Sharing Jesus Part Three

Sharing Jesus Part 3

Real Discipleship

Over the course of the last six weeks, we have been laying a foundation for our future together as a congregation. We talked about prayer being the center of how we face forward and move in accordance with Holy Spirit’s guidance as we follow Jesus. For two weeks we talked about the inspiration, authority, interpretation, and application of the Bible in our lives. The Bible is the supreme authority to guide our lives and our ministry. Since it was written by God through the work of people, we can have assurance that the Bible will never lead us astray. However, we must read the Bible in the correct historical context to the people it was originally written to based on the original language it was written in before we ever think about how it applies to our own lives. When we read the Bible and study it, we always, always, always start with “what does the Bible say?” We do not get to read our own ideas, our own standards, our own presuppositions into what the Bible says. We don’t read our politics, traditions, or preferences into the Bible either. We start with this is what the Bible says, and if we don’t understand what it says, we can use resources to help us understand. We never get to say, “the Bible says, but…” We need to keep our butts our of it.

We have two guiding principles. We are never called to condemn anyone. Jesus came to save the world because the world is already condemned, we are here as his hands and feet to share Jesus love for humanity that they may come to him to be saved. Even when we use the scriptures to bring correction into the lives of fellow believers, we never use the Bible as a weapon. We do everything in love. Love is the rule of the day. Love God, Love others, Love one another are the three great commandments. It is only in the context of our relationship with God as our Father, Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and the indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide that we live our lives according to God’s standards, not the world’s standards. The Bible itself should shape our entire worldview, so that we live lives that are set apart as a beacon to draw people to Jesus, not drive them away.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the command that we have to make disciples, our Great Commission, Jesus said

‘Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’

Matthew 28:18-20

He had also said in Acts 1:8 after telling his disciples to expect Holy Spirit to come,

‘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 farthest parts of the earth.”’

Acts 1:8

Part of what we discussed last week is the fact that Holy Spirit is with us whenever we are talking about our faith experience with another person, so we rely on him for the words to speak. However, it is usually far better to listen than to speak. If someone knows you care and you are listening attentively, you might be very surprised about how much they really end up sharing with you. Talk about a great opportunity to share how God has been walking with you in your life!

We over complicate how we witness, give testimony, or share our faith so much in our minds that many times it causes us not to try at all. Remember, sharing how God has walked with us through our lives can be as easy as sharing the details of eating at your favorite restaurant. If you have walked with God for any period of time, you have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness. My friend, Rick Grace, just last weekend called these your pivotal circumstances. My story may seem extraordinary to some, or your story may seem uneventful to you, but there is a story there if you take the time to reflect on it.

However, making disciples goes far beyond just getting someone to believe in Jesus. Making disciples is about teaching and instruction, about walking a path of faith, about living a life that reflects God’s glory as we become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Roman 8:28-29 says,

‘And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’

Romans 8:28-29

Our purpose is to be conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Right doing through right learning about who Christ is and what, within the context of our relationship with Him, God expects from his people is what being set apart is. Over and over again through the scriptures God gives instruction and direction about how his people are set apart by how they act.

Jesus said,

‘“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ‘           

John 13:34-35

Paul says to us,

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ‘

Romans 12:1-2

And he told Timothy,

‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Through the power of the Spirit we learn to live lives set apart for God through the instruction of his Word. Our actions and attitudes are what define us before people, so it is our actions and our attitudes that become conformed to the way God wishes us to be living out godly lives in accordance with Christ’s righteousness covering us. All of this is gained through proper discipleship, as we make disciples by teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded his apostles.

            True discipleship is not what happens on Sunday morning or even at the our Bible study groups. True discipleship is a one-on-one personal walk with another believer who is more mature than we are or those who are mature spiritually walking and teaching someone newer or less mature in the faith. A prime example of what discipleship in the church should look like is the relationship between a sponsor and a sponsee in a twelve-step program like AA. In AA, a sponsor is someone who has worked the 12-steps, is continually sober, and living in such a way as to be a good example of sober living. It is a person the sponsee wants to pattern their life after. This is what a disciple of a rabbi in the Jewish culture did. Jesus’s core disciples lived with him, worked with him, ate with him, slept near him, watched everything he did and taught, and tried to pattern their lives after him. His disciples experienced true discipleship walking with Jesus. Discipleship doesn’t happen on our own or in a vacuum.

            According to the book, Biblical Discipleship, a disciple is a person who places him or herself under the instruction of an expert or master with the goal of becoming like the person they are following. There are four key elements to biblical discipleship…

  1. Discipleship is a process that happens to a person, it takes place at the individual level.
  2. Discipleship requires a relationship with someone else.
  3. Discipleship requires an expert teacher. The Expert Teacher is Jesus himself and we have his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one we are following, and we need a growing understanding of who he is, what he taught, and what he expects from his followers. We find all this in the scriptures.
  4. Discipleship has a defined goal or destination. Jesus expects his follower to grow in their obedience to him until they finally become like him.

This is what Paul meant when he told the believers in Ephesus,

‘when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ‘

Ephesians 4:21-24

As we grow in our knowledge, love, and obedience toward Jesus as our Savior, we are being active in our path of discipleship. As we move forward as a congregation, following the Lord’s will for us making disciples throughout our community and engaging in or supporting opportunities to make disciple throughout the world, these are the actions we need to be taking in actively making disciples of those already here and those who are coming.

            Maybe through the course of the last few weeks, you’ve realized you aren’t following Jesus quite the way you thought you were, or maybe you need to recommit to following Jesus closer, or maybe you have yet to commit your life to Jesus and start the process of discipleship. or maybe you’ve been a mature Christian for a while now, but you have not been active in making disciples. However, maybe you have been active in making disciples and now you are looking for ways to help others to learn from your experience. Pray for God to bring you in step with what his Holy Spirit is doing, so you can be a part of building his kingdom.

Sharing Jesus Part Two

Sharing Jesus Part Two

Do we really think about the fact that every person we encounter is potentially going to spend an eternity in hell if they don’t first hear and then believe the Gospel? We also talked about the top 6 reasons most believers are hesitant about sharing their faith in Jesus with others. When it comes to asking people to decide in their own lives regarding faith, it becomes a bigger wall for many people. We can sometimes do okay telling people how God has worked in our own lives but asking them to commit their life to God is an insurmountable task for us. As I said before, not every believer is an evangelist in the sense of Billy Graham or the apostle Paul. However, it is the job, the Great Commission, of every believer to make disciples. Making disciples starts with sharing our faith wherever and whenever we have or create an opportunity. Those opportunities are most effective within our one-on-one relationships with people.

Speaking of one-on-one relationships with people, do you know Jesus and Moses spend a lot of time together now. They are really great friends. One day while walking on the beach, Moses said to Jesus, “You know what really moved me?” “What?” Jesus replied. “It’s when you walked on water. That’s when I came to understand that you were truly the Son of God. Do you remember that?”

Jesus replied, “How could I forget? It was my most famous miracle. It made ALL four Gospels!” Moses asked if he could do it again and Jesus easily obliged.

But after getting a way off from the shoreline, he started sinking. Never needing to learn how to swim, He desperately thrashed about using all his energy to stay afloat and just barely make it to the shore alive. With Jesus gasping for breath, Moses ran up to him and frantically asked, “My Lord! My Lord! What happened?”

Jesus replied, “Last time I didn’t have these holes in the bottom of my feet.”

When it comes to sharing our faith in Jesus and asking others to make a commitment to faith in him themselves, the most important part is what we are asking people to believe. It’s what exactly we are asking them to have faith in.

Paul says,

‘For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

To make it very simple, what we must believe is who Jesus was and what Jesus did.

         I told you last week we would be looking at how the biblical writers shared their faith. As we read the Gospels, the historical biographies of Jesus’s life and ministry, we find a common theme. Matthew starts in chapters 1 through three talking about identifying who Jesus is before he begins talking about anything Jesus did or taught. Mark only spends the first 11 verses of his Gospel talking about who Jesus is, but the pattern holds. Luke spends his first three chapters plus part of chapter four building on the idea of who Jesus is. John uses his first 34 verses to identify Jesus, but in his very first verse he makes a very clear point…

John 1:1 “’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.’

From identifying the Word as fully God, John then builds up to the fact the Jesus is the Word and the Word is God, but John doesn’t actually mention Jesus name for the 1st time until verse 17.

         The point is, with every Gospel writer, who Jesus was is the first point about Jesus every one of them makes. For each of them, building Jesus identity by what he did up to the point of his death, burial, and resurrection is the stamp of authenticity on the Gospel message. Why? Because Paul tells us that without the Resurrection, the final proof that Jesus is truly the Son of God, our faith is useless. It is only the fact that Jesus was himself God the Son that gives his death any meaning at all. There are millions of people who have sacrificed their lives for one cause or another since the beginning of time. There are many who have died for their friends, what Jesus calls the ultimate act of love in John 15:13. Only the Resurrection gives Jesus’s death any meaning, because through Jesus’s Resurrection we are given an eternal relationship with God the Father through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit covered by Jesus’s righteousness and forgiveness before God.

         Answering the questions of faith, It really comes down to two things: who he is and what he did. In their book, “The Path” some dear friends of mine, including one of my mentors Dr. Daniel Goepfrich, phrase the answer of faith this way…

To call Jesus “Lord” or “Christ” is to acknowledge that he is the one sent from God to rescue humanity and that he did that through his death and      resurrection – nothing more, nothing less.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:19-20

In another conversation, Paul used the word “repent.”

“Although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he

now commands all people everywhere to repent , because

he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in

righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

To “repent” means to “reconsider and act.” In order to believe the truth, we must honestly consider it…the truth about ourselves and our sin, about Jesus and his death and resurrection. God wants us to change our beliefs based on the truth.    Believing in Jesus alone for salvation means that we have reconsidered our position; we have “repented,” accepting the truth. We accept that only God can rescue us from sin and hell, and we embrace it.

Naturally, the first step in sharing our faith with others is to have that kind of faith ourselves. If we don’t have a firm foundation in the faith that we have, we’ll have a really hard time trying to articulate any of that to someone else.

         However, there are some great benefits to sharing our faith. When we overcome our fear, get over the excuses that we don’t have experience or haven’t practiced, realize that every believer in Jesus as Savior is fully qualified to share the Gospel, rely on God to walk us through it knowing that we can’t screw it up, put sharing our faith at the top of our priority list in our relationships, and develop the ‘want to’ attitude to at least plant the seeds for someone to come to have eternal life the benefits become:

  1. It increases our own faith to share our faith with others
  2. Sharing our faith brings us deeper into the Presence of God
  3. It naturally makes us more aware of Holy Spirit working in our lives
  4. Our love for others will grow tremendously
  5. We are partaking in God’s Great Commission to make disciples
  6. Sharing our faith also protects us and prepares us for battle against the spiritual forces of darkness that rule this world.

Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6 starting in verse 10,

‘Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.’

Ephesians 6:10-20

When we are sharing the good news of our salvation through Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the leader of our lives, we are engaging actively in spiritual warfare. Some time, we’ll do an entire series on the Armor of God, but Paul is making a point here that as we live in Christ and share our faith following the Great Commission to make disciples; we will experience the attacks of the enemy.

         We need to pray for one another as Paul asked the believers of his time to pray for him. We pray that we may be given the message when we begin to speak to confidently make the Gospel clear, and that we may be able to speak boldly about the faith that we have.