Happy new year. God in his grace has brought us through 2014 and here we are.
Before us is a brand new 2015, with 361 more days for living. We have 51 and a half weeks until the next year. Can you tell me this. Will they be weeks of joy or sorrow?
What dreams do you have for this new year? What things do you want to accomplish? What amazing goals do you want to achieve? What impending disasters would you like to escape? What unhappy endings would you like to avoid?
Some of you are the kind of people who want a clear plan. You don’t want surprises. You want the whole year planned out and made safe. Only then can you feel comfortable. Some people have started the year with no plans. These free spirits want to just see what happens and grab every opportunity that comes over the horizon.
This is the normal way of thinking, but there is a problem with it. At least to my mind there is a problem. I think that the focus when we think like this is basically either what I am going to do to the world, or what the world might be going to do to me.
But we are Christians, aren’t we? Is this how we are supposed to think about a new year?
A Christian is a royal priest, a holy ambassador, a child of God, a disciple. Is this how a royal priest should be thinking. Shouldn’t she be thinking of her priestly duties first? An ambassador represents a king. Shouldn’t she be thinking of her king and her ambassador duties first? Shouldn’t the child of God be thinking first about God the father? Shouldn’t the disciple be first thinking about following his master?
We have spent the last weeks of 2014 thinking about the birth of Jesus. We have reminded ourselves of this amazing story of how God came to earth in the form of a baby. Did God become a baby so that we could get great gifts at Christmas and have all our new year’s wishes fulfilled? Did God become a baby so that we could carry on with life just as before, minus the bad bits?
One thing to remember is that the real bad bits of life are us. God came to earth to change the bad bits into good bits. He came to save us.
God in his grace has given us a new year. This is not an accident. It did not happen against God’s will. God wants this year.
He is not unreasonable. He has a reason. He has a purpose.
At the start of 2015 we should be asking God what his purpose is for this year. We should be asking him what he wants to happen, what he wants us to do, and how he wants us to live.
Approximately 30 years after his parents ran away to Egypt with him, Jesus came back to the region near Jerusalem. He began his ministry by being baptised. Then he started to gather disciples. Jesus walked up to ordinary busy people with jobs and family responsibilities, and told them to drop it all and follow him. Has Jesus changed since then, or is this still what he wants?
As they went about their business on the day Jesus called them, none of them would have expected their life to change so quickly and completely. The disciples could not have understood what they were getting into when they accepted Jesus’ invitation.
Whatever expectations or doubts, whatever curiosity, excitement, or uncertainty they felt, nothing could have prepared them for what lay ahead. Everything about Jesus – his teaching, compassion and wisdom; his life, death and resurrection; his power, authority and calling – would shape every aspect of the rest of their lives.
After only a few years, these simple men were standing before some of the most powerful rulers on earth and being accused of turning the world upside down. What began as simple obedience to the call of Jesus ended up changing their lives, and ultimately, changing the world.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? The answer is fairly simple, but it changes your life completely. Disciples in Jesus’ day would follow their rabbi wherever he went, learning from the rabbi’s teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower. But only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying his call to follow.
When Jesus called his first disciples, they may not have understood where Jesus would take them or the impact it would have on their lives, but they knew what it meant to follow. They took Jesus’ call literally and began going everywhere he went and doing everything he did.
It’s impossible to be a disciple or a follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate him, carry on his ministry, and become like him in the process.
Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A ‘follower’ who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense? Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else.
This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, “Hey, would you guys mind identifying yourselves with me in some way? Don’t worry, I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in me and call themselves Christians.”
No one can seriously believe that is all it means to be a Christian. Then why do so many people live this way? It appears that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The concept of being a disciple isn’t difficult to understand, but it affects everything.
Let’s look at Matthew 28:18–20:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 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.”
예수님은 제자들에게 가까이 오셔서 이렇게 말씀하셨다. “나는 하늘과 땅의 모든 권능을 받았다. 그러므로 너희는 가서 모든 민족을 제자로 삼아 아버지와 아들과 성령의 이름으로 1세례를 주고 내가 너희에게 명령한 모든 것을 가르쳐 지키게 하라. 내가 세상 끝날까지 항상 너희와 함께 있겠다.”
We are disciples of Jesus. There should surely be no question in our minds about obeying his commands. What command is there in this instruction, except the one to go and make disciples. Do you think it is only Mormons and Jehova’s Witnesses who are supposed to obey this command? This is for you too.
In Luke 10:1 we learn that “The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.”
And he told them to ask God to “send more workers”.
Jesus taught his disciples to go out and make disciples. He specifically commanded that his disciples go out and make disciples. Is there any reason under heaven why that is not God’s purpose for us in the year 2015. Just as it was his purpose for us last year and for the two thousand or so years before that.
The reason we have been given this year is so that we can make disciples, and train those new disciples to make more disciples. We have been told to obey and train others to obey.
By what authority are we to do this? By his authority. Jesus has all the authority, and as his ambassadors and royal priests we have his authority. You can be sure of one thing.
Jesus said, you can “be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
If the command to make disciples and minister sacrificially to God’s people seems overwhelming, recall Jesus’ reassuring words.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God will fulfil this mission in us and through us in 2015.
Let’s go and make disciples.