February 10 AM Sermon
What Matters to Jesus Dan Lightfoot 1497
If you want to find out what mattered most to someone, read his last words. We want to know what matters to Jesus, so it can matter to us, too. And we are not left to wonder. -- Matt 28:18-20
"Jesus came & spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven & on earth. 19 "Go therefore & make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; & lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen!
A. We know this as the 'Great Commission'.
1. ... also the greatest failure in the church. Without discipleship, believers do not understand how to live their faith.
2. It's common to see evangelistic efforts, but where is discipleship?
3. We make the mistake of thinking that Jesus' greatest desire is for us to be saved. Yet, that is only the first step. He wants disciples!
4. A disciple is more than a convert & our call goes far beyond baptism.
B. Discipleship is not seeking converts, -- but bringing people into an intimate
relationship with God and & make them partner in His work.
1. This begins with a conversion or surrendering ourselves to Jesus
2. But Jesus is the author & finisher (perfecter) of our faith. (Heb. 12:2)
a. Surrender is where Jesus 'authors' our faith,
b. Discipleship points people to the finish line & teaches them how to run the race according to God's purposes.
C. 3 principles in discipleship: Relationships, Teaching, & Mentoring for Service.
Let's look at Relationships...
A. Relationship is where we start, and it is the most critical today.
1. ... not because it's the most important, but it is the most neglected.
B. Most people are intimidated by the word 'discipleship'.
1. It has been elevated to a practice for the 'spiritually mature'.
2. ...usually think of the 'Timothy Principle' (Paul & Tim., or Elijah & Elisha). Mentoring is only one aspect of discipleship.
II. Relationship requires Friendship.
A. Discipleship = friendship ... with a Christ-centered focus.
1. We are all called to be disciplers.
2. We aren't called to be spiritual giants & then become disciplers!
3. Anyone can be a friend. The problem with most people is that they feel insecure when it comes to reaching out. Taking the 1st step.
a. That is a flaw in our human nature. Everyone sits in the crowd & expects someone else to reach out to them.
b. When no one reaches out, they feel lonely & isolated. The person beside them feels exactly the same way.
c. We can be fun loving & friendly, but still never get beyond the surface of a smile. ...surrounded by smiles, but touched by no one.
B. The #1 reason people leave a church is they have no real relationships.
1. People enter a congregation; ...feel accepted & welcomed --They may be respected & well liked, but because discipleship never gets beyond a Sunday a.m. handshake, they begin feeling isolated.
2. Church becomes a routine instead of a hunger. ...go to church out of obligation to God, not because of true love for God or His people.
3. When we get to this point, we are only one disappointment away from giving up. We all need something more than this routine.
C. The reason why we long for something more is because we were designed for something more. God did not create any 'Lone Christians'. -- God calls us to lift each other up.
1. There should not be anyone who does not have at least one friend they meet with in an unstructured environment outside of church.
III. Friendship requires Accountability.
Eccl. 4:9-10 -- "Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up."
A. Friendship is the key for accountability. ...Two examples:
1. John Kemp credits me with where he is spiritually today. It seems unimaginable to me. I wasn't very spiritual during my 1st two years of college when our friendship flourished. At times, I was clueless &
I wonder why he credits me with anything. ...We became friends, I invited him
to church & we went together every week. I didn't nurture him along. I wasn't
his mentor; I was just his friend.
2. The other e.g. is a deacon in the church in Irving… He used the RSV & when Foy Wallace came for a meeting he almost preached everybody who used the RSV into hell. He went on a business trip for 3 weeks. Almost 3 months later, I still had not seen him. On the way to church I drove past his house & saw his car so I pulled in for a quick visit. My only intention was to say I had missed seeing him. We talked about little things
& as I was leaving he said, "You are the first person from church that has bothered to contact me these last 3 months". How can a deacon go unnoticed? But even if he wasn't a deacon, there is still no excuse for anyone to go unnoticed. What a failure of the church. But it happens ... The next week he was at church & he continued to come regularly. He felt touched by a simple 15 minute visit.
B. These stories aren't meant to sound boastful. I was pretty much clueless, but now I can look back & see clearly how discipleship works.
1. I did not even intend to act spiritual; I was just making contact with people I counted as friends.
2. But how many people drifted away that I never even thought about?
3. My prayer is that believers will take discipleship as a serious command (& none would fall through). We can't prevent people from leaving when they refuse to return, but those people are the exception. Most leave because they feel neglected.
IV. Becoming a Discipler
A. There are only two types of people who can't be a discipler -
1. someone who is not a disciple ( a follower of Christ )
2. OR -- one who disobeys God's command & refuses to disciple.
B. The Bible says in Prov. 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." That is basic discipleship in a nutshell.
1. Couple this with the passage from Ecclesiastes we read earlier & the vision for Biblical discipleship begins to come clear.
2. When a brother is down, it is our responsibility to come along side & encourage. When a brother or sister falls, if we have a discipleship friendship, the other is there to pick them up.
3. If we fall alone, who will pick us up?
a. We all know people we tho't were spiritually mature & unmovable, but are now distant from the church & the Lord.
b. We can't prevent people from making bad choices. But, remember, God has called us to be disciplers, not creators.
C. You can't disciple someone if you are not a disciple yourself.
1. Jesus said in John 13: 35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
2. You never quit being a disciple. Your love for your brothers & sisters is evidence of your love for Christ. You can't love God & be a disciple of Christ & neglect His command to love each other.
3. At the center of that love is discipleship. 1 John 3:10 puts it this way, "In this the children of God & the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother."
D. What does it mean to love my brother?
1. Whenever the Bible commands us to love, it speaks of Agape - self-giving, self-sacrificing, outward love.
2. Love that is not based on receiving, but on giving -- without requiring a return. We don't reach out because we feel comfortable, but because we love the children of God ... the church…
E. Most people fear getting involved. They don't know where to start.
1. Prov. 18:24 tells us, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
2. Start there. Be a friend with people for Jesus' sake. & their souls.
a. & when you open up to someone else, they will usually open up to you. Discipleship is really a partnership.
b. People may respond to a preacher or someone they think of as a spiritually experienced elder. But even that can't replace the friendship/partnership way of discipling.
c. "Leaders" cannot be close friends with everyone.
3. Only in friendship can the walls come down & we allow ourselves to have the vulnerability to share our real needs.
a. Mentorship may come later, but it is not where you begin.
b. Mentorship is not the same as discipleship, though it is a part of the discipling process. Mentoring is what Paul did with Timothy. Or Elijah with Elisha.
F. Relationship discipleship is the heart blood of the church.
1. Jesus commanded it. Jesus lived it as our example.
2. Why did everyone - including the vilest sinner -- feel like they could approach Jesus? It was because Jesus humbled Himself. He met their need for acceptance & worth & out of that relationship repentance was born.
3. Rom. 2:4 says, "the kindness of God leads you to repentance".
4. Jesus welcomed sinners--but His life & message changed their lives.
5. He welcomed sinners, but He didn't allow them to remain sinners. They either became disciples or adversaries.
G. Our lives should be welcome mats. Though we can't change anyone's life, our life can reflect God's grace, which does change lives.
1. By simply establishing friendships & getting on the same level as others, we can become disciples & disciplers.
2. Paul taught this very principle. I Cor. 9:20-22 -- "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; ... 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some."
3. We get into people's lives for the sake of loving them & becoming instruments of God's grace. & our focus is on Christ.
H. We can see that relationships work both ways. The world has no problem reaching out to the church to draw members away.
1. How does that happen? Does the devil have classes & send out demons to teach us how to sin? No, he sends friends to lead us away. (Listen!) -- He doesn't have sign-up lists in the foyer...
2. Take a lesson! We have to first make the paradigm shift. Basic discipleship means Christian fellowship.
3. Will you commit yourself to being a friend to others for the sake of Christ? Be their example… encourager… strength… friend...
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