How should the life and teaching of Christ direct our discipleship?
It is really a blessing to be here. This is kind of a reunion for us. We’ve had a very busy summer in Mexico and just got back, literally just days before we came out this way. Seeing some of you is such a blessing. Seeing all of you is a blessing. Some of you have been getting a lot older. I am glad that I have not been aging like you have, but it is amazing.
I can’t think of a better place to come and to sing with Brother John D. leading music and Brother Mathias Overholt singing – I am just tremendously blessed already.
I am also blessed with this theme, this idea of discipleship that was given to us to speak on this weekend. As you look at this concept and discipleship, I agree that I think it is very important. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way. He said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
As I ponder some of the powerful things that I have personally experienced in my life, even here at this camp, in Lancaster county, in this whole area, I am reminded that John Wesley has a challenging word when he speaks of the just movements of God. He said, “I am more and more convinced that the devil himself desires nothing more than this that the people of any place should be half awakened and then left to themselves to fall asleep again.” As he spoke of this, he spoke of his desire to have his discipling programs that he did with all the Methodist church part of what he was about.
I have been blessed in my life. I think of the men that I have had in my life. I should be much further, seriously, in my journey because of the people that I have had the pleasure to journey with. I think of my life, some of the people that have taken the time to disciple me… The Bercot family, David Bercot… Brother John D. Martin, sitting here, has been a big part of discipling in my life. Denny Kenaston had a big part. Brother Dale Heisey, sitting here, recently even through some of the difficulties of the last few years, and brother, your tapes and your ministry and just meeting with me at times has been a big importance to me. I thank the Lord for that. I do see the importance of this.
I do believe that there is a crisis sensed in the earth today. History goes through times of ups and downs, but every now, or every so many centuries or so, there is a big change. There are bigger things happening. There are many things both from the economic and the spiritual, and from the things that we see in this earth, that it seems that we are heading towards one of those times.
Through this I have sensed and have been speaking to many people that there is an encouraging paradigm shift. I am encouraged to be here this morning with the people that are here. I am encouraged in being around some of these young fellowships that are now taking those words of Jesus and beginning to take them very seriously. Churches that are based around ministries and activities and works of God as several of the groups that are represented here, I am not just flattering you, you can listen to the places that I speak. I brag on you all the time. They are almost all here this morning. I praise the Lord for that. I thank the Lord for that. I am tremendously blessed to be here.
The topic that came to me was Jesus and Discipleship. I am blessed with that, but it is very challenging. I have had a sort of calling on my life, a burden on my life. One of the mottoes in my life is to try to put the teachings of Jesus in the most practical way as possible, by the grace of God. That has been my journey. When I was in the army it was the revelation that Jesus meant what he said that changed everything for me. So it has been a continual journey for me. Though I have tried and I failed this miserably, it has been my attempt. It has been what I tried to do… to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.
So as we look at this theme today, Jesus and Discipleship, I am going to try to talk about the way that Jesus discipled in a very literal way. I want to make a confession. I don’t want you think that I am have arrived… I live in a community so I have all these things in order. I live in a community and I need these things more than you do. So I see these words of Jesus and it reminds me of the first time we heard Brother John D. preach, over 20 years ago. Brother David Bercot and I heard him in Perkins, Oklahoma. He was preaching these things that I had never heard before. I remember Brother David stood up and said, You know, I want to make a confession. I am not where Brother John D. is, but I dare not anesthetize the teachings of Jesus to make myself feel comfortable.
So I want to bring up these discipling methods of Jesus Christ and ponder them together with you… on a journey with you. Let’s ponder this paradigm that I have tried to live in my life. What if Jesus really meant every word he said. As we ponder that paradigm it becomes something beautiful.
A few years ago, I ran across this newspaper article. It is actually from Jan. 25, 1879. It is an interesting newspaper article. It is a reprint from a London Times article in the New York Times.
It is about a discovery that they had suddenly found some manuscripts of Bach. It says, “Great excitement has been created in German musical circles by the discovery in an old country mansion belonging to a noble Saxon family of Wizthun, of a large number of manuscripts, compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach hitherto believed to have been irretrievable lost.
Robert Franz, the well known composer and editor of Bach’s works determined to undertake this enterprise. They wanted to go and find and search all through Germany and see if they could find some of these manuscripts. Determined to undertake this enterprise, he set upon it in the most minute and painstaking manner imaginable. He went from town to village and from village to country house examining garrets and cellars, turning over vast accumulations of inconceivable rubbish.
But in vain until he came to Schloss Witzthun, there walking through the park toward the house he noticed that the stakes to which the young fruit and ornamental trees had been tied and padded with paper instead of leather or rags generally used in Germany to prevent young trees from chafing against the poles by which they are supported and kept straight. He went close to one of these saplings, animated, as he himself admits, more by idle curiosity than by any definite hope connected with the immediate purpose of his mission. What a joy, what his horror upon recognizing Bach’s well-known and beautiful notation upon the paper padding! He eagerly inquired of the gardener who was accompanying him through the grounds whence he had obtained these manuscripts. The man replied, phlegmatically, “Up in the loft under the roof there are several trunks full of old music, which was of no use to anybody; so I took it to wrap round the trees, as the paper was thick and strong, and did just as well for my purpose as leather or linen rags. I have been using it up for a long while now.”
I have noticed when we deal with the words of Jesus, we deal with the scriptures in a lot of ways, it is kind of like that. We have been given these words to perform a beautiful symphony, to make music and to sing something that the world needs to hear. And we turn it into some kind of weird thing. We pad trees with it and use it for something that it was never intended to be. So today as we open up the words of Jesus and look at the way he discipled, let’s ponder for a moment. Let’s all be challenged. Please, don’t think that my community doesn’t need this. I guarantee, more than you do. So as we look into this, let’s look together and be challenged without anesthetizing it, the words of Jesus and Discipleship.
As we do this, first of all, we think of Jesus and his way of discipling. You know, Jesus put all of his campaign, all his theology, all his grand design into the most simplest two words imaginable. Amen. Follow me! That!! Is Christianity in a nut shell! Having Jesus Christ within us. Following Him is Christianity.
1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Jesus Christ is Christianity. Albert Einstein said, If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself. He said the most brilliant concept, the complexities of physics, if you understand them properly, should be able to be brought down to something simple.
So if I can bring entire to you of what Jesus represents, it is in those two words, follow me.
I tried to break down this list, which is not exhaustive, some things that are challenging, and tried to look at it in a practical way that Jesus did. Most of these things we spiritualize. There is a spiritual aspect in many ways. The idea of being discipled by Jesus Christ you have to spiritualize. You can’t repeat that. But I am going to dive in and look at some of the techniques that He used and just try to look at it in a practical way.
There are four things that I want to bring out about Jesus and discipling:
- He asked them to abandon everything and follow Him.
- He asked them to immerse immediately into a life of constant ministry. From the beginning, you can argue against it, but that is what He did. He immediately brought the disciples into a life of constant ministry.
- He called those disciples to live intimately together. He called them to live in a sort of community. A gathering together, an intimate fellowship dependent on each other was part of the discipling process that he did.
- He had them embrace the cross.
So let’s go through those.
Abandon everything. Why? Why did Jesus call those apostles to abandon everything in that way? Jesus put it this way. If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yea and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. So likewise whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Now again we spiritualize these things. I want you to come now more to the practical. Let’s be challenged by it and not anesthetizing it. Look at why did Jesus call his disciples in this manner? Why was Jesus’ method with the disciples such radical abandonment of their jobs, of their occupations, of their family associations, of their national standing, everything? He called for that.
Later on when he gave them their commission to go, when he called unto him the twelve, He began to send them forth by two and by two. He gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey save a staff only, no script, no bread, no money in their purse, but to be shod with sandals and not put on two coats.
This idea, this total renunciation, you see, he wasn’t just starting a school of thought, He was starting a nation. He was starting a kingdom. When they said, Jesus is Lord it had huge political ramifications. Caesar said, Caesar is lord. There are actually statues that have been found that say “Caesar is Lord” on it. For them to say Jesus is Lord had political ramifications. It alluded that Caesar was not. It meant that Jesus was Lord. He was planting a nation, a kingdom of God, and he wanted them to be renouncing everything else but the kingdom of God.
If you join and become an American citizen today, I want to read you just a clip from the oath that you have to say to become an American citizen. Here it is. If you are coming from an other country and you are coming to America and you are wanting to become a citizen. This is still the oath today.
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;… and etc…
Wow! America understands the need for absolute loyalty. Jesus cried for that. I am disappointed when I see kingdom Christians getting involved with politics. It just means you don’t understand what Jesus is Lord means. You don’t understand it.
The very first command when God said, You shall have no other gods before me. That concept of no other gods is the Hebrew word “paniym”. It means “in my presence”. It doesn’t just mean to have the priority like ye shall have no other gods before me, more than me. It means in my presence. Ye shall have NO OTHER gods in my presence. Nothing. It’s not because I want to be tops. I want to be everything. That is the kind of commitment that Jesus Christ was asking of his people. He was asking of them.
When Pilate asked Jesus, you know, people are saying you are a king. Jesus replied, My kingdom is not of this world else my servants would fight.
Pilate ask, Are you a king then? I think many of us talk about our citizenship with Jesus Christ in that way. And you almost treat Jesus, Are you even a king then?Truly embracing the concept of absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ was what he was asking of his apostles. Even more he was having them take everything, all the trust they had in themselves and their possessions, in their associations, in their families, and creating something new.
In Galatians 4:3 it says: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.”
Colossians 2:8 says: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ.”
Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That word “conformed” in Greek is the word they would have like a press, like a seal. It comes from external forces pressed upon you, to be pressed. Do not be conformed, but be transformed. You know what the word “transformed” means? It’s the word metamorphosis, be transformed like a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. Don’t be conformed by this world having the outside pressures turn us into something. But be transformed, metamorphosed into something beautiful that Christ makes you. That is what Paul is telling us.
He challenged them not only with this political association, with the family association, and for some reason he stripped them of even their financial dependency. He stripped them of something of relying on themselves.
I remember my journey. Again I have tried to have this journey of trying to put the words of Jesus to practice as practical as I can. That is the way I started. So it kind of affects me. I know one of the things that I dealt with is the classic one of the Rich Young Ruler, and it is always a very challenging thing. The story that Jesus gave of the rich young ruler is one of the cries we get here of discipling, Jesus’ form of discipleship. I always knew that it said that Jesus knew what was in his heart. So good, that is not in my heart so I don’t have to worry about it.
I remember being in a Bible school and John D. preaching on Luke 12 and it never really hit me the same way as when he was preaching. It says in verse 30, Jesus is speaking, summarizing the Sermon on the Mount, summarizing not caring about the things of this world and he says, Luke 12:30:
“30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
That is a journey. That is a continual thing. As I tried to follow that and be pricked in my conscience by that, God has had to rebuke me many times. I remember one time that it strikes me, in that rebuke I was heading to living in a Christian community. You know, you have a tendency to kind of pat yourself on the back and think Pharisaical. As I stood there and looked at my moving truck, I was thinking, Oh, the rich young ruler just didn’t know that you could call a U-haul and get moved to the community.
So God has had to continually beat me down with the Pharisaical thinking and brought me continually on a journey. What I have found is that the more I surrender, the more He gives. You can’t out give God!
But He wants to do something in those apostles and I don’t know what. I can’t know exactly why Jesus was doing that.
Some years ago, I remember I was in a meeting and I felt something again in my heart. These brothers were giving good solid advice. They were talking about how to get your cause or your mission desire or something. How to properly ask a financial institution in Lancaster County or whatever, for money and support. As they were giving very practical advice…. and had the guts to say what everybody knew that needed to be said. You are supposed to speak good about them behind the scenes and those sorts of things. As I listened to that, I thought, “Wow! You mean we are getting to the point that because I own this wealth, I can actually control the missions of what is happening among the Anabaptist people?” I felt that in my own heart and it struck me hard.
The Proverbs say the poor man uses entreaties, but the rich man answereth roughly. So is there something more in what Jesus asked of them? Is there something that He asked of them?
I have found that maybe you are a different man when there is something different between you being generous and being needy. There is a difference between giving and sharing. It does something different to you as a man.
Have any of you read the book “Mere Discipleship” by Lee Camp? He makes an argument in there talking about perhaps one of the reasons why Jesus had this idea is that when you are in a different state economically, you ask different questions. He talked about Athanasius during the big Trinity debates during the 300’s and how he stood for Homoousion meaning the “same substance of the Father” the term to be a Christian. He talked about Luther and how his concept of ubiquitous grace and his consubstantiation had to be defended. He states in this book, One asks different questions of the meaning of God depending on whether one finds oneself up in the ivory towers or in the slave cabin, in Pharaoh’s throne or in Pharaoh’s mud pits, in the board room or in the sweat shops. Where we are and where we have been deeply affect who we think God is and what we think God wants us to be.
This was the basis in the 70’s, a movement that responded terribly in their response of liberation theology. Trying to say, poor people see the Bible differently. Their response though, some of them acted unfortunately with revolution. But where you are and the situations you experience you see the Bible and you read the Bible differently, Is there possibly something there?
Now one thing, though, that I have also noticed. When you start to talk about radical Jesus economics there is something that can tend to happen that is kind of ugly. I don’t know how to explain this the right way, but there seems to be a sense of self-righteous poverty… it’s like a misunderstanding of the idea of what Jesus is wanting to do.
The point is in the midst of that surrender, Jesus desires to make us rich. To make us rich! Not rich in a materialistic way, but that full dependence on God. In the kingdom that he described, if you go to the Sermon on the Mount, the rich guy, he say, “Ouch” the poor guy says, “Praise the Lord.” This is the kingdom that he is establishing.
But the concept is that we live in a world that is kind of strange. Our economics and our western civilization builds our wealth on scarcity if something is scarce, it is valuable. Like diamonds are very valuable. Gold is valuable, but you know fields and grass and oxygen and water those things are not valuable. This concept of false scarcity is something that the world lives by.
Jesus in a sense is saying, I will provide everything and He does. It is interesting the response that he gets from the apostles. Peter in Matthew 19 says: “Then answered Peter, behold we have forsaken all and followed thee. What shall we have therefore?” Jesus answered that in a beautiful way.
You see He gets glory from giving. And I have found this in what little tiny things I have done. You have done much more than I have. But what little things I have done, it’s a blessing to see how God just keeps providing.
Later Jesus says, and he said unto them, When I sent you without purse and script and shoes, lacked you anything? And they said, Nothing. So this concept of blessing from Jesus, and coming to Him is one of the biggest rejoicing that he gets. And so the desire in the kingdom that we go forth in these ministries. He sent the apostles out. He is establishing something. He wants to be glorified in His disciples. For some reason He stripped them in that way. He stripped them.
Now there is another thing that comes a little challenging when you get around radical thinking. Now there are many things that rebuke in the scriptures as far as living luxuriously and living by pleasure and living in pleasure and that sort of thing. But Jesus goes further than that to the disciple. He rebukes them not for just living luxurously, for they weren’t, but he rebukes the concept of just having storage. We wants that faith trust in Him.
What did the guy that built bigger barns do wrong? We just had a good crop. Hey, the sun came in that well, and he built bigger barns. His problem was that he just kept resting on that. For some reason in radical economics there is sometimes a concept, well, I will just have an old car and an old house, but I have these big store houses. Jesus wants the disciples to touch that. There is something about having that lack of control and circulating that thing.
There is a book, I can’t necessarily recommend by Lewis Hide, who speaks of the concept of this gift being returned and going around and received by different people and he brings up an interesting quote. That when the Puritans came to Massachusetts, there is a diary written in 1764 where they talked about the way the Indians gave things. The “Indian generosity” is a term they used and this is where we get the term. They were “Indian givers”.
What happened the Puritans were together with the American Indian. The American Indian gives them a peace pipe. The Puritan, instead of circulating the peace pipe to someone else, and they giving to someone else, the colonist said, great, I’ll go and send this to the British museum. He sends it off to the British museum. And it is taken out of the use and of the circulation of what God intended those gifts to be.
He wants us to have that generosity in the gifts that we share. That is the kind of thing we see walking with the apostles. It was beautiful. It was a beautiful concept.
Jesus said, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where theives break in to steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where theives do not break in to steal, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.
This is the same thing, not even living in a community life, but Paul, later on in 2 Corinthians 8:9, and chapter 9 makes it clear. They were not living in an Acts type of community, but also talk about this concept. The apostle Paul says, 2 Corinthians 8:9:
“9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”
The concept that he is giving is the manna. What happened when you collected the manna and tried to stick it on the shelf? It rotted. It needed to be used. He has poured His resources and His blessings and His wealth into this nation and into this county and He wants us to use it. Don’t be scared. If we take this literally, don’t be scared.
That was the first… total abandoment… why Lord? Why did you do this to your disciples?
The next one, to immerse themselves into a life of constant ministry. When Jesus came to His inaugural address, when he came before the start of His ministry, this is what He said. Luke 4:16:
“16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Most scholars think that is the Jubilee. Luke 4:20:
“20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
This is a beautiful concept. This idea is the vision of Jesus Christ…immediately involved in action. Immediately involved in those kinds of things. In Habakkuk 2:2 speaking of the future, Habakkuk 2:2 “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” This was Jesus’ vision, instantly involved in those things. I see it coming out of the apostles. This was His discipling method. Matthew 4:23: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,”
Luke 9:6 “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.” It says in another place. And he said unto them come ye yourselves apart in a desert place and rest for a while for there were many coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat. They were very involved in ministry from the very beginning. Why do you think this is? Why do you think God called the disciples immediately into such an active life?
There is an interesting diary. How many of you have read the diary of David Brainerd? He was a missionary in this area. And one of the interesting quotes that I have from his diary is, in 1745 he writes, “Very dear brother, I am in one continual, perpetual, uninterrupted hurry.” He says, “I am in one continual, perpetual, uninterrupted hurry and divine grace throws so much upon me that I do not see that it will ever be otherwise. May I obtain mercy of God to be faithful to the death.”
This concept of having an agenda, Jesus Christ. The Acts uses the word “the way”. They were people of the way. That is who they were.
The idea for discipleship, the Greek word used for discipleship comes two hundred and forty times in the book of Acts alone. Why do they throw so much instantly into ministry? Again I make the statement: When we are involved in those types of things, we ask different questions.
Why is your church here? I probably read most of the histories of the different denominations that are represented here, and know some of the stories of the churches that are here today. For the most part, they started from someone becoming too liberal, or another church has started, or something like a doctrinal issue had come up, some advancement or something like that. But very few churches have been started around the ministry. That is why I am very excited about some of the new movements here in this gathering. Basing a church around a ministry instead of basing a church around a reaction.
It is quite a different thing. In 449 there was an argument over how can Jesus be fully divine and fully human all in one person. They had such a fight about it they started the debate in different camps. It is recorded that the Hippodrome, they were there watching these gladiators sporting a bit and the orthodox guys wore this blue ribbon on their sleeve and those who became the monopolacite had this green one on their sleeve. They fought back and forth all on this theological argument. Finally they had an asside and some bishops came in and tied up the other bishops and made them, by force, to write that they had agreed to this other way and then had them slaughtered. That happened in 449. It’s called the Robber’s Synod. That is not what Jesus intended.
See if you are constantly involved in ministry you ask different questions. Be careful not to get the right answers to the wrong questions. I live in a church that used to be a part of an Old Order system. I challenge our brothers there, if all our decisions that we make are all just new freedoms that we express from leaving the Old Order system, we are in trouble. But if we are involved immediately in ministry you begin to ask a different set of questions. I think this is one of the reasons why Jesus had them instantly involved in doing the work of God. It causes you to ask different questions. Be very careful.
This quietism, Robert Freedmon, who wrote the book on Anabaptist theology, has another good book, Pietism Through the Centuries, says that he believes Anabaptists lost this fervent desire for missions and activity from the Pietist. This sort of quietism and type of thing is self-focused over-extended with something they received from the Pietist instead of what the original Anabaptist were like. If you look at the differences it is quite possible he is right.
The great command, sometimes called the Great Commission says this. Matthew 28:16:
“16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying,
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Now there is a deadly poison that comes into churches and it says this. When we get it all right then we will begin to minister. When we get it all right.
I was reading through the Hutterian Chronicles and coming to the 1800’s, they put in a letter a Moravian visited a Hutterite colony in Russia and the Moravian is rebuking the minister by saying, Why don’t you have these missions that we used to read in your books from the old days? Why aren’t you doing this? In the midst or around 1812. Well, you know we are trying to work out these other things and when we get these other things right then we will go back to being missionaries.
Well, it is coming close to about 200 years. You know that if we get into this mindset, we will never end.
I heard a sermon once by Hudson Taylor III and the sermon title says it all. “No go, No lo”. Go and lo, I will be with you. He didn’t say wait till you get it all perfect, and then I will be with you. He said, GO! And I will be with you! If we want that anointing, if we want that presence, then we have to walk in the conditions of the command. That is what he tells us to do. If you do that, you just might ask different questions in your congregation. You just might ask different questions.
And he healed the sick. He did these things. Another excellent book, Richard Stearns wrote a book The Hole in Our Gospel. Talks about a concept of separating spiritual things from physical things, and said concerning the fundamentalist movement that the liberals and the fundamentalists split up and suddenly it didn’t seem spiritual to start hospitals anymore. Suddenly it didn’t seem spiritual to feed the poor.
I had a young man come to me once, and we were talking about doing some sort of charitable thing and he said, I don’t want to do that stuff. I want something spiritual. If Jesus commanded us to do it, and it was all of Jesus’ life to do it, and example to the disciples to do it, it is spiritual.
So this separation, in Galatians 2 when Paul talks about him going to the apostles in Jerusalem, and he is there and he wanted to make sure that he didn’t have false doctrine, there was one thing that he said that those apostles wanted to make sure. Now was it the monopolacite argument about the two natures in one? Was it Luther’s consubstantiation and ubiquitous grace? No! One thing to make sure that you remember the poor which I was also wanting to do. That was one thing. I want to make sure that you get this one thing right. Wow!
They had to deal with these heresies. In the 300’s when they were saying Jesus was created. They had to deal with it. When a heresy comes up, unfortunately you have to deal with it. When they are saying, this is Christianity, Aries just couldn’t believe it himself. He said you are not a Christian unless you believe that. So you have to do that, but you got to be careful because bit by bit you get off here, and the next thing you know, you are way over there.
Jesus came into the synagogue and said, I come to preach the gospel to the poor. I come to set at liberty them that are bruised. We’ve got to get back to Jesus’ dream and vision for the church. Deal with it, yes, we’ve got to deal with it, but make sure we keep getting back to Jesus.
Julian, the apostate, right after Constantine, understood this, and he tried right after Constantine. Constantine tried to reverse everything. It is interesting. This is why he could not get rid of Christianity. Julian the apostate writes, “Why do we not observe that it is their Christian benevolence to strangers, the care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives have done most to increase atheism. That’s not the belief in the pagan god. For it is disgraceful that no Jew ever has to beg and the impious Galileans not only support their own poor but ours as well, all men perceived that our men lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.”
That kind of thing is something they saw. That is something they see. I have a dream. I have a vision that one day the church would regain that vision that Jesus gave.
The third thing is they lived intimate lives with one another. Why is this? They were stripped of all their associations. He required that they live together, and deal with these things together in a community of sorts.
Now we have them even in the apostles living and giving out of a common purse. That wasn’t the only thing. We actually see these former demon possessed women giving money out of their own means, the Gospel says. We have both things there in the gospel. These ladies giving out of their total poverty and we have the disciples living out of this common purse.
There was something he was having them do in the disciples. Why did he have them lean on each other so much? Why? We don’t know exactly why, but we do know this. He was wanting to create a new humanity, a family of God. In the early church when they called you brother or sister, it wasn’t just an ecclesiastical title. It was a brother! You were a sister! You were something when you were stripped away from all your different things and all your different associations that you had. He promised. I experienced it.
When I was getting out of the army, I was scared to death. Who in the world… what am I going to do? I thought I would go to jail and everything, but that promise He said, that anyone who has given up his lands and families associations and different things will have an hundredfold…on this earth!…In this life. I have experienced that. I know for a fact. I sat here, and I can look through 20 families right here in this audience, and if I said, Guys, it’s not working for me out in the community. I need a new place to live. You’d take me in. I have experienced it.
When I gave up those things and had truly embraced a wealth and an abundance of family, like I could have never had when I was in the army. But you know what? There was an association when I got out of the army. I had a camaraderie while you are marching and you are doing these things if you have this campaign. I guess I always dreamed for the church to be more like that.
Francis Chan talks about in his book “Crazy Love” the idea of… He said he had a motorcycle gang guy join his church and the guy said after church, Where is everybody? Where is everybody? I hung with my motorcycle gang.
I always kind of got jealous, you drive down the street and you see that that little motorcycle wave. Did you ever notice that? The Harley guys. I tried that with my wife in a 12 passenger van, it just doesn’t work. You don’t get it. I guess there was something in me, maybe too much that craves that, being part of an army that is together fighting for the Lord in common song, in common vision. I always wanted the church to replace that army that I had. I want to be a soldier for Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 12:47:
“47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
You see it’s a new humanity. Don’t spiritualize too much John 1:11 He says, John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
We are family. That is why we share. One of the main reasons I was attracted to Anabaptists and particularly why is that I do sense that. It is something we don’t want to lose in all of our communities. Embrace that! I think it is a beautiful thing. There is one concept there a little deeper.
A. W. Tozer once said, “All our problems in the church stem from the wrong understanding of the nature and attributes of God. This concept that you have in your churches to be one, to be a community of God, stems from that attribute.
In John 16, you get this brotherhood of the trinity, this community of the trinity and this is the reason. There is no command in all the Bible to live in community. ZERO! Communitarians who say so, do not know what they are talking about.
The idea… what we see in the book of Acts is a testimony, not a command. But what is it a testimony of? Why did the apostles live that way? is the bigger question. We get into these silly debates. You are to live in community — no you are not to live in community and neither one of them are getting closer to the teaching of Jesus.
But if we in our churches and our lives and our fellowships try to represent this community of the trinity, it will be powerful. Now ponder this, Tozer says our problems exist from a wrong understanding of God.
In John 16:13:
“13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
“9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, (to what degree?) as we are… 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (That’s us.) 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: (Why?) that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, (to the extent.) even as we are one:
He goes on, so this attribute is an attribute of unity. An attribute of sharing that kind of life together is what we need to bring into our fellowships and bring into our communities that we have and represent that. That is why the Acts happened, not that the Acts is a command. We clearly see in scriptures both community models and non-community models. That is without question.
But why both in Paul, when he is given that word about equality and in the book of Acts, behind all of that is this beautiful discipleship and concept of God. Representing this attribute to the world. He stakes his testimony on it that the world may know that I was sent. That the world many know.
The last thing, to embrace the cross. He said to the apostles, the disciples, Behold, I send you out in the midst of wolves. The concept of the cross is liberating. But it in entirely paradigm difference when you are dealing with non-resistance, you know. I was getting out of the army and everybody is making all these arguments and all—What if somebody breaks in? and somebody does this? It really doesn’t matter what is the theology. It all comes down to “if” arguments. But one thing that kind of blows it all away is sometimes you die. Sometimes your family dies. Sometimes your children die.
When you can embrace that cross and realize that those who believe in Jesus never die. There is a liberation, there is a freedom, there is a life that is there. But I tell you all the words of Jesus are nonsense without the theology of martyrdom. It is that theology of martyrdom, the theology of the cross that makes Jesus understand. If you are trying to save your life, save your what ever the thing and try to put the teachings of Jesus on, it is a real mess. If you die, If you just let yourself just trust the Lord in that way, it becomes beautiful.
1 Corinthians 1:18 is so profound, Isn’t it? 1 Corinthians 1:18 :
“18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; They don’t understand it. but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? “
Through that cross.
The apostles came to him and said, can I sit on one hand? James and John, we want something from you Lord. We want to sit on one side and on the other. What did Jesus say to them? Are you able to take the cup that I am going to give you? They said, Yes Lord, we are ready. And he did say, then you are ready. And he blessed them in that. You know all those disciples, James beheaded, Philip crucified, Matthew slain with sword. James son of Alpheas stoned to death. Mathias stoned and then beheaded. Andrew crucified on an X shaped cross. Peter crucified upside down. Paul beheaded by the orders of Nero. Jude crucified. Bartholomew beaten to death with clubs. Thomas speared to death. Simon the zealot crucified and John exiled. They did live crucified lives. But wow! What fruit. What glory came from all of these.
As we embrace this, it becomes something that makes understanding. This is the secret of early Anabaptism. This is something of secret of any movement. When the early Anabaptist revival started in 1525, about 4 young guys, none of them over 30 met together and the revival started. They began to preach. They began to go around and they began to go forth, but they had this concept. In 1527 there were 60 elders that met in Augsburg, Germany…60 elders to decide where they are going to go in missions and different things and how they are going to divide it up. Out of those 60 in 5 years, do you know how many were left? Two! That is why they call it The Martyrs Synod. Two, so in 1527 your chance of survival as an Anabaptist missionary was 5% and in the next ten years it went up to about 20%. But it is something that they embraced and took it as a command.
As I was reading through the Hutterian Chronicles, one thing that always struck me was why they did this. It was very easy, the commands of Jesus. We have the commands about marriage. We have the commands about adultery. We have the commands of all these different things. He also commanded us to go. So it is not thinkable to not go. It is part of Jesus’ teaching. It’s not the great commission. It is the Great Command. It is the Great Command.
Interesting, when I was going through the Hutterian Chronicles, there was one terrible, gruesome… So I had to write caution, careful reading this, because of all the terrible things they were writing in those diaries and I got to 1620 and it said this.
“This year too we follow the example of our forefathers by sending out several brothers in various places in Germany. This is during the 30 year war. They went to seek those on fire for the truth and to call to repentance. It amazed many people in Bohemia where both hostile armies were encamped as well as in Germany where defenseless members set out during a time of such terrible dangers when scarcely anyone whether of high or low estate could travel in safety. But the Lord was their protector and they relied on Him alone. When the task was completed through the intercession of His people, He led them home again.” At least 5 %. Wow!
Now we can sit and say, “Yeah, right, we will go.” When we get it all together, then maybe we will do a little something. It’s not right. What if it’s your family that crossed. Letting you die is one thing. Letting your family is another. Interesting story by a man named John Welsh, married John Knox’s daughter. He was a reformer in Scotland. John Welsh was a preacher during the King James Day and the church of England was supposed to be ran by the king. John Knox and John Welsh didn’t agree with that, he was preaching and was put in jail and taken to France. Well, his wife, John Knox’s daughter, went to King James and appealed to him to get him out of France. He was actually preaching in the prisons, but he was starting to get some respiratory problems in the damp and she said, May he come back to England? And King James said, Sure. Just one thing, have him say that the king of England is the head of the Church.
You know what she did? She lifted up her apron and looked at him in the face and said, I would rather have his head in my apron. She understood the cross. She understood what it meant. The army understands this. Napoleon when he was going through his different times trying to liberate the European countries got to Italy. He said, They don’t want their freedoms. Italy doesn’t know how to die. General Paton at the Battle of the Bulge, when he was trying to solve a problem with the support route, and with the truckers, he tried to encourage them. He got the truckers together and he said, Listen, this is the way it is going to be. You are going to get into your truck, and you are going to drive down the line until somebody blows you up. They did it. There was some release even in these secular people of just giving all and knowing that is what they are going to do. How much more for us who have a secret weapon called immortality? If you could take a bunch of soldiers and say, Okay here’s the way it is going to be. You are going to get shot, but this is great. Because in a little bit you are just going to come back to life and it is not going to matter. Then soldiers would be going everywhere. Think what ISIS would do? But if we would take the truth of the immortality and embrace the cross, that is the thing that he gave to His disciples.
The biggest thing when you are in basic training, they tell you, you are getting attacked. The worst thing is an ambush, and you are surrounded. It is terrible. You are going to die. The only way to survive in an ambush is to charge it. To run against the ambush shooting in as you go. We are being ambushed, church. We are being ambushed. We have to have this kind of concept. The apostle Paul, in coming to the end, said in 2 Timothy 3, But now ye followers of my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, sufferings such as happened to me in Antioch. You followed me in those things. At Iconium, at Lystra what persecution I endured and out of all of them the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
In Revelation Jesus tells us, He tells us what the cure is. The times are coming to the end times. Things are terrible and how they win. Rev. 12:11 and they overcame him by the blood of The Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death.
I am a dad. I have young people. One of our biggest worries is: What is going to happen to our children? We get nervous about losing them to the world. I have begun to wonder if we are destined in the church to lose some young people? The question is: I wonder if we are destined to lose some young people one-way or the other? To the world or to martyrdom? If we would be a church that would embrace the cross more in this way, we would be losing young people, but instead of losing young people to the world, we would be losing them as martyrs. What affect would that have on our churches? What affect would that be? I am a dad. I am concerned in that way.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a fighter for the rights of African Americans in America. He did some amazing things and most of the things in the political arena that we may not agree with all those things. One of the things he did, one time he wrote, he had a particular beef with a church and he was in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960’s. There was a church that brought persecution against him. As he was fighting for those things in Birmingham, Alabama, they threw him in jail. While he was in jail he gathered up a bunch of newspapers and sketched out a letter to the church. This time not to the White House, to the church. Here is an excerpt from that letter. Martin Luther King Jr., writing in jail, 1960’s.
“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early church rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days, the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion. It was a thermostat that transformed the morass of society. In other words, a thermometer, if it is cold outside, it is cold inside but a thermostat sets the temperature.
“Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and outside agitators. That is what the church was calling them in the newspaper. They went out with the conviction that they were a colony of (ebony?) and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be astronomically intimidated. Amen! They brought an end to such ancient evils such as infanticide, throwing your baby out to die and gladiator contests, things are different now.
“The contemporary church is so often a weak ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arc supporter of the status quo, far from being disturbed by the presence of the church. The power structure of the average community is consoled by the church often, vocal sanctions of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today (1960’s) does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose it authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century.”
I meet young people everyday who are disappointed with the church. Their disappointment has risen to outright disgust.
Talking about the blood of Jesus Christ, what it does for the church. Talking about all these that have been brought into disciples. It says in 2 Corinthians 5 that they are appealing to men that they understand this, and that they understand the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Now it did not say that we would know the righteousness of God. It did not say that we would even believe the righteousness of God, or even receive the imputed righteousness of God, but we would become the righteousness of God. The word righteous is a heavy word in both Greek and Hebrew. It means to set out God’s kingdom here on earth and with that blood of Jesus Christ, he has made us to be that.
Think back to that song from Bach. Listen to that verse, can you hear the symphony? Can you hear it playing? Can you hear it in your heart today? Instead of taking that wad of paper that Bach had and now taking those words of Jesus in a way that it is not just a theological argument, but a symphony…a symphony to be played, a symphony to be performed, a symphony that the world could hear. I can hear it. Can you hear it this morning?
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. I have dream. I have a dream that armed with the faith of Jesus Christ the Anabaptist church would once again focus our energies on fulfilling Jesus’ command to take the gospel of the kingdom, and preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to recover sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised and to preach the Jubilee of the Lord. Let’s perform that symphony to God’s glory.
Let’s pray – Dear heavenly Father, we thank you, Lord, for Jesus Christ. Lord, again, following You is a journey, and it is continual. You bring it down to these two words –“follow me”. Dear God, I pray that the absolute presence of Jesus Christ would be true and real here, and that You would do that in our hearts. Do that in each of these little fellowships represented here, each of these churches, each of these communities. That in You they have these attributes, that you would call these people to abandon their earthly life of associations, come together as a family. I pray that they would lean on one another and appreciate one another. I pray, God, that You would be present in their midst. I pray that You would teach us all to embrace the cross. I pray, Lord, that You would teach us to ask the right questions and be involved in ministry, actively fulfilling Your dream for humanity. God, we ask You to do this in Your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.