On New Year’s Day I thought of the “Y2K” scare and realized that it was just a distant memory. Our electrical power continues to supply our homes with energy. I have never had to use the small propane heater and stove that I got just in case… Our telephone systems still keep us in touch with the world. My computer crashes no more than it ever did before Y2K. The threat of a massive turn of the century computer meltdown never materialized. I really need to check the expiration dates of some of the food that I stockpiled…Just in case… I can do without food poisoning.
This year, as in the last couple of years, we have faced a different threat. The treat of terrorist attack. Our country is on “high alert.” Government and media sources remind us to have a few supplies on hand and to have a plan formulated to keep track of our loved ones…Just in case… They tell us to go on with our every day activities—But to be vigilant, watchful and careful…Just in case…
On this first Sunday of the Year 2004, we Christians continue to look for the Christian Hope, the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Will this be the month that he returns? Will this be the year when we hear the trumpet blast calling the faithful from this earth? Just in case…I need to ask you—Are you ready for the coming of the Lord? Are you ready to die? If you are not it is just as easy to get ready as A, B, C, D. Admit that you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and that he is the only Savior, the only way through whom you may get to heaven. Confess your sins to him and confess him as your Lord and Savior. Declare yourself a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow him!
When Jesus walked this earth he spoke to his disciples and told them he was going to leave them, but that he would send the Holy Spirit to keep them safe. Before he was taken up into Heaven he often reminded them that they (and we) are to faithfully walk as his disciples until he comes. When he comes he wants to find us walking in his light and doing his will.
What should we be doing this year as we await his return. In today’s Great Commission account we see Jesus telling his disciples(and us) three things that we must be doing in our normal everyday walk with the Lord. 1. To make disciples. 2. To baptize disciples. 3. To teach disciples to obey.
This is his plan for his followers.
I. GO AND MAKE(NEW) DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS.
We, just as every disciple or follower of Jesus since the Great Commission was given to the eleven true disciples(Remember Judas’ betrayal and death.) are to try to win all people, both Jew and Gentile to a faith in Jesus. We as individuals and as the body of Christ, which we call the church, have a sober calling to take the gospel to the whole world. This is not just the task of clergy but of every believer. You ask then, “How can I do this?” Note four ways.
1. Prayer. At times, every one of us has moments of fear before we tell someone about Jesus and his plan of salvation. Are we praying for God to point out people with whom we may share words about Jesus? When we realize just how much love it took for Jesus to save us, we should be moved with love to share his love with others.
Talking regularly with Jesus helps us to love others more and more. To show us our pride and prejudice. To show us our failings. There is a simple prayer formula that should help us to pray more effectively in 2004. Prayer should include: Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication. Try it. Who said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of?”
2. Personal Witness. Everyone of us is called to be a fisher of men. Souls that we love are dying and going to hell. Have we presented the heavenly option? Have we memorized or placed in our wallets some simple Bible verses to help us share Jesus with those God brings across our path? Do we live in such a manner that we earn the respect of the sinners who surround us in almost every one of our activities? Do we just talk the talk, or do we really walk the talk? Our lives and our lips must preach the gospel.
3. Pennies. True disciples give, consecrate, dedicate everything that they are and everything that they have to the Lord. He takes it and sanctifies it and blesses it and uses it to his glory. Are we giving God, through his church, our tithes(10% is a beginning point.) and offerings? Are we as generous with God as we want him and others to be with us? Our giving, penny by penny, is united with the giving of others to reach North Shore Boston, Massachusetts, the USA and the world with the gospel. The New Testament is filled with accounts of the early church supporting the poor, missions, needy missionaries and needy churches. When Christ returns will he find us being good stewards? We must have a missional mindset.
4. Preparation. We are told that no one knows the day or hour of the Lord’s return. We must be faithful for Christ will return as a thief in the night—When we least expect… If our neighbor’s house was on fire and we did nothing we would carry a load of guilt. Are we trying to prepare those whose souls are about to be consumed with never ending hell fire?
II. BAPTIZE(NEW) DISCIPLES IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Baptism is a command. It is an outward sign of an inward work. A sign to the church and to the world that a new believer has been born again from above and has become a Christian. We are saved by our faith in Jesus. One of the earliest ways to show our faith is to be baptized. To witness to our newly accepted faith. It is a sign of our entrance into our Messiah’s “covenant community and of pledged submission to his lordship.”(EBC p.597)
The Bible does not make it clear what method of baptism we should use: Immersion, pouring or sprinkling. It just says “do it.” (I KNOW, SOME OF MY "SERMON CENTRAL" FRIENDS WILL DISAGREE WITH ME ON THIS--SORRY--HOPEFULLY WE WILL AGREE TO DISAGREE AGREEABLY.) John the Baptist used it as a sign of repentance and submission and commitment to God’s way of life. If you have accepted Christ and have not been baptized I would be glad to baptize you as soon as possible. When you do, I will be ready…
III. TO TEACH THE(NEW) DISCIPLES TO OBEY EVERYTHING JESUS COMMANDED.
As I said earlier, we are saved by faith and by faith alone. When we repent and believe we become Christians. Then we must begin to learn and to grow up and become a strong, fruitful or productive Christian. Jesus taught twelve disciples. The disciples taught the early church. We too are to teach those who become Christians how to perfect their relationship with Jesus and how to become fruitful or reproducing Christians.
The popular booklet “LIFE CAN HAVE MEANING” lists five things that a new convert to Christianity should do. 1. “Be assured of Christ’s forgiveness.” 2. “Read your Bible and pray daily.” 3. “Find a concerned pastor and other Christians.” 4. “Become a vital part of that church.” 5. “Share your faith with others.”
In Ephesians 4:11-13 we are told “to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Now I can hear some of you saying, “I am an immature Christian… So I do not have to teach anyone.” Wait just a minute! In this sin-touched age, an age filled with Bible ignorance, you can surely find someone who knows less about Jesus than you know. You have a responsibility to help them: And you also have a responsibility to keep learning and maturing.--To grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Grow or stagnate and die.
Today’s Scripture lesson gave us three things that we are to begin doing and continue to do until Jesus takes us in death or at his second coming. This morning, we are about to do another. He told us to regularly share the Lord’s Supper/Communion until he comes.
We do it in remembrance of him. We do it and check our lives for unconfessed sin? We do it to deepen our sense of his sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. We do it to remind us of his constant and unfailing presence in our lives. To deepen our relationship with him. It reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. . We do it as a witness of our faith in his sacrificial death and saving grace. We do it in anticipation of his soon return. Could 2004 be the year of his return? Will he find us faithful? We must work for the night is coming when no one can work…(John 9:4) It is now Y2K plus four years. Through a growing love relationship with God and a growing love for our neighbors we can and will all do a better job of filling the Great Commission throughout 2004.
For all of us, Y 2 K + 4 should = more love, more commitment, more knowledge and skill at making disciples, seeing new converts baptized and taught the holiness way of life that Jesus Christ died to make possible.
(Quotes from NIV Bible, Expositors Bible Commentary, Life Can Have Meaning.)
(Ron Keller 1/04/04)