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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Jesus' Disciples - Part 2
TOPICS: Church On Purpose, Discipleship

Went to Sam's yesterday. It was getting ready to rain. I was on assignment. I was hurrying, and I had my list. You got the picture? I wasn't in church clothes. I was in shorts. I was incognito, pushing my cart down the aisle, doing my best to not pay attention, and I looked up and there was three kids coming down the aisle, and I recognized them, and they recognized me. And they began looking for mom, and they delivered mom. So we're having a little moment. And we're about done with our interaction, and grandma catches up.

Now, I didn't know grandma. And the kids and mom have moved off. And grandma said, "Would you pray for my other daughter? She's had a stroke. Would you put her on a list at church"? And I said, "We'd be happy to do that, but couldn't we pray right now"? And out of the corner of my eye I saw the kids start to flinch. But we just joined hands and dropped our errands right there in the middle of Sam's, God and everybody, and we prayed. And I said amen and released them, and I looked up and there was somebody on the other side of the aisle that I knew from church, and they said, "Did you have a little 'Let's pray' moment, Pastor"? I said, "We did as a matter of fact. I hope you have one before you get out of here".

Church isn't when we gather in a building on Sunday morning; it's us taking the invitation of Jesus into the world where he takes us. Amen. And it begins with a birth when you make that decision, not when you become a participant in a local congregation, but it's continued. The next step in your obedience is about a bath. The Bible calls it water baptism, to get dunked, plunged, pushed under. It completes what happens with that profession of faith that you make in Jesus. Baptism isn't something we do for God. In the pool of baptism, God does something for us.

The reason we're advocates for water baptism is it opens your life to the power of God. Obedience to Jesus always brings greater freedom to you. It's not about joining a local congregation. It's not about a fiberglass baptistry in the church. Since we've been a congregation, I had participated in baptisms in the Jordan River, in the Stones River, in creeks, in the pools in apartment complexes, in the pools in people's backyards, in the spa in a health club. We put a baptistry in the church. The first one we put in didn't have heated water, which meant if you got baptized in the winter you loved Jesus. But baptism isn't about a local congregation; it's about cooperating with the purposes of God.

Do you know that baptism didn't begin with Christianity? We take this and we make it about ourselves. It isn't. The first baptism services we meet in the New Testament are attached to the man named John. Now, you know him as John the Baptist. That doesn't mean he came from the south and belonged to a big church. He was John the baptizer. He called people to repentance. He was Jesus' cousin. He ministered before Jesus went to the cross. We can't talk about it being Christian baptism yet. John was inviting the Jewish people to repent from their sins. He was inviting them away from Jerusalem, away from the temple and all of its splendor and majesty, a 20-mile walk into the desert to repent of their sins and be baptized in water.

Now, on the day of Pentecost, the first public meeting after Jesus goes back to heaven, Peter preaches the gospel, and the people say, "What should we do"? And he said, "Repent of your sins and be baptized". I put it in your notes somewhere. Right there, Acts 2:40. Says, "With many words Peter warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'" His words intrigue me. Says he plead with the citizens of Jerusalem to save themselves from a corrupt generation. One of the challenges the church faces in our generation, it seems to me, is we've lost a lot of our courage. We struggle with presenting the gospel. Jesus is presenting the Jesus' story in Jerusalem and he says to the people, "You killed him".

Sometimes I'm concerned that we are more concerned with not offending someone than we are of telling them the truth. We don't want to be condemning, or critical, or judgmental, or self-righteous, but the truth is the invitation of the gospel is an invitation out of destruction; and if we don't understand the urgency of that, we won't approach it with the dignity and the focus that it deserves. We're not inviting people to sit in a worship service; we're inviting people to avoid destruction. It says Peter pled with them to save themselves from the corrupt generation, and those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day. They baptized 3,000 on their first public service. We're having baptism in a couple weeks.

I don't think we're going to have 3,000 yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm telling you I'm looking forward to the privilege of seeing an outpouring of the Spirit of God of such a magnitude that we have to learn to rethink how we approach our faith. Amen, there's no solution to the problems we face apart from that. We've got to stop quibbling about whether a church is big or small, or how we worship, or the shape of our building, or the architecture, or what the podium is. We have to care about people making their way out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. If you've never been baptized, may I strongly encourage you to put your name on the list. We'll do a class and talking, we'll help you get ready, we'll even give you a purple t-shirt; but if you've never gotten in the pool, come on, it's time. It's not about joining this congregation. Has very little to do with us. We're just facilitators. This is about Church with a capital C.

When you see Jesus, he said get baptized, you want to have been in that line. People say, "Well, what will people say"? I'll tell you how I short that out in my life. If it pleases God, I'll work it out with the people. I would rather God smile and the people can sort it out. You're not too old. It doesn't matter what will people think. If God is pleased, I'm happy. Now, baptism, as I understand it from Scripture, is intended to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's not about spiritual recreation. It's not an expression of a renewed commitment to discipleship. I was christened as a baby, baptized as an infant. My parents took me to church, presented me to the pastor, he sprinkled a little water on my head, dry cleaning.

I don't think it's evil or wicked or inappropriate. I understand how infant baptism made its way into the practice of the Christian church. I believe what the New Testament describes is baptism by immersing, immersion, dunking, plunging under the water. I also think that it is described of an individual. It's baptism in response to a personal choice of faith. As an infant I wasn't able to do that. Now, again, I'm not criticizing that practice. I'm saying to you when I was old enough to make the decision to be a Christ follower for myself, I chose to be baptized. And I think in that context, revisiting baptism is appropriate, not to be disrespectful of my parents' choices or their wishes. I'm very grateful that I had parents who had a desire to see me grow up as a Christian. And we celebrated together baptism when I was old enough to process that decision.

Sometimes I meet people who were in a church or a Christian camp or some setting where a peer group was put through a class and the outcome was baptism and they went through the process, because they didn't want to deal with the punishment if they didn't participate, but they really didn't intend to be a Christ follower. It was just they were going along with the crew. I think in those kinds of cases being baptized when you make that decision probably makes sense again, and then sometimes there are those kind of exceptions, but as a general rule I don't think you need to revisit baptism just because you are refocusing your spiritual life; but if you've never been baptized, it's important. It's not congregational specific. It's not about our tank, or our pool, or the temperature of our water; it's about my decision to be obedient to Jesus.

I give you one other baptism component. I want to encourage you to become an advocate, an encourager, a supporter, a cheerleader of Christian baptism. See, the behaviors we encourage and celebrate become more widespread. When we have baptism in a couple of weeks, I want to encourage you to be here. Even if you're not an every week church person, be here that week. The highlight of that weekend is the sermon is the shortest of the entire year, all right? We will cause it will be the service itself will be shorter than usual. You'll get to the restaurant ahead of the Presbyterians. Okay? So it's not going to impinge on your schedule, but your presence to celebrate with those people makes a difference. It does.

See, we have to find consistency between what we say is important and what we do as people. And that's not always about compliance with rules, it's just being advocates for the right set of things. I ran a 5k. I won't call it a race, but I ran a 5k, 5 kilometers, too long ago. You know, I meet people that say when they exercise they sense a euphoria. I don't get that. In fact, I don't trust those people. I think they're taking something and they're blaming it on exercise. When I exercise I just get hot and tired, and so I approach that thing with a little skepticism. But a friend invited me to join him in the race, and so off we went. And to my surprise, the race path was lined with people I didn't know, and they were cheering for me. They were applauding. There were people that were handing out drinks and stuff to eat and encouraging me, telling me how much farther I could make it.

Now, I only heard them for the first few 100 yards 'cause after that the roar of me trying to get enough oxygen drowned out any other noise around me, but I could see them. And the closer I got to the end of that race, the more people there were and the more demonstrative they were cheering for me. Well, I think that same pattern is really good in the church, that we encourage, cheer for, affirm, celebrate with those people that choose to be baptized throughout the year. We do baptisms on Sunday night, and they are typically, the whole service is committed to baptism, so it's a celebration with those individuals, but once a year we put it through all the weekend services. Be here.

Let's make it one of the highest attended weekends of the year. They have friends and families and coworkers. Let them see you excited about what's happening in their lives. Why? Because God meets those people right there. He does something for them. A new birth, a bath, and another component in the healthy life of the church is serving. It's another one of those words I think we just kind of skip over. People say to me, "Now, how do I get involved? I've come to worship. I think it's a relatively safe place. What's next for me? What do I do"? Here's the key: serve. "No, I was actually hoping there was a class to go to or a laminated badge I could get". We're going to serve.

Look at Matthew 10. Jesus said, "If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he's my disciple, I tell you he'll not lose his reward". God rewards us when we serve one another. I don't have a better plan: that the church is directed by Jesus to be his hands and feet in the earth. We serve one another. It differentiates the church from other expressions of service. And I'm not saying the other things are bad or not helpful; but the church isn't just us doing kind things because there's a spot of goodness in us someplace. We stand shoulder to shoulder under the headship of Jesus to serve one another and our community that Jesus' name might be exalted. He didn't say we just give out a cup of cold water. He said if we give a cup of cold water to his disciples, he's watching.

So we are Jesus' advocates. At the bottom of every serving cup that we extend is a little message: "Jesus is my Lord". Why would I be engaged in this behavior? Because Jesus is my Lord. You know the dirty, little secret of service in ministry? It's work. You know what work is, right? It's the place you go or where you wouldn't go unless they paid you. It's the place you go on the days you don't feel like going, because you need the benefit. It's the place you hang out with people that you may not like that much, but you hang out with them for an objective, because there's a reward involved that you're interested in.

Well, all those definitions work when we talk about serving because of our faith. We do it even we don't feel like it. It's not always a feel-good opportunity. We'll serve sometimes with people that we wouldn't hang out with if we weren't serving in Jesus' name. We will interact with people that we most probably wouldn't interact with if we weren't doing it in Jesus' name. Why would we do that? Because Jesus said there's a reward in it. People say, "Well, you know, I'm not interested any reward". I am. I don't intend to live fruitlessly. I'm not looking for ways just to spend my days, to fritter away time.

I want to invest my life so that there's the maximum benefit from it. I'm doing my best to live on purpose in my attitudes, in how I interact with people, in what I do with my energies with the gifts and talents that have been entrusted to me, and serving is one of the highest expressions of a human life that I'm aware of. We work hard at it, in creating opportunities for you to be engaged in serving. Jesus said in Matthew 23 that the greatest among you will be the one with a PhD. Now, I'm not opposed to education. In fact, I'm a fan of education. But Jesus said greatness comes from serving and serving with a particular attitude of humility. We try intentionally to create serving opportunities around here in this congregation.

Some of them are just about personal choices. We try to let things emerge that will give you an opportunity to have an expression of serving. Not about us or this place, just that service is a good thing. We had mentioned earlier the Red Cross is coming in a couple of weekends. That's a service interaction. It's the summertime. People are traveling. The blood supply is low. They called and said, "Could we have a blood drive at the church? Your people are always good to give". I bet somebody has told you the only thing we care about here is your money. That is not true. We want your blood, too. New rumor. It's not about us. We don't get reimbursed for the number of pints that go out of here. It's just a serving interface that we facilitate 'cause we think it strengthens our community; but the heart of it all, as a congregation, we want to cultivate servants' hearts.

We want to let that grow within us, because we believe it honors the Lord and brings a benefit to our lives in time and eternity. We want to learn how to serve, how to serve the Lord and how to serve in his name. It's about attitude, and effort, and excellence, and kindness, and advocacy for Jesus. Again, we're not just doing things for the civic good. We're grateful, we're interested in the civic wellbeing, but we have a greater allegiance to the lordship of Jesus, and when we come we bring Jesus. It's important. We want the kingdom of God to be represented with the same determination that we see from corporations and businesses and others who strive with other agendas. We are ambassadors for Jesus of Nazareth on planet earth. And there's one last piece. I've only got a moment.

And that's small groups. We're of the opinion that living in community is important. I prayed with a couple in the lobby just before this service. A man had had a significant physical crisis in the last few weeks, and he wasn't sure whether he would survive or not. I was out of the country for a part of that, but I was getting messages about it. And while we stood in the lobby and I was catching up on the story, people began to gather around them and they looked at me and they said, "Yeah, we've been doing life together for a long time". And the wife turned and said, "These people were the rock for me when we were in the hospital".

See, I'm not really concerned how many of us gather on a weekend as long as we're making every effort possible to live in community with one another. You've only got room in your life for about 20 friends. I mean, I know on your Facebook page, you got room for hundreds, but in the real world you've only got room for about 20 friends. You can't celebrate 500 birthdays. You can't participate in the crises in 500 families. You can't lend your strength to 500 graduations. It's too much for you. And with about 20 people in your relational network, it changes the quality of your life. You need somebody to know you and some people you know. You will learn more about being a Christ follower from doing life with one another than you will from the pulpit.

Come to church, enjoy the worship, listen to the music, evaluate the sermons. It's appropriate, but when you decide to be a part of this place, I want to encourage you to get engaged in a smaller group, whether it's a ministry team. Some of you are active people. You want to do something. If you're going to be hanging around with other people, you have to have an outcome. Some of you want to study or it's more about nurture or encouragement. But there are groups that meet all through the week, different days and times and nights and serve in all kinds of different places. We'll help you find a group.

When I grew as a kid we went to Sunday school. I know what that means. The appropriate church is you have a worship service and a classroom with a chalkboard and a quarterly. It was God's idea. It started in the garden. I'm not opposed to it. We've just never had the luxury of having facilities that we could use in that way. Every time we built a room we filled it with children. And so we found that we could put adults together in community, in homes and all sorts of places that we didn't have to have four walls and a chalkboard and that we could meet at times other than Sunday morning, because our schedules are busy and our lives are full.

But living in community is of tremendous importance in your life and mine, to be known and to know others. I meet people from time to time. They say, "Pastor, you know, small group is not for me. My talents are a little more expansive than that". And I appreciate that some of you have leadership skills and life experience that extend beyond a group of six or eight people. I get that, but we still need a small group of people around us. Here's what I've discovered. The things that have great value to us, whether they're physical things or relational things, are more important to us in a smaller context.

Let me give you an example. I grew, I like basketball. I grew up playing basketball. Now I like to watch basketball. But, you know, if you're not really a basketball person you may have heard of LeBron James. You may have seen a pic... you might even recognize his picture, but if you're just kind of a casual, you know, not that interested, seeing LeBron play basketball on television is enough for you. In fact, you don't need to see the whole game. If you just go, "That's him. I'm good". But if you're a basketball junkie or you're from Ohio, the invitation to have dinner in LeBron's home with LeBron is an invitation.

Now, if you're not a basketball person, it's an intrusion. You're busy. You're not going to do this. It's like, "Why? Don't know him. Don't even understand what he does. I don't know why they pay him $200 million. I wish he just give me the tithe check". But if you value basketball highly, you'll change your schedule, rearrange your calendar, spend your money to go, and you will whip out your phone and take a picture of you and LeBron's door, "Me and LeBron's table. Me and LeBron". There will be a whole set of entry you'll need your own Facebook page. "Me and LeBron hanging". 'Cause you attach value to that.

Well, if you value growing up in the Lord, maturing as a Christ follower, I don't know a more important component to that than doing it in life together with people. So it starts with a birth, and then a bath, and we learn to serve, and we recognize that we're doing life together under the lordship of Jesus, and our lives have a meaning in time and eternity that transcends just my ability, or my intellect, or my stuff, and it's rewarded by Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth. I don't know a more powerful initiative on planet Earth for the betterment of people than the church of Jesus Christ. I'm honored to be a part, and I'm grateful for your lives. And we're just warming up, not this sermon.

I brought you a prayer. Why don't you stand with me? I read a line last Sunday afternoon. It said we can read a prayer, or we can say a prayer, or in our life we'll become a prayer. I like that progression, and I want to end up on that last piece. So I'm determined to keep reading and saying those prayers. So I brought you one today. I didn't want anybody just to be a spectator. Let's read this together:

Almighty God, You alone are worthy of praise, worship, and glory. You have established the earth and all that is within it. By Your word You brought everything into being. We honor You, we lift our voices in thanksgiving. Let all the earth give praise to our Lord and King and may the name of Jesus be exalted. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, amen.

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