Transcription details: Audio 04 29 2018.mp3
Input sound file: Audio 04 29 2018.mp3
this is how we watch football these days, up and from above because from the height you can see what’s happening on one side of the field while there’s a faint and a distraction on the other side of the scrimmage line. Overview means that everything is clear. It means we understand. Not that I understand football, but if it wasn’t like this I wouldn’t understand anything. Down on the field, it’s quite different. All this man sees is 11 big guys running straight toward him. It’s a very complicated thing down at eye level and life is very complicated down at eye level. We don’t always see or understand what is actually going on. This has been brought home so genuinely to me in the past few weeks. God arranges things. Work through other people behind the scenes, unknown to us, but what we see is not always what we would see if we had the overview. We’ve been talking this month and going through Easter and about how new life is possible for everyone and I thought I would take a moment in the current sermon series to just stop and explain how new life can come to everyone. From that time, Jesus began to preach saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You’ve heard me say this almost every Sunday since January. To repent means to change your mind. It is a change in perspective. You see things the way God sees them and often you see what you have not done right and so you feel regret, but the main concept behind repent is there’s going to be a change and God is with it and often behind it. The very first encounter the disciples had with Jesus was one just like this. John 1:38. John the Baptist had been walking along with two of his disciples when he saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and these two disciples with John were curious, so they came up and Jesus turned and saw them following after him and he said to them, “What do you seek? What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi,” which means teacher, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus said, “Come and see.” The very first phase of life in faith is when Jesus says, “Come and see.” “Come and see if my words aren’t true. Come and see if this is not a good thing, a good place. Come and see.” And they literally begin to hang out with Jesus, spending time with him. They came and saw where he was staying and they stayed with him that day. As a result of that fellowship with Jesus, Andrew found his brother Simon and said, “Hey, we have found the Messiah,” which means Christ, and he brought Peter to see Jesus and Peter began to hang out with Jesus. Right after this, they go to a wedding they spend time with each other. This is the beginning. But if for us to just get to know and be with and hang out with Jesus was all there was about following Jesus Christ, we would not need the rest of the New Testament. And again, there are many people who get to this stage because they love coming to church. They love being with other wonderful people they’ve found in church. They love the church being the center of the community, but it’s still in many places at this level, where people who are friends of God. Being a disciple is a little more. Here’s where that starts. As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea where they were fishermen. They already knew Jesus. They had spent hours and days in his presence. But now he’s going to ask them to do something different. Verse 19 and he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Now, this is the overview. This is the beginning of Jesus’s ministry of making disciples and when he looks on into the future, he says, “Follow me and I will teach you to fish for people.” That also means, “Be with me.” That’s the, “Come and see,” part. It also means, “Learn from me,” because of course, a disciple is a student who has a teacher. It also means, “Pattern yourself after me. Do what I tell you to do.” It means, “Obey me.” And Jesus could have said any of those things but what he said was, “Follow me and I’m going to the rest of my life here on earth. Follow me and I’m going to teach you how to fish for people.” That’s the overview. You can see how everything fits together in the overview. If you began to read the New Testament, every word of Jesus from this moment forward Jesus said is to teach them how to fish for people. Every word. It connects in some way. And then the very last words before the [inaudible] part of the great commission, Jesus gives the overview and looks back. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” What does that mean? “I’m the boss. I’m the Lord.” What does the Lord want you to do? Verse 19. “Go. Go therefore and make disciples.” Remember he’s been teaching them how to do that now his entire time with them. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Verse 20. This is very important. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded and, lo, I am with you always, to the close of the this is the old you looking back but how do you think they become disciples? If someone teaches you the commands of Jesus, by the time you are keeping them you are a disciple. And then, if you teach those commands of Jesus to someone else as they begin to keep them they will be a disciple and the cycle will just repeat again and again and again. Every command of Jesus at its root is part of Jesus’ mission to fish for people, Jesus’ method of making disciples. When you obey you become a disciple and then become a disciple maker. When they are taught to observe all the commands they become disciples and that leads us to the biggest problem. Who took you by the hand as a church member and taught you one by one each of the commands of Jesus and how you could live by them? Who did that? To be honest, I have to tell you most people would have to say, “Noone did.” I heard lots of good sermons. Aren’t their summons great [laughter]? I heard lots of good singing, [got in?] some awesome potlucks but keep in mind folks, that’s the hangout with Jesus part. Churches today that seem to focus on having a good time with each other and with Jesus there’s one thing sadly they all have in common, they’re all getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller because churches get bigger when the people who attend them follow Jesus and become disciples. Let me give you an example that’s pretty close to home so do me a favor and don’t tell anyone down in Salem that I told this story, okay? There is a church in Salem, I won’t tell you which one but you may already know, all of a sudden bang, things started to happen in that church and like a giant vacuum cleaner they sucked almost every teenager out of every other church in Salem because all of the teenagers wanted to go to that hot cool church. By the way, have you ever noticed teenagers wanting to rebel against their parents’ church and go off and do their own thing? Have noticed that before? So here there’s one church in Salem that seems to have almost most of the youth and the other churches are all scratching their heads and going, “Well, what’s going on?”. So they begin to look into it and you know what they found out? That church where all the kids wanted to go they had a gym. One of the first things I found out when I moved to this area going to Salem drive past the other churches, son of a gun, every single one of them now has a gym. That’s one of the hanging out with Jesus problems. If they have all those kids because they have a gym then we need a gym too. Does that make sense? And they [have?] years and years of paying off that gym and some of them are not happy about that but could you imagine how–? I don’t want to say ignorant. I want to be nice. Can you imagine how naive it is to assume that what’s important [is?] it’s the gym and not the kind of people at that church. To assume that it’s not the way those people treat people, to assume that it’s not the way those people pray, those people worship, those people study, that there isn’t something about what God has done to those people that makes them attractive. Because if thought that, you might have to look at yourself, and you might have to change the way your church prays, and your church studies. But you don’t have to change anything if all you have to do is build a gym. And a million dollars later, you know what you got? An empty gym because it’s people that matter. And that’s where a small church has every bit of an advantage of the gigantic church because it’s people that matter. You people matter. You matter to God, and you matter to God’s plan because here’s the crazy thing, God decided to work through people just like you. Scares me to death. And all it feels like he would bet the farm on me. But God has chosen not to work through buildings. Buildings are nice. Don’t we have a beautiful building? God has decided to work through people. So Jesus takes people. He never built a gym. Jesus takes people, and he says, “Hey, listen to me. Follow me. Be with me, and I’m going to teach you how to fish for people.” And then three years later he says, “You spent all this time with me. Now everything I told you to do, you go teach other people to do.” That’s the [order?].
And I want to tell you friends for the future of this church, for anybody that might have a worry about this church or any other church, that answer is the same. It’s the people of God that matter, and you are the people of God, and God will work through you to the degree that you obey the commands of Jesus. And that brings us to the biggest problem. Someone was supposed to teach you something very specific, and what you got taught was a lot of wonderful sort of general knowledge of religion rather than do this, do this, do this, do this, and do this, every command, and all these commands that under this one. We’ve already heard it from [inaudible]. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. Luke adds, with all your strength. Verse 38, this is a great and first commandment. This is the first priority. We need to love God. The more we love God in a healthy way, the more that will draw people to God’s church. How do we do that? You need to spend in your chair.
By the way, if you look down, you’ll notice you’re sitting on a chair right now. This is your Sunday morning chair. But some time each day if you will pay time aside to work through the things that you need to do with God to pray over your day, your life, you will find that that time that you spend will deepen your spiritual life and strengthen you and you’ll begin to glow with the spirituality. I could spend five more hours talking about this but I won’t. Since you heard a great deal about this in the sermons late last summer and early fall, you kind of know what I’m talking about. By the way, that’s why this is here. You need to spend time praying in your chair because God will meet you when you take time to meet with God. Now, this is the first half, but see there’s the second half. A second is likened you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law in the prophets. And a skeptical lawyer says to Jesus when he tells this in Luke, “Who’s my neighbor?” Well, you need to ask that question yourself, “Who’s my neighbor?” Here’s what I would tell you. Anybody within 25 feet of you is your neighbor. Please look around wherever you sit, people in front of you, behind you, they’re your problem. It’s not exactly a joke. One of the things they do in large churches is they have the church board go out and sit in the church, and they’re always scattered all over the church. The pastor looks at the board of the church and says, “If a visitor comes within three pews of where you are, you are the church welcoming committee. And what you need to do is in a kind and gentle way, you just swarm them after the church.” Get ready Don and Tracey [laughter]. Those people behind you are coming for you [laughter]. Seriously, if you love your neighbor and we need to learn how to love our neighbor in a healthy and spiritual way, in a way that Jesus would [inaudible]. But if you love your neighbor, that will draw your neighbor to the God that you worship.
We talked about this, remember last fall. Prayer walking takes you out of your house, up and down the streets, to pray for the people you encounter. To pray for the people in their homes. If they’re out raking leaves you stop and visit. We did this. Some of you have some beautiful testimonies of what happened on that day. I don’t have time to let you share them but I just want to tell everybody, sometime we will. They will bless you. God arranges to put people in your path. And you can smile and you can say, “How are you?” And if everything is fine, you can say, “That’s wonderful.” And if something is not right you can say what I call the magic words, “I go to a church that prays for people, can we pray for you?” Now be honest, what are they going to say? But here’s the other half of that. When you come back and see that person again, now it’s a spiritual conversation because you’re talking about a God that answers prayer. We all have four neighborhoods. There’s our family and friends, there’s our interest and hobbies, the people we have fun with, things we do, people we do things with, go to a Cardinal game whatever it might be. There’s the places we serve, where we work or volunteer. And there’s our actual physical address all of those are our neighborhoods. Now, it is very unlikely that you will walk in your neighborhood all the way up to Quincy, though we all have family and friends that live at some distance, we keep praying for them too. For the people who God will use you to attract them, to entice them to come to faith themselves, they will be people you already know. The world already has too many people doing sermons. Friends, if sermons got people in, the church would be full because there’s one here every week. Fresh. Right out of the oven. We don’t need little mini preachers. People, if they love their neighbors, their neighbors will come to desire the faith that they have. You don’t need to debate, or argue, or defend. How has anyone ever argued with you and convinced you that they were right? But if you just simply love people, they will see something of heaven inside of you and they will want you. All this church lacks– we don’t actually lack it. We actually have it. But all this church needs is for more love for [inaudible]. The people that God is drawing to the church through you, they’re like moths. They’ll come to you like you’re a light shining in the darkness. They’ll approach you. Your mission field will come to you. Your neighbors or other people who you talk with on a weekly basis. And to do God’s will, it’s simply enough to be friendly. It’s enough to be friendly.
Something in addition – and we would be here for hours if I talked about this – the way God deals with special problems is he gives people special abilities. When we need someone who knows how to fix breakfast for 500 people, God gives that gift to someone; we need to figure out who that is. Every single one of us has a gift. You need to know what yours is. And that’s how all the different little things– see, the big picture is love your neighbor. The little thing is, is if you’re really good at fixing gasoline engines; if the church has one that breaks, you’re the person. And that covers everything. This is a copy of The Bluejackets Manual, 1944. My father graduated from high school– and I’m beginning to think that it wasn’t 1944 but 1945, so I may have the wrong issue there, but his basic training came with a manual of every rule that he was supposed to follow: here’s how you wear your uniform; here’s how you wear your hat; here’s how you tie your kerchief. Everything was spelled out very, very clearly. Let me tell you something that aggravates me. Jesus says, great commission, all of these people who you make disciples of, you, you personally are supposed to teach them each of the commands of Jesus. I have been complaining about this since I started my doctoral program in 2000. And I’ll be honest with you. Now you can just kind of a little bit start to find on the internet some people are trying to do this.
But if we took what Jesus said seriously, you should be able to go into any Christian bookstore and pull a book off the shelf that would go page by page through each of the commands of Jesus. But I want to tell you honestly, friends, we still don’t have it. We have little bits and pieces about some of the commands and a lot of times people decide they like these 5 and they forget those 50. We have nothing that tries to teach people every command. We spend all our time arguing about things that Jesus never spoke about. No one has done this. But we here a building a manual week by week. I told you earlier that we were. But the sermons beginning in February, each one focuses on a single command of Jesus. If we begin to keep the commands of Jesus, God will begin to work through each of us and our church. And we will truly be what I call an ideal church, and that’s a church that is a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord, and people grow. Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, it’s Easter. You have come to New Life, but you also, Lord, have come to bring new life. And then you told them very clearly, they were supposed to teach others the commands that you gave, and after that, Lord, amazing things happened, but within 100 years it seemed like everybody got confused and lost their way. Help us, Lord, in this church to pick up what you’ve asked us to do and think about it, pray about it, there in our chair, Lord, how do I live this command? Some of them will be easy. Some of them will be difficult. But help us, Lord, to be those people who put you on the throne of their life and grow to become more than people who love Jesus but also become people who follow Jesus. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen. Let’s stand and sing. [music]