Together we shine brighter

John 17:3–21

There is an invisible person in this room!

Some of you are looking around to try and see them. You can’t. They are invisible.

Some of you think I mean a spiritual being, like maybe an angel or Holy Spirit. No, I mean an invisible flesh and blood human being.

The invisible person in this room is yourself. The rest of us can see you, but you cannot look at yourself.

It is strange but true that many people are dissatisfied with the way they look even though they don’t know what they look like. Popular culture and fashion has told them that their nose needs surgery, so beautiful people get a face job they don’t need. Some people get confidence from cosmetic surgery, a lot don’t.

We need to get the real picture of ourselves from God. We said last week that we have value because God has filled us with his light. He loved us the way we were.

You cannot see your face. Your face exists for others, not for you. The light that fills you is also not for you, it is for others. Jesus says you are ‘the light of the world’.

Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

You are a light that shows people God. You are a disciple who makes disciples and teaches them to make disciples. The light in you is not for you. The light in me is for you.

This brings us to a great truth. We were created for each other. We are to shine for all to see. The disciple is a child of God who is part of a family of disciples.

Jesus said in today’s reading – “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

God is invisible. Jesus says that the way everyone can see God is by looking at us, his family of disciples.

The family of disciples is called the church. The church is a really important part of disciples making disciples. In fact it is impossible to be a disciple without being part of the church. It is impossible to make disciples without being part of the church.

The Bible is full of commands to love one another, pray for each other and encourage one another. That is impossible to do alone.

The church is not a place where we ask Jesus to make us rich, happy, or healthy. Jesus is not our co-pilot. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is awesome. Jesus is holy. In a false church there will be self-love, self-esteem and self-worth. In the true church you belong to Jesus. Your whole life belongs to God. All of your remaining days on earth belong to God, and he has a purpose for your days. He wants all the world to know him through his children.

Jesus says in John 17 that the way to have eternal life is to know the true God and to know Jesus, the one that God sent to earth.

The purpose of your remaining time on earth is to make God and Jesus known so that others can have eternal life. We do this together as church. We do not do this alone.

The church is where traditional social distinctions are rejected. On the plaque in front of this building it explains what a struggle it was when Jinju Church began and the high class of Jinju found that the low class wanted to attend and sit together with them.

We reject social distinctions. Our love has no boundaries regarding class, race, nationality, age, gender, etc. We are family. Love rules. But discipline is part of what the word disciple means. Disciples exercise self-discipline. We submit all our emotions and desires to God.

God spoke to King Solomon in a vision in 2 Chronicles 7 and told him, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

The walk of the disciple doesn’t start anywhere else. It starts here, with you. We never say to God that if he does this first, then we will be disciples. He has already done it all. Now there is an interesting thing about the word translated ‘prayer’ in this verse. It is the Hebrew word ‘pâlal’ and it means to judge yourself habitually. This is the start. It is to deny yourself. It is discipline. It is something that some people lack.

God cares about the way we love each other and the way we pursue his mission. The church is us living and serving together in such a way that lives and communities are transformed. What matters is our interaction with the people God has placed in our life. If we are not connected with other Christians, serving and being served, challenging and being challenged, then we are not living as he desires, and the church is not functioning as he intended.

Out of 114 times the church is mentioned in the New Testament, at least 90 refer to local gatherings of believers who have banded together for fellowship and mission.

God intends for every follower of Jesus to be a part of such a gathering under the servant leadership of pastors who shepherd the church for the glory of God.

God has united us together in local churches to keep one another from sinning and straying from Christ (Galatians 6:1–5; Matthew 18:15–20). God has commanded us to gather together in local assemblies where we preach God’s Word, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, baptise new believers, and pray for and encourage one another (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24–25). Then we scatter to care for believers and to share the gospel with unbelievers (Acts 2:43–47).

Clearly, being a disciple and making disciples involves committing your life to a local church where you are joined together with other believers under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and to express the love of Christ to the world around you.

My job in the church is to equip you for the work of ministry; to do God’s work and build up the church, the body of Christ. You are a minister in the church. That sounds really intimidating, because you cannot see yourself. When God sees you, he sees his child filled with his light and shining brightly.

Maybe you’re not gifted to preach sermons, start a rehabilitation clinic, or lead a marriage retreat. But do you know people who struggle with sin? Do you know people who are carrying burdens? If so, then your first steps of ministry are easy: help them. Maybe you don’t want to get involved in someone else’s messy problems, because it will only bring their mess over into your life and you have enough mess of your own.

But when God looks at the situation he doesn’t see it that way. He sees us all as one community. He sees us disciples and as his family, his children. Your mess is not yours any more, it belongs to the church. Your mess is our mess. Every mess is the family’s mess.

We clean it up together. We pray over it together. We encourage each other through all the struggles. We become better disciples as we do this. We start now, and once we get started we grow. Don’t think your problems need to be solved before you start, that is Satan’s lie. He lies when he tells you what you look like, so stop listening. Listen to God and to church members.

When we minister to each other, we must avoid the easy answers. We must get to the heart of the mess. We often really want to help the people around us, but we get so focused on finding a quick solution to a behaviour that we overlook the real problem.

Jesus tell us (Mark 7:18–23) to look beyond appearances into the heart. “Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Brothers and sisters, every struggle with sin that we encounter in our own lives or in the lives of those around us are represented on Jesus’ list. Jesus said they all come from within.

If we try to address these problems by regulating circumstances or behaviour, we are wasting our time. These things come out of the heart. Whatever help we disciples offer people who are struggling with sin has to be aimed at transforming hearts, not behaviour.

That’s why when we started with ourselves we started with prayer as self-judgement aimed at our own hearts.

Amen 아멘.

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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