2020 Vision – Church Outreach ~ 20200126 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/26 Vision– individuals engaging the community with the gospel (Matthew 28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200126_church-outreach.mp3
We’re looking at the church, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, to re-focus our vision for what we are meant to be as a local church.
We’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church belongs to Jesus. It is a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth.
A local church is made up of individual believers, so a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. From Colossians 3 we saw that followers of Jesus live by faith, keep their minds fixed on God and his glory, live in love and forgive as they have been forgiven. We are to live lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.
From Romans 12 we saw that the church is the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, and God has given each of us different gifts that we are to use to build up one another in love. We are meant to experience the gospel in community.
As Hebrews 10 tells us
We are to draw near to God through Jesus, to hold fast our confession of the gospel, we are to meet together, to encourage one another in the gospel, to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to experience the gospel in community. And we are to engage our community with the gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus
We looked at the great confession in Matthew 16 that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God as the foundation on which Jesus builds his church. Now we will look at the great commission in Matthew 28, how Jesus goes about building his church.
Jesus tells his eleven disciples to make disciples who will make disciples. Luke gives more detail on the great commission in Luke 24.
The Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead to fulfill the Scriptures. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations. A gospel foundation.
Paul summarizes the gospel this way in 1 Corinthians 15; the gospel he proclaimed, that was to be received and held fast, the gospel that was saving those who were believing. ‘That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared…’ (1Cor.15:1-5). Making disciples must be built on a gospel foundation.
You are witnesses of these things. A witness testifies to the truth of what he has experienced. Jesus went on to say in Luke 24
But stay until. In Matthew 16 Jesus told his followers that he would built his church on the confession of his identity as the Christ, Son of the living God, but that they were not to reveal his identity, not yet. Luke continues the story of what Jesus began to do and teach in his book of Acts.
He ordered them to wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit. Jesus continues:
You will be my witnesses. You will be immersed in the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on high to be my witnesses.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
The very first thing we need to note is that we are to be his witnesses, to make disciples, not in our own power, not with our own natural wisdom or ability. We are to fulfill the great commission in the strength that God supplies. Natural means produce natural results. Supernatural means produce supernatural results. Jesus told his disciples to wait. The Holy Spirit was sent, Peter preached, and
Acts 2 closes with these words:
The Lord added to their number. In Acts 11 the church was scattered because of persecution, and some disciples preached the Lord Jesus to the Greek speaking Jews in Antioch
When news of this reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas.
God’s grace made visible! In Acts 16, Paul and Silas traveled through Asia minor visiting the Gentile churches and bringing news of the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Jesus is building his church through the witness of his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit.
It’s important to say here, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. Paul writes to the Romans
Believers, you have the Spirit of God, and you are called to be his witnesses!
The Authority of Jesus
Before Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples, he claims to have all authority. It is ‘therefore’, because of this, that he authorizes them to make disciples. Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Philippians tells us that because Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,
Jesus holds all authority, and he authorizes us to make disciples.
The Presence of Jesus
Matthew’s gospel began with the introduction of Jesus as the one who will save his people from their sins, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Immanuel, God with us (Mt.1:21-23). Now, at the close of this gospel, Jesus promises to be with his people, his followers throughout history, to the very end. Jesus’ own authority remains with us today, because Jesus himself is with us today!
Disciples of All Nations
Make disciples of all nations. Where Judaism was ‘come and see’; there was only to be one temple, only in Jerusalem; Christianity is ‘go and tell.’ Jesus explicitly includes as an essential part of his great commission that the good news is meant for all the nations. We are not to be comfortable or isolated or exclusive. The ultimate goal is people ‘from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Rev.7:9) worshiping. Jesus is more than just King of the Jews. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, King of the nations! The book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. As followers of Jesus, we are to engage our community and beyond with the gospel.
Disciples are Baptized in the Triune Name
What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner, a follower. We make disciples by proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming in Jesus the forgiveness of sins. Repent or turn from whatever else you are hoping in, trusting in, holding on to. Turn to Jesus alone as your only hope. Disciples make a clean break. Baptism is a picture of that. You go down into the water. What you were is dead. You come up a new creation in Christ.
Throughout the New Testament, believers are baptized. This is a public statement that you have made a break with your past and now you are following Jesus. Jesus commands that we baptize his disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Notice, ‘name’ is singular; we are baptized into the one name of the triune God, who eternally exists in the distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit. We are immersed into God himself.
Baptism is identifying with a new group. It is saying ‘I belong with these people.’ Paul writes:
We are baptized into one body by the Spirit. Water baptism is an outward declaration of what happened in us when we believed the gospel and turned to Jesus.
Disciples Obey Jesus Always in Everything
Those who believe the good news and turn to Jesus are to be baptized, identifying publicly as followers of Jesus, identifying with the body of Christ. But it doesn’t stop there.
A disciple is a learner. A follower of Jesus follows Jesus. That seems like it should go without saying, but Jesus thought it was important enough to include it in his great commission. Disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time. To follow Jesus is to give up following yourself. ‘Here’s what I want to do, but Jesus, if you are King, if I now belong to you, then I have to give up being king of me.’ I get to obey, to do what he says.
This doesn’t happen overnight. When you hear ‘disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time’ you might get discouraged or doubt, thinking ‘I certainly don’t obey Jesus in everything all the time, maybe I’m not really a follower.’ Maybe. But remember, Jesus’ command is that we make disciples, teaching them to obey Jesus. Teaching is an ongoing process. A disciple is a learner, a lifelong learner. None of us has graduated. We are all by God’s grace still learning. We are learning to love God more than anything else, and love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are learning to surrender every area of life to his loving control. We are learning to be his witnesses and make disciples. We are getting to know Jesus and what he demands of his followers, and we want to please him. We are learning what it means to be a part of his body, to love and serve one another. We are learning to forgive like we have been forgiven. We are walking. We are following.
What a disciple does not say is ‘I understand Jesus is calling me to do this, but I will not do it.’ That is what it means to not be a follower of Jesus, to not be a disciple. A disciple does not refuse to follow Jesus. At least not for very long. Remember, Jesus has all authority. Hallowed be your name (not mine). Your kingdom come (not mine), your will be done (not mine). To follow Jesus is to have a new Master, a good Master.
And remember, we are not alone, trying to do this on our own. Jesus is with us, always, to the end of the age. We are empowered by the gift of his Holy Spirit who lives inside.
Jesus is building his church. We as his disciples, followers of Jesus, are to engage our community with the gospel. Empowered by the Spirit, under the authority of Jesus, we are to make disciples, other followers, of all nations, identifying them as followers by baptizing them into the name of the one triune God, teaching them to obey Jesus always in everything. And we are to continue following, continue learning. Continue spending time with Jesus.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org