Category Archives: Older Sermon Notes

Accepting (with Communion Service)

 

Picking Up Strangers Along the Disciple’s Pathway

Once upon a time a couple of serious backpackers were hiking the Appalachian Trail deep in the Smoky Mountains when a large black bear surprised them along the trail. Both parties were so startled that fear caused them to run from each other. As the two hikers ran down the trail, not aware that the bear went the other way, one them stopped abruptly and quickly dropped his pack. He hurriedly kicked off his hiking boots and digging in his backpack at the same time. As his friend ran up from behind him leaned over his companion panting and glancing backward frequently.

“What are you doing?” he said through gasps.

“Getting my tennis shoes on!” the first exclaimed.

In response the slower of the two said, “This is stupid. That bear is gonna catch us if we don’t get going.” “Why are you wasting time putting on tennis shoes?”

“I know; I know” the hiker said as he tied his laces. “That’s why I want to make sure I can outrun you!”

As we travel the discipleship pathway we must be willing to help each other along the Way. Today’s reading reminds us that we are not to show partiality. Not only that, but this is one situation where it’s good to pick up hitchhikers.

READ: James 2:1-26 

Recipients

  1. The reference to “the twelve tribes that are scattered over the world” (1:1) is our major hint. Also, the inclusion of the letter in the “catholic epistles” (i.e. letters addressed to several churches) reflects its encyclical nature. Obviously one church is not as prominent as a specific though scattered group of individuals and these seem to be Jewish Christians outside of Palestine.
  2. There are three possible interpretations of the phrase in 1:1:
    1.  Jews—This seems improbable because of the recurrent use of “brethren,” the lack of the major gospel truths about Jesus, as well as the specific mentioning of faith in Christ in 2:1. Also, after the Babylonian Exile, many of the original twelve tribes never returned. The same metaphor is used symbolically of believers in Rev. 7:4-8.
    2. Christian Jews—This seems to be the most likely because of the Jewish flavor of the book and the leadership position of James in the Jerusalem church.
    3. The church as spiritual Israel—This is possible because of the use of “diaspora” in I Pet. 1:1 and Paul’s allusion to the church (believing Jews and Gentiles) as spiritual Israel (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 4:16ff; Gal. 3:29; 6:16; I Pet. 2:5,9).

Occasion

  1. An attempt to apply the New Covenant specifically to first century Jewish Christians living in pagan settings.
  2. Some believe it was wealthy Jews persecuting Christian Jews. It is also possible that the early Christians were subject to anti-Semitic pagan abuse. It was obviously a time of physical need and persecution (cf. 1:2-4,12; 2:6-7; 5:4-11,13-14).

Contextual Insights

  1. James 2:1-13 is an expansion of the discussion about the relationship between the rich and poor in 1:9-11,27. B. It is uncertain whether the rich referred to in 1:10-11; 2:6 or 5:1-6 are believers. Possibly they were wealthy Jews, the very ones who persecuted the early Christians. C. Wealth in the OT was a sign of God’s pleasure (cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 27), but later teachings bring the needed balance to this concept (cf. Job, Ps. 73; Matt. 5-7). Poverty even came to be a metaphor for spiritual hunger (cf. Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20). 26 D. The section develops into two related topics: 1. the ways of this age (vv. 1-7) 2. the ways of the coming Messianic Age (vv. 8-13)
  2. A. James 2:1-13 is an expansion of the discussion about the relationship between the rich and poor in 1:9-11,27.
  3. It is uncertain whether the rich referred to in 1:10-11; 2:6 or 5:1-6 are believers. Possibly they were wealthy Jews, the very ones who persecuted the early Christians.
  4. Wealth in the OT was a sign of God’s pleasure (cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 27), but later teachings bring the needed balance to this concept (cf. Job, Ps. 73; Matt. 5-7). Poverty even came to be a metaphor for spiritual hunger (cf. Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20).
  5. The section develops into two related topics:
    1. the ways of this age (vv. 1-7)
    2. the ways of the coming Messianic Age (vv. 8-13)

Favoritism / Prejudice

If one looks at the letter through a different lens it’s possible to see that disfavoring certain persons because of race, status, orientation, dysfunction, etc. is equally evil.

To show partiality toward the rich was to break God’s law (verses 8-11):

8 But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. 10 For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but you commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. 12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. 13 For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.

The royal law commanded God’s people to “love their neighbors as themselves”. Their neighbors included the wealthy and the poor. The “as” means that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We must love our neighbors with the same level of concern and care that we have for ourselves. But in addition to meaning that we must love our neighbors and ourselves equally,

*Context information by Bob Utley East Texas Baptist University, 1996

 

Invitation to the Lord’s Table

Come to the Lord’s Table, all you who love him.

Come to the Lord’s Table, confess your sin.

Come to the Lord’s Table, be at peace.

Confession of Sin

We have not believed you or trusted in your power.

Lord, help our unbelief.

Silence or testimony of belief.

We have stained our souls by our action and inaction.

Cleanse us, Lord.

Silence or testimony of cleansing.

We are broken by disease, bruised by the sins of others, weakened and unable to repair ourselves.

Heal us, Lord.

Silence or testimony of healing.

We ignore your call to center our lives in you, and so are deaf to the hopes and cries of the poor, the sick, the needy, and the earth.

Ground us, Lord!

Silence or testimony of centering.

When we confess our sinful ways, God abundantly pardons.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we are all forgiven. Glory to God!

By one Spirit we are all baptized into the one body.

Let us then pursue the things that make for peace and build up our common life.

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you!

And also with you.

Signs of peace may be offered and exchanged.

Thanksgiving and Communion

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to you, Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to praise you, Lord.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing,

Always and everywhere to give thanks to you,

Holy Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

From the rising of the sun to its setting

your name is praised among all peoples.

 

Therefore we praise you,

joining our voices with your people on earth

and all the company of heaven

who forever sing this hymn to the glory of your name:

 

Holy, holy, holy, Lord,

God of power and might

Heaven and earth are full…

Full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest!

Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes

In the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest!

Hosanna in the highest!

 

You are holy, Almighty One!

Blessed are you, Jesus Christ!

In the power of the Spirit

you created all things, blessed them, and called them good.

You called to yourself a people

To make your mercy and truth known in all the world.

We betrayed your calling;

You were faithful.

We wandered from the way;

You called us to return, and led us home.

 

And still we turned from your ways,

abused your creatures,

and made ourselves slaves to sin and death.

 

At the right time

you came and dwelt among us,

as one of us,

bringing good news to the poor,

healing the sick, raising the dead,

sharing table with the unrighteous,

and teaching the way that leads to life.

 

By your incarnation, life, suffering, execution and resurrection

You gave birth to your church,

delivered us from slavery

and made a new covenant with us

by water and the Spirit.

 

On the night of your betrayal, Lord Jesus,

you took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to your disciples and said,

“This is my body which is given for you.

Do this in remembrance of me.”

You did the same with the cup after the supper, saying,

“This cup that is poured out is the new covenant in my blood.”

 

Blessed Trinity, in remembrance of all you have done to save us,

we offer ourselves to you in praise and thanksgiving

as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,

as we sing (proclaim) the mystery of our faith:

 

Christ has come among us. Christ has died.

Christ has risen. Christ abides with us.

Christ will come again.

 

Pour out your Spirit on us

Pour out your Spirit on these gifts

Make these gifts the body and blood of Christ

Make us, through them, Christ’s body alive in the world.

Now, with the confidence of God’s children let us pray the words Jesus taught us . . . .

Breaking the Bread

Giving the Bread and Cup

Giving Thanks

Lord, you now have set your servants free to go in peace as you have promised.

For these eyes of ours have seen the Savior whom you have prepared for all the world to see!

Blessing and honor and glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Sending Forth

You have seen the Savior. Go now in peace.

And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

One in Three and Three in One,

Go with you.

Amen.

 

“A Contemporary Service of Holy Communion” Copyright © 2007 Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Worship website: www.umcworship.org. This article may be reprinted and used for nonprofit local church and educational use with the inclusion of the complete copyright citation plus the words “Used by permission.” It may not be sold, republished, altered, used for profit, or placed on another website.

Inviting

 

NOTE: There was a technical problem with the recording this week, so there is no audio version of the Sunday, January 31, 2016 message. Sorry.

Introduction

Now that we’ve seen the importance of an ongoing discipleship journey and recognized its true nature as a trip from the familiar to our real home we will focus on the importance of inviting others to come with us.

READ: Matthew 25:34-46

In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

As we journey from here to Home we must understand that we are like Lot and his family journeying away from Sodom (Gen. 19). We must seek to bring along all who will join us. There is MUCH at stake!

Our message today says much about judgment, but implicit within it is the urgency we need to feel about gathering the ignorant and helping the weak – just as we might do if were a community fleeing certain disaster.

Today’s reading is part of “The Olivet Discourse;” after two parables there’s the judgment scene we just read.

  • The parables are for Jesus’ disciples
    • The first to encourage them to be watchful – Mt 25:1-13
    • The second to admonish them to be productive – Mt 25:14-30
  • The judgment scene depicts the nations brought before Jesus – Mt 25:31-46
    • Note that it is the “nations” being judged, not disciples
    • The nations are judged based upon their treatment of Jesus’ disciples
      • Those that showed mercy and kindness to His disciples are blessed
      • Those that did not are condemned

The Judgment of the Nations Theme

  1. In the Book of Joel
    1. The coming day of the Lord is depicted
    2. Following the outpouring of God’s Spirit – Joel 2:28-29
    3. A great and terrible day is coming – Joel 2:30-31
    4. Salvation is available to those who accept it – Joel 2:32; cf. Ac 2:16-21
    5. “Judgment of the nations”
    6. The nations gathered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat – Joel 3:1-2a,12-16

The nations judged on the basis of their treatment of God’s people – Joel 3:2b-8

  1. In The Olivet Discourse
    1. Jesus foretold the coming day of the Lord – Mt 24:1-51
    2. Coming in destruction upon Jerusalem
    3. With warnings to escape when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies
    4. A judgment of the nations described – Mt 25:31-46
    5. The nations gathered before Son of Man
    6. The nations judged on the basis of their treatment of God’s people

A Common Theme in The Scriptures

    1. God describes judgment to come, using other nations as instruments of God’s wrath
    2. But God also holds the nations accountable for how God’s people are treated; for example:
      1. Assyria, the rod of God’s anger – Isa 10:5-7,12-14,24-26
      2. Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon – Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13
    3. Nations that went too far (abusing the innocent) were held accountable

Jesus’ Theme

  1. Describing a judgment upon the nations
    1. Using images reminiscent of the Judgment at the Last Day; for example:
      1. The Son of Man coming in glory, sitting on His throne
      2. The nations divided like sheep and goats
    2. Judgment rendered, followed by reward or punishment
  2. Describing a judgment of the nations
    1. After judgment of Jerusalem – Mt 24
    2. Regarding the treatment of the disciples
    3. Nations who treated them kindly would be blessed

 

The Disciple’s Journey and The Judgment of the Nations

  1. There Will Be a Day of Judgment
    1. Just as the Lord has judged nations throughout history
    2. At the Last Day
      1. Jesus often spoke of the Judgment – e.g., Mt 12:36-37, 41-42; Jn 12:47-48
      2. Paul also – e.g., Ac 17:30-31; 24:25; Ro 2:3-6; 14:10; 2Co 5:10; 2Ti 4:1
      3. Others – He 9:27; 1Pe 4:5; 2Pe 2:9; 3:7; 1Jn 4:17; Jude 6

As we journey from here to Home we must understand that we are like Lot and his family journeying away from Sodom (Gen. 19).

The Disciple Will Be Vindicated

  1. Every deed, word, and thought will be judged
  2. Today’s reading reminds us how Jesus takes the treatment of “His brethren” – Mt 25:40,45
    1. “as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”
    2. “as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me”
  3. Jesus made the same point to Saul on the road to Damascus – Acts 9:1-5
    1. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
    2. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
      1. By persecuting the church, Saul was guilty of persecuting Christ!
    3. Jesus is the head, and His disciples (the Church) is the body – Ep 1:22-23
    4. What we do or not do for His disciples, we do or not do for Christ!
  4. How is our treatment of our brethren?  Are we guilty of:
    1. Abusing them?
    2. Ignoring them?
    3. Failing to love them?

Conclusion

We are a community of disciples on a journey. Some are further ahead along the Way than others. When we choose to go deeper with God on our journey we leave the apparent safety of the familiar and accept the risks. Our pride and self-determination will be challenged daily and our enemy (Satan) will begin to attack regularly. Today’s learning reminds us that Jesus is with us along the Way and that He expects us to provision and defend one another. Christ assures us that we will be vindicated in the end, and that our suffering will not have been in vain.

Dying on the Disciple’s Pathway

READ: John 21:15-19

Introduction

In the movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” there is a scene where Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit who is accompanying 13 dwarves on a mission, unexpectedly disappears and seems to have abandoned the dwarves during a crucial battle. They were losing. Bilbo does return and the dwarves are victorious. Afterward Thorin (the dwarf leader) and Bilbao have a conversation.

[Thorin:] “Why did you come back? It matters! I want to know: why did you come back?”

[Bilbo:] “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back, cause you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”

Bilbao understands what denying one’s self means and we can take lessons from him. As long as people do not have the eternal home that we do; as long as people have no rest and no peace, as long as there is a battle for the souls of men we must deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.

Denying yourself is a moment (or more accurately a lifetime of moments) when we surrender control of ourselves and yield to God in obedience and trust. Denying yourself is absolutely essential if you want to follow Jesus. You cannot live for yourself and live for Jesus. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25)

The Discipleship Journey is Risky

Last week I spoke of my personal experience in somewhat nautical terms. That is, I illustrated utter dependence upon Christ as if His cross was the only thing I had to save me from certain death as I floated in a vast sea with no land or other safety in sight. The significant point I want to revisit for a moment is that being there is a choice, not an accident.

A little over a year ago many Corinth folks participated in a workshop called, “Deepening your Effectiveness: The Discipleship Pathway” presented by Dan Glover & Claudia Lavy.  The discipleship journey was illustrated as gradual descent in the waters of a lake or sea. At first one just tests the water with little risk, but over time she/he goes deeper with God until there is a sense of security even in the depths.

In their book, from which the workshop is constructed, Glover and Lavy describe the journey in the following stages:

  1. Observation Stage ~Life on the Beach~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  Unchurched person
    2. Primary question being asked:  Is this for real?
    3. Primary relationship to help move this person toward Christ:  Old trusted friend
    4. Primary barrier:    Cynicism
    5. Primary ministry to this person:  Come & see
    6. Biblical example: “The next day Jesus decided to leave Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathaniel and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked. ‘Come and see’, said Philip.” John 1:43-46
  1. Observation Plus Stage ~ Life on the Shoreline ~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  Curious person
    2. Primary relationship to help move this person toward Christ: New acquaintance
    3. Primary barrier:    Heightened sensitivity
    4. Primary ministry to this person:   Authentic high impact hospitality
    5. Primary question being asked:  What am I going to do about this?
    6. Biblical example:  “When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said to him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’ ‘How do you know me?’ Nathaniel asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called.’” John 1:47-48
  1. Commitment Stage ~ Life in the Waves ~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  New or rededicated believer
    2. Primary question being asked:  How can I help?
    3. The real question being asked:  How can I fit in?
    4. Primary relationship to help this person move toward Christ:  Effective preachers, teachers and small group leaders
    5. Primary barrier: Comfort
    6. Primary ministry to this person: Giving & receiving
    7. Biblical example: “He (Jesus) got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Luke 5:3-6
  1. Pondering Stage  ~ Life When Your Feet Come Off the Bottom ~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  Seasoned but restless believer
    2. Primary question being asked:  Is there anything else?
    3. Primary barrier: Fear
      • Confusion
      • Question their value
      • Lack direction
    4. Primary relationship to help this person move toward Christ:  Small group leader and an emerging discipler
    5. Primary ministry to this person:  Opportunities to go & see
    6. Biblical example: “. . . his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ’and its already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’, he asked. ‘Go and see.’” Mark 6:35-38
  1. Discovery Stage  ~ Life Beyond the Breakers ~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  New paradigm follower
    2. Primary question being asked:  Where has this been all my life?
    3. Primary relationship to help this person move toward Christ: Discipler and the Holy Spirit
    4. Barrier #1:     Misinterpretation of suffering
    5. Barrier #2:     Lack of focus and discipline
    6. Primary ministry to this person:  Opportunities to go & make
    7. Biblical example: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia . . . your faith in God has become known everywhere.” I Thessalonians 1:4-7
    8. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .” I Peter 5:8-9a
  1. Stability Stage  ~ Life in the Deep ~
    1. Primary person at this stage:  Fully committed follower
    2. Primary question being asked: What do you want me to do, Lord
    3. Primary relationship to help assist this person move toward Christ: The Holy Spirit and the authentic spiritual community
    4. Primary barrier: Isolation
    5. Primary ministry to this person:  One-on-one discipling
    6. Biblical example: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .’” Matthew 28:18-19a

Dying Far from Home or On the Way Home?

Why not go deeper? Why not take the risk?

It is very human and entirely understandable for most people to prefer the safety of home and the familiar things our lives. For the long-term Christian it is often a matter of knowing what to do, but preferring not to. Consider Peter’s most famous example: He stepped out of a perfectly good boat and tried to walk on the waters of a stormy sea. His actions are often thought of as failure, but were far more courageous than those of the other guys in the boat. What Peter experienced was the fear of death. He reached his capacity to believe he’d OK and then he began to sink. The discipleship pathway calls us to do the same thing Peter did. We are to leave the security of the known and venture into the unknown – at times, with Christ just out of reach! One must learn to live with the high probability of death.

The death I’m speaking of isn’t necessarily physical death, though there is always that possibility along the disciple’s path. The more certain death is death to self. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who think that they’re following Jesus, when actually they are only following self. They have been taught that the Christian faith and even Christian ministry are the avenues toward self-fulfillment. They’ve been told that Jesus will help you learn to love yourself, when in fact Jesus taught nothing of the kind. Rather, He clearly taught ,that If you’re living for self, you’re not following Jesus.

Remember Peter’s dramatic confession that Jesus is the Christ of God, which was followed by Jesus’ prediction of His own death and resurrection (9:20, 22)?. Jesus was saying to the disciples, “I am not the kind of Christ you may think. I am not going to fulfill your desires for power and glory, at least not yet. I am not going to give you everything you want in this lifetime. I will come again in power and glory (9:26), but first comes the cross. And all who follow Me must follow in the way of the cross.” (Steven J. Cole – June 11th 2013 https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-43-following-self-or-jesus-luke-923)

  • To follow Jesus requires rejecting a self-centered life.

For immature Christians and future followers it is vital to grasp this truth: Because of who Jesus is, receiving Him is not a matter of deciding that your life is lacking something and that Jesus will fill that void and give you the happy life you’ve always wanted. Jesus isn’t just one spoke in the wheel of your life. If that’s all He is, you have never submitted the self. To be a Christian is to deny self and allow Jesus to be Savior and Lord. It begins at the moment of salvation and continues throughout your Christian life. But if it has not begun, you have not become a Christian, since Jesus puts this requirement at the outset of a decision to follow Him.

  • To follow Jesus requires daily death to self.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him … take up his cross daily” (9:23b). Many Christians think that to bear their cross means putting up with a difficult mate or with a painful malady, such as arthritis. But taking up your cross is not an unavoidable trial that you passively submit to. Jesus says that it must be a daily thing that we actively choose to embrace. In Jesus’ day, the cross wasn’t an implement of irritation, inconvenience, or even suffering. The cross was an instrument of tortuous, slow execution. Jesus’ hearers knew that a man who took up his cross was, for all practical purposes, a dead man. A man bearing his cross gave up all hope and interest in the things of this world, including self-fulfillment. He knew he would be leaving this world in a very short time. He was dead to self.

  • To follow Jesus requires ongoing submission to Jesus as Lord.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him … follow Me” (9:23c). Jesus’ Lordship demands submission to Him, specifically, that we obey Him and His Word if we would follow Him. But we need to notice the personal aspect of the process: “Follow Me.” Jesus didn’t mean simply, “Follow My commands,” although that is vital and cannot be dismissed. Obedience is not optional (Matt. 7:21-23).

Conclusion

In the short term, self-denial is difficult and not very pleasant. But there are eternal blessings in store when you follow Jesus on the path of the cross. He explains in verse 24: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” When you die to self and follow Jesus, He graciously gives you the ultimate in fulfillment as the by-product—the joy of eternal life and of being affirmed by Jesus before the Father when He comes in glory (9:26)!

The Discipleship Pathway: Getting Started

READ: Galatians 2:1-10

Introduction

Sometime after the Apostle Paul had established the churches of Galatia, other teachers had come to the churches preaching a different gospel.  Paul called it a perversion of the truth. Those other teachers became known as “Judaizers” because they insisted that Gentiles be circumcised (6:12; 5:2) and keep the Jewish feasts (4:10) if they wanted to be complete as Christians (3:3). The Judaizers thought Paul’s gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone was inadequate. Therefore, they added other requirements. They had to discredit Paul’s message to further validate theirs. If a critic cannot make others find fault with the message he/she will usually attack the messenger. The Judaizers had done so in Paul’s absence saying he was a second-class apostle at best, because he was not one of the original twelve apostles.

The first two chapters of Galatians provide Paul’s defense against their charges.

  • His authority as Christ’s apostle was “not from man or through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Galatians 1:1
  • He did not receive his gospel message from man, nor was he taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:12
  • He said that there is enough public information about his life before and after his encounter with the living Christ that no one can reasonably assert that he is a second-class apostle.
    • His gospel came to him independently from the Jerusalem apostles, and that he stands on an equal ground with Peter, James, and John.

Why Is This Important to Us and Our Discipleship?

Were they men of equal authority preaching two different gospels? The Judaizers claimed to represent the apostles in Jerusalem, but their message did not align with Paul’s. So even when the question of Paul’s authority is settled, there’s still the question of which gospel is the correct one.

Paul did not go to Jerusalem because he had second thoughts about his gospel and wanted to make sure it was true. That would have played right into the hands of the Judaizers. It says in verse 2: “I went up by revelation.” Not only did Paul receive his gospel through a revelation of Jesus (1:12), but even 14 years later the living Lord in heaven is directing the steps of his apostle by revelation.

Why did Paul take Titus? Because he is not playing games. His gospel has laid hold on real people. Titus is going to be Exhibit A of Paul’s gospel preaching. Titus is a Greek, and he is not circumcised according to Old Testament laws. Yet he is a brother in Christ by faith. This is the freedom Paul stands for. And Titus is his best case. Will he be forced to be circumcised by the apostles in Jerusalem or won’t he? There was no better way of forcing the real issue than to take along a real person.

“Those who are of repute” (in v. 2) refer to the apostles, especially Peter, James (the Lord’s brother), and John. You can see that in verse 9, where these three are described as “those who are reputed to be pillars.” So verse 2 is saying that Paul had a private meeting with the apostles. You can tell from verses 4 and 5 why a private meeting might be necessary. The false brothers who insisted on having Titus circumcised were in no mood for a careful hearing. Sometimes the chiefs have to deliberate in private and then present their unified thoughts to the rowdy braves. (JP)

Paul’s purpose in going up to Jerusalem, according to verse 2, was to confirm that he had not run in vain. Paul’s ministry would have been in vain if the Judaizers were right; that is, if the apostles in Jerusalem disagreed with Paul and insisted on circumcision for Gentile believers. This would mean that the apostles of Christ had contradictory messages, and no church could be established on such a fractured foundation. Paul did not need to confirm his own gospel; he needed to confirm that the other apostles agreed, and that there was unity.

The fact that Paul went up to Jerusalem by revelation teaches us that Christ wants us to confront disagreement head on. If we are going to be a biblical people, we must be a confronting people. If we think someone is wrong, or if we think the ministry of the church might be in jeopardy, we must seek God for grace to go to the person and lay before them our position. Almost none of us does that naturally. It creates tense feelings, and we would just as soon avoid it.

Paul says in Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ” By putting our faith in Christ and drawing on the power of his Spirit, we cease to be enslaved by the love of comfort and the fear of conflict. And we experience a freedom to do what Paul did—to confront disagreement head on. Whatever peace we maintain in our personal relationships, in the church or in the Conference by avoiding needed confrontation will be a superficial and spiritually unproductive peace, and will make us weak in the long run because it will mean that we are walking by the flesh and not by the Spirit. That’s one implication of verses 1 and 2: Christ wants us to confront disagreement head on.

The second implication from verses 1 and 2 is that we ought to care about doctrinal unity, especially on points that are crucial. It ought to bother us that there is so much division in the church over matters of important doctrine. The disunity of God’s people on important matters of faith should send us to prayer and the study of Scripture  – that is, disciplines of the believer (aka discipleship). Paul’s example here teaches us that it is vital that Christians agree on crucial doctrines of our faith.

Disciplined Christianity Matters

See how in verse 5 Paul says that he did not submit to the false-brothers: “That the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” If Paul had given in to the demands of the false brothers, the gospel would have been destroyed. There would be no gospel, no good news, if Paul gave in to the demand for circumcision. The good news to the world is that right standing before God was totally paid for by the death of Christ. It can be enjoyed only through faith in him. Any requirement that causes us to rely on our work and not Christ’s work is destroys the gospel.

Conclusion

It has been said that, one who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

The Discipleship Pathway is a means of testing the gospel in your heart. It is a journey toward completeness in Christ. Like Paul and Titus we must be ready to prove our discipleship. It is essential for all who claim salvation through the Gospel of Christ to begin a discipleship journey and to maintain it throughout their lives.

In the coming weeks we will introduce specific opportunities for you to do so. Begin by reviewing the brochure produced by a team of Corinth leaders.

 

*John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

   “Living” the Invisible Future

By Bryan Cowden

Last week Pastor Dan spoke about a time of reflection for 2015 and this week, as we enter 2016 I’d like to speak about Vision: Seeing the Invisible Future! It is my hope to draw a distinct correlation of Faith and Vision through the words of Hebrews 11:1-40 (pg. 1874 in your pew bible)

As some of you may know I enjoy reading, or maybe don’t enjoy sleeping, not real sure which came first but either way a good book is hard to beat. I recently finished 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas! This book encompassed mini-biographies of George Washington (1st US President), William Wilberforce of England (abolishing the slave trade and bringing “liberty to the captives”), Eric Liddell (Scottish 1924 Paris Olympics 400-meter Gold Medalist runner chronologized in the movie Chariots of Fire), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor and theologian), Jackie Robinson (1st African American major league baseball player), Pope John Paul II (a youthful – by Pope standards, 58 year old non-Italian supreme pontiff), Charles Colson, (founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries). The common thread of these great men was their commitment to a Vision and persistence of “Living” their Faith!

We are blessed with a very similar book of the 66 books of the Bible, Hebrews, epitomizes a Solid Foundation for Faith in Christ – which the previously mentioned 7 Men exemplified!

Three profound truths jump off the pages of this great book of Hebrews!

  1. First, the writer / writers are not merely teachers, but leaders attempting to convince Jewish believers to shift to new paradigms and to live in the freedom of grace.
  2. Second, the book portrays Jesus not only as a wonderful Savior, but also as a superior Leader.
  3. Third, the book clearly develops the power of vision. Effective leadership always operates off of a compelling vision.

The entire book communicates a huge vision and a preferred future!

So let’s turn to Hebrews Chapter 11 (pg. 1874 in your pew bible) and delve into the famous “Hall of Faith” where we will discover a number of patriarchs living by faith and energized by a vision!

Faith in Action

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

A Brief Clarification:  (They are not ashamed to be called God’s people, and he is not ashamed to be called their God. They were looking for a city and he has prepared a city for them. We should not be ashamed to look forward to the future for our joy. God has prepared joy for us now and in our journeys end.)

We can classify this as “Heavenly Hope”
Verse 13: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
1. “Heavenly Hope” Established Vision – They saw the promises afar off- these gave them power for today- Vision gives you faith with long arms.
2. “Heavenly Hope” Provided Confidence- assured of what God promises- makes us optimistic – knowing that faith works.
3. “Heavenly Hope” Created a Hunger- They embraced the promises – took ownership of what was coming as if it were now. Embrace it with long arms of faith, hugging the promise, bringing the promises near as in the heart. In my life there must be vision things I would like to accomplish, knowing that God gives us the desires of our heart according to his word and that my faith stands in the place of believing those things that are not as though they were.
4. “Heavenly Hope” Gave a Resolve- They confessed they were strangers and pilgrims and their minds where made up and their dreams and not their memories consumed them.

Hebrews 11 is often called the ”Hall of Faith”, because it enshrines men and women of faith who have been victorious in their own lifetimes. There is a word about vision in these heroes of faith.
You cannot separate vision and faith!

Proverbs 29:18 The Message (MSG)                                Proverbs 29:18 American Standard Version (ASV)

18 If people can’t see what God is doing,                          Where there is no vision, the people

they stumble all over themselves;                                     cast off restraint; But he that keepeth

But when they attend to what he reveals,                        the law, happy is he.

they are most blessed.

A lack of vision can be a lack of faith as well.
• Biblical vision – is informed by a person and promise of God that gives us stability and focus – a stable prospective.
• As previously stated Faith, defined in Heb. 11:1, as confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Our text is about people who through difficult times made it because of vision along with faith succeeded. Let me repeat that last statement!

Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:16-18
16. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
18. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul’s outlook allowed him to undergo intense hardship and pain with unwavering faith because of vision of Gods promises. It was mostly a matter of vision and perspective that gave him the determination to go on. The old man wears out and our time on planet earth is brief. (Old women not to be excluded) But our hardships here on earth are temporary and the glory we will inherit is eternal. The inner man should be growing stronger as our outer man is growing weaker.
We can suffer in hope because we have the glorious vision of a glorious future in the promises of God.  Let’s resume to Hebrews vs. 17:

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Their Epitaph Reads
They all died in the Faith! (Viewing their promises afar off.)
They were not only strangers and pilgrims but confessed that this world is not my home we are merely passing through.
Vision is a requisite to confessed faith – You see the promise and confess it. You embrace it, and are persuaded, lay hold of the promises and press them to your heart. The fruit of your faith comes by professing that you are a stranger and pilgrim on journey to the home place.

Jesus laid a plan for the future – Vision of this plan is stated in John 14:1-4
1 ¶ “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me.
2. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4 ¶ “And where I go you know, and the way you know.
He has prepared a place for us in his father’s house. He gives us a vision of our future in his word; A plan that the Holy Spirit will finish in our lives.

This plan is also supported in the familiar book of Jeremiah 29:11-13New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

By faith we look toward the completion of our journey.
We aim to finish this journey well. Our confidence will be rewarded and our obedience will be recognized and falling back will be regretted and the return of Christ will be celebrated. Our race is a marathon and we must run to win.

So when you read Corinth’s Vision Statement (display),

Corinth will evolve into a church where each person aspires to become complete in Christ, coming together in unity to reach out and share the love of God with our community!

Where do you place your measure of faith and personal vision of “Living” the Invisible Future for 2016 thru to eternity like our Biblical patriarchs so passionately did?

So hopefully you’ve been asking yourself why the message title “Living” the Invisible Future vs. Vision: Seeing the Invisible Future?

To answer that title question we’ll have to turn to James 2:14 & 17. James confirms for us and probably allows me the shortest conclusion to a message ever delivered: as titled

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

We are called to “live out our faith & vision through our actions”!