Last week I reminded you that God has a clear purpose for you in this new year.
He has given you a command: “Go and make disciples.”
In my heart, I am convinced that God is telling us that he wants us to focus on this command. I am deeply convinced that there is one other area where he is telling us we must improve. What we must get better at goes hand in glove with making disciples. In 2015 we must be much more serious about prayer than we have been in the past.
Hands up if you want to be a failure in 2015. Do you want to be a failure?
I think nobody wants to be a failure. We shrink inside at the thought that we might be a failure. Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors are kept busy with the millions of people who worry about being a failure. People fear that they are a failure, are stressed into illness because they are trying so hard not to fail, and so on. Every politician and businessman I know is afraid of failure. It’s human nature. When we go outside of our comfort zone, we feel scared.
How do you cope with failure? Positive thinking is not enough, and this is a fact proven by psychological studies. We need more than positive thinking.
All of us want to succeed. God made us to succeed. But what is success? How do we measure success. More importantly, how does God measure success. What is success for a church? What does a successful church look like?
There will be some who count Sunday attendance and say that if the numbers keep increasing then that is success. There will be some who count how much money is given each Sunday and use that to measure success. There will be some who consider that they are a success if they bring a certain number of people to the church service, or if a certain percentage of these visitors become members.
Let’s imagine for a moment. Can you do that? Let’s imagine that Jinju has a sports team. You decide if it is a cricket team, or a rugby, baseball, basketball or football team. The team is called Jinju Lions. You are a supporter. You pay a lot of money for tickets to see their games. The players earn huge wages. They are rich sportsmen, while you are struggling to afford tickets to all of their matches.
The players are all having a great time. They really enjoy being with each other. They get along well. They go round to each other’s expensive homes and eat meals together.
They tell you how great it is to go on road trips together for away matches. Their children love to play together. They are having the best time of their lives.
How does that make you feel? Are they a success?
Now let me tell you that this team has lost every match they have played for the last three seasons. Now how do you feel?
I would be very angry. The Jinju Lions are failures. They aren’t even trying. The point of a team is not to sit around enjoying each other’s company. The point of a team is not to faithfully attend every practise session, and eat pizza together. The point of the team is to be the best they can be at their sport, and win games.
So why do we so often seem to do church like the Jinju Lions?
Have you already forgotten the command Jesus gave us? He said: Go and make disciples.
He didn’t say sit around with your friends having a nice time, eating salad and drinking tea. The Jinju Lions should do all those other things and get along well, but the point is to win games. Jinju Fellowship should spend time with each other, eat together and love each other. But the point is to make disciples.
We gather together to help each other be disciples, and to make more disciples.
A disciple is simply a follower of Jesus. If we believe that Jesus is who he says he is and we do what he tells us to do, then we are disciples. So the process of disciple making amounts to telling other people about Jesus and calling them to follow him as well. Discipleship is a lifelong process where we are continuously made more and more like Jesus.
One result of Jesus’ command to teach others to obey all that he commanded is the New Testament itself. These gospel accounts and letters were written to believers in various churches in order to tell them more clearly who Jesus was and to deliver ongoing instruction on living as followers of Christ in a hostile world.
Salvation is not like receiving a train ticket to heaven, where the ticket gets us aboard, but after that we can put it in our pocket and forget about it. Rather, it is like a marriage, where we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and become a part of his family, the church. The Christian life is a process of better understanding what Jesus taught, learning to apply that teaching in our everyday lives, and then teaching others—people directly around us and people on the other side of the globe—to do the same.
It starts with you being a disciple.
Are you a disciple? Do you follow Jesus? Do you obey Jesus? You won’t be able to teach others to obey Jesus if you don’t first obey him yourself.
Becoming a disciple starts with repenting. First we repent. Some of you have tried hard to be a disciple in 2014, and some of you have hardly tried.
We should all start by repenting.
Romans 3:23 says we have all fallen short. We all need to repent.
I think this is why the other emphasis from God for this new year is prayer. You cannot repent without prayer. When we have our time of open prayer, it should not be a time of silence. It should not be one or two people. We all need to pray. It is vital for our health.
Today make a determination to say even a short prayer during our time of open prayer.
Prayer is talking to God, it is part of having a relationship with him.
We say to God that we are not happy with the way we are, we are sorry that we have not obeyed him well. We say we want to follow him better and be more obedient. We say we want him to change us. And then part of our repentance is that we go away and make a serious effort to change our lives.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, some of you have things in your lives that you need to get rid of. There are things in your life that keep you away from God. They may be books you read or games you play. They may be habits. It may be laziness and lack of prayer. It may be selfishness and disobedience. You must make the effort so that God can change you.
Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves—for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ. The effort you must make is not what is going to save you. We must struggle in prayer and action so that God can change us. For example, if you don’t pray and read your Bible everyday, do you really think you can call yourself a disciple.
Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that he is your owner—that you actually belong to him?
In 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 it says: “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
Let’s repent that we have not lived truly as if Jesus is our Lord. We have not truly followed him. We have not truly obeyed him. Repent that we live as though we are the Lords of our own lives. Repent that you have not prayed desperately.
Let’s now agree to try to change and help each other change. Let’s promise to God that we will be his disciples in 2015 and that we shall make disciples of others. Not struggling alone, but together. Not struggling in our own strength, but thorough prayer in his strength.
Jesus gave us this promise in Acts 1 and verse 8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
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.