(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 28, 2001
I think it is important for us as a church to occasionally go back and remind ourselves of the reason our church exists. Today is a good day to do that in view of our Annual Business meeting this afternoon. It is also a good time to do it in view of the many folks that have become part of our fellowship in the past year. We would like them to have a clear understanding of what we believe is our purpose as a church.
Our Purpose Statement – Matt. 28:18-20
We have a purpose statement printed on most of our literature including our stationary, bulletins, and even our mugs. The full statement is, Glorifying God by Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is taken from the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Please turn there in your Bibles.
Based on this commission we have four components of that purpose which also appears on most of our literature along with our logos. Communicating New Life in Christ Through Evangelism – Mark 16:15, Caring for One Another in Christ – John 15:12, Cultivating New Life in Christ – Ephesians 4:11-13 and Celebrating New Life in Christ – John 4:23,24. We will look at each of these in detail in a moment, but first we must be sure we understand the Great Commission.
Jesus states in verse 18 that “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has the right, power and freedom to do as He pleases and command others to do as He pleases in all things because He has all authority in heaven and on earth. It is our responsibility to obey Him. The true Christian is marked by their willing obedience to Christ.
Jesus’ command is in verse 19. It is important that you understand that He expects His followers to obey His commands. 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 are therefore unsaved and still in their sins.
The command is one command accomplished in three elements. The Greek grammar here is one verb, “make disciples,” with three participles: “going,” “baptizing,” & “teaching.” We are to “make disciples” by “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching.”
The command is based on Jesus Himself. The “therefore” brings back into focus Jesus’ authority. The command 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.
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.
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].”
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 as 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 has died to themselves and has Christ living in and through them (Gal. 2). When people see you, do they see Christ living in you?
In order to make a disciple, you must first be a disciple of Jesus yourself. Like Paul in 1 Cor. 11:1 we call people to “be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ.” We then make disciples of Jesus Christ by going, baptizing and teaching.
The “going” is our efforts in evangelism both personally and as a church which also encompasses our missions involvements. The “baptizing” is also part of evangelism and missions because it is the first step of obedience of a new Christian in identifying with Jesus Christ. The “teaching to observe all that I commanded you” encompasses the rest of the church’s ministry for it is the aspect of building one another up in Christ that we might care for one another properly and worship God in spirit and in truth. The teaching ministry consumes a large part of the church’s effort for it will continue from the time a person comes to salvation in Christ until they depart this life to be with Him.
I will take up each of these aspects of making disciples within the four components of our purpose statement.
The Four Components of Our Purpose
Communicating New Life in Christ Through Evangelism
In Mark 16:15 Jesus commanded us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Going out to evangelize sinners is the first step in making a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is we who are Christians that need to make the effort to reach the lost. We are the ones who are to be inconvenienced, be in places that make us uncomfortable and expend our time and money in the endeavor. We are the ones that are to “go.”
This building is not the church. It cannot make disciples. This building only gives us a place to meet. You are the church, and you do the work of making disciples. It is only reasonable that we should be Communicating new life in Christ through evangelism, because telling others about Jesus Christ should be our natural response of joy of being cleansed from our sins and being given new life in Him. “Evangelize” simply means to tell good news to others, and in the context of the New Testament gospel, it is specifically telling them the good news that they can receive forgiveness for their sins against God through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement for them on the cross.
Here in Mark we are to take the gospel to “all creation.” Back in Matt. 28 we are commanded 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. 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 the necessity of missions. We have to leave our comfort zone to reach out to people who are different from us. They may have different physical characteristics. They may have customs you do not understand. They may eat food you consider unusual, to say the least. You may not even understand 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. This aspect of Jesus’ command encompasses our efforts at local outreach and cross-cultural and overseas missions.
Among the many efforts that are made by Grace Bible Church in this area are personal evangelism by people in the church, local outreach efforts including The Herald of Grace newspaper, Tracts, Vacation Bible School, AWANA, Harvest Dinner, and participating in the town Community Day. There is also our missions program with support going to 9 missionaries and 7 missions organizations.
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.” In a real sense, baptism should be the last step of evangelism and the first step of obedience in a new believer’s walk of faith.
Baptism is an act of faithful obedience in public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While there are many traditions concerning baptism, the scriptures are clear that it was only done to those who believed, which excludes babies. It is also clear that it was done by immersion. Baptism does not save nor does it extend any special grace. If you baptize an unbeliever or a baby all you do is make the person wet.
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 you to be included in our next baptism.
Caring for One Another in Christ Through Fellowship
In John 15:12 Jesus commanded “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” This is only one of many commands in the Bible concerning the care that Christians are to have for one another and for the unsaved. In Gal. 6:10 Paul said, So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
True Christian fellowship is the practice of all the one another commands of Scripture. Our love for God must be demonstrated in a true love of people. This does take into account social needs including having a good time together, but true fellowship is much more than that. It is also in action when you weep with someone is experiencing a heartache or you lend a helping hand in a practical manner when others are sick, or something breaks or just to ease the pressure of life on them. It is also occurs when someone stumbles in sin and you lovingly admonish them for it.
As a church we strive to provide opportunities for people to spend time togther and talk or do something togther, such as Women’s fellowship activities, men’s breakfasts and the fellowship lunch following this service. However, most of true fellowship occurs on a personal basis. You have to take advantage of the opportunities the church provide, but you have to go beyond that and talk with people on a deeper level and pray together. You also have to take the initiative to get together with others. Over the years I have found it to be almost invariable that when a person complains that other people do not care about them, I find a person who does not come to the opportunities provided for fellowship and they themselves do not take any initiative to have fellowship or show concern for others.
All can do better in putting into practice Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:3,4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Closely related to caring for one another in true fellowship is the third component of our purpose as a church.
Cultivating New Life in Christ Through Edification.
Paul explains how the church is to function in Ephesians 4:11-13. And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ and it is to be about the business of building one another up in Christ to maturity. “Edification” is “building one another up in Christ.” This is the teaching ministry of the church that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” It includes the preaching and teaching at group levels and the personal teaching that occurs in true Christian fellowship, which is why caring and edification are so closely linked.
Teaching is not just imparting academic knowledge, but the transfer of wisdom – the application of that knowledge in living daily life for the glory of God. That usually takes personal interaction.
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 begin the process with someone else. Even someone who has been a Christian only a few months can disciple and teach a new Christian that knows even less about living for Christ. Every Christian is involved in teaching in teaching ministry in some aspect.
Here at Grace Bible Church, teaching is done from the pulpit, in the Sunday school class, in home Bible studies and our children’s and teen ministries. In those formats the Word of God is explained so that we learn His commandments as well as suggestions for application. However, that teaching ministry must continue in the personal interaction of one life with another in applying the knowledge to life. That is why there is the Kids Corner and Think About It sections in the bulletin. They are there to help you apply the teaching by both personally contemplating what you heard and interacting with others
The teaching ministry also takes place in the daily activities of life as you live in godliness yourself and as you take the time to point out how the Word of God applies to whatever situation you are in. It should occur as you parent your children and interact with other parents. It should happen at work through your honest dealings and godly example. It will be done while sitting in a living room or coffee shop hearing someone’s turmoil and praying with them. It even happens in the more formal setting of committing yourself to meeting with others for the express purpose of accountability and mutual encouragement in living for Christ. It could be formal Bible study, discussing books, memorizing scripture or just talking about how things are going.
The key to success in teaching what Christ has commanded in making a disciple, is simply doing it. Live the life yourself. Take advantage of opportunities to encourage others to live the life. And develop accountability relationships where you can mutually challenge one another to live according to Christ’s commands.
The fourth aspect of our purpose in making a disciple is:
Celebrating New Life in Christ
Jesus said in John 4:23,24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
There is much that goes on in churches that is claimed to be worship, but in reality it is only entertainment. It is a sad fact that many churches cater to “tickling the ears” of those that come. I have found, in both my personal experience and in talking with other pastors, that the vast majority of people who are looking for a church go “church shopping” looking for just the right mix of music that fits their taste, the right programs that will meet their felt needs, and a preacher that will leave them feeling good about themselves. If they don’t get what they want, they leave.
True worship of God is about God, not the people in the pew. True worship to be done in spirit and in truth. True worship is coming to sacrificially give of yourself to God, not to come to get. True worship is hard work and often leaves you uncomfortable because you cannot come into the presence of an absolutely holy God and still feel good about yourself. Like the prophets of old, when a glimpse of the awesome holiness and glory of God is perceived, we can only cry out that we are people of unclean lips longing for his cleansing and then praising our savior Jesus Christ for making us righteous through His sacrifice on our behalf. True worship prods you to holy living.
Here at Grace Bible Church we desire to present quality music, but we have no interest in entertaining you. We are not even concerned that the styles are according to your tastes. Part of that is because everyone tastes are so varied, but the real reason is that we choose the style and content to move you both emotionally and mentally to true worship. In general, the choruses are to move you emotionally from the hectic pace of the world and into the contemplative reality that we are here together to worship the living God. The hymns are used to challenge your thinking about our Lord as well as allow you to express your commitment to Him. The reports and testimonies to encourage you to give sacrifices of praise to the living God while the prayer time is so that we all might humbly present our petitions, both individual and corporate, before Him.
When it comes to my sermons, those of you here for any length of time know that my concern is simply to present the truth of God’s Word as clearly as I possibly can and challenge you to live according to it. While I would like you to feel good when you leave, I know that the best worship of God may occur when you leave feeling pretty bad. Why? Because you cannot come into the presence of the living God in true worship without it confronting your imperfections and thereby changing your life.
Myself, Mary, Jon and the worship team are not up here to entertain you. You are not the audience. You are the ones on stage. God is the audience and we are here to prod you to the performance of the sacrifices of true worship.
God can and will use you to make disciples if you are available, a worshiper of Christ, and willing to obey His commands. Why am I so sure of this? Not just because it has been true in my own life, but more importantly, because Jesus has the power and authority to accomplish it and He will be with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). The only question open is whether or not you will be available and obedient to let Jesus use you to make disciples of Him. What will you do?
How God Funds the Church
There is one final aspect of our purpose as a Church I need to address if we are to fulfill it. It takes our personal commitment to the task. We will have to sacrifice of our time and resources. It is right at this point that the majority of people resist. It is one thing to come to church on Sunday morning, it is another to be a living sacrifice for Christ day by day.
There are many needs around the church that must be met in order to fulfill the various aspects of making disciples. All of them require time and finances. It takes money to purchase and maintain our facilities, and it takes time to keep things clean and repaired. It takes money to purchase tracks, VBS supplies, Sunday School and discipleship materials and send out The Herald of Grace. It also takes time to pass out those tracts and run those programs. Music and sound equipment does not come cheap in either finances or time. Both my family and our missionaries are dependent for our financial support on whatever is given to the church. If that support does not come in, then we have to do something else with our time to earn a living. The Scriptures are clear that who labor in spiritual ministry of teaching and leading in the church should be compensated in material things for their labor (Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:9-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17,18).
I will not belabor this point simply because I do not like to talk about money and I especially do not like to try to persuade people to part with their money. The facts are simple. I trust God and this church trusts God to supply our needs as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness. God does not need you or your money to accomplish His will. Instead, He equips you with spiritual gifts, talents and finances and then invites you to join in His work through using all those things for His glory which then allows you to reap the benefits and blessings of seeing God at work.
As we approach our Annual meeting, in which we set the budget for the year, we are stepping out in faith that God will provide for what we believe He would like us to do. We believe that God would have the needs of the church (financial and workers) met by the people who make up this local body of believers so that each may also reap the blessing, but if the people fail in that, He will still meet the needs, but the blessing for the individuals will be missing.
Turn over to 2 Cor. 9:6. The specific context here is Paul’s collection of an offering for relief of the poor in Jerusalem. The principle given is how God funds the church. While it is popular in many churches to talk about giving tithes and to quote from Malachi 3:8 about that is it robbing God to fail to give tithes, the simple truth is that in the church there are no tithes, there are no taxes. Giving ten percent is neither a minimum nor a maximum amount. The church functions upon freewill offerings. 2 Cor. 9:6,7 explains why.
Now this [I say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.
Your attitude is as important as your gift. Giving to the Lord’s work is to be part of your worship of Him. What you give of your time and finances is a direct reflection of your relationship with Him. The example Jesus gives in Luke 7:36-47 shows that those who love God much will give much and those who love God little will give little. There is also the corollary that Paul points out here in verse 6 that there is also a direct correlation of giving of yourself to God and receiving His blessing. This is not I will give God so much money with the thought that He will give back more money to me, but it is more that I will give of myself and possessions in a sacrificial offering to God and He in turn will bless me with a greater and deeper relationship with Himself as well as fulfill His promise to meet my needs for daily life (Mt. 6:33).
Often people who are either new to the faith or immature in their faith are hesitant to give of either their time or finances because of a fear that they will need that for the future. Paul addresses that in the rest of this passage – verses 8-15. In short, God supplies for our needs. He wants you to step out in faith and trust Him for that.
Over the years I have consistently found a direct relationship between the depth of relationship a person has with the Lord and their sacrificial giving of themselves and possessions to the work of the Lord. Grace Bible Church may compare well with other churches with about 1/3 of our congregation demonstrating serious commitment in serving and giving, but the Lord requires that “whole body” press onto maturity. Giving then, is simply another area of discipleship where we encourage people to grow.
In the rack at the back of the church there is a paper on “Giving to the Lord’s Work.” If you would like to gain a better understanding of this area of the Christian life, then pick up a copy and give serious consideration of how Jesus would want you to respond.
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 the word “church” is said. 2) Describe in your own words the purpose of Grace Bible Church and discuss this with your parents.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the primary purpose of the Church? Why? What is a disciple? How is a disciple made? What areas of life does discipleship entail? What is evangelism? What is the correlation between evangelism and discipleship? How are you doing in the area of evangelism? What is true fellowship? What is the correlation between true fellowship and discipleship? How are you doing in the area of true fellowship both in giving and receiving? What is edification? What is the correlation between edification and discipleship? How are you doing in the area of edification both in receiving it and building up others? Do you respond to admonishment as a means of personal growth? What is true worship? What is the correlation between true worship and discipleship? How are you doing in your worship of God on a personal level? Are you helpful to others in their worship of God? What are some of the things in the church that require financial support? What are some of the ways those finances can be acquired? What are some methods that God does not approve? Does God need your money? Why then does He want you to give? What attitude should you have when you give to God’s work? Is God pleased with your giving? What will you change?
Sermon Notes – 1/28/2001 A.M.
Fulfilling Our Purpose – Selected Scriptures
Our Purpose Statement – Glorifying God by Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ – Matt. 28:18-20
The Four Components of Our Purpose
Communicating New Life in Christ Through Evangelism – Mark 16:15
Caring for One Another in Christ – John 15:12
Cultivating New Life in Christ – Ephesians 4:11-13
Celebrating New Life in Christ – John 4:23,24
How God Funds the Church
The Method – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15