The Disciple Catches the Team's Vision
Sunday AM 1-8-06
Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going, How Do I Fit In?
The Disciple Catches the Team’s Vision
Matt 16:16-23; II Corinthians 5:9-21; Revelation 20:11-15
This past year, we have learned a lot from I Corinthians about how the church is a body.
There’s a unity of heart, mind, and purpose: together, we are the body of Christ.
In a very unified and powerful way, we can represent Jesus to those around us.
Truly, we are His hands, we are His arms, we are His feet.
I want you to think carefully for just a minute:
When the church is representing Christ well, we are not only serving in the name of Christ, we are actually serving Christ, because He is our head.
When the Church is representing Christ well, we are not only glorifying Christ in the world, but we are also bringing blessing to the world through Christ.
At the beginning of every year, we like to take a Sunday and talk about Why are We Here, Where are We Going, and How Do You Fit In?
In other words, what is the body of Christ doing, and what SHOULD we be doing?
My challenge to each of us this year is to work together as a team, doing everything in our power as the arms, legs, feet, hands, and words of the body to be going to others and showing others, and seeking to convince others that Jesus is the answer to the problems both of life and of eternity.
My challenge for each of us this year is for each one of us to pick at least one person that we are going to pray for, build relationships with, and share Christ with, and trust God to save THIS YEAR.
Each one reach one.
Is that unreasonable for God to do?
Is that within God’s stated will for us?
The big question is whether that is something that YOU and I are willing to commit to.
This morning, I am not trying to BYPASS I Corinthians, but rather to give a much broader perspective to what we have been learning this past year.
I want to ask you to open your Bible to three different passages of Scripture.
These passages will lay out for us the vision that Christ’s body will have.
II Corinthians 5:9-21
Let me set the stage for the first passage, Matthew 16.
Jesus never asked questions to get information: he asked them to teach his followers important lessons.
He also never went anywhere without a clear purpose, and that is clear here in Matthew 16.
Vs. 13: Jesus took his disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi: right at the base of Mount Hermon.
You could look up and see jagged cliffs from practically anyplace in the city.
The people that lived there worshipped idols, and they had placed statues of their gods all over these cliffs so it was known as the city of the dead gods.
Jesus takes the disciples there and he asks them a critical question: who do people say that I am?
Their response was, some say you’re John the Baptist, others say you’re Elijah, others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus looks them right in the eyes and asks: But who do you say that I am?
Read Matthew 16:16-23
Remember, we’re talking about catching the team’s vision.
Read II Cor. 5:9-21
Now one more passage that gives us the motivation and even the urgency of the vision.
Read Revelation 20:11-25
Two Concepts that help the body of Christ Catch the Vision
I. God is Alive and Active in His World Today.
The disciples at Caesarea Philippi needed to think about how God was different than all of the idols stacked up on the cliffs around them.
Peter got it right: thou art the Christ (the Messiah, the Redeemer, the one sent into the world by the Father Himself) Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God...
Friends, this church will never function in the way that God intends until we realize:
A. WE MUST think about our community through the lens of a God who is alive today.
Too many people call themselves followers of Christ, BUT will go into a new year without really expecting God to do much in them, and through them.
They’re the body, but the arms aren’t reaching, the mouth isn’t speaking, and the feet aren’t going.
Somewhere along the line, their God died.
Those people would ever actually say it that way; but functionally, that’s the way it is.
God is something like that dissection project in biology where there is a frog in a jar of formaldehyde.
They don’t go to church expecting an encounter with a Living God who they expect to actively work in their lives and the lives of others. Going to church is like going to a museum to think about something or someone who has been dead a long, long time.
Could I be direct with you for just a minute?
Let’s rewind your tape the last 24 hours or so: how much evidence is there that you really expected the living God to be at work in His house today in your life and the lives of others?
Did you get the things laid out for you and your family last evening so you’d be ready for action today or were you running around like a nut this morning?
Did you get in bed because you wanted to be fresh for what God has for you today from His Word?
Did you get here this morning looking for opportunities to be His arms reaching, and His hands healing?
Have you been looking for the person that God wants you to impact today?
Did that affect where you sat?
Did it affect what time you got here?
If the honest questions to a lot of those questions was no, no, no.
Then the real question is, in reality; who is Jesus Christ to you?
Is He a dead god in a jar of formaldehyde, or is He the Christ, the Son of the Living God who you expect to be working in your life and the lives of others today?
The first step to catching the vision is to see the world through the lens of a God who is alive.
B. Jesus is actively building His church. Vs. 18
Ekklasia - ek = out, kalew = to call – a group of persons called out by God
Jesus is building His church, and the kind of people who’ll make up the church are:
1. People who understand who Jesus is.
Peter could have never come to this conclusion about Jesus on their own, God communicates this message, and he uses His people to spread the message.
These people will also:
2. People who understand Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Vs 21-23
It was only by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that anyone can be reconciled to a holy God.
Even Peter couldn’t get His arms around that idea.
Peter went from being at the head of the class to being in the corner with the dunce cap on.
Jesus did have to die, because without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.
The Living God loved the world so much that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
How does what we read in Revelation 20 fit into this?
C. God knows that those who refuse to come to Him as Savior will one day face Him as judge.
There is such a thing as the logic of hell.
If God is truly holy, then there must be an eternal penalty for sin.
That is not a comfortable thought, is it?
That’s why this vision is so vital, and so thrilling, and so significant.
Can I ask you just to stop for a minute and think about this community.
Do you believe that God really is alive and that there really is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be avoided, and that God is actively calling men and women to Himself and that He is building His church right here in Jay?
How does what we read in II Cor. 5 fit into this?
The answer is that God has a vision, but you are a part of it.
II. God Expects His Children to Participate in His Mission.
A. The foundation is a desire to please our Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:9
As a church, we believe that winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples pleases God.
B. We understand that someday we will give an account for this matter. 2 Corinthians 5:10
This year’s vision is all about outreach. I don’t mean only that our church is going to do a bunch of evangelistic things. I’m talking about us as individuals, individually, we must catch the vision of lost souls, and we must understand that someday we will give an account about involvement as ambassadors.
C. Our reverence for God motivates us to persuade others to come to Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Is that your testimony? A heart and a life that has no interest in persuading men is also a heart that possesses no true fear of God, and that’s about as serious as it gets.
D. We value our new life in Christ and we want to share that possibility with others. Vs. 17
We believe that knowing Jesus Christ is the best way to live and the only way to die.
That’s why we say that the best method for outreach is a changed and changing life.
Our discipleship and personal holiness will directly be reflected in the ways that we reach out to others.
E. We are begging others to be reconciled to God. Vs. 20
That’s the answer to the questions, why are we here, and where are we going, and how do we fit in?
My question for you this morning is very simple: are you willing before God this morning, to catch the vision?
Are you honestly willing to commit yourself to growing in your effectiveness at reaching out to others?
Are you willing to ask God to draw you closer to Him; even if that means getting rid of non-essentials?
In his book Building a Contagious Church, Mark Mittelberg used this illustration.
Jim had a passion for God, a love for people, and a burden to communicate the gospel. But he wrestled with the question of how to bring the message of Christ into a setting that seemed so far from him. How could he help people see and embrace the truth when they had so little biblical understanding? The barriers seemed insurmountable. The task appeared virtually impossible.
Even with all of the obstacles in front of him, Jim knew he had to try. God had given him a vision to make a difference in the lives of these men and women. So try he did! In fact, he went to great lengths to relate to their culture—lengths that would probably make you or me feel very uncomfortable. Following the example of the apostle Paul, he took bold risks to “become all things to all people…for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NRSV).
What kinds of risks? For starters, he shaved his head right down to the skin—that is, except for the patch of hair he grew long. Not only that, he began wearing it in a pigtail and even dyed it a different color, all in an effort to fit in with the fashions of the people he wanted to reach! He also gave up his familiar business attire and began to dress like them. He even changed his eating patterns and started to dine in the style of the ones he cared so much about. Further, he worked hard to learn their vocabulary, in the hopes that he would be able to effectively convey biblical teachings in their everyday street language. He read their papers, studied their ideas, and went out of his way to discover and build on whatever areas of common ground he had with them.
Jim didn’t do this all from a distance. No, he actually moved into the neighborhood with these people. He lived close to them, became their friend, and spent extended periods of time talking with them, getting to know them, playing with their children—all of this in spite of their non-Christian lifestyles and, in almost every case, their outright rejection of his message.
What did other church leaders think of all of this? Did they celebrate Jim’s tenacious commitment to reaching these unchurched people? Did they rally around him and support his courageous efforts? Did they uphold him in prayer and find ways to encourage him in his bold evangelistic pursuits?
Not even close! On the contrary, they mostly misunderstood, misrepresented, and even openly maligned him. The very people who should have supported and helped him turned their backs on him and his ministry. In many ways he had to continue his efforts by himself, with the backing of just a few close friends who shared his vision.
Jim paid the price of loneliness, weariness, and discouragement, along with criticism from much of the church. He also lived with the daily rejection of most of those he wanted to reach. And he did this year after year.
Jim saw the task, faced the opponents, followed the vision, and by the grace and help of God, fulfilled his calling. Jim is an extraordinary example of doing the work of evangelism in a difficult situation. His life is a powerful illustration of evangelism against the odds. And today, generations later, countless people from the neighborhoods he worked so hard to reach now know and serve Jesus Christ as their Forgiver and Leader.
Jim—or as he’s more widely know, James Hudson Taylor—is the man who more than a century ago gave up everything to build a ministry called China Inland Mission. More than anyone else, he is credited with turning so many in that nation to faith in Christ. And today he is regarded widely as one of the greatest pioneers of the modern missions movement.
Is it worth taking risks to reach lost people with the love of Jesus? Is it right to proclaim the gospel in ways that break a few paradigms, push back a few boundaries, and ruffle a few feathers? If you aren’t sure, you might want to ask the hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by Hudson Taylor’s risk-taking, God-honoring ministry.
III. Our Goal this Year is to for each one here to catch the vision.