Robert Jeffress - Hooked On Others
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to hang out with the disciples? Wouldn't it have been easier to accomplish his mission alone and unencumbered than to drag along a dozen of flawed and clumsy men? Well, today I'm going to suggest that the reason Jesus had disciples is because Christians aren't meant to serve alone, but rather to walk together in unity. My message is titled "Hooked on Others," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
A number of years ago, I was in a small group, I can't even remember the purpose of the group. But I remember a woman in the group who shared with us her remarkable testimony. She had been a social worker in a state prison. She had felt that her work as a social worker was an opportunity for her to share Christ with those who were in need. And one day she was alone in a room with a prisoner, trying to minister to that prisoner, when suddenly without any provocation at all, the prisoner lunged at her, began to choke her to death, and then proceeded to break every bone in her face. And once he had done that, he took a nail he had been carrying and plunged it into the woman's neck, leaving her for dead.
As she was lying in a coma for weeks, she told our group that suddenly one day, she heard the voice of God speak to her while she was in that coma. She said she recognized the voice because it was the same voice that had spoken to her as a little girl, calling her to faith in Christ. She said it was the same voice as a teenager that had called her into full-time Christian ministry. And now that voice was calling her back to life. After months of rehabilitation, she had one desire. She pled with those prison officials to let her go back into that prison, go back into that room, and meet that prisoner once again. Of course the prison officials refused and after pleading to no avail, she was at least able to persuade them to allow her to leave him a Bible, which she did. And then the flyleaf of that Bible, she wrote to him that she forgave him for what he had done to her, but her prayer was that he would come to know the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers to anyone.
That remarkable woman had as her life focus, meeting the spiritual needs of other people, even those people who were her enemies. You know, that's one sign of being a heavenly-minded Christian. A heavenly-minded Christian is one who is not self-focused, but is focused on the ministry to which God has called him or her. And that's what we're going to talk about today. What it means to be ministry-focused, to be like Jesus Christ.
If you have your Bibles turn to Colossians 3. I imagine by this time, your Bible naturally opens to Colossians 3. We've been in this chapter for a while, but it is a key chapter in the New Testament because this chapter tells us how we can become heavenly-minded, that is how we can become like Jesus Christ in our attitudes, our affections, our actions. That's God's will for your life, that you be shaped, that you be conformed into the image of Jesus. That you think like Jesus thought, that you live like Jesus lived, that you love the same things that Jesus loved so that you can experience the kind of benefits that Jesus experienced while he was here on earth. You don't have to wait until you die to experience the benefits of heaven. You can have all the benefits now that belong to a child of God.
That's what Colossians 3 is all about. And in the section of chapter three, verses 15 to 17, Paul tells us how we go about becoming like Jesus Christ in our everyday life. And there are four principles here we've been looking at. In verse 16, notice after the comma, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you," here's a new thought, "With all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God". One way to become more like Jesus Christ is to have ministry rather than self fulfillment your purpose for living. You know, that is such a simple concept, to be others-focused rather than to be self-focused. Jesus, it is said, came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for other people. Jesus wasn't here to get out of this life what he could for himself, he was here to serve, to minister to other people, and if we're going to be like Christ, that is going to be the focus of our life.
Walter and I have a friend who says, "Every life exists for one of two purposes, either to meet a need or to fill a greed". Your life is either about yourself, filling a greed, or it's about meeting a need. And seniors here today, this message wasn't actually planned for today, but it's no coincidence that it's for today. As you set out in this new course of your life, you've got to come to the decision about what your life is really all about. Is it about fulfilling your agenda, your plans, your dreams? Or is it about fulfilling God's agenda for your life? That's not only a question for high school seniors, it's a question for all of us. If you were to inject most Christians, regardless of their age, with a good dose of sodium pentothal and ask them the question "What is your real purpose in life"? You know what answers you would get? "Oh to have a good time. To make my mark in the world by having a successful career. To earn enough money so I can have a comfortable retirement". That is the purpose for which most Christians are living today. It's a life about me, me, me.
Now, before you start clucking your tongues and saying "Isn't that just awful? People shouldn't be that way". Let me ask you some questions about the focus of your life. Let's get honest here. What is the real focus of your life? Let me ask you four questions to help you kind of zero in whether your life is self-focused or others-focused.
Question number one. Can you name one significant thing you did for somebody else this past week from which you derived no benefit whatsoever? Something significant you did for another person this last week from what you've derived no personal benefit.
Question number two. Suppose your dear, old aunt Bessie were to die and to leave you a hundred thousand dollars. How would you spend that money? How would you really spend that money?
Question number three. When is the last time you personally led somebody to faith in Jesus Christ? When's the last time you personally led somebody to faith in Jesus Christ?
Question number four. How are you planning to spend your retirement years? And if you're in retirement, how are you spending time right now? Your answer to those questions will help you understand if your life is truly self-focused or is it ministry-focused? Today, we're going to talk about, first of all, the mandate for a ministry-focused life. Secondly, we're going to talk about Paul's method for having a ministry-focused life. And thirdly, we're going to look at the motivation, the rewards, for having a life that is focused on ministry rather than self. First of all, let's look at the mandate to have a ministry-focused life.
I came across in my study this week the great words of the scholar, F.B. Meyer. Listen to what F.B. Meyer wrote. He said, "It is urgently needful that the Christian people of our charge should come to understand that they are not a company of invalids to be wheeled about or fed by hand, nursed and comforted, the pastor being the head physician and nurse. But the church is a garrison in an enemy's country, every soldier of which should have some post or duty at which he should be prepared to make any sacrifice rather than quitting". You know, unfortunately, most Christians today don't understand that truth, that they're not here to be nursed about and comforted by other Christians, that we are like soldiers in enemy-occupied territory. And God has left us in this enemy-occupied territory for one reason. He hasn't left us here to enrich ourselves, to entertain ourselves, to entangle ourselves with the affairs of everyday life.
God has left us here for one purpose in this enemy-occupied territory. What is that purpose? It's found in those verses we know so well, but actually live out in a very little way. Matthew 28:19 to 20, Jesus said, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things that I've commanded you: and lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age". Do you realize, folks, the only reason you're here right now and not in heaven when you became a Christian, the only way reason God left you here, is not to have a successful career, not to build a successful family, not to store up a bunch of money that you're going to leave behind one day. God left you here for one reason. It's his reason. And that is to make disciples, followers of Christ.
What is a disciple? That word disciple is a word that comes from a word that means, it refers to someone who professes to have learned principles from another person's life and orders his life according to those principles. Someone who professes to have learned certain principles from another person's life and seeks to order his life around those principles. In Jesus' day, if you found a rabbi that you liked and were attracted to, you would become that rabbI's disciple, his follower. You'd follow him around, you'd listen to everything he had to say and taught. And then you would model your life according to those principles that the rabbi taught. Jesus said, "My purpose in leaving you here is to round up as many people as you can to be my disciples, to follow me, to put my principles into their everyday life". That is the reason that we have been left here.
Now, when I talk about this, a lot of people think, "Well, that's the pastor's assignment. That's what we pay him for". No, Colossians 3 is written not to pastors, not the seminarians, it's written to layman in the church. We're to be involved in the disciple-making process. Now, making disciples has two aspects to it. One aspect is evangelism. If we're going to make disciples, first of all, we have to lead people to that single decision to trust in Christ as Savior. That's what Jesus is referring to in verse 19 when he says "Baptizing them in the name of the father, son, and Holy Spirit". Baptizing, it refers to the whole process of salvation. Following Christ, trusting Christ as your Savior, and then, as a result, being baptized to show your profession of faith. We need to lead people to that single decision to trust in Christ as Savior.
In John 3:5, Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God". We need to help people make that decision to receive the forgiveness of their sins by trusting in Christ. I hadn't been in my first church very long when a deacon in the church asked to take me to lunch. That's usually not a good sign. But he wanted to take me to lunch and we had a real pleasant conversation: and he said, "Now pastor, I will do anything you ask me to do in this church except one thing. Don't ever ask me to share my faith with somebody else". He said, "Evangelism is not my gift".
Ladies and gentlemen evangelism is not a gift, it is a mandate from God. The Bible says we're to all be involved in sharing the Gospel with people, helping rescue them out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter said, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence". If somebody were to ask you, "How can I become a Christian? How can I know for sure I'm going to heaven when I die? How can I make sure that my sins have really been forgiven"? Would you know how to answer their question? The Bible says we all need to be ready to give that answer. And really it's a simple answer, it's simple to lead somebody to faith in Christ, but you've got to know how to do it. And just as a doctor needs to know how to deliver a baby, we need to be trained in how to bring somebody through the process of a new birth in Christ.
And listen, there's some wonderful evangelism courses out there that many of you have gone through. If we're really going to be serious about making disciples, as Jesus said, we've gotta know how to make converts, first of all, but it doesn't stop there. Secondly, implicit in this discipleship-making process, is discipleship itself. Remember the definition of a disciple? It's somebody who obeys the teachings of another person and maintains those principles in his everyday life. And that's why Jesus said, "Not only are you to baptize them, but you are to teach them all things that I've commanded you". You see, a disciple of Jesus Christ is somebody who takes God's word, Christ's teaching, and knows how it applies to their marriages, to their finances, to their personal life, to their morality, to their friendships. "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you".
And again, this is something that we don't leave up to the preachers, missionaries, and seminary professors. Colossians 3 says this is something we are to all be involved in. Well, how do we do that? How do we go about making disciples? We've seen the mandate. God's ordered us to do it, it's the only reason we've been left here. How do we do it? Now turn back to Colossians 3:16, Paul is going to share his method of ministry with us. Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another". Teaching and admonishing. These two words described a positive and a negative aspect of accomplishing the same goal and that is making disciples.
Notice he says, first of all, we are to be teaching one another. If we're going to make disciples of Christ, we first of all are involved in teaching one another the Word of God. Notice the relationship here to the beginning of verse 16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you and with all wisdom teaching". Listen, the idea here is if you're a Christian and the Word of God is so much a part of your life, like we talked about last time, then it's just going to be flowing out of you naturally, splashing on to people who are around you. And the Bible says one way we make disciples is by teaching people the Word of God.
Now he's not talking about the spiritual gift of teaching. When we think of teaching, we think of standing up in front of a class and teaching the Bible or teaching a small group. And that's all important and there are people who are gifted to do that, but that's not what he's talking about here. Notice the phrase, "One another," "With all wisdom teaching one another". This is the ministry of sharing God's word with other people that we all are involved in in ministry. If we're going to help people become followers of Christ it means we are regularly going to be sharing God's word with fellow Christians, helping them grow in their faith.
In our last church, I invited lieutenant colonel Oliver North to come and preach one Sunday. Many of you know, colonel North. He's not only a great war hero, he is a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. And in his testimony, colonel North told us about his experience in the Iran-contra hearings. Many of us who are old enough, remember those hearings that took place before the senate. We remember colonel North in his uniform, taking that oath before those senators promising to tell the truth. Those were grueling days for colonel North. But he said the first day of the hearings, he was on his way into that senate hearing room, the crowds, the media were outside, when suddenly a woman burst through the crowd and she handed colonel North a card.
Colonel North read that card, he smiled, took it with him into the senate room and he placed that card directly in front of him underneath the microphone. And while he was being grilled by senators, he would occasionally look at that card and smile. Of course, all the media wanted to know what's on that card. Well the woman had printed out Isaiah 40:31, "Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not get tired. They shall walk and not become weary". colonel North said, "That single verse that that woman shared with me is what gave me the spiritual strength to make it through those hearings".
Now that's what it means to teach the Word of God to one another, to build one another up, to know exactly what scripture to share to help edify another believer in Christ. And the Bible says we're to all be involved in that, that's part of our ministry, the reason we've been left here is to help strengthen and encourage other Christians. Now, let me ask you a question. Suppose somebody came to you and said they were contemplating a divorce for other than biblical reasons, they just weren't fulfilled in their marriage. Would you know what verses to share with them, what principles from God's word to share with them, other than "Don't do that"? Would you know where to turn in scripture? Teenagers, suppose, seniors, a friend came to and said, "You know, I'm getting ready to graduate, in a day or two and I just don't have any direction in my life. How do I know God's will for my life"? Would you know where to turn in scripture to give them three or four principles about how to know God's will for their life?
Suppose somebody came to you and they were in financial debt over their head and they didn't know what to do to get out of that mess. Could you share four or five principles from the Bible about how to handle finances in a successful way? I'll have to say to little disconcerting and disappointing to me to realize that there are people who have been sitting in our pews for years, in a good Bible-believing church, listening to sermon after sermon after sermon or sitting under the teacher of a gifted seminary professor, a teacher in Sunday school for decades, sitting in the same class for decades, and yet the majority of those Christians couldn't answer any of those questions if their life depended on it. If a person came to them with a simple question that related to life, they wouldn't know where to turn in the Bible.
Listen, that is to our shame that that's true. The Bible says we are to all be involved in teaching the Word of God to one another. The Bible says, if we're going to be serious about ministry, first of all, we need to be involved in teaching one another. But there's a second word here about ministry that Paul uses, and that is, we are also to admonish one another. Look at verse 16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing". Now that word "Admonish" means to correct or to warn. If you're going to help people become followers of Jesus Christ, it means we need to warn people. Well what do we warn them of? Well for non-Christians, we warn people of the consequences of dying without faith in Jesus Christ.