COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.
Mark 10 17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”
Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?
Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:
I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.
Mark 10 17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”
Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.
By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10 9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”
Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.
Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?
II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.
19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”
Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”
Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.
Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?
III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM.
Mark 10 22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”
By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?
- The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
- Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
- The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?”
This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.
Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples? 27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.
Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?
CRUCIFIED AND RISEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: When kids are little, they love to copy their parents. Little girls will pretend to be like their moms. They will try to do makeup, carry a purse, or pretend to cook in their toy kitchen. Little boys will pretend to be like their dads. They will shave, carry their little tool box around or pretend to cut grass with their toy lawnmowers. Nowadays, there are parents who are pretending to be like their kids but that’s a whole different problem. The point is that we copy those whom we look up to. It’s no different when we get saved. When we place our faith in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, not only are we saved but we also deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow after Jesus. In fact, true gospel demands that we daily consider ourselves dead to sin and daily live in the power of his resurrection.
Mark 8 34 When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Question: Do you understand what it means to “pick up your cross” and follow after Jesus? Have you been “crucified with Christ?” Are you saved?
Context: As you know, we’re in our series on the meaning of the true gospel. Last weekend, we learned that salvation is much more than our free ticket to heaven. It’s also our allegiance to follow and obey King Jesus. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that the gospel is much more than just believing that Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago. It’s also a call to live daily the crucified and the resurrected life. In other words, salvation begins by trusting in the historical facts of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus but it leads to a daily commitment to die to self and to live the resurrected life.
I. HISTORICAL FACTS
To begin with, listen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 2 essential elements in the gospel:
- The Cross:It was the most visible and shameful form of punishment in ancient world. It was probably invented by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and later perfected by the Persians, Greeks and Romans. God in his sovereignty and foreknowledge chose this form of punishment instead of hanging or stoning or decapitation or immolation because it simultaneously displayed his love for us and his wrath on sin.Paul captures this in Romans 5 8“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical death of Jesus on the cross in proclaiming the gospel.Listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” In other words, the crucifixion of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. Jesus actually died on the cross. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the cross.
- The Resurrection: God in his immense wisdom included resurrection as part of the plan of salvation.Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:17“if Christ is not risen, your faithisfutile; you are still in your sins!”In other words, if Jesus had stayed dead, he was just a human. No human can die for the sins of others. There is no proof that God’s plan worked. By coming back to life, Jesus proved that he was god. Humans don’t come back to life. He also proved that he was sinless. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:20“But now Christ is risen from the dead, andhas become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, by rising from the dead, Jesus also set the precedent for all of us who believe in him. One day we too will rise from the dead. Again, the early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day.Again, listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:24“whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”Paul in I Corinthians 15gives a list of the witnesses – 5“and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”Someone might say, “that’s not that many.” He had to be lifted up high so all could see but he had to be verified by a few so that faith would be the key.Bottom line: The resurrection of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. It also happened. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the resurrection.
Application: Do you believe in the historical death of Jesus on the cross? Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day?
II. PRESENT REALITY
Once you believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, we go on to believe in another cross and another empty tomb. This is our cross and our resurrection.
- The Cross: Let’s read the passage we read in the opening again – Mark 8 34When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” What was Jesus saying here? He was not offering salvation by self-crucifixion but salvation that is willing to live the crucified life. He was calling them to count the cost. If you follow me, it will require you to die to self. Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that you have to build a wooden cross and nail yourself to it. Some people may have to die physically because of persecution. Here, it was simply being willing to see yourself as dead to sin and your selfish desires. Listen to the other verse we just read in the opening from Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live . . .” Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Meaning: Accept your old self as done. Don’t indulge sin. Don’t go back to the old life. It’s buried. Leave it buried.
- The Resurrection: If you just stop with the self-crucified life, you will only live the morbid, musty, and miserable life. But, just as Jesus rose from the grave, you also rise from the old life to the new life. Listen to Romans 6:4“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”It’s a call to be alive as Jesus came alive. Again, listen to Paul inGalatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s a choice to live in his resurrection power.
How is all this possible? Through the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” As you daily submit to the Holy Spirit, he gives you the power to live the victorious life. You don’t have to live in the bondage to sin. Yes, there will be times when you will fail but repentance and renewal is the answer.
Invitation: True Gospel is both Historical Facts and Present Reality. The Cross and Resurrection not only save us but they also set the precedent on how to live the saved life. Are you saved? Are you living the crucified and resurrected life? Are you daily submitting to the Holy Spirit?
ANOINTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: People often ask me about my name. “What kind of name is ‘Abidan?’ Is that an Indian name or an eastern name?” Growing up in India, people asked me that question too. It’s not an Indian name. It’s actually a biblical name. It’s not the Abaddon in the book of Revelation. That’s the Angel of the Abyss. My name, Abidan, is found about 5 times in the Old Testament book of Numbers. It’s the name of one of the heads of the tribes of Benjamin. It means “My father is the judge” or “God is my judge.” It’s the reverse of Daniel. But, all through people have asked me about my name. By the way, my brother didn’t get any of those questions because my parents named him “Fred.”What’s the point of all this? Biblical names have meanings, especially the names of Jesus. In today’s message we will learn that one of the names of Jesus means king. When we say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior,” we are actually saying “Jesus the King is my Savior.”
John 20 30“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Question: Have you believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do you have life in his name? Are you saved?
Context: For those who’ve been away or visiting for the first time, we’re in a series on what is the true gospel. If you ask people in church, even those who have been in church for a long time, what is the gospel, they can’t tell you! It’s like having a car but no key. You can clean it as much as you want. You can argue over the color and the engine size. You can even decide who you will let ride in the car and where you will go. But, without a key, it’s useless. The gospel is the key that gets our salvation going! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s the title deed. Many people are actually sitting in stolen cars!
Last weekend we learned that the gospel should include the idea of the kingdom of God.Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is important because when we drop the idea of the “kingdom” from the gospel, following Jesus becomes optional, discipleship becomes a choice.In today’s message, I want us to go further in our understanding of the gospel. I want us to look at an important name given to Jesus. Listen again to the verse we just read – 31“but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task.When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.Here are a few of them:
- I Samuel 2:35“Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priestwhoshall do according to what isin My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before Myanointed”
- Psalm 2:2“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.”
- Psalm 132:10 “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.”
- Habakkuk 3:13“You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed.”
- Daniel 9 25“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah(Anointed One)the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks. . . 26“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah(Anointed One) shall be cut off, but not for Himself. . .”
These verses and some others led to the development of the understanding that one day God’s chosen king, the Messiah or the Christ, would come to set his people free and rule over them. By the time Jesus came, the title of “Messiah” or “Christ” was very well known.Listen to how Matthew begins his gospel – Matthew 1:1“The book of the genealogy of JesusChrist, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Few verses down he says inMatthew 1:16“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is calledChrist.” Matthew 1:18“Now the birth of JesusChristwas as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke tells us in his gospel that the angel told the shepherds – Luke 2 10“. . . Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Mark does the same thing in his gospel. He begins in Mark 1 1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,who will prepare Your way before You.”3“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the LORD;Make His paths straight.’”Mark is calling Jesus the Messiah and Christ and quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He is saying that Jesusfulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah or the Christ.
In John’s gospel, people keep confusing John the Baptist with Jesus and he kept telling them that he was not the Christ. Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and says in John 1:41“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).Later Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and she invites her whole village to come hear him. Listen to what they say to her inJohn 4:42“. . .Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
Later in Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They told him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, 16“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was very pleased with him and said, 17“. . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealedthisto you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” All because he acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Listen to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer – John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and JesusChristwhom You have sent.”
Finally, in Mark 14, at his trial, the high priest asked him,61“. . . Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Mark 14:62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” They condemned him for blasphemy. I don’t have time to go through the rest of the New Testament and talk about every time the early church referred to him as Christ.Here’s one from Romans 1 1“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, calledto bean apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christour Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4anddeclaredto bethe Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faithamong all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”
What does all this imply?It implies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Promised King of the Old Testament. Inherent in his name “Christ” is the understanding of King and Ruler. He commands our obedience and our allegiance. It takes years for some of us to get to the place of total obedience and allegiance and maybe never completely on this side. But, the desire should be there. No desire, no salvation.
Invitation:Have you received Jesus as Christ, God’s Chosen King? Are you saved? Are you obedient to your king?
KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.
Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 1 14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?
Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.
Background: As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17 20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things: One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?
II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.
Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:
- Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
- Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
- Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
- Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
- Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
- Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
- John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.
Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”
III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.
Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.
Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”
Revelation 21 1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.
Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?
FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series: Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.
Galatians 1 6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?
Context: I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:
- He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
- He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
- He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
- He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What’s the point of all this? Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.
Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.
Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):
- The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
- The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
- The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
- The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
- The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”
Question: Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.
What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:
First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15 1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
One response here – Repentance for our sins.
Now the Response – Romans 10 9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.
Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?
LIFE BETWEEN POSTS (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 7, 2018)
You’re scrolling through your favorite social media and you see the perfect picture with perfect smiles and perfect clothes with a perfect background. To top it all off, its accompanied by a perfect caption, including hashtags like #lovinglife #love #loveus #happiness #sohappy #perfectday #forever #natural – What do all these hashtags and the posts and pictures that accompany them have in common? They are deceiving. They only give a partial, wishful, and concocted glimpse of life. I wish people would also add these hashtags to their posts and pictures– #pleasethinkImhappy #pretendwithmethatallisfine #IwishIfeltlikethispicture #Iwishwecouldalwaysbethishappy #justhadafight #abouttohaveafight #tookme20triestogetthispicture.
Unfortunately, many of us buy into and perpetuate the lies communicated by those pictures and posts with their unrealistic hashtags. I have seen young people fall into depression because they felt that others were having a great time and they were doomed to a life of misery and loneliness. They don’t stop to consider that those pictures were re-taken twenty times! I have seen marriages fall apart because one partner felt that they were not as happy as others and that the grass was greener somewhere else. They don’t realize that the grass is always greener by the septic tank! I have known people who refused to get help because they thought a few likes on social media would solve their problems. They don’t understand that hearts on a screen can never fix the heart of their problems.
Am I suggesting that we stop posting happy pictures and take on a morose view of life? Absolutely not. It’s perfectly fine to share our joys with others. Social media is a wonderful tool to keep up with family and friends. But, please don’t confuse a perfectly angled selfie with a perfectly aligned life. Be discerning. Here’s a reality check from the oldest book in the Bible – “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Before you envy someone else’s perfect life, remember that even Jesus – the perfect Son of God – had a few bad days. Imagine all your besties deserting you and letting you die for crimes you didn’t commit! Ironically, we call it “Good Friday.”
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves – What causes us to crave this approval and admiration of others? Why is it that we want others to think that our life is so flawless? Where did this desire to cover up our blemishes and failures come from? It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve who tried to cover up their sin by using fig leaves. Refusing to face up to our problems and pretending that all is fine is an old family trait. Just like our first parents, we also hide in our proverbial gardens instead of confessing our sin before God and seeking his help and forgiveness through Jesus. Thinking that someone else has it better than us also runs in the family. Cain was envious of his brother Abel because he saw that God approved his brother’s offering. Instead of changing his ways, he killed Abel.
Here are a couple of questions to consider before you post that perfect picture with the perfect quote: What is your true motivation for posting? Who are you trying to impress? Will this uplift someone or bring them down? If you are posing with someone, do they really believe that about you? Does that person feel used? What is the real issue that you are avoiding? How does God feel about your post? Jesus rebuked those who rejected him, saying, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
True life is what happens between posts. #Lifebetweenposts – there’s a hashtag that should go viral!
DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.
Philippians 1 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?
Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.
Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.
If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?
7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”
- Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.
What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”
Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.
But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”
- Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.
Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”
- Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.
9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”
- Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.
“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”
- Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”
11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”
- Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”
“…to the glory and praise of God.”
- Glory and Praise of God –Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise from our lives.
These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”
Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?
DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.
Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”
Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?
Context: As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.
- W for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
- T for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
- E for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
- R for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”
The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.
I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:
1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.
2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better? 8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):
i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .
ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.
iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.
iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.
v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.
vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.
vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.
viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.
3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”
Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?