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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:16; Seeing With New Eyes

01/27_2 Corinthians 5:16; Seeing With New Eyes ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190127_2cor5_16.mp3

How Do You Judge?

You pull up to a stop light in a bigger city. There’s a guy standing on the corner, long unkempt hair poking out from under his stocking cap, surplus army jacket a little too big, faded blue jeans, dark brown leather work boots laced loosely. Gaunt face, weathered and unshaven. Grimy tobacco stained fingers hold a tattered piece of cardboard, scrawled with ‘anything helps. God bless.’

You’re early to your appointment. Across the waiting room there is a woman, sitting uncomfortably in a chair. She seems irritable and speaks harshly to her 2 year old boy who is as poorly behaved as he is dressed. She is too thin, despite being noticeably pregnant. The faint remnants of a bruise are just barely visible under her left eye, and although she does not smile, it appears she is missing teeth.

On the other end of the room stands a young man, 30 something, crisp white shirt and tan sport coat, one hand in the pocket of his neatly pressed pants fidgeting with car keys, talking on his wireless earpiece while looking up at the ceiling, saying that he looks forward to meeting with them over lunch next Tuesday, and ending the call with a click.

What do you think? What conclusions do you draw? What do you feel? What goes through your mind, your heart?

So Then

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Verse 16 starts with ‘So then’ or ‘therefore’ making a connection with the previous verses. He is drawing a conclusion, an application of what he said in verses 14-15. Christ’s love for us is the controlling factor in our lives. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). Because Jesus died in our place, we died with him. Our old identity is dead, and we have been raised with him to a new kind of life. We are no longer to live to ourselves, but for him. And this truth, this doctrine, impacts the way we live. This truth of our relationship with Christ spills out into the horizontal, how we view the people around us.

Seeing According to the Flesh

So then, from the now, we see no one according to the flesh. In the context we see what he means by no longer viewing according to the flesh. Back in verses 11-12, Paul said

2 Corinthians 5:11 …what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

Outward appearances versus what is in the heart. Because of Christ’s death for us on the cross and our death with him, we now no longer view according to outward appearance, according to the flesh.

Paul’s Confidence in the Flesh

Paul was expert at drawing conclusions based on outward characteristics. He says in Philippians 3 that he had every reason to put confidence in the flesh

Philippians 3:4 …If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Paul had it all together. He was born into the right family, he belonged to the right group, he did the right things, he was passionate, successful, determined; he was going somewhere. He was morally upstanding, he had a flawless record, he was clean. Outwardly he had it all together.

But he ditched all that. In the next verse he says;

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul came to consider his outward standing, his standing in the flesh as loss, rubbish, dung, σκύβαλα.

A Church of Losers

The majority of the church in Corinth didn’t have it all together. They didn’t have the status, they didn’t have what mattered outwardly, according to the flesh.

1 Corinthians 1:26 …not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

When viewed from a fleshly perspective, they were losers.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

But what matters outwardly is not what matters to God. In fact God turns human evaluation on its head. He does this intentionally, to eliminate pride and boasting.

Paul’s Boasting

Paul understood how the world views people, how to evaluate according to the flesh, according to outward appearances. And he knew the expectations on him as an apostle and teacher and preacher. You see, the values of the world tend to creep in to the thinking of the church. He was supposed to come with eloquence, with wisdom, self-confidence, strength of character, with a show of power, demanding a high salary.

Instead he came to them in weakness and in fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:3). He was put on display as a fool, weak, in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, the scum of the world, garbage (1Cor.4:9-13). He did not draw a salary from them, but worked with his own hands (1Cor.4:12; 1Cor.9; 2Cor.11:7-11). He describes himself as afflicted (2Cor.1:4-7), burdened and despairing (1:8), dependent on the prayers of others (1:11), he experienced anguish of heart, he cried (2:4). He experienced unrest of spirit (2:13). He could not claim any self-sufficiency (3:5). He came to them not as their lord but as a fellow laborer (1:24), as their servant; he didn’t promote himself (4:5). He compared himself to a common, disposable clay container (4:7). He was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death; death was at work in him (4:8-12). His outer nature was wasting away (4:16); his tent was being destroyed (5:1). In chapter 10:10 he quotes what others are saying about him; ‘For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”’

When viewed outwardly, Paul was a failure. He was not worthy to be followed.

Christ According to the Flesh

You see, Paul once viewed Christ according to the flesh. Let me read to you this description of Jesus:

Isaiah 53:2 …he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. …7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; …he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken … 9 And they made his grave with the wicked … 12 … he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors…

Jesus was not the Messiah anyone expected. Paul knew his scriptures. He knew that anyone who was hung on a tree is cursed by God (Deut.21:23; Gal.3:13). It was clear to him that the blasphemous claims of Jesus were proved false by his crucifixion. The fact that anyone would still follow this Jesus as Messiah and convince others to follow him was infuriating; Paul approved of the stoning of Stephen, and he set about himself to stamp out these deviant religious fanatics.

But Paul was not the only one to view Christ according to the flesh. Notice he says “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh” Even Jesus’ disciples, his closest followers, expected something much different that what he was.

In Mark 10,

Mark 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to lay down his life, and for the third time he tells his disciples exactly what is going to happen. Their response? The very next verse:

Mark 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

They just didn’t get it! They had no category for a crucified messiah. They were looking for the glory, for the kingdom. They were expecting the miraculous; that Jesus would in a show of power overthrow Rome and take his rightful throne (and they wanted to edge in on positions of earthly power).

The religious leaders had an expectation of a supernatural messiah.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

The religious leaders of Israel anticipated a messiah who would come in power, who could manifest the supernatural.

Even the Roman soldiers understood what a king should look like.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Everyone knows what a king looks like, and Jesus didn’t fit.

After his crucifixion his disciples didn’t know what to do. They hid behind locked doors. They went home. They began to return to their jobs. Two of his disciples, conversing with an unknown traveler about his crucifixion, said “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk.24:21). At first they disbelieved the reports of his resurrection. Even after they had seen their risen Lord they asked him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They couldn’t see beyond their fleshly expectation of the messiah.

Seeing With New Eyes

The Lord had to open their eyes! He enabled them to see in a different way, a spiritual way. Jesus’ answer to his disciples?

Acts 1:7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses [μάρτυρες] in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Don’t concern yourself about earthly kingdoms. You will be Spirit empowered to be my witnesses, the Greek word is μάρτυρες; where we get our word ‘martyr’. Most of his followers would seal their testimony of him with their own blood. Outwardly this doesn’t look very successful. But it is the way of Jesus.

The Lord had to open their eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. … 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The disciples could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective, and they just didn’t get it, until God opened their eyes.

Paul could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective. Until, on the way to Damascus, he was blinded. His physical sight was literally taken away for a time, so that he could begin to see with new eyes, to see things as they really are, to evaluate not according to the flesh.

Paul began to really see. God’s plan to rescue humanity was not a conquering messiah who would wipe out all his enemies, because that would mean everyone. Instead the messiah would take on himself the sins of his enemies, die as their substitute, and so make his enemies into his friends. The seemingly foolish way of the cross is the only true way to glory. His kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. Jesus said:

Mark 10:43 …But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Death is the only way to really gain your life. Christ died for us, and we died with him, and that affects the way we look at other people, other believers; even apostles. It is not the outward, visible reality that matters most. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2Cor.4:18).

We once evaluated people according to the flesh, outwardly. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 20:21; So I Send You

12/28 So I Send You Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141228_so-i-send-you.mp3

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

We looked last week at what Christmas is all about, why the Father sent Jesus into the world, what he came to do. Today I want to look at the same thing from a different perspective. Listen to what Jesus says to his disciples in John 20

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Did you hear that? As the Father sent me, so I am sending you. This is amazing; Jesus takes his own commission with which he was sent into the world by the Father, and he passes that on to us. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you. Jesus was sent on mission from the Father. He was very clear in the task he was sent to accomplish. He knew what he was sent to do, and he would not be sidetracked from his mission. If, as his followers, we are sent by Jesus on mission, we need to understand what we are sent to do, and be diligent to do it.

Jesus says to his Father in John 17

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Jesus sends us, his disciples, into the world, just as the Father sent Jesus into the world.

So we need to ask, why was Jesus sent? What was his mission and what is our mission? What is different about Jesus’ mission from ours? What is the same? If we are sent by Jesus into the world, what should that look like? What does it mean for us to be followers of Jesus, in the sense that now we are to carry on doing what he was sent here to do? Through this lens we can look at what Jesus was sent to do, so that we can better understand what our lives are to look like.

I Only Do What The Father Sent Me To Do

Repeatedly Jesus said that he does only what the Father sent him to do.

John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

Jesus did not do his own thing. He was sent for a purpose, and he did not deviate from that mission. He came to do the will of the Father.

Jesus said:

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

When Peter tried to turn Jesus from the cross,

Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Jesus would not be thwarted from his purpose. He had his purpose fixed on the things of God. He let go of lesser things to pursue that which his Father had sent him to accomplish. We his followers must also learn to let go of lesser things and focus our attention and energy on that for which he sent us. We must learn to live with determination and purpose. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Truth and Light

Jesus said to Pilate

John 18:37 …For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus was sent to testify to the truth. He told the truth to sinners, he told the truth to self-righteous religious leaders, he told the truth about himself and about the Father. He told the truth about hell and about eternal life. He claimed to be the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father. He made people aware of their sin and their need for a Savior. Jesus said:

John 8:31 So Jesus said … “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus came to bring the truth that sets people free. He came to bring truth to dispel the lies. He came to bring light to overcome the darkness.

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus came as the light of the world.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus said in John 12:

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

He brought truth and light to combat lies and darkness.

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came to proclaim the truth about himself, about his Father, about hell and eternal life. We who have been set free by him must be proclaiming the truth and bringing light to the darkness. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Confronting Hypocrisy

Jesus told the truth even when it was costly to himself. He gave strong warnings to those who rejected him. He confronted the self-righteous who considered themselves better than others. He challenged their thinking and reasoned with them from the scriptures. He offended those who would ultimately conspire to put him to death. He warned of the danger of following hypocritical religious leaders. He said things like ‘woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’ and

Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites! … 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

He said:

Matthew 23:33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

He said things like: “have you not read” (Mt.19:4) and “because of your hardness of heart” (Mt.19:8). He said:

Matthew 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

He told the hard truth even when he knew it would cost him deeply. Jesus warned his followers:

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. …24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. …28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. …32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. …39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

To Seek and To Save the Lost

Jesus went out of his way to pursue lost sinners and bring good news to them. Jesus invited a despised tax collector named Matthew to be one of his followers.

Matthew 9:10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came for sinners. He spent time with sinners. He ate and drank with sinners. He damaged his own reputation associating with the lost, the low, the despised, the outcasts. He went out of his way to pursue lost people. In John 4, we are told,

John 4:4 And he had to pass through Samaria.

He had to pass through Samaria. Why? Because there was a woman who had been divorced and remarried 5 times and was now living with a man she was not married to, who needed the gift of living water that he came to freely give.

In Luke 18, Jesus said:

Luke 18:24 Jesus, …said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

And in the next chapter,

Luke 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

Jesus came to Jericho to find a rich man.

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

I must stay at your house today.” Jesus came to Jericho to find a tax collector who had gotten rich by extorting his own people.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He went out of his way to pursue sinners and broken people that everyone else cast aside. We who have come to know our sin and our need for a Savior must go to those who are lost and broken. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Physical and Spiritual Needs

Jesus cared for the immediate physical needs of many people. He fed the multitudes, he healed the sick and caused the lame to walk and the blind to see, he even raised the dead. But he went beyond the outward physical needs to the deeper spiritual disease of the heart. To the crowds who were looking for a free meal, he said

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

To the woman caught in the very act of adultery and dragged out to be execute,

John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

To the paralyzed man who was lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus, Jesus said:

Mark 2:5 …he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

To the woman of the street who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair he said:

Luke 7:48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

To the woman who had 5 husbands and was living with a man she was not married to, Jesus said:

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

To the religious leader who came to him by night to ask a question,

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 7 … ‘You must be born again.’

To his own disciples who had been arguing about who was greatest, he said:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus cared for the immediate needs of those around him, but he went deeper and addressed the disease of the heart. We should be concerned about the material and physical needs of those around us, but we must move beyond those to the deeper issues of the soul. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Servant Leadership

Jesus demonstrated a different kind of leadership.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus, fully conscious of his divine status as Lord, stooped to serve his followers. He acted with humility. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We as his followers are sent by Jesus not to be served, not to lord it over others, but rather to stoop to serve others. He gave his very life as a ransom for us. We must be ready to serve others, to give of ourselves, even to give our very lives for the eternal good of others. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

By The Spirit

Jesus was sent by the Father to accomplish the mission he was sent for. He came to testify to the truth, to bring light to the darkness, to confront religious hypocrisy, to seek and save the lost, to meet physical and spiritual needs, to give his life as a ransom for many. How? How did he accomplish the mission? John tells us:

John 1:32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.

Luke tells us:

Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus was empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to do what he came to do. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

If we are to live on mission sent by Jesus, to do only what pleases him, to testify to the truth, to bring light to darkness, to confront religious hypocrisy, to go out of our way to bring the good news to lost sinners, to meet both physical and spiritual needs, to serve others sacrificially, how can we do this? How can we possibly follow in Jesus footsteps? How can we live up to this high calling? “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” This is more than we can possibly do. Jesus goes on to tell us how.

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus sends us into the world on mission to rescue fallen humanity, to bring the good news to dying souls, to see lives transformed by the gospel, and he gives us the Holy Spirit to live inside so that we can fulfill our mission. We are not on our own. We have a high calling, but God is at work in us to enable us to do what he calls us to do.

How about you? Are you fulfilling your mission? Are you living passionately and purposefully, doing only the things that please him? What things need to go? What things need to start happening that aren’t yet happening? As the Spirit prompts you, make a note and seek his help. Allow him to do his work in you and through you for his glory and for your good.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 28, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Functions; What The Church Does

01/12/14 Church Functions; what the church does Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140112_church-functions.mp3

Last time we looked at what it means to be a church member. We defined church as an assembly of Jesus-followers; the church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. When we talk about church membership, we are not talking about membership in a society or club where there are member benefits, perks and privileges. Being a member of the church is language taken from the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians. As members of the body of Christ, we are to be connected, functional parts of the whole, each uniquely equipped to fulfill the role God has assigned to us.

Today I would like to explore some of the functions the church is meant to carry out. If we are to be functional parts of the whole, it is essential that we all have a clear vision of the goal. What is the purpose of the church? If each part has a clear understanding of the mission, we can move in unity toward the common goal, valuing the contribution of each member.

Last time we said that the clear objective of the church in encapsulated in the great commandment and the great commission. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples.

Evangelism and Baptism

Let’s see how this played out in the formation of the new covenant church in Acts 2. Jesus had presented himself alive to his disciples, and commissioned them as eye-witnesses to testify to his death and resurrection. He charged them with the task of making disciples of all nations, and then he told them to wait. Wait until you are clothed with power from on high. Wait for the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to proclaim the mighty works of God to the crowds in Jerusalem. They were supernaturally enabled to communicate with the crowd in all the languages that were represented. All were amazed, but some mocked. Peter explained what was happening by referring to the prophesy in Joel:

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Peter connects this proclamation of the mighty works of God by the apostles to the promised outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. He concludes his quotation with these words from the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Everyone. Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.

We get a taste of the content of this gospel proclamation of the mighty works of God in the following verses.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Then he gives some Old Testament evidence to prove his point.

…32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. … 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. This Jesus, the one who did mighty works, this Jesus whom you crucified, this Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, this Jesus is YHWH, Lord and Christ, Messiah. Call on this Jesus as Lord and Christ, Jesus who died for you and was raised and you will be saved.

Notice carefully the response of his hearers:

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They were cut to the heart. They were convicted of their sin. They were responsible for the crucifixion of God’s Messiah. They felt the weight of their guilt. They had crucified the Lord of glory! “Brothers, what shall we do?” This was broken-hearted recognition of their offense before God. We too are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus; it was our sin that made it necessary for him to suffer and die, it was my sin that he came to pay for.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent simply means to have a change of heart and mind. Turn from your hostility toward God, turn from your rebellion, turn from your sin which nailed Christ to the cross. Turn away from whatever false religious hopes you were holding on to, and turn to Jesus. Demonstrate this turning by baptism, the outward sign of the inward truth, confessing Christ Jesus as Lord, declaring publicly that your heart and mind have been transformed, that you have become a follower of Jesus. There is hope for you who by your rebellion have crucified the Lord of glory. There is forgiveness for your sins. You can never do anything to earn it. You must receive it as a gift. Turn to Jesus and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s promise for you, no matter how far you have strayed. God is calling you to himself.

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter proclaimed the good news that Jesus is God, that he is the promised Messiah, that the Father authenticated his identity with supernatural signs, that Jesus was crucified, and that he rose from the dead. They were cut to the heart, convicted of their sinfulness, and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent, to change their minds, to turn to Jesus, and they would be forgiven and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who received his word, those who believed, who turned to Jesus, were baptized, publicly demonstrating their faith. 3,000 were added that day to the church through belief and baptism. The church grew from 120 to over 3,000. Let’s look at what the early church did.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42 is very instructive. It tells us what the early church emphasized, what they were devoted to, what they were diligent in and earnest about. Four definite things the early church was committed to. Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Two things we have already seen in this passage that the early church did and we see them doing throughout the book of Acts: evangelism and baptism. They were proclaiming the good news about Jesus, making disciples, and baptizing into the church those who were believing.

The Apostles’ Teaching

Those who became followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostle’s teaching. Jesus commissioned his 12 disciples to be his eye-witnesses in a unique and unrepeatable way. He spent 40 days with them after his resurrection. He promised them the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach and guide them.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The apostle’s teaching formed the foundation of the church, centered around Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, …14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

God gave the apostles to the church to equip them for ministry and to give them a stable foundation of doctrine so they would not be led astray. The apostle’s teaching was a big deal. The early church was warned against any deviation or distortion of the apostle’s teaching.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

The apostle Paul warned young pastor Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, …6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

…13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to [the] exhortation, to [the] teaching. …16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Do not depart from the faith. You have been trained in the words of the faith, in the good doctrine that you have followed, so devote yourself to the teaching.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul exhorted him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Titus was left in Crete to appoint elders in every town. One of the necessary characteristics of a church leader was:

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

We must abide in the teaching of Christ. The apostle Peter, aware that he would soon die, wrote a letter. He said:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Because of the diligence of the Lord’s apostles, we have their teaching today in written form. We as the church must be devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

The Fellowship

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The second thing that the early church was devoted to is the fellowship. Fellowship is a broad word that can mean partnership, sharing, participation, communion. It comes from a root word that means common. In some contexts it means sharing financially (Rom.15:26; 2Cor.8:4, 9:13; Phil.1:5; Heb.13:16; root word in Acts 2:44, 4:32); it can mean oneness of spirit with God or with people (1 Cor.1:9; 2Cor.6:14, 13:14; Gal.2:9; Phil.2:1; 1Jn.1:3,6,7); or it can mean participation or sharing in something (suffering: Phil.3:10; blood and body of Christ in communion 1Cor.10:16; faith Philemon 6; root word: faith Tit.1:4; salvation Jude3).

John writes:

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. …6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The fellowship of believers took sin seriously. They confronted each other, exhorted, admonished and encouraged one another, confessed to one another, and were quick to forgive one another. The early church was devoted to fellowship, partnership, relationship, unity of spirit with God and one another. They shared life together. They sang together. They ate together. They enjoyed a common relationship with God and with one another. They fought sin together. They shared financially with one another as people had needs. They partnered in gospel missions with their money and their prayers. There was a true sense of community spiritually, socially, and financially. They cared for one another in practical ways. The early church was committed to the fellowship.

The Breaking of Bread

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The third thing the early church was devoted to was the breaking of bread. To break bread together simply mean to have a meal together. When Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves, he gave thanks to his Father and broke the bread so that it could be distributed it to each person (Mt.14:19; 15:36). This common form of eating together took on special significance at his final passover meal with his disciples before the crucifixion.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

After his resurrection, Jesus joined some of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. …35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

We find in 1 Corinthians that breaking bread was something the church did when they met together. Paul writes to correct the abuses of this meal that was intended to remind them of Jesus. They called it the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

The early church was diligent to remember Jesus through the breaking of bread.

The Prayers

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The fourth thing that this passage tells us the early church devoted themselves to were the prayers. Prayer is communication with God. Jesus, by his example taught us the importance of intimacy with God. He taught his followers to pray for God’s name to be worshiped, God’s rule to be realized, for God’s purposes to be accomplished. He taught us to ask in dependence for our basic physical and spiritual needs, and for rescue from temptation (Mt.6:9-13). Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Mt.5:44).

The church in Acts gathered together to pray for their leaders.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. …12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

In fact, I counted at least 10 places in the New Testament where the author either referred to or specifically asked for the people to pray for him. Prayer for rescue, for freedom, prayer for effective ministry, prayer for gospel opportunities and clarity in declaring the gospel, prayer for boldness. That’s about the same frequency of the author saying that he was praying for the people he was writing to.

Jesus prayed when he selected his 12 apostles (Lk.6:12). The early church prayed when they appointed leaders in the churches.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

We are instructed to pray for gospel opportunities and salvation for all people:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. …8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

We are to pray for the needs of one another:

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Conclusion

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church was active in proclaiming the good news about Jesus. They were active in making disciples. They were serious about preserving, proclaiming, and living out the truth once for all delivered to the saints. They were connected in community with one another. They were committed to keeping Jesus central to everything, remembering and reminding one another what Jesus did for them. They were characterized by their relationship with God, constantly communicating with him and depending on him in everything. The early church brought much glory to God by loving him, loving one another, and making disciples. This is how the church functioned. We would do well to follow their example.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 12, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 5:1-11; Making Disciples

06/16/2013 Making Disciples; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130616_making-disciples.mp3

Luke 5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Matthew and Mark record an abbreviated form of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus is proclaiming good news from God and commanding that people turn and believe that good news. He said ‘follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’. ‘Follow me’ – that is the call of discipleship. Disciples are followers of Jesus. That is what followers of Jesus do; they follow Jesus. I don’t think that’s too hard to understand. It is hard to live out, but it is not hard to understand. Many people claim to be followers of Jesus, but if Jesus says ‘follow me’ and I am going off in a different direction, I can’t really say I am following Jesus. Followers of Jesus follow Jesus. The good news Jesus proclaimed was ‘the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel’ (Mk.1:15). The kingdom of God is at hand because the King has come down! The King is here! The King must be obeyed. When the King says ‘follow me’, immediately, you drop everything and follow the King. This is what a disciples is. Absolute submission to the King. Immediate obedience to King Jesus.

Let Down Your Nets

In Luke’s account, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat as a platform to teach from. When he was done teaching, he instructed Peter to do some fishing. Peter was obviously a bit put out by this. He was happy to let the Rabbi teach from his boat, because that’s what teachers do. He probably would have been fine if Jesus gave him some pointers on building something, because Peter knew that Jesus had been trained as a carpenter. But now the Carpenter is telling the fisherman how to fish. Peter lets him know that they spent all night working hard doing what fishermen best knew how to do and caught nothing. But with that protest, he obeys. What happens next is nothing short of supernatural. Contrary to all his years of fishing wisdom and experience, they do everything wrong as far as fishing is concerned, and their nets were incapable of holding the multitude of fish that came into their nets. This is grounds for celebration. I would expect shouting and hoots and hollering, a party atmosphere, ‘Jesus, you’re my new best friend and permanent fishing buddy’. But Peter’s reaction is telling. This is no party. He is on his face before Jesus acknowledging his own sinfulness. Peter has realized who got into his boat. This is no ordinary rabbi, no mere carpenter, this is the Lord of land and sea, the God of the universe, the one who spoke all creation into existence, to whom every fish in the sea obeys his command. In the presence of Jesus, Peter is painfully aware of how far he falls short.

I Am A Sinful Man

Why does Peter ask Jesus to depart from him? I think he realizes that as a sinner in the presence of the all-holy God, he is in trouble. Because God is holy, it is his character to judge sin. Peter as a sinner, acutely aware of his own sinfulness, is rightly afraid. That is the right response to God’s presence. God is good, God is righteous, God is holy, and God is just to judge sin. We all have rebelled against him, we have rejected his authority in our lives, we have failed to give thanks to him, we refuse to honor him as God. All that sinners should ever expect from a holy God is judgment. What I have earned by my God dishonoring sin is death. When God shows up in my boat, it means he is coming to pay me what I deserve. Peter is pleading for mercy. ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’. ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’.

Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus’ response to Peter breathes life and hope. ‘Do not be afraid’. Peter understands his own situation and has every good reason to be terrified to the core of his being, and Jesus says ‘do not be afraid’. Jesus says ‘I did not come to judge the world but to save the world’ (Jn.12:47); I am not here to punish your sins, I am here to pay for your sins. Turn and believe the good news. This is good news indeed! For the sovereign Judge to say to a sinner ‘do not be afraid’ is the best news.

Catching Men

But it does not stop there. Jesus calls us into a relationship with himself. ‘From now on you will be catching men’. ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. Jesus calls us to a higher purpose. No longer fish but people. We are called to follow King Jesus, and we are commissioned to invite others to follow Jesus. We are to be disciples and we are to make disciples. Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple. This becomes explicitly clear when we come to the end of the gospels and hear Jesus’ final instructions.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus instructs his disciples to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey everything he has commanded them, which would at least include this command to make disciples. Jesus’ promise confirms this, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. As long as this present age lasts, Jesus promises to be with us, his followers as we obey him in the disciple making task. Not only has King Jesus, Lord of the universe, come not in judgment but with mercy, but he has commissioned us to be the bearers of this good news to the nations.

Make Disciples of All Nations

Why are we commissioned to make disciples of all nations? Why does Jesus place an emphasis on making disciples of different people groups? This helps us get at the end goal of the gospel.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Psalms 117:1 Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!

The goal of the gospel is worship. God deserves to be worshiped. He deserves to be worshiped from all his creation. We see this unfolding in Revelation:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. We are not done yet. According to the global research department of the international mission board May 2013 data, they categorize 11,301 people groups in the world. They define a people group as ‘the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance’. Of these 11,301 people groups, 6,941 are considered unreached, that is, less than 2% of the total population are Evangelical Christians. Of these 6,941 unreached people groups, 3,041 are considered unengaged, where there is no known Evangelical church planting underway. We have some work left to do. For the glory of Christ, we must engage every tribe with the good news.

What Does It Take?

What does it take to engage people with the gospel? Romans gives us the missionary outline of gospel advancement to the unreached nations.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Anyone from any ethnic background who calls out to Jesus will be saved. In order to call out to him for salvation, they must believe in him. In order to believe in Jesus, they must have heard of him. There are people in the world today who have never heard of Jesus. For anyone to hear about Jesus, someone needs to go and preach to them. So some of us need to go. Some of us need to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Some of us need to learn new languages so that we can communicate the truth about Jesus to people who have never heard. Some of us need to let go of the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy, say goodbye to friends and relatives and go. Some of us need to let go of the illusion of safety and security and take some risks, even lay down our lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus. ‘How are they to hear without someone preaching?’

But there is another step behind gospel advancement. ‘How are they to preach unless they are sent?’ Some of us need to give. Without sending, gospel advancement doesn’t happen and unreached peoples stay unreached. A very practical part of sending is financial. If we are serious about the glory of God, some of us need to change our lifestyles and sacrifice deeply and give generously so that others can go. Paul points to the grace of God demonstrated among the Macedonian believers:

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

What an interesting recipe for abundant generosity. Most of us think that if we could only win the lottery or make a lot more money, then we could really be generous. But the Macedonians were experiencing a severe test of affliction. Their extreme poverty combined with their abundant joy to overflow in a wealth of generosity.

But sending is more than financial. Paul on several occasions asked for prayer and thanked the churches for their prayers and their encouragement. Even the apostle Paul needed prayer and encouragement. Paul described the relationship between the senders and the goers as a partnership in the gospel (Phil.1:5).

This is a historic moment for this local church. We are a church plant in a difficult mission field. Today, we have the great privilege of sending out workers into the nations to make disciples for the glory of Christ.

I want to end with some gospel encouragement. 6,941 unreached people groups, over 3,000 unengaged people groups may sound overwhelming. And remember, Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). I want to encourage us with a few of the ‘I will’ statements in the bible. Peter told Jesus ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing’. But the one who is sovereign over the fish of the sea and over the hearts of men said ‘I will make you fishers of men’. We might be saying ‘I can’t do this; depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord’ But it is not our job to become expert evangelists. Jesus says ‘I will make you fishers of men’. The one who can cause fish to swim into a net can also give faith to those who are vehemently opposed to him. The Carpenter from Nazareth said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18). Our job is not to build the church; our job is to follow Jesus, and to invite others to follow Jesus. God says:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

This mission cannot fail. We as individuals can fail, we can fail to follow Jesus, but Jesus’ promises will not fail. The followers of Jesus will succeed in making disciples of all nations because Jesus is with us to the end of the age, He purchased with his blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, he will build his church and he will be worshiped by the nations.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 16, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 8:34-38; Follow Jesus

04/14/13 Mark 8:34-38; Following Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130414_follow-jesus.mp3

He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) Jesus Christ is still risen. Some of you are wondering if I am confused, and forgot what day it is. I am aware that we celebrated Resurrection Sunday two weeks ago. But I wonder if we are aware that Jesus is still risen. Jesus is really alive. Acts chapter 1 tells us:

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

We only have a little more than a handful of resurrection appearances recorded for us in the New Testament. Did you realize that Jesus continued to appear to his disciples and to teach them for forty days after his resurrection? My calendar puts ascension day on May 9 this year. The resurrected Jesus ministering among them for 40 days. Do you think that the disciples continued to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord throughout those 40 days, and beyond?

The resurrection is not something we celebrate once a year. The resurrection of Jesus reshapes all of life. Are you living like Jesus is really alive? Are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Imagine with me for a moment that one of your loved ones who died and was buried was resurrected and is now alive and with you. How would that change things for you? Do you think that would make a difference in the way you lived? Do you think you would be eager to spend time with them? Do you think you would treasure your conversations with them? Do you think you’d tell anybody? Do you think that news would shake your friends, your family, your community? As amazing as that would be, that would not change things nearly as much as the fact that Jesus is alive. Death is a reality that we all have to face. Resurrection is a reality that we don’t know what to do with; we don’t even have a category for it because none of us have ever seen it. But Jesus is really alive. He presented himself alive by many proofs. And he intends that this radically alter the way we now live.

To let this truth grip us, we need to go back and look at what it means for us to be followers of Jesus, and to live life in the power of the resurrection and not our own strength.

Follow Me

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus’ demands of his followers are high. These demands were not for only a special class of super-dedicated disciples; this was his announcement to the crowd. This call was to anyone who would follow him. To follow Jesus means to deny self and take up your cross. How Jesus describes what it means to follow him makes it clear that this is a matter of eternal life or forfeiting your soul. He says that the one who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. If you are killed for Jesus’ sake, and that means you save your life, the life you save can only be eternal life. If saving your life means losing it, that must mean that tenaciously grasping at life in this world will result in losing your life for eternity. If that is not clear enough, Jesus asks, what profit is there if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? The time context is ‘when [Jesus] comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’.

The first thing Jesus demands is that we deny self. We might think that we are denying ourselves when we deny ourselves of something. I think it would be a great sacrifice to deny myself chocolate. But Jesus doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves something. He tells us to deny our self. We are to deny, to reject, renounce, or disown, not something, but our very self. Jesus says that if I would save my soul, I will lose it. Denying self means that I give up trying to save my self. I can never be righteous enough to earn favor with God. I cannot dig my way out of the pit of sin I have dug myself into. Denying self means I renounce my own ability to contribute to my own salvation. Denying self also means a change in who we are living for. Denying self means I am no longer living for my own sake. I am no longer living for my own profit. Denying self means I am living for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of his gospel.

The next thing Jesus demands is that we take up our cross. This would be easy to misunderstand, because we hear people say things like ‘we all have our own cross to bear’, and by this, they mean that each of us have our own unique trials or difficulties in life that we need to buck up and persevere through. The people listening to Jesus would never hear Jesus tell them to take up their cross and interpret him as meaning that they need to tough it out through their physical disability or emotional wounds or painful circumstances. Neither would they conclude that they should go to the local hardware store, purchase some lumber and nail it in the form of a cross and carry it around town. Jesus didn’t say ‘take up my cross’; he said ‘take up your cross’. The cross was a Roman instrument of cruel torture and execution reserved for the worst of condemned criminals. The only people in that day who would ever be seen carrying a cross were condemned criminals on their way to die. To take up your cross was a public display that you were guilty of treason and your life was over. When Jesus tells me to take up my cross, he is telling me to publicly admit that I am guilty of treason, not against Rome, but against the King of the universe, and that I deserve to die. I have placed myself at the center of the universe and given my allegiance and worship to myself and not to Jesus. I must renounce self and sit down in my electric chair and die to myself.

Only when I have renounced allegiance to self and owned my rebellion against God as worthy of capital punishment am I ready to really follow Jesus. Many people want to follow Jesus. Some want to follow him because he is a means to political reform. Some want to follow him because he is a great teacher. Some want to follow him because it will look good on a resume. Some want to follow him because they like his strict morality. Some want to follow him because they think he will give them a free ticket to heaven and allow them to live as they please. Some want to follow him because they think he will meet their needs and give them what they want. Jesus demands that we deny self, that we let go of our own life for his sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus demands that we take up our cross, own our guilt before him, and follow him. To follow him literally means to accompany him where he is going, to be on the road with him, to do life with him and let him set the agenda.

This is what it means to believe in Jesus. We stop believing in self or relying on self and depend on him. We recognize that we have sinned against God and that the wages of our sin is death. We begin to do life with him in control, letting him set the agenda for our lives. We give up our plans and submit to going with him where he is going.

Discipleship Illustrated

We are so thick-headed that we need a picture of what this looks like in real life. When we watch the disciples we can allow Jesus to shape our idea of what discipleship looks like, what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Mark 1:16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Mark 2:14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Following Jesus meant leaving things behind. It meant joining Jesus and going where he was going. It meant personal cost. But this is not sacrifice. It means leaving behind something of value to gain something of infinitely greater value. But too often, the disciples got discipleship wrong. They misunderstood what it was that they would gain in following Jesus. It seems they envisioned prestige and power and fame, and they were often trying to push their way to the top. James and John even came with their mom to Jesus to try to secure the top positions in the kingdom. When all the other disciples caught wind of this, they became indignant, not because they thought the desire to be first was wrong, but because they all wanted to be first. Luke 22 even records a dispute over who is the greatest at the conclusion of the last supper!

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus says that he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others. If you are going to follow Jesus, then you need to put aside political maneuverings, serve others for their good, and learn to be a slave to all.

Jesus’ words that we looked at in Mark 8 about what it means to follow him come in response to Peter, who thought he had scored some points when he correctly identified Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God. But Jesus began to adjust their expectations of Messiah.

Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter thought he understood better than Jesus what it meant to be the Messiah, and he attempted to correct Jesus! This is not what being a disciple should look like. Jesus sets the agenda. Peter had his mind set on things of man, not on the things of God. Peter had to be rebuked and put in his place. He needed to learn to deny himself. But this was not an easy lesson to learn.

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter was self-confident. He was determined. He was unflinchingly settled. He knew what he knew, he knew what was right, and he was purposefully resolved that he would do what was right. He knew this time Jesus was wrong.

Mark 14:66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

When it came down to it, his allegiance to self was deeper than even he knew. His allegiance to self was deeper than his allegiance to his Master. Peter had to learn this the hard way. Peter had to be taught to believe, to trust, to deny self and depend on another. Peter’s self-confidence had to be dismantled and destroyed. He broke down and wept. This is such a beautiful scene. Peter had finally come to the end of his pride and self-sufficiency, broken, he realized that he could not rescue Jesus. He needed to be rescued. His self-confidence was so deep seated that Jesus had to be crucified to break its power in his life. Up until this point, when Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost, I don’t think Peter ever saw himself as lost. He would never put himself in that category. He was the one who said ‘look Jesus, we left everything to follow you’ (Lk.18:28). Look what we did for you. Jesus says ‘I did not come to be served by you, Peter, not by your good deeds or valiant efforts. I came to serve you, to give my life for you, to die in your place, because you are so self-assured and self-centered that you can’t even see your own lostness’. Peter broke down and wept bitterly. We know Peter was truly broken, because of his interaction with the risen Jesus on the beach.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Peter had claimed that even if all the other disciples fell away, he would never fall away. Jesus asks him ‘do you love me more than these?’ Peter replies that he does love Jesus, but he doesn’t claim that his love is any more than any of the others. And the word Peter uses for ‘love’ is different than the one Jesus used. Jesus asked if Peter loved him with a self-sacrificing love; Peter responds that he loves with the love of a friend. The second time, Jesus again asks if he loves with a self-sacrificial love, but he leaves off the ‘more than these’. Peter again responds with the lower friendship love. The third time, Jesus takes the word Peter used and asks if he loves him with a friendship love. Peter, grieved at this, recognizing that Jesus knows his heart better than he himself does, appeals to the omniscience of Christ and again affirms his friendship love. Peter was undone. His self-confidence was broken. He is now broken to the point of being useful. So three times Jesus reinstates him with a task ‘feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep’.

Peter is now broken to the point of being useful. But he is not yet ready to be used. Luke records for us Christ’s instructions before he ascended to heaven:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And then in Acts:

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Is anything more difficult than waiting? Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead and is ascended into heaven. Jesus has opened their minds to understand the scriptures. You are witnesses. We have the best news ever! But don’t do anything yet. You’re not ready. Don’t post it on facebook. Wait. There’s about 10 days from the ascension to Pentecost. We know this was difficult for Peter, because in the mean time, right or wrong, he decided to pick a new apostle to replace Judas. He just couldn’t wait!

But he had learned not to trust himself, not to depend on himself. He learned to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus. And when Pentecost had fully come, and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached a crucified and resurrected Jesus, and his hearers were cut to the heart and 3,000 repented, received his word, and were baptized.

Application

So are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Have you learned what it means to follow Jesus? Have you taken up your cross, acknowledging that you deserve eternal death? Are you denying yourself, refusing to rely on self, depending completely on God to rescue you and to live his life through you? Are you living no longer for own sake, but for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Jesus? Is Jesus setting your agenda? Have you died to yourself? Have you been broken so that you can be useful? You must die to your self before you can be raised to newness of life.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 14, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Disciple-Making Disciples; the Character and Conduct of a Disciple

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110206_character_of_disciples.mp3

02/06 What did Jesus teach – about the character and conduct of a disciple?

Summary:

We claim to be disciples of Jesus, followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be disciple-making disciples of Jesus. So we spent some time looking at what a disciple believes. What we believe about God, about the Scriptures, about mankind, about sin and its consequences, and about the good news that Jesus preached. Jesus taught and we believe that the bible, Old and New Testaments, are God breathed authoritative truth that we must build our lives on. Jesus taught and we believe that there is only one God who has always existed in the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that God is good, and that he created us in his very image and for his pleasure. But we disobeyed, we rebelled against him and we have earned his eternal punishment. We deserve his wrath, and there is nothing we can do to remedy our hopeless situation. But we believe that Jesus took on human nature to die in our place to pay for our sins and give us eternal life. This momentous event demands a response from us; namely repentance and belief in the good news. Repentance, we saw, is mind and heart transformation as we embrace the forgiveness that he brings. This is the truth Jesus taught and the truth we believe. If we claim to be disciples then we will believe and teach these things.

Introduction:

But Jesus taught us more than how to think. He taught more than what to believe. He taught us how to behave. He taught us what our lives should look like. He told us what to do. That’s what I want to look at this morning. As disciples of Jesus, as followers of Jesus, what should our conduct, our character look like? Making disciples is more than simply persuading people to subscribe to some facts. Jesus said:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice it says making disciples means ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’.

Jesus Demands Obedience

Jesus clearly calls us to a life of obedience. He says in Luke 6:46:

Luke 6:46 Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

If you say I am your Master, Jesus says, then obedience would demonstrate the truth of your claim. Otherwise, you speak empty words. Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn.8:31); “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, … the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (Jn.12:47-48); “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn.14:15); “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” (Jn.14:21); “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” (Jn.14:23); “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn.14:24); “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (Jn.15:10); “You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Jn.15:14).

Jesus goes on to say in Luke 6:

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus demands our obedience as evidence of our love for him. Anything else is mere lip-service. Following Jesus is hearing his words and doing them. It is the path of wisdom and provides a solid foundation that will weather the storms of life. Genuine disciple-making is about transforming life and character and desires so that we live the way Jesus lived and prioritize the way Jesus prioritized and feel the way Jesus felt and do the things Jesus did.

Christ Formed in You

Genuine discipleship is about, as the New Testament writers put it, being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom.8:29); about being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom.12:2); that “we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom.6:4); “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom.13:14); “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor.15:57); “you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2Cor.3:3); “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2Cor.5:17); “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20); “you… have put on Christ.” (Gal.3:26); “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal.5:24); “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:10); “for to me to live is Christ” (Phil.1:21); “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil.2:5); “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:27); “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3); “Christ, who is your life” (Col.3:4); “I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal.4:19); “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1Cor.11:1).

Bearing Fruit

As disciples, we are to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. We are to be imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ. There must be an organic connection between the truth we believe and the life that grows out of it. Jesus talked much about a healthy root producing good fruit.

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.

In the parable describing the different soil conditions, only one soil was considered ‘good’ and produced fruit. Jesus explained it this way:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Jesus taught about a life of freedom being rooted in his word.

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

A life of freedom grows out of the truth Jesus spoke. The freedom Jesus is talking about in this context is freedom from slavery to sin.

Genuine disciples bear fruit. True followers of Jesus live a transformed life characterized by radical obedience. How does this happen, and what does this look like? We’ll start with what this transformed life of radical obedience to Jesus Christ looks like, and then we’ll look at how this can happen to us.

What? The Life of Love

We’ll start with the broad commands and move down to the details. Jesus gave us what he believed to be the first and greatest commandment:

Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

First, love of God. Second, love of neighbor. The life of a disciple is a life of love. A definition will be helpful here. Love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. Sometimes it is helpful to distinguish biblical love from some common misconceptions. Biblical love is not that ooshy-gooshy feeling of twitterpation that you had in junior high when the object of your affections walked by. Love is not primarily a feeling or emotion. Love is primarily a verb – an action word. There is certainly a necessary emotional aspect to love. I don’t think simply working hard to do good to someone out of mere obligation and a disgruntled sense of duty can rightly be called love. That’s why I say love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. So, love of God means a deep desire to see him glorified and a life lived in active pursuit of his glory in all things. Love God with all heart and soul and mind and strength.

And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. We are never commanded to love ourselves. It is assumed that we all do that already. Paul says “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,” (Eph.5:29). We all always (rightly or wrongly) deeply desire and pursue our own best interest. Jesus tells us that naturally and that deeply to desire and pursue the highest good of others. In John chapters 13-15 he even raises the standard:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. …17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Love God by Loving Neighbor

The standard is high. Jesus, in his lay-down-your-life-for-your-enemies love, set the standard for us. So we are to Love God with all heart and soul and strength and mind, and we are to love our neighbor, including our enemies, as ourselves. What does this look like? It is interesting that in Matthew (22:39) and Mark (12:31)’s accounts of the greatest commandment, Jesus says “the second is like it”. The second commandment is of the same nature as the first or corresponds to the first. As we look at more of Jesus’ teaching, we find that the two can become one. We can love God by loving our neighbor. Jesus said:

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So, according to Jesus, we can love God by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and prisoners. He says “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”.

The Beatitudes

When we combine the description Jesus gives of who is blessed in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, we find things like this: blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn or weep, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, those who are hated, excluded, reviled, spurned, and spoken evil of on account of Jesus.

In Luke’s Gospel, these blessings are followed up by several woes. Jesus pronounces woe on those who are rich, those who are full, those who laugh, those who are well spoken of. I wonder which category we fall in more comfortably.

He goes on to tell us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to let our light so shine that people see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Mt.5:16). Our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees; we are to do and teach God’s commandments. We are not to be angry or insult our brother, but to seek reconciliation. We are not to look with lust, but honor the marriage covenant. We are to be men of our word. We are to return good for evil, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, we are to forgive and not condemn. We are to give to those who ask, without looking for the praise of men. We are to pray and fast privately and lay up our treasures in heaven. We are not to be anxious about the future. We are to judge ourselves before we seek to correct others. We are invited to ask, to seek, to knock and we are taught how to pray.

This is the way of obedience. Doing these things, Jesus concludes, is like digging down deep and anchoring your life on an unshakeable foundation. When the storms come, you will not be shaken.

How? Come to Jesus

That all sounds well and good and might even get an ‘amen’. But I can’t even remember all that stuff, and the stuff I can remember, I’m not sure I want to live like that. It sounds risky and dangerous and hard. Remember, we said that being a disciple requires an inward transformation of mind and heart? This is a result of the good news. Jesus says we must come to him to have life.

John 5:40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The life Jesus offers when we come to him is this transformed life of love. Listen to how Jesus invites us to come:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So as we look at Jesus’ description of the life of selfless love, we should not view it as a long list of do’s and don’ts that we need to carefully follow. That would be to burden us with a heavy load. Jesus says that when we come to him, we find rest for our souls. Not turmoil, wondering if we have done enough and measure up, but rest. Rest, because we believe in the good news that Jesus came to bear all our sins and failings and shortcomings on the cross. Because of the cross, we stand on a firm foundation of forgiven sin. We are not endlessly climbing a ladder in hopes that we can earn God’s favor. God has freely given us his favor in Jesus. This is not a religion of measured performance, but a relationship that transforms our hearts. Following Jesus is easy and light, because it flows naturally, out of a transformed heart.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

Abide in Me

Jesus describes our continuing relationship with him in terms of abiding:

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The power for living the transformed life of selfless love flows from Jesus to us through our intimacy with him. When we stay connected to him, plugged in to him, his life flows through our veins. When we are abiding in Jesus we bear much fruit. We can do nothing apart from him. This is very practical. The evidence of a genuine disciple is the fruit of a transformed life. I must stay connected to Jesus if I hope to bear any fruit. How do I stay connected?

How to Abide

-Acknowledge total dependence on him. The branch dies when severed from the vine.

-Let Jesus’ words abide in you (v.7, 10). Knowing, memorizing, meditating and acting on the words of Jesus is a way to abide.

-Abide in Jesus’ love (v.9-10). How does the Father love Jesus? Meditate on that for an hour. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love’ Remain under the fountain.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 6, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disciple-Making Disciples; How Did Jesus Teach?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110116_how_did_jesus_teach.mp3

01/16 What did Jesus teach – about the Scriptures? (how did Jesus teach?)

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ final command to his followers before he left the planet, with a view to how we can carry it out.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples of him. We are to pass on information, character and passion that results in a transformed life. We are to have content, character and conviction that is contagious to those around us. We’ve been looking at what that means. We’ve looked a little at what some of the content is. We looked at what Jesus taught us about God. We examined some of the things Jesus told us about his Father. We looked at what Jesus taught us about himself. And we looked at what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit. If we are going to be followers of Jesus, we must embrace everything he taught. If we are going to make disciples of all nations, we need to know what to teach them about God.

All Disciples are called to Teach

But we also need to know how to teach. If the primary method of disciple-making is teaching, and if we are all called to be disciple-making disciples, then we all need to be equipped by Jesus to teach. I want you to feel the weight of this. I come over to you this morning during the last song and lean over and whisper in your ear ‘I’m feeling really sick and I need to leave. Will you teach God’s people this morning?’ What are you feeling? What’s going through your head? Now some of you might be secretly thinking ‘oh, I wish that would happen! I would love to have the opportunity to get up in front…’ Those of you who think that way – you scare me. You’re probably the ones I would not ask – for that very reason. Most of you however, would probably be thinking ‘I’m not feeling too well either. Where’s the nearest exit?’. That may not be a very plausible illustration. So lets get more down to earth.

*A member of a religious organization comes to your door wanting to indoctrinate you with their religious beliefs. How do you talk to them?

*A co-worker has been observing your character for the last 10 years and they come to you and say ‘okay, you’ve earned the right to speak. Tell me about this Jesus stuff’. Where do you start?

*A friend from church is facing some painful circumstances and they call you and ask ‘why is God letting this happen in my life?’ What do you say?

*Or one of your kids comes to you and says ‘Dad, I’ve been talking to some of my friends at school. How can we be so sure that what we believe is right?’. How do you instruct them?

Those are all real examples that I have faced personally, and I expect that you could add to the list of daily opportunities we are all given to teach and to make disciples. In Colossians 3:16, we are instructed to:

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Whether we have a specific role that requires teaching or not, we are all called to teach one another. I take the time to say this, because I don’t want anyone tuning out at this point saying ‘this is about teaching and I’m not a teacher so it doesn’t apply to me.’ Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple, and teaching is essential to the disciple-making process.

How Did Jesus Teach?

So this morning I want to look at how Jesus taught. My focus today is not on the content of what Jesus taught, but his method of teaching. Now we might be tempted to look at Jesus’ use of parables and stories, object lessons and illustrations, probing questions and in your face rebuke and confrontation, and that might be helpful and instructive, but I want to go even deeper than method. I want to try to get behind how he taught. I want to try to get inside his head and his heart and see how he thought that motivated how he taught. Or to ask it another way, what was the foundation of his teaching?

Scripture the final authority in personal moral decisions

To give us some help seeing what was foundational to his life and teaching, we’ll start with his private conversation with the devil at the outset of his public ministry. Turn in your bibles with me to Matthew.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”’ 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Although Jesus was not intending to disciple the devil and make him his follower, this passage has huge implications for teaching. Disciple making is training in making life decisions as well as training in truth and doctrine. In fact the two must be one. Our life choices must flow naturally from the truth we embrace. And we see this in Jesus’ personal life as he faced temptation from the devil. He was faced with moral decisions and he made those in light of the written word of God. Three times in this passage, Jesus replies with the phrase ‘it is written’, and he quotes the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, he articulates our utter dependence on God’s words in all of life. “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus based his every life decision on God’s word.

Now I may be making an assumption, but I don’t think that when he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness he stopped by the local synagogue to grab a Torah scroll. In the moment of temptation he didn’t whip out his pocket scroll and start spinning through it to find where it was written. This seems to indicate that he was deeply familiar with the words of scripture, that he had listened intently to God’s words read in synagogue each week, that he had studied and meditated on God’s words, that he had followed the advice of the Psalmist, when he says:

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

There are implications we could draw from this passage about memorization and church attendance and personal study, but we will leave that for another time. It is clear from the way our Lord responded to the devil, that he appealed to the written word of God as his final authority in his own moral decision making.

Every little Word

Because of Jesus’ radical new teaching, many thought that he contradicted and discarded the scriptures, but he made it clear that this was not so. He says in Matthew 5:17:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In Jesus’ day ‘the Law’ or ‘the Law and the Prophets’ were ways of referring to what we now know as the Old Testament. Jesus explicitly states that he does not intend to abolish the Scriptures, but to fulfill them. He points us to the least stroke of a pen and says that it will not pass from the written word until all is accomplished. Jesus tells us that even the smallest parts of the letters that make up the words are significant. Not one part of God’s written word is trivial or unimportant. If God bothered to say it and have it written down and preserved for us, then every bit of it deserves our careful attention and study. Jesus tells us there are deep consequences for disregarding God’s word, but there is great reward for all who obey it and teach others to do the same.

Scripture the foundation of his own teaching.

Jesus then goes on to base his moral teaching on the precepts of the Old Testament Law, pointing us beyond the external keeping of the letter of the law, to the true goal of transformation of heart and desires. Six times in this passage on issues of anger and insult, lust, divorce, taking oaths, retribution and hatred, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said to those of old… But I say to you…” (Matt.5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43)

So we see that Jesus used the scriptures as the basis for his own moral decisions and as the foundation of his moral teaching. He explicitly says that he did not come to do away with the written word, but rather to bring it to fruition.

Scripture the final authority in controversy with religious leaders

Let’s look at how Jesus handled the scriptures when he was in conflict with the religious leaders of his day.

Matthew 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”’

Jesus held up the commandment of God over against the tradition of men. He quotes the scriptures and says ‘God commanded… but you say’. He accuses them of making void the word of God for the sake of human tradition and he says their worship is worthless.

Listen to how Jesus talks. Jesus said things like:

Matthew 12:3 … “Have you not read …

Matthew 12:5 Or have you not read in the Law …

Matthew 19:4 …“Have you not read …

Matthew 21:16 … have you never read,

Matthew 21:42 …“Have you never read in the Scriptures…

Matthew 22:29 … “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

Matthew 22:31 … have you not read what was said to you by God:

Mark 12:26 …have you not read in the book of Moses,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures …and it is they that bear witness about me,

John 7:38 …as the Scripture has said, …

John 10:35 …––and Scripture cannot be broken––

John 13:18 …But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘…

Luke 11:28 …Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

John 8:55 … I keep his word.

John 17:14 I have given them your word,…

John 17:17 …your word is truth.

Mark 2:2 …And he was preaching the word to them.

Mark 4:33 …he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,…

Jesus appealed to the scriptures as the final authority in his controversy with the religious leaders of his day.

Scripture is historically reliable

I think it’s appropriate to ask a question here. We’ve seen that Jesus used the Scriptures as his rule for faith and practice. He anchored his own moral decisions and his teaching in the Scripture. He argued from the scriptures with the religious leaders of his day. But did he believe the scriptures? Let me clarify what I mean by the question: Did he view the bible accounts as true history, or as religious myth and fable designed to teach a spiritual truth? Jesus himself spoke sometimes in parables – fictitious stories that he used to communicate a moral or spiritual truth. In what category did Jesus place the Old Testament? Let’s look at a few examples.

Jesus refers to the Genesis account of the creation of mankind by God and the first marriage and assumes that it is true and factual (Matt.19:4-6). He refers to the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, (Mat.12:38-41) and to the wisdom of Solomon (Mat.12:41-42). He refers to Noah and the ark and the destruction of the world by the flood (Lk.17:26-27) and to Lot and his wife who turned into a pillar of salt and the fire and sulfur that God rained down in judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Lk.17:28-29, 32) as if they were real people and actual historical accounts. Jesus anchored his arguments on the historical events.

So Jesus took the bible to be true history, he took it as the final authority in religious controversy, as the basis for his teaching and as the compass to guide moral decisions.

Scripture a guide to Jesus’ Messianic office

Jesus also claimed the prophetic scriptures must be fulfilled, and that they were fulfilled in him.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures …and it is they that bear witness about me,

Luke 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

Joh 12:14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Mr 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

Mt 26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him,…

Matthew 26:54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Matthew 26:56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.

Mark 14:49 … But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

John 10:35 …––and Scripture cannot be broken––

John 13:18 But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

John 15:25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

John 17:12 … not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

Jesus believed himself to be the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures. He took the bible not only as a guide in his moral decisions, but also as a guide in his Messianic role.

Jesus’ view of his own teaching

So Jesus believed the stories of the bible to be true and factual, and that it was the final authority in moral and religious issues. But Jesus’ bible was what we know as the Old Testament. Can we say anything about what Jesus thought about the New Testament?

We do know what Jesus said about his own teaching, and that he claimed to speak God’s words. He claimed that his teaching was absolutely true. He frequently said things like:

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Those who heard him were amazed at his teaching.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

Matthew 7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus even claimed the same kid of Old Testament permanence for his own teaching.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Jesus’ view of the New Testament

But Jesus didn’t write any books. How do we know that his followers got it right? We know from any honest historian that the four gospels are considered to be accurate and reliable historical documents. But does Jesus have anything to say about what his apostles would write? Jesus told his disciples that they would bear witness because they had been with him.

John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

He promised them supernatural power to be his witnesses, in fact he promised the Holy Spirit to be their constant teacher and to remind them of what he had taught.

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

So Jesus believed that the Old Testament was reliable and authoritative, and he believed his own teaching was on the same level, and he ensured by the power of the Holy Spirit that his disciples would accurately bear witness of him and speak with his authority.

If we want to be followers of Jesus, we will embrace what he taught us about the bible. We will embrace the bible as true and trustworthy, as the authority for life and faith, and what we speak and teach will be rooted in and saturated by the very words of God. As Paul said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 16, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Disciple-Making Disciples: Teach about God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110109_teach_about_god

01/09 Make Disciples: Teach about God

Jesus made some astonishing claims. He claimed that everything was all about him. He claimed to be the fulfillment of all prophetic scripture, that all history revolved around him. He claimed an unique relationship to God as one of a kind Son of the Father. He claimed a kind of authority that only God could possess. He claimed to be distinct from the rest of humanity, in a class absolutely by himself

And he demanded unquestioning allegiance from his followers. He demanded that we put him in first place far above every other priority or responsibility. He demanded to be loved and honored as God. And he entrusted to us the great privilege and responsibility of calling others to follow him. He puts it this way:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We – all of us who claim to follow Jesus – are called by Jesus to be disciple-making disciples. What does that mean? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? According to Jesus, a disciple is one who is immersed into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and taught to obey everything Jesus commanded. If I am to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus, then I am to pass on information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. So here’s the question: What exactly am I to pass on? What is the information, what is the character, what is the passion that I am to have and to pass on to other would-be followers of Jesus? What is the conviction, the character and the content that needs to be contagious in my life? Today we will focus on the bedrock foundation in the life of a disciple of Jesus that will provide the unshakeable basis for everything else that we will build on it.

So what did Jesus command his disciples? What is the content of the teaching that we are to pass on to future generations of disciples?

A Word to Superficial Religious People

Much of what Jesus taught was to correct distorted views of God. The religious people of his day thought they understood God and related to him in a proper way. They thought the were following the scriptures, but Jesus challenged their thinking and confronted their hypocrisy. He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then proceeded to tell the people in what ways the religious leaders fell short. Keeping the letter of the outward commands like ‘thou shalt not murder’ and ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ was not enough; these commands were not merely prohibiting the external act, but had implications on the heart – the thoughts and intents like hatred and lust. Jesus demands that we love not only our neighbor, but even our enemy and those who persecute us because it is the character of God to extend his common grace to both the good and the wicked. Jesus cautions about practicing righteousness publicly – giving and praying and fasting in such a way that we seek to impress those around us. He warns about the spiritual dangers of treasuring anything outside of God and having divided affections. He warns us not to point out flaws in others while overlooking our own character defects. He invites us to ask because God is good and loves to give good gifts to whoever asks. Jesus warns that the way to destruction is wide and easy and many go there. The way to life is hard and narrow and few go there. He warns of the diseased fruit of false teachers who pretend at outward religion but have no heart transformation. He warns that many who claim the name of Jesus and do great deeds in his name have no real relationship with him and will be told ‘I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt.7:23). In fact, Jesus not only warned his followers of the dangers of superficial religion, but he confronted those who were involved in it. He said some severe things like:

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, … 17 You blind fools! … 19 You blind men! … 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self–indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. … 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

Harsh, huh? That’s Jesus. He had some severe things to say to those who pretended to be religious leaders and didn’t have any real relationship with God. The stakes were too high to be soft with them. They misrepresented God for their own personal gain and led others down the path to destruction. So Jesus frankly tells them where they are headed and calls them to repent and warns us not to be deceived by them. Jesus steers us back to the path by telling us what God is really like. He is not impressed with outward show. He sees the heart. Jesus tells us that a real relationship – knowing the only true God – is the only path to eternal life.

Knowing God

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

So if knowing God is the definition of eternal life, then it is critical that we have a true understanding of who God is. And Jesus has a lot to say about his Father. In fact, Jesus claims exclusive right to tell us what the Father is like.

Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father‘s side, he has made him known.

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Here are some of the things that Jesus tells us about his Father. Jesus said that God is the Creator (Mk.10:6; 13:19). God is the one who controls the solar system and the weather (Mt.5:45). God is the giver of life (Jn.5:21, 26). God deserves all the glory and worship (Mt.4;10; 5:16; 6:9; Lk.4:8; 11:2; Jn.4:21-23, 5:23; 12:28; 13:31-32; 14:13; 15:8; 17:1). He is to be loved with all the heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk.12:30; Lk.10:27). God is eternal (Jn.17:5, 24). God is spirit and by nature invisible (Jn.1:18; 4:24; 5:37; 6:46). He sees everything – even what is done in secret (Mt.6:4-6, 18). He knows everything (Mt.6:8, 32; Lk.12:30 16:15). He is Lord of heaven and earth (Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21). He commands all the angels (Mt.26:53). God owns everything (Mt.22:21). He is able to do everything (Mk.14:36; Lk.3:8). He is all-powerful (Mt.22:29; Lk.1:37; 18:27). He is even concerned with little birds (Mt.10:29; Lk.12:6, 24). God is true (Jn.3:33). He is righteous and just (Mt.6:33; Lk.7:29). He is perfect (Mt.5:48). He is merciful (Lk.6:36). He is the giver of all good things (Lk.11:13; 12:32; Jn.4:10; 6:32;). He is full of compassion and forgiveness (Lk.15:20-22). God is love (Jn.3:16; 5:20; 15:9; 16:27; 17:24). God alone is good (Mk.10:18; Lk.18:19).

These are some of the things Jesus said about his Father. If eternal life is all about knowing God, and Jesus claims to be the exclusive authority on God, then we should listen to what he says.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Jesus Says About Himself

The stunning thing here is Jesus includes himself. Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ. For any mere man to put himself on that level would sound absurd. If I were to say ‘This is what eternal life is all about – you need to know the only true God, and you need to know me, Rodney, the anointed one, sent by God’ – I hope you would do more than squirm in your seats. I hope you wouldn’t all nod politely and drift off back to sleep. To put yourself in the same sentence with God is startling, offensive and blasphemous. But that’s what Jesus did. You need to know God and you need to know me.

But Jesus goes even farther than this. He identifies himself completely with the Father.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? …11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

In fact he went so far as to say:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

The Jews perceived in John 5:18 that he was ‘making himself equal with God’. In verse 23 He demanded the same honor that was to be given to God.

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus put himself on the same level with God, he claimed to be equal with God, he demanded the same honor as God, and he demanded that we believe that he is all that.

John 8:23 He said to them, “… I am from above. … I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

What Jesus Says About The Holy Spirit:

If we stopped here, the picture we have of what Jesus taught us about God would be incomplete. Jesus talked much about his Father. He talked much about himself. And he talked much about the Spirit of God. Jesus was said to have been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt.1:18-20; Lk.1:35 ). John said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Mt.3:11; Mk.1:8; Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33). God’s Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Mt.3:16, 12:18; Mk.1:10; Lk.3:22; Jn.1:32). Jesus was led by the Spirit (Mt.4:1; Mk.1:12; Lk.4:1, 14, 18) and claimed to do miracles by the Spirit of God (Mt.12:28) and he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Lk.10:21).

Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be God. Speaking against the Holy Spirit was blasphemy (Mt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10). Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be the one who authored the Scriptures (Mk.12:36), and he would be the one to speak through the apostles (Mk.13:11; Lk.12:12). Jesus taught that the Spirit would give new birth. (Jn.3:5-8, 6:63). Jesus said that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked (Lk.11:13; Jn.7:39, 20:22)

When Jesus told his disciples that he would not be with them much longer, they were grieved. He encouraged them by pointing them to the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be the one who would equip his disciples with the ability to make disciples.

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus Taught that there is only One God

Jesus clearly taught that there is only one God. When asked what is the first and greatest commandment, Jesus answered:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

When Jesus claimed to be God, we don’t hear him say ‘I and the Father are the two’. Rather, he says ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn.10:30)

Jesus commanded that we immerse in the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19)

Conclusion

If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, and we want to teach others to follow Jesus, then we need to understand what Jesus taught, especially about God. Jesus taught that God is by nature spirit – invisible. He taught that God is eternal, that he is the Creator and life-giver, that he has all power, is present everywhere, knows everything, that he is worthy of all our affections and all our worship. Jesus taught that there is only one God, and that God exists in the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org


January 9, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew 28:18-20; Disciple-Making Disciples

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110102_make_disciples.mp3

01/02 Make Disciples by Immersing and Teaching

Introduction:

Last time we took a good hard look at who Jesus made himself out to be and some of the amazing claims that he made. If he really is who he says he is, then we would do well to pay careful attention to what he says. Today I want to look at Jesus’ final command to his disciples before he left the planet.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In this passage, Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of a passage we looked at briefly last week. Jesus claimed to be the ‘Son of Man’. We find that title in Daniel:

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed

Jesus, after his crucifixion and resurrection, claimed that this prophecy in Daniel had been fulfilled in him. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The Ancient of Days had given to the Son of Man “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him”.

Jesus himself connected his title ‘Son of Man’ with an authority that he possessed:

Matthew 9:6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”––he then said to the paralytic––“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (cf. Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24)

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, has always been and will always be God, and retains the authority of God. But he became human so that he could bear our sins and become the Savior of the world. In Peter’s preaching recorded for us in the book of Acts, he pointed to this new role as Savior

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth, specifically to be the savior and judge.

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father… 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

When Jesus prayed as he anticipated the cross, he said:

John 17:1 … “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

So Jesus, in claiming that he has been given all authority, authority to be the savior and judge, was fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy, that he “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

Who?

And he was claiming this authority as a basis for the command that he would give to his followers in Matthew 28. Before we look at what Jesus commanded, let’s look at who he was talking to. It says ‘Jesus came and said to them‘. We have to look back a few verses to see who the ‘them‘ is. If we drop back to verse 16, we see:

Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them,

So what Jesus said was addressed to the eleven disciples. But we learn more about them if we are paying attention to the details. These are the twelve, the disciples whom Jesus had selected after praying all night, minus Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. And we see these are disciples who are still following Jesus; still obeying him. Verse 16 tells us that they went to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. So they were still obeying Jesus, still doing whatever he commanded. That is what a disciple is. We learn something else about these disciples. They were worshipers of Jesus. When they saw their resurrected Lord, they bowed the knee. They paid homage to him as their king. They acknowledged that he is the one who is in charge, in control. They declared that he is most valuable, of the highest worth. But some doubted. They had questions. They worshiped and they obeyed, but they didn’t have all the answers. Some doubted. But Jesus spoke to all of them.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Another thing we can say about who it was that Jesus addressed is although it was primarily addressed to his eleven obedient worshiping doubting followers, it was not limited to only those eleven. We know this for several reasons. First, the command to baptize and teach was carried out by a much wider circle than just the eleven. We see, for instance, in the book of Acts, Philip the evangelist, who was not one of the eleven, teaching and baptizing. (Acts 6:5; 8:38). Throughout the history of the church after the eleven apostles, we see teaching and baptizing going on, and this is just what Jesus intended, because he instructs his disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey all that he has commanded. That must at least include his command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. So his disciples were to make disciple making disciples.

And his concluding promise indicates that his purpose is exponentially bigger than this initial group of eleven. Jesus says ‘Look, I am with you always, to the end of the age’. Jesus’ promise is for successive generations of disciples. Jesus is about to leave the planet. He is about to ascend into heaven and disappear from sight. But his promise is that he would be with us always, to the end of the age. His presence was not limited to the original eleven. That promise is for us today! “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Although Jesus is not physically or visibly with us, he is truly with us in a real authentic way. We have his promise on that!

We can also see that Jesus purpose reaches far beyond his original disciples when we see how he prays for those disciples. Look at John 17:

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 … so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Jesus is praying here specifically for us – for those who will believe in him through their word – through the word of the original eleven. I’d like to come back around to this passage in a few minutes to reinforce what we are seeing here.

So far we have established who Jesus was addressing when he gave his great commission command – doubting but worshiping disciples who would follow him and do what he commands – including us! And we have established what kind of authority Jesus was given by his Father – specifically authority to save and authority to judge all flesh – people of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Now let’s turn our attention to what it is that Jesus commands them and us.

What Jesus Commands

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our English translation can be somewhat misleading here. ‘Go’ is not the focus of the text. The imperative verb in the sentence is ‘make disciples’, and it is modified by three participles. Going is simply a necessary part of discipling all nations. Make disciples is the central command Jesus gives to his disciples. A disciple is one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.

Every disciple was called to leave everything.

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 8:21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus doesn’t have weekend disciples – those who have other priorities but follow Jesus in their spare time. Jesus demands to be first in everything. That doesn’t mean that if you follow Jesus you will automatically quit your job.

The primary objective for every disciple of Jesus is to disciple others. We follow Jesus and we want everyone else to follow Jesus. The two participles that come next give us the ‘how’ of discipling. Disciple making happens through immersion and teaching.

Immersion

I use the word ‘immersion’ because that is the translation of the Greek word ‘baptizo’. Make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The immersion of a convert into water was a symbolic statement that they were leaving their old belief system behind and were turning from it to follow a new path. That is what the bible word ‘repent’ means – to have a change of heart and mind. Being immersed in water was the public declaration to family and friends and the community that a radical change had taken place.

And this is at its core a trinitarian commission. Jesus commands that we immerse disciples into the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A name in the bible stands for the character and reputation and authority of the person. So we are to immerse followers of Jesus in the one authority of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are to be immersed into the character and personality of the one triune God. We are to be saturated, drenched with the Name.

Teaching

One part of the disciple-making process is the public proclamation that a person is abandoning self to become immersed as a follower of Jesus. The other part of disciple-making is teaching. The disciples referred to Jesus as their rabbi or teacher, and they were to pass on his teaching to the coming generations of Jesus’ disciples. There is a content that is to be communicated. The apostles refer to it as ‘the teaching’ or ‘the doctrine’ (Acts 2:42; Rom. 16:17; Eph.4:11-15; 1 Tim.4:6, 16, 6:1-3; Titus 1:9, 2:1, 10; 2 Jn.1:9-10). This is why the bible is written with words. There is concrete objective historically anchored truth that is to be kept pure from error and can be communicated to others. There is content to the teaching that we can lay on the table and evaluate biblically to determine if it is true or false. But teaching encompasses more than just the passing on of accurate information. A disciple was to imitate his rabbi. Discipling is relational and passes on not only truth but also character and passion. This presupposes that God’s words are true and that they are transformational. Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. …68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So teaching is not merely passing on information. Teaching in the disciple-making process is bringing a person into interaction with the words of Jesus in such a way that they are personally transformed. Making disciples should transform the thinking, the feeling, and the acting of the disciple. Teaching must convey information, character and passion and translate into a changed life.

Disciple-making requires that we ‘teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.’ This is more than subscribing to a particular belief system or reciting a prayer. To be a disciple is to be a follower of Jesus, to submit to him as Lord and to do everything he tells us to do.

Matthew 28:And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 17

Let’s look back at John 17 and see what we can learn from how Jesus prays for his disciples. Jesus claims that those eleven had been given to him by the Father, and he had kept and guarded them in his name. Jesus says:

John 17:6 …they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

So they have been given specific content: God’s words; they have received, believed and kept them. He says again in verse 14:

John 17:14 I have given them your word,

And Jesus asks that the Father would sanctify them with the word of truth.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The disciples are to receive, believe and keep Gods word, to be sanctified by it, and Jesus sends them into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world. The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the disciples equipped with and transformed by his word, and then he prays for those who would believe in Jesus through their word – for us.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Jesus prays with the ultimate purpose that the world may believe in Jesus through his word spoken by future disciples.

Summary:

So we see that Jesus has been given all authority. As a result of this he commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations. We are to make disciples by immersing them in the trinitarian Name of Father, Son and Spirit. We are to make disciples by teaching – conveying information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. Every Christian is to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions. Jesus doesn’t say that we should convert everyone and disciple some of them. He doesn’t say that some Christians will make disciples and others will warm the benches. This is a command. It is from Jesus and it is to each one of us who claims the name of Christ. We all must be disciple-making disciples of our Lord Jesus.

Practical Illustration:

So what does this look like? We can gain some insight from Luke’s version of the great commission:

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

So the Scriptures are foundational. And the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is central. The message to be proclaimed is repentance and forgiveness of sins. And discipling is to be done not with human wisdom or ingenuity, but empowered by the Holy Spirit. So we need to be bible-saturated, Spirit-filled, and gospel-centered as we point all people to Jesus.

Let’s look at some bible examples of disciple-making in action.

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me––practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings…

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

So be a disciple-making disciple. Saturate yourself in God’s word, follow Jesus completely, and humbly, prayerfully, empowered by the Spirit, you teach and admonish one another, use God’s word to encourage one another, set the example in your attitude of gratitude toward God. Make disciples of all nations! This comes back around to Jesus as the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision.

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed

To Jesus is given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. We, his disciple-making disciples are given the privilege of inviting men and women into this indestructible kingdom; into relationship with the King!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 2, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090301_baptism_message.mp3

20090301 Baptism

Intro:

We are going to baptize some people today. So I want to take some time this morning to explore what God’s word has to say about baptism. I want to look at why we baptize, who we baptize, and what baptism means.

The Command to Baptize

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is Jesus’ command to his followers that compels us to baptize. We baptize followers of Jesus in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command here is simple: ‘make disciples of all nations’. That is the command. If disciples are to be made from every nation or every ethnic group, then ‘going’ will be necessary. A disciple is a student, a learner, or a follower. There are two primary things Jesus commands that we do with his disciples. We are to baptize them and teach them. Baptism is the initiatory rite that indicates to everyone that they are beginning the life of a disciple, following a new master. Teaching what Jesus taught is the continuation of the process of disciple making.

Jesus is clear as to what his disciples are to be baptized into. In that day it was common for someone who was not Jewish by descent but wanted to worship the God of Israel to be baptized into Judaism as an indication that they had left their old gods behind and had turned to YHWH. John, who was know as ‘the baptist’ or the one who baptized, came with a radical message. He preached a baptism of repentance – calling Jews to turn from their formal outward religion and prepare their hearts for radical transformation.

Jesus here tells his followers to baptize disciples ‘in (or into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Jesus does not tell us to baptize into an -ism or a group, but into a name; into a person, into a relationship. One’s name stands for their character, nature or reputation. The word ‘Name’ is singular, as Israel was so clearly taught that ‘the Lord our God is one Lord’.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

There is one name, one character or nature, one God. And yet Jesus tells us that we are to baptize into the name of three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is one of many reasons why orthodox Christianity since the time of Jesus has held faithfully to the doctrine of the triune God: One God eternally existent in three distinct persons. We baptize into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The duration of this command is also stated by Jesus in this verse. How long are we to make disciples, baptizing and teaching? And where does the authority lie? Jesus said ‘all authority has been given to me’. I have no authority – Jesus has all the authority, and Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. The person who does the baptizing is nothing. Jesus carries his own authority. Jesus said ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. So as long as this age lasts, we will go on making disciples, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us, with the confidence that he promised to be with us.

Who Can Be Baptized?

What is the prerequisite for baptism? Baptism is to be done in the disciple making process, so it is for those who have become disciples or followers of Jesus.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that repentance was what must precede baptism. To repent literally means to turn. I was going in this direction trusting in my good works and thinking I was fine with God, but then I felt the weight of my sin and recognized my good works are filthy rags in God’s sight. Jesus apprehended me and I had to turn around and leave my good works behind and cling to Jesus alone and what he accomplished for me on the cross to forgive my sins. A few verses later, Luke tells us that:

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

When Peter proclaimed the good news that ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.21) and that the crucified Jesus is the Lord that we must call to for salvation (v.36), those who received his word became followers of Jesus and were baptized.

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Both men and women were baptized in response to their belief in the good news message about Jesus.

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas ‘what must I do to be saved?’, they told him:

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Belief in Jesus as Lord brought salvation to each individual in this household. In response to their faith, they were baptized.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Those who believe in the Lord, those who call out to Jesus for salvation, who repent or turn from whatever they were trusting in to Jesus, those who become disciples or followers of Jesus are baptized as a public declaration of their new faith.

What Is Baptism?

We’ve looked at Jesus’ command to baptize disciples, and we’ve looked at repentance and faith as the biblical prerequisite for baptism, but just what is baptism and what does it mean? First, a definition of the word itself will be helpful. The word is actually an untranslated carry – over from the Greek language that the New Testament was written in. Rather than translate the word with an English word that has the same meaning, the Greek characters were simply replaced with English characters and [baptizw] became ‘baptize’, a new word in our language. When we study how the word [baptizw] was used in New Testament times, we find that it means ‘to dunk, dip, plunge or immerse’ in water. It might help us understand what the bible is saying if we replace the word ‘baptize’ with the word ‘immerse’.

Baptism is an Illustration of Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized [immersed] into Christ Jesus were baptized [immersed] into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism [immersion] into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Water baptism is a picture of what spiritually happened to us when we trusted Christ. We have been immersed into Christ Jesus, and specifically immersed into his death. Going down into the water pictures our death and burial with Christ. It is an effective picture, because if the one doing the baptizing is not strong enough or not kind enough to bring the person back up out of the water, the picture will become a reality. Jesus referred to his coming crucifixion as a baptism in Mark 10:38-38 and Luke 12:50. Coming up out of the water illustrates our resurrection and new life as believers. Paul is arguing in Romans 6 that we cannot continue to live in sin because we have died to our old sinful way of life, and we are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we will live differently, not because we are under a new set of rules, but because we have a new resurrection life in us that has different desires. Paul goes on in the next verses to describe our baptism with Christ as being united with Christ:

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

We have been crucified with Christ and now we are free from sin.

Baptism is Similar to Circumcision as the Sign of the Covenant

In Colossians 2, baptism is compared to circumcision, the sign of the old covenant. Circumcision was the cutting off of physical flesh; in Christ, our fleshly nature is put off.

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This resurrection power comes to me ‘through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.’

Paul goes on to describe our desperate condition and what God did:

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Baptism Follows Justification by Faith

In Galatians 3, Paul is explaining that all the promises of God come not to law keepers, but to those who believe in Jesus. Notice how many times the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ occurs:

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized [immersed] into Christ have put on Christ.

Justification – being absolved of our sins – comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But justification changes us. As we are immersed into Christ, we become so saturated with Christ, that we wear Jesus around and drip him all over everyone we come in contact with.

Baptism Unites with the Body Of Christ

Paul goes on:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our immersion into Christ destroys all ethnic and social and economic barriers. We are now united in a spiritual connection with our brothers and sisters.

1Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized [immersed] into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism Pictures Washing Away Guilt

Peter compares baptism to the ark that brought Noah and his family safely through the waters of the judgment of God.

1Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Peter is careful to clarify that it’s not the water of baptism that removes dirt from the body that has any spiritual significance. Rather, it is the removal of dirt from the conscience by crying out to God in faith. Our conscience is washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are free from guilt because Jesus bore all our sins and paid for them in full.

Baptism in Water or Baptism with the Spirit?

This raises the question ‘what is the difference between baptism in water and the cleansing of the conscience by faith in Jesus?’ John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So there is a distinction between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. John did the water baptism, Jesus would do the Holy Spirit baptism. John immersed people in water to symbolize their repentance. Jesus would submerge and saturate people with God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus, when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, told them:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples experienced this, and when Peter preached his first sermon, he said:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is given in response to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Water baptism is a picture of this spiritual reality.

Summary:

Jesus commanded us to baptize believers because baptism is a symbol rich in spiritual significance.

  • It illustrates our baptism by Jesus with the Holy Spirit when we believe in him.

  • It pictures our connection with Jesus in his death and resurrection, demonstrating that we are dead to sin and have new resurrection life so that we can live pleasing to God.

  • Because we have been immersed in the Spirit, we have become one with all other believers.

  • Baptism is done in response to repentance, turning from our way to God’s way, and faith or trust or belief in Jesus as Lord and King, and his finished work on the cross – where he took the punishment in full for my sin.

  • In baptism, we are identified with the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as being owned by him.

  • By being baptized, we are declaring to all that we are now disciples, followers of Jesus, submitted, committed and devoted to him.

Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 …I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Therefore, we can make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 1, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | 1 Comment