Summary: Refocusing/reminding our church on the main thing of making disciples of Jesus.
The beginning of the year tends to be a time for fresh starts, we refocus and remind ourselves of what is most important. As we look back on the past year we sometimes realize we may not have been doing everything perhaps we should have been doing. For some they realize they need to quit a habit, or form a new habit like eating healthier, or spending more time with family, or perhaps like making a habit of exercise. In fact many of us make New Years resolutions to commit to doing these things. After eating all of the goodies over this past couple of weeks, I am reminded that I should probably make a resolution to exercise regularly this year.
Last week Roger shared with us the words from the Apostle Paul who made a resolution, it wasn’t a New Year resolution it was a life long resolve. He said he was going to “press onward and take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brother I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:12-14).” The goal Paul spoke of, that he was pursuing with a single minded passion was to know Christ and be perfected in his righteousness. In other words Paul’s life goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to do all that Christ wanted him to do.
What an excellent goal for us to shoot for, to know Christ better, to be more like Christ, and to do all that He wants us to do, until the day we meet him face to face in heaven. This is something all of us should be working toward.
As we press onward in a new year, we need to also remind ourselves that there is a goal which God has given us collectively as the church, something he has placed as a priority for us to be striving for, a specific mission, the…main thing if you will.
At the end of Jesus’ time on this earth he spoke to his disciples and gave them clear directions for what the main thing was, what their mission was. Let me read some of Jesus’ last words or words written about Jesus in the Bible.
In this first reading, Jesus’ disciple John concludes the purpose of writing his gospel, he writes:
John 20:30 “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Jesus’ last words recorded in Mark’s gospel:
“He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16).”
Jesus’ last words recorded in Matthew’s gospel:
“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 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 (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)."
Jesus’ last words recorded in the book of Acts
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, NIV)."
All of these final words either spoken by Jesus or said about Jesus point to the same thing. The main thing God is concerned with is that all people would believe in his Son so they may have life in his name. Therefore those who believe in his Son and become disciples or followers of Jesus (the church) have a mission of sharing this good news with others so they may experience this new life too.
As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism put it when speaking to his lay preachers, “You have nothing to do but to save souls.” Saving souls, making disciples or lifelong followers of Jesus, they are all just different ways of saying the same thing. The church exists to help people trust in Jesus and receive the abundant life God offers now and to live with him forever in heaven. That is the main thing.
The Primary Work of the Church – Saving Souls