Hub Sunday – “Fruit Bearers” by Pastor Andy Braams

Since July, on the last Sunday of each month, we have focused on what we have done and are doing related to mission work as a church. As I have mentioned before, this idea was sparked during a conversation between Roger Martin and myself, and the term originated after Roger discussed the concept at a deacon meeting a week or so later. The idea, and the term, is now known as Hub Sunday.

Most Hub Sundays we have reflected on something to do apart from gathering together. For instance, tomorrow night, several of us are going to Maryville to serve a meal to college students and several others who cannot go are helping by providing food and/or desserts that we will take with us. But rather than discussing the spokes of the hub today, I want to focus on the need for the hub itself.

I will cover this idea beginning with the Parable of the Sower in a below, but first I want to remind us that in 2019, we are focusing on the church as the Body of Christ and doing so by reviewing each of the major systems of the body. In January, the system of emphasis is the reproductive system, and last week we saw that the first recorded commandment God gave to humanity (be fruitful and multiply) is essentially the same commandment Jesus gave the disciples before He departed (make disciples), which is only a different context of being fruitful and multiplying.

And, to be fruitful and multiply it is imperative to be in fellowship with one another on a regular basis, as I will share today. With the ability that technology affords, it is entirely possible to believe that you are a faithful saint of God and never attend a church. I say believe you are faithful because it is not truly being faithful to the intent of God.

People “attend” church on Facebook or get teaching via the television, radio, or over the internet via podcasts. Some of the teaching is excellent; some is heresy. But what we cannot overlook is that the Bible is written to a group of people, not to an individual. The OT was written to the people of Israel. The New Testament was written to the Church. In both cases the audience is plural, not singular. And the reading today from Hebrews is a strong command to not cease meeting together. Why? Because, in that context, we must spur one another on – that is, without some measure of accountability, none of us will remain true to what we intend. But in the greater scheme, we are reminded that meeting together is important because “it is not good for man to be alone.” And, as the Body of Christ, no one part of the body can function properly without the other parts.

So, let us turn to the text, and see why the Parable of the Sower is important to us on this Hub Sunday.

The Word of God Impacts People

Take a moment to read Matthew 13.1-8 and 18-23.

The only constant in this parable is the Word of God. All four types of soil have seed scattered on it. All four types begin to impact the soil, but three do not last. Why? Because no root develops. Why doesn’t a root develop? Because the seed does not have time or a place to truly take root and grow.

In the first type of soil, the birds devour the seed before it can truly get planted. Jesus said in verse 19 that the seed did start to get sown into the person’s heart, but then it was snatched away. How? Well, Jesus says the birds represent the evil one. Please understand that Satan knows that God’s Word is impactful, so he comes to steal, kill, and destroy any chance of that seed truly taking root.

The next type of soil was rocky. Notice the seed did produce something. The plant looked like it was going to grow, but it did not. Instead, the soil was shallow. Per Jesus, in verse 20 and 21, the seed was received well, but when challenges came to their belief, the people fell away.

The third type of soil was infested with thorns. The seed made into the soil, but was choked off by the thorns. Jesus interpreted this as someone who “hears the word” but is more concerned with the affairs of the world. Again, the seed begins to grow, but does not have a chance to truly live.

The last type of soil is the one that yielded fruit. Why? Well, the soil was right, and that makes a difference. But I will argue that cultivating the soil is not only important before the seed is planted, but tending the soil is important after the planting. Only then, can a harvest be properly expected. How do we tend the soil? The same way we prepare it – the Word of God.

In each case, the seed represents the Word of God. Jesus says this clearly so that should not be in dispute. What is disputed is whether or not the seed in the first three soils represents people who become Christian or not. Honestly, I have been back and forth on this for years, but more recently, I have become convinced they are not. I am not dogmatic about that because a lot of debate exists on this issue and I realize the arguments against my position. But the Bible is clear that only those who persevere are truly saved. And thus, I have come to believe that only the final soil truly represents a Christian.

What we must understand is that the Word of God does impact people. And the enemy fully knows the power of that impact. Thus, Satan tries to minimize that impact (stealing away the joy, choking it out, making us more concerned about worldly matters, etc.) so we will not reproduce. Because a healthy seed not only grows itself, but that seed will then produce more seeds. That is, it will reproduce. Now the Word of God itself is not reproduced, but its effect is reproduced in others. Thus we can say that the Word of God will produce fruit.

Let’s look at this fact briefly before returning to the focusing on our hub.

The Word of God Produces Fruit

Take a moment to read John 15.1-11.

In this instance, the Word of God is not the written or spoken Word, it is the Living Word – Jesus. Jesus says that those who abide in Him WILL bear fruit. If not, you will be cut away, gathered with other non-bearing branches and burned (v6). Those who remain, those who abide, those who are truly with Jesus will bear fruit. This is not some wish that Jesus makes, it is a fact. Notice a particular word of Jesus in verse 8. We prove we follow Jesus when we abide and bear fruit. We prove we are abiding by following God’s commandments (v10). And the blessing of our abiding is having complete joy in Jesus (v 11).

So, in Jesus words, a disciple (a follower) is one who hears the Word, who receives the Word, and who abides with the Word. If you believe what Jesus spoke, these three statements cannot be disputed by what these passages have revealed. The question, then, is how does this relate to our church being a hub?

The Church is God’s Design for Produce

Let me transition to the idea of our church (any church, really) being a hub by asking a question. What is the name of the section at the grocery store where you can select fruit and vegetables? The Produce Section, right? Why is it called the Produce Section? Because the food was produced. It was planted, it was tended, it grew, it was harvested. But each step happened so what was produced could either be eaten or reproduce seeds for the next iteration of produce.

Well, we are not meant to be eaten, but the seed planted within us is to reproduce. And that reproduction begins within the context of church – not the place, but the people. However, the people need a place in order to be tended, and to grow. That is, if we are to be fruitful and multiply, if we are to reproduce, it is not something we can do on our own, we must do it within the context of the church. After all, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As I have mentioned many times, this instance of Jesus saying church is only one of three times Jesus used the word church – so He must have meant something by it.

So, the church is meant to grow (being built). And thus, the people in the church are to reproduce. That is, we are to bear fruit. And, as we have seen in the passages earlier, bearing fruit is dependent upon the Word of God. And, where else will you get a steady stream of the Word of God? And that is why the church is, and should be, the hub!

Consider for a minute the idea of a huddle in football. Everyone comes to the huddle so they can be on the same page about what is to happen on the next play. Of course, sometimes, the players see a play developing differently (like the receiver breaks out instead of in and the pass is incomplete or intercepted), but they come back to the huddle to get the next play. It doesn’t matter how good of a player you are or how well you know the playbook, if you don’t know what to do in a certain moment, and are not participating as part of the team, you are not helping.

The church, also known as The Body of Christ, is the same. And a weekly service is like a huddle. Of course, a football team might call three or four plays in a huddle during the 2-minute drill, but the church, like a football team, needs to constantly be together, to constantly be reminded, to constantly be abiding in God’s Word, in order to know what God would have each one do – not just individually – but as a team. Thus, the football huddle is like the church as a hub. The huddle provides direction and understanding of how the team’s playbook will help overcome the opponent during a certain part of the game. The hub provides direction and understanding from God’s playbook (the Bible) will help us abide, help us grow, help us serve as well as encouraging one another (Hebrews 10.24-25) during the process at any given part of our life.

But the church in America is in decline. In the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Africa, it is growing FAST. But, if the church is the only place where most people consistently hear the Gospel, then the attendance at our churches matter. So, let me give you some thoughts and statistics that related to church attendance in America. These stats are a little dated (about a decade ago), but matters are only worse now.

The Church in America is Shrinking

1. Fewer children per family

My mom was one of 7 and my dad was one of 3 (only one to survive childhood), yet I was their only child together. The sheer math says that the number in church will go down from one generation to the next.

2. The Halo Effect

People think they are going to church, but in reality, they are not. Surveyors asked: “Did you go to church the previous week?”

Perception

In 1939, 41% of people said Yes

2002-2005, 40-44% consistently said Yes

*keep in mind, shortly after 9/11 churches saw an increase

Actual Numbers of 2002-2005

About 1/3 to ½ of that amount is true. So, 14-22%.

(Source, The American Church in Crisis, David Olson, p. 26)

Imagine it this way, if 40% of Fairfax was in church, then approximately 200-250 people would be filling the four churches in the area EVERY WEEK. Of course, some people go to other towns, but some people from other towns come here as well. If we look at Atchison County, then approximately 2200 people attend church every week.

Active Participants (3 times over 8-week period, i.e. more than once per month)

23% are active participants (p 29-30)

12% (about one-half of the total) are evangelical – typically considered as Bible-believing

7% Catholic – who must go to receive grace through the Eucharist

3. People are not making disciples.

If we were doing what Jesus said and making disciples 30, 60, 100-fold, then when we would be exploding. Of course, not all people would come here – and that is ok. I am making more disciples elsewhere than I am here. The focus is to make disciples. I do it here, but I go there as well.

Again, church attendance matters because it is the only place where most people hear the Gospel on a consistent basis. And, although I have strong feelings regarding the importance of church membership, membership does not equal commitment like attendance does. However, true commitment is not to a church; our commitment is to be the Lord. Being a part of a church is part of that commitment, and so is making disciples.

CONCLUSION

So, we need to be a hub! Because it is in the context of the hub that disciples are made. It is in the context of what Jesus is building that disciples are made. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that disciples can only be made at a church, but I am saying that disciples can only be made by someone connected with a church. And, if we are to be disciples, and make disciples, then we are to be connected, and active in the ministry of the church.

We cannot separate Jesus from the Church! Why? Read and re-read this quote from Henri Nouwen:

“The Church is the Body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church. And without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus.”

So, to not be active, and to not attend, is to not be a part of Christ!

In light of the parable I read earlier, if it is the Word of God that brings the fruit and someone is not consistently present with the Word, then how can they return 30-, 60-, or 100-fold? And, it is in the context of church that the Word is most often heard/read/studied by most people. Thus, attendance is critical for the believer.

Many will talk about numbers in a church, but it is fair to ask how a church should be measured. The ultimate answer is faithfulness, and numbers do not necessarily equate to being faithful to God. But attendance is one mark of a faithful follower, so numbers do have a place in helping to know how faithful the people are…not just those who are coming, but how many disciples they are making when they go. And, while here, the measure will partly relate to our unity of body, unity of faith, and unity of service. And that is why…

The JOURNEY letter for today is: UUNITE.

As we wrap up the focus on reproduction, let me make one more comparison between the church and the reproductive system. I do this because I realize that people can be followers of Christ without a specific church home. But again, without being a part of the huddle, are they fully equipped, week after week, to fulfill their ministry, whatever that may be?

It is like in vitro fertilization. It is possible for reproduction to take place this way, but the egg must still be inserted into a home for life to grow as it should. Likewise, a person might be saved apart from the church, but needs a place to grow and be nurtured. And thus, Jesus said, I will build my church – the idea where that growth and nurture happen.

PRINCIPLE: The Word of God should be central in a church which produces fruit. To produce fruit, we must be part of a church engaging often with the Word of God.

QUESTION: If a person is not present with the Body of Christ, then how can s/he function within the Body of Christ?

OPPORTUNITY: Reproduction begins, and continues, with being present. We have a chance to be present, and we have the opportunity to help others be present as well.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN: Make a list of any reasons why you choose not to be in a church setting on a weekly basis. Putting it on paper will help determine any real issues that should be addressed by you, or by the church.

LIVE: Make a commitment to be actively involved within the Body of Christ so that you will be more inclined to share life with the Body of Christ.

LOVE: Bearing fruit requires us to abide with Jesus. When you find it difficult to love others (including the church), focus on loving Jesus and realize the church is the current expression of Jesus to the world – whether we do things right or wrong.

LEAD: Listen to others to determine why they believe church is not for them. Help them to see the truth of this parable and today’s teaching. Without the Church, we do not have Jesus. Without Jesus, we have, and are nothing.

“The First Commission” by Pastor Andy Braams

Two weeks ago, we began this new series about having a healthy body so we can have a healthy church. The central theme for the series, and for all of 2019, is that we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we can consider that the human body consists of many systems that keep it functioning properly. When one or more of those systems in the human body do not function as they should, the entire body will suffer over time. Likewise, when the church body is not healthy, the church will suffer. And like the human body, the church needs systems in place to function best. So, each month through November we will be comparing a system of the human body to that of the church. And the system for January is the reproductive system.

At first glance, you may wonder how the reproductive system fits into the context of the church. I would argue it is the easiest of all systems to correlate because Jesus said we are to make disciples. That is, as a believer (a disciple), we are commissioned (and expected) to reproduce other disciples. Thus, making disciples is about reproducing, and that fits quite well with the reproductive system.

In fact, as we will see, the idea of reproducing is not just addition, but multiplication, as Reggie taught last week. And we do not just randomly get the idea of multiplication, we see it evidenced in Acts as the early church had numbers added to it (Acts 2.41,47; 5.14) and then soon multiplied (Acts 6.7; 9.31). This idea, related to the church, fits well with the first commandment God gave humanity as well – be fruitful and multiply.

Before we turn to our primary text in Genesis today, you might be surprised to know the Bible talks specifically about the reproductive process even if the actual system is not mentioned. In James 1.15, we find that sin is conceived and then it is birthed before bringing about death at a later point. And this truth about the nature of sin is why we need to make disciples, not just converts.

So, let’s briefly review the reproductive system. First, to reproduce we need two people. And this cannot be any two people. By God’s design it requires a male and a female – that is, the anatomy has to work properly together. But not only does the anatomy have work, the process has to work as well. The male produces sperm and the female produces eggs. This production is regular and consistent over many years, but if the timing is not right or if the overall health of the individual is not right (even influenced by another system in the body), then conception will not occur. So, not only does the anatomy matter, but the timing does, and then of the hundreds of millions of sperm that are released only about 1 in 20 reach the fallopian tube where the egg is, and only 1 – ONE! – will be able to penetrate the egg and allow for reproduction to be possible. At that point, new life has begun, but then prenatal care is important, and finally birth. And then, for parents, the real work begins.

So, that is an abbreviated look at the reproductive system. Let us now turn to the Bible to see how it fits with God’s purpose – beginning in Genesis 1.

1. God commanded humanity to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1.26-28)

We must remember that Genesis 1 and 2 are two accounts of the same story. Genesis 1 starts in the beginning and goes through Day 6. Genesis 2 begins with Day 7, but then backs up and provides some detail of what happened on Day 6.

Day 6 consists of the creation of animals (Gen 1.24-25), but then shifts to the creation of mankind. Verse 26 helps us understand why God would command mankind to reproduce. In Genesis 1.26, the text says, God (singular) said, “Let us” (plural). Thus, God is more than one person. In fact, we call that concept the Trinity. God is three persons in one – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, God had never been alone when mankind was created which is why in Genesis 2.18, God said it was not good for man to be alone. Adam had just named all of the animals, and in some sense realized nothing was like him. But Adam did not know it was “not good.” But God knew it wasn’t. And therefore, God made a woman from man (Genesis 2.21-22).

So, God was (and is) multiple persons and now humanity consisted of multiple persons as well. But unlike God, who is eternal, the human body is not, and thus, to perpetuate humanity, God commanded His new creation to be fruitful and multiply.

I mentioned the reproductive system a few moments ago. A person does not have to understand the system to reproduce. And, due to human nature as the result of the sin in Genesis 3, the curiosity of the anatomy of the opposite sex has been on the minds of men and women (and boys and girls) ever since. But I can’t help but imagine what Adam and Eve thought the first time they were ready to obey God’s command, which was the first command that is explicitly recorded as given to humanity. They had to know their bodies are different, although they were unashamed. But what happened when Eve started to “show.” Can you imagine the conversation? “Adam, why am I getting fat?” “Eve, did you eat from that tree?” “No, Adam, I promise I didn’t…and wait, something just kicked inside of me.” “Eve, were you eating burritos again? You know those can upset your stomach.”

In reality, we have no idea what the conversation might have been. But it must have been interesting!

So, to restate point 1, God gave humanity the command to be fruitful and multiply. And they began to do so.

2. God commanded humanity to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1.28)

Before God gave this command, He had already given a task to the man. We can see this by reviewing Genesis 2. Originally, God created the man outside of the Garden and then moved the man into the Garden (see Gen 2.5, 7-8). While there, the man took care of the Garden and gave him the task of working it (Gen 2.15) with one warning – do not eat from a certain tree (Gen 2.17). So, man was created with the task of tending to God’s Creation. Then the animals passed before the man and he gave names to all of the animals (Gen 2.19-20). And then, God created the woman.

The sequence here is important. God created the man with the purpose of working and keeping His creation. And, everything was in harmony. Yes, man had to work, but it was not difficult labor. In fact, we might say that his work was fruitful.

But after God created the woman is when the statement in Genesis 1.28 is made. Notice God said to them…that is, God spoke the command to be fruitful, to multiply to both of them. And then, He continued by giving authority to both of them. Now, truly all authority belongs to God, but He entrusted that authority to the first man and woman. They were to fill the earth (reproduce) and subdue it. That is, they were given dominion over the earth. In fact, specifically, if you read the remainder of verse 28, their dominion was over birds, fish, and anything that moves. God then gave them all plants for their benefit – including those with seeds for their food.

The words for subduing and having authority convey the idea of having an active power – even using force, where necessary. Thus, God gave full authority to mankind – both male and female – over the rest of His Creation. And, as they multiplied, that authority was to be passed down to their offspring as well. Why? Because the authority was given to the first man and woman – who were made in God’s image (Gen 1.26, 27) – and as their offspring we are made in that image is well.

But sin!

So, God commanded the first humans to be fruitful and multiply. Then He gave them His authority over the earth. But that authority and the fruit of our labor was challenged because of sin.

3. Humanity lost our intimacy and our dominion because of sin.

Genesis 3 is known as the Fall of man, or simply, the Fall. But before we briefly state effects of the Fall, let us look Genesis 3.8. Consider the intimacy of Creation at this point. The man had and intimate relationship with:

the Garden. He tended it, and it produced. (Genesis 2.15-16)

the animals. He named each species of livestock, the birds, and beasts of the field. (Genesis 2.19-20)

the woman. They were naked and unashamed. (Genesis 2.24-25)
God. (Genesis 2.18, 21; 3.8)

All of this intimacy was how God designed it to be. Again, we can conclude this is God’s design because of the intimacy of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit – united as One. But sin ruined all of it for humanity. Notice, the effects of sin – mostly from Genesis 3:

The intimacy was broken. The man and woman now covered themselves. (Genesis 3.7)

Being fruitful and multiplying became challenging. For the woman, it meant that giving birth would be increasingly painful (Genesis 3.16). For the man, it meant that thorns, thistles, and sweat would be part of the “fruit” of his work. (Genesis 3.18-19)

Humanity’s authority was forfeited to Satan. We see this in God’s response to the man, but we can see it more clearly in passages like Matthew 4.9 (where Jesus does not refute that Satan can make such an offer) and Ephesians 6.12 (where Paul says cosmic powers are in play), and very directly in Colossians 1.13.

But God! Our sin is why Jesus had to come!

4. Jesus reclaimed the dominion over this world, and has now commissioned us to be fruitful and multiply a new type of people. (Matthew 28.18-20)

Yes, Jesus came to die for our sin. But it is more than that. God gave authority to humanity to rule over His Kingdom. But mankind lost that right. Actually, it was stolen from them when the serpent deceived the first man and woman. So, Jesus comes and says, that the Kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4.17). That is, the time of Satan’s domain including the world was coming to an end and people needed to repent of following the dark ways – the ways that broke the intimacy between all aspects of Creation – and turn to the coming Kingdom, the returning Kingdom, where Jesus has all authority as the King of all kings.

Please understand, God never lost full dominion. We see evidence of this in Job 1 where Satan had to go to God for permission. But humanity lost the dominion we were given by God due to our sin and the separation we have from God. But Jesus’ sinless life captured that dominion once again, and His death confirmed that He alone is worthy and should have the dominion.

So, what does Jesus do after He has regained the authority – now not only as God, but also acting on behalf of man? He says the same thing that God said in Genesis 1.28 – Be fruitful and multiply. Of course, Jesus used different words. His words were “make disciples.”

In Genesis 1, God needed the humans to fill the earth with other people – those created in the image of God.

In Matthew 28, Jesus needs the humans to fill the earth with other humans – those restored into fellowship with God.

This is an amazing parallel. We did not lose our commission to multiply. But the form was changed. Rather than reproducing humans, we are to reproduce disciples. And just as God gave the responsibility to the first humans to reproduce, Jesus has given His disciples the responsibility to reproduce.

We know longer have the dominion – it was given to man (Adam), but he proved irresponsible, and Jesus had to win it back. But now Jesus has all authority, but He entrusts it with us (we
participate).

We will look a further look at the idea of bearing fruit, reproduction, and the effects on church attendance next week. But for now, let us just realize that God’s reproductive system is about us making disciples even more than it is making babies.

CONCLUSION

Reproducing disciples is not as easy – or as fun! – as reproducing children. But the process is similar. Notice the similarities.

You need two people.

Discipleship – guided by Holy Spirit – puts the right discipler with the right disciple

Human Reproduction – two people are necessary to bring life into the world

The discipler needs persistence.

Discipleship – not easy, which is why many do not participate or succeed.

Human Reproduction – 250 million sperm are released and only 1 in 14 million make it far enough to have a chance.

The disciple must be receptive.

Discipleship – The timing must be right for the person to grow

Human Reproduction – the egg must be ready to be fertilized

Early care is critical.

Discipleship – A study diet of the Word of God is important. Opportunities to serve others is critical as well.

Human Reproduction – The food a child ingests can drastically impact the health of a child in the womb (as does the presence of harmful substances, such as drugs), and eventually a newborn

Guidance is necessary.

Discipleship – Disciplers are to teach others to observe all that Jesus commanded. That means showing others the way not just talking about it and leaving them on their own (although that comes later).

Human Reproduction – a baby cannot care for self. A child needs guidance until they can begin to live on their own.

A new generation reproduces.

Childhood – just as a young child gains confidence and begins to explore life, a new Christian begins to explore the parameters of their faith.

A teenager may rebel against authority, but love can help to retain the necessary bonds. Likewise, a new Christian may rebel for a time, but a gracious and loving God will welcome the person back – and uses humans to show the love necessary to restore the individual.

Adults typically seek a mate and eventually procreate – reproducing a new generation to carry on their life. For the Christian, reproducing is not about them passing down their own genes, but making Christ known to the next generation so that His life, ministry, and mission is carried forward for generations to come (see 2 Timothy 2.2).

The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

We may be willing to follow certain commands of Jesus, but are we willing to make disciples? As our Lord, our King, it is not for us to choose, it is for us to follow. We must observe in order to be a better disciple, and we must observe in order to make more disciples as well.

PRINCIPLE: We are not asked to reproduce. We are commanded to do so. Make disciples!

QUESTION: Who are you intentionally making a better disciple?

OPPORTUNITY: Make 2019 a year to strengthen this Body of Christ by reproducing disciples for Jesus.

NEXT STEP(S): Become a more complete disciple of Jesus. The idea of being a disciple is to learn what a master teaches and to do what He says.

LEARN: Take time to learn what Jesus taught. If you need to be a better disciple (and we all do), ask someone to lead you.

LIVE: Begin to live as Jesus lived – which included making disciples of others.

LOVE: Find a way to share the love of Jesus with a random person this week.

LEAD: Begin praying about one person you can disciple.

“The Great Commission” by Reggie Koop

Key Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (KJV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Other references: Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, John 20:21-23

Setting:
On a mountain somewhere around Galilee, a group of men (Jesus’s disciples) were given the greatest challenge to tell others the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of God’s love and forgiveness to a broken and sinful world.

The Definition of a disciple according to:

Merriam-Webster dictionary: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity: one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts

Bible dictionary: a scholar, sometimes applied to the followers of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14 ), and of the Pharisees ( 22:16 ), but principally to the followers of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matthew 10:24 ; Luke 14:26 Luke 14:27 Luke 14:33 ; John 6:69).

Cambridge dictionary: a person who believes in the ideas of a leader, esp. A religious or political one, and tries to live according to those ideas

We can conclude then, that the definition of a disciple is someone who receives instruction from another person. But a Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Christ, one who believes the teaching of Christ.

With that definition, we are now going to look at this command from six questions: Who? What? Why? Where? When? and How?

I. Who gave the Great Commission and to whom was it given?

Verse 18, “and Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”

There is only one person who can give such a great challenge, and that is Jesus Christ, the son of God. Mark makes Jesus place clear in Mark 1:1 where he wrote, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The deity of Christ is further stated in John 1:1-5, “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. 2 the same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 in him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Genesis 1:26a says, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

In Colossians 1:15,16, we find more about Jesus “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

Then, Paul continued in Colossians 2:3,9-10, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… 9 for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”

God became man. He walked and communed with man. He died on the cross and was raised from the dead to save people from sin and to give them eternal life, to those who accept him into their heart.

Turning to Matthew 19b, Jesus affirms the reality of the Trinity: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”

Jesus says baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is sharing the three-in-one nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is baptism unites a believer with Jesus Christ in their death to sin and resurrection to new life. Baptism symbolized submission to Christ and a willingness to live God’s way.

To whom did Jesus give the Great Commission?

He gave it to His 11 disciples but also to every Christian who believes on him. When we represent Jesus Christ as his disciple, we are representing the One who possesses all power, wisdom, and authority.

John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

But you might say, the 11 disciples were different from me. They were much more extraordinary. They possessed something more powerful. Much better than me.

But they were just common, ordinary people. A working class of people having the same weaknesses as you and me. The only two differences are:

1. They experienced seeing Jesus crucified, resurrected, and then watched Him ascend into heaven.

2. They were the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. What is the Great Commission?

Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus’s command is to take the Gospel to every person to every part of the world and to make disciples in all nations. But it doesn’t stop there. It involves training. Training these disciples to spread the Gospel in their area and to train these disciples to train other disciples to do the same. Generation after generation. We’ll call this spiritual multiplication.

What is the difference between spiritual addition and spiritual multiplication? Spiritual addition is one person leads someone to the Lord and then leads someone else to the Lord and continues this process, one by one. On the other hand, spiritual multiplication is a Christian disciple introduces a non-Christian to Jesus and then trains that Christian to share the Gospel. Then they each introduce someone to Christ. This process continues and expands resulting in Christian multiplication.

Our responsibility is to preach and teach the Gospel, it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to make our witness effective.

III. Why should we help fulfill the Great Commission?

Let’s look at 4 reasons.

1. Jesus commanded us to do so. Jesus said, “Go!” But the sad thing is, most Christians have never taken this command seriously. But look at the world around us, what’s happening, what’s going on?

If we take our Lord seriously, we must dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to fulfill the Great Commission. Remember what Jesus has done for us.

Consider Mark 8:34-38. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”

2. There are people who are lost without Jesus Christ; this includes family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, associates, etc.

Romans 3:23 reminds us, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,…”

John 14:6 states that Jesus is the exclusive answer. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

In Acts 4:12, we see again that only the person of Jesus can save us. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

3. People everywhere are hungry for God. All over the world.

4. There is an urgency. We must have an urgency to complete this command while the doors of opportunity are still open.

John 4:35-36, “Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”

IV. When will the Great Commission be fulfilled?

The Great Commission is God’s idea and only He in his almighty power and all knowledge knows when and how it will fulfilled. Consider some of the following verses from Scripture:

Acts 1:7, “And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”

Matthew 24:36, “but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Mark 13:32-33, “but of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”

As Christians sharing the Gospel should be our number one priority each and every day, each and every minute, to each and every person. Why? Because the message of Jesus brings joy as we see in the story of Jesus’ birth? “And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2.10).

V. Where must we go?

Acts 1:8, “but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

We are to be involved in helping reach the entire world, but here Jesus gives us a strategy.

Jerusalem: in your own home, in your neighborhood, in your school, at your work.

Judea & Samaria: in your community, in your county (Atchison, Holt, Nodaway), in your state (Missouri), your nation (United States).

Rest of the world

But, as we go, Jesus gave us a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.20b).

Jesus is telling His disciples then and His disciples now, He will be with His followers spiritually until the end of this age, meaning until He returns.

Matthew 1:23b says, “and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

We must go out and obey His commission. Because even when we fail, He is faithful.

VI. How can I help fulfill the Great Commission? (Application)

Remember the 3 T’s: Time, Talents, Treasure

1. Become a Christian.

2. In everything, start with prayer. Take time to pray-ask God for guidance. Pray for the pastor, others, missionaries. Pray hearts will be softened.

3. Take inventory of your talents. How can you serve? We have all received gifts the we can use to help fulfill the great commission.

4. Learn.

a. Be in church, be in bible study, be in Sunday School, be in fellowship.
b. Learn how to share the Gospel.

5. Be a mentor. Who can you come alongside? Invest in another. Teach another Christian to share the Gospel. Remember it is about multiplication.

6. Share your treasure. Give.

7. Develop a strategy: home, neighbors, relatives, work, school, county, state, nation, world.

The Great Commission reveals the heart of God. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that it is God “who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

“It Begins with the Head” by Pastor Andy Braams

As we gather on the first Sunday of 2019, many of you will have made resolutions for this new year. For most people, the essence of making a resolution is personal. What can make me feel better? What can make me look better? This is true whether the resolutions are about tangible items or intangible goals. But many resolutions have to do with health. And really health deals with both of the two questions I just mentioned – feeling better (physically, emotionally, spiritually) and looking better (to ourselves, in the eyes of others, etc.)

I can relate. I recently looked at my passport picture which was taken just four years ago. The picture on the left is from a little further back – just over seven years ago, shortly after we moved to Fairfax, and the one on the right was taken last week.

Pastor Andy in Oct 2011 and Jan 2019

Although my change in appearance was not due to a new year’s resolution, I definitely feel better and look better. And it is more than the eye test. My blood work and other numbers reveal that I am much healthier now than I was then. That does not guarantee that I will be alive tomorrow, but being healthy usually allows us to accomplish far more than when we are not healthy.

Over the past few months, we took a high-definition look at the modern church (including our church) against the early church. (That sermon series, The Church in HD, can be found on the blog’s previous host: ffxbc.blogspot.com.) Looking in high-definition allowed us to see more clearly the areas where we need improvement. Around the same time, God provided this year’s theme for our church, and thus 2019 is The Year of the Body. Just as individuals need to be healthy to reach our personal goals, the church needs to be healthy to accomplish the goals God has for us. After all, the church is the Body of Christ. So, this year we will be reviewing the major systems of the human body and compare those systems to the necessary processes (systems) that can help to make the church healthy. The eleven major systems of the human body are (in the order of review for us): Reproductive, Respiratory, Skeletal, Circulatory, Muscular, Lymphatic/Immune, Nervous, Endocrine, Digestive, Exocrine, and Excretory.

Before we move into our passage for this week, let me share one other picture that will serve as a reminder for us in 2019. The picture is of a bucket filled with water. The phrase “the weakest link” is a common expression meaning that a chain is only as strong as the weakest of the links. The picture of the bucket represents something similar. The bucket can only hold water up the point of the shortest part. Anything more begins to spill out.

Credit for the image to benleney.wordpress.com

Our goal this year as a church should be to strengthen all parts of the bucket, but in doing so, we must make sure that the sides of the bucket are patched, repaired, or whatever else is needed to make the bucket not only stronger, but we must make the sides taller as well. How do we do this? Well, it all begins with Jesus.

Jesus Is the Image of God (Colossians 1.15)

Paul’s words in Colossians 1, beginning in verse 15 are almost certainly part of an early Christian hymn. Scholars have not found evidence if Paul wrote the words originally or if the lyrics were borrowed from the hymn for inclusion here. Ultimately, that does not matter. What does matter is that these words represent a very high view of God, and Jesus.

Specifically, this part of the passage says that Jesus is the image of God. Why is that important for a discussion related to healthy bodies and healthy churches? Because Jesus had a body. John 4 tells us that God is Spirit. But Jesus is God in the flesh. The people alive in the 1st Century saw God living in the flesh when they observed Jesus. And not just any flesh, but human flesh. And not as isolated, but among us. You may know this conceptually, but does it grip you? Of course we just celebrated Christmas – the birth of God as man. But God became man. And Jesus was the man. And thus, Jesus had a body and needed to keep it healthy just as you and I need to keep our bodies healthy.

But as God, He was interested in more than the human body, He was interested in developing a body of people who followed Him and would represent Him through their lives when He departed. Thus, the body of Jesus may not be physically present now, but the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church) is now the image of the invisible God. We are the ones who make God known today.

Michael Lucaszewski says it this way. “The church is the closest representation of Jesus we have on earth. Jesus is invisible and I have never been to heaven. But the church is the body of Christ, and I can see that. When local churches love and serve their community, worship wholeheartedly, and give generously, it’s a very real picture of Jesus.”

So, Jesus is the image of God, and the body of Christ now serves as the image of Jesus.

Jesus Is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1.16-20)

Beginning in verse 16, Paul clearly presents the Son as having authority. Notice the terms Paul used.

  • 16a – Everything was created through Him
  • 16b – Everything was created for Him
  • 17a – Everything comes after Him
  • 17b – Everything is held together in Him
  • 18 – Everything is under Him
  • 19 – The fullness of God is in Him
  • 20 – Creation is reconciled through Him

And in verse 18, we have the term body referring the Church. Thus, the church is a part of everything that is under Him. Of course, our bodies are physiologically beneath our heads, but the Body of Christ should be figuratively under Jesus – as our head.

The term head is used intentionally here as Paul is referring to the church as a body. Why? Because Jesus came in the flesh. Paul has already made this clear in verse 15 – that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Something that is invisible, does not leave a shadow, so it is not that kind of image. Jesus was truly flesh and blood (see verse 22), and the idea of Jesus as the head, and the Church as His body reflects that truth perfectly.

The question is: are we truly the Body of Christ? I don’t mean should we be; I mean are we functioning as His body? Let’s take a few moments to review what we must consider for us to be functioning best.

If Jesus is the head, then we should be developing the mind of Christ (Phil 2.5). That means we should:

  • make disciples – that is, generate new members of the Body of Christ (Reproductive System)
  • teach others to trust and follow Jesus as the head of the Body of Christ (Respiratory System)
  • develop leaders to better support the Body of Christ (Skeletal System)
  • share with others the sacrifice Jesus made for the Body of Christ (Circulatory System)
  • flex our muscles by serving others inside the Body of Christ (Muscular System)
  • create processes to better protect the Body of Christ (Lymphatic/Immune System)
  • show our care by responding to needs of others apart outside the Body of Christ (Nervous System)
  • improve the communication within the Body of Christ (Endocrine System)
  • focus on what we take into ourselves as the Body of Christ (Digestive System)
  • consider how to best care for the facilities used by this Body of Christ (Exocrine System)
  • evaluate and remove harmful or unnecessary components impacting this Body of Christ (Excretory System)

As we begin this year, I see two major problems with the ideas I just shared. First, we have a lot to consider. But we must begin somewhere. If you go to the doctor for a check-up, and you are told to “get healthy” that is too ambiguous to really help. Instead, the doctor might say, “Let’s start with your diet.” Now you have a focus. You still have to choose to do something but you have a starting point. That is what this year is…a starting point towards having a healthier church. And that leads to the second problem.

Second, to become healthy will take all of us. We do have a lot to consider, but what should we put aside? Like the human body everything mentioned above is important. Do we stop making disciples? Do we care for others who are part of His body? Do we stop teaching or serving? Of course not. Why? Because the Head, Jesus, said these aspects are important for the Church He wishes to build. Thus, we need everyone involved. We have reviewed 1 Corinthians 12 a few times over the past several months, and we need to keep the idea of all parts of the body working together fresh in our minds. As I mention a lot, our vision is to be a large church in a small town. Again, in this context “large” refers to the amount of influence we have. I believe that is what our Head, Jesus, wants from us – to influence Fairfax and beyond for His glory. But to do that will require this Body of Christ to be commited to following our leader – the head of the Church, and the head of this Church – Jesus.

Let me give you one more quote before we return to the idea of the bucket.

“I’m convinced that the influence a church has on its community will be determined in large part not by the personality of the pastor, the size of its building or how long the ministry has worked in the community. It will be determined instead by the percentage in the ministry of each member.” – Wayne Cordeiro

In other words, the impact of a church is based upon how active each member of the Body of Christ is. To remind us of that fact, it is likely that quote might surface a few more times during this series. For now, let’s consider the idea of a new year’s resolution once again.

CONCLUSION

I began this post with the thought that many (most?) resolutions have to do with people’s thoughts on feeling better, looking better, etc. But the idea of better is relative and depends upon our perspective. Of course, our perspective is how we think about things and we think with our brain. And our brain is in our head. Thus, it begins with the head.

And the head is Jesus! As the church – the Church – Jesus must be our perspective. With that in mind, have you ever considered the notion that Jesus might have a new year’s resolution? He might have one for you individually, but I am certain He has one for this, and every church.

For Fairfax Baptist Church, I am convinced His goal is for us to be healthier as a church body at the end of 2019 than we are at the beginning of it. That does not mean that we are not healthy in some areas, but it does suggest we need to improve in others. And even where we may be healthier, we should all be able to admit that we all have room to grow – individually and collectively – because we are not yet perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus.

So, let us not forget the bucket, but more importantly let us not forget the Head of all of our ministries, our systems, and everything that makes us a part of His Church.

JOURNEY:

The JOURNEY letter for today is:        JJESUS.

Jesus is the head – plain and simple. We are called to be His body. But it a choice we must make individually and collectively. However, nothing we decide will change the fact that He is the true Head of the Church. And thus, our first letter for the new year is J – for Jesus.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN: In 2019, take time to discover how you best fit into the Body of Christ.

LIVE: In 2019, take time to be an active part of the Body of Christ – perhaps by trying new areas of service, but serving faithfully as He has gifted you.

LOVE: In 2019, take time to love others within the Body of Christ – even if they may be very different from you.

LEAD: In 2019, take time to lead others to find their place within the Body of Christ. It takes a fully healthy body to do all that our true Leader wants us to do.

Bread Crumbs

After nearly three years of posting weekly (or more) on Blogger (ffxbc.blogspot.com), we are moving the Bread Crumbs blog to our website. We believe this will better help us communicate in writing what is taught and shared at Fairfax Baptist Church in Fairfax, Missouri.

Most of the rest of this post remains the same as the first post on our old Blogger account because the purpose of the blog remains the same. However, migrating to WordPress should allow us more options as we move forward.

The posts on this blog will largely be from the pastor but may include the thoughts and reflections of others from time to time. Largely, the content will be an adaptation from a sermon, or other time of teaching, but again, the option exists for other possibilities. The intention is to blog here once weekly after providing some introductory thoughts, and some catch-up posts transitioned from another blog. The pastor, Dr. Andy Braams, also has his own blog which will, at times, provide reflection to the posts made here, and at other times focus on other areas of his life and or ministry, as well as covering aspects of ministry in general. Again, this blog will be exclusive to teachings and other thoughts specifically related to Fairfax Baptist Church.

The idea for the name stems from two important pieces. First, the Bible is often referred to as the Word of God. But other monikers exists as well, and one of thought, as used by one devotional is that the Bible is to be like our food – our daily bread. And wherever bread has been, crumbs are left behind. These crumbs are evidence of something greater that exists (or existed, if already eaten), but whether we cut the bread before we eat it, or slice it into more manageable pieces, crumbs are left behind. Likewise, when we peer into the Bible, whether in deep study, or at a passing glance, we may take part of the meaning with us, but we cannot consume all of it. Thus, what we take is more like a crumb. And a crumb is never enough to sustain us, but enough crumbs may allow us to maintain our strength until we can return for more substance.

The second piece of the puzzle relates to the church’s strategy. Our strategy is built around the idea that we are on a JOURNEY. A set of posts will be added soon to discuss this in more detail, but each of the letters are part of an acrostic that helps guide us in knowing what we need to do. (Our ministry is guided by words with a theme of traveling – we are all on a journey, for instance – which you can find out more about here.) But the journey we travel, or at least one that has been set for us, is marked by the examples of others who are further along the path, by the example of Jesus when He lived among us, and certainly by the written Word of God. Whenever traveling in a new area, it is nice to have known markers to have as a guide in knowing the proper direction to continue. Having someone further along the journey who is willing to leave bread crumbs can help those who come along behind. Of course, true discipleship is walking alongside of another, but we are all following the bread crumbs of someone who has gone before us.

It is acknowledged that bread crumbs are used by many to know how to backtrack out of a situation as well, and while that possibility may be pertinent at certain points on this blog, the primary purposes are the two pieces from each of the preceding paragraphs.

So, welcome to the new blog home of Fairfax Baptist Church. May it encourage you, comfort you, inspire you, and challenge you on your journey through this life. May the bread crumbs left by others guide us to learn to walk with God more faithfully. And may we learn to leave bread crumbs behind so that others will learn to walk more faithfully as well.