The Church, Part 1: Purpose

Sermon Study Sheets

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 5, 2003

The Church, Part 1: Its Purpose

Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Matthew 28:16-20

Introduction

I had been planning to talk about raising children this morning as part of our “Holy & Free” series, but we are going to take a break from that for the month of October. I will get back to raising children and the several other issues left in that series in November.

This morning we are going to start a five week series dealing with the church and its purpose. I want to make sure that all of us have a good understanding of God’s purpose of the church and the major ways in which that purpose is to be fulfilled. This will be review for many of you, but the principle brought out in 2 Peter 2:1 applies here too. We often need to be reminded of things we had learned earlier. One of the things I discovered from the report given by our church consultant a month ago is that many are a bit fuzzy about the purpose of Grace Bible Church. This five week series will help make that clear once again.

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Glorifying God

Our church purpose statement is printed in the bulletin header every week. The purpose of Grace Bible Church is fulfilled in “Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” The first part of that statement should be a given for any church. Everything has been created by God for God (Colo. 1:16). Everything exists for His Glory, and that includes the church. Ephesians 3:21 states this directly saying, “to Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

It is the second phrase that varies from church to church. How is the church supposed to glorify God? We believe the answer if found in the command Jesus gave to the church just prior to His ascension. Turn to Matthew 28:16-20.

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Be Used By God.

All of Matthew’s gospel account culminates in this short passage. It is often called the Great Commission because it is Jesus’ final command which encompasses all of His other commands. It is great because it is the preeminent command that defines the purpose of the Christian and so defines the reason for all that Jesus did.

Matthew 28:16 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: {teach…: or, make disciples, or, Christians of all nations} 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.

Why Jesus Came

Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven for a purpose, and that is not the purpose that many people think. Luke 19:20 is often cited as the central message of the gospel that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” Certainly that is true, but man centered theology has distorted its meaning. Salvation is now often presented as being rescued from an unsatisfactory life to a wonderful life. Among those that still preach about hell, it is being rescued from hell to heaven. One of the most often used tracts of the last 30 years begins by stating that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” While that is a true statement, what constitutes a wonderful life is according to God’s definition, not your own. That “wonderful” life according to Jesus will include being hated by the world (John 15:19) resulting in persecution and false accusations against you because of your relationship to Jesus (Matt. 5:11,12 etc.).

The purpose of the Lord Jesus leaving the glories of heaven behind in order to become a man, live a sinless life, die on the cross for our sins, and then be resurrected from the dead was to enable you to be useful to God. In other words, Jesus came that you might be saved from sin and its effects, not for your sake, but rather for His own sake. Paul states it this way in Ephesians 1:6,7 “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved . . .”. Paul adds a few verses later, 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory . . .”.

Salvation is not man centered, it is God centered. It is God redeeming man to Himself that man may again accomplish the purpose for which he was created in the first place, which is to bring glory to God.

For those who are true Christians, the Great Commission is not an option. Though it is popular in some circles to talk about being a disciple as some second step in Christianity, our text this morning shows that being a disciple and making disciples is central to the very purpose of being a Christian. The great tragedy is that the majority of those who profess to be Christians do little to nothing in fulfilling Jesus’ commandment here. Why? Two reasons.

First, many that profess never did confess and in reality are Christless. In other words, they have a false profession of faith. They either do not know who Jesus really is or they have not placed their trust in Him alone for salvation. They are actually placing their faith in Christ plus something else, or something else entirely.

The second reason is ignorance. I do not mean they are stupid, but just untaught and inexperienced in the walk of faith. I hope to clear up the first part of that this morning and challenge you to fulfill Jesus command here. What exactly is it that Jesus does command? And how does a person become capable to fulfill this great commission?

People God Can Use

There are three things necessary for the Christian to be able to carry out the great commission, and all three are foundational in being a Christian. Each is demonstrated by Jesus’ disciples who were just ordinary men. There was really nothing special about them. They were often proud, boastful and selfish. They even bickered with each other about who was the greatest (Mt. 20:20f). They often showed a lack of faith even over things Jesus had previously done in their presence (Mt. 15:32f). They proved to be fearful (Matt. 14:26, 26:56), and except for John, refused to be seen & identified with Jesus after He was arrested and was crucified. Even after the resurrection, they were initially hesitant to believe (John 20). These were ordinary men, but they later “turned the world upside down” as reported by their opponents in Acts 17:6.

God was able to use these ordinary men because they made themselves available to God, they were worshipful to Jesus and they submitted to Him. God can use us in a similar way if these characteristics – available, worshipful & submissive – mark our lives

1) Available: Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. Verse 16 tells that they went there. They wanted to be available for whatever the Master had in store for them whether it was to learn more or serve Him. You find that to be true throughout their lives. They often did not know what was in store for them, but they desired to learn from Jesus whatever He would teach them and they desired to do whatever Jesus would ask them. They made themselves available.

Are you available? I believe that a major reason that many Christians are not used much by the Lord is simply the fact that they have entrapped themselves so much into what the world says is important, that they are not available to do what the Lord says. We mimic society and rush from place to place to accomplish this or that with the result that we often never see the opportunities that are right in front of us. The neighbor that needs encouragement. The co-worker that would join us in a Bible study if we asked them. The teen that would like for someone to give them something to believe in, but doesn’t believe that anyone really cares. In the rat race to keep up with the Jones’ and fulfill society’s goal of materialistic success we miss the opportunities to meet genuine needs both close at hand and far away.

What soaks up your time, energy and money? Would you be able to take advantage of an opportunity to do something for the Lord even if it were handed to you on a silver platter, or are you like the rat so busy trying to get through the maze to the end that you never look up to see the hand of God offering you a way out to a different kind of life? Are you available to God?

2) Worshipful: The disciples were also moved to worship at the presence of Jesus Christ. Verse 17 says that when they saw Jesus they fell down and worshiped Him. That requires an understanding of who He is and who you are in relationship to Him. If that thought alone does not make you fall down before Him, then you think too highly of yourself and too low of Him. You are simply one of the things He has created. You deserve nothing but punishment because of your sin, yet He has chosen to love you and give you everything. Worship of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of the true Christian. Is that true of you?

Ministry done without a heart of worship is always done in the flesh without the Spirit’s power. It also always becomes that person’s personal source of pride and/or power. Such ministry is not unto the Lord for His sake, but unto themselves for their own sake.

3) Submissive: In verse 18 we find that Jesus comes up and begins to speak to those on that mountain. His coming close and speaking would help to remove the doubts that some had that it was really Him. As Jesus begins speaking He says two things that demonstrate the necessity of obeying Him. First, what He says about Himself, and second, the command He gives.

Jesus says that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus’ claim here is unlimited. Authority refers to Jesus right, power and freedom to do as He pleases and command others to do as He pleases. Jesus’ claim here is that this authority has been given to Him by the Father and that it encompasses everything – the word, “all,” and the phrase, “heaven and earth,” reinforcing each other in expressing the idea that Jesus has authority over all created things.

It is Jesus’ right to command us. It is our responsibility to obey. It is ludicrous for someone to say that they believe Jesus’ claims and trust Him for salvation and then reject what He says and not submit to His authority. That only proves they do not believe Jesus’ claims about Himself – and one of His claims is authority over all creation. Failure to obey subjects you to either His chastisement if you are a believer (Heb. 12), or His wrath if you are not a believer (Rom. 1, Rev. 20), and those that fail to yield will eventually be forced to obey (Eph 4). The true Christian is marked by submission which is willing obedience, not defiance which results in forced obedience. Jesus has the authority to command and He does so in verse 19.

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Jesus’ Command

What is the command that Jesus gives? It is one command accomplished in three elements. The Greek grammar here is one verb, “make disciples,” with three participles: “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” We are to “make disciples” by “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching.”

The command is not arbitrary but based on Jesus Himself. Notice the command begins with “therefore” which brings back into focus Jesus’ authority. The command to make disciples can be fulfilled because Jesus has the authority to send us and the power to accomplish His work through us. It is not your ability, but your availability given in worshipful submission that makes you useful to God. Jesus accomplishes His work through you. Since Jesus is who He claims to be, you can therefore go out and do what He commands because the command is based on His authority – power & ability – to accomplish it.

The command itself is to make disciples. Whatever else the church does, the center of its focus needs to be in making disciples. Our fellowship, our ministries, and even our worship all revolve around being and making disciples.

Defining Disciple

What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows the teachings of another. They learn from the teacher. They identify with the teacher. They seek to be like the teacher. Luke 6:40 gives a good description saying that the “disciple is not above his teacher… but after being fully trained will be like his teacher.” Paul tells us in Rom. 8 that all those that will be saved are “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].”

You can see from this that if you claim to be a Christian, then being a disciple of Christ is not an option. Even the term, “Christian,” speaks of discipleship since Acts 11:26 states it was the “disciples” that were first called “Christians” in Antioch. The term itself means to be “a little Christ.” A true Christian is someone who, as Paul describes in Gal. 2, has died to themselves and has Christ living in and through them. When people see you, do they see Christ living in you?

Jesus’ command is to make disciples of Him, and you can not do that unless you are His disciple first. We make disciples of Christ the same way that the apostle Paul explains in 1 Cor. 11:1. Paul said, “be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ.” We call people to follow us as we follow Christ. If others became like us would they also be becoming like Christ? In a nut shell, that is what making a disciple is all about. People begin to pattern their life after you, and since you have patterned your life after Jesus, they in turn are also becoming like Christ.

Jesus’ command to make disciples is accomplished by doing the three participles of the command. Going, Baptizing and Teaching.

GOING

First is the going out. Notice that it is we that are to do the going. The little sign we have above the doors as you go out of this building reflect this. “You are now entering the mission field.” Christians are to go out to the non-believers in order to start the process of making them into disciples of Christ. We are the ones that need to be making the effort. We are the ones that will be inconvenienced. We are the ones that will be in places that make us uncomfortable. We are the ones that will expend our time and money in the endeavor. We are the ones that are to “go.”

This building is not the church, and it can not do the Lord’s work. You are the church, and you do the work. This building can only help facilitate the baptizing and teaching disciples to observe all that the Lord commanded. This building cannot go out, and it can not make disciples. It is only a building. You are the church, the body of Christ, and only you can fulfill Jesus’ command to go.

Notice here as well that we are to make disciples of “all nations.” There is no room for prejudice in the Church. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, black or white, red or yellow. Keep in mind that the modern idea of “race” is from evolutionary thought. God only made one race, the human race in all its morphological variations. God separated the human race into various “nations” and we are to go out to those nations and make disciples for Christ.

Making disciples of all nations also shows that missions is part of the commission. We have to leave our comfort zone to reach out to people who are different from us. They may have different physical characteristics such as size, skin color, eyes, hair, noses and toes. They may have customs you do not understand like putting jewelry in odd parts of their bodies and wearing funny looking and uncomfortable clothes (ties). They may eat food you consider unusual to say the least such as snails, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, and as missionary we once had to Thailand found out, coagulated blood. You may not even know their language. They may live somewhere else. But whether they are around the block or around the world, the command is for us to go to them that we might make them disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first aspect then of making disciples is to go out to the non-Christian community. Where can you meet non-Christians? Of course you can meet them anywhere including in church facilities, but where can you meet them in a context where you can begin to make them disciples of Christ? Again, almost anywhere. You are only limited by your imagination and willingness to be available. There are the obvious people & places like your neighborhood, school, and place of work, etc. There are also all the people you do business with, those who are involved in your hobbies, your social organizations, etc. There are all the people you can make special outreaches too: jails – adult and juvenile, convalescent homes, hospitals, parks, shopping malls, train stations, parades, fairs, flee markets, etc. God will use you if you are available. Are you willing to go?

What will you do when you go? You will use your spiritual gifts and you will proclaim the gospel which is the good news of salvation from sin and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Now that probably sounds scary to most of you. I suspect there are probably only a few people in the room that are gifted in evangelism who can hardly wait between opportunities to proclaim the gospel to someone they have never met before. Yet, evangelism, proclaiming the gospel, is a responsibility for every Christian. If “cold turkey” evangelism scares you, and it does me, then don’t fret, God always enables you to do what He calls you to do. Your part is simply to be available and submissive.

You may not be able to talk to a stranger, but you can talk with those you have already built relationships with. You can also learn to become more bold in talking with others by doing it and trusting God to get you through it. As we focus on what God thinks of us instead of what other people think of us we are less intimidated. And finally, you can also use your spiritual gifts to support the activities of those that are gifted in evangelism. The church works together as a complete team with each member of it doing its part toward accomplishing its goal of making disciples of Christ.

Baptizing

As the gospel goes out there will be those that respond, and that brings the next element of making a disciple – Baptism. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Baptism should be one of the first steps in a new believer’s walk of faith.

While there are many traditions concerning baptism, the scriptures are clear that it was only done by those who believed, so that excludes babies. It is also clear that it was done by immersion. Baptism does not save nor does it extend any special grace. Some of you were sprinkled as babies in a church and were told you were baptized. The truth is that all that happened to you is that you got wet!

Baptism is an act of faithful obedience in public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be baptized into the name of God marks you as professing to belong to God. Note that you are to be baptized into one “name.” The term here is singular. That is why we only dunk once as opposed to three times as some other groups do. The singular “name” signifies the unity of the trinity. It is one God in three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

If you want a full understanding of what the Bible teaches about Baptism, there are some information sheets in the back of the church. Pick one up, and if you have not been baptized by immersion since you have professed faith in Jesus Christ, then let me know so that we can arrange for that at our next Baptism on October 19.

Teaching

The third aspect of making disciples is “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” There are those within the church that are specially gifted to teach, but this command is given to all. Parents teach their children. More mature believers teach new and less mature believers. Teaching is not just imparting knowledge like some academic exercise. It is the interaction of your life with someone else so that they will be capable of living for Christ. This does not mean that you have to know all the answers, for no Christian reaches perfection in this life, but you do have to know the Lord and be willing to share with others what you have learned.

This aspect of making disciples is a two way street. For the rest of your life, you will be in relationships in which you will be helping some to learn and obey Christ’s commands, and there will be those helping you to better understand and obey Christ. The goal of all this in your life is so that you will be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Again, those that separate salvation from discipleship miss the reason for salvation. It is not a fire insurance policy to keep me from Hell, it is freedom from sin and its consequences that brings me back into a relationship with my Creator that I might glorify Him by becoming like my Savior.

Keep in mind that while learning to do all that Jesus has commanded will be a lifelong process, it should only take a short time for someone to learn enough to disciple someone else. Even if you have been a Christian for a short time, if you are careful to learn what has been taught to you about Jesus, you are already capable of working with others who know less about living for Christ. We have a ministry available here to enable you enter into a discipling relationship and learn the basics of Christian living in as little as nine weeks. If that interests you, let me know after the service.

Jesus’ Promise

While there is a lot more that can be said about how to make disciples, I want you to know without doubt today that God can and will use you to make disciples if you are available, a worshiper of Christ and submissive to His commands. Why am I so sure of this? Not just because it is true in my own life, but because Jesus has the power and authority to accomplish it. In addition, we find here at the end of verse 20 that Jesus will be with us through it all. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus calls our attention by saying, “lo.” It is a call to be alert and focus our minds on what He is now saying. He then makes it emphatic that He will be with us to the end. A literal translation being, “I will be with you, even I, all the days even to the conclusion of the age.”

Jesus will be with you each and every day of your life even if that is to the conclusion of this age and you are transformed and taken to heaven without having to taste physical death. Jesus is present. His power is present. His command is given. The only question open is whether or not you will be available, worshipful and submissive to let Him use you to make disciples of Him. What will you do?

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “disciple” is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents what it means to follow Jesus.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

Why did God create you? Why did Jesus come? What does John 10:10 mean? Describe the “wonderful” life of a believer. What is the difference man centered salvation as opposed to God centered salvation? Why do so many Christians fail to make any disciples of Jesus Christ? What were Jesus’ disciples like? God can use people who are available, worshipful and submissive. Explain each. What is your availability to serve God? What takes up your time, energy and finances? What is your attitude toward Christ? How submissive are you to Jesus’ commands? Describe the nature of Jesus’ authority. What is the source of that authority and what does it allow Him to do? What is Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19? How is that command to be carried out? What is a disciple? Are you one? Who is to “go” and why? What is the significance of baptism? Who is supposed to teach others to obey Jesus’ commands? How do you do this? What is Jesus’ promise and what does it mean to you?

Sermon Notes – October 5, 2003

The Church, Part 1: Purpose – Matthew 28:16-20

Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Introduction

GBC Purpose: Glorifying God

GBC Purpose: Be Used by God – Matthew 28:16-20

Why Jesus Came

Man Centered Theology

True Theology

Why Believers Fail to make disciples

1

2

People God Can Use

Example of the Disciples

Available

Worshipful

Submissive

GBC Purpose: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Jesus’ Command

Defining Disciple

Going

Baptizing

Teaching

Jesus’ Promise

Recommended Resource: New Century Disciplemaking, by Bill Hull


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