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Zach Papuga
Since tonight is the first time many of you will have heard me share something other than announcements, I figured I would share a little bit of my story and how I came to be a pastor at Calvary PHX!
I am a whopping 27 years old and am married to a wonderful woman named Aubrey.
We have been married a year and 4 months and we live with our dog, Pepper, in Tempe, AZ.
I was born in Glendale, AZ and grew up just a few miles from this church.
My family began attending Calvary when I was around 4 years old (1994) and I was saved shortly after at the age of 5 when my grandmother led me in the sinners prayer at her little café table in her kitchen.
After a short stint at Lakeview Elementary around the corner, I began my journey in Christian education at NWCA which I fondly still refer to as the “bendy-tree church” on 43rd avenue (Now Pure Heart)
From there I transferred to NCS just a few miles away and finished out my Jr. High and High School years there.
It was during this time I began to serve in the international youth ministry, Young Life, but also started to get myself into some real trouble.
This is where I began to live what I would consider: a double-life.
I learned how to put on my Christian face when need be, but then take off that mask within seconds and be who I really was underneath.
Emotional, foolish, and quite sinful.
I graduated from High School in 2008 and decided I would attend ASU for college as I got a scholarship there.
At this point in my young adult journey I would say my faith was about as steady as a clown, on stilts, in row boat, in the middle of the ocean… in a storm.
I knew God. I knew right from wrong. I had all of the head knowledge to explain the gospel and my faith pretty well.
I just hadn’t let that translate to heart knowledge quite yet.
The kind of knowledge that leads to living the Truth, not just knowing it.
As is the case for many millennial students, I sort of floated through college without much rhyme or reason and I began to live a life that didn’t resemble that of a Christian.
I made quite a few bad decisions and reaped the consequences from them.
Broken friendships, dead-end relationships, more anger, more depression, more pain.
Unbelievably during this time, I continued to serve in Young Life, and was constantly astonished at how God would still use a wretch like me to help the impressionable students around me.
Over the years I had honed in my skill of playing the part of a “Christ follower” when I needed to, and it was during these times away from Tempe I began to feel God speak to me and show me there was so much more to life and that He had bigger plans for me.
As I would enter back into real life, after a camp or a club, I would shove the voice of God aside once more and continue on living my life of vanity.
This back and forth lifestyle was short lived.
As sin does its work of death and destruction, I finally found myself in a place I had never dreamed I’d be.
I had reached my bottom.
I was 21 and had my senior year of college looming in front of me with no foreseeable plans after that.
I had progressively made a name for myself in all the wrong ways and had just got out of a tumultuous 3-year relationship.
I was trapped in a prison of addiction, depression, and confusion.
I was in every aspect a broken mess.
It was at this time my angelic mother decided it would be best for me to come back to my church, Calvary, and listen to a message from Pastor Mark.
I begrudgingly agreed and…
It was on that fateful Wednesday Night in August 2011 that Pastor Mark shared some scripture that forever changed my life.
He shared a portion of scripture out of Galatians that finally connected the dots for me.
I would like to share it with you tonight
It was this out of:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[fn] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
This was it.
It finally all made sense to me.
I had been living in the flesh and I was reaping the fruit of worldly living.
If I truly wanted to see true love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life I realized it was time to take being a follower of Christ seriously.
It would no longer just be a title I took, but a complete and utter identity transformation.
It was in that moment I felt like a lightning bolt hit my chest. (sitting over by the drums)
I was instantly repulsed of my old life!
It was the most incredible thing.
I finally understood why Jesus died for me.
I understood how badly I needed Him.
That I couldn’t do this on my own.
That He loved me and that it was only through Him I would find true meaning in life.
Here is the only problem with that moment.
I knew after church I had to return back home.
Back to Tempe.
Back to my crazy life.
How was I going to survive or actually grow spiritually?
Little did I know, God had already worked this out for me.
The next day happened to be my first day of school. I have no clue why ASU starts on a Thursday?! But I’m glad they did that year!
As I was headed across campus to my first class I ended up passing by a table for a new church that had just been planted in Tempe.
I felt something inside me tell me to stop and speak with them.
I gave them my information and was invited to meet with them the next day at… Chick-fil-a. (of course where else would good respectable Christians meet?!)
I met with them the next day and was introduced to the pastors.
I shared my story with them and how God had just moved in my life the night before.
They were so excited for me and immediately the senior pastor asked to meet again with me.
I thought this was cool but a little strange.
But I was desperate to hang out with Christians so I agreed.
Well soon our meetings became intentional weekly hangouts and Travis explained to me what we were doing had a name.
It was called Discipleship.
As my senior year raged on Travis helped me through some of the most difficult growth moments of my life like a father to a son or a teacher to a student.
He inspired me and guided me in how to live a life in the Spirit
He explained to me my identity in Christ
He helped me start living an active Christian life.
After that year our schedules changed and I was handed over to another pastor named Adam.
He would be my discipler for the next 4 years.
Adam brought me into his family and his life completely.
He taught me how to be a man of God, a Christ-like husband, a humble servant, and how to have healthy relationships and boundaries.
He also taught me how to be a discipler, a leader, and a pastor.
I watched him live his life week by week, month by month, and year by year, and through it I was transformed as well.
Because of their influence and dedicated hearts to disciple me, I am a pastor here today.
I sometimes tear up just saying his name because of the impact that he had on me during that time.
You see Travis and Adam knew something that I didn’t before.
And they took the commands of Jesus very seriously.
Especially the final one Jesus gave before He ascended into Heaven.
So because it has affected my life so powerfully, there are three things I want to share about discipleship that I hope will inspire you to seek it in your own life!
In recent years I have become quite the novel reader.
I can burn through a book in a matter of days if I’m not careful and can drive my wife a bit crazy with my love for stories.
I am the guy who picks up a book and reads the first couple pages… but then opens the back and reads the last page.
I have to know how it ends.
Well that is what were are going to do today
On Sunday we celebrated the birth of Jesus and got to hear about the first chapter of His amazing life.
Today we are going to jump to the last chapter of His time on earth and read what my friends Travis and Adam took so seriously and I would hope you will tonight as well!
If you would turn with me to
The Great Commission
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[fn] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So before we jump right into the three points I have prepared about Jesus’s Great Commission to us
I want to first explain the condition and circumstance Jesus is speaking to His disciples and to us today.
When we read this portion of scripture we are reading Jesus’s last words He spoke before He ascended into heaven after His resurrection.
This unfolding scene reminds me of the ends of many famous movies and stories where the protagonist has that one last line that is the always the most powerful one in the whole story.
They always leave us with a thought provoking line, or a something so awesome we can’t help but use it later as a caption on a Facebook post.
One of my favorites is Thorin Oakenshield’s last words from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit.
His last words were this sentiment…
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Last words are always meant to leave an impression and inspire us into action.
So even more so than these fictional story book characters, these last words by Jesus are of extreme importance and inspiration!
They are His commission to us! I like to think of it as our homework He left behind for us to do until He returns again.
It’s our mission!
And He makes sure to leave us with some comfort and power before He gives this commission.
Jesus so kindly reiterates to us in vs. 18 that because He has been given all authority over heaven and earth…
We are commissioned with that same power at our disposal.
As His followers we get to rest in that authority and victory. AMEN
Charles Spurgeon was quoted saying,
“Power in the hands of some people is dangerous, but power in the hands of Christ is blessed. Oh, let him have all power! Let him do what he will with it, for he cannot will anything but that which is right, and just, and true, and good.” (Spurgeon)
Since we are being sent out with that kind of power we can be comforted knowing we have everything we need and will ever need in Christ.
Now comes the portion of our homework where the rubber meets the road.
Jesus says now that have been given power and authority in my name… THEREFORE… GO
When you look at the word “GO” in the Greek it literally translates to lead over, to carry over, or to transfer.
This is the heart of the Great Commission… that we don’t keep it to ourselves!
This is an active command that we are being tasked to do something with!
This leads me into my first point about what Christ seeks to accomplish through us living out this command.
Its no coincidence that Christ says in vs. 19 go MAKE disciples.
The command is to make disciples, not merely converts or supporters of a cause. The idea behind the word disciples is of scholars, learners, or students.
Becoming a mature follower and disciple (or student) of Jesus Christ doesn’t just happen at salvation.
I found that out the hard way.
I lived many years in as a believer in Christian institutions surrounded by many Christian people and still had the spiritual depth of blue plastic play pool
Christ tasks us to seek spiritual depth through relationship with other believers who are seeking growth in Christ themselves.
Paul shares this sentiment with us in when he says,
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Often times Christ is best displayed to us through others who are seeking to be like Him.
If you struggle with your spiritual growth or feel stagnate in your faith its probably because of a lack of discipleship!
Something to think about today…
Who is pouring into you? And who are you pouring into?
Are we like a healthy pond that has a fresh flow of water in that also pours out into other streams
Or are we just stagnate bodies of water without flow at all?
God intends for us to grow spiritually through relationship and discipleship.
Jesus was the perfect picture of discipleship.
As He was poured into by His Father He himself took on 12 disciples.
This leads me to my second point… Discipleship:
This apostolic commission given by Jesus is what the church was built on.
Its why we sit here today in this building over 2000 years later
The institution of the Church is based off of replication of what Jesus taught the 12.
Jesus started the the longest and most powerful game of telephone ever created and is message is still guided and protected today by the Word of God.
In vs 20 Jesus calls for replication of the saints through discipleship!
He tasked the disciples to teach the next generation everything that He had taught them.
And then for them to one day do the same for others and so on and so forth…
This meant that they had to spend time with other people like Jesus had spent time with them.
Eat with them.
Talk with them.
Work with them.
Live life!
This process happened EVERYDAY, not just on Sundays.
If we take this part of the great commission seriously…
It will cost you your time
Your finances
Your sanity at times
And your life.
reminds us this in vs. 24-25
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[fn] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
As I was discipled by Travis and Adam I’m sure there were times that they lost their patience with me and had to sacrifice parts of their life to pour into me.
I remember Travis staying out with me till well after midnight playing ultimate Frisbee with my friends and I just to be with us.
And Adam letting me come over and listening to my sob story as I was an emotional wreck because of this beautiful girl named Aubrey that was playing hard to get.
And as I myself began to disciple people I learned what patience really looks like.
God taught me so much through the late nights praying with broken ASU students who needed Him when they weren’t sober enough to walk home or were contemplating suicide.
He showed me how to extend love and grace to others so far past my own ability and through it the church was built.
God intended for the church to be filled with a bunch of people who intimately know each other.
Not just on a surface level.
Jesus has tasked us to build the church this way because it makes sense!
It’s a mathematical work of relational exponential growth.
Lets just say there are 400 of us here tonight and we all decided to disciple just two people and bring them into our fold.
That would be 800 more people here who are in personal relationship with a believer and are experiencing life on life spiritual growth.
Then imagine if we saw those people disciple 2 more each.
That’s another 1600 people.
And so on and so forth!
This is how Jesus intends for us to reach all the nations of the world.
So when we choose to invest into each others lives we glorify God building the church and living out his great commission.
This leads me to my last point.
When Jesus was questioned what were the most important commandments His answer was this.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Even above the Great Commission we are first and foremost tasked to Love God and Love people.
I believe that Great Commission and discipleship is one of the best vessels Jesus gives to accomplish those commands.
When we enter into an intentional relationship with another person and choose to love them like Christ loves us, we are glorifying God.
This is why marriage and parenting are two incredible examples of built in discipleship!
When we allow God to use us and our gifts to help another person in their journey, He is glorified and we are taught more about God and how he loves us.
It is through this life on life work with other people we discover the depths of grace that Jesus has for us
We dive into the ever expanding ocean of love God gives us for others and for Him
And God will broaden and strengthen your capacity to do more than you ever thought possible.
I never ever thought I would ever be a pastor.
I didn’t think I could ever get up here and deliver a sermon.
I am a living testament to what God can do through people who take His Words and commands seriously.
I shudder at the idea of where I would be right now had I not decided to allow Travis and Adam into my life.
So today in light of all this, this is my question to you?
Have you been doing your homework?
When we take the name of Christian we are saying we are “little Christs”
Jesus Christ was always on mission and was always doing the work of His Father
And that is what Jesus wants for us today!
He wants all of us to jump on board this ever-moving train of furious love He has for the world.
And he wants us to fulfill his commands through meaningful relationship with one another so that we might:
So today let’s ask God to guide us and open up our eyes to those around us we could come along side and disciple or that we may need to disciple us.
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