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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Aug 20, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, we begin our stewardship emphasis "Disciples Living as Grace-filled Stewards." For this week, our theme is "Discipling: Teaching and Equipping. The text is John 8:31: "If you abide in My Word you are truly My disciples."
Lets start with some definitions to make certain we are talking about the same thing.
What does it mean to ABIDE in Gods Word? It means: .....Remain in it .....Accept everything Jesus teaches in it. .....Be faithful to it .....Continuously study it to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in your hearts and minds so that your life is a response to it.
And what does it mean to be a disciple? Let me share a couple of ideas:
1. Disciples of Christ know that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ they have been set free from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. .....That doesnt mean they can immediately stop sinning. .....It does means that when Jesus gave His life on the cross and then was raised from the dead, all who believe in Him have been freed from all the things that enslave them under the power of the devil. .....It does mean that they can now live with the joy of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life in heaven; they are now free to live lives empowered by the Holy Spiritlives dedicated to the service of God.
2. Disciples of Christ have heard Jesus say, "Follow Me," and are so humbled to be invited to be members of His teamin spite of their sinfulnessthat they are willing to accept whatever challenge it brings. It may put them in places where it is very uncomfortable.
3. Disciples of Christ commit their lives to being equipped by the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry by abiding in Gods Word. But you must never forget that abiding in Gods Word and being the kind of disciple God wants you to be is an ongoing challenge. Think about what it calls for.
.....It calls on you to continue looking for opportunities to share the message of Jesus with otherswhile not letting your fear keep you silent. It doesnt mean waiting for opportunities. It means listening with your ears and watching with your eyes for opportunities. It means looking for cracks in the door. .....It calls on you to be ready to love sacrificiallynot just when you are sure you are going to be loved back or get something out of it. .....It calls on you to be very serious about the study of Gods Wordnot using excuses (like claiming to be too busy) to avoid it.
4. Being attentive to the way you use your time, talents, and money, recognizing they are treasured gifts from God to be used in His servicerather than using those gifts primarily for your own pleasure and giving only what is left over to Him.
5. Being willing and courageous enough to say "NO" to those who tempt you to go against the will of Godeven if it leads to ridicule and rejection
And remember, this is only a partial list. Now, here is the dilemma I experience as a called worker in the Church.
1. God has called me to be a disciple of Christ and has given me the responsibility of teaching and equipping you to be disciples also. This means you, you, and you (pointing to people in the congregation). This can be summarized in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28.
2. But I know it isnt going to just happen. .....I have to encourage you to be part of a Bible study. .....I have to convince you that there is value in getting you to do things that are beyond your comfort zonelike join a Bible class when you know so little about the Bible and fear you will be embarrassed. .....I have to convince you that Bible study is necessary to turn believers into disciples.
.....I have to try to get you to see that, because we live in a world that is attacking our faith in Christ as the crucified and resurrected Savior, we need to grow as disciples of Christ so that we can be ready to support one another in our battle with the world.
.....I have to convince you that one is not a disciple by just believing. You become a disciple when, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you take your faith to another level by constantly learning, growing in it, and being equipped to live it.
.....I have to convince you not to turn Jesus off when He says, "Come follow Me," and "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
.....And, then, I have to convince youthrough the work and power of the Holy Spiritto actually take up that cross and follow Him. Some here may say, "I believe and that is all I want to be is a believer. Others can be disciples. Discipleship is for other people."
In case any of you are thinking that what I am saying is not very important, think about this. .....Think of the staff of this churchall of us. What do you want us to becasual believers or committed and growing disciples? Youve hired your church staff to be tools of the Holy Spirit.
.....Think about your lay leaders, Council Members, Elders, other board members. Do you want them to be casual believers or committed and growing disciples? .....Think about your Sunday school teachers and those who work with our teensand I pray we will need more of them. Do you want them to be casual believers or committed and growing disciples?
.....I look at all you parents and consider the influence you can have on your children. What do I want you to be for their sake? Watered down casual believers or growing and committed disciples? .....And what do you want all of us to encourage you to be? Unequipped casual believers or equipped committed disciples?
The only way any of you can answer those questions accurately is to look at Christ and look at what He did for you.
.....You will see His love for you. .....You will see the tremendous, unbelievable sacrifice He made for you. .....You will see His whole reason for coming to earth was to help each one of you deal with the brokenness of this world caused by sinyour sin.
.....You will see His all-out desire to remove us from a world of sin to a world of perfect joy and peace. .....You will see that he did it by willingly becoming a dart board and punching bag for Satan who wants nothing more than to see you spend eternity in a state of complete misery.
.....You will Him nailed to a cross and dies there for us. .....And you will see what happened next. He was raised from death to life and is now able to assure all of those who believe in Him that they, too, will live that new lifenot only on earthbut forever in eternity.
When Jesus Christ asks me to abide in His Word so that I can be His disciple, it is pretty hard to say, "No thanks."
Christ is Risen. Amen.
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