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Sermon 25th June 2017 "Life as a disciple"

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June 25, 2017

Below is the message I shared at Shepparton Baptist Church this morning. I hope you get something out of it!

Matthew 10:24-39 (NIV)

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Message

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at Matthew 28:16-20. In that passage of the bible we focused on the idea that we are to make disciples as we go along on our journey of life. When I was preparing the message, there was something nagging at me that there was something wrong with the message. It was not until I received some feedback that I realised what it is. I didn’t explain particularly well what a disciple actually is or what we are meant to do! God is very gracious and seemed to already know that I had missed that part. In our passage today, we get to hear about what the life of a disciple looks like.

Our passage for today is part of chapter 10. If we take a look at the whole of chapter 10, we realise that it’s right in the middle of Jesus talking to his 12 disciples. The reason that Jesus is talking to them is that he is sending them out to be among the lost sheep of Israel. 

In verse 1, Jesus calls his disciples to him and gives them authority. Authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every sickness and disease. Not only did Jesus give them authority, he also gave them a fairly comprehensive set of instructions. He told them where to go, the lost sheep of Israel. He told them what to take, pretty much nothing. He told them how to behave, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. He told them what to expect, floggings, being arrested, persecuted and hate. And that’s all before we get to our passage for today. 

You have to wonder what the disciples were thinking as Jesus gave them these instructions. I’m not sure I would have been excited about it at all!

In verse 24, Jesus then talks about a student not being above his teacher. I’m not sure about you but aren’t our current students our next teachers? Don’t we learn more as a humanity as time goes on? I think so. So what is Jesus trying to say here? It seems that he is reassuring his disciples that they will not be treated any worse than he has been treated. Back in chapter 9 verse 34, Jesus is accused of being the prince of demons. Jesus is referring to that accusation when he says “if the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the member of his household. They, and we, as disciples of Jesus will be dumped in the same basket of Jesus. If someone accuses Jesus of being the prince of demons, we will also be called followers of this prince.

In verse 26 we find the common words “do not be afraid”. In this case, do not be afraid of those who are against you. Let me paraphrase what I think Jesus is saying in verses 26-28. Actually, let’s let Eugene Peterson paraphrase it for us from the Message Bible.

26-27 “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.

28 “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

Doesn't that give us an interesting perspective? In verse 26, when the bible says there is nothin concealed that will not be disclosed” I immediately go to a place of wondering whether my sins will be exposed. 

How about you? No..it must just be me then. It is comforting to know that Jesus is actually talking about the lies, the gossip, the secret squirrel stuff that people who disagree with Jesus go on about. It’s their schemes that will be brought out into the open. When there are lies and deceptions, Jesus will bring them into the open. I’ve seen it in the news about all sorts of things. Jesus will bring things into the open.

We are also not to be afraid to talk about the things of Jesus. What we learn from the Bible, from the Holy Spirit. Talk about it! Even in the face of opposition. That’s part of the life of a disciple. 

Jesus then tells his disciples to not be afraid (again). This time it’s not to be afraid of those who can only kill the body. That’s a tough one isn't it? We all hold to our earthly life pretty tight. Jesus is reassuring us that we don’t need to be afraid of death if we have salvation through Him. They can’t kill our forever, only our temporary. 

What’s interesting here is that Jesus tells us to be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. My first thoughts went to the devil. Again, that’s not the truth. There is only one who is capable of that. God. And The Message version of the bible brings that out. Fear God (haven’t we heard that before somewhere????).

Yet, in our fear we need to remember how precious we are in the sight of God. This God who can easily doom us to an eternity without love, without hope, without peace, without grace. This mighty God thinks we are so precious that he knows the number of hairs on our head. As we gentlemen get older, I guess that means ears, noses and eyebrows too! 

Again we are told to not be afraid. We are valued by God.

Do you ever feel unworthy of God? Do you ever feel like God can’t want you because you are so sinful? Take this verse and remember…God care for you so much, he loves you so much. He is so interested in you that he knows every detail about you. He want’s the best for you. He want’s you to be the best you can be.

One of my boys asked me the other day whether we would be happy with him if he only just passed school. Our response was pretty simple…if you have given your best, we will be happy. All we want for our boys is for them to be the best version of themselves at the time. 

I think that’s God’s attitude to us. As long as we make the effort, that’s ok. But remember…some days the best effort you can make is just getting out of bed. Don’t put more pressure on yourself than God puts on you. He’s God…not you.

Verses 32 & 33 are a bit hard for someone who believes in the “once saved always saved” theology. These verses make it clear that we can renounce Jesus before others. We can behave and talk like we have no idea who Jesus is. He doesn’t want that for us. He wants us to be the best we can. The only way we can be the best is through Jesus. 

Verse 33 seems to be a very stark reminder. Whoever disowns Jesus before men, Jesus will disown that person before the Father.

Ouch! My question as I read that is “how does that compare to what happened to Peter during Jesus arrest and crucifixion?” He well and truly disowned Jesus didn’t he? And didn’t he become one of the disciples? Isn’t he called St. Peter? There is redemption available to all people if we seek it. We can disown Jesus but it doesn’t have to be a forever choice. Grace, mercy and redemption are always available. The warning must be, though, if you have disowned Jesus, don’t leave it too late to make things right.

The remainder of the passage tells us why Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to the earth but a sword. 

Again, this seems contrary to what Jesus normally talks about. Again, we need to give it some thought. Why did Jesus come to the earth? He did not come to bring peace to conflict between nations. He did not come to bring peace to situations caused by bad choices. He did not come to stop war. Well not this time anyway. When Jesus does return, as we have been promised and is our eternal hope, those things will happen. At this time between Jesus first appearance as a human and his return to make a renewed heaven and a renewed earth is still a time of calamity. The peace that Jesus so often talked about is a peace within us. The turmoil of our souls. Jesus promises to bring peace when we have a right relationship with Him.

But the reason that Jesus arrived in the first place, to provide that internal peace, that relationship with ourselves and God will bring division. How often do we have to make a choice. The choice between those we love and the God we love? It’s in these last parts of the instructions to His disciples that we find the key. We are to give everything that is us (not material possessions but us as individuals) to Jesus. He asks for nothing less than our total devotion to Him. Persecution isn’t just left to those who would kill us because of our faith. Persecution is also when people cut us out of their lives because of our faith. When they can’t accept that they are second to God.  Whoever loses my life for my sake, will find it. 

If we are prepared to lose everything to follow Jesus, we will have life eternal. 

At the start I stated that this passage is a picture of what being a disciples of Jesus looks like. If we take this passage without giving it thought, we get a very gloomy picture. The disciples life consists of trials, trouble, conflict and generally just a pretty tough life. 

Is that it? Is that all Jesus promises us in these verses? I don’t think so. Within these pages, we are told the raw truth about the life of a disciple. Some would argue that it gives us a raw truth about life in general. Life is hard! Things happen that we struggle to find meaning in. Relationships die, we are mis-understood, we make mistakes that hurt others, we will cop a lot of abuse. 

Whilst that is all too true, there is also hope in what Jesus says. There is also perspective. Our time on earth is short when compared to eternity. 

Jesus tells us that even though life will be hard, there is also another aspect of it that we should never ever forget. The spiritual life. The spiritual life of being in a relationship with Jesus. When we have that, the things of this life become different. To use the words of the great hymn, Turn your Eyes upon Jesus

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

 In the light of His glory and grace.

That’s what this passage is all about. We have the authority to drive out evil spirits, we have the authority to heal every disease. We also have the authority to speak of Jesus.  We have the authority to not be afraid of what this world throws at us.

How does that work in our lives today? Firstly we need to acknowledge that life isn’t walk in the park. We need to acknowledge that there are some really hard things that happen to us. Sickness, relationship breakdowns, poverty, addictions, false accusations, true accusations, hate and persecution. We can’t ignore that this is part of our lives.

Is there something in your life right now that is hard? That feels like it is killing you? Or even just making you miserable? That’s part of life.

The other part of life as a disciples that we can’t ignore is that Jesus is with us. If we were to summarise the gospel off Matthew in one sentence it is this “God is with us, Emmanuel, to the very end of the age”. 

We need to understand that Jesus will not always keep us from the tough parts of life (and we really don’t know how much he has already protected us from). But he will be with us as we journey through life. That’s what a disciple of Jesus is. A person who loves Jesus. A person who listens to what He has to say and does it. A person who knows, for sure, that Jesus will look after us no matter what happens. 

A disciple of Jesus is a person who chooses to call Jesus Lord and Saviour. A person who willingly gives His life to Jesus (all of it) and says something similar to the prophet Isaiah “Here I am, send me!” 

Is that you? Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you willing to life a difficult life with Jesus? Perhaps you already do follow Jesus and have done for a while. Have you given all of yourself to him or do you keep a part of you back? Are you willing to proclaim Jesus to those around you? Are you willing to tell people that you are a disciple of Jesus or do you keep that bit hidden?

It’s a mighty challenge, being a disciples of Jesus. It was never meant to be easy but it was meant to be full of reward. The reward isn’t material. The reward is spiritual and eternal. The God who has the power to send you to an eternity of darkness loves you so much, knows you so well, is so interested in you that he would send Jesus to live and die just so we could have the opportunity to acknowledge Him before others.

Let me finish with this sentence. Life as a disciple of Jesus has loads of challenges but the eternal rewards make them pale in comparison.

Go well.

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