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Becoming Jesus


Becoming Jesus’ Disciple #7

"Sharing the Good News"

Acts 1:8

Introduction:

Last December thousands of young adult Christians gathered in Urbana, Illinois. Many shared their faith stories including a college student named Keith Greenberg from New Jersey. He grew up in a non-Christian religion, following the traditions and practices of his family for generations. One day Daniel, a classmate of his, talked to him about Jesus Christ and asked him to consider becoming a Christian. Keith said he didn’t need or want Jesus and that he was offended by Daniel’s approach. He was so offended that he didn’t speak to Daniel for an entire year.

One night after a high school basketball game, Keith instigated a parking lot fight that led to a serious injury of another student. Keith was in serious trouble and scared. He was expelled from school in his senior year. He felt like his life, future college education, family relationships and everything else were crumbling around him. He didn’t know where to turn or what to do—so he called Daniel. Through all his insistence that he was offended, somehow he knew that his classmate cared and had something special to offer. That night they went to a church service together and Keith Greenberg became a Christian.

When he told the story, he introduced his parents to the thousands of cheering students in Urbana—his parents have also become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Talking about Jesus and recruiting others to believe has always been basic to becoming Jesus’ disciple. One of Jesus’ first followers was a man named Andrew.
John 1:41-42
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas"(which, when translated, is Peter).
Andrew recruited Peter who became one of the most famous early leaders of Christianity. St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and St. Peter, Minnesota, are both named after him.

Because Christian faith can’t be inherited, Christianity is always one generation away from extinction. There are Christians today because previous generations shared their faith. There will be Christians in the future because we share our faith. That’s the way Jesus planned to win the world—one at a time with Christians telling non-Christians about Jesus.

Here’s what Jesus said to Christians of every generation:
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Disciples make disciples—that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The purpose of Wooddale Church comes straight out of this teaching of Jesus: "The purpose of Wooddale Church is to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ."

Here’s how we do it. First of all, we need to understand that every Christian is a witness.

I. Every Christian is a witness

The very last words Jesus spoke on earth before he zoomed back to heaven are recorded in Acts 1:8. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

These final words of Jesus need a little explanation.
¨ Jesus promised that when he returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit would come from heaven to earth to live inside and empower every Christian. The Holy Spirit is God—just as much God as God the Father and God the Son. Jesus had his own body but the Spirit lives in our bodies. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the Holy spirit lives inside of you. God lives inside of you. He gives to you all the power you need to live the Christian life the way Jesus wants you to live.
¨ Jesus declared that every Christian would be a witness for him. We would become his agents to get out his message and help others to become Christians—to believe, to be born again, to join-up in the kingdom and cause of Jesus.
¨ Jesus expected us to do this everywhere—starting out from home and moving in concentric circles around the world. For the first Christians, home was in Jerusalem. The area around Jerusalem was called Judea. The next province over was named Samaria and from there it was on to the rest of the world. This was not to be done one stage at a time but simultaneously—Christians were to witness wherever they went and they were to send out some Christians to people and places where they would not have otherwise gone.
¨ Jesus’ plan has been amazingly successful. Christians are almost everywhere in the world. The desire of Jesus to have believers in every nation, ethnic group and language is near fulfillment—probably in this generation. The church of Jesus Christ has never been larger, stronger or faster-growing than it is today.
¨ Acts 1:8
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Let’s move the discussion from the first century to the twenty-first century and from everybody to us as individual disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple is to be a witness. Every Christian is a witness for Jesus.
¨ Perhaps some of us think: "Not me! I’m really not into this witness business. I don’t feel comfortable talking to people about religion and certainly not trying to persuade someone to convert. So, don’t count me on the witness list."
¨ Jesus didn’t say, "You may be my witnesses—if you want to." Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses." Everyone who is a Christian is a witness. That’s who we are. That’s what a Christian does. We may be good witnesses or bad witnesses. We may be effective witnesses or ineffective witnesses, but we are witnesses.
¨ Sunday afternoon (March 4, 2001) Charleen and I are flying to India. In order to go we need our passports and a tourist visa. From the moment we enter the country it is obvious that we are Americans. It’s not about whether I want to be an American in India or not, that’s who I am. I can embarrass my country or I can enhance my country’s reputation but I am an American either way.
¨ Everywhere we go we are Christians; we are disciples of Jesus Christ. At home, at work, driving down the Interstate, in America or overseas, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. We witness to what a Christians believes and does. Those who are not Christians listen to our language, observe our morals, check-out what we believe and how we behave. We are witnesses.

Remember what a witness does. In a courtroom, a boardroom, a classroom or a living room—a witness tells what she or he has experienced. We give the powerful testimony of transformed lives through Jesus Christ.

As witnesses we show and tell others about ourselves. We tell about how we decided to believe in Jesus. We tell about the difference he has made in our lives. We tell about our struggles and doubts. We tell about our miracles and victories and answered prayers. We don’t have to be evangelists or theologians—just witnesses who tell about our personal experience with Jesus Christ. You may not know all the Bible verses or have answers to the toughest questions but you are an authority on your own experience. Just tell what has happened to you—you will be amazed at the transforming impact of your personal faith story.

Every Christian is a witness. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are a witness. Every day in every way that is appropriate, tell others about Jesus Christ and the difference he has made in your life.

II. Keep the message clear

In your witness, try to keep the message clear. Watch out for people realizing that there is something special in your life but never finding out that what is special is Jesus.

I have a friend who was greatly overweight. Her health as well as her appearance were increasingly impacted by all those extra pounds. I didn’t see her for a year or two and then we ran into each other one day. She wasn’t overweight at all. She looked very different. I said, "It’s great to see you. You look great." We talked for a while. Then she said, "Do you remember how big I was?" Well, yeah, I remembered but I really didn’t know what to say so I didn’t ask.

But she was very pleased by the change and wanted to tell me what happened. She had major surgery. Her employer’s insurance carrier wouldn’t pay for it so she and her husband had paid the money themselves at significant sacrifice. Her life was changed and she wanted me to know what had happened.

The same goes for the changes brought by faith in Jesus Christ. Others can see them but don’t always ask. Unless we speak up, they’ll never know. As Christians who have been transformed by Jesus, we want them hear. It’s important for us to make the message clear.

Here is the clear simple message:
¨ God loves us and wants to make us into the very best we can be.
¨ God sent his Son (Jesus) to earth. Jesus showed us how to live. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sin. Jesus rose from the dead to guarantee a place for us in heaven.
¨ God offers us the gift of eternal life. He invites us to accept this gift by believing what the Bible says about Jesus, accepting Jesus as our Savior from sin and committing to follow Jesus as our Leader for the rest of our lives.

As disciples, we tell others that we did this and it worked for us. We encourage others to do the same.

The rest is up to them and to God. God persuades, not us. They decide for themselves. Our privilege is to tell, to encourage, to give support. But, the final transaction is between each individual and God. Some become Christians right away. Some take years to decide.

It is one of the greatest joys to a disciple’s life to share the good news of Jesus and to see someone become a Christian.

Keep the message clear.

III. Use the team approach

And . . . use a team approach. One of the greatest benefits of being a Christian is that we are in this together. As Christians, we worship together, we celebrate together, we pray together, we give together, we learn together, we serve together, we suffer together and we evangelize together.

Some people are natural salespersons. I’m not. When I was growing up there were school projects where we were supposed to sell things to neighbors, family and friends. There were times when my mother was my only successful sale. I was scared walking up to a stranger’s door. My opening line was probably, "You don’t want to buy this, do you?"

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the product or that I didn’t want to make a sale. It’s just that I don’t do well alone. I need the support, encouragement and help of others.

It’s the same way with recruiting more disciples for Jesus. Most of us do much better as part of a team.
¨
One Christian makes friends with a neighbor who is not a believer.
¨ Another Christian meets that neighbor at a summer pool party.
¨ Another Christian prays for the non-Christian neighbor and recruits her small
group at church to pray as well.
¨ Another Christian meets the neighbor at work and invites him and his wife to a
Bible study.
¨ Another Christian at the Bible study invites the couple to join a co-ed softball
team.
¨ Another Christian on the team invites them to church.
¨ Another Christian at church takes them out for dinner and talks about becoming a
Christian.
¨ Another Christian from the same church helps them out in a family crisis.
¨ After two years of friendships, prayers, conversations, crises and victories---the
neighbors come to personal faith in Jesus Christ and join the team of disciples.
¨ It was a team approach—every Christian doing his or her part to share the gospel,
live the witness and win the unbeliever to Jesus Christ.

This past week:
¨
A woman told me about putting up a poster in her apartment building inviting people to the Wooddale Church Lenten series.
¨ A man told me about three people he had led to faith in Christ and his prayers for seven more.
¨ A mother told me about bringing her neighbor friends to church.
¨ A Wooddaler shared with me a letter to a family member explaining the gospel.
¨ An e-mail from a mom who explained to her son’s friend how to be sure of going to heaven when he dies.
¨ A prayer request for a family member recently diagnosed with terminal cancer—
not so much for a cure but to come to personal saving faith in Jesus.
¨ Story after story. Day after day. All Christians on the team—sharing the
transforming Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you’re part of the team. Don’t drop the ball. Share your faith. Do it in ways that fit you and your style. But do it. Be a witness for Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

For seven weeks we have talked and dreamed and prayed and committed to become Jesus’ disciples. Today this series ends but discipleship goes on.

Here is the challenge:
¨
Affirm your personal faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord
¨ Read the Bible regularly
¨ Pray daily
¨ Worship weekly with other Christians
¨ Serve others
¨ Give faithfully and generously
¨ Share the good new of Jesus Christ

Is it your heart’s desire to become a disciple of Jesus? Will you strive to live out these seven commitments? I invite you to commit to God and remember today’s date.

Congratulations—you are a disciple of Jesus Christ!

March 3-4, 2001 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2001



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