Summary: The truest community is found in a gathering of people who are learning to become Jesus-trusting disciples and are committed to making Jesus-trusting disciples.
Living with a Common Purpose: Making Disciples
Pastor Jim Luthy
Last week we talked about the awakening in America to the problem of individualism. Rising from our slumber after the terrorist attacks, the people of our nation are giving blood, giving money, giving thanks, and giving in to longer lines and greater security checks at the airport. Over it all we see people offering prayers like never in my lifetime.
The church, we discovered, exists to be a counter-culture to the "me" culture we have been awakened to. Now that people are feeling vulnerable, they are looking for something or someone greater than themselves for blessing. For hope. For serenity. For protection. The church has the answer, and his name is Jesus. We ought to be a refreshing stream to those feeling the heat of their mortality. And we ought to be a lighthouse for those who are adrift at sea, being tossed back and forth by the waves of self-sufficiency.
Many of you responded to last week’s message to flee individualism by writing on your response cards, "Not I, but Christ." In making that commitment, you are expressing a desire to flee from self-serving and self-preserving and let Jesus alone be sufficient for your hope and joy.
The place to develop and nurture our escape from individualism is genuine Christian community. With a small group of people, such as our TLC Groups, we find the encouragement and the opportunities to serve others instead of ourselves. As we serve one another, we distance ourselves from our natural inclination to be self-motivated, self-seeking, and even self-absorbed. As we live together, we learn how to take ourselves off the throne and love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. That is triumphant living that doesn’t leave us staggering when tragedy strikes.
I want to further clarify the picture of living in community. With a sharper focus, we will be enticed into coming away from our self-absorbed world and into the fellowship of one another. If we are to come together in such a way, we must cast aside all our personal motives and live together with a common purpose. That purpose must be defined by God and not by ourselves. It’s not a good idea to get together in your small groups and ask "What do you think the point of this group should be?" If you do, you’ll end up with as many answers as you have people. Then what will you do? Vote on it? The person or people whose ideas were discarded will fall back into "me-ward" thinking as they fret over their rejection. The winning vote would most likely go to the idea that best supported the selfish desires of the majority of the group. We cannot look inside of ourselves for our common purpose. Instead, we must find the authority outside of ourselves, with whom all authority belongs.
Matthew 28:18-20. "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."
The Father has given the Son all authority to determine our common purpose. By that authority, or as Jesus said, "Therefore," he gave us this purpose that we refer to as the Great Commission: "Go and make disciples." When we come together, what makes us "Christian" community is the shedding of our own agendas to become "Christ-ones," taking up the agenda Jesus has left for us. That agenda, he said, was to go and make disciples.
The interaction of the people within our church community ought to always have as its base purpose to make disciples. He taught us there are two parts to making disciples, and both of those parts are based on trust in Jesus. First, he said that making disciples means to baptize, which is bringing people to realize they need a Savior for forgiveness of sins and eternal life. When we baptized a few of you last month, we asked you two questions: "Do you realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior?" and "Have you put your trust completely in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of everlasting life?" An affirmative answer to those questions is the confession of a disciple. And bringing them to that confession is part of the process we call "discipleship." It begins by bringing people to trust in Christ for their forgiveness and salvation.
Jesus pointed out, though, that making disciples also requires teaching one another to obey everything he has commanded us. Again, the issue is trust. Obeying Jesus requires trusting him for our quality of life. Making disciples, then, is helping people put their trust in Christ for hope, joy, love, and so on.