The Mission of the Church

  |   Aug 21, 2011

Before we get started, I need to chat a little bit about what we talked about last week. I don’t usually weave sermons together in such a way that they fit so succinctly that you need to understand last week in order to understand this week, but for the beginning part of this series, it’s just that way. So I need to remind you of what we discussed last week, we’ll set out to answer another high-level question this week and then next week we’ll start drilling down into implications for the Village Church. Here’s what we said at the beginning of last week. We just said that there is a good side to routine and a bad side to routine. To get into a rhythm in life is actually a good thing. You can be far more productive in a rhythm, in a routine than you can be outside of a routine and rhythm. You can be far more intentional in a rhythm and routine than you can be outside of that. But the dark side, the other edge of the sword is that if you’re not careful, you will forget why you began the routine to begin with. The illustration we used last week to make the point is a young man who says, “I’m going to work hard and provide for my family.” So he begins to work long hours, which is not a bad thing to work hard and provide for your family. It’s a biblical thing. It’s motivated out of love. So he begins that way, and before long he begins to neglect his family in order to provide for his family. So what’s started out as a pure motivated, biblical thing turned into a routine and rhythm that is undermining what he set out to accomplish. So I said last week that I wonder if we’re not doing some things out of routine but not really understanding enough of what’s going on. So we set out last week to simply answer the question: What are we doing here? And I said that, in order to answer that question, we have to get a lot higher than just this place. So we started with a simple question: What is God doing? What is the mission of God? What is God about? If we look at the universe, if we look at the fact that you and I are here, what is God trying to accomplish? The answer to that question is a little bit unsettling for us in this culture. Because ultimately God is about God, God is for God and God’s mission is to make much of God. Yes He loves you, yes He is your shepherd and yes He will provide for you, protect you and guide you, but the motivation behind all of that isn’t for Him to make much of you but rather for Him to make much of Himself in you. So we said last week that that is great news on multiple levels. That’s great news because, if God is ultimately after the praise of His glorious grace, then obedience to God should not lead us into miserable, begrudging submission but rather joy. So if God is after the praise of His name, His goal does not succeed if we’re all, “Well we had better do what He says before He gives us cancer and kills us.” He’s not glorified in us saying, “Well, He can send us to hell. We had better behave.” But rather He is glorified in our enjoyment of Him. So all the commands of God in the Scriptures are about leading us into how He designed things to work for the fullness of our joy, which means God being about God means God is about your joy. So your pursuit of joy and God’s pursuit of glory are not at odds with one another, but they are one in the same, which is why we should be in glad submission to the commands of God regardless of what we think they’re going to lead us into. Because I have found that people always want to argue this point. They want to go, “Well that simply is not true for me. Because if God is saying to do sex this way, if God is saying to do marriage this way, if God’s saying to do money to this way, that’s not going to lead me to joy because here’s my circumstance.” That is a horrifically arrogant posture. You’re basically going, “Okay, maybe He created the universe, but He hasn’t met my spouse. Because if He knew my girl, He wouldn’t be saying to do it this way. There would be a crazy clause. If He knew my bum husband, He wouldn’t say this. He wouldn’t be saying this if He knew my orientation. He wouldn’t be saying this if He really understood what makes me happy.” As if you even know what makes you happy. No one has been a greater cause of misery in your life than you have. You have perpetually pursued your own happiness at the detriment of your own joy. Where you’re not aware of that and still want to blame others, you’re simply self-deceived. I’ll grant you that people have hurt you, betrayed you and have wronged you. It is a sinful, broken world. But you have been the greatest enemy of your own joy. God is trying to lead you into it. So we discussed that at length. God is after the display of His glory and His mercy. The illustration I used last week was a friend’s wedding. The picture I tried to paint was this. What would happen if I went, “Hey Caroline, do you promise to love Luke, trust Luke, follow Luke and encourage Luke all the days of His life?” and she responded, “Well, I’ve already got the dress on. All our friends are here. So I guess”? Or what if I went, “Luke, do you promise serve Caroline, encourage Caroline and help Caroline become all that she could become under the grace of Christ?” and have Luke say, “Well, we’ve already spent all this money, so we might as well do it”? That doesn’t glorify anybody. If you’ve ever been to a wedding, it’s just nauseatingly sweet. Love is being celebrated. There’s this goo goo eyed weirdness. Even people who aren’t in the marriage ceremony are rubbing each other’s arms, looking at each other going, “Remember when you used to look at me like that, you jerk?” What is happening? The display of the glory of marriage is being reveled in by those who are watching it. So God is after God’s own glory, and our joy is inseparably caught up in that.

Then the second thing we said is that, if God is for God, if God is after the display of His infinite perfection, if God is after the glory of God, then God has set me free from being the point of the universe. And if I’m not the point, if you’re not the point, you are a better human being. Because if I’m not the point, that lets me interact with my wife in a very different way than if I am the point. If I’m not the point, then I get to interact with my children in a different way than I do if I am the point. If I’m the point, they exist to serve and make much of me. If I’m not the point, I have been freed up to serve and make much of them. When I’m the point, I am perpetually angry with my environment, because my environment is assaulting my core schema that the universe is about me. But if the universe isn’t about me, then when I get cut off in traffic, that’s not personal. It just means that person is a bad driver. You are much harder to offend when you understand that the universe isn’t about you. You are easily offended when you believe that everything exists for you.

And then the third thing we said last week why God being for God is such good news is that, since God is infinite, since there is no bottom or top, our experience of joy in God is ever-increasing and never ending. So everything here on earth, regardless of what it is, hits a ceiling. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter how much you enjoy it, it doesn’t matter how much you love it, eventually that euphoria you have in it wears off and leaves you bored. We are the most entertained generation that has walked the face of the earth, and we’re bored out of our minds. There is more to do now than there has ever been in the history of the world, and we’re still restless and bored. With God, you never hit that ceiling. You never get to the bottom of joy in God. It’s ever-increasing and everexpanding. I remember when I was young, we would sing in church “When we’ve been there then thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” That sounded like a nightmare to me. It was like Groundhog Day forever. The idea that ten thousand years is no time off the clock to sing praise to God sounded miserable to me, until you understand that there is no cap on and there is no bottom to the ever-expanding, infinite joy found in our God. And then the fact that there are no fewer days to sing God’s praise takes on a whole new meaning. So that’s what we set up last week.

Now how does God display His glory? God displays His glory in a thousand ways, some of those are at the macro level. We talked last week briefly about how superfluous the universe is. It’s just massive. It goes on and on and on in every direction. So even secular scientists will say that the universe has no end and it is continuing to expand in every direction. In the ever-expanding nature of the universe, God displays His glory. In the stars, in the planets, in how all things are holding together, God reveals His glory. When you watch the sunrise, when you see the sunset, that’s a display of God’s glory. When you look at the stars in the sky after you get out of the city, it’s breath-taking and it’s a display of God’s glory. But He also flexes at a micro level. So if a macro level is the universe itself, the micro level is everything from mountain ranges to oceans to simple things like the budding of a flower. One of the things I always try to do in our house is try to point my children back to the origin of what they delight in. So early on, Audrey was about shoes and pink. Anything that was pink she had to have. So I always want to ask her, “Where does pink come from? Who thought up pink?” Now if you ask a three-year-old that, they don’t have a lot of philosophical build up yet, so you get a lot of blank stares, but I want to try to back it up. I want to back food up to the fact that someone created that flavor. So when we’re rejoicing around dessert and good food, I want to bring it back to the fact that somebody thought this up, someone provided this for our family. “Yes, daddy works hard, but there are a lot of men who work hard who have not been given this provision. There are men all over the world who work much harder and much longer than daddy who aren’t given the provision we’re given.” I want to bring it back to where it came from – God displaying His glory in all things. It’s displayed in the smallest, most minute details of our existence. In cellular mitosis, God is glorified. As we covered last week out of 1 Corinthians 10:31, in the drinking of coffee and the eating of lunch, God is glorified. In the fact that you right now are able to move, breathe, think and function is the glory of God.

Yet in the middle of all this display of God’s perfections, God has, according to the Scriptures, selected a covenant community of people to be the flagship of His glory. So God comes to a man named Abram in the book of Genesis and He tells Abram, “Through you, I’m going to create a race of people. Through that race of people, I am going to display My glory across the globe. Every tribe, every tongue and every nation on earth will worship and know My glory through you.” He tells Abram straight out, “It’s not because you’re awesome; it’s because you’re the smallest, most ghetto tribe out there.”

So God is not going to flex His glory through what is strong but rather what is weak. And you should rejoice in that. You should love that about God. So in Genesis 12, Abram is told that, it is reiterated in Genesis 15 and throughout the Old Testament, you’ve got the nation of Israel being this covenant community of faith that is the display of God’s glory. And they are miserable at keeping the law, and yet God continues to show His grace, continues to save, continues to discipline, continues to deliver and continues to shepherd and love this covenant group. Because how is God glorified? Not in the strength of men but in the weaknesses of men. So throughout the Prophets, throughout the Psalms, you have this promise of the great and glorious day of the Lord where God’s glory is not confined to an ethnicity but rather overflows into every tribe, tongue and nation on planet Earth.

John the Baptist shows up after the Old Testament writings are done, and he declares that the kingdom of God is at hand, that the great and glorious day is here where the glory of God was going not just be a Jewish thing but it would begin to overflow into the Gentile world. And then Jesus comes, preaches the same, lives a righteous life, is crucified, absorbs the wrath of God towards all who would place their faith in Him and then He’s resurrected and hangs out with His disciples for about forty days. And then we’re going to pick it up in Matthew 28. We’ll start in verse 16. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” I love that that line is there. I love it for two reasons. The first is one of an apologetic argument. There is a great deal of people who do not want to submit to the Word of God, who do not want to follow the God of the Bible. So the game they’ll play is they’ll go, “Well the Scriptures have been tampered with. There’s no way you can trust them. They have been edited down and whittled down.” Verses like this in the Bible are evidence that that’s probably not true. Here’s what just happened in this verse. The eleven disciples, not just some schmuck, saw Him crucified, saw Him resurrected, ate with Him, touched Him and hugged Him, and the Bible says some are worshiping but some are doubting. He’s ascending up into heaven and people are going, “I don’t know.” I love it simply because of this. If the Bible has been tampered with, these are the types of verses that would cease to be. The fact that Peter couldn’t get it right wouldn’t be in the New Testament. If Peter and the apostles are messing with this thing, if this thing is political, then why do they make themselves look like such morons throughout the book. This is being written when they are around. So it’s not edited out; it’s there. Their failures, their shortcomings are in the text. The second reason I like this verse is because people love to pretend that if they simply saw something miraculous, that would be what they needed to believe and trust. You see it in the New Testament and through history. “Show me a sign. Let God show Himself in a way, and then I’ll put my faith in Him.” Well the Bible is filled with evidence to the contrary. Throughout the Old and New Testament, God flexes His power over the creative order and it does not lead to more people going, “I’ll follow You.” Rather it leads to people worshiping the gift rather than the giver, pursuing the miracle, not the miraculous One. So I love this verse because it’s evident that they have seen unbelievably mighty things and yet some still walk in doubt. Let’s keep going. Verse 18, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” So God, wanting to display His glory, chooses to do so via a covenant community with promises that His glory is going to overflow out of that covenant community into a larger covenant community that is made up of every tribe, every tongue and every nation on earth. John the Baptist shows up going, “The time is now.” And Jesus has just commissioned the New Testament church to be about that business.

Now what happens next is Pentecost. So the disciples lock themselves in a room. They’re terrified they’re going to get arrested like Jesus did. They’re hiding out, then tongues of fire fall down and land on those guys and all of a sudden they’re emboldened. Those doubting disciples are now worshiping disciples and they begin to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in and around Jerusalem. And the Bible tells us Peter gives the first Christian sermon ever and that three thousand men come to faith and are baptized that first day, along with most of their households. So almost immediately, you have eight thousand Christians in and around Jerusalem, and yet they’re all Jews. A couple of chapters later, there’s an additional five thousand men and their families. So now you’re up to twenty thousand men, women and children who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. And then in Acts 10, you’ve got this interesting thing that occurs. Peter is taking a nap on a roof, a basket is lowered with a bunch of what the Jews considered unclean foods to eat and an angel of the Lord tells Peter, “Get up and eat.” Now Peter has blown it a lot, so he’s not biting. He’s like, “I would never touch that.” And the angel of the Lord goes, “Hey, if God made it, how could it be unclean?” And Peter has always wanted to try bacon, so here he goes and he gets ready to kill and eat when there’s a knock on the door. A man named Cornelius, a Gentile, a non-Jew of the Italian cohort, had a vision from the Lord telling him to go and get Peter from Simon the Tanner’s house. So he goes and gets Peter. Peter doesn’t know why he’s there and Cornelius isn’t sure why he’s there, so Peter just shares the gospel with Cornelius and the Holy Spirit falls. And Cornelius becomes the first Gentile believer in Jesus Christ along with his household. Peter figures out he’s probably in trouble for this, so he runs back and the church does what it has historically done, which is quite comical. They gather together and discuss whether or not God can do what He just did. “Are we going to let this happen? Are we going to allow this?” Really from that point on, after the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, the gospel begins to explode in the ancient world. You had this catalytic event in the back half of Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas, who are a weird pairing to begin with, get permission from the Jerusalem council to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. So Paul is like, “Let’s go!” And Barnabas is like, “I’m in. Let’s take John Mark.” And Paul’s not having John Mark. John Mark had bailed on him before. It had gotten hard, they had taken some heat for preaching the gospel and John Mark said, “I’m not getting beaten for this. I’m not getting thrown in prison for this.” And so he bailed. So now they’re about to head out again, and Barnabas the encourager is going, “John Mark’s cool, man. He’s learned his lesson. He wants to come.” And Paul’s not having it. Paul’s like, “He’s not coming.” And the back half of Acts 15 says clearly that such a sharp disagreement arose among them that they agreed to go their separate ways. So Barnabas along with John Mark goes east towards Cyprus, and Paul and Silas take off west. So instead of one team going out, you had two teams going out. At that point, the gospel begins to explode throughout the ancient world. Some historians say that, by 350 A.D., 52% of the Roman Empire professed belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. So there are a lot of secular historians who will say that it was Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. The reality is if 52% of your constituents are believers in Jesus Christ, it behooves you to adopt that. In ancient Rome, you don’t voted out for your second term; you get shived in the back. That’s how you go out. Remember Julius Caesar, “Et tu, Brute?” That’s how you go out. And I pray to God that Constantine was a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, but looking at it historically, he jumped into a movement that was exploding in the known world and said, “We’re a part of this movement.” So Christianity made Constantine; Constantine did not make Christianity. So as the gospel explodes, it continues to roll throughout the earth, even to this day. Do you realize that all this began over there, but where are we? Dallas, Texas with Bibles in our lap, reading about these men who, talking about spiritual truths that have pushed their way into every tribe, tongue and nation on earth for the most part. I think there are a few tribes left, but those are like hidden people. It’s not easy to get to them, and there are people who have targeted them and are heading that way even now. So God’s plan has been, from Genesis on, to display the glory of His name through His church among the peoples of earth.

Now the question that we have to answer this week is this. What then is the mission of the church? And I’m talking about the Church universal, not just us here at the Village. According to the Scriptures, what are all churches everywhere supposed to be about? What are we supposed to be doing? Now the mission of God and the mission of the church are not at odds with one another. The mission of God is to bring glory to God’s name, so the mission of the church is to bring glory to God’s name. But how is the church to bring glory to God’s name? Well that takes us back to the edict from Christ that we read in Matthew 28. So let’s look at it again. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”” Now it doesn’t matter what He says next. It doesn’t matter what He asks; it’s not going to fail. It doesn’t matter how daunting, how scary, how impossible this seems, if Jesus is the active agent in the creative order, if He holds all things together in the universe with the word of His mouth, if we watch Him on earth calm storms, raise the dead, tell sickness to leave and it does, curse a fig tree and it wilts, if we watch Him do that and He says, “All authority that has been given to me, I am giving to you,” then it doesn’t matter what He says next, it’s happening. So let’s look at it. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,. . .” Now theologians want to play around with this word “go.” Some take this as an edict of, “You go to the nations.” And I think that’s in there. Some of us are going to be called to leave where we are like Paul, Barnabas, Silas and John Mark to leave their country of origin and go to other countries to declare the gospel of God, the glory of God in Jesus Christ for all nations. But it also has in it this idea of, “As you go, as you live your life, make disciples.”

Now here are some facts about you and about me, according to the Scriptures. The Bible is clear that you have been uniquely designed by God. We could go to 1 Corinthians 12 and look at gifts, how we’re gifted and how the Bible says that each one of us is given certain gifts. We could go to Psalm 139. I feel like that chapter got hijacked by women’s ministries. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” is not a verse for women. It was written by a man, David. It goes well beyond that. Ladies, yes and amen, God designed you. You are beautiful, but in the end, that verse is not about femininity. It’s about the reality that God knit us together. He is intimately acquainted with us before we are. So you have natural inclinations. Everyone in here does. There are things I do very, very well just naturally, and there are things that, no matter how hard I work, I will be sub-par at. So there are things I do really well, and there are things I don’t do well at all, even if I work really hard at them. It’s why my position as lead pastor has been hammered out into three positions over the last few years. There are three lead pastors at the Village. That’s good on several fronts. The first front is it’s good that we don’t have any king but Jesus. It’s a good thing to have one King and that King be Jesus. The second thing is there are things you don’t want me doing for us. I can see the skyscraper, but I need somebody to tell me where the elevators and phone lines go. So I can go, “This is where we’re going,” but if you want me to build systems around that, it’s just not going to go well for us. So you’ve got Josh Patterson, Brian Miller and an elder board. So in the end, we’re all playing in our strengths and not in our weaknesses. We are working together, understanding that ultimately we’ll give an account to God for you. So we’ve been uniquely wired by God. In the end, the Bible is saying that you have been uniquely wired. So that kind of intrinsic draw you had toward teaching, civil service, law or wherever you land, that intrinsic ability, that drive in you was woven into you by God so that as you go, you may disciple.

You’ve also been uniquely placed, not just uniquely wired. Now we can go all over the place to show you that, whether that’s Isaiah or Jeremiah. I’ve always loved Acts 17, because Paul just says it. He just says that the boundaries of your habitation and the times in which you would dwell were set before you were. So you have been uniquely wired and uniquely placed by God. So it’s my understanding in my neighborhood that my neighbors are there according to a plan of God, and that plan involves me, as I go, to make disciples. Which is why we engage our neighbors and have them over for dinner. It’s because we understand our neighbors were placed there according to God’s plan. My son is playing flag football. I see that through a certain lens, and it’s not that he’s going to be a super athlete. I know our bloodline. Unless there’s some sort of recessive gene, he’s going to be a reader. I understand why we’re there. I’m seeing it through these lenses. So as we go, we are to be making disciples.

Now let’s talk about what that means. I want to point out that He didn’t say “converts.” He didn’t say, “As you go, make converts.” This isn’t a one-time, “Yeah, I like Jesus. Yeah, I’m morally conservative. Yeah, I’ll join that group.” No, this is, “I am a disciple of, I am a follower of, I am a learner from, I am in glad submission to, I am teachable, humble and longing to know more and follow more faithfully. I am a disciple.” Now let me tell you what that involves. That involves proclamation. At some point, that involves us telling others about Jesus Christ. So yes and amen to being a faithful presence, but have you ever heard that phrase, “Preach the gospel always; when necessary use words”? That’s cute; it’s just not biblical. People aren’t going to watch you not have a beer for dinner and go, “I need this!” People aren’t going to see you wearing a t-shirt and go, “Tell me about that.” You’re eventually going to have to open up your mouth. Now I love that in a relational context, but I’m not against just telling strangers about the Lord either. I do it all the time on airplanes. If you sit next to me on a plane, we’re doing it. You can’t go anywhere, I’m not going anywhere and I’ve got a great lead-in and know exactly how it works. “What do you do?” “I’m a mechanic. What do you do?” “I’m a pastor, so you know we’ve got to do it.” That’s how I do it. You’ve got to figure out how you do it, but there has to be proclamation. So if you want to stand up on a street corner and preach the gospel, do it. If you want to hand out tracts consistently, do it. If you want to go Way of the Master, get your Way of the Master on. If you want to build relationships, do that. It’s got to get to a point where you share the gospel. In fact, few things reveal where your heart really is concerning Jesus as to how much you’ll open your mouth about Him. Are you embarrassed of Him? Part of making disciples is proclamation, telling people about Jesus.

There’s another piece too. Once proclamation has occurred, the church is called to make disciples, which means there’s movement and maturity. Ultimately the church is about proclaiming the good news, but she is also responsible for transformation in the lives of disciples so that they might grow more and more into the image of Christ. Let me show you that. Let’s look again at the text. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” So what’s a disciple? A disciple is one who observes all that Jesus commanded. This is why the church must always be willing to humbly confront sin in its members. This is why a church that is not interested in the growth of its people in depth is outside the bounds of what the Bible prescribes as a church. So if you’re a church that is all about converts, the goal at the end of the day should not be more people on a roll sheet. The goal is lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. That has to be the goal. To do that, the church engages its people over holiness. Why is that important? Because, as we already talked about, the more we walk in the ways of God, the more joy we experience in God, the more worship of God flows out of our lives in all scenarios and the more God is seen as glorious and beautiful. Now no one is perfect in regards to holiness. There isn’t anybody in here who can say that. We’re all just a bit of a mess. But where there is repentance over sin, no matter how grievous the sin, there’s always a home among the covenant community. We are not a community of perfect people. We are a community of consistent repentance. In the event that that repentance is not there, that leads us down a far more difficult and far more painful path. You get into things like church discipline, or you get into things like the removal of fellowship. All those things are biblical ideas built out to protect the covenant community from what the Bible calls wolves. I’ll give you details that have occurred in our community. If you want to cheat on your spouse, you don’t get to attend with your boyfriend/girlfriend while your spouse and kids attend here also and have to try to avoid you and hide from you. You’re just not going to be welcome here. If you want to walk in blatant, unrepentant, “I don’t care. . .I’ll do what I want” sin, you might hide for a while, but eventually it’s going to come to the forefront, and you will be uninvited. “Well I think that’s an arrogant position, Matt.” I’ll give that you think that. The Bible even says that some would think that. But in reality, it’s not arrogant for you to say, “I don’t care what the Word of God says. I don’t care what this church believes. I’ll do whatever I want, go wherever I want and say whatever I want. And you guys can just deal with it”? That’s the non-arrogant position? So where there is repentance, where there is “God forgive me and community of faith help me,” there is always a home among the covenant community of God. Where that doesn’t exist, there will be conflict if a church loves you enough to press. There should never be any joy on the part of leadership for that. In fact, no one who would enjoy such situations is given that kind of power here at the Village. It always needs to be a gut check. It always needs to make you a little bit sick that you have to engage at that level. You should never be rejoicing in the failure of others to repent. You never want the opportunity to flex the power given to you by the Scriptures and that Lord. You always want to serve and walk in submission to the people God has asked you to lead. “. . .teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.”

Now let’s look at this last piece. “. . .teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Now I want to dig around in here a little bit. I’m not pretending it’s going to be pleasant, but I think we need to dig around here a bit. If God is ultimately about the glory of God, if the church is about the glory of God and displays the glory of God by making disciples who are growing in their faith and learning more and more to observe all that He has commanded us in Christ, then this little, “I am going with you in this,” needs to stay where it is. . .attached to what He has given us to do. Here’s a problem that I see in the Bible Belt and even here at the Village. Although I think there are a billion examples of where this isn’t true, there are some pockets where it is. So let me address that. No one will ever be able to accuse me of taking the Scriptures lightly. I believe they are the inerrant Word of God. They are without error and without flaw. It’s not all equally clear, but it is all equally true. So I’m going to preach it even to the detriment of our size and scope. I fully understand that I have to stand in front of God and give an account for what I’ve taught you. The Bible even says, “You shouldn’t want to be a teacher. You get judged by a stricter judgment. You shouldn’t want that.” And so I’m going to stand clean before the Lord, and if He needs to correct me, I’ll just go, “Oh, I thought You meant what You said. I didn’t know that there were other layers or other places I was supposed to trust.” I feel much safer there than in conjecture or letting culture dictate to me what is true. So I’m a Bible guy. But I think the last thing most of you need is another Bible study. I think, until you start to apply what you know from the Scriptures, learning more Scripture is a simple detriment to you. Most of you are bored because you don’t implement what you know. So the Scriptures to you are not living and active like a double-edged sword, but rather it’s just information that you glean. So let me tell you how I think the Word of God becomes living and active like the Bible says it’s supposed to be. If you engage people with God, if you’re living this out, if you’re making disciples, if you’re proclaiming the gospel, if you’re telling people about Jesus, they’re going to ask questions. Now one of two things will happen in that moment. The bad thing is you’ll just make something up. You just go, “Well, it’s like the Bible says, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness.’ ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” Is there a more non-biblical statement than that one? The whole Bible is, “God helps those who cannot help themselves.” And we’ve boiled spirituality down to, “God doesn’t help those who won’t help themselves.” How American is that? So you’ll make something up. That is not a good way to go. You’ll do a lot of harm and a lot of damage to people, but as you engage people and they begin to ask questions, you can say, “Man, I don’t know. Let me go ask. Let me go dig around.” And you get to go back to the Word and dig in it. You get to ask teachers, you get to ask your group leader, you get to talk to your spouse, talk to your buddy, you go get a book and read it and you begin to grow in a way where it’s being used and not just stored. Where energy is just stored and stored, the prophets would call that “the fat cows of Bashan.” Constant intake without any outflow is the Dead Sea. That does not lead to life. Three has to be intake and there has to be outflow. Where there is no outflow, you doom yourself to a sterile kind of Christianity that’s about you and not about the glory of God. I just think you’ll eventually get tired in that kind of rhythm. It’s in the application of the Word of God that we see the power of the Word of God. It’s not just in knowing the Word of God. For those of you who are going to get all riled up about that, read John 5. Because Jesus looks at the Pharisees and says, “You study the Scriptures in vain because you think that in them you have life, and yet you refuse to come to Me of whom those Scriptures testify.” Jesus just told a group of men who memorized the Torah that their memorization of Genesis through Deuteronomy was in vain. He goes, “Do you think that Scripture saves you? Do you think your knowledge of those things means you’re righteous and you’re one of Mine? No, it’s in the application of those things that you find Me.” It’s in the application of the Word of God that you see the power of the Word of God. So yes and amen to a knowledge of the Scriptures, but no to a knowledge that doesn’t lead to any implementation. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Where is He with you? As you’re going through the routine of your life, making disciples, proclaiming the Word and teaching other men and women to observe all that He has commanded. It’s not, “As you study the Bible, I am with you always. . .as you jump from the nine different accountability groups to the seven different Bible studies to the four different churches you’re attending, I am with you always.” He says, “As you go, as you make disciples, as you proclaim, as you teach to observe, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Do you want to cognitively dial in to the presence of God? Become about what God is about.

So let me ask just a couple of questions in conclusion here. The first and most important is this. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you in glad submission to Christ? Are you saying, “I’m following, I’m learning, I’m underneath, I’m in submission to God”? Or is your attitude one of, “God should be glad to have me. God doesn’t understand how my life works. He needs to meet me where I am”? Or are you a disciple? Are you learning from and following Christ? You don’t have to be perfect. Maybe you’re stumbling about like a baby. Some of us are adolescents, some of us are babies and some of us are mature. Are you a disciple? Are you following? And the second question I want to ask is this. Are you actively both taking in as well as flowing out? Are there people you’re pouring into, are there people you’re walking with and are there people you are encouraging in the faith? Some of you are like, “Matt, I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’m still jacked up.” Well welcome. God’s glory is manifest in Him using imperfect, broken people to make much of Himself. In fact, that should give you an advantage in discipleship. “Yeah, I’m a mess. Why don’t you hold me accountable and I’ll hold you accountable. We’re both broken. We should fit in great.” Are you pouring into people? You see, this takes us back to last week. What’s the point of the universe? Why are you here? You see, here’s where you can really start to do surgery on yourself. For some of you right now, it should be clicking that you believe that you’re the center of the universe. Church is about you, studies are about you, learning is about you and everything is about you. We should provide what you want, we should do what you want and we should have what you want. It’s not about the mission and it’s not about what God’s about you. It’s about you. “I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t want to be a part of that. Matt, you and the staff do what God has called me to do. You take this over for us. You raise our children biblically for us. You engage our children for us. You share the gospel with our buddies if we ask them to church. You’re the professional. You’re the one getting paid. You do it.” What happens when you’re not discipling and not sharing your faith is you are revealing that you think this is about you. You think God is just like, “Oh, I’m so grateful I have him on My team. To think of what I was looking like before you joined up. I don’t want to lose you so we’ll just let you do whatever you want. You don’t want to do that? Okay, we’ll put in a clause. We’ll put in a crazy spouse provision. Jesus, Spirit, here’s what I was thinking. Let’s let him discover a new book of Scripture. Where do you want to hide it? Let’s just hide it in the woods of North Carolina. He’ll stumble upon it, and in the new Scripture there will be a crazy wife clause and there will be a clause about sexuality because I need these guys on my team.” Well then God wouldn’t be wiring you into how He created things to be, which would rob you of joy, which would rob Him of glory. And God does not fail on His mission to bring glory to His name through His church which makes disciples that observe all that He commanded. Are you a disciple and are you actively pouring into others as you receive from the covenant community yourself?

Let’s pray. “Father, I thank You for these men and women. God, we want Your Word to read us. Not that we just simply read the Word of God like it’s a newspaper, but God we ask that You would press on us and stretch us. I pray that You would help us where we’re not disciples that You would reveal to us that we’ve got other motives and other plans her besides following You. I pray that we would take far more seriously the call to be about discipling and growing others, whatever level that is. Whether that’s working in Kid’s Village, whether that’s working in the youth ministry, whether that’s working in small group or serving in some other capacity, all of it ultimately is about making disciples. We pray that You would stir up our hearts, stir up our minds to be serious about that call. We love You. We need You. Help us. It’s for Your beautiful name I pray. Amen.”

Scripture Matthew 28:18