The First Statue of Liberty
Dr. Jim Denison
Once upon a time there was a stonecutter. He lived all alone. Though he had great skills, he was very poor. He lived in a tiny bamboo hut and wore tattered clothing.
One day as the stonecutter worked with his hammer and chisel upon a huge stone, he heard the king’s procession approaching his humble village. Joining the crowd, he stood in awe at the marvelous silk robes and regal splendor of the king. “Oh, how I wish I had the power and glory of the king,” he thought. “He has soldiers at his command. No one is more powerful.”
His cry was heard, and immediately the humble stonecutter was transformed into a powerful king, riding a great horse, waving at the crowds who flocked to see him. “This is power,” he thought.
As summer came, however, the king watched the power of the sun on his people. Men, animals, and plants withered under its powerful rays. “How I wish I were as powerful as that,” he thought. “I wish I were the sun.” And immediately his wish was granted.
The stonecutter relished his new role as the sun, and gloried in his power over the earth below. Then one day a tiny cloud moved over the land, shielding the earth from his bright rays. Seeing that here was something more powerful than himself, he thought, “I want very much to be a cloud.”
Again his wish was granted. Now he blocked the sun’s rays and felt important. He poured rain on the earth, flooding the streets and farmlands below. Everything was under his power, except the rocks. Again he had found something more powerful than he.
“There is nothing as powerful as a rock,” he thought. “How I wish I were a huge stone.” His wish was granted.
As a stone he remained motionless and powerful, unmoved by sun or wind or rain. He felt exempt from all the forces that shaped the existence of those around him.
Then one day a man approached, carrying a bag. When he stopped, he pulled out a chisel and hammer and began to chip away at the rock. Realizing that the man with the tools was more powerful than any rock, he cried out, “Oh, I want to be a stonecutter.”
Once again his cry was heard, and he became a stonecutter. Once again he lived in a bamboo hut and made his living with hammer and chisel. And he was at peace, for he had found his life’s purpose at last.
We must each find our reason for being. Abraham Maslow said it well: “An artist must paint, a poet must write, a musician must make music if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” What were you made to be? What is your purpose, your vision for your life? And how does that vision relate to the country whose birth we celebrate today?
Why are you here?
Where do we go for the answers we seek today? A counselor? A trusted family member or friend? How about the only person in all of human history who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)?
“Authority” here means power, control, sovereign lordship. “Heaven and earth” of course includes everything that exists.
He proved this authority by ordering the winds and the waves, healing the sick and raising the dead, then defeating death himself. The only person ever to do so.
So he has “all” authority. Over the way we do our businesses and work, our politics and government, our society and culture, and our personal lives. He alone has the right to tell us why we’re here, what we’re made to do. Because he made us.
What does he say?
“Therefore,” as a result of his authority, “go and make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is a “fully devoted follower.” We are to make fully devoted followers of Jesus.
In all nations—the word means all people groups, every person we know. We start by “going”—the Greek says, “as you go.” Wherever you go, with those you already know today, the people you will meet this week. As you go, help people follow Jesus. That’s why you’re here, he says.
To whom is this addressed? Simply put, this vision statement applies to every Christian. Jesus’ “Great Commission” was addressed to every believer, not just the apostles, the so-called “clergy.” He addressed this to carpenters, farmers, fishermen, pottery makers, tax collectors, soldiers, every conceivable career.
Your vocation—your calling—is to help people follow Jesus. Your career is how you do it. You help people follow Jesus by being a lawyer, or a hotel operator, or a banker, or a teacher, or a coach. Your career is a means to the end of your vocation.
If God could give us a one-question test today, “What is your life’s purpose?” the only right answer is this: to help people follow Jesus. That’s your life vision, according to your Creator and Lord.
How do we do this? Some people we need to evangelize—”baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19). We pray for the lost people we know, invite them to church or other spiritual activities, tell them what Jesus has done for us. We show them God’s love in ours.
The high school students I met when I started going to church evangelized me by their care, their love for me, and their joy in Jesus. I wanted what they had. Then my Sunday school teacher simply explained John 3:16 to me. We help some people to know Jesus.
Others we equip to follow Jesus—”teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (v. 20). We help Christians to follow Jesus more personally, more closely, more passionately.
And we do all of this out of that personal devotion to Jesus which empowers all we do—”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (v. 20b). We do this in his power and ability.