"What Does a Disciple Do? (Part 2)"
After I had my heart attack in 2014, one of my parishioners stopped by our house and shared with us the error in judgment he made when he had his first heart attack. In fact, his error in judgment was the main reason he suffered a second heart attack. His misstep? A failure to adjust his lifestyle. Since he was now taking medications for his heart, he figured he could continue the lifestyle he'd been enjoying all along. Unfortunately, meds alone weren't enough to keep him from suffering another heart attack a year later. By God's grace, he survived it, but then wisely decided to adopt a whole new lifestyle, including regularly exercising and eating a very heart-healthy diet. When he stopped by the house that day, that's what he wanted me to know, and he didn't want to see me make the same mistake. He wanted to see me adopt a lifestyle which would reflect my new reality, which was and still is, I have heart disease.
Major life-changing experiences often tend to result in having to make some significant adjustment to how we go about our daily lives – at least if we want to move forward in a healthy way. A good example of this would be the changes recovering addicts have to make in their lives. Those who want to remain sober have to change their entire lifestyle. Obviously, they have to altogether quit using the substance they were addicted to. And for some, being able to do that means making other lifestyle changes, such as ending certain unhealthy relationships.
Getting married is another good example of having to make significant lifestyle changes. One of the points I try to impress upon couples during pre-marriage counseling is that before getting married, life is basically "all about me." Life decisions are made based on what I want to do and what's best for me. But marriage changes all that. One's life no longer resolves solely around oneself, but now includes another person. Before marriage it was what's best for me? After marriage it's what's best for US? Before marriage, if my job required me to move to another state, no problem; I'm the only one it affects. But once I'm married, a job relocation would also affect my spouse, and it may be that they're not necessarily in a position to drop everything and leave just because my company wants to transfer me. And, of course, there's an even bigger lifestyle change required when children come into the picture, right? At that point, it's no longer about what mom and dad want to do, but about ordering their lives according to the needs of the baby.
How about after coming to faith in Christ – does that require an adjustment in lifestyle? Well, maybe not in the same way that having a heart attack or getting sober requires a lifestyle change lest they self-destruct or destroy the life of someone else. But I would argue that choosing to follow Jesus Christ will require an adjustment in one's day-to-day living habits and practices if there's a sincere desire to grow and mature in their relationship with God. What that might look like is what I'd like to talk about today.
So, let's listen to two brief passages from the Gospels. The first one was read last week, and I alluded to it at the end of my message. It's where Jesus bestows upon his disciples—and the church—their mission. The second comes from the Gospel of John and is part of what's called this Final Discourse, which is John's reporting of what happened during their final meal together in the Upper Room.
[Scriptures are read]
Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations." Where does disciple-making begin? Right here at home, with us. We can't make disciples of all nations until we ourselves are boldly following Jesus and becoming his disciples.
Last week I offered this definition of a Christian disciple:
A Disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who is committed to
being a part of the Body of Christ,
becoming more like Jesus,
joining Jesus in ministry.
I also indicated what Jesus believed his ministry was. He said of himself, "The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). If he were around today, he might say, "I came into this world for the purpose of forgiving the sins of everyone who's still separated from God on account of their unforgiven sins." That was Jesus' mission and purpose during his earthly life, and it's the mission to which every follower of Christ is called to participate in one way or another.
So, let's look at each of these three themes in a bit more detail. For each theme, Phil Maynard identifies two important ways we live into them. This means there are six basic dimensions to our Christian discipleship, or our walk of faith. In presenting the six dimensions, he adjusts the wording of the original statement to reflect the fact that following Jesus is something we do for life. If you will, that discipleship is a life-style.
First, a disciple is a follower of Christ for life who is committed to being a part of the Body of Christ through a life of worship and a life of hospitality.
Concerning the first dimension—a life of worship—please note what I didn't say. I didn't say that we demonstrate this commitment (being a part of the Body of Christ) by "going to church" every week, or by participating in worship services (such as what we’re doing now). Yes, participating in corporate worship is certainly one important aspect of living into our being a part of the Body of Christ, but it doesn't stop there. And that's because the mark of a maturing disciple is that they're intentionally moving away from being a "Sunday Christian" to being a Sunday-through-Saturday Christian. As we grow in faith, our understanding of practice of worship expands. It starts out as something we go to or do once a week, on Sunday morning. But, as faith matures, worship expands from being a weekly event to being the manner in which live our daily lives. That is, worship becomes a lifestyle. And thus we express our commitment to being a part of the Body of Christ through a LIFE of worship.
What does this look like? It could be the topic of a whole sermon series, so I'll limit it to these few ideas. A life of worship does mean participation in corporate worship, but it also includes personal worship (daily devotions, Bible reading/study, etc.) Eventually, it's where every action and circumstance in your everyday life becomes an opportunity to consciously give glory to God. It's expressed in how we respond to other people's needs; how we respond to people's hate and vitriol aimed at us; how we use the various resources God's given us, and so on. In the Bible translation called The Message, Eugene Peterson sums up a lifestyle of worship in his rendering of Romans 12:1 – "So, here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." I think that's a good description of what a lifestyle of worship looks like.
The second dimension is living a life of hospitality. Like worship, hospitality includes the traditional roles of being a part of the church community and welcoming new people to worship, but it also includes our personal relationships with, as well as our acceptance of, people who are outside the church and quite unlike us. In fact, making hospitality a lifestyle involves intentionally cultivating relationships with persons beyond the church in order to embody Christ's love for them. So, your and my commitment to being an active part of the Body of Christ is expressed by making worship and hospitality a lifestyle.
Second, a disciple is a follower of Christ for life who is committed to becoming more like Jesus through life of being open to Jesus and a life of obedience to Jesus. The statement, “a life of opening to Jesus,” is a succinct way of saying: the only way we can become like Jesus is by allowing ourselves to influenced by him; to learn from him; to intentionally seek him out in order to better know and understand who he is and what he wants. Maynard says that this dimension of discipleship is really focused on helping us to develop an awareness of God’s grace at work in our world and to place us in a position to receive and respond to that grace.
What is it that mostly fully opens us up to Jesus and helps us to develop an awareness of God’s holy presence and activity? In short, what the church calls the spiritual practices. These include prayer and meditation, fasting, study of the Scriptures, worship, confession, etc. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, referred to these spiritual practices a “means of grace.” For him, the means of grace are ways God works invisibly in the life of a disciple, hastening, strengthening, and confirming their faith so that God’s grace pervades in and through them. Individually, Wesley encouraged reading, meditating on and studying the Scriptures, prayer, fasting, regular worship with the community of faith, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others. Within the corporate life of faith, he encouraged regularly sharing in the sacraments, Christian accountability to one another, and Bible study. With all that said, intentionally opening yourself up to Jesus comes down to availing yourself of all the opportunities you have to grow in your knowledge of and relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Three great examples of this would be joining a Bible study, Sunday school class, or small group.
The second dimension of the theme of becoming more like Jesus is living a life of obedience to Jesus. As our faith matures, we begin to look for ways to apply the teachings of Scripture to our own lives. We might even enter into partnerships with other Christians as a form of mutual accountability. To be very clear, obedience is not about keeping all the rules in order to be ‘good’ Christians. But rather, it’s recognizing the truth that when we order our daily life practices according to what Scripture teaches, we discover a richness and fullness we didn’t know before. Obeying Jesus will affect how we use our money, how we respond when others hurt us, how we utilize our time, the things we do for leisure, how we respond to the suffering of others, and even how we view ourselves in relation to others. This dimension—the one of obedience—is probably the one most of us will spend our whole lives actively working on because, quite frankly, it cuts against the grain of our sin nature.
The third theme of being a disciple is the commitment to spending the rest of their life joining Jesus in ministry. And we accomplish this most fully through a life of service and a life of generosity. I think these two dimensions are self-explanatory. The first one—a life of service—is probably what we’re most familiar with and probably gets the biggest emphasis in most churches. Serve at the soup kitchen. Walk in the CROP Walk. Be on a church committee. Go on a mission trip. Teach Sunday school. (and so on) This is where we add hands and feet to our faith. It’s the doing part of discipleship, and there’s literally no limit to all that can be done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Living a life of generosity includes presenting our tithes and offerings as an act of worship, but it also includes creating a lifestyle with margins that allows us to respond to the needs of others God puts in our path on a daily basis. Creating a lifestyle with “margins” means ordering our finances so that we have a pocket with a little bit of extra money. Out of this pocket you can give to UMCOR as the needs arise, such as hurricane relief. Or putting something in the basket when a freewill offering is taken at a church program. Or supporting local non-church charities that are close to your heart. Maybe even responding to a homeless person on the street asking for money or a meal. We join Jesus in ministry when we put our faith into action with our hands and feet and wallets.
So, to put all of these together, a disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ for life. What kind of life?
A life of worship and a life of hospitality. A life of opening to Jesus and a life of obeying Jesus. A life of service and a life of generosity.
This is what is meant by saying that discipleship is ultimately a lifestyle. It’s not about keeping the rules or going to church or being a nice person. Those are certainly things a follower of Jesus would do, but being a disciple is about so much more than that. Discipleship is about slowly but surely growing in your faith over time until it starts to become a natural part of your daily life patterns.
So, what’s this all for? Is there a purpose to adjusting your lifestyle so that it reflects your new reality, that you're a follower of Jesus Christ? Well, part of the answer to this ‘why?’ question is found in John 15:16, where Jesus tells us, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last.” Friends, to be totally honest with you, I’m not sure it gets any simpler or clearer than this. When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you’re choosing a new direction. A new life. And your life purpose changes. Jesus says that he appoints his followers “to go and produce fruit,” specifically, the kind of fruit that lasts.
To “produce fruit” is to live so that we have a productive, impactful influence on others. To produce fruit that “lasts” is to order our lives in such a way that our impact on others helps to transform their lives. When you choose to follow Jesus, you choose a path that focuses on the spiritual, emotional, and eternal well-being others. And really the only way we can have that kind of impact is by making sure we ourselves are growing in our own walk of faith. This is what I want to talk about next week. There's something called a "pathway of discipleship" which is designed to help guide a person into spiritual maturity. (next week)
If there’s one thing I hope will eventually come out of this particular sermon series, it’s that you will respond by looking for ways to grow in your faith that you’ve not considered before. My hope is that those of you who are on the fence will choose to follow Jesus. That those of you who’ve been Christians for many years but have never really moved past being spiritual children will sign up for a Bible study, Sunday school class, or small group and begin to send your roots deeper. That those of you who are mature in your faith will consider becoming mentors of others. My hope is that we’ll start to see a rise in the spiritual water table of this congregation – but more importantly, in this community. I want to see lives not just touched, but transformed. I want to see more people professing faith in Christ and being baptized. I want our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ to be boldly adopted as a church so that it influences everything we do here. I want us to be a church full of Disciples of Jesus Christ who have a passion for living for others and not just members who want to keep the status quo.
In the end, though, what matters more than what I want is what you're committed to. Are you committed to growing in grace and maturing in your walk with God? Because that's where the rubber hits the road, friends. Making disciples of all nations starts by making disciples of ourselves.
October 18, 2020 Bulletin
Important Note to the Congregation
Welcome back! It is good to be together again, isn’t it? While it feels good to worship alongside friends once again, it is important to remember that things will not be “normal” for quite some time. Until then, we appreciate your patience and willingness to “roll with the punches.” Because your well-being is our #1 commitment, the following COVID-19 safety protocols have been implemented for our Sunday worship.
Attendance is limited to a maximum of 50 worshipers at any given service. If we find we need to add another service, we will do so.
Worshipers are required to “Savior Seat” (save your seat) during the week leading up to the service. This can be done either online (www.phfumc.org) or by calling the church office.
Every person attending the indoors in-person worship is required to wear a face covering/mask. The church will provide a disposable facemask for anyone who does not have one.
Upon entering the building, everyone will be asked to sanitize their hands, after which they will be directed to one of the outside aisles for immediate seating.
Seating is in every third pew (2 empty pews between). Ushers will direct worshipers to their pew, beginning at the front and working their way towards the rear of sanctuary. You may or may not end up in your ‘usual’ pew😊.
Non-family members are asked to keep at least 6 feet of distance from others in the same pew.
Until group singing is considered safe, worship will not include congregational singing.
The narthex restrooms are open and may be utilized by one person at a time. The sign on the door will indicate if the restroom is available or in use.
At the close of worship, worshipers will be guided out of the sanctuary beginning in the back and working forward.
Upon dismissal, worshipers are asked to immediately exit the building. Socializing (wearing masks, of course!) is encouraged to take place in the parking lot!
Prelude “One Fellowship of Love” By John Johnson
Call to Worship Bob Beedon
L: O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
P: You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.
L: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…
P: Who are we that you are mindful of us?
L: Creator of Heaven and Earth, thank You for creating us and loving us in a way that knows no limits.
P: We acknowledge You as Lord and praise You for all of creation.
L: Holy Spirit, we welcome You in this time of praise and worship.
P: Please, Lord, shape us and mold us into the disciples of Jesus Christ that You are calling us to be.
Hymn “Go to the World” W&S #3158
1. Go to the world! Go into all the earth. Go preach the cross where Christ renews life’s worth,
baptizing as the sign of our rebirth. Alleluia. Alleluia.
2. Go to the world! Go into every place. Go live the Word of God’s redeeming grace.
Go seek God’s presence in each time and space. Alleluia. Alleluia.
3. Go to the world! Go struggle, bless and pray; the nights of tears give way to joyous day.
As servant Church, you follow Christ’s own way. Alleluia. Alleluia.
4. Go to the world! Go as the ones I send, for I am with you ‘til the age shall end,
when all the hosts of glory cry “Amen!” Alleluia. Alleluia.
Welcome and Announcements
Special Music “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (From Carousel) Tom Norager, tenor
By Rodgers & Hammerstein
Scripture Readings Bob Beedon
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
Message “What Does a Disciple Do? (Part 2)”
Pastoral Prayer & Prayer of Discipleship
God of love, source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world into the fabric of our lives.
Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion that will renew the earth.
Transform our lives, so that we may accomplish your purpose.
Anoint us with your spirit of love
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.
Give us a new urgency and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.
Help us to reach out to those whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.
Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.
Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.
Make us your disciples.
Invitation to Give & Offertory “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled” Tom Norager, tenor
By Oley Speaks
O God, make us disciples on fire with your love that we may bring good news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. May the gifts we offer back to you be used to enkindle in others a sense of hope that transformation is possible. Amen.
Song “Draw the Circle Wide” W&S #3154
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone; we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song: no one stands alone.
Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.