God’s church needs you
Last week we baptised four people. Wasn’t that wonderful? This action fulfilled one of the commands we were given by Jesus in ‘The Great Commission’.
In our focus so far this year on ‘The Great Commission’ we have talked about baptism and being part of the Church. We’ve talked about the need to be disciples before we can make disciples. Perhaps some of you are eager to hear some ideas on how we could actually make disciples. Others enjoy the theory itself, but we all know that the theory is there so we can perform the actions.
Among the wrong ways that we could try to make disciples are some that have been tried in the past. The results were disastrous. One example of a bad way: if we had the power, we could pass a law that makes it illegal to be non-Christian. Another bad way: we could kidnap people off the street and tie them up until they agree to become Christian. We could threaten them with torture in this life in order to save them from torture in the next life. We could bribe them to join our church. We could stand in the street and shout biblical truths at them in a loud and aggressive manner.
When Jesus sent 72 of his disciples out to make new disciples in Luke 10 he didn’t teach them to use any of these terrible methods. I suggest you avoid them. His first instruction (verse 2) was to pray for God to make disciples. Then he gave some practical advice about food and lodging. He reminded them of the importance of their work, and the dire consequences for anybody who didn’t repent. Jesus concluded in verse 16 by saying: “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”
“너희 말을 듣는 사람은 내 말을 듣는 것이고 너희를 배척하는 사람은 나를 배척하는 것이며 나를 배척하는 사람은 나를 보내신 분을 배척하는 것이다.”
The only two instructions on how to actually make a disciple were: First, Pray. And second, open your mouth and tell people the message from Jesus (verse 9); “Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now’.”
“병자들을 고치고 그들에게 하나님의 나라가 가까웠다고 하라.”
When they came back from their vision trips they reported amazing things. Jesus had to warn them not to get distracted: “Don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
“그러나 귀신들이 너희에게 복종한다고 기뻐하지 말고 너희 이름이 하늘에 기록되어 있는 것으로 기뻐하여라.”
That is all there is to it. Pray. Heal the sick. Tell everyone that God’s kingdom is near.
How do you heal the sick? This sickness is a sickness of sin. A sickness of the spirit.
We have talked about how all this illness comes from within, out of the heart. How do we change a person’s heart? It’s impossible. We don’t do it. We can put a person in a straitjacket to stop them hitting others, but it doesn’t change their heart. We put thousands of people in prison every day. And they usually come out just as full of sinful thoughts and feelings as they went in, if not worse.
There are four million people in prison in just China and USA. Another five million in the rest of the world. These are incomplete statistics as, for example, they don’t include North Korea’s labour camps. We are powerless to change hearts.
There is good news. The message we have for people is that God does change hearts and minds. Turn to Ezekiel 36 and look at verse one. God says: “Son of man, … . Give them this message.” It’s a long message, but look at verses 25-27 and see what God says about changing hearts.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
“맑은 물을 너희에게 뿌려 모든 더러운 것과 우상에서 너희를 깨끗하게 하겠다. 그리고 내가 너희에게 새 마음을 주고 너희 속에 새 정신을 넣어 주며 너희에게서 돌같이 굳은 마음을 제거하고 순종하는 마음을 줄 것이며 또 내 영을 너희 속에 넣어 주어 너희가 내 법을 따르고 내 명령을 준수하게 하겠다.”
This is the message for you, and for all to whom you talk. It is an awesome and life changing message. Being saved is not about praying a prayer, saying you believe in Jesus and then continuing with your life as though nothing had happened. Being saved is about God entering into you and changing you from the inside. God puts his spirit in us. God puts his spirit in all who will allow him to.
When we talk to people, this is our message. God can today wash you clean and place his spirit inside you. God has the power and the desire to change you from within.
When we talk to messed up and stressed out people, we can offer them healing with confidence because it comes from God who lives in us. This is why only a disciple can make disciples. You already have everything you need. You don’t need any more instructions on how to make disciples. You don’t need classes and courses and degrees.
You have the Holy Spirit living in you. You have God’s word in the Bible. You have the power of prayer. When we read the Bible with someone, there is power. When we pray for someone, there is power. We cannot cleanse their heart of lust or greed, but we have the power of God at work in us and he can cleanse their heart.
This power is actually enough to uproot sin from our hearts and change us so that we can live in a way that pleases God.
And how many times must we remind ourselves that we don’t do this alone. We bear each other’s burdens. Together we are the church. Isolated individuals feeling defeated by their sin and stripped of their joy was never God’s plan for the church. Jesus intended for his church to advance powerfully through the centuries, full of love and joy. Jesus was clear: “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18)
We are the church, when we stand together and bear each other’s burdens. We are church, when we are united around Jesus.
The church has a job to do of making disciples by bringing transformation to the hearts and minds of people. We don’t do this with warm greetings and tracts. We don’t do this with logical persuasion. It is often said that if a person can be argued into belief, they can also be argued out of it.
The church is us, and the church is therefore growing and changing as God transforms us. So if we sit on the sidelines, watching others do the work, there is an illness in the church. Each part needs to be working properly for the whole to work properly. Each one of us has responsibility. It is our responsibility. We cannot give it to someone else.
If you are not active and taking part in the church, you are stopping the work of the Holy Spirit in you to change and transform you. You are preventing the church from functioning effectively. And so you are hurting your brothers and sisters. You have unique gifts and so the church needs you. We all need you to be actively ministering to the people around you.
It is necessary. Helping people change is what discipleship is all about. As we help other Christians follow Jesus, we are going to run into the temptations, lies, and idols that hold them back. It will be difficult, but we know what Jesus has accomplished, and we know how this story will end. We have a part to play in God’s plan of redemption. It won’t always be fun, but we must be faithful to God’s calling to make disciples.