Reading Ephesians 4:1-16
Welcome to 2020! Our first Sunday of the year 2020 is here!
Don’t forget our 2020 Bible reading plan – schedules are in the foyer and online.
The best indicator of a Christian’s spiritual health is their relationship with the Bible, the word of God. If we humbly receive the word planted in us, it can save us.
Also, this afternoon we will begin our group ministry, and the first lesson is from Luke 5 where Jesus’ calls his first disciples. You don’t want to miss out on this winter/spring small group series! It’s a focus on the life of Jesus, using several Serendipity Bible study guides. These won’t coincide with our readings, but each lesson will be from one of the gospels.
Small groups are a very Important part of discipleship. We see this in Jesus’ own ministry, do we not? Jesus was a small group leader, did you know that? He selected a small group of men and so impacted their lives that they acted and sounded different. So much so, it was clear even to the Jewish leaders that they had been with Jesus! Others could see it. Now that tells us something about discipleship and making disciples. Discipleship is a life changing, life shaping matter, where the life of the leader is imparted into the lives of his or her followers. This is more than a classroom experience, or worship service experience. Those, you can come in and leave without any depth of relationship with the leaders. That’s not the environment of discipleship. Discipleship is done more in small groups than in a setting like this.
Think of it. Jesus’ 12 disciples were the group Jesus spent most of his ministry time with. They shared life together in ways that bonded and shaped their relationships. Jesus’ disciples were changed by Jesus as he discipled them and as he served in proclaiming the kingdom of God. It was an apprenticeship with the master of life. In fact, Jesus’ very life itself was THE model to follow, and it still is!
His teaching was not simply a transfer of information or presentations to be impressed by. What happens when church services become the only discipling experience a person has? How much real formation and change can that produce? Let me illustrate: Imagine a football team preparing for the season. What if the coach had them all sit on the bleachers and talked to them about how to play the game. He spent hours and hours talking and even getting them to interact with questions and comments. He showed them power point slides of how to run the plays and how to defend against the various offensive plays. He even used videos and got highly respected guest coaches to come in and give instructions to the team. Only one thing, they dressed out, but never actually got on the field to practice what was so carefully presented to them. How well do you think that team would be prepared for the season? Can you even imagine the first game?
I tell you this: You can’t get a good enough coach to make a team do well if that’s the way he has to get the team ready. That’s not real coaching. Neither is just coming to church and going to Bible classes real discipleship.
The truth is, our kids can’t be trained to fight against the world just through sermons and Bible classes. Jesus didn’t train His disciples that way, did He? Why would we not do what Jesus did today? Talk about restoring New Testament Christianity. Maybe we need to restore New Testament discipleship. How does that work? Primarily through relationships and imitation.
Jesus led his disciples to become like Him. He trained them in how to live life by demonstration and their imitation. Their learning method was more imitation than just information. While Jesus remained the leader, he created leaders from this group too. Jesus prepared them to do as he had done, not just know what he had said, but do as He did! His disciples would carry the message of the gospel all over the place, following Jesus’ own example. They were life coaches for Christ. What did they do? They gathered other groups of followers and taught them and trained them by example. This is the biblical pattern of discipleship. It was the method of Jesus, and it needs to be our method today. Jesus – John 13:15, Paul – 1 Cor. 11:1, Timothy – 1 Tim. 4:12 Peter to the elders 1 Peter 5:2-4. This message and even this method was to be passed on down through the ages 2 Timothy 2:2 reminds us of this as does Phil. 4:9.
Ephesians 4:11-16 says it as well. Listen to how the church relationships are described: (read).
Listen to the various coaches here: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. Each of these Jesus gave a different job to do to build His church. The Apostles and prophets laid the foundation and gave us the New Testament scriptures, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. The evangelists spread the gospel, the pastors shepherd the flock and the teachers explain the scriptures. But all used Jesus example and by doing so set examples for the church to follow.
Our worship services and Bible classes are, in part, a sort of time out to gather for a family session in God’s presence in communion with Christ and with each other in Christ. When we leave the assemblies we go out to share Christ and to serve as His people, ever on duty, shining His light in the midst of darkness and following Jesus’ example, doing everything in His name.
The life shaping and transforming work of God goes on as we participate together with one another and work together in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 puts this so well! Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Discipleship that makes us mature in Christ requires relationships where we imitate the life of the person who is leading us to Christ or in Christ. The disciple maker’s goal to instill God’s character, commandments, and behaviors into another person is done by pointing to Jesus Christ, then by showing an example of Christ’s obedient life and encouraging imitation.
The gospel is not something you just hear and believe, if it hasn’t changed your life to be like Jesus’ life then it hasn’t hit you yet.