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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 1
TOPICS: Church On Purpose, Discipleship

I wanna continue the idea we picked up last week talking about "Church on purpose". You know, if you just walked into church and never been in a church before, it might be easy to deduce that we gathered to sing songs and listen to presentations that is just kind of a random occurrence that happens from time to time. But the truth is, church is God's idea, Jesus is the head of the church, and he is the one that is establishing his church in the earth and my understanding is the church is every bit as intentional as all of God's creation. Our world is not an accident, life on our planet is not an accident and the church of Jesus Christ is more than just a random set of occurrences. And I think one of the ways we honor the Lord and we learn to cooperate with the Lord is to learn to let his purposes emerge in the church.

So we're taking two or three weeks to unpack that idea a little bit. And I wanna start in the Book of Job because if you're doing the Bible reading with us, we're just wrapping up the Book of Job. I hope you're doing that. Part of our discipleship journey together here is every year we read through our Bibles. It's about a ten minute investment a day, maybe 15 minutes and we do a daily Bible reading, and between January and December we read through the whole Bible. It's a life changing event. If you haven't yet signed up for that I would encourage you to put it into your daily routine. I know a few things that will make the impact on your spiritual life is a regular routine investment in the Word of God.

If you imagine yourself a Christ follower and you haven't read your Bible, you're confused. I love you, you're just confused. And we're just finishing the Book of Job. Now that's a lovely little read, isn't it? Little lighthearted bedtime snack for your intellect. Is it safe to say Job went through a tough season? Maybe a bit of an understatement. Job is not an easy book to sort out, it brings a lot of questions to mind when you read it. Makes you wanna get new friends. But I wanna take just a couple of verses for the end of Job to put it into context and then maybe we'll move forward. But it says, "The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold".

I had to look for a one sentence summary for the Book of Job that's probably as good a sentence as I could pull out a book. At the end of the story, Job's in a better place than he was at the beginning. Now, the reality of Job's life and the reality of our lives is there are things that come to us that we would just assume kept on moving. Difficulties, hardships, tragedies, unfortunate events, things that we didn't program or plan for, they touch all of our lives. None of us avoids that, nobody gets through life without going through that stuff. That's not negative, that is not pessimistic that is reality. It's like saying it's gonna be humid in Tennessee in the summertime. That's not negative, that's just telling you what to expect when you leave the air conditioning. God bless air conditioning.

And Job faced those tragedies, what intrigues me is the pathway out of that circumstance. It says, "The Lord restored the fortunes of Job," when? When's the timing, when he did what? When he prayed for his friends. See Job's life unraveled, he lost everything. Ultimately, he even lost his health, and then his friends rolled in and his friends weren't much help, were they? They kinda piled on. They had easy answers for Job and with rather harsh, intense language, they attribute most of Job's problems to his own choices and his own life. They didn't provide much encouragement or support or a pathway out of that. And then God shows up at the end of the book and he says to Job's friends, "You have spoken wrongly. You weren't right". But then he turns to Job and said, "Now you're gonna answer to me".

Hello. But Job's response intrigues me and it brought him to a better place. It says he prayed for his friends. It would've easy to have been resentful, bitter, angry, filled with hate to traded him in for a new set, there were many things Job could've done. He could have been a victim of his circumstances and entrenched in self-pity. There were so many, many things Job could've done as he prayed for his friends. And I pause with it a moment because I wanna put the invitation in front of you today. In the challenges, and the difficulties, and the hurdles, and all the stuff that rolls into life for all of us, how are you responding? You're angry, embittered, resentful. You're wrapped up in self-pity? What's your response? I believe if we can pray for the people around us, it provides a pathway for God to do something in us that brings us to a better place.

Look at the last sentence, verse 12 says, "The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels". The specifics there, I'm not sure that's a blessing. You go home this afternoon and there's 6,000 camels in your yard, I'm not sure you're gonna call that the blessing of the Lord. So I'll take the summary statement at the beginning of that verse. It says that, "The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning". He finished well, isn't that what we wanna do? And the pathway to do that is being careful to keep your accounts short, to not let those things gravitate inappropriately into your heart. Difficulties come, obstacles come, uninvited things come, some of it sponsored by evil, some of it tolerated by the Lord. It's not always easy to understand why and if you spend your life with the why question, you will forfeit the blessing and the momentum of God. But if we will turn our hearts to the Lord, I believe he will enable us to finish well, amen.

Now, if you'll skip with me in your outline to Roman numeral number two, this is the fourth service of the weekend, you are the beneficiaries of the earlier versions. I've got more outline than I have time, and we're gonna skip the Roman numeral number two. You can send those people that came last night a sympathy note, they suffered in the name of Jesus. At the heart of our faith, at the heart of being a Christ follower, is this notion of following Jesus. I grew up in a barn in Tennessee, I like things to be simple. And you know, we make Christianity more complex than it has to be. We are by definition Christ followers. We follow Jesus. More than we're church attenders, more than we're moralist, more than we're about ethics or religious rules, or locations on Sunday morning, we are followers of Jesus.

Look with me at Matthew chapter 16. It says, "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hand of the elders, the chief priest, the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life". It says Jesus is explaining to his disciples what's ahead of them. Now, by the time Matthew writes this, we're three years into Jesus's ministry so he's Peter, and James, and John, and Mary, and the crew that have been with Jesus, have been with him for three years, they've had a lot of experience, they've watched Jesus minister, they've been entrusted to go out and minister themselves. They've seen him still a storm, walk on water, feed a multitude, raise the dead to life. I mean, they have some experience with Jesus, and they're on their way to Jerusalem and Jesus is explaining to them what is to come.

Now I wanna ask you a question and it's not a trick. This is the best of the best. Jesus recruited them, they're men and women of solid character, men and women who have been trained by Jesus himself, they've been exposed to more dramatic supernatural God interventions than any group of people I could imagine that ever have. Here's the question, if they were left to themselves without Jesus's direction, what would they have been? Even with that set of characteristics, even with their experiences, even without Jesus's direction, what would they have been? I would submit to you, they would've been a group of well-intentioned people engaged in just random activity. Well-intentioned people engaged in random activity. But with the headship of Jesus, with the leadership of Jesus, they are accomplishing the purposes of God in the earth and will change their generation in a way that impacts us until today. That's what makes the church unique. The Church of Jesus Christ is a group of men and women on planet earth engaged in activities directed by our Lord Jesus Christ. He's the head of the church.

Now his spirit is Lord in the church, but Jesus is the head of the church, and we are followers of Jesus. We don't just do good, we're not just engaged in expressions of human kindness, we don't just serve our communities, we serve at the direction of Jesus of Nazareth. We go into our offices, and classrooms, and factories, and Job sites, and our neighborhoods. Wherever God takes us under the direction of Jesus. We need a couple of definitions they'll be helpful for our discussion. When we talk about the church, we're talking about a global initiative. Before we had multinational corporations, before we had the internet and we talked about globalization. The church of Jesus Christ was a global initiative. It includes men and women from every tribe, nation, race and language who have acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God, and have chosen him as Lord of their life and serve him as king, that's the Church with a capital C and we're a part of that, now that's exciting.

One day we will gather before the throne of Almighty God the creator of heaven and earth, with people from every nation, race, language, and tribe. Isn't that exciting? So when we talk about Church with a capital C, we're talking about that global initiative in our generation and through all generations of those men and women who have chosen to serve God. We also have to talk about church with a small c, a local congregation such as this. Now we don't imagine we're the only church in our community, or the only right church, or even the best church, but we are an expression of the church in this community and when we talk about church, we have to talk about church the big initiative and we have to talk about church, our own initiative 'cause no single congregation fully represents the total body of Christ.

We are an expression of that. And local congregations are different. They're different in the places they stand and the circumstances in which they serve. The church in Murfreesboro is very different than a church in Baghdad or a church in Damascus, and to deny that reality is a naivete that we can't afford. So understanding what God asks of us as his church in the earth and as a congregation in a community, are very important questions. And the beginning answer to both of those is to remember that Jesus is the head of the church. And the only thing that takes our activities and gives it meaning and purpose, is to understand the one whom we follow. We are an expression of his will and his purpose in the earth. Do we always do it perfectly? No, but we're working on it. And let's push on in this narrative.

Verse 22, "Peter took Jesus aside and he began to rebuke him, 'Never, Lord! This will never happen to you!'" This is kind of interesting. Peter's been with Jesus for three years. But I want you to try to imagine with me this little dialogue, it's important to get the characters and on one side of the discussion, we have the creator of all things, the incarnate Son of God, the water walking, wine making, dead raising, eye-opening, storm stopping, Jesus. And he's just explained to his disciples, his disciples, they are under his discipline. He's just explained to his disciples what's next? And Peter takes him aside.

Now, the Bible doesn't say, but in my imagination, Peter's got his finger out. "Lord, this will never happen to you". Can you imagine taking Jesus aside and say, "I need to help you a little bit. Clearly you've got a little too much exposure to the sun, you got a bad idea going here, Lord. I mean I know you know, you put the stars in space, but could I help you with your plan for what's next a little bit"? I mean, it's absurd when you look at it from that perspective. But when I put it in the context of my own life, it's far too common. How many times have I said to the Lord, "Lord, could I help you a little bit here? Your planning for what's next is clearly all messed up. And if you'll listen to me, I will get this straight for you". How many times have I shaken my fist at the Lord and said, "If you would just listen to me, we'll get an outcome"?

I know you've never done that but pray for me, it's a struggle sometimes. And we've got that scenario happening here with Peter and it says Jesus turned to Peter and said, "That's a great idea, let's cancel the cross". What would happen if God had taken all of our suggestions? Some of us would have been married 60 times. We'd have 40 cars in the garage. Our lives would be a mess, wouldn't they? Nobody's moving on that one, okay. "Jesus turned and said, 'Peter, get behind me Satan! You're a stumbling block to me; you don't have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'" What's the point of distraction there? There's two pathways. He said, "You don't have in mind the things of God, you have in mind the things of men".

What we increasingly want to give reflection to in our lives is the things of God. What we're uniquely vulnerable to, is our own carnal earthly choices. And learning to allow the Spirit of God, to give the things of God a precedence, a priority in our lives, is really at the heart of being a Christ follower. And then the promise in verse 24, "Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must,'" you ought to circle those two little words. It's not an option, it's not one plan of many, if you're gonna be a disciple of Jesus, "You must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me". There's three components there. A denial of ourselves, a taking up of a cross, a cross isn't about jewelry or ornamentation, it's a place of execution, it's a place of forfeiture, "And follow me". To be Christ's followers means Jesus is the head and we follow him.

Now how do you become a part of the church? By joining a local congregation, by keeping a set of religious rules, by sitting in a particular location on a Sunday morning at a specific time. It's an important question. Because the kingdom of God in time and eternity is going to be populated by God's people. So knowing how to become a part of the people of God is important. Is it a particular race of people? Is it about a hair color, an eye shape? Well, the Bible gives us information in the clearest of ways. In Romans chapter 10 verse and 9, it says, "If you confess with your mouth, that 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved".

Or if you read it in the Living Bible, it says, "If you confess with your mouth that 'Jesus is Lord,' and put a magnet on the back of your car, you'll be saved". Not really. "Confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you'll be saved". That word saved in the New Testament, has more to do with just an eternal destiny, it's about your physical wholeness, your emotional wellbeing. It's about your total life that a relationship with Jesus changes your total person so that the doorway into the Church, capital C Church, is through a person. It's not about an institution, an organization, a denomination or a theological perspective. It's not even about Sunday morning. It's about a person. It means you believe Jesus of Nazareth.

And we use the reference point because there were many men named Jesus in the first century. I'm quite certain there was a Jesus in Bethlehem and a Jesus in Capernaum, but Jesus of Nazareth, we believe he was the Son of God, the incarnate Son of God. That God sent his Son to the earth, that he got an earth suit, that he died bodily on a cross, that he was raised to life again, that he ascended to heaven, and he's coming back to the earth as the judge of the living and the dead, and he will rule and reign on earth, amen. The ultimate solution to human suffering is the Prince of Peace. When we advocate for the expansion of the church and an expanded influence of Jesus, it's the only ultimate alleviation to human suffering.

That's not coming through the UN. Not opposed to the UN, it's just not gonna fix the problem. But the church is comprised of every individual that has chosen that they believe Jesus is Lord. Now establishing that as a historical fact doesn't make you a part of the church. You can say, "I believe there was a man named Jesus. He was a miracle worker, he was a healer, he was a great teacher, he was an initiator of a religion". You can believe all those things and you still stand apart from the kingdom of God. The line of demarcation is when you believe that set of things, and you choose Jesus as Lord of your life. Because Lordship is about priority. It means he gets to establish the priorities for our lives. We follow him. When you do that the Bible describes what happens to us as a birth. Jesus said, we have to be born again, a new birth. Just as you are physically born onto planet earth, the way you become a participant in the kingdom of God, the Church, capital C is through a birth, you are born into it.

Now, when you're born into the world physically, you come and you get you're a starter set. That's the normal way to come nothing wrong with that. And the starter set is by definition pretty self-absorbed. All of their communication is about me. I cry, feed me. I cry, change me. I cry, hold me. I cry more, rock me. I won't stop crying take me for a ride in the car see if I'll pass out. That's not wrong or inappropriate or evil, new arrivals are not supposed to be considerate of those around them. No mother with a newborn walks into where the baby's crying and say, "You're being very inconsiderate, I'm watching television". It's wasted effort. They're not equipped to be considerate, they don't have the ability yet to interact with their world in a more mature way. That will come, but we don't arrive with that.

Now with maturing and good parenting, those little arrival units become human beings and they gain an awareness of the world around them and their responsibilities to the world around them, and how to care for themselves and to interact with others. Well, the same pattern is true spiritually. We are birthed into the kingdom of God and it's all about us. This is what I was, this is who I am, let me tell you my story. Don't you wanna hear my story? Don't you wanna see my pictures? Let me tell you it's all about me. Help me, feed me, hold me, rock me, care for me, here I am. Not inappropriate it's how we all begin. But if you will allow the Spirit of God to help you, you'll begin to mature and grow up. And you'll gain the ability to recognize and interact with the world around you, to be an advocate for Jesus beyond just your selfish initiatives and your self-awareness. And we become a part of the body of Christ.

Now unfortunately, I think professional Christians like myself have sometimes overemphasized that beginning point, the new birth, salvation, conversion, whatever label you use, and we have deemphasized growing up in the Lord. I wanna tell you, the point of being birthed is that you can grow to maturity. You do not want to spend your days on earth as an infant in Christ and show up at the gates of heaven with a pacifier, and pampers, and a rattle. "I'm here". Yes, we've been watching you and anticipated your arrival. When the Lord extends to you a hand with a nail print, I would submit you at least wanna extend a hand with a callous, growing up in the Lord.

Now you can help any person take that step into the kingdom of God. We just read it in Romans 10. It says, "You can believe in your heart and confess with your mouth and you can be saved". It's a simple little expression, three or four sentences will catch it. "God, I'm a sinner and I need a Savior. I believe Jesus is your Son. Forgive me of my sin. I forgive those who sinned against me. Jesus, be Lord of my life. I wanna live to honor you". The Bible says when you make that set of statements and you believe it within you, that something supernatural happens to you. In fact, the Bible describes it in the most dramatic of ways. It says that "The same spirit that brought Jesus to life from the grave goes to work in you and me". He was arrested, betrayed, broken, beaten beyond recognition, crucified on a Roman cross, buried in a tomb, and the Spirit of God brought him to life again.

And when you make that profession, that same power is released on your behalf, something supernatural happens. I will invite people to pray that prayer with me in a whole host of circumstances. If they come and they're sick and they want a prayer to be better, I'll often lead them, if I don't know them well, I'll lead them in that prayer as a part of their healing prayer. If they're battling fear, or uncertainty, or a broken heart, invite people to pray that prayer with you, it unleashes the Spirit of God in their life. We don't have to have a fully formed theology of healing to benefit from God's power. We don't have to explain how the Spirit of God mends a broken heart, but we can invite people to the cross of Jesus Christ, to make Jesus Lord of their life and the Spirit of God will bring wholeness to them. The church is an agent of inviting people towards transformation in the earth. That's not pastor's responsibility, that's us.

Now, just as certainly as Jesus recruited disciples in the first century to follow him, he's recruited us. Now it wasn't a personal recruitment in a physical way, but his Spirit has invited you and me to be followers of Jesus and to impact our generation just like he did, Peter, James, and John. Let's ask him to help us do that in a way that's pleasing to him. Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would cause us to be attentive to your Spirit, that we might fulfill the assignment you created us for just as certainly as our friends from the pages of the scripture did, in Jesus's name, amen.

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