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Tag: disciples

Commissioned

As we’ve been going through our study of the Book of Acts, we’ve noted how the story kinda jumps around from person to person – following a variety of different characters as the Holy Spirit works through each of them in unique ways. We’ve seen snapshots of Peter & John, Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, & Saul – all of them each playing key role in the early days of the church.

But so far, Peter has been the most visible character in these stories. We’ve seen him preaching on the day of Pentecost, later healing a lame man at the temple, confronting Ananias & Sapphire about lying to the Holy Spirit, bringing the Gospel to Cornelius and his household, and most recently being miraculously rescued from prison!

If we had to identify a central character to the book of Acts so far (Jesus Christ not withstanding) – I think we would have to choose Peter. 

However, we are now just about half-way through the book of Acts and it’s at this point that the spotlight of the story shifts and will now follow a young man named Saul and it will track with him pretty much for the rest of the book.

Of course, Saul is not a new character to the book of Acts. We first met him back in chapter 7. At that time he was a zealous young Pharisee whose misdirected zeal for the Lord lead him to imprison and murder many believers. 

But thankfully, in His grace, God saw fit to intervene, and in a very dramatic fashion, brought Saul to the saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ. And not only was Saul’s conversion dramatic, so was the change in his life! Almost immediately, Saul began boldly preaching about Jesus Christ – doing the very thing that he had condemned others for only days earlier!

With Saul’s zeal for the Lord now properly directed, He had gone from being the persecutor to being the persecuted! And so for his own safety, the other believers sent him away to his hometown of Tarsus.

But that certainly wasn’t the end of Saul’s story. Sometime later, Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul and brought him to Antioch where they both worked together with the church there for quite some time.

And that’s just about the last we’ve heard about Saul up until this point. The only other thing we know is that he and Barnabas have taken a trip to Jerusalem to bring a gift for the church there to help provide for their needs during a famine.

And so that’s where we’re going to pick things up today.

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The Command to be Baptized

This morning we are really excited that we can baptize 5 people out in the river in just a few minutes from now! And I am glad that we are doing this in June instead of in late September like we have in the past. Theoretically, it should be a little bit warmer! 

But I’ll admit that this year’s baptism is a unique baptism for me. This will be (by far) the youngest group of baptism candidates that I have ever baptized.

And because of that, I do want to clarify a few things this morning about baptism – what it is and what it is not. You know, having these young kids wanting to be baptized has actually been a good but challenging process for me. It’s caused me to go back and review the Scriptures to make sure that what we’re doing is actually the proper way to obey Christ’s instructions regarding baptism.

And so this morning, before we get into the actual baptism, let’s just take a few moments to look the Scriptures and see what the Bible has to say about it all!

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The Priority of Prayer

Well, last Sunday we began working through a new book of the Bible – the book of Acts – and we noted that it was written as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of everything Jesus began to do and teach during his time on earth.

This book is traditionally titled “The Acts of the Apostles”. However, as we pointed out last week, it really would be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” – since it is He who continues to be the central character throughout the book!

The book opens with a brief summary of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions and he proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive! And of course in those visits, as He had done throughout the previous three years, Jesus talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And one of the key things that Jesus talked to them about concerning the Kingdom of God, was their role in the Kingdom. Specifically, how they were to be his witnesses – telling people about Him everywhere they went.

Now of course, this would be quite a daunting task for such a ragtag group of fisherman! They weren’t trained professional speakers. They certainly weren’t powerful or influential in society… They were really just a bunch of nobodies… Who were they to boldly tell the world all about the Messiah of Isreal and what He had done?

Besides, had Jesus forgotten that just a few weeks earlier, his disciples had all abandoned him and fled when he had been arrested and put on trial? Why, even their fearless leader, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus!

And yet now, Jesus expects them to go out into the whole world and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has been raised from the dead? And to boldly do that in the same city where Jesus had just been put to death 40 days earlier!

How could Jesus ever expect the disciples to carry out such a task? In their own limited strength, they would surely fail!

Well, Jesus never intended them to accomplish this in their own limited strength. God was going to strengthen and equip and them in an incredible way – He was going to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within them – empowering them to be His witnesses where ever they went. For the rest of their lives, they would have the power of God enabling them to do anything that God wanted them to do!

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To Be His Witnesses

This morning I’m excited to begin preaching through a new book of the Bible. 

As most of you know, for the last four months we have been working through a sermon series following the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter.

And of course, if you were with us two weeks ago on Easter Sunday, you’ll recall how we concluded that series by reading through the details of Christ’s resurrection, his appearance to his disciples, and finally, His ascension back into heaven.

However, while those events did conclude the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, they certainly did not conclude the work of Jesus Christ here on earth.

Jesus would continue to accomplish the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the disciples and the many others who would eventually come to faith over the next many years. Or to put it another way, Jesus would continue to bring about the kingdom of God working through his redeemed people – the Church.

And that’s what I want us to look at for the next little while. Specifically, I want us to read through the book of Acts.

Now most of you probably know this already, but the book of Acts is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, who happened to be a doctor and a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both of these two books as a carefully researched account of the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus.

We see that right in the opening lines of Luke chapter 1. Luke begins that book by saying:

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke 1:1-4

So here we see that the author Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a careful, historic account of the life & ministry of Jesus Christ – written for sake of this fellow Theophilus – so that he could be certain of the truth he was taught!

Then after writing this first book, Luke went on to write a second book – again for this same fellow Theophilus as a continuation of that story. Take a look at the opening lines of the book of Acts. It begins like this:

 In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2  until the day he was taken up to heaven… Acts 1:1-2a

So just from those few opening words, we can see that the book of Acts is very clearly a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the story. And actually, even though the traditional title of the book is “The Acts of the Apostles” – it’s probably more accurate to call it “The continued Acts of Jesus” because it really is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do! 

While the stories in the book of Acts certainly feature several of the Apostles, Jesus is the one key figure throughout! It’s all about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Apostles and through the early church!

So while the Gospels tell us what Jesus began to do and teach – the book of Acts tell us what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through the work of the Holy Spirit.

And even beyond the book of Acts, Jesus continues to “do and teach” through the Holy Spirit even today!

While Jesus may not be physically present among us as he was 2000 years ago, He is still very alive and is very much at work in and through our lives – and that’s really what the book of Acts is all about. It’s how Jesus continued to bring about the Kingdom of God – working through the Apostles and all those who would eventually trust in Christ – empowering them by His Holy Spirit – just like what He continues to do even today!

And I think that’s partly why I’m so excited to go through this book with you over the next few months! We might find it difficult to relate to the some of the Gospel stories because we don’t have a physical Jesus walking and talking with us – we can’t watch him walk on water or see him touch the eyes of a blind man. But yet, we can have the exact same experience as those early disciples in Acts! 

We can be filled with the Holy Spirit – empowered by God to boldly share about Christ and his kingdom! What Jesus did through those early disciples back then is exactly what he wants to do through us today!

So I’m totally excited to see what we can learn from this book over the next little while – and I trust that God will use this time to shape us and direct us and to show us how we can join Him in what he is already doing in our little town of Penhold!

Let’s begin.

Acts chapter 1, starting at verse 1:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.    Acts 1:1-3

Let’s pause here for a minute. When you read through the resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke, you might conclude that Jesus rose from the grave, appeared to the disciples, and then ascended into heaven all on the same day. We read through Luke 24 on Easter Sunday, and that’s kinda how it all reads. But that account is really just concise summary of what happened over the course of several weeks.

We know that because here in Acts, Luke clarifies that there was 40 days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven. And during that time, he appeared to the apostles several times and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive! It wasn’t just appearing to those guys on the road to Emmaus or to the disciples in the upper room. Jesus appeared to many different people at many different times.

In fact, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul states that Christ appeared to over 500 people during that time. He writes:

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

1 Corinthians 15:3b-8

The point that both Paul and Luke are making here, is that there were many witness who personally saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of many days! It was not just one or two people who imagined seeing Jesus or had a dream that He was alive. But rather, many people saw and talked with him on many occasions – and as Luke says, Jesus proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive!

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Meeting Jesus

For those who haven’t been with us for a while, we are currently working our way through the life and ministry of Jesus – creating a bit of a timeline to help us see how all of the stories and events of Jesus’ life all fit together.

And so far, we’re really just begun. We looked first at the one event recorded for us in the Bible of Jesus childhood – that is, the time when his family visited Jerusalem for the passover and Jesus got separated from his parents for three days. Eventually they found him in the temple – sitting with the religious teachers – listening to them and asking questions – growing in his understanding of God and already beginning to carry out His Father’s will.

Then we hit the fast forward button and jumped ahead in time to when Jesus was an adult and was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Although Jesus certainly didn’t need to confess or repent of any sin, his baptism marked the first step in his journey to the cross where He would take all of our sin upon Himself and take our punishment once for all.

And then right after His baptism, we saw that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights. Of course, Jesus had complete victory over every temptation that Satan brought his way and he modelled for us how we too can have victory over the temptations that we face.

And that brings us now to the beginning stages of Jesus’ public ministry. Today we want to look at two “firsts” for Jesus. I had originally planned just to look at Jesus’ first miracle, but as I read through that, I realized we should probably back up and also look at Jesus’ first disciples as well – since they are a significant reason for why Jesus did this first miracle in the first place. So we’ll start with his first disciples in John chapter 1 and then we’ll move to chapter 2 to look at his first miracle. It is quite a lot of material to cover in one message so we are going to go through it all fairly quickly – but hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up on the major themes that run through these two passages and learn something important for our lives today.

Now as we mentioned back at Christmastime, the Gospel of John really doesn’t say much about Jesus’ birth or early life. Instead, John gives a brief summary of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish, and right after that, jumps into the narrative of John the Baptist. So in John’s Gospel we don’t actually meet Jesus until after Jesus had already been baptized and presumably after he had returned from his 40 days in the wilderness.

And before we start, I should mention that we will be talking about two different John’s today. There is John the Baptist (whom we’ve talked about already) – and then there is the Apostle John who would eventually write the Gospel that we’re reading from. I’ll try my best to clarify which John I’m talking about as go through it. I did a word count when I was finished this message and apparently I’ll be saying the word “John” about 75 times! So hopefully we won’t get too confused.

And so as the Apostle John begins his story of Jesus, we see John the Baptist preaching and baptizing – explaining to the people that He Himself was not the Messiah – but He was only preparing the way for the Messiah. 

And it’s at this point that Jesus happens to be walking by and John spots him from a distance. This is where we first meet Jesus in John’s Gospel – this is in John chapter 1 verse 29…

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

John 1:29-34

Even before Jesus performed any miracles or preached any sermons or taught any parables, John the baptist was boldly declaring that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There was no doubt in John’s mind that Jesus was the Chosen One of God – the Messiah that everyone had been waiting for. And so John was very enthusiastic and intentional about pointing people to Jesus.

And that’s actually one of the things that impresses me most about John the Baptist – he always pointed people to Jesus – both figuratively as he called the people to repent and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah – and now quite literally, as He points out Jesus in the crowd and declares that Jesus is the Chosen One of God. John’s focus is never on himself – he’s not trying to build up his own ministry or increase His own following – but He always very plainly points everyone to Jesus… 

Of course, at this time, John had huge crowds of people coming to see him and hear what he had to say. He himself had several disciples that were following him and learning from him. We even see many years later in the book of Acts that the believers in Ephesus were still preaching and practicing the baptism of John – and so John’s influence was quite far reaching!

But John was always very careful not to make it about himself – it was always about Jesus. In fact, John would later say in John 3:30…

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Discipled By God

Six weeks ago, we began looking at a fairly straight-forward question: What does it look like to make disciples?

Does it look like Sunday morning at a mega-church? Does it look like coffee with a friend at Tim Hortons? Does it look serving the homeless at a soup kitchen? Does it look like a neighbourhood block-party? Does it look like a ladies Bible study or youth group or Sunday school or kids club or any of these things?

Well, to find the answer to these questions, we started by defining discipleship. And of course, the key passage we looked at was Matthew 28:18-20 – which by now, I imagine most of you have memorized – since we’ve looked at it for each of the last six weeks! But it says this:

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

Now this isn’t the only place where the Bible talks about making disciples – its actually quite a re-occuring theme – but based on that passage, we defined discipleship as: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

Discipleship: Helping people trust and follow Jesus.

It’s really as simple as that. If you are helping people trust and follow Jesus – then you are making disciples. And we came to realize that we can help people trust and follow Jesus in a lot of different ways – and in a lot of different contexts.

In fact, we identified 5 different contexts in the life and ministry of Jesus that we could learn from as we try to model our discipleship on what He did.

At a glance, those five context’s were: The Public Context, The Social Context, The Personal Context, The Transparent Context, and the Divine Context.

And so the first context that we looked at was the public context. 

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