Three Key Relationships

RELATIVE – Three Key Relationships
John 15:1-11

The last verse in chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the disciples are about to leave the upper room, John 14:31 says, “Arise, let us go from here.” This small band of brothers is headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray his great High Priestly prayer and will later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus speaks the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 in route to the garden.

In this chapter, Jesus is pictured for us as the True Vine. I can imagine Jesus and his men going through the darkened streets of the city, and then passing beyond the city walls into the surrounding countryside. During this time of year, mid-April, the grape vines would be beginning to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest. As Jesus walked with his disciples, perhaps he reached out and took a vine in his hands and used it to teach an object lesson to his men. It was this night that his desire was to teach them about the most vital relationship they have in their lives, their connection with Jesus and the Father, each other, also the world.

We might ask ourselves, “Why did Jesus give them this teaching NOW?” The answer is simple: They needed it! Jesus had just told these guys that he is going away, but that his work is going to continue… through them and their lives, John 14:12. If they were to carry on the work of the Lord, then they needed to know how to produce fruit in their lives.

This morning, we are 2,000 years removed from that night, but we know the work of Jesus continues. Our vision is to extend the love of Christ and his kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. That is a God-sized task. We know that God is still working through his followers to accomplish his work and his will in the world today.
Many of us may sit here and wonder HOW we are supposed to do the work of the Lord and HOW we can produce the proper kind of fruit in our own lives. Well, the answer is found in these verses. THIS passage is all about being becoming a genuine disciple and about how to bear fruit that Jesus expects. Let’s dive into this passage on the True Vine and see how we can become more like Jesus.

The BRANCHES – WE MUST ABIDE – John 15:1-8 – the believer relates to the Son.

The SYMBOLS – John 15:1, 5a-5b

  1. The Son is the true vine – John 15:1a, 5a – First notice that Jesus alone possesses life within Himself, John 14:6. All other vines are counterfeit. He alone is the true source of everlasting, abundant life.
  2. The Father is the gardener – John 15:1b – The word “vinedresser” refers to the the gardener, the one who has the responsibility of caring for the vineyard. Jesus is saying our Heavenly Father is the Gardener.
  3. The believer is the branch – John 15:5b — Some things just jump out at me, notice the phrase in John 15:2, every branch “in me” or every branch “of mine.” This tells me that we are dealing with genuine believers, not just people who claim the name of Christian, but actual followers of Jesus.

The STEPS – John 15:2-4, 5c-6

1. We must submit to pruning by the Father – John 15:2-3 – pruning is the Gardner’s method of protecting and purifying the vineyard. He does this in one of two ways:

  1. He Challenges the Branch – Several years ago we had several sermons on “The Secrets of the Vine” so you may remember that the phrase, “takes away” means to lift up or to raise higher. The Gardener will take the unfruitful branch and lift it from to dirt, giving it a better chance to be productive. On a personal level, this means that when we get to a place in our Christian lives where we are barren and unfruitful, the Lord will have to reach into our lives, disturb our casual carelessness and lift us up to challenge us and shock us toward growth. There are times when the Lord can only accomplish this through discipline. He’s got to get our attention. So, if we respond with repentance, this process will help us to be fruitful for his glory. If, however, we choose to go on in our sinfulness, God may deal with us more severely. Has God been challenging you lately? If so, don’t run from his challenge. Instead of running FROM God, turn around, and run TOWARD him. After all, his discipline has always been proof of his love (Revelation 3:19, and of your relationship to Him, Hebrews 12:8).
  2. He Cleanses the Branch – The Gardener removes things from the branch that sap it vitality and strength. Things like sucker branches, useless buds, misdirected shoots, spots, discolored leaves, stuff like that. Anything that consumes life but produces no fruit has to go! This is so true in the life of the believer. When we allow things into our lives that hinder our following after Jesus, then we are in danger of a divine pruning. “Pruning,” by its very name sounds painful, and it isn’t always easy to cut the junk from our lives, but if WE don’t do it on our own, the Lord will deal with it through pruning! So, has the God been speaking to you through His Word? If so, have you been listening? Are there areas in your life that need to be pruned: a habit you are unwilling to give up? An attitude that you will not change? A relationship you will not forgive? A lifestyle you will not forsake? If not, I challenge you to deal with it before the Lord prunes your life. If you don’t deal with it, God may very well take further and far more drastic measures.

2. We must abide in the Son – John 15:4, 5c-6

  1. John 15:2 The Branch Must be Attached to the Vine – If you are not in the Vine, then there is no way for you to share in the Vine’s life. This is all about that vital connection between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ, the True Vine.
  2. John 15:4-5 The Branch Must Abide in the Vine – That means, we must maintain close fellowship with the Vine if Jesus is to live through us and produce fruit in our lives. This happens only by “abiding” in Jesus! How do we abide in him? Prayer, Studying the Bible, Deny yourself, Drawing near to God! The closer we abide to the Vine, the more his life can flow through us to produce the fruit that he desires. Could THIS be the reason that many church members aren’t bearing fruit? They are near the Vine but not actually connected to it. Sound familiar? Is God speaking to YOU right now? So, perhaps you feel that you ARE attached to the Vine, and you are abiding in the Vine, there is a third possibility…
  3. John 15:5 The Branch Must be Available to the Vine – Look at the concept of fruit bearing. It is a passive activity on the part of the branch. If the branch will simply abide in the Vine, then the Vine will produce the fruit on the branch. I don’t know about you, but I find that truth liberating! I am not required to grow my own fruit. It is the Vine’s responsibility to produce his fruit in my life. That frees us from having to work and labor to get his approval. If we will yield, submit, and surrender to Jesus, he will live through his followers!

So, as a believer who is not bearing fruit, you have to ask yourself this question, “Am I available to Jesus, so he can bear fruit in me?” Have I truly yielded to him? Have I surrendered to Jesus? Have I denied myself, taken up my cross, and really following him? You may be thinking, “When I speak of fruit, what do I mean?” What will be produced in our lives when we surrender to Jesus? How will we know if fruit is being produced through us? There are three basic fruits the Lord bears in the lives of His children. They are:

  1. Sanctification – That is, we become more like Him – Romans 6:22; Phil. 1:11; Col. 1:10.
  2. Spirituality – That is, we behave more like Him – Gal. 5:22-23.
  3. Souls – That is, we are burdened for others like Him – Rom. 1:13.

Ok, before I leave this section, What about John 15:6? I Have a Question about Unfruitfulness – Not every branch abides in the Vine as it should. It is still attached, but it has ceased to draw life from the Vine. As a result, the branch is fruitless and withered. When this happens, the passage tells us there will be a certain results. GET THIS: Cast out why? – For Not Abiding. Is this loss of relationship or fellowship? The withered branch still possesses the same nature as the Vine, but it is no longer attached to draw life from the Vine. For those who are HIS, they are secure in Christ. We don’t wake each morning wondering if we are saved. It is called “security of the believer. The Bible challenges us to test and examine ourselves to see if we are of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we still saved even if we don’t bear fruit? I’ve heard it said, “The faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty at the first.”

The SUCCESS – John 15:7-8 – what are the results in bearing fruit?

  1. 1. It results in our bearing fruit – Ask whatever you will and it will be done for you. John 15:7 refers to An Unhindered Prayer Life – (John 14:13-14) Why? When we are abiding as we should be, and when we are drawing our life from Jesus, then HIS will becomes OUR will. That is, every time we pray and everything we pray for will fit perfectly with God’s will and he will grant our requests. This leaves no room for selfish or shallow prayers; only prayers that align with his will. How do we know his will? We can discover it right here in this book.
  2. 2. It results in glorifying the Father – John 15:8a – We recognize that this life is all about Jesus; which brings glory to the Father. Always remember that the Christian life is not all about US and OUR salvation; it is about embracing GOD’S mission for the world, it’s about THEIR salvation.
  3. 3. It results in proving we are disciples of Jesus – John 15:8b. Others will see connection with God, which will become evident in the way we love one another, treat one another, and as we carry on the mission that Christ has given to the church.

The BELIEVER – WE MUST OBEY – John 15:9-17 – the believer relates to others

The PRIORITY – John 15:9-12

  1. The Father loves the Son – John 15:9b, 10b
  2. The Son loves the believer – John 15:9a, 10a, 11
  3. The believer is commanded to love others – John 15:12-17 – Can love be commanded? Remember that love is not a feeling but an act of the will, which results in actions that demonstrate that love.

The PROOF – John 15:13-15 – proof of his love for us.

  1. What Jesus will do for his disciples – John 15:13 (lay down his life for his friends)
  2. What Jesus does for his disciples – John 15:14-15 (he calls Them friends, not servants) “Friends” here means one of the inner circle, one who knows the king’s secrets. Maybe even the best man at a wedding. That is a very close relationship. He is not talking about acquaintances on the fringe, but people who “get it” – the things that Jesus taught us about the Father (John 15:15).

The PROMISES – John 15:16-17

  1. That HE chose US – John 15:16a – I think that is a pretty good promise even though it may not look like one at first.
    That branches will bear permanent fruit – John 15:16b – he appointed us that we would go and bear fruit, fruit that would remain.
  2. That prayers will be answered – John 15:16b – again, the key is not just asking in the Father’s name, but also asking according to the Father’s will.

The BATTLE – WE MUST ENDURE – John 15:18-27 – the believer related to the world

LIFE will be hard – John 15:18-21 – All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

  1. If the world hates you, it hated Jesus first – John 15:18 – Get this: not all hatred and strife comes from the enemy, sadly, some hatred and persecution comes from friendly fire; from religious people, from people inside the church. Those who are part of the fellowship. It is a sad day when people actually leave the church because they see “church people” acting in an unlovely manner, and causing strife and division in the body.
  2. What about if the world loves you? – John 15:19 – Ask yourself, “Where do you stand with Christ?” Have I compromised my faith to be successful in the world?
  3. Jesus tells us not to expect better treatment from the world, than the way it treated him. John 15:20
  4. The reason for the world’s behavior – they don’t know Christ. The reason for a fellow church member to mistreat others and stir up dissension… (John 15:21 – they do not know the One who sent me) they don’t KNOW and ABIDE in Christ.

LOVE has come – John 15:22-25 – and they hated him without a cause, so the world will hate us for the same reason.

  1. “If I had not come and spoken to them…” (John 15:22) refers to the incarnation, that fact that LOVE has come into the world to save people from their sin. Jesus tells us that people have no excuse for their sin since he has come into the world, because he has come and spoken to them.
  2. One cannot love God and not love Jesus – John 15:23 – How often to people what to come to God on their own terms, and reject the plan of salvation that the Father has offered through Jesus? Those who reject Jesus are rejecting the Father as well.
  3. All this was done to fulfill the prophecy, written in the Law, “They hated me without a cause” (Psalm 69:4) – Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies;

LEAVING a Helper – John 15:26-27 – Remember that the Holy Spirit is a HE rather than an IT. He is God and has a mind, will, and emotions. He is the Helper, the Paraclete, the One who comes along side. This Helper will come, sent from the Father. I see three things in these two verses:

  1. Truth – he is the Spirit of truth
  2. Testify – he will testify of Jesus
  3. Testimony – we, who know him, will testify of Jesus as well.

ENDING: Jesus is the True Vine. His desire is to live through your life so that you might bear fruit for the glory of God.

As we close, there are a couple of questions that need to be asked right now.

  1. Are you “in the Vine”? Have you ever been saved and grafted into the Vine? Are you connected to Jesus?
  2. Are you “abiding in the Vine”? Are you drawing your strength from him so that he is able to produce his fruit through your life?
  3. Are you bearing fruit today? Where do you stand with Jesus? If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be pruned back or other wise dealt with today, then I challenge you to come to Jesus and let him take care of your need. If you have never been saved, please come and let me show you how you can be connected to the Vine and become a child of God.

This entire message has focused on relationships: with Jesus, with others, with the world around us. I pray that we will walk in the light as HE is in the light, and allow the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us and guide us in the way we relate to God and others.

Gear Up for the Game

[ The opening video illustration was purchased from BluefishTV ]

Gear Up for the Game

VBS is finally upon us! All the busyness, activity, setup and tear down… all for what? To provide children in our church and community 15 hours of concentrated emphasis on the Bible, which leads to new life in Jesus Christ. Many kids don’t have a church, and some that do, perhaps that church doesn’t emphasize personal faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to receive everlasting life.

Before I talk about everlasting life, let me first address THIS life.

We face so many pressures in life. Adults are juggling busy schedules, paying bills, making sure kids have what they need, and raising a family. Kids are facing pressure to perform their best in school and all their extracurricular activities. It all can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, God knows everything we face. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3. He wants to bless us, not just in THIS life, but for all of eternity! Jesus came and paid the price for our sins so that we can know him and have eternal life. Once we know him, he has also given us his Word so that we can grow, train in our spiritual gifts, encourage one another, and share God’s gift of eternal life with others. With Jesus, we have everything we need to grow and to thrive. He is also inviting us to join him in his work. When we serve on God’s team, he uses us to make a huge difference in the lives of other people.

Today I want you to be aware of what is happening at Vacation Bible School this week. These kids are going to be taught these lessons by faithful teachers …

GOD’S PLAN FOR VBS

Jesus Cares About Me (Luke 15:1-7) Romans 5:8

The first Bible story is out of Luke 15, the story about the shepherd who left the 99 and went to search for the lost sheep. Jesus cares for us and demonstrated that love by dying on the cross to save us from our sin, and then searches for his lost sheep.

God knows everything about us, and he desires for us to live with him forever. Even though sin caused us to be separated from God, he gave his son, Jesus, so that we can experience his forgiveness and enjoy an abundant life. John 10:10.

Jesus Gives Me Hope (John 11:1-44) John 11:25

On day two, the kids are going to study from John 11, the story about the raising of Lazarus. His sisters had hope in the resurrection on the last day, but Jesus taught Mary and Martha that hope begins NOW, not later.

People are trying to find hope in many worldly things, like money, politics, relationships with people, but those sources of hope are always going to let us down. The only source of true help is Jesus. He is God, and he is perfectly faithful and trustworthy. Psalm 86:15.

Jesus Helps Me to Believe (John 20:19-31) John 20:29

On Wednesday, we are focusing on John 20, the story of doubting Thomas who would not believe that Jesus had raised from the dead until he saw and touched the Lord.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, he made forgiveness available to all people. Acts 2:21.

God wants us to give our lives to him and to experience eternal life. Ephesians 1:7.

When we come to Jesus, he is the one who gives us faith. Like in the story of Thomas, Jesus loves us and he meets us where we are, to help us believe. John 20:19-31; Mark 9:23–24.

Jesus Loves Me (John 13:1-35, 19:25-27, 20:1-10, 21:1-14) 1 John 3:1a

On Thursday, we are looking at John’s stories that help us see his relationship with Jesus… where he talked about “greater love has no one than this, that one would lay down his life for his friends,” where Jesus had John to care for his mother, John’s experience at the empty tomb, and seeing the resurrected Lord serving breakfast in Galilee.

Also, when we come to Jesus, it is only the BEGINNING of all that God has planned for us. He wants us to enjoy a daily relationship with him. Romans 8:38-39.

John was one of the Jesus’ closest friends on earth, and God used him to write down many things God wanted to reveal to us. This means that God wants us to enjoy the same relationship and fellowship that Jesus and John experienced together. John 13:23; 20:2.

Jesus Gives Me Joy (Acts 16:23-34) Psalm 95:1

Finally, we wrap up the week looking at the prison experience of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.

We are going to learn that regardless of the circumstances that come in our lives we can have JOY in knowing that God is with us. He uses us to reach people with his love, and he has a lifetime and eternity of blessings prepared for us. Jeremiah 29:11.

God wants us to stay close to him so that we can bear fruit and be filled with his joy. John 15:5.

God created us to enjoy a relationship that last forever. Our lives are going to be meaningless and without true hope until we give our life to Jesus.

GOD’S PLAN FOR LIFE

I’m going to quickly share the gospel and invite you to give your life to him today. During VBS, kids and families will be introduced to what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Gospel” means good news. What is do good about it?

  1. God Rules: The Bible tells us that God created everything, including you and me, and he is in charge of everything (Genesis 1:1, Revelation 4:11, Colossians 1:16-17)
  2. We Sinned: Since the time of Adam and Eve, everyone has chosen to disobey God (Romans 3:23). The Bible calls this sin. Because God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, we have a problem. Sin is that which separates up from God, no matter how hard we try to reach him. We deserve punishment and death (Romans 6:23).
  3. God Provided: To deal with our sin problem, God provided a way to forgive sin. Sin could not just be forgiven and swept under the rug, it has to be paid for. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve and could never pay on our own. Jesus saves us (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).
  4. Jesus Gives: Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead. Since he gave up his life for us, we can be welcomed into God’s forever family. This is the best gift ever (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18).

What can I do now? Learn Your ABCs

  1. Admit to God that you are a sinner. Tell God you messed up and are sorry for doing your own thing. Repent, and turn away from your sin and turn to God. Stop doing bad things and start doing good things. Turn to Jesus, the only one who can save you.
  2. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and receive his free gift of forgiveness from sin. Only Jesus can save us from our sin problem. Not even praying, going to church, or reading your Bible can save you. We trust in Jesus, his death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead to bring salvation.
  3. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Tell God and then tell others what you believe about Jesus. When Jesus is your Savior, you are trusting in him only for your salvation. He is your Savior and he is your Lord, Boss, and Master. You follow him because of what we read in the Bible. We are born again into new life and will be with God forever (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR YOU

  1. Noticed how many lives are Christian Life Begins with Faith (2 Peter 1:1–4)
    1. This faith is in a person (2 Peter 1:1–2) – our faith is never in a set of beliefs or doctrines, but in the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is a personal religious system that means nothing if God is an impersonal force or if salvation is based on believing or reciting a set of propositional truths.
    2. This faith involves God’s power (2 Peter 1:3) – How do we get everything we need for life and godliness, it is by his divine power. And God does not want us to be ignorant of him, so our faith is strengthened through knowledge of God and recognizing his glory.
    3. This faith involves God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4) – This book is full of precious and very great promises given for a reason, so we will escape the corruption that is in this world, and become a part of the divine nature.
  2. Faith Results in Spiritual Growth (2 Peter 1:5–9)
    1. The Path of Diligence – Positive (2 Peter 1:5-8)
      1. We must not only believe, we must behave (2 Peter 1:5a)
      2. We must not only have integrity, we must be informed (2 Peter 1:5b)
      3. We must not only be taught, we must be temperate (2 Peter 1:6a)
      4. We must not only be in possession, we must be patient (2 Peter 1:6b)
      5. We must not only be good, we must be godly (2 Peter 1:6c)
      6. We must not only be holy, we must be helpful (2 Peter 1:7a)
      7. We must not only be liberal (in kindness), we must be lovable (2 Peter 1:7b)
    2. The Path of Delusion – Negative (2 Peter 1:9) – if you lack these qualities, you are blind and short-sighted…
      1. We can lose sight of our condition (2 Peter 1:9a) – that our eyes have been opened to the reality of Christ
      2. We can lose sight of our conversion (2 Peter 1:9b) – that we are cleansed from our sins, meaning, some people are not acting like they are God’s people.
  3. Spiritual Growth Brings Practical Results (2 Peter 1:10–11)
    1. Steadfastness (2 Peter 1:10a) – be all the MORE diligent
      1. His Calling (2 Peter 1:10b) – to what has he called you? Giftedness, Serving, calling to Membership? Calling to Ministry?
      2. His Choosing (2 Peter 1:10c) – To be picked to play on his team. What is your position? What are you good at? What bring you joy as you do his work? What types of things do you do where people tell you that you really ministered to them?
    2. Stability (2 Peter 1:10d) – You will never stumble.
    3. Salvation (2 Peter 1:11) – Entrance into the eternal kingdom of Jesus, will be fully supplied.

Don’t you want to meet Jesus fully prepared and matured, rather than limping along like you’re nursing an old sports injury? Don’t let the world and its distractions keep you from all that God has for you. He has promised everything from the very beginning.

  • Don’t just sit in the stadium – you are not a spectator. Church is not a spectator sport.
  • Don’t dress out and just sit on the sidelines – be ready to get in the only game that counts.

 

The Significance of a Life of Faith

The Significance of a Life of Faith
John 4:43-54

Video Clip Introduction – A Leap of Faith – Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.
[ Here is the video clip and message ]

THAT is not necessarily faith. People use that phrase a lot, like, just take a leap of faith. We may even use the words, stepping out in faith, but more often than not, we can substitute the word HOPE or WISH, that something will happen.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether we are stepping out in faith or following some foolish impulse on our part.

First, I want to take a look at four things about true faith before we get into this passage:

Faith is COMMON – that means faith is universal. Everyone has faith. Atheists have faith, Buddhists have faith, Christians – everyone. You have never met anyone who was not a person of faith. However, what we have faith IN, well that’s the important difference.

Second, faith is CONVERSION. To have true faith in Jesus we have to switch our allegiances from old dependencies of this world and ourselves to Jesus. That is all about transformation. Those who have faith are transformed by the power of God. When you have faith, your Savior becomes Jesus rather than the false gods we embrace. Bud’s class on God’s at War is discussing all the false gods that we embrace and worship which prevents us from worshipping the true and living God.

Third, faith is CONTEMPLATIVE. This may seem to be a bit monk-ish, but here me out. Faith is a response to seeing and knowing Jesus. When we contemplate Christ, really dwell on him, mediate on him, we come to trust Him. Jesus said, “You may go, your son will live,” which is not what the man expected to hear. So, think about this for a moment. That which God speaks, happens. If you want greater faith, then contemplate Jesus.

Finally, faith is CONTINUAL. When we move out in faith, we find confirmation for our faith as we go through life. This is a continual and never-ending process of trusting Jesus, stepping out on the basis of that faith, finding confirmation, gaining more faith, and stepping out again. We begin to trust in the object of our faith, whom we know is totally trustworthy. This is the spiritual life and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Faith is continual.

So, what is it about this story that involves faith?

Last week was all about the woman at the well, and the story ended with the Samaritan woman testifying that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and many believed in him. John adds a great statement, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42).

Now we come to this episode in the life of Jesus, healing the official’s son, which is the second major “sign” of seven miracles which John used to reinforce Jesus’ true identity, with the goal of producing belief or faith in his readers (John 4:54).

In this story, Jesus scolded the official’s unbelief in needing a miraculous sign to trust in Christ (John 4:48). While some believe that this story is the same as the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5–13; Luke 7:2–10), There are sufficient differences to determine that this story is different from the synoptic gospels’ account.

  1. There is no evidence that the official was a Gentile.
  2. It is the official’s son, not his servant, who was healed.
  3. Jesus was far more negative regarding the official’s faith (John 4:48 – Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe) than the centurion’s (Matthew 8:10 – Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel).

So, let’s walk through this story and discover some spiritual truth about the significance of a life of faith. This was the second miracle John records in his book, (there are seven signs in his gospel).

  1. The PLACES (John 4:43-46a) – Jesus considers several things here at the beginning of the passage: The text tells us that after two eventful days in Samaria (the women at the well and the teaching about evangelism to the disciples), Jesus continues toward Galilee. First came this seemingly odd statement…
    1. That a prophet has no honor in his own hometown – It seems odd that Jesus quotes this old proverb here (John 4:44, also in Matthew 13:57). The scolding appears to be directed toward Judea, which was also his own country. Here was the reason…
    2. That the people were NOT excited about HIM but rather for what he had done for them (John 4:45)
      1. His reception is contrasted (between Samaria and Judea); Jerusalem gave him no honor, and his messianic claim was unwelcome, so much so that he did not entrust himself to the Jews (John 2:24-25).
      2. Basically, many had believed in HIM, but he did not believe in THEM. He did not entrust himself to them. Believe / entrust are the same Greek word.
      3. While many people eventually followed, they loved the miracles rather than the Messiah. This sets up the rest of the story…
  2. The PREDICAMENT (John 4:46b) This father came to Cana concerned about his sick son in Capernaum.
    1. Positive side – the man knew that he needed Jesus.
    2. Negative side – the man put Jesus in a box, limiting how God will work in the lives of people.
  3. The PLEA (John 4:47) – he begs Jesus to heal his son (a CRISIS of faith). This is the plea of every parent for a child. We can identify with his desperation (my Stephen story as an example).
    1. But the description of the situation reveals the man’s limited faith. The text says that the man implored him to “come down” and heal his son. The man had a weak faith and believed that he needed the actual presence of Jesus for the healing to happen.
    2. Contrast this situation with that town in Samaria where they believed in Jesus because of his words (John 4:42), while here they “believe” based on his deeds/miracles. So, this helps us to understand the seemingly harsh response in John 4:48.
  4. The PROBLEM (John 4:48) – Jesus fires back, as if he laments the fact that people demand that he perform miracles before they will believe in him.
    1. Is this not the same today? Unless God opens the sky to reveal himself, I will never believe.
    2. Signs indicated that the miracles were intended to convey a larger spiritual truth. Wonders would just draw attention to the miracle itself. Authentic faith does not need to be bolstered by miracles, and the Samaritans believed without their faith being propped up by something miraculous.
    3. But Jesus knew this man’s love for his son, as well as his weak faith, and this man needed something to strengthen his faith. God finds us where we are and gently leads us toward maturity and strength.
  5. The PERSISTENCE (John 4:49) – out of desperation, the father continues to seek help from Jesus, using the words as before, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
    1. Literally, “before my little boy dies.” Desperation leads to persistence.
    2. How often are we much more deeply involved and committed to prayer when we are desperate? When we are desperate, we don’t care how this looks to other people, or how foolish we might look, we need God to intervene and answer, and the whole thing will fail unless God shows up.
    3. When was the last time that you poured out your heart to God, recognizing there was nowhere else to turn? Let’s not wait until we are desperate; let our prayer be a part of an everyday life of faith.
  6. The PROMISE (John 4:50) – Jesus says that “the boy will live” (a CONFIDENT faith). With the promise and assurance of Jesus, now the man has to make a choice; essentially, to choose his next steps carefully.
  7. The PATH (John 4:50) – Jesus says to “go your way,” meaning return to your home and to your people. Jesus is forcing this father to believe without a miraculous sign.
    1. Notice that the man said COME and Jesus said GO. We cannot tell Jesus how to do his work; is he in charge or not? The man had to lay aside his expectations and let Jesus handle the situation.
    2. This desperate father had to choose between DOUBTING the man whom he placed his trust and hope, or BELIEVE Jesus, what he said, and go back home.
    3. The man’s confidence was so secure that he did not hurry back home but took his time. The 22-mile journey from Cana to Capernaum could have been done in one day, but all was well, he had confidence that everything was okay, and traveled back the following day (John 4:52). So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
    4. When was the last time you had to make a tough decision? How do you know which path to choose? Maybe both choices are equally good and appropriate, but you still have to choose.
    5. I love Isaiah 30:20-21 – Although the Lord has given you bread of adversity and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. 21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
  8. The PAYOFF (John 4:51-54) the PROOF – I see two things happening here:
    1. The physical restoration of the heir (John 4:51-53a) (a CONFIRMED faith). When the father heard the report and saw his son totally healed, his weak faith had been confirmed. Sometimes just a small step of faith is all it takes for God to open our eyes and let us see the world from his perspective.
    2. The spiritual restoration of the household (John 4:53b-54) (a CONTAGIOUS faith).
      1. How often and how long have you prayed for a lost family member? Weeks? Months? Years? If you are a follower of Jesus, entrust the salvation of your family to him. You may see no way for that person’s heart to open up to the gospel of Christ; but aren’t you glad that their salvation does not depend upon you? God loves your friend or family member way more than you ever could. Trust, believe, have faith, and leave the results up to HIM.
      2. YOUR life of faith will speak loudly to those whom the gospel has yet to be revealed or embraced.
      3. Throughout the book of Acts, people come to faith, and then the entire household gets saved (Acts 11:14, 16:15, 31, 18:8). It may not be instantly, as in these stories, but pray that God will do wonders in your family through you. Live a gospel-empowered life in front of them every day. This is the significance of a life of faith.

The movement of this father’s faith…

  1. A man having faith in Jesus’ POWER.
  2. A man having faith in Jesus’ PROMISE.
  3. A man having faith in Jesus’ PERSON.

Faith is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

What are some elements of authentic faith?

2 Timothy 1:12 – For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

  1. I KNOW = there is knowledge (head knowledge versus experiential knowledge) and there is assurance (one cannot be sold out to Jesus if you are not sure of several things, like, Jesus is the only way, that he can be trusted, that God’s Word is true and authoritative.
  2. WHOM = he did not believe in a set of principles or doctrines, but a person.
  3. I HAVE BELIEVED = there is confidence (perfect tense meaning action begun and completed in the past and the effects continue even now)
  4. I am CONVINCED = there is assent or approval (we can stake our whole life on the trustworthiness of Jesus and his word)
  5. I have COMMITTED or entrusted = there is volition (willfully putting my life into his care and protection). Paul was confident of God’s control and encouraged Timothy that while he was in prison, had lost everything, he had not lost his faith. Trust God when life is hard. Have unwavering confidence and boldness. Paul entrusted (put down a deposit) that God is able to keep us saved.

Hebrews. 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

How significant is faith? Without faith it is impossible to please God.

  1. We must BELIEVE.
    1. That he exists.
    2. That he is a rewarder.
  2. We must diligently SEEK him (see Jeremiah 29:13 – you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart).

So, faith is active, we exercise it, it is not something that we passively accept or simply believe.

It is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

Fully Engaged in My Church

In the book, unChristian, I discovered that Christianity has an image problem. We just heard random people on the street talk about their impressions of the church. They’re talking about us. We are boring, hypocritical, deceptive, interested more in conversion than the person themselves, too political, anti-choice and anti-women, anti-homosexual… like we’re known more for what we are against than what we stand for. The question of the day is, “What would anyone in our society want to be connected to the church, much less become fully engaged?” I hope I am able to come up with an answer over the next 15 minutes.

Last week the message was on the importance of being fully engaged with God, so this week I’m going to talk about the local church being the key to our engagement with God!

The key verse: 2 Chronicles 16:9 – The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

There is power in a fully committed life, but what does it actually look like?

  1. Careful student of Scripture
  2. Zealous and active in their stand for God
  3. Appetite for worship and prayer
  4. Consistent in worship attendance
  5. Practices Scripture memorization
  6. Not afraid to pray in public
  7. Active in the local church
  8. Fasts and tithes regularly
  9. Has desire to stand against blasphemy and ungodliness
  10. Has firm grasp of basic foundational theological truth

For a long time I thought this is what would honor God and help me become more like Jesus, to become fully engaged with God and my church. But look again; these 10 behavior traits don’t look much like the disciples. I dare say they are not of Jesus’ disciples at all, but of his chief opponents, the Pharisees. Perhaps you’ll take a look at this post on What Does a Disciple Look Like?

I’m convinced that real-life discipleship (becoming more like Jesus in character and attitude) is what happens between the gathering times at church. What are people like at home, at school, in the lunchroom, in the office, on dates, at parties, in the locker room, in the boardroom, on the computer, or at the after-school job? What are they like when no one is looking? Do they demonstrate unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, concern for others, kindness, servanthood?

I also believe that real-life discipleship is also marked more by footprints than by monuments. For me, discipleship focuses on long-term commitments rather than a one-time decision to “accept Christ” or to become a Christian. It involves forward motion, a journey, a marathon. People may look at imperfection and failures of so-called Christians, but remember that the word disciple means learner, not expert.

At the beginning I want to remind you that we need to develop what I call firsthand faith. This is not faith inherited from parents, or Sunday school teachers or the pastor, but we take ownership of our own faith. Once faith becomes firsthand, it transforms into a conviction that will not be swayed by competing worldviews or other religions. Is there little wonder why teenagers often leave the faith when they leave home, or graduate God after they graduate high school?

Perhaps the church must stop trying to cram our bags with only the right beliefs and make us carry it because they said so. Rather, we should use questions and strategies that help people unpack the baggage they’ve been carrying. Re-examine the faith they have and discover why it’s in there.

So, how do you know that you are living out your own faith? I found a Gallup poll from October 2004 which described church members and non-members and their spiritual commitments, do they “strongly agree” to these nine factors.

  1. I spend time in worship or prayer every day.
  2. My faith is involved in every aspect of my life.
  3. Because of my faith, I have forgiven people who have hurt me deeply.
  4. Because of my faith, I have meaning and purpose in my life.
  5. My faith has called me to develop my given strengths.
  6. I will take unpopular stands to defend my faith.
  7. My faith gives me an inner peace.
  8. I speak words of kindness to those in need of encouragement.
  9. I am a person who is spiritually committed.

On the chart, notice that 39% spend time in worship or prayer on a daily basis, and 62% treat others with kindness or encouragement. Gallup also discovered that 90% of Americans believe in God or a higher power, yet as we see here, so few of them spend much time communicating with this God or higher power.

Overall, the results are that 22% of church members and only 3% of non-members are described as fully committed. The bottom line is that there is a disconnect between faith and practice in America.

So, what does it take to become fully engaged, sold out follower of Jesus in my church? I hope that this list will be something you use to evaluate yourself… “do I have this action, am I doing it, am I not doing it?

1. I take responsibility daily for my spiritual growth.

Key phrases: Take Responsibility, let’s say it together. Once more.

Think about a brand new baby, we have to do everything: feed, change, clean. Babies need someone to help them grow, but there comes a point when they have to be responsible for their own growth. Bethany’s hungry, when she was little I had to do everything, but now she can walk to the refrigerator and get something all by herself.

Can you imagine your child when he or she was in a high chair? It’s fine when they’re two, but now that they are 35 it’s a little weird. A lot of Christians are like this… feed me, feed me! It’s like they still want to be in the high chair, but it has turned into an “I” chair, because they really think it’s all about me, and what I can get. So, that’s the first step of becoming fully engaged with my church.

James 4:8 – Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

How do you start? Draw close to God, instead of living this divided life. Listen, you are as close to God right now as you want to be. God is not playing hide and seek.

2. I practice contentment in all areas of my life.

I am basically asking if you are satisfied with your life. Surveys show us that Americans are a pretty dissatisfied group. We are always discontent; climbing the corporate ladder, finding the right spouse, driving the better car, buying the next iPhone or gadget.

So, on a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your marriage, relationships, job, career, where you live? Notice that discontentment comes when we can’t enjoy the NOW because we are too stuck in the past or too focused on the future. I have struggled with this, coming from Chatham and the small town life to the busyness of Virginia Beach. I could walk to the church, to Hargrave Military Academy where I taught, to my favorite Mexican restaurant right on main street.

Others look in the other direction, into the future, so they are not content in the present. They are not fully engaged in the church because they know they are stationed here for a short time and know they will move, so why get more involved? Besides, it hurts when we make friends only to leave in a short time, so why risk the pain?

Philippians 4:12 – I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

Do not let the past or the future rob you of the joy and contentment your have today!

3. I serve others and not just attend church.

Here is where it gets practical; from taking responsibility and contentment to something very practical. Service is a very real path to engagement in my church. Serving others is also the Jesus path to greatness.

John 12:26 – Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

So, how are you serving Jesus? You start by volunteering to meet needs… preschool help, Operation Inasmuch, setting up for classes, teaching a class, making phone calls, folding letters, chaperoning a youth event.

There are plenty of people in this congregation that always step up to the plate when there is a need, and others that always seem to let others step up. They say people in our society desire anonymity when it comes to church, but that is not what church is about, it is about community, faith, and love.

What must we do if we desire greatness? Here is what Jesus said…

Matthew 23:11 – The greatest among you must be a servant.

4. I invite people to come to my church.

Inviting people does not always mean they will come. But are you generally excited about what God is doing here? Do you see lives changed? Needs met? Purpose realized? Coming to understand a spiritual truth when you finally get it, it just clicks?

Do we really believe that people are lost without hope if they reject the good news of Christ? Sometimes we just get comfortable with our small group and are not interested in growing. We always say that we want to grow, but what steps do we take to actually grow, what sacrifices do we make to help growth to happen?

Do you pray for lost people you know? Do you stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone? When was the last time you took a step a faith and actually “got out of the boat” because Jesus was out of the boat walking on the water?

Colossians 4:2-6 – Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

How are you doing with the checklist? Responsibility, Contentment, Service, Inviting people? The last item is a very practical step.

5. I bring my tithe to God each week.

The Bible tells us that what you do with your money is the one initial and greatest signs of your engagement with God! Let me illustrate.

When Stephen was young, we would occasionally eat out at fast food places. It happened that I finished my fries, none left, and saw Stephen had quite a few on his tray, so I reached over and took a few. To my surprise he objected, “Those are mine.”

  • Did he not know that I’m the one who bought him the fries in the first place? Perhaps next time I would not buy any fries at all, then where would he be?
  • Does he know realize that I can go up to the counter and buy more fries than he could possibly eat?
  • Does he underestimate my strength? I could just take all of his fries away from him. So, what’s up with, “Those are mine?”

In the church, it’s like God saying to us, “If you want me to bless your life, just share your fries.” And we just cross our arms and say – no. God just wants 10% and for us to realize that we wouldn’t have anything if it were not for Him.

Malachi 3:10 – Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

  • Bring – Bring (as Paul says, on the first day of the week – 1 Corinthians 16:2) what you have purposed in your heart, don’t rob God of what He requires.
  • All the tithe – Ten percent, not a potion of what is left over at the end of the month.
  • Into the storehouse – This represents the church, so don’t split it up between several worthy causes. Support other causes with your offerings, not your tithe.
  • Put Me to the test – See what happens as we honor God in this area; a blessing so great we won’t know what to do with it.

Ultimately, this is not a money issues, it is a heart issue. Jesus said that where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

So, these are the fruits of an engaged life. Taking responsibility, experiencing contentment, serving God and others through the church, inviting people into the fellowship, and bringing the tithe to God each week. How are you in all these areas? What is the fruit of your life? Do you have all five? Which one can you work on this week?

Matthew 7:16-17 – You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

I trust you will step out in faith today and bear the fruit that God desires and deserves.

Embrace the Master’s Plan

Jesus is the greatest example of leadership ever known. He had a plan to reach the world with his message of freedom and forgiveness, but left the whole thing into the hands of 12 ordinary men. How did he do it? What was his plan? What was his plan B? How does one take a grand idea, develop a plan, and implement such a bold proposal?

My primary verse for today is Luke 6:40.

1. Selection – his men were his method (Luke 6:13 – he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles). He was not concerned with programs to reach the multitudes but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Jesus gathered these men long before he developed any evangelistic campaign, or even preached a single sermon. People were the method our Lord chose to win the world to himself. Jesus literally staked his whole ministry on these twelve men.

Jesus chose men willing to learn – those chosen were not impressive. None held positions of authority or power, in society or in the synagogue. They were for the most part common, laboring men. They were unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13) but they were teachable.

Jesus concentrated on a few – no one can transform the world, unless they are individuals who are transformed. Individuals cannot be transformed unless they are moldable in the hands of the Master. Jesus had many followers, but when the teaching got hard, many no longer followed him (John 6:66). But his closest disciples could not miss the purpose of Jesus, they stuck with him.

Jesus did not neglect the masses – he preached to crowds, healed many, cast out demons, fed thousands, blessed their children, and ministered to their physical needs. Jesus loved them, wept over them, and finally died to save them. So, why not capitalize on the crowds rather than end up with a few ragged disciples to show for his effort? Because Jesus was not trying to impress the crowds, he was trying to usher in a mew kingdom. This means that he would need a few committed followers to lead the multitudes. How can he stir up the masses if he had no supervision and leadership in place? The point? Everything done with a few is for the salvation of the multitudes.

2. Association – he stayed with them (Matthew 28:20 – I am with you always, even to the end of the age).

Jesus made a practice of being with his disciples (Mark 3:14). This was the training program of Jesus. There was no college, seminary, online course, periodic membership class, or Sunday School. Amazingly, all Jesus did was to draw men to himself. HE was his own school and curriculum.

“To know” is “to be with” – knowledge was gained by association before long before it was understood by explanation. This makes sense when we remember the question from Thomas in John 14:5-6. He can we know the way? To which Jesus replies that the question has already been answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” just open your eyes to the spiritual and incarnation reality in front of them.

It takes time – this close and constant association meant that Jesus had virtually no time to call his own. Like little children under the feet of their father clamoring for attention, the disciples were always underfoot of the Master.

It is not easy – building men and women is not easy, it requires constant personal attention. Children are not raised by proxy, Jesus taught that discipleship can only be done by staying close to those we lead. We cannot relegate this ministry to some church program and expect it to be effective. It takes intentional mentorship, care, time, and attention. We never birth babies and leave them to themselves, so, every new convert needs a Christian friend to follow until such a time that he or she can lead another person in discipleship. It takes people, not programs.

3. Consecration – he required obedience (Matthew 11:29 – take my yoke upon you).

Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, knowledgeable, or talented, but they had to be loyal. This was their distinguishing mark, after all, disciple means “learner” or “pupil.” It was not until much later that they were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

The way of the cross – following Jesus seemed easy at first, but that was because they had not followed him very far. Being a follower was not about the joy of finding the Messiah, but it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master and submitting to his authority. There would be no compromise, which was a very hard teaching, and not many were willing to pay the price (John 6:25-29).

Counting the cost – those who would not go all the way would fall by the wayside, and Jesus let them go. He did not have time, nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to create their own terms of discipleship. People cannot come to God on their own terms.

Demonstrated by Jesus – absolute obedience to the will of God was the controlling factor in Jesus’ life, the passion week before the cross was no different. His human nature gave consent to the will of the Father, which made it possible for God to use his life fully according to its intended purpose. It is God’s will for us to accomplish his intended work for us (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 15:10, 17:4).

The “parental” example – a father must teach his children to obey him if he expects his children to be like him. In the church, no one can be a leader until he or she has first learned to be a follower.

4. Impartation – he gave himself away (John 20:22 – he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit).

Jesus wanted his followers to obey him, but in recognizing this truth, his disciples would discover the deeper experience of the Holy Spirit. In receiving the Spirit they would know the love of God for a lost and dying world. They knew they were not just keeping the law, but were responding to the one who loved them, and was willing to die for them.

The compulsion of evangelism – that is why Jesus wasted no time to impress on his followers his own deep compulsion of the love of God for a lost world. Everything he did was motivated by this passion.

It is only the Holy Spirit who enables us to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism – Jesus always worked in cooperation with the Spirit.

Evangelism is never a human undertaking, but a divine process from the beginning to the end. The Spirit is our comforter, paraclete, our advocate, he comes along side of us to minister through us.

Always remember that we cannot give something away that we do not first possess ourselves. When we have the Spirit of Christ, it is that Spirit that insists that Christ be made known.

5. Demonstration – he showed them how to live (John 13:15 – I have given you an example).

Jesus was determined that his followers would learn his way of living with God and others. He needed to get across to them the secrets of his spiritual influence… like…

His prayer life – they could see the strength that prayer gave to his life, they saw it and wanted it, too. It wasn’t a ritualistic practice but a way to communing with the Father. It was based on relationship rather than a wish list.

His use of Scripture – he often impressed on his followers the meaning of ancient texts and how it was relevant to everyday life.

His evangelism – he was concerned for the souls of people and took opportunities to talk with people about forgiveness and everlasting life.

His teaching – Jesus had many lessons for the disciples to learn, and class was always in session. His explanation of parables is a great example.

6. Delegation – he assigned them work (Matthew 4:19 – I will Make you fishers of men).

Jesus was always building toward the time when his disciples would take over the work and ministry in the world.

He would make them fishers of men – face it, no one likes to be told what to do, or be made to do anything.

His first invitation to the disciples (to follow him) said nothing about going out to evangelize the world, although that was Jesus’ plan from the beginning. His method was to get them into a vital experience with God, showing them how it worked, before telling them they had to do it.

Before letting them go out to minister, Jesus would give briefing instruction about their mission. He outlined what to expect, what to say, and what to do (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9).

They needed to expect hardship – and often warned them about how they would be treated, yet his encouragement was always, “fear not,” because God would never desert them.

On a practical level, we have the same commission to be all about the task of being his witness to the world.

7. Supervision – he checked on them (Mark 8:17 – Do you still not see or understand?).

Jesus met with them following their tours of service to hear their reports and to share what God did through them. He rotated between instruction and assignment.

There were questions, illustrations, and warnings to help them understand what they were experiencing. All these were designed to help them fulfill their work of building the kingdom in this world.

There was continuous review and application to bring out the significance of the events or teaching into their lives. This was on-the-job training at its best.

Supervision helped the disciples continue toward the goal he had set for them. He did not expect more from his disciples that they could do, but he did expect them to do their best. Supervision is longer than expected; but we need to develop maturity to the point that one day we will be able to carry on alone, and lead others to come with us.

8. Reproduction – he expected them to reproduce (John 15:16 – I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last).

Reproduction is God’s way for the church to duplicate itself. Through them and others like us, the plan would continue to expand God’s kingdom by reaching the multitudes, one by one.

Victory through witnessing – many of his followers would suffer persecution and martyrdom, but with the end in mind, ultimate victory was certain.

The Great Commission – this is given to disciples of Jesus, not an organization called “the church.” We are to make disciples, and we should strive to embrace the Master’s plan to get it done.

Pray for workers to go into the harvest – this phrase is almost stated in desperation, but in context, it really is a desperate situation to reach people with the gospel. Today, we make the same plea knowing how much needs to get done and how few will step up to do it.

How will people be won to Christ? Through prayer, and gathering fellow laborers. The gospel is the hope of the world, so will we remove every barrier? Repent of every excuse or from our apathy?

Ken has been teaching about vision over the past several weeks, but vision is not just in theory. We need to embrace the vision to help build the kingdom of God here in our community.

Community. Faith. Love. People always take priority over programs or preferences.

  • We must mend and restore relationships: relationships with God and with others, resulting in COMMUNITY (member)
  • We must establish and lay a foundation toward spiritual maturity and effective ministry (FAITH is what guides us toward the ministry he has for us). (minister)
  • We must embrace the task of being sent out with a lifestyle of being on mission. It is the LOVE of Christ that compels us to live this out every day. (mission)

Methods vary but our mission always remains the same – it has been said, “marry the mission, but date the methods.” Are we willing to do WHATEVER it takes to reach people we are currently not reaching? It could be that we need to “do things no one is doing” in order to reach people no one is reaching. It sounds scary. It sounds like change.

Will we embrace the Master’s plan and be the church that he has called us to be?

[ Outline from Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism ]