Concluding our series on the epidemic in the church of spiritual immaturity, based on Terry Wardle’s book, Outrageous Love, Transforming Power, we look at how Jesus has given all of his followers the authority to act in his name. We’ll look at one example, from Mark 4.35-41. You can watch the message here, or the entire worship broadcast elsewhere on the channel.
This weekend, the church celebrates Pentecost, the occasion recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell upon the gathered followers of Jesus, made manifest in tongues of fire and languages heretofore unknown.
The Holy Spirit was given to equip disciples to minister in the power and authority of Jesus after he ascended into heaven. Those first disciples had come to rely on Jesus during his ministry for the ability and the blessing to minister in his name. When he ascended into heaven, he promised them the Holy Spirit, so that they would not be left alone.
To this day, all who follow Jesus are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to undertake God’s mission in the world. And the first task of all disciples of Jesus is to make more disciples. The Great Commission, given at a resurrection appearance before Jesus ascended, promised that in his authority, Jesus’ followers would be given power to make disciples of all nations.
Pentecost reminds us that this is our primary aim as the church: making disciples.
If we are pouring our primary efforts into other things, no matter how noble they be, those efforts are misdirected.
Yes, the Holy Spirit came and still comes and sometimes manifests himself in signs and wonders, as well as in less flashy ways. But the principal purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to empower for making disciples.
And that starts with us, with our own formation in Christ, our own spiritual maturity.
If you want to celebrate Pentecost well, spend personal time with the Lord, and tell a friend about what Jesus has done for you. Be a disciple, and make a disciple.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20, NLT).
Encouragement From the Word returns on June 4.
The traditional Gospel story for the Sunday after Easter is the walk to Emmaus, told in the middle verses of Luke 24. In that story, a couple of people who had placed their hope in Jesus for the rescue of Jerusalem were walking home from that city, not having heard of the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus appears, walking beside them, though they don’t recognize him. They’re talking about the events of the weekend, and Jesus acts as though he doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But as time goes on, he explains how the Bible predicted that the Messiah would rise from the dead.
He makes like he’s going beyond Emmaus, but his fellow travellers, upon reaching home, invite him to stay. He sits at table with them, and all at once, the guest becomes the Host, because he breaks the bread – and in that moment, they recognized Jesus! And he disappeared from their sight.
With that, they abandoned their supper and high-tailed it back to Jerusalem to find out about the resurrection of Jesus. And one remarked to the other:
“… ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24.32, NLT).
Have you ever experienced that kind of heartburn? Have you felt that passion for God and his Word as you read the Scriptures, or hear them explained?
The Lord invites that passion to erupt within you. It’s part of how we become mature followers of Christ.
(By the way, I’m preaching a series right now called “Epidemic in the Church”, that deals with the characteristics of Jesus that we can emulate in order to become spiritually mature. You’re welcome to join us live, in person or online, any Sunday morning at 10, or catch up on past messages via our YouTube channel.)
Here’s hoping you’ll get that heartburn that no antacid can quell!
This Advent, we’ve been looking at Jesus through the eyes of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians. In Colossians 1.17-18, he writes, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything” (NLT).
Imagine that: were it not for Jesus – who, we learned, was present in creation – the world would quite literally fall apart! He is the Glue that holds creation together.
And this Amazing Baby we celebrate in these days is also the Head of the church. No matter what your tradition or polity, the very top of the chain of command is reserved for Jesus. Why? Because he was born for it, gave his life for it, and rose from the dead for it.
So, this Christmas, let me encourage you to make him, in Paul’s words, “first in everything”.
You won’t be disappointed.
Since the next two Fridays happen to land on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, let me take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas, and happy new year. Thanks for reading Encouragement From The Word. It’ll return in January.
Make Jesus first!
This Amazing Baby whose birth we anticipate is, as I’ve been pointing out in this Advent season, no ordinary Baby. Not only was he present at creation, but he was active in creation.
How can a baby do that? you might rightly ask.
Well, Jesus was not always a baby.
Of course, we know that he grew and became a man and ministered until he was crucified. He rose from the dead and ministered again until he was taken up to heaven, from whence he came.
See, Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate version of the second Person of the Trinity. The Trinity is a difficult doctrine, one that is inferred by Scripture and that has been a hallmark of apostolic Christianity for almost 1700 years (so it’s proven the test of time). As the second Person of the Trinity, our Saviour was active in creating the world, so it’s no wonder that he was willing to give his earthly life for it.
Yet Jesus did not only create the mountains and valleys, the lakes and trees and rocks; he also set forth less immediately tangible realities.
This Amazing Baby in the manger is the Creator of heaven and earth. Imagine that!
He’s worth anticipating, worth worshipping, worth being ready for when he comes again.
“[F]or through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1.16-17, NLT).
In Advent, we anticipate the birth of Jesus – something that happened more than 2,000 years ago. Yet it has been commemorated annually by his followers for centuries. What makes it a birthday worth getting ready for?
Jesus was no ordinary baby. I’m pretty sure, though, contrary to the carols that proclaim “Silent night,” and “no crying he makes”, that his birth was a fairly normal human birth, with all the liquid and drama and emotion that go with it.
Mary, his mother, knew he would be different. An angel of the Lord had told her as much. But we can’t be certain when that different-ness became obvious to either Jesus or his mother.
Still, the birth was special, because Jesus was no ordinary baby. The Apostle Paul would write later that “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1.15b, NLT). Other translations render that as Jesus having been the firstborn of all creation.
No wonder he would later say to the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (John 8.58, NLT).
There’s definitely something special about celebrating the birth of One who has existed since time began, One who was present at the very creation of the world.
Whatever your seasonal celebrations look like this year – and I’m sure they will be different than in years past, at some level – there is definitely a reason to keep them special, since we’re celebrating the birth of no ordinary baby.
What will you do to make it special this year?
As Remembrance Day approaches, the word “sacrifice” looms large. We remember, with gratitude, those who gave their lives in the service of our country’s freedom and sovereignty.
But sacrifice is not limited to those who die in battle.
Yes, often, we think of Jesus’ words to his disciples – a veiled reference to himself – when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13, NLT).
But the notion of sacrifice also relates to our own walk with God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12.1, NLT).
He calls us to give – once for all, as a victim – our bodies, which contextually refers to our whole selves – as a living sacrifice.
As disciples of Jesus, our worship involves the complete giving of every part of us to God, in his service, for his Kingdom, for his glory.
So, yes, gratefully remember those who sacrificed their lives for Canada’s freedom. And gratefully sacrifice your body, your mind, your soul, for the glory of God, who in Jesus Christ has redeemed you for his good purpose.