Focus On Communion

Posted by on September 26, 2004 under Sermons

    Matthew 26:36-46
    Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

  1. Yielding to God’s will often involves human struggle.
    1. God’s purposes often are accomplished at the price of human suffering.
      1. While God always seeks our highest good, in the moment of struggle we humans are often consumed by dreading our struggle instead of the good that will be produced through our struggle.
      2. Jesus the man certainly knew the price of human struggle through personal experience.
        1. He did not want to die.
        2. He did not want the responsibility of the pain in crucifixion or the responsibility of causing God’s purpose to become reality.
      3. Yet, we can easily see why Jesus succeeded where many of us often fail.
        1. While he did not wish to die, he did not let the reality of immediate pain and suffering cause him to lose his focus.
        2. He was very open and direct with God–“Let this cup pass from me.”
        3. Yet, in his openness he was totally submissive–“Your will be done.”
        4. The essential thing: God’s purposes be achieved, not his feelings be supreme.
    2. It is likely that a Christian’s moment of greatest weakness is the moment when we are tempted to place our feelings above God’s purposes.
      1. Communion celebrates the fact that Jesus did not do that.
      2. He truly understands the temptation to do that, but he did not do that.
      3. So as we eat the bread, we gratefully remember the fact that Jesus yielded to God’s purposes and glorify God for pursuing those purposes at the cost of the death of His son.

    Prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ body. Serve the unleavened bread.

    1 Corinthians 11:17-34.
    But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.

  2. Parts of this scripture are used frequently to focus attention on the basic purposes of communion given by Jesus himself.
    1. We commonly want Christians to focus on the original nature of communion.
      1. Thus we read verses 23-26 to emphasize the early focus of communion.
      2. That certainly is not incorrect, but it often misses the problem in the church of Corinth.
        1. Some Christians were coming earlier [likely by invitation] to share in a full meal [similar to what we would call a “pot luck” meal].
        2. Some Christians were coming later [which was typical in Roman meals] to share in a partial meal.
        3. Some well-to-do Christians left drunk from eating and drinking too much.
        4. Some poor Christians left hungry having very little to eat.
      3. Remember that this letter began with Paul condemning the congregation’s division.
        1. When they gathered for communion, their gathering emphasized their division, not their oneness in Christ.
        2. Paul said, “I cannot even call what you are doing communion.”
        3. Why? The focus is not on a form problem, but a purpose problem.
        4. Their communion did not accomplish the purpose of communion. It was Satan’s purposes, not God’s purposes that were emphasized.
      4. The problem was not in the fact that communion was a meal.
        1. Jesus instituted communion at a meal.
        2. Acts 2 places emphasis on Christians eating together to affirm their oneness.
        3. The problem was not that it was a meal, but the problem was in the purpose of the meal.
          1. The purpose of this meal was not to satisfy hunger, though it did for some who were poor.
          2. The purpose of the meal was to affirm oneness in Christ.
          3. Yet, what they did was precisely opposite to one of the purposes of communion–it declared there were privileged Christians and second class Christians.
    2. In communion, there are two purposes to be met.
      1. The first is a personal remembrance of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us as individuals on Jesus’ cross.
      2. The second is a collective affirmation that we are one with all in the congregation who place their faith in Christ. [That was quite important to Christians most of whom had been rejected or abandoned by the society they left.]
      3. Communion is remembering Jesus, but it is also a declaration of unity with those who give their lives and allegiance to Jesus as the Christ.
      4. The Corinthian Christians turned a meal of remembrance and affirmation into a meal that focused on division and hunger.
        1. Paul said, “You miss one of the fundamental reasons for taking communion.”
        2. Christians should feel strengthened by communion, not discouraged by communion.
      5. When we take communion, we need to remember Jesus’ sacrifice, and we need to remember that we belong to each other because Jesus died for all of us.
      6. When you drink this fruit of the vine, remember Jesus, and remember your commitment to every person here who is with you in Christ.

    Prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ blood. Serve the fruit of the vine.

    Challenge and invitation.

Daily Focusing on Jesus and the Cross – Part 1.5

Posted by on September 19, 2004 under Sermons

  1. Once Upon a Time in America:
    1. My father’s first sermon mentioned a different sort of culture …
      1. Doors left unlocked, children played in safety. …
      2. Neighbors were close and trusted, people trusted and respected their leaders
      3. God and church were held in high esteem. (Attend the church of your choice).
    2. It is decaying:
      1. Definitions of right & wrong have been changed
      2. The Index of Cultural Indicators:
        1. Long-held beliefs are giving way to a plethora of views.
        2. Self-expression, individualism & personal choice valued above all else
      3. Every viewpoint, no matter how bizarre or destructive, is accepted.
        1. “The lunatics are running the asylum.”
    3. The props are being kicked out:
      1. Once the church and Christian values were propped up by American society
      2. We fear what will happen when the last of the props is kicked out
      3. … what will happen when the lunatics finally take over.
    4. But what were we doing in an asylum in the firstplace?
      1. Christianity has been around a lot longer than America.
      2. Christianity began without the props that we rested on so comfortably, once upona time in America.
  2. Living Outside the Camp (Read Hebrews13:1-14):
    1. We must go to Jesus outside thecamp.
      1. Like the unclean carcasses of the sacrifice that were discarded outside thecamp,Jesus suffered outside the gate of the holy city.
        1. No special funeral. No eternal flame in the National Cemetery
        2. [George McDonald, Only One Way Left]: “… Jesus was not crucified ina cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, onthe town garbage heap … at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble … Because that is where he diedand that is what he died about. And that is where churchman should beand what churchmanship is about.”
      2. If Jesus died outside “the city,” its absurd to think that we are can somehowremain in “the city.”
        1. Jesus did minister in the Temple, but he also ministered in the barrios &ghettos among the drunks and the prostitutes.
        2. The love of God is not restricted to the “acceptable” parts of town. Itgoes out to the places where good folk do not go after dark.
        3. Our place is by Jesus’ side, even if that takes us outside safety of the citygate
      3. Are we called to defend the city (American culture) or are we called to go out ofthe city and call others to join us?
        1. The latter. There is no “city” in this world worth defending becausenone of them are eternal.
        2. Let us lament the decay of American society, but let us not be tricked intothinking the church requires it to survive and thrive.
          1. Christianity has thrived in hostile environments inthe past andin many parts of the world.
          2. Sincere, faithful Christians remain true to their Lord incountries like the Sudan where they are persecuted.
      4. The danger of living in the city is that it makes us nearsighted instead offarsighted.
        1. Our values are reversed.
    2. We must bear His shame.
      1. The Apostles rejoiced not because they won favor with society or advancedtheirreligious/political agenda, but because they suffered shame for the Name.
        1. God was not ashamed of them, and they were not ashamed of him …
      2. Faith shines brightest in the darkness:
        1. Some of our brethren are meeting today in secret in peril of their lives.
        2. Are they less faithful than we because God has not blessed them with theprops of social acceptability?
  3. Once Upon a Time in America [Conclusion]:
    1. We may have been propped up. (And it may have been a blessing of God.)
    2. But God does not promise it will always be so.
      1. In fact he says it will more often be the opposite
    3. Maybe it will actually be good for us when the last prop is finally kicked out.
      1. Maybe we will once and for all
        1. go outside the city,
        2. bearing His shame,
        3. looking ahead to the Eternal City,
        4. and letting God be our only prop!
    4. The Challenge:
      1. From the word of God.
      2. This goes beyond a personal acceptance.
      3. We must accept this challenge as a church – together!
      4. Let us all stand – and in so doing accept the challenge ofScripture to go liveoutside the camp!

Daily Focusing on Jesus and the Cross – Part 1

Posted by on under Sermons

Introduction: Famous speeches that precede historic moments. They focus the moment for everyone involved. They call for determination and dedication because they involve momentous decisions. And the significance of the speech lives beyond the historical moment. One famous speech that outlasts its moment in history was given on …
June 18, 1940 – Prime Minister Winston Churchill before the House of Commons anticipated the Battle of Britain. "The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour."
The words of Jesus also liven beyond their moment in history. Not only because of their importance but also because the one who spoke these words is living still as Lord. Matthew 10 is Jesus’ speech to the twelve before sending them on a mission. He focuses the moment not only for the twelve, but for all disciples who hear these words.
Read Matthew 10:16-39

    Review –

    • We are also sent by Jesus to participate in his mission.
    • Making disciples requires being a disciple. And we make disciples for Jesus, not us.
    • But there is a storm front of turbulence where the kingdom of God emerges into this world for the rule of God upsets lesser authorities and powers. The messengers of the kingdom welcome all to come to the King, but the messengers of the kingdom are not always welcomed …
    • If we are to be equal to the mission in a world that is sometimes hostile and usually indifferent, then we need to be focused. Jesus’ speech focuses us on the cross. Focusing on Jesus and his cross defines the 1) Determination of Disciples, 2) Dedication of Disciples and 3) Decision of Disciples

    Determination of Disciples

    • I am sending you out like sheep among wolves (10:16) – – 22And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me.
      Because we are loyal to Jesus some are just going to hate us. Not because we wish them any harm. Not because we intend them any wrong, but because we are loyal to Christ some will be threatened by that. Why? Because they have an investment in other powers and authorities.
      Determination to follow Jesus will bring us into conflict. Some people will not be interested in hearing what we have to say in our defense. Some people, even if they do listen, will twist our words and misinterpret our actions. Jesus’ does not tell us how to make it different; he says it will not be any different.
      What are we to do then?
    • Don’t worry about your defense
      • Look to the cross – Jesus spoke only the truth and was not anxious to defend himself. Why? 1) He realized that his words had already been twisted, but 2) he knew that Pilate and others had no power over him other than what God allowed. Jesus knew who was in charge – And we need to understand that too. We will if we focus on the cross.
      • Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves: Sometimes we think our role is to defend ourselves or to defend the church – it is one thing to make a positive case for Christ. It is a good thing to promote Christ when we have opportunity – "Be as shrewd as snakes."
      • But to make enemies is not our calling. To squash those we consider a threat is not our calling. "We are as innocent as doves."
      • Don’t worry – for God will let us know what to say. Really? Would you rather God write your speech or do you think you can do better. Focus on the cross and be determined that God will give the message that needs to be spoken. Don’t get anxious trying to find words to make everything better.

    Dedication of Disciples

    • A student is not above the teacher; a servant not above the master (10:26)
      1. What did you expect? Jesus is the head of this new household and it follows that the members of the household will face the same criticism and opposition he did.
      2. Culture is indifferent if not hostile to our beliefs. Why are we amazed? Maybe because we can remember a time when our values were supported by the culture around us? The culture held the church and Christian belief in high esteem. But somewhere along the way, somebody kicked loose the props that held the church so high and it came crashing down. Jesus says we shouldn’t be amazed at this. Rather, we should be amazed that we think we need those props and we should be ashamed when we fear losing them. We dare not coerce culture into serving us and we dare not dedicate ourselves to culture.
      3. Now, I realize it can be very frightening to leave the city behind and join Jesus on the garbage heap outside town where bandits and troublemakers are executed (Hebrews 13). The rules of our culture have changed and things we long assumed cannot be assumed. But don’t be afraid – after all, if we find ourselves betrayed and alienated, well it was like this for Jesus, and we the students will not have it any different than our teacher if we are focused on his cross …
    • Look to the cross, the strength of his people was turned against Jesus. He was betrayed by his closest friends – men who were like brothers. Some of his family, his own countrymen turned against him. But he dedicated himself to God.
    • Look to the cross, the power of a city – Jerusalem – was turned against him. The ruling councils and the religious authorities were so threatened by him that they poured out hate on him. But he dedicated himself to God.
    • Look to the cross, the power of a nation – no, an empire – was unleashed on Jesus and he suffered the ultimate form of execution – crucifixion – the purpose of which is not simply to kill, but to humiliate and send a message that Rome is to be respected. Yet, Jesus remained dedicated to God.

    • Don’t be afraid – Why?
      1. God will uncover everything – Know the truth for it wins out in the end.
      2. Only God has power over total destruction. All they can do is kill you physically – they have no power except what is given to them.
      3. God cares and will not forget you – He cares for all his creation, even cheap sparrows, and we are worth much more

    If we focus daily on Jesus and his cross, we realize that most of the things we worry about are beyond our control. We need to focus our attention on our decision to take up the cross and follow him and stop letting our worries and doubts weaken our determination and our dedication. Focus on the cross and make that decision to be loyal to Christ and you will know such joy and peace that cannot be taken from you …

    Decision of Disciple
    Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me – 10:38
    This has to do with priorities and loyalty. One has to make a decision to become a disciple. Dedication, devotion, loyalty – these are virtues that we are losing or if they remain at all they are misplaced.

    • Because of the hostility the relationship of Christians with the world is described as a "sword," not peace. Something is cut and divided, decisions have to be made. Not because God is hostile. Not because we are hostile, but because of the spiritual turbulence of powers that resist the rule of Christ – the storm front.
      • Simply by wanting to do the right thing there is sometimes going to be hostility in a family, in a neighborhood, a city, or a nation.
      • Matthew was no doubt written to Jewish disciples who were cut off from their families because they decided to accept Jesus as Lord
      • It sounds like the stuff of third world nations and religious dictatorships – but we find it even in our own environment.
      • A husband or wife wants to serve God – wants to grow in God’s mercy but the husband or wife may take that personally because they are afraid or uncertain. It’s not going to be easy. Be determined and dedicated in your decision to follow Christ – do so with gentleness and respect – do not forsake Jesus.
      • An employee or a student who is dedicated to Christ may find moments of conflict when others will question you or challenge you because you are serious following Christ. Be determined and dedicated in your decision to follow Christ – but do so with gentleness and respect – do not forsake Jesus.

The temptation we have to avoid most of all is self-preservation. If we do that we lose …
Whoever finds his life loses it, whoever loses his life finds it – what other than Christ and his cross orders our life? What other than Christ and his cross do we confess? These other competing principles and powers are our teachers and we become disciples of these – but we lose our focus on the cross. And we cannot decide to be disciples of Christ and another.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 September 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – “Focusing Daily on Jesus and His Cross” – Part 1
September 19, 2004

Matthew 10:16-39.

  1. Review these principles about God’s mission and making disciples:
    1. Like the Twelve, we are also s_______ by Jesus.
    2. We make disciples for _____________.
    3. Making disciples means b__________ a disciple.
  2. Focusing on Jesus and his cross defines …
    1. The D___________________ of disciples
    2. The D___________________ of disciples
    3. The D___________________ of disciples
  3. Determination of Disciples
    1. Jesus uses the image of "sheep among w___________."
    2. Determination to follow Jesus brings us into c_____________.
    3. If we are anxious about defending ourselves Jesus says, "Do not w___________." Why?
  4. Dedication of Disciples
    1. Jesus uses the image of a "student and a t_____________."
    2. Dedication to Jesus when the culture turns against us can make us a___________."
    3. Friends, family, culture, city, and nation turned against Jesus and he remained dedicated to G______.
    4. Jesus gives three reasons (10:26-30) why we should not be a_________.
  5. Decision of Disciples
    1. Worry, fear, and anxiety about circumstances and responses from others weaken our determination and dedication. We cannot control others, but we can make the right d______________.
    2. We must reinforce our decision daily by f________ on the cross.
    3. Jesus uses the image of a s__________ rather than peace to describe the importance of the decision we make to follow him.
    4. The greatest temptation we face is self-p_________________________.
    5. "Whoever finds his life loses it and whoever loses his life for Christ finds it."

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
“Focusing Daily on Jesus and His Cross” – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
September 19, 2004

  1. Read Matthew 10. How do Jesus’ words to the Twelve inspire us in our mission to our culture? How can this teaching help us make disciples?

  2. Why is Jesus so strong on allegiance? Why does he describe the decision to follow him as "taking up a cross?" Does this language seem too strong? Does it somehow apply less to us than it did to the Twelve? If so, why?

  3. Do you know people who’ve lost the support of family or culture because of their decision to follow Christ? How would you describe their faith? Where do they get the determination and dedication for their decision to follow Christ?

  4. What worries, fears, and anxieties weaken your determination and dedication as a disciple? Are they things you can change? How does a focus on Jesus and the cross enable us to overcome worry and fear?

Living the Lesson:

  1. What distracts you from focusing on the cross? Do you find yourself struggling to preserve your own life – your success and security? How does the cross challenge this? Read Hebrews 13:11-16.

  2. As a church, what are some of the obstacles we face in being mission focused in our community and in the world? How much effort do we spend trying to separate from the world? What are some real ways our church can try and engage the world around us for Christ? How are you personally going to participate in this? If something needs to be changed, how will you contribute?

  3. What would our worship and ministry be like if we, as a church, continually focused on Jesus and his cross? What would change? What would remain the same? How can you help all of us focus on Jesus and his cross? How can we help you?

  4. Jesus sent the Twelve into mission with "minimal resources" (see Matthew 10:7-15). However, he asked them to do some incredible things? What can we, as individuals and as a church, learn from this?

Prepare for Oct. 3 – "Daily Focusing on Jesus and His Cross – Part 2"

    Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 6; Galatians 2:20.
    (To prepare for Sept. 26th emphasis on Jesus and His cross in communion: Matthew 26:36-46; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.)

The Search for Meaning

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Hebrews 11:13-16, All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

The older we are, the more we search for meaning and significance in life. The more spiritually mature we are, the more we realize our insignificance. Usually, age urges us to evaluate personal significance, and often advances spiritual maturity.

Obviously, those two perspectives go in opposite directions. In one, we seek for assurance of personal significance. In the other, we realize our insignificance.

The effect of both results in a great irony in human physical existence. We, as followers of God and Jesus Christ, grow in awareness that we do not belong. Evil’s expressions increasingly distress us. Hate and contempt’s expressions frustrate us inwardly and outwardly. Injustice deeply troubles us. On deeper levels, we realize that there are no simple answers–existence’s problems are quite complex! We yearn for simpler times, fully aware that such times do not exist. The more we are exposed to, the less we understand.

We look at the struggles around us, shake our heads, and quietly say to ourselves, “Did they not know this would be the result? Did they not understand the consequences?” When the obvious answer is “No!” we are astounded that anyone “could not know that.”

The author of the writing we know as Hebrews understood the enormous tension created by being a person of faith in an environment that says only “reality” exists. The more you are a person of faith, the less you fit into “physical reality.” The people to whom this author wrote knew that struggle–they lived in an extremely idolatrous environment!

He reminded them that the great people of faith they admired–including Abraham–“did not fit.” Though these people were only “stops” on God’s journey to His objectives in Christ, though they glimpsed but never possessed God’s great promises in Christ, though they had a choice to belong to “physical reality” or to “faith,” they understood some things very clearly. They clearly understood they did not fit in this unjust world. They clearly understood they belonged in a place where only righteousness (the purest form of justice) exists. They clearly understood that while they did not belong here, there was a place they would belong. Though the physical world thought they were stupid, God was not ashamed of them. God cherished them so much that he prepared a place of righteousness for them–a place where they always would know they belonged.

Find your significance in God. Find your insignificance in God. Know you “belong” in God’s presence. Measure yourself by your faith, not your possessions, position, or power. Never “belong” in an unjust world. Always “belong” to a righteous God.

Disciples Make Disciples

Posted by on September 12, 2004 under Sermons

You have had a hard day on the job. It seems as if every time you turn around, something “goes wrong.” You spent a lot of your day trouble shooting. You did not accomplish nearly what you intended to accomplish. In fact, as you look back over your difficult day, you wonder to yourself if you did not waste your time and effort. You have nothing “to show for” all your work and effort that day.

You are bringing your work day to a close. You are preparing things to resume your efforts tomorrow. You do the necessary straightening up so you can start fresh tomorrow–you want there to be nothing to remind you of this miserable work day. You think about what has to happen quickly tomorrow. You are intent on completing your preparations for tomorrow. You just want to call it a day and forget about what you now consider a wasted day and wasted effort.

Just as you are almost through with your preparations, a religious teacher walks in and makes a ridiculous request of you. You know his request is just plain stupid. But you have been listening to the man teach, and you want to be polite. So you act out of politeness more than conviction. But you favorably respond to the man’s stupid request though it means the day will end on a meaningless, nonproductive note.

Read with me as we look at Luke 5:1-11. See if you can identify with the situation.
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets. When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

  1. If we talked to these men much later in their lives, I have little doubt that they would tell you, “That moment began the biggest and most important adventure of our lives.”
    1. If we asked, “Why?” I think we would hear these answers.
      1. “That was the day we began in earnest to be Jesus’ disciples.”
        1. “Our expectations were all wrong.”
        2. “We thought he was a special person sent by God, but we really did not understand just how special this person was.”
        3. “What we thought was going to happen and what did happen were not even similar.”
      2. “Before it was through, we finally understood we were the disciples of God’s own son. To this moment, that sounds incredible!”
    2. If we were to ask, “Why was being Jesus’ disciples so special?” I think they would respond in this way.
      1. “It being special had nothing to do with us.”
      2. “It being special had everything to do with who he was: God’s own son!”
      3. “It was special because God’s own son taught us God’s objectives and purposes in our lives and in the world.”
      4. “It was special because we were interacting with the greatest act of God ever manifested in Israel!”

  2. I am going to share several scriptures with you as I seek to make a single point: people have to learn how to be disciples of Jesus, and that truth is very obvious in the twelve followers of Jesus.
    1. First, I call your attention to a continuing argument among these 12 disciples, an argument addressed in two ways by Jesus (they should be like children, and they should not be like Gentile rulers), but never resolved by the Lord.
      1. The argument: which one of us is the greatest (in the group) — a decidedly “not disciple like” argument.
      2. Consider these scriptures:
        Mark 9:33,34 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.
        1. They understood that this discussion/argument would not meet Jesus’ approval.
        2. They understood it was not the focus Jesus wanted them to have.
        3. Yet, it continued to be a matter of significant concern among them.

          Luke 9:46 An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.

        4. Which one of them was the greatest might not have been of concern to Jesus.
        5. But, it is obviously of great concern to them.

          Luke 22:24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.

        6. Luke associates this dispute with the last supper.
        7. Jesus will be dead in less than 24 hours, and the twelve are arguing among themselves about their “pecking order” in their rank!
        8. This is not a disciple’s attitude or a disciple’s issue to be pursued–yet this is the argument of the twelve at the end of Jesus’ life!
    2. Second, I call to your attention Peter’s attitude after his great confession that Jesus is the Christ.
      Matthew 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
      1. First, note Jesus began to discuss his death and resurrection with the twelve disciples after Peter’s confession.
      2. Second, note Peter became so bold after his confession that he privately rebuked the Lord: “That will never happen! You must stop talking like that! That is not the things the Christ should be saying!”
      3. Third, note Jesus is now very upset with Peter.
        1. Just as Jesus commended Peter for receiving his revelation from God, he now calls him Satan.
        2. The problem: “You have set your mind on human interest instead of setting your mind on God’s interest.”
        3. Peter created for Jesus a temptation that was totally unnecessary! What Peter said could get Jesus to thinking about himself instead of about God.
        4. This decidedly is not a disciple’s role, focus, or action!
    3. Third, I call your attention to a suggestion made by James and John.
      Luke 9:51-56 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.
      1. Please remember that Samaritans and Jews hated each other.
        1. This hatred was quite old.
        2. Jews regarded Samaritans as the descendants of unfaithful Jews, and Samaritans regarded Jews as being theologically wrong.
      2. Remember that Jesus earlier had meaningful and fruitful interaction with the Samaritans (John 4).
      3. I think it is likely that James and John’s superiority Jewish attitude was oozing out.
        1. “Jesus has been very kind to these people.”
        2. “How dare they reject his request?”
        3. Notice the Samaritans are offended with Jesus preoccupation with Jerusalem–he was focused on the Jews!
      4. The rather obvious point I call to your attention is this: James and John’s desire to send fire on the offending Samaritans was very undisciple like–it is a basic failure to understand what Jesus is all about.
    4. Fourth, I call your attention to a statement Thomas made.
      John 20:24,25 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
      1. The time was shortly after Jesus’ resurrection.
      2. When Jesus first appeared to his disciples as a group the disciple Thomas was not there.
      3. When Thomas returned, excitedly the other disciples told him they had seen the resurrected Jesus.
        1. Thomas replied, “I do not believe it.”
        2. “Furthermore I will not believe he is raised from the dead unless I personally can feel the places where the nails were in his hands and the spear opened his side.”
      4. Again, I call your attention to the obvious–that is quite an undisciple like statement.
    5. Fifth, I call your attention to a statement made by the eleven disciples (Judas was dead) not long before Jesus’ ascension back to God.
      Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
      1. What these men expected to happen was not at all what was going to happen.
        1. In some way they expected the kingdom Jesus spoke about in his ministry to be connected with a restoration of the physical nation of Israel.
        2. Basically their question was, “Will it happen now?”
      2. Their question is a clear confession of the fact that they did not understand what was happening.
        1. They did not understand the foundation of Jesus’ ministry.
        2. They did not understand the meaning of Jesus’ death.
        3. They did not understand the significance of his resurrection (they were glad it happened, but they did not know its significance).
      3. These men followed Jesus throughout his ministry, they were witnesses of the truth of his resurrection, and they received instructions from him after his resurrection.
        1. But they were totally confused about what it all meant!
        2. It would have been impossible for them at that point to explain correctly the meaning of everything they had seen and heard!
      4. Note the obvious: we regard that as very undisciple like understandings and attitudes!

  3. Allow me to call something to your attention in Matthew 28:19,20.
    1. This is the statement the resurrected Jesus made to his eleven disciples (Judas was dead).
      1. As Christians, we attach great significance to these two verses.
      2. We attach so much significance to these two verse that we often define the Christian mission and the work of the church by these two verses.
    2. First allow me to read these two verses from several translations.
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NASV)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (NIV)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (RSV)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations: baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes to the end of time. (Jerusalem Bible)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, to the end of the age. (Today’s English Version)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (The New King James Version)
      • Matthew 28:19,20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (The King James Version)
    3. I call some things to your attention.
      1. Every major English translation translates those verses with the primary emphasis on making disciples, except the King James translation (even the New King James version makes discipleship the focus).
      2. One of the truths I personally find distressful is the fact that we are baptizing people who have neither desire nor intention of being disciples.
      3. Every person who wishes to be a disciple needs to be baptized and taught the teachings of Jesus, but the objective must be to make disciples, followers of Jesus.

Every man or woman who is serious about making disciples must be committed to being a disciple. Those who followed Jesus as the 12 in his earthly minister declare discipleship is an ongoing pursuit. It is focused on understanding God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. Christians find our purpose in life when we understand God’s purpose.

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others

Posted by on under Sermons

Read Matt. 28:16-20
Imagine what it must have been like for the eleven as they met Jesus on that mountain and worshipped him and heard what we often call the Great Commission. The moment may be more profound than we realize. Not only for the majesty of it but also for the humility. Noticed that they worshipped – but some doubted. This group is still fresh from their betrayal and denial of Jesus. They were only hours earlier headed back to Galilee with broken dreams ready to pick up the pieces of the lives they left behind. This is still very new to them. They are uncertain what this means. This is the group that Jesus "entrusts" with the mission?
Of course we know that they did become his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. We are here today because they did indeed go and make disciples. What enables this group to carry out that commission? How did they do it? Is there any hope for us that we might also be like them and make disciples?

Motivation: Why did they evangelize? Why so much energy and effort? What changed them from hopelessness to hope? They didn’t simply meditate on the great commission and decide they needed to act. They didn’t preach a few sermons on the topic to fire the church up. They didn’t have to give statistics about a lost and dying world to make comfy Christians feel guilty about pagans. They didn’t have to implement a new technique or program to do missions. So what did they do? How did they make disciples? If we are going to be true to our mission statement and the commission of Jesus to his disciples – including us – then I think there are two things important to us …

1. Notice that the core of the commission is to "Make Disciples"
      Making Disciples is a complex set of intentional activities and habits that is more akin to farming or education or running a government than it is to making a phone call, brushing your teeth, or preparing lunch. Making disciples involves whole persons and a community of faith in process and growing throughout generation to generation.
      If the work of making disciples were as simple as we often reduce it to then: 1) We would be doing it every day, and 2) the Bible would be much thinner. Paul’s letters are testaments to the work of making disciples. He is doing what Jesus instructed.
      Looking again at the text, notice that in this brief sentence we call the Great Commission, Jesus involves much more that some of our simple reductions (witness, proclamation, recruitment, mass media communication). Just follow the verbs …
      Make disciples – that’s the imperative or command. The going is incidental. "As you go on your way … make disciples." Of course it can be intentional and it should be – but the nature of the going reminds us that this is what we do and there isn’t a time we set aside for evangelism and then turn it off later. Our presence in the world is always redemptive and evangelistic. We are more than just those entrusted with God’s mission – we are the result of it too. In us people see the emerging Kingdom of God and being a disciple means being initiated into the kingdom (like citizenship process – you live in the land and are initiated into it)
      a) Baptizing – This verb is a participle. Here’s the initiation into the kingdom. Baptism is the new birth into the new way of kingdom life. But making a disciples doesn’t end with baptism …
      b) Teaching – Now how long does that take? Is this question even valid?
      Doesn’t it become clear that disciple-making calls us to reorder our lives and our common life together? Evangelism is not a wing or department of the church – it is the orientation of the church – it is our mission – or rather it is God’s mission to continue the establishment of his kingdom and we are caught up in it. This brings us to the second important item …

2. We make disciples for Jesus – but most importantly we do it with him!
      [A scene from the end of Schindler’s List … “How many more could I have saved?”] Let’s be honest. Talking about evangelism can make us nervous or guilty. We are always aware of how we are not doing enough. We might be concerned that God will be displeased because we didn’t do enough to save others. Often we get discouraged and we avoid the topic or turn evangelism over to a few specialized "evangelists" or missionaries and we say "It’s not my gift and I have to focus on other works."
      If anything should discourage us it is our short-sighted efforts to attempt evangelism ourselves. We either make evangelism the responsibility of a few individuals or every individual and that denies the role of community. Or if we regard it as the work of the church as a whole, we assume that disciple-making is a project Jesus left for us.
      But there is a part of the Great Commission that we have neglected. The Great Commission is bracketed by two all important statement that Jesus proclaims about himself. If we ignore them then the Great Commission becomes just another church program or it becomes mere church growth justification or member recruitment.
      First, Jesus claims all authority. This leads to the therefore that establishes the commission. Jesus isn’t passing the buck. He’s not delegating responsibility. He is taking responsibility and he is doing the work in us and through us.
      The early church never claimed that anything they did was by their own effort. They were witnesses to the work of God among them as it oozed out into the world. When they healed, it was Jesus healing. When they preached, it was Christ’s message.
      Second, Christ makes it clear that he’s not leaving this commission "up to us." "And behold (lo!) I am with you always even to the end of the age." That should fill us with joy, hope, and awe! It’s a good thing he threw the "Lo" in. We hardly use that word, but our equivalent would be "hey" or "look here." It’s an attention grabber.
      The disciples of Jesus do not make their own disciples – they make disciples for Jesus. (You can’t be a disciple of someone who is dead or gone). When it comes to making disciples we too often leave Jesus out of the process. When we think in terms of "US" and "THEM" and assume that our mission is to make more of "THEM" into some of "US." How then does Jesus factor into that?
      Now pay careful attention to this statement: We weren’t saved when we were added to the church; we were added to the church when Jesus saved us. The church is made up of the recipients of God’s grace and salvation. It grows because Jesus continues to save those who submit to his Lord ship. They are part of the church because we all continue in our journey of growing as disciples.

US-THEM is a 2-dimensional view of making disciples. We are going to need a 3-dimensional view. Let’s illustrate:

The two-dimensional view that neglects Jesus’ promise to be with us is a sort of "Kick Start" view of Evangelism … We need to get rid of this.

There is God and there is the World. God "kicks" off the mission be forming the church and then the church is left with the commission. Now the church – which is somewhere between God and the world – has to go out into the world and bring people in and as it does it grows larger. Notice that all God did was get the engine started.

If we take Christ’s promise that he is always with us seriously – and we should – then we get a three-dimensional view of evangelism and disciple-making that participates in God’s continuing mission to save a lost world …

There is God and the World – all of it including us. God has a mission to save this fallen world corrupted by sin and rebellion. He called Abraham. He sent the prophets to Israel and the other nations. He sent Jesus, his son, to save the world. Those who respond to God’s missional effort to draw near are gathered up into a relationship with him. It involves worship and discipleship. The relationship is a theme throughout the Bible – Jesus is God coming to us. We want to become more like him. We are his disciples. Those who live in worship and discipleship of the God who has a mission to save us become a visible expression of God’s Kingdom breaking into this world – God gathers them together and makes them one. They are sent to others to extend the welcome into the kingdom that they themselves have received. This sending from and gathering into the presence of Jesus is central to evangelism, mission, and disciple-making. It started with the eleven and continues to this day. For Christ is with us always – even to the end of the age!

Being a Disciple
      The implications of all of this are greater than we are going to discuss this morning. And that’s a given when we consider that making disciples and being a disciple is a life-long, generation to generation process. But if we consider how the early church made disciples as an outgrowth of their identity as disciples and – most importantly – because of the active power of God among them, then we see how important it is to be disciples if we are to make disciples.
      I don’t think we have to despair or grow nervous and guilty about making disciples if we have a sense – like the early church – that Jesus is among us. The early church experienced Jesus’ presence among them and it radically changed them …

  • Jesus is present with them
  • Their view of the world changed
  • They lived differently
  • They demonstrated love and unity
  • They were empowered to serve others in Christ’s name

      Jesus is still with us and it ought to change who we are. Through us, let him change others so that as we commit to being disciples we naturally as an outgrowth make other disciples as we are empowered to do so by his power and presence.
      The goals we have set out for West-Ark as a church are more than just growth indicators. They are qualitative goals that flow from characteristics of living with Jesus in our midst as Lord. That’s what we will keep in mind over the next twelve weeks as we are …

  • Focusing daily on Jesus and His cross
  • Proclaiming a biblical worldview that is obedient to Christ
  • Nurturing spiritual growth and transforming all into God’s holiness
  • Increasing love and godly behavior
  • Using spiritual gifts to glorify God

Conclusion: I love our mission statement. I think it expresses well the biblical sort of purpose that should drive our life together as a church and as individuals. Of course, if this missional purpose is going to be emblazoned on our character and community and not just our banner then we need to develop and dwell in the Holy Spirit and the disciplines of Christ. We need to organize our life (not consumer-oriented church programs) around values that keep the evangelistic purpose of our life together living, vital and meaningful.
      Do we act as if Jesus is with us? Or are we presumptuous? Do we think evangelism is all up to us? Are we self-centered? Are we lazy and inattentive? Hey, the Lord is here!

– I heard a story recently about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicated themselves to the monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit. The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope – a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, “I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything I have to tell you. I don’t know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry – oh, but there is this – I believe that the Messiah is in your midst.” The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, “Who is it?” “Who among us is the Messiah?” Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros he is so whiney. But what if …? And on it went. And in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiah’s presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.

Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is everyday. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 September 2004

"Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others"
Notes for the Sermon
September 12, 2004

Matthew 28:16-20.

  1. Why did the early disciples evangelize? What two important features of their evangelism might help us?
    1. Notice that the "core of the commission" is _______ ________________.
    2. We make disciples for _____________.
  2. What are the "verbs" of the Great Commission?
    1. ______________________
    2. ______________________
    3. ______________________
    4. ______________________
  3. What two important statements of Jesus bracket the Great Commission?
    1. All _________________________________________________________.
    2. And, lo, _____________________________________________________.
  4. Think about the importance of Jesus’ involvement in our evangelism …
  5. The early disciples made disciples because they were caught up in the mission of God …

    • Jesus is p__________ with them.
    • Their v_______ of the world changed.
    • They lived d_____________.
    • They demonstrated l_________ and unity.
    • They were empowered to s_________ others in Christ’s name.
  6. If we commit to being disciples we will also be caught up in God’s mission

    • F_____________ daily on Jesus and His cross.
    • Proclaiming a biblical w___________________ that is obedient to Christ.
    • Nurturing spiritual growth and t_______________ all into God’s holiness.
    • Increasing l____________ and godly behavior.
    • U______________ spiritual gifts to glorify God.

"Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others"
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
September 12, 2004

Read Matthew 28:16-20

  1. Verse 17 says that the eleven disciples worshipped him but some doubted. What do you think the worship was like? Why did some of them doubt? How does Jesus’ statement in verses 18-20 address the doubt we sometimes experience – even in worship?
  2. What is the relationship between the lordship of Jesus and the commission to make disciples?
  3. How have you viewed the commission to make disciples? Have you thought of evangelism as the work of individuals or of the church? Have you thought of evangelism as primarily the responsibility of the church? Does it change your view of evangelism to see it as part of God’s continuing activity in the world?
  4. Making disciples involves baptizing and teaching. How do these indicate a life-long process of "being a disciple?"
  5. Why is being a disciple so important to making disciples? What characteristics would you expect to see in a church that makes disciples for Jesus?
  6. Why would disciples for Jesus be eager to serve others? What would that look like in real circumstances? What would that look like at West-Ark?

Living the Lesson:

  1. Commit to praying with others. As you pray, consider the significance of Matthew 9:38 – "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
  2. Think about and discuss real ways that you can participate in "making disciples for Jesus eager to serve others." What would that mean for you personally? What would that mean for West-Ark Church of Christ? With whom will you share your thoughts?

Prepare for Sept. 19 – "Daily Focusing on Jesus and His Cross – Part 1"

    Read Matthew 10:37-39, 16:23-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 6; Hebrews 13:11-16; Galatians 2:20.

Why Concern Ourselves With Spiritual Insights?

Posted by on September 5, 2004 under Sermons

To a high percentage of those assembled here tonight, the Bible is extremely important. One of the significant reasons for your being here this evening is directly related to the scripture’s importance to you as a person. If I were not concerned about the specifics of what the Bible says, many of you would not be here.

I want to ask what may seem to you to be a ridiculous question. However, I am quite serious in asking the question. I definitely want you to answer it in your own minds. I definitely want each of us to think about the answer we give ourselves.

The ridiculous question: Why is knowing what the Bible or scripture says so important to you? Or, why do you give such a high priority to the knowledge that comes from knowing what the Bible [scripture] says?

“It is the word of God!”

“It is a good habit.”

“We should give a
‘Thus says the Lord.'”

“Scripture makes a
sermon a sermon.”

Consider some answers. (1) “It is the word of God, and you should know what God says.”
(2) “It’s a good habit for anyone to have.”
(3) “Every person should be able to give a ‘Thus says the Lord’ to everything that happens.”
(4) “What makes a sermon a sermon is its use of scripture. Any preacher worth anything uses lots of scripture.”

When I was a boy, there was lots of emphasis given by audiences on preachers using lots of scripture in a sermon. The emphasis was not on, “Did we learn something from this lesson?” The emphasis was not on, “Did this lesson challenge me to think and in that thinking better understand God?” Much of the time, the emphasis was not on God’s concept of godly existence. “Good sermons” used lots of scripture. If it had lots of scripture, it was good. It made no difference if the scriptures were used out of context. It made no difference if the scriptures were not directly related to the subject. It was the fact that the preacher used scripture that made a sermon good.

When I was a boy, my family attended a gospel meeting in which a nationally known preacher spoke. He typically spoke a couple of hours when he preached, and he used a lot of quotations. [This was not at my home congregation.] One Christian lady in the congregation was known for two things. (1) She never missed an assembly. (2) She took down and looked up every quotation. After a few nights, she respectfully told the preacher, “I cannot find the scriptures you use by the references you give.” He replied, “Sister, that is okay. It will do people good to search for them.”

I have for years challenged people to think when I spoke. Decades ago there were two basic rules for “good preaching.” Rule one: use lots of scripture. Rule two: say those things that the congregation expects to hear.

I was speaking in a gospel meeting years ago that had an “amen” bench and on that bench was an elderly man who said “Amen!” frequently. I started speaking, and I received two or three quick amens. But soon the man who said the “amens” did not know where I was going, and everything got very quiet for most of the sermon. When I concluded and reached a conclusion he agreed with, he said a very loud, very relieved, “Amen!”

Why do we listen to sermons? What is the objective of understanding scripture? As you think about your answer to “why,” allow me to challenge your thinking.

  1. Why do we seek knowledge of the scriptures?
    1. May I first suggest that a person should seek knowledge from scripture to better understand God.
      1. Let me challenge our thinking by reading from John 5.
        [The audience] John 5:18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
        [The response] John 5:39-47 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
        Moses, author of early scripture

        “Scripture contains eternal life.”

        “It talks about Me.”

        “But you don’t see Me in it.”
        1. Consider a fascinating but frightening situation.
          1. These people were experts in knowledge of scripture.
          2. These people totally were convinced that scripture was the key to eternal life.
          3. Yet, they did not understand what scripture was about.
          4. They regarded the person scripture was about as being false and anti-scripture.
          5. They were experts in scriptural knowledge, but they missed the basic point in scripture–they knew a lot, but what they knew did not direct them to God.
        2. God does not do things the way we sinful people do them. (Isaiah 55:8,9)
          1. I seek to understand scripture so I can be aware of the way God does things.
          2. I seek to understand scripture so I can increase accurate knowledge of God’s nature.
          3. I seek to understand scripture so I can properly identify God’s character.
        3. I cannot and will not intuitively know God’s ways and thoughts.
    2. May I suggest secondly that I seek knowledge of scripture so I can make application to my life.
      1. The more I understand God’s ways, the more I change the way I live.
      2. I will not devote my life to things or attitudes that oppose the nature, the character, the ways, and the thoughts of God!
      3. Just because I acquired some knowledge does not mean I understand what I know.
        1. It is not a simple question of authority–it runs much, much deeper than that.
        2. Let me use an old, old illustration I heard years and years ago.
          1. An older gentleman who spent his life reading scripture decided one day he was going to allow God to decide how he would use the day.
          2. He decided he would just take his Bible, close his eyes, let it fall open, with eyes closed he would place his finger on a statement, and that would be God speaking to him, telling him what to do that day.
          3. He did that, and his Bible fell open to Matthew 27 and he placed his finger on verse 5: “Judas went out and hanged himself.”
          4. He said, “That cannot be God’s instruction to me!”
          5. So he did the same thing again, and this time the Bible fell open to Luke 10 and his finger on verse 37: “Go and do the same.”
          6. Now he begins to break out in a sweat as he decides that cannot possibly be what God is telling him.
          7. So he decides to follow the same procedure one last time.
          8. This time his Bible falls open to John 13 and his finger lands on verse 27: “What you do, do quickly.”
        3. Does the Bible say all those things? Yes!
          1. Are they related? No!
          2. The first talks about Judas’ reaction to his guilt in betraying Jesus; the second is a statement made after Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan as Jesus explained who is our neighbor; and the third is Jesus’ dismissal of Judas at the last supper.
          3. That approach to scripture does not focus on God’s nature nor determine God’s will.

  2. We just completed several weeks of focusing on Christian transformation.
    1. In that emphasis:
      1. We noted humanity suffered an enormous loss when we allowed evil to become a part of the human condition–we are nothing like what God intended us to be.
      2. We noted transformation is the process in which a person chooses to move his/her life in the direction of God.
      3. We looked at several examples of transformation in the New Testament.
    2. My question now is this: why did we do that?
      Unacceptable answer:
      “That is what good
      Christians do!”

      Acceptable answer:
      Conversion results in
      personal transformation.
      1. Unacceptable answer: (1) good Christians go to church on Sunday nights; (2) they are supposed to listen to sermons given on Sunday nights; (3) that just happened to be what the preacher chose to speak about.
      2. Acceptable answer:
        1. God acted in our conversion giving us forgiveness and redemption when we allowed faith in Jesus to produce repentance and baptism.
        2. As those who are in Jesus Christ through God’s act, we commit to our conversion in Christ by committing ourselves to transformation.
    3. Is that a legitimate response to our conversion?
      1. It is not only a legitimate response to our conversion, it is a necessary response to our conversion.
      2. I call your attention to two situations.
        1. The first is found in Matthew 3:7-9
          But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”
          1. John the baptizer was baptizing in the Jordan valley, and people were coming to him from Jerusalem.
          2. John and his work were such a phenomena that some of the Jewish leaders [Pharisees and Sadducees] came.
          3. John immediately reacted to their coming–he questioned their motives.
          4. “You poisonous snakes, why are you trying to escape God’s wrath?”
          5. “If you have come for the right reason, let your lives show the fruit of repentance.”
          6. “Do not try to evade your need to redirect your lives by trusting your heritage–God can make descendants of Abraham from these rocks.”
        2. Dare we make an application?
          1. “You are here for the wrong reason, and it has nothing to do with God’s way or will.”
          2. “If you are here for the right reason, demonstrate that fact in the way you turn your life around.”
          3. “Do not try to evade your responsibility to turn your life around by saying you are good church members–God could make church members out of rocks.”
          4. Or, God wants conversion to result in redirected lives, not just membership.
        3. The second statement was made by Peter in Acts 3 after he performed a miracle in healing a crippled man.
          1. He, speaking to Jewish people in the temple who devoutly believe in God but not Jesus, said this in Acts 3:18-21:
            But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
          2. I think an appropriate paraphrase of what Peter said can be stated like this: “If you do not express your faith in God by redirecting your lives in Jesus Christ, God cannot give you the seasons of refreshing He wants to give you.”

Let me close by noting a statement made about Peter and John in Acts 4:13. Peter and John were arrested because of what they did and said in Acts 3. The Jewish court [Jerusalem Sanhedrin] was tremendously upset with these two men. The court was accustomed to men humbling themselves before them as the men sought mercy. But these two men were not in the least bit intimidated by them. They were bold as they defended what they said and did. As the court observed the reaction of these two men, Acts 4:13 records:
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

May we be bold enough to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) in our lives.

Final Words of the Last Words (2 Pet. 3:14-18)

Posted by on under Sermons

Read the text – 2 Peter 3:14-18

Think about the word grace. What does it mean? In our church setting, we may define grace as God’s mercy, patience, and forgiveness. When we think about our Lord we may define grace as his sovereign authority. When we think of our sinfulness and his majesty, as in the old familiar tune Amazing Grace, we may define grace as a second chance and salvation.

Yet, grace has another familiar definition. Imagine that you are watching a gymnastics competition. Now what does grace mean? Imagine you are watching a dance recital, now what does grace mean? Imagine you are watching a football game and you see the running back move to catch the pass and dodge tackles to score a touchdown; now what does grace mean? In that context grace has to do with our ability to move and perform. It has to do with excellence and experience in action.

One simple word, grace, with two different definitions. However, in describing our relationship with God the two meanings of grace may not be all that different and distinct. In fact, God’s mercy, patience, and sovereign authority does have some connection with the way we move, perform, and grow as Christians. Peter recognizes that grace involves a cooperation of God’s saving power and his sure promises and our opportunity to participate in his divine nature. Thus, our two concepts of grace combine.

In the final words of Peter’s last word, he calls us to dwell in God’s grace. One way he describes it is to be found at peace with God.

Found at Peace with God – while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish

  1. God is at work and his purpose is to bring about the new heaven and earth – the home of righteousness. The day of the Lord is coming and everything will be laid bare – it will be "found" by God. God is acting in grace as he both holds back and ushers in this change by his sovereign authority.
  2. In the meantime, we live in anticipation of what God is going to do. His grace empowers our maturity as we move from faith to love. We live without spot and blemish because, by God’s grace, we strive to be more like him and to be what we shall be in the home of righteousness (participation in the divine nature).
  3. This Peace with God is all about Relationship. We cannot make too much distinction between our part and God’s part in salvation. Our part in salvation puts no claim on God – our part is staying the course so we might grow in grace and knowledge. And salvation is entirely through God’s power and promise. There is a combining of God’s will and our life so that we will not make too much of a distinction between God’s grace and our actions. We are stable and secure when we understand that they have to do with one another.

We lose that stability when the relationship between God’s grace and our ability to live gracefully are separated. Separating these concepts creates a distortion.

The Distortion of Grace – There are some things in [Paul’s writings] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

  1. Paul uses the wisdom God gave him – as did the prophets and the apostles. Paul speaks from a truth and power greater than himself.
  2. But Paul’s teaching (like all biblical teaching) can be twisted by those interested only in justifying their self-centered interests:
    • Using Paul’s teaching on freedom from law as a license for freedom from morals – The abuse and distortion of grace!

Common Distortion 1 – God is merciful and gracious, but we act as if that grace has no implication for how we live.
Mistaking God’s Grace for License: D.A. Carson, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School used to meet with a man from French West Africa to practice German. He got to know the man and learned that his wife was in London training to be a doctor. He was a student in engineering and needed to learn German to pursue studies in Germany. Once a week the man visited the red-light district and paid for a relationship with a woman. Carson asked the man what he would do if his wife did something like that. "I’d kill her," he replied. Isn’t that a bit of a double standard?" asked Carson. The man said, "In my culture, the man has the right to sleep with many women, but the unfaithful wife is killed." Carson replied, "You told me you were raised in a mission school – you know the God of the Bible does not have double standards." The man smiled and said "Ah, God is good. He’s bound to forgive us; that’s His job."

  • Some believe that God has provided a system for dealing with our proclivity to sin. We sin first and ask forgiveness later. We just assume we will sin, so we don’t try to do better. "After I sin, I just ask for forgiveness." Our dilemma is – "What if you don’t have time to say your prayer? What if you die in your sins?" Grace is not a legal loophole in God’s system of judgment. It is not a matter of simply saying the right words; it is the beginning of a new life!

Common Distortion 2 – We feel the burden of living without spot and blemish, but have no hope or trust in God’s grace and his empowerment of that life. So we act in fear and resentment. We become religious people who act spiteful and bitter. There is no joy in Christian living

  • How Green Was My Valley: Walter Pidgeon plays Mr. Gruyffd, the preacher for a church in a small Welsh coal-mining town. He had always dreamed of conquering the world with truth in order to liberate mankind. Instead he is ousted by the more influential members of the church based on nothing more than rumor and gossip. Rather than confronting him, they cowardly refuse to say anything, but will hold their meeting to end his service shortly after his sermon. Blaming himself as well as them for their hypocrisy, Gruffyd gives them an opportunity to accuse him. When they do not, he has stern words for them. "Only a few of you understood. The rest of you put on black and sat in chapel. Why do you come here? Why do you dress your hypocrisy in black and parade before your God on Sunday? From love? No! For you’ve shown that you hearts are too withered to receive the love of your divine Father. I know why you’ve come. I’ve seen it in your faces Sunday after Sunday as I’ve stood here before you. Fear has brought you here – horrible, superstitious fear. Fear of divine retribution. A bolt of fire from the skies. The vengeance of Lord and the justice of God. But you have forgotten the love of Jesus. You disregard his sacrifice."

Stabilitysince you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter began his message by reminding the church of God’s Power for godly living and the promises God gives that confirms righteousness. This encourages us to walk the certain path of godly living …

     1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.

Grace as God’s power and authority and as our ability to walk rightly is stability. We grow in this grace …
Grace– the hope of doing well and becoming more. What we might become depends on his Amazing Grace because it is greater than our greatness and it is greater than our sin.

To Him belongs Glory (the transfiguration) = He is king and judge.
Both now – He is already glorified this is past tense.
And on the Day of eternity – it is a hope for the future; He is coming back.
So in the meantime grow – in His grace and knowledge.

The City, State, Nation, and World For Christ

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Colossians 1:13,14 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Those who understand God’s intent from early scripture (Genesis 12:3) was to redeem the world through Christ share much in common. God’s means for achieving redemption in this rebellious world are simple. Give the promise of world redemption to Abraham. Through Abraham produce a nation. Through that nation bring the Messiah [Hebrew word] or Christ [Greek word]. Through the Christ offer all people redemption.

The areas of agreement are striking. As evangelistic Christians, we all agree God produced redemption though Christ. We all agree (1) on the need; (2) on the severity of the need; (3) on the responsibility created by God and the need; (4) on the need being met through Christian sacrifice; and (5) on the potential of that need being met by sharing the gospel (the good news of what God did for the world through Christ).

One significant question should be answered (1) by listening to God explain His intent and (2) by better understanding the use of Christ to meet world needs after Jesus died.

The question: What would a world redeemed by God through Christ look like? Is it important to answer that question? Yes! Why? If we are not careful, we substitute our expectations for God’s purposes. Does the question seek to evade our responsibility to share the message of God’s redemption with all people? No! It means we allow God to determine His objectives. If the end result fits our expectations instead of God’s objectives, then God’s redemption has not occurred in people’s lives.

Is the objective to challenge all Christians to look like American Christians? No. Is the objective to fill the world with church buildings as the most prominent buildings on any landscape? No. Is the objective to have more people assembling in church buildings on Sunday morning than assemble in any other religious context? No. (That may happen in successful evangelism, but that is not God’s objective.)

Then what is God’s objective? The objective of divine redemption is human transformation. The fact that a person (in any culture) has become a part of the people possessed by God means he/she devotes his/her life to glorifying God. Surely it is evident in worship’s praise. It is equally evident in the way he treats his wife or she treats her husband. It is evident in the way they treat their children. It is evident in the kind of neighbor he/she is; the kind of employee he/she is; the kind of citizen he/she is; his/her attitudes, motives, values; the reasons for his/her existence; and the way he/she lives a redeemed life. He/she seeks to be a God-defined person, not a culture-defined person.

Jesus stressed that a God-produced human transformation powerfully provides credibility to God’s redemption. Christ’s disciples are salt and light in this distasteful, dark world because their good works glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16). God’s powerful Christ-centered redemption is verified through transformed lives. Conversions to Christ produce changed lives. This good, visible change verifies God’s redemption is real.