This week my husband and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.
That’s a dozen years of marriage. Like, a whole box of doughnuts. (Some doughnuts crazier than others.)
In those twelve years we’ve had three kids, moved three times, and completely changed careers. Both of us.
We own a house now, two cars, and a dog, who we kinda like. We manage our own businesses. We even have some savings in the bank. In other words, we now have a lot of responsibilities.
This past year our youngest turned five and started Pre-K, which means we’ve found ourselves out of the survival stage of parenting, and into the light (cue the hallelujah chorus).
In reclaiming some of our life (and sanity), we began to realize that it was high time we get our life in order, including making a will. I turn 34 this week, which means I’m not old, but I’m not young either—and I’m not naïve enough to think nothing could happen to me, and I’ll live forever, anymore.
My husband and I wanted to be sure that, should something happen to us, our kids would be well taken care of, and our friends and family wouldn’t have to sit around guessing what we would want them to do— they would know exactly what we wanted and, hopefully, carry out those wishes.
We sat down to write out our will and wrote out things like who we would want to make our health decisions, and who we would want to care for our kids. And, having life insurance policies, we had to decide at what age we thought our kids would be mature enough to handle that well. So, obviously, we typed in “45.”
In all this thinking about what would be our final instructions to our family, it got me thinking about Jesus’ last words.
The cool thing about Jesus is He didn’t just have one set of last words— He had two.
We love Jesus’ first-last words. When He was dying on the cross, suffering on our behalf, taking on our sin and shame, giving us right-standing with God— He said three words before taking His last breath: “It is finished.”
We really like those last words because they mean every sin that we’ve ever committed and every sin we ever will commit is covered under His blood. Because of His sacrifice, we are forgiven and dearly loved sons and daughters of God.
But Jesus had a second set of last words. Because, as I’m sure you know (if not: spoiler alert) He came back.
He walked the earth for another 40 days, doing crazy stuff. Showing up in locked rooms, disappearing and such. But when He knew his time was coming to an end and it was time to return to the Father, He gathered His disciples for a second set of last words.
We read them in Matthew 28:18-20.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
I can imagine Jesus, pulling his disciples in for a huddle. Looking into the eyes of the men He had spent the past 3 years pouring into. And I bet the disciples were fully tuned in, listening intently as Jesus makes known what they are to do next.
So Jesus tells them, “Listen—the way that I have done life with you—I want you to go do the same with others. Keep following my ways, and help others become followers too. Help. Teach. Love. Admonish.”
In the same way my husband and I wrote down everything we would want our friends and family to do in the event that we leave this earth unexpectedly, in Jesus’ last words, He laid out exactly what He wanted us to do so we wouldn’t have to sit around and wonder.
He was letting us know that discipleship is for all of us.
But there’s a problem I’ve taken note of in the church body. It’s that Jesus gave us a job to do, and yet so many of us have abandoned our posts.
We’ve settled for being spectators.
Meanwhile I look at the world around me and I see so much pain and suffering. I see people plagued by addiction and mental illness. I see the next generation left to figure things out for themselves, so they're settling for unsound doctrine; settling for a watered-down, powerless, self-serving version of Jesus.
All the while, so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers are content to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few feel-good songs, be “fed” by our pastors, and go right back home.
I say all this not to point a finger at anyone else because, if I’m honest, I don’t always want to take the time to invest in others. I’ll see a friend who is having a tough time in their marriage, or a college student who is struggling with their faith, and I’ll feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something… and yet I do nothing.
It’s because, in any area of obedience to God, we’re going to face some opposition.
The first opposition is our flesh.
I don’t know about you, but my flesh is really skilled at coming up with excuses.
(Some of them sound really holy and admissible, too.)
Well, God, you know you made me an introvert, so surely you must understand that I need my space.
Well, God, you said you want me to be pure, so surely you wouldn’t want me hanging around with those messy people who are going to bring me down.
Well, God, I’m just so busy. You’ve given me these three kids, a husband, a house, and a career. And then there’s ministry. I’m just so busy doing ministry. Who has time for people?
And God, you know I’m just not qualified. I’m still trying to figure this whole Christian walk thing out, so who am I to disciple anyone else? Isn’t that the pastor’s job? The church staff’s job? Or someone more spiritual than me?
Has anyone else out there ever had thoughts like this?
In obedience to the call to disciple, we’re going to face the opposition of the flesh.
But there’s a second opposition, and that’s Satan. Satan would love nothing more than to squelch the move of God upon this earth and to keep you from the full life God wants for you.
Satan has been offering us lies since the beginning of time (Genesis 3), and I think the primary reason so many of us are hesitant to embrace Jesus’ will is that we’ve accepted this lie: that we are happier and more fulfilled by what we receive.
And so we embrace the first of Jesus’ last words—that He loves us and has a good plan for us, and we are forgiven and free— but neglect His second last words which tell us that we have a job to do.
We turn down his invitation to be a part of His great plan, and we sit around wondering why the world is such a mess, and why we feel our lives are missing something.
I was sharing with a friend some thoughts about discipleship and she stopped me, with a smile and pulled out a napkin and a pen and begin drawing a picture. My friend had just returned from Israel, where she got to see where Jesus walked, and be baptized in the Jordan river. She drew a picture of that river, and explained to me how the Sea of Galilee flows down into it, and both are teeming with life, but down at the very bottom, there is the Dead Sea.
Now, I’ve never been great at geography, but I do know one thing about the Dead Sea: it’s dead. There are no plants, or animals, or organisms living in it. Just a little bit of bacteria and some fungus. Yuck.
My friend asked, “You wanna know why there’s so much life in the Jordan river and the sea of Galilee, and nothing down here in the Dead Sea?” She paused. “It’s because the flow stops here.”
Hopefully the lightbulbs are turning on.
If they aren’t, let me break it down: We can sit around all day and read our Bibles, and understand that Jesus loves us, but if we do nothing to pass that along to others, we will remain stagnant and lifeless in our faith. The flow cannot stop with us.
If you’re reading this and you feel like your life is missing something, might I suggest that it's probably not because of something else you need, but because of something you need to give away.
Over the past few years, I’ve experienced this. I went from being one of the most self-focused, miserable Christians you ever met to understanding the joy of investing in others.
What I have learned along the journey is that God’s plan for discipleship isn’t just for those being discipled, it is for those doing the discipling too.
It’s hard to explain, but there is this joy and fulfillment like no other when I get my mind off of myself, and my problems, and begin to pour into others.
Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” but Jesus came that we would, “have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan would love to kill the move of God. He would love to steal your joy. Don’t fall for the lie that you will be more satisfied the more life you keep to yourself.
God’s Kingdom is an upside down kingdom, where we are more blessed to give than to receive— and we are never more fully alive than when we give our lives to others.
It’s time to get serious about Jesus’ last words. Not just so we can earn brownie points and feel better about ourselves, but because there are lives that are counting on us.
You have co-workers who don’t know that life can be better than what they’re experiencing.
There are moms and dads who aren’t sure how to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
There are girls who don’t know their worth, so they are selling themselves on social media and on the streets.
There are men who are cutting their lives short because they feel like failures.
And there are boys who don’t know how to be men of God, because no one has ever taught them.
You have something to give— whether you’ve been following Jesus for 6 months, or 60 years. Your life, your story matters.
People are waiting on us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
My challenge to you today is to ask God who He would have you to reach out to. Then, simply be obedient. You don't have to have all of the answers to begin. Just begin.
What will you do with Jesus’ last words?
P.S. I'm a big believer in small groups, because I believe discipleship in the context of community can be a powerful catalyst to a believer's growth. If you've ever thought about starting your own small group, I've got a brand new resource to help. "Start: Small" is my free ebook with five simple steps to help you get started. Visit my resource page to learn more and subscribe to receive your free ebook.
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.
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