Tag Archives: make disciples

How to survive the end of the world – Luke 12:35-59

11 Dec

I’ve written before that I really enjoy the TV show The Walking Dead.  I find it fascinating to see what life might be like in a post-apocalyptic scenario.  Many of us wonder if we would be able to survive without electricity, grocery stores, and indoor plumbing.  How do you think you would do if the end of world came today?  Would you survive?

There have been numerous people in recent years claiming that they know the precise timing of the end of the world. So far they have been wrong every time.  Frankly all these doomsday prophets that I have heard have been Christians.  They say Jesus will return on a certain day.  They should have known better, because Jesus says over and over again that no one knows the day, time or hour of his return.

No one!

If you hear a preacher saying that he heard from the Lord or he figured out secret knowledge in the Bible about when Jesus would return, you have my permission not to believe that preacher. Every time Jesus talks about this, he said that it will be a surprise. So why do people think they can know the timing of Jesus return? Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12:35-59, including some teaching in which I think he gets at why people are so caught up in the signs of the times.  In this parable he also teaches us how to survive the end of the world.

The first principle he illustrates in the parable is that the timing of his return will be a surprise. That means we need to be ready all the time, and not get lazy. He says he will come to us like a thief in the night.  Thieves don’t make appointments with us to rob our homes.

As I mentioned last week, if we can’t know the timing of his return, isn’t it impossible to be ready?  Jesus says it IS possible to be ready.  In a parable he tells of a master who had given his servants much to do, and we can learn from this what we can do to prepare for Jesus’ return. The master had given the servants the great responsibility of caring for the master’s property, possessions and household. We are those servants. We have been given much to do. But what is it that we have been given?

God has entrusted to us the mission of his Kingdom.  Even thought he doesn’t respond, I suspect Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question in verse 41 “Who are you speaking to, Lord?” is probably, “I am speaking to you Peter.” Jesus was going to entrust the mission of his Kingdom to his disciples.   He said to them “make disciples”. He started this mission by investing in their lives. One day he wanted those 12 disciples to continue his mission by making more disciples. That is the mission we still have from Jesus to this day. We are to make disciples. That is the vast privilege that he has entrusted to us.

So let’s review what we learned so far.  What we are to do to get ready for Jesus’ return? We are to advance his Kingdom. We are to make disciples.  We’re not to just talk about making disciples.  We’re actually to do it.  Francis Chan makes this point in the following video:

Some of you might be thinking that being ready for Jesus return is a personal thing. That’s basically the impression I got when I was a kid growing up.  Don’t we just need to believe in him, have our sins forgiven, so when he returns we are saved?

Jesus isn’t talking about an inward readiness here. He is talking about a great gift that we have been given, a gift that is to be used how he wants it to be used. And that gift is salvation, no doubt, but it is not to be kept secret. It is a gift that is to be shared. That’s why I see a connection here to the task of discipleship. We are to make more disciples. How do we make disciples? We look at how Jesus made disciples, and we do what he did.

As Jesus continues teaching, it is what he says in verses 54-56, that is likely why people get so fired up about the signs of times.  Jesus points out that we know if rain is coming just by looking at the skies.  We can see when things are getting bad.

I had lunch with a friend of mine recently who told me seriously, no joke, that he believes America has 10 more years. That’s it. And then the good ole USA is over. He was absolutely serious.  Why would he give this dire prediction? He is watching the signs of the times, and that’s what he thinks.

Should we worry?  Should we be scared?  Are the signs of the times telling us that we are living in the end times?  I choose not to get too worked up about signs of the times. There have been signs of the times all throughout history, and I don’t think our current signs of the times are anything close to what was going on in World War 2. It seems to me that if there ever was a time to say that Jesus was coming soon, that was it. And there were other times that were bad too. Almost 700,000 people died in our own Civil War. Then there was Napoleon. Keep going back in history and you find lots of signs of the times in just about every era.

So what am I saying? That we should stop caring about the wars and earthquakes and trouble? No. I think we need to hear what Jesus is saying. Watch the signs of the times. In fact, those signs of the times should motivate us to get ready like he wants us to be ready.  Then we won’t be surprised when he returns. Instead, when he does return, if it is in our lifetime, we will be the servants who are dressed, waiting, and ready to open the door for their master.

How do we do that? We make disciples, as I mentioned above. Another way Jesus tells us to get ready, in verses 58-59, is to make things right with people.  Be committed to mending relationships.

This is why before communion I always mention this.  Don’t take communion if you know you have a relationship you could fix. Go fix it. But if you have tried and tried and the other person is holding out, God knows, and you are able to take communion.

I recently heard the story of someone who heard these words each time we have communion, and finally they decided to reach out to heal a broken relationship in their life. They took the person out for a meal. That’s awesome!

So you can be ready anytime for Jesus’ return, if you make disciples and heal relationships.

What if we’re totally wrong about what it means to follow Jesus – Part 2

4 Nov

My son walked up to our pantry closet in our kitchen, looking for a snack.  He quickly put his hand over his nose, uttering a muffled “Ugh! What is that smell?”

I looked over at him standing there, and said “What do you mean? Is it the trashcan?”  Our kitchen trash bin is right next to the pantry, which is maybe not the best location.  Because it can get stinky, I thought it must be the source of the smell.

But no, he said, “It smells like poop! And it’s coming from in the pantry!”

I got up from the sofa and went over to check it out.  I caught a whiff of something, which smelled a bit like poop, but not quite either.  It wasn’t strong, so I started to dismiss it in my mind.  I reached down and halfheartedly shifted some boxes on the floor of the pantry, and I didn’t see much beyond some dust.  Admittedly, I was pretty sure the smell wasn’t coming from the trashcan.  And I didn’t really want to deal with whatever was causing the smell.  So I said, “I don’t know.  Let’s not worry about it.”

And with that I put it out of mind, and a few days went by.

A couple days later, I saw my son standing in front of the pantry again with his hand over his nose.  In the ensuing days, I had stuck my nose in there a couple times when I, too, was snacking, and there was definitely an odor.  But it still seemed faint, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I didn’t.

This past Monday morning, though, the odor had become strong.  Michelle pulled out all the boxes and containers on the floor and found a dead mouse caught in a glue trap.  I will confess that I suspected that all along, and did nothing about it.  We had seen mice sneaking around lately, and eventually caught three.  It took hardly any time or effort to vacuum up the remains of a snack bag a mouse had hidden in the back corner to feast on, as well as the accumulated mouse droppings (I guess my son was right about the poop!), and then wash the floor, and put the boxes back.

Why did I wait to deal with the foul smell in my pantry, when it was relatively easy and effortless to resolve?  Have you ever experienced that feeling of not wanting to deal with the junk of life?  Have you ever let it linger?

Last week I introduced Luke 11:14-36 by suggesting that we might be all wrong about how we follow Jesus.  In that section, Jesus casts a demon out of a man, and people in the crowd confront him with two questions: 1. Did he exorcise the demon by Satan’s power?  and 2. Would he show them a sign from heaven?  To give you a little preview of the answers, they are “No” and “No”.  But these answers gave Jesus the opportunity to talk about what it means to follow him.

I find it fascinating what he does not say.  He does not say “Believe in him.”  Clearly, believing in Jesus, trusting in him, is a good thing, but why would he not mention that?  Christians, and especially Evangelicals, have put a lot of emphasis on believing.  Instead, he says that if we are to be his followers, we should have no neutrality about him.  We are either with him, or we are against him.  And when a person in the crowd shouted out “Blessed is your mother!”, Jesus responded with “On the contrary! Blessed are those who hear God’s Word and obey it.”  Jesus is saying that following him will affect our choices, our behavior.  Following him is not just about belief.  Instead his followers will show what they believe by hearing his word and doing what it says.

There are two primary applications of this, the inward and the outward.  Or as Jesus said “Love God and Love your neighbor”.  Inwardly, God wants to enter the smelly closets of our lives and clean them out.  He wants access to our secret thoughts and actions, our perversions, our addictions, to transform them into something far better than we could ever imagine.  As someone has said, we too often hear Jesus knocking at the door, let him in, and just hope we can hang out with him in the living room of our lives.  We know the place is messy, and we’re embarrassed about showing him around.  But he says “I think I smell poop coming from the pantry in your kitchen.”  And we respond “Nah…it’s no big deal.”

That sinful habit, that addiction, that undisciplined mind, that attitude, that complaining spirit…we know they’re in our lives, and we have a halfhearted desire to allow Jesus to clean us up, but we put it off.  Maybe we have become accustomed to the stink, and we don’t smell it anymore.  Maybe we think that it’s not so bad.  Maybe we’re afraid we won’t be able to change, and this is just who we are.  But Jesus says “hear my word and obey.  Either you’re with me, or you’re against me.”

There are also the outward ways we show that we’re with him.  Particularly, he said “Make disciples.”  The primary way we show that we are his disciples is to make more disciples.  But so many of us are not making disciples.  We say that we believe in him, but we do not do the major task he called us to do in his word: “Make disciples”.

So do you need to allow Jesus to clean up that stinky closet in your life?  Do you need to make disciples?  Are you hearing his Word?  Are you obeying what he says? 

When churches don’t make disciples

20 Feb

“If you make disciples, you always get the church.  But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.”

 – Mike Breen

What do you think about that quote?  Is it right?

The first part I think most Christians would agree with.  It’s pretty straightforward.  Disciples are followers of Jesus, and when you have a group of disciples in a community striving together for the mission of God, that’s pretty much the baseline for what we would call a church.  Simplistic, yes.  But for the sake of Breen’s larger point, let’s say that’s a church.

What about his second phrase?  Why would he say that if you make a church, then, you rarely get disciples?

Maybe he is just talking about the physical bricks-and-mortar buildings we call churches.  That could be easy to grasp, because if you erect a church edifice, you might have a meeting place, but there is no guarantee that you’ll get disciples.  But I suspect that while he may be referring to buildings, he is probably referring to more church-y kinds of things as well.

Maybe, then, he is talking about church programs or worship services or paid ministry professionals.  Maybe he is saying that we can create those structures, and we’ll have events and ministries that look and feel a lot like church has looked and felt in recent decades, and even then we might not get disciples.

Is that possible?  Could it be that much of what we call church is not making disciples of Jesus?  How does your church make disciples?

Better yet, how did Jesus make disciples?

make-disciples

This Sunday at Faith Church (there I go talking about a building) during worship (there I go talking about a program), we’re going to look at Luke’s first description of Jesus’ interaction with the men who would become his disciples. He nearly sinks their boat!

You can read ahead in Luke 5:1-11.  I think you’ll find it eye-opening!