Imagine the frustration of an eagle trying to swim or a dolphin longing to fly. Each and every creature of our God and King is designed for a unique purpose. Do you know why He created you? Have you received your calling? In the final encounter in John’s Gospel Jesus reminds and clarifies His calling for two men. In so doing, it’s as if He is saying to all, “Come and get clear on your unique purpose.”
After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the disciples, but Thomas was absent for this momentous event. He requested to see the physical body of the risen Jesus in order to believe, but his greater question wasn’t about receiving physical proof, it was about whether or not Jesus is God. He asked the same question that we and others have asked of Jesus for the last couple millennia: who are You to me? The answer: He is our Lord and God.
Throughout history the word used to describe those who worship and center their lives on Jesus is disciple. The New Testament describes Christ followers as disciples over 270 times. The mission Jesus left to His church is to, “make disciples of all nations.” So, what is a disciple? In this 3-week series you will discover Jesus’ 3-fold description of a disciple according to Matthew 4:19. If you long to honor Jesus, live with Jesus and ultimately join Jesus in His mission on earth, this messages will guide you whether you or not you would presently describe yourself as a disciple of Jesus.
Just as a wildlife biologist exercises appropriate authority in the wilderness for the flourishing of an ecosystem and the enjoyment of it by people, the Apostle Paul exercises spirit-led authority in the epicenter of the “gentile wilderness” for people to flourish with the living water of Christ Jesus like never before. Paul exhibits clear vision, persistence, and responsiveness in developing a team that’s focused, firmly grounded, equipped, and ready to begin a dramatic movement. It’s empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself. When servants of King Jesus capture the opportunities presented to them by the Spirit of the Living God, they exercise authority for a flourishing movement, even (especially!) in the midst of the wilderness. What wilderness are you called into, today?
If you identify as a follower of Jesus (a disciple) do you find yourself growing in a loving and joyful spiritual union with Him? Are you experiencing more of His love, joy, peace and self-control? Are you delighting more in God and trespassing away from Him less? Are you having an expanded capacity to serve others with the gifts God has given you? If so, praise God! If not, this message is a serious invitation to reflect on how your journey of faith in Jesus began. Contractors, engineers and Jesus agree on this – foundations matter. In Acts 19:1-7 we meet 12 men who revisited the foundation of their faith and discovered a significant void in their understanding of Jesus and His Holy Spirit. After filling in this gap these men believed what they were taught, were blessed by God with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and given a fresh opportunity to begin well in their life with Christ. It will be worthwhile for many today, who consider themselves Christians but lack the fruit listed above, to do the same.
Paul continues his 2nd missionary journey, and travels to Athens, the birthplace of modern western thought and democracy. In a proud city of extraordinary architecture, art, and culture – one designed to display its great history, people, and ideas, Paul becomes “greatly distressed” by what he observes – in a way reminiscent of God himself, whenever God-given artistry and ability is not attributed and celebrated as grace and gifts from him alone. Since Paul has been transformed by Jesus himself, he is able to deeply understand Athens, and at the same time love Athens with the love of Jesus himself. In so doing, he gives us a clear example of how to engage in our highly nuanced, pluralist culture… blank Starbucks holiday cups and all.
Sometimes we all get stuck – stuck in traffic and stuck in unhealthy reoccurring thoughts, attitudes and habits. Like the struggling prey of a python, our unsuccessful attempts toward liberation can lead us to despair. In the Apostle Paul’s first visit to the ancient Macedonian city of Philippi, we meet a young girl, a business woman and a law enforcement officer who all find themselves entrapped. The good news for them is great news for us – our stuck-ness need not remain. True deliverance beyond tolerable recovery is available because a loving and infinitely powerful Deliverer is at hand.
Have you noticed how often a difficulty arises once you take a step to faithfully do what God wants you to do? In our passage today, strong opposition came against God’s people when king Herod killed James and captured Peter to kill him as well. If you desire to see God break through like only He can do this message will encourage you to anticipate opposition, pray to our King and know with certainty that He will deliver you in His time according to His plan for His glory and your amazement.
You can sometimes tell a lot about a person, from the way they die. Stephen, the “Jesus is Lord” movement’s first martyr, is one of those cases. The narrative of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7 gives us great insight into someone spiritually mature – someone described as “full of grace and power,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and wise beyond his peers. So how is it possible that someone like that would drive the leaders of a nation into a mob frenzy that ends up killing him? The answer is a surprising one: because God was looking for someone to deliver a strong message to his leaders (“your God is too small!”), and in so doing plant the seed of a disciple-making movement beyond the understanding of anyone else living at that time.
There are two ways to live life. We can live with God, love one another, love our neighbors and serve according to our divine purpose with joy and peace even in the midst of opposition. Or, we can live with jealousy, fear and anger while still considering ourselves religious. In our message today these two ways are contrasted in the lives of the apostle Peter and the high priest Caiaphas. Why was Peter able to serve with love and joy even when thrown in prison and beaten? The answer to this question is revealed in Peter’s words to Caiaphas. It is also the secret for living the life God created for us today.