Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lets Start at the Beginning

In life's journey, start at the beginning.

Our theme for this year is discipleship.
We are about to begin walking down a road to learn and experience what it means to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
At this point, we are at the beginning.
There are a couple of key places in scripture where that idea of beginnings is brought out.

Genesis 1:1

New International Version (NIV)

The Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

How the ideas from these two scriptures play into our subject and theme will be clear in a bit.
But, as we begin this large and expansive subject it would be good to maybe lay down some 'ground rules'. Those are always good to have in the beginning of things. Ground rules help us understand the boundaries and what we will or won't do inside of a said subject or area we are to cover.

So, what are we going to do here in this arena of discipleship?

Well, if we are being true to the scripture before us this morning, the first line of thought is creation.
You mean we're going to create something? Maybe. Then the question is raised, "What are we going to create?" What I hope we can create here is an environment where people can come to know and understand who Christ is and we can help them to follow Jesus. Do you want to follow Jesus?

This issue of discipleship is a very important one to me because I have been on all sides of the matter.
When I was 21 and very new to this Christian life, I was introduced to discipleship through my local church. My pastor had this 8 week study guide and set me up with an older gentleman in my church (who also happened to be my boss at the time). For 8 weeks we would meet once on a Monday or Tuesday morning at the local coffee shop before work. We would sit down with our study guide and we'd share our answers to the blanks we filled in. (This process was brand new to him as well, so we both had answers and questions.) Up until that time, no one had ever taken me aside and worked with me, talked with me, shared their own feelings and questions and answers.

The matter of discipleship is absolutely essential to the Christian journey. This journey creates in us the desire to look beyond ourselves. Which bring us back to the scriptures we have before us from Genesis and John. Lets think about this for a moment. Whom is all of this about? Who created all of this? God did. God is at the center of all of this. The road of discipleship brings us closer to him.

To get there we need to have some direction, some rules maybe. It is important to have a guide. Lets drift back to last week's message and see again what Paul was saying...

1 Corinthians 11:1

New International Version (NIV)
11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

This journey requires that we put ourselves out there.
We need to put ourselves out there so that other people can see the Christ that we know.
And, we need other people we can depend on to support us and help us.
Paul was doing just that. Jesus would paint the picture for us.

John 8:12

New International Version (NIV)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

and then to his followers in Matthew's account....

Matthew 5:14

New International Version (NIV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Isn't it interesting that the first thing God created was light. "And the light shown in the darkness"
We need light to see where we are going. There's another essential to discipleship. To be able to see where you are going. Other people, maybe a mentor, could help you find where to go and what to believe. My former boss was that to me. He listened to my questions and my whining and complaining. He prayed for me. And, I felt it too. He prayed for me to find a wife. He prayed me through my schooling. He supported me when nobody else in the church thought I was worth much. That's what all of us need. Discipleship means people supporting other people so they can discover Christ.

Creation, then, brings us into the world of discovery.
Think of your history lessons about people setting out to find the 'new world'.
The preconceived notion was that the world was flat. If you sailed out to far you would just fall off the edge. It took a brave person to challenge those preconceived notions and lead people into that 'new world'. Our work in discipleship is to lead people to the light. But, we have to know where the light in our lives is before we can lead people there. And. never have I seen the task of discipleship more daunting than within the four walls of the church.

The church should be a place of creation and discovery.
I hope we as a congregation can be that sort of church. To be a place where people can come and ask questions and find answers. To educate people on what it means to be a Christian and live this life following Christ. That leads into what my role is in all this. The role of the pastor. There is scripture from Ephesians that comes to mind right away...

Ephesians 4:11-13

New International Version (NIV)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

The question begs to be asked again...whom is this all about?
It's about God, Christ. My work as a pastor is to disciple people, to educate them in what it means to follow Christ. " that the body of Christ may be built up." Do you want to be 'built up'? What exactly does that mean?

When you have a 2 or 3 word 'phrase' to look up - it usually gets used as a 'phrasal verb'.
That requires a little deeper look into the world of definitions to get that out.
Webster's was a great help here as we take on the two word phrase 'build-up".
Some of the usual suspects were found here also...

Definition of BUILD UP

transitive verb
1:  to develop gradually by increments <building up endurance> <built up a library>
2:  to promote the health, strength, esteem, or reputation of
intransitive verb
:  to accumulate or develop appreciably

Do you remember the second message I ever preached after I got to the pulpit at these two churches?
First message was actually in the park at Thornville. Couldn't even tell you what my first actual message was when i got to the pulpit the next week, actually at the church. I'd have to dig back into the Fried Chicken and Burritos blog to tell you. But, the second message from the pulpit is my bread and butter. I talked with you all about Reputation. Discipleship has to do with promoting the reputation of our church. Is it a good reputation? If not, how can it be improved? What can be done to improve the health, strength & esteem of the church so that our reputation is better in our community? All of that is part of discipleship as we learn how to follow Christ.

So far, in this message, we have talked about creation, discovery and now building up.
Three very important 'ground rules' , if you will, that we need as we approach the subject of discipleship. And, I would leave you with one last item.

This thing called discipleship takes time.
Believe it or not, you've already sat through a year and a half of it. That's what we've been doing. 

those first six months in 2012 were just a time of passing the love around and getting to know each other. When we turned the corner into 2013 and approached Lent, we covered the subject of "Change" in a truly spiritual fashion. As summer and fall got here last year we jumped into the matter of Evangelism and how important that is to our church and community. Advent brought us into the realm of God's Favorite Things - Love, Joy, Peace & Hope. And, his absolute favorite thing, Christ, his one and only son whom he gave up for the whole world.

It takes time to learn about God.
There is a beginning to it all. Next week we'll see that there is an ending.
And, there's lots of stuff to work out in-between.

I hope you want to get to know Christ. Because, that's who I'm seeking.
And, if you choose to follow me, we're going to get closer to Him.

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