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Discipleship in a Crowd

“Helping People Trust & Follow Jesus”

That was one of our main lessons from last week and it was based on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We summed up the main ideas in this passage and ended up with this easy-to-remember statement about what discipleship is all about: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

And we brought up this whole topic of discipleship, not because this is some crazy, new idea that we should make disciples. I think most of us are well aware that Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples. That’s one of our main purposes in this life as Christians. To be a disciple of Jesus, and to make disciples of Jesus – or as we’ve defined discipleship here, to help people trust and follow Jesus.

And so we’re not bringing this up because we didn’t know that we’re supposed to make disciples. But rather, we’re bring this up because I think a lot of us don’t know how to make disciples. I think we want to make disciples – we want to help people trust and follow Jesus – but we’re just not sure how.

Obviously being a disciple of Jesus means doing what Jesus did – but we can’t replicate everything that Jesus did. We can’t walk on water, we can’t give sight to the blind or bring people back to life. And even if we leave out the miracles, I’m not sure we’re in a position where we can have 12 grown men following us around everywhere – living life with us. All that stuff seemed to work really well for Jesus as he made disciples, but I don’t think that’s what he expects of us today.

So somehow, we’ve got to learn the principles behind what Jesus did so that we can live out those principles in our current context. We’ve got to find a discipleship model that fits.

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Iron Sharpens Iron

Well, last week we wrapped up our series talking about the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges, so normally I would start a new series today. However, we’re just about into the summer months and most of us, including myself, will likely miss several Sundays as we take vacations, spend time at Bible camp, or whatever else we find ourselves doing this summer. So I didn’t really want to kick off a whole new series at this point.

But it is Father’s Day – and so I thought it might be good to do a message that was really geared for the men. Now that’s not to say that it won’t apply to you ladies – I think there’s lessons here for all of us today – but I really want to try to connect with the guys this morning. And so to that end, today’s message will be shorter than usual, it will include power tools, and it will end with food.

I think most guys would be agreeable to all that – so we here we go! Let’s jump right into it.

The main verse that I want to focus on today is Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

Now of course, when I was a kid, I memorized this verse in the 1984 edition of the NIV – and back then, the translators weren’t so concerned about being gender neutral – and so that edition put it like this…

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV 1984 Edition)

So while, obviously this verse can apply to anyone – both men and women, today I want to focus on applying this verse to us men. Because I think this is really a missing ingredient in our Canadian culture today. We really don’t have that element of men sharpening men.

But I guess, before we get too far along, I should probably define this whole concept of sharpening one another and why its so important.

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A Taste of God’s Generosity

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past couple of weeks we have been focusing our Sunday mornings around this verse. We’ve discovered that knowing the truth about God – tasting and seeing for ourselves that God is good – that changes everything about how we live our lives.

Because what we believe determines our decisions. Just like how if we have an incorrect belief about gravity – we’re bound to make some foolish decisions that can lead us to having a real wreck. Likewise, believing false ideas about God can lead us to making foolish decisions that will cause us a lot of pain and hurt in our life.

So we want to know the truth about who God is and what He’s like. We want to taste and see for ourselves that God is good. As we do that, we’re gonna find that our day-by-day decisions change – which in turn, affects the entire course of our life!

And I know that many of us are already well into that process of tasting and seeing that God is good. We’ve experienced it for ourselves – and now it’s our turn to help the people around us taste and see for themselves.

Our friends and our neighbours have been fed a lot of mis-information about God. They’ve been told a lot of stuff about God that simply isn’t true. So our job, as disciples of Jesus – as imitators of Jesus – is to help them taste and see (through our lives) that God is good.

For example, we spent time last week looking at how God is joy. He is the source of all joy. He invented laughter and happiness and even pleasure. That was all his idea. The very character of God is joy. And the more we taste and see and experience God’s joy, the more we will find that our life begins to overflow with joy. And its then that our neighbours and friends and co-workers can taste and see that joy through us.

So that’s what we talked about last week and today I want us to look at another truth about God.

I read a very interesting article this week. It was entitled “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving”. I’d love to read you the whole thing, but for the sake of time, let me just read the first couple of paragraphs of the story…

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A True Taste of God

Taste & SeeDoes it matter what you believe? Does what you believe actually impact your life?

If you find an unmarked bottle of liquid in your cupboard – there are many possibilities of what it could be. It could be water. It could be bleach. It could be vinegar. They all look pretty much the same. You could believe that it could be any of those.

But does it matter what you believe? Will your belief about the contents of that container effect how you choose to use it? And will those choices, based on those beliefs, impact the course of your life? It certainly could!

“If you drink bleach, it oxidizes or burns tissues in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach. According to the National Institutes of Health, it can cause nausea, chest pain, lowered blood pressure, delirium, coma, and potentially death.” ~ somewhere on the internet…

Does it matter what you believe?

Of course it does! And all day every day, we make choices based on our beliefs.

If we believe that it’s going to be -40º outside today, you’re going to wear a warm coat and mitts and boots and all that stuff. If you believe that it’s going to be +40º today, you’re going to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

We are continually making choices based on our beliefs – and those choices, based on our beliefs are setting the course for our lives.

So what happens if your beliefs are wrong? What happens if you believe that you have a bottle of water – and it turns out that it’s a bottle of bleach? What happens if you believe that it’s going to be +40º but it turns out to be -40º?

It’s a serious problem to have incorrect beliefs. The course of your life can take a serious turn for the worse in a quick hurry!

I think it’s pretty obvious how important it is to have true beliefs.

And if it’s that important to know the truth about the weather or the truth about the contents of this container – how much more important is it that we have true beliefs about God?

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Representing Christ

Several times throughout the New Testament, we are instructed to imitate Christ – to follow him – to become like him. We are told that we are ambassadors of Christ. We are his representatives here on earth. And that’s really the focus of our passage today.

We ended last week in mid-paragraph at verse 16 of Colossians 3. I’m not sure how your Bible has all the verses grouped together on the page, but I think in all of the Bibles that I’ve seen, verses 16 & 17 of Colossians 3 are always lumped together.

But you might have noticed that we stopped last week at verse 16 – without including verse 17. So why did we do that? Well, let’s read through our passage this morning and I’ll see if I can explain my thinking: Start at verse 17 and we’ll go all the way through chapter three right into the first verse of chapter 4.

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.

 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

 20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. 1 Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.

Colossians 3:17 – 4:1

Now most of what we just read sure seems to be a hodgepodge of instructions. It’s like the misc section – a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else. It’s like reading through some of the Proverbs – it seems to be just random bits of good advice.

But it’s that verse 17 that gives it all a common theme. It’s like a bridge between everything Paul just told us in the previous verses about living according to our new nature and all these seemingly random bits of good advice. So let’s focus for a moment on verse 17.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:17

Paul just finished a whole section of this letter to the Colossians talking about how we are to put on our new Christ-like nature – how we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of every day – how we are to walk in close fellowship with God. And as we do all of that, everything we say or do will be a reflection of God.

As Christians – we are ‘Christ ones’. When people look at us, they should get a really good idea of what Christ looks like. Not physically of course, but in word and deed and attitude. When people watch you, you’re showing them who Jesus is. You’re a living example of Jesus. At least, we should be.

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Putting on Our New Nature

Over the past month we’ve been looking at Christianity in a Nutshell as we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. In this letter from Paul we find many of the core basics of Christianity. We’ve looked at who Jesus really is and what He did for us on the cross. We’ve talked about some of the things that distract us from our walk with God and how important it is to keep our focus in Christ. Last week we started talking about how we can avoid those times of growing distant from God and instead how to live continuously in a close relationship with Him. And this morning we are going to continue on that theme – this is kinda a “part 2” to our message last week.

Last week we talked about the battle between our two natures. We have our old sinful nature that just wants to please me – and we have our new Christ-like nature that wants to please God. And these two natures are constantly in conflict with each other. We always have this struggle between doing what I want – and doing what God wants. And this battle, I think, is the reason that so many Christians feel defeated. Time and time again, they really want to do what is right, but they inevitably do what is wrong – just like what Paul expressed in Romans 7. So they feel like failures.

But Paul tell us that we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to follow our sinful nature. Through the power of Jesus Christ who lives within us, we can strip off our old sinful nature and put on our new Christ-like nature. We looked at Colossians 3:10 last week…

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10

And so that’s where we want to pick up this discussion this morning. How do we put on our new nature? Is it something we do or is it something God does? And what exactly does our new nature look like? How will our lives change as we start following our new nature? There’s all kinds of questions – and hopefully our passage today will provide us with a few answers.

We begin this morning in Colossians 3 – verse 12. Paul writes…

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