is on the move. This is no excuse to avoid the hard-places of the unreached people groups, but serves to engage all Christians.
"My church is full of people who tell great stories about how they witnessed in the most challenging and difficult places. They witness on airplanes, in submarines, at the mall and on the street corner. If I don't do the same, they might look at me as less than committed to the Gospel." The person is speaking out of a motivation to please people more than a motivation to please God. We must remember that at the end of the Great Commission Jesus tells his likely fearful disciples that He will be with them "all of the days" (v. 20). Most translations render this "always, to the end of the age," but it is important to note that in the Great Commission Jesus uses the very comforting and very fear-killing word "all" four times. All...authority...all nations [even Muslim majority ethnic groups]...all that I have commanded you...all the days.
The threat of hell motivation:
The preacher pulls out the text of Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and reads,
.... the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of. ...
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder....
The preacher then reminds the audience that if they do not go out and witness to their Muslim neighbors, then their destination at hell is all due to the Christian's negligence. Then the preacher suggests that for eternity the thought of this torment will torment them as they bask in paradise.
Likely this motivation will last for a very short time until the sermon is forgotten or another kind of emotional appeal is made. One thing is for sure, this motivation will not get someone out of your comfort zone for the long term.
The worthiness of Jesus motivation:
- Fact: Jesus is worthy and deserves world-wide worship.
- Fact: Jesus is the only One worthy of this worship.
- Fact: Jesus in all of his majesty and beauty is not getting this worship.
- Fact: All people will bow their knees to him, either in worship as their King and Lord, or in terror of him as their judge.
In the often repeated confession of faith of Islam, also known as the shahadah the Muslim says, "I myself bear witness to the fact that Allah of Islam is one, and that Muhammad is his one and only authorized and final messenger." Compare this with the contents of the Great Commission, where Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth is given to Him. Not only that, just before He commissions his disciples, we read that they came to a 'mountain' where He had instructed them to meet. Throughout the Bible mountains like Sinai, Ebal, Carmel or the place of the Sermon on the Mount, were always places where God revealed himself. Jesus is doing the same. He is revealing himself as the resurrected and all-powerful One, and that is why v. 17 tells us that they worshipped Him, albeit with some hesitation.
The one who is said to be the messenger of Islam is not worthy of worship. Neither is the deity that he is said to be the messenger of. However, the reigning and ruling Christ who has the authority to judge all nations and will certainly do so is the one worthy of worship.
As Christians have a wider, and deeper and higher view of the beauty and authority of his Majesty and the worthiness of his worship, they cannot but tell their Muslim neighbors about it. This is the kind of motivation that will cause one to leave their comfort zone, and as they are going, whether to the seller of shawarmas in Dearborn or the bookseller in Turkmenistan and to declare His excellencies.
May you go in the love of the Father, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. His name is worthy.