Connection by Abidan Shah, PhD

CONNECTION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of you have ever stubbed your toe? Was the pain just in your toe? Where else did you feel that pain? Knees, shoulders, ears, etc. You can feel it all over your body! They call it referred pain. They say that even a brain freeze is a kind of a referred pain. The reason for this is that all the nerves of the body are somehow connected. In today’s message titled “Connection,” we’re taking a break from our regular series on apologetics; and, in light of summer having ended and everyone going back to their routine with school and work, I want us also to focus over the next two weeks on getting back into the flow of things at church. We’re going to learn about the importance of connecting with one another in the church body and also serving together. Main point: Christ is the head of the body, the church. Each believer in the church body is connected to another believer, and together we work to glorify our Heavenly Father. A believer cannot be disconnected with the body and still expect to be connected to the head, Christ. This is an important mark of every true disciple.

Acts 2       41 “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Context: Back in 2018, we did a series of messages on Discipleship. Some of you may remember that. Our goal was to help foster connections in the church body in the forms of small groups and also minister through them. Within a matter of few weeks, we had many new groups called “Circles” all over the church, and each were uniquely serving God. If you remember, we came up with the acronym WATER, as the goal of discipleship (I guess to represent baptism as the starting point). W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. I want to walk through them again, and stress the importance of “connections.” Keep in mind that they overlap with each other.

1. Witnesses: Typically, we equate the word “witness” or “witnessing” with an evangelism program for sharing the gospel like CWT, EE, FAITH, etc. This was not the case with the first disciples. When Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8 “…and you shall be witnesses to Me…” he meant witnesses as in “eye-witnesses.” Listen to what he said in Luke 24   46 “…Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.” So, a witness was someone who had seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and had received the commission from Christ to preach repentance and remission (forgiveness or cancellation) of sins in his name to all nations. I can go on and on but the point is this – if we call ourselves disciples, we are witnesses like the first disciples of what Jesus has done for us. There is a difference – the disciples were EYE witnesses and we are FAITH witnesses. By the way, you cannot be a witness to Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. When Peter was asked in Acts 4    7 “…By what power or by what name have you done this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…3000-5000 saved!

Something else to remember – People are not projects to be completed or boxes to be checked. They are precious souls to be won to Christ. We have to remind ourselves to genuinely love people. Pray for them. Take the time to get to know them. Talk less and listen more. Be ready with the words of a witness. Daily submit to the Holy Spirit. Pray for divine appointments. Make room for divine appointments – hang around long enough with a desire to share the good news and God will bring somebody!

Application: Are you a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in your life?

2. Accountability: When Jesus commissioned his disciples during his earthly ministry, twice it says that he sent them out two by two. Mark 6:7 “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.” Luke 10:1 “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go…17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Think about that – they had power over demonic spirits, nonetheless, it did not cancel out the need for accountability in their lives and ministry. This continued in the early churchActs 3:1 “Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer”; Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Keep in mind: Accountability is not about being controlled by someone or just going to church. Instead, it is following the advice of wise King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4    9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Together said, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

Application: Do you have accountability in your life? You have to sacrifice time and selfishness in order to have true biblical accountability.

3. Togetherness: In his earthly ministry, Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles. Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION. These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,the COMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10 as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the INNER CIRCLE. Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Inner Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other. An Inner Circle is a 3-5-member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period of time. This is where individuals study the Word, memorize the Word, hold each other accountable, pray for each, and, in the process, they learn to be conformed to the image of Christ. When the determined time period is over, they replicate, as God leads.

Invitation: Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles?

4. Established in the Word: In the Great Commission inMatthew 28, Jesus said, 18 “…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” What is it that Jesus commanded his disciples? He taught them about the kingdom of God and the lifestyle it demands.

  • The kingdom of God was the invisible rule of God in the hearts and minds of those who would reject their self-righteousness and receive Christ with child-like faith.
  • It required being born again – John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  • It doesn’t do away with the standards – Matthew 5   17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill…20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is about this higher standard:
    • You’ve heard ‘don’t murder,’ but I say ‘don’t even get angry without a cause.’
    • You’ve heard ‘don’t commit adultery,’ but I say ‘don’t even look with lust.’
    • You’ve heard ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,’ but I say ‘turn the other cheek.’
    • You’ve heard ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’
  • There’s so much more, but finally, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Later, Paul will expound on it in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Application: Do you understand what it means to be Established in the Word? Are you diligently studying the Bible? Can you see the centrality of Jesus? Are you obedient?

5. Reproducing: Once again, look at Matthew 28      18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” To be a disciple of Jesus, you have to believe that the Great Commission by Jesus was not just for the first 11 disciples, it’s for all disciples through the ages. If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you have to reproduce disciples. In fact, reproducing disciples is the ultimate test of our discipleship. I’m here because Nicole’s dad discipled me.

The obstacles that will keep you from reproducing: Spiritual blindness (Luke 6:39 And He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”); Judgmentalism (Luke 6      41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”)

Many Christians struggle with discipleship because they look at it as just about themselves when it’s about teaching others to follow Christ. If reproducing is the ultimate test of discipleship, how well are you doing? Are you a disciple of Christ?

Our mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life-changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Ever Growing = Reproduce

Invitation: Are you a disciple? Are you a disciple maker? Are you connected? Are you serving? Are you saved?

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