Archive for February, 2009

Jesus Calls His Disciples

February 17, 2009

Title: Jesus Calls His Disciples

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pi3XvL4Y5Qj64ds9vGm_3u9u7JAZam5-doMEky2DRKD2C8XmwAc8SCOJrhh4lXTuhrlHzaR0RDOQlKizpq_m2Uw/2-15-09jesuscallshisdisciples.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 10:1

Date: February 15th, 2009

The great mission of the Christian church is to make disciples of all people, according to Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Christianity’s central mission is to make followers or disciples of Jesus. It isn’t to build large church buildings necessarily, or establish record attendance or financial giving figures necessarily, or to mobilize voters for elections necessarily, but it is to train more and more people in faith and obedience to God. The church has gotten off track in many ways in respect to its primary purpose in recent years, but maybe things will work to bring the church back in line with the great mission it has been assigned. More and more Christians are beginning to question the direction of the church in these secondary matters, and they are beginning to call the church back to its main priority – making disciples of Jesus Christ. But before there was a commission from Jesus to make disciples, there was a calling of the original twelve disciples. We find this original call to discipleship in Matthew 10:1, “He (Jesus) called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Jesus didn’t operate alone in his calling and mission on earth because he recruited disciples to be with him, follow behind him and even do ministry alongside of him. Now Jesus could have worked alone. After all, nobody could do the things Jesus did, the miracles of exorcisms, the miracles of healings, the natural miracles involving the basic elements of nature such as earth, wind and sky. He also did miracles such as raising the dead, as in the case of Lazarus. So Jesus could have worked alone as a virtual one-man miracle machine, but he didn’t. Why not? Because he wanted to train a band of believers who could carry on his ministry when he had departed. And that’s exactly what he did – he recruited a group of followers or disciples, he trained them in ministry, and then when he rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven he left these disciples to carry out and carry on the ministry he started on earth. And they did in fact carry out and carry on the ministry of Jesus – not as skillfully and thoroughly as Jesus himself, of course – but they did carry out the ministry of Jesus in the years ahead. Then, just as they had seen their Master do, they recruited and trained other believers to be disciples in order to train them in the ministry and leave them to carry out the ministry when they were dead and gone. And so the Christian church and faith has been kept alive and active for over 2000 years through this same process. Will this discipleship process continue in the future? We assume so, but there is no guarantee. As one person put it, “The Christian faith is only one generation away from extinction.” It’s a testimony to the fact that Christianity is a supernatural faith because if it weren’t it would have long ago died out. But the fact that disciples are still being made 2000 years after the first Christian disciples were recruited proves that God must be in it. Today, I’d like to look at Jesus recruiting his first disciples. Hopefully, we can gain insight into the process of disciple-making by reviewing this scene. (more…)

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The Harvest of Souls

February 13, 2009

Title: The Harvest of Souls

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pmco92R0hBIlWTw9EtOzxYDIX89rVCm_LFK3xDzQPpb41j2yYk_G2n4PKKH-JopsOw3KFGf9lfWL_oTwFCmTGqA/2-8-09theharvestofsouls.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 9:35-38

Date: February 8th, 2009

When we look at areas of the world such as Europe and North America we have to ask the spiritual question, “Why is Christianity declining so rapidly?” If you visit countries in Europe such as England, France, Germany, Spain, etc. you’ll see that Christianity is slowly but surely declining. Church attendance is going down, down, down. For example, in Great Britain the last statistic I heard was about 5% of British citizens attend church on Sunday. It’s even worse – if we can imagine church attendance being worse – in France. But it’s the same way in Germany and Spain and other European nations. Only in Poland is there still a large, lively Christian church community that meets regularly on Sunday. Now why is this question and topic important? Because today’s lesson is Matthew 9:35-38 which speaks about the spiritual harvest: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” So Jesus is talking about harvests and harvest fields and harvesters. Now we can see why the topic of receptivity to the gospel and Christianity and the church is relevant. Now we can ask the question, “Are the fields still white unto harvest? Is the harvest still plentiful, particularly in the Western civilization, in places like Europe, North America, Australia, etc. Or has the harvest shifted to such areas as Latin America, China, Korea, Africa, etc.?” I’ll try to give an answer to these questions further along in the message, but as far as obedience to the great commission given by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28, we are still under orders to teach and preach the Word of God and invite men and women to receive the gospel whether the fields are white unto harvest or not in our area. Now there can be no doubt that there are areas of the world that are yielding little or no Christian spiritual harvest or evangelistic fruit. For example, in the Arab nations of the world, very little gospel harvest is taking place. Yes, there are converts here and there made from Arab nations, but overall, very little movement towards Christianity by Arabs in mostly Muslim nations. It’s the same way in other areas of the world as well. For example, in Japan, very little spiritual fruit is being produced, very few converts to Christianity. India is also a very hard field for harvesting souls for the kingdom of God as far as converts to Christianity. On the other hand, nations such as South Korea and China are experiencing a great harvest of souls to Christ. The whole continent of Africa is very open to the gospel and is experiencing many conversions overall. The same is true with Latin America, particularly Central America. So there are different harvest fields yielding different results. But let’s explore further what Jesus might mean when he says that “the harvest is plentiful.” Let’s examine Jesus’ approach to working the harvest fields. (more…)

Miracles and Reactions

February 3, 2009

Title: Miracles and Reactions

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pk2YCmg9u9iA_9vNVUqL86syb-ed2IxXBefpFBniDid2h9zn2guVygn-HQ1Z6q4DYbT2b40qDcyLldq4bhFYSAg/2-1-09miraclesandreactions.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 9:27-34

Date: February 1st, 2009

Jesus came preaching and teaching and healing before he went to the cross to carry out his most important accomplishment – our salvation, by dying in our place and providing the way for our forgiveness and eternal life. Thankfully, we have a record of his ministry so we can see him teaching, we can see him healing, and we can see him accomplishing our salvation on the cross and in the resurrection. But today, I’d like to focus on the healing ministry of Jesus because it shows important points that we sometimes forgot or overlook about the ministry of Jesus. Matthew 9:27-34, “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’” The first thing we see is that sometimes God conditions a miracle on our faith. The blind men were asked if they believed and they affirmed that they did. And Jesus healed them. The second thing we see is that sometimes God doesn’t condition a miracle on our faith. The demon-possessed man was not in a place to exercise a sound mind or free will in decision-making – that was his problem, the demon was now in possession or control of his life, but Jesus healed him anyway. The third thing we see is that sometimes no kind of miracle will convince a person to believe. The Jewish establishment, like Pharisees, scribes, teachers, Sadducees, priests, etc. wouldn’t believe no matter what miracles Jesus performed. In fact, they attributed the miracles of Jesus to the devil. Nothing would convince them that the Jesus was from God. So when Jesus performed miracles many kinds of things happened in the hearts and minds of the people, but their reactions were not all the same. It’s like what happens when the sun shines down on the earth. It causes different reactions depending on what objects it strikes. If the sun shines on wax it will melt the wax. If the sun shines on clay it will harden the clay. If the sun shines on butter it will soften the butter. If the sun shines on mud it will harden the mud. What is the difference? The sun is the same, but the different substances react differently to the sun. That’s the way it is with people. When God acts in one person’s life they respond in faith, but when God acts in another person’s life they respond in unbelief. It all comes down to what’s in a person’s heart. Let’s look at this passage further to see what it might teach us about faith and miracles. (more…)