Bible Passage: 1 Corintians 9: 19-27
Big Idea: Making Disciples in our Church & Home
Big Idea: In Church & Home we must be Making Disciples (for Jesus)
Point 1: Our Goal is to Win as Many People as Possible
1Cor.9:19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
Point 2: Our Goal is to be as Inclusive to as Many People as Possible
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
Point 3: Our Goal is to Live the Gospel and Preach the Gospel
23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
STEP TO THE RIGHT
(All people) In the Church and in the home
Proclamation of the word of God
The content of the ‘word’ is essentially the plan and promise of God centred on Jesus Christ. This one message about Jesus Christ, in all its dazzling facets, is the message of the Bible. We preach the gospel by teaching and explaining the Bible. The Bible is our authoritative and sufficient source for truly and faithfully knowing the gospel and speaking the gospel. If we believe that the Bible is the powerful word of God, then in many respects what we want to see flourish in our church culture is as many instances as possible of the Bible being spoken, read, studied, preached, explained, taught, discussed, memorized, prayed over and meditated upon.
Prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God
When we speak the word—in whatever context or in whatever manner—we are like the sower of Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:1-9). We cannot control or determine what sort of soil the word falls into. Very often our words seem to bounce off the hard surface of people’s foreheads, or penetrate only very slightly and temporarily into their hearts. But when God’s Spirit is present in our hearers to soften the heart, to open the eyes, and to make the soil fertile, then the words we speak become for our hearer the words of eternal life. Our level of trust in this principle will be demonstrated by our constant dependent prayer for God to give the growth (1 Cor 3:6). Prayerlessness, like Wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.
People are God’s fellow workers
In the new age of the Spirit, all God’s people have their mouths opened to speak God’s word by his Spirit—to one another and to the world. They will do so in different ways, in different contexts, taking up different opportunities, with different levels of gift, and indeed different levels of responsibility (some will be pastors and teachers). Love is the new commandment that Christ-learners are learning. Love compels us to persevere in laying down our lives and suffering whatever may come, for the sake of seeing people come to Christ and learn Christ.
Persevering, step by step
Christ-learners are ‘made’ patiently and perseveringly over time. We can’t push people to the right if they aren’t ready to move. Although we’ll urge and exhort people with urgency as appropriate, we have to be content with God’s timing as he works in them. And we also need to accept that God often moves people to the right a little bit at a time, rather than in massive leaps and bounds. But the advantage of seeing it as a lot of small steps is that some of those steps seem more achievable for us. If the goal of Christian ministry can be envisaged simply as helping any individual person we know to take one little step to the right (towards Christ or towards maturity in Christ), then this is a task that each and every Christian can embrace with confidence. If we call upon the average church member to take up arms as a gospel minister or a disciple-maker or an evangelist, then (rightly or wrongly) many will feel sufficiently threatened to run in the opposite direction. But what if we were to say the following instead: “Why don’t you pray for the person next to you (wherever that might be), and see if by your word and example you can encourage them to take one step—even one small step—to the right?”
Big Idea: In Church & Home we must be Making Disciples of Jesus
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those joining us online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are concluding our Making Disciples – Sermon Series. Next Sunday our Eternity Mission week begins and I’m hoping you now understand a little of the why, the what and the how of making disciples. So I’m going to pray and….
Well what is it that our church is meant to do? What is our job? We know that BAKERS make bread and CARPENTERS build houses. MECHANICS fix cars and doctors fix people (sort of). But what do Christians do? What do churches do? I’m hoping that you might all say; MAKE DISCIPLES FOR JESUS. If we are single – that is our God given task. If we are parents – that is especially our task. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all peoples baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything he commanded. This is our task.
But like much of life its very easy to lose sight of our task. It has been said that when everything becomes a priority in life, nothing is a priority. It’s true. Christian author Charles Hummel once said “Our greatest danger in life is letting the urgent crowd out the truly important.” Yet, how often does this happen? Life is full of choices and all too often we sacrifice the holy to pursue the ordinary. The same is true in churches. There are many good things a church can do. We can feed THE POOR. But that is not our purpose or goal. Each year we can also BALANCE THE BOOKS and have this wonderful thing called an ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING. But believe it or not – that is not our purpose either. The church is meant to be 1) a house of prayer and 2) a place of worship; 3) a spiritual family and 4) the salt of the earth. But all these things are about WHO WE ARE, not WHAT WE DO. At present – THE MOST URGENT thing appears to be fixing this building. But restoring an old heritage building and keeping the roof up – is little more than a means to an end.
WHAT WE DO – is make disciples for Jesus. Jesus died for people, not buildings or AGM’s or denominational rules. So our task is always helping people to trust in Jesus as Savior and obey him as Lord. This is our God given task. 1) So why do we give out food on Friday nights? (Pause) Well, partially it’s a good thing to do. But ultimately, its helping us build relationships with people so that we can share the good news of Jesus with them. 2) Why do we balance our books each year and hold AGM’s? Well, mainly because it’s necessary for us to stay in the business of making disciples. All that we do as a church is slanted towards making disciples for Jesus – and today I want to explain that most disciple making takes place on the fringes of the church and on the fringes of the home.
Point 1: Our Goal is to Win as Many People for Jesus (as Possible)
Show: 1Cor.9:19 (READ)
Explain: Now Paul is not talking about WINNING friends for himself. Nor is he talking about WINNING APPLIANCES on Dank St. Paul is talking about winning people for Jesus by sharing the gospel. Look at verse 16 (READ; 1Cor.9:16). Notice Paul feels compelled to preach the gospel. Indeed, he is concerned for his own spiritual safety if he doesn’t. He says “woe is me, if I do not share the gospel.”
Now THE GOSPEL is simply the good news of Jesus. Jesus died for our sins. He took the punishment for everything we’ve done wrong – when he died on the cross. So God says; “if we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins and ask God for forgiveness – we will get a free pass to heaven.” Doesn’t matter what you’ve done. God will forgive you and come into your life by the Holy Spirit if you trust in Jesus. Now of course this is an important, life changing message. If you don’t yet understand Jesus dying for you talk to me after the service because your soul is in danger.
But I want you to remember that the Apostle Paul was not with the 11 disciples when Jesus gave them the great commission to make disciples. And if you read Acts 9 – which talks about Paul’s Christian conversion – Jesus never says to Paul go and win as many people as possible. Nowhere is Paul personally commanded to make disciples. I think Paul is compelled to make disciples, based primarily on the command to love our neighbor (cf.Rom.13:8) Remember, Jesus told us all; – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now think about it. If your neighbor is not a Christian and they’re facing God’s wrath and judgment (and yet you know how they can be saved and avoid hell) what does basic love compel you to do? (PAUSE). If you have the words of eternal life (and yet you fail to share them) because you’re are too BUSY, or too LAZY or too AFRAID – what does it say about your love or concern for others? (PAUSE)
Paul is compelled by love to share the gospel AND so he strives to win as many people as possible for Jesus. But is that goal even on your radar? Are you trying to win people for Jesus? Which people in your life are you trying to win for Jesus?
Let me remind you what we’ve seen in this SERMON SERIES so far (Slide 1). The reasons we make disciples are 1) first the great commission and 2) second eternity. If we know how people can avoid hell and go to heaven – then love demands that we share the good news with them. (ENTER) Second, the what “of making disciples” is LEARNERS and SERVANTS. A Christian disciple is first of all a student of Jesus and second a servant of Jesus. (Now all students must trust their teachers if they are going to learn from them). So, making disciples involves convincing people that Jesus is trustworthy and worth listening to as a teacher. Then, if we want to see people become servants of Jesus – they need to fall in love with Jesus (primarily by understanding what Jesus did for them on the cross). 1) We learn from Jesusbecause we trust Jesus as Lord and 2) we then serve Jesus because we love Jesus as Saviour.
Now third (ENTER), the HOW of making disciples is by initially 1) teaching and baptizing people. This means people need a basic understanding of WHO Jesus is, WHAT he did on the cross and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Those who really trust Jesus for the first time – then get baptized. But TIM BRAKE also explained that underlying all disciple making is 4P’s. WHETHER A) it is leading someone to Jesus for the first time OR B) helping a younger Christian grow as a disciple there needs to be: 1) some form of proclamation of God’s Word, 2) prayer for God’s help, 3) directed at real people, 4) with perseverance (or let me say patience). Tim explained all this last week, especially focusing on the importance of God’s Word and prayer.
Illustrate: Now there is a silly quote that sometimes gets around the church which says; (Slide 2); “proclaim the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Sometimes people attribute this statement to the famous Catholic priest FRANCIS OF ASSISI, although there is zero evidence he ever said it. But nonetheless some Christians then to say; “Look, I share the good news of Jesus through my actions, other people share Jesus with words. But at the end of the day, I think actions are more important.”
Apply: WRONG! It should not be either-or, it should be both-and. The first P – proclaiming means teaching, explaining and applying part of the Bible to the person you are discipling. Making disciples always requires words. You can’t really show people the good news of Jesus WITH YOUR ACTIONS – unless you nail yourself to a cross for their sins and somehow manage to rise three days later. (Let me suggest you don’t try to act this one out). The gospel (and indeed most Bible passages in the Bible) need to be EXPLAINED IN WORDS if we want people to trust, love and obey Jesus. Now initially that may involve 1) inviting someone to church to hear a sermon, or 2) inviting them to Christianity Explored. It may mean 3) getting together with someone to read the Bible one one one. (There needs to be a hearing of God’s Word). But making disciples will always require four things; 1) some form of explaining God’s Word, 2) real prayer for the person you a discipling, 3) a real person you are discipling and then lots of perseverance and patience.
BUT TODAY, (Slide 4) I want to add that where disciple making most naturally happens is in the church and in the home. Making disciples generally happens in Christian community…
Point 2: Our Goal is to be as Inclusive to as Many People as Possible (….)
Show: 1Cor.9:19-23 (READ)
Explain: Well these are RADICAL WORDS. As a Jew, brought up with kosher food laws – Paul would never have gone into a non-Jewish home, and he would never have allowed a non-Jewish person into his home. The idea was that Gentiles were unclean AND they might contaminate you. So the Jewish community became a somewhat closed community. AND sadly many churches today also become somewhat closed communities. That is many churches are not very friendly to people who come from a different culture or background or demographic.
But Paul is saying the priority of the gospel means he is willing to engage with people well outside his comfort zone – for the sake of making disciples. Paul’s goal is to win as many people for Jesus as possible. So he tries to relate and befriend as many different people as possible. Paul was willing to hang out with hipsters to win hipsters. Paul would have happily hung out with traditional aboriginals in order to win aboriginals. And in Corinth we know Paul even hung out with homosexuals and male prostitutes and idolaters and drunkards in order to win them to Jesus. Now truly, I find it hardest to imagine Paul as a hipster. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul with 1) a man bun, 2) groomed beard, 3) a 60’s bicycle, 4) skinny jeans, 5) sipping latte (and discussing his latest stock trade) on Robinhood? (Slide 5) The question is – what are you willing to do for the sake of making disciples?
PAUL WAS WILLING to do just about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to win people for Jesus and the only limit he puts on himself was the law of Christ. Look again at verse 21 (READ).What Paul is saying is that (even as a Jew) he was willing to eat non-kosher food and go into non-kosher places and even hang out with sinners – so long as he didn’t start breaking the laws of Christ (in the process). Paul would go this far…, but he wouldn’t break the commands of Jesus. To all the youngsters – that means “no missionary dating…” Dating a non-Christian is NOT a good way to make disciples. But there is still a lot we can do…
Illustrate: FOR EXAMPLE; I would be willing to go to a pub to win drunkards for Christ, but I’m not going to get drunk with them (to win them for Christ). I might even be willing to go to the Mardi Gras to win gay and lesbian people for Christ. But I’m not going to set up a float, dress up or join them in their revelry to win them for Christ – because that would be a step too far. ANOTHER EXAMPLE may be brothels and prosititutes. You may think Christians should avoid brothels like the plague. But we need to remember that our missionary Viorica is doing a really valuable ministry by regularly going into brothels and talking to prostitutes. And for her own safety she often needs to take Christian men with her…
Apply: Now obviously – this takes wisdom and it also requires us knowing our own weaknesses and temptations. If you are a recovering alcoholic going into A PUB to win people for Jesus is probably plain stupid. So don’t be dumb.
But more importantly we need not so much to go into other people’s worlds, as to invite them into our world. These days people often want to TRY, before they BUY. They want to see what Christianity is LIKE and what it INVOLVES before they fully commit themselves. (If you did a check on all the people who have become Christians in our church over the last 5 years – you’d find that most of them spent a fair bit of time in and around the fringes of our church OR around some Christian before they finally made a decision). That’s how discipleship usually happens. As people come alongside us – (as individuals and as a church) – they begin to hear about Jesus and they get to see Christianity up close – warts and all. A) The church and B) the Christian home are the two places where people really get to try, before they buy. As we invite non-Christians into our church and into our home they get to taste and see what Christianity is like before they have to commit. Of course, if you’re a mature Christian your home should also be a place where God’s Word is discussed, prayer is natural, people are shown hospitality and you persevere in godliness. Your house should be as obviously Christian, as the church.
So as you invite people into your home and into your life (whether a non-Christian or younger Christian) they should be able to see how God’s Word is shaping your life and your decisions. REMEMBER Jesus didn’t just tell people what to do. He invited people to come alongside him, journey with him, do life with him and see how he applied God’s Word to his life. And the two contexts where God’s Word (and life under God’s Word) should be most evident is in the church and in the Christian home.
So, we need to invite people into these contexts – show them hospitality, make them feel welcome and where they can hear God’s Word. (Now I tell you – two people who are brilliant at this in our church are George and Maria Stephenson). They always invite non-Christiansinto their home. They put on a wonderful meal. They intentionally have Christian music playing in the background. They pray before the meal and George always turns the conversation to Jesus at some point. (Now I know Stephenson’s have an unfair advantage when it comes to hospitality – they’re Greek). But sharing life and sharing hospitality is where real disciple making usually takes place. REAL DISCIPLESHIP (whether to non-Christians or younger Christians) always involves sharing life to some extent with another person, just as Jesus shared his life with the 12 disciples.
And that is what many of our events are like in Mission Week. They are simply opportunities to share our Christian message, Christian life and Christian community with our non-Christian friends. Opportunties for people to come and hear a little bit about Jesus and see what Christianity looks like up close…
Point 3: Our Goal is then to Live the Gospel, that we Preach
Show: 1Cor.9:24-27 (READ)
Explain: Well, these verses are often taken out of context. But in context – Paul has been talking about the importance of making disciples. So the PRIZE Paul is actually running for – is new Christians. What he is TRAINING himself to do is make disciples. Even the CROWN that Paul hopes to get is the joy of new converts. (In 1 Thessalonians 4 – Paul says the Thessalonian Christians are his joy and his crown because he led them to Jesus). And when Paul tells usA) NOT to run aimlessly or B) fight like a man who is beating the air – he is still telling us to keep our eyes on our main objective. Paul has been clear – our main objective is to win as many people for Jesus as possible.
But Paul finishes in verse 27 with almost THE EXACT OPPOSITE of the so-called Francis of Assisi quote He says; “no I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Paul is saying he is committed to proclaiming the gospel at all times in words and in deeds. If we are going to share the gospel with others, we need to make sure we are living out the gospel ourself. If we are going to invite people to come into our lives and try before they buy – we need to make sure there is no hypocrisy between what we say and how we live. NOTHING IS A BIGGER TURN-OFF to non-Christians or young Christians than hypocrisy. So Paul says, “yes I’m proclaiming the gospel with all my might, but I’m also committed to living out the gospel in a faithful God honoring way. 1 Corinthians 10 is basically an exhortation not to be hypocrites like the Jews who died in the desert.
Apply: If we are going to adopt the try before you buy approach of making disciples (and I think we should) then we need to be authentic, genuine Christians – who practice what we preach. If people are going to come alongside us in our church and in our homes – to hear about Jesus and see what it looks like in practice – then we need to be the real deal.
Of course, none of us are perfect because we are still sinners trying to follow Jesus. But if we invite people to come and try before they buy – then there needs to be a genuineness to our faith – otherwise people will run a million miles. But I think we are ready.
I want you to be your friendly selves over Mission Week. Welcome all the college students as best you can. Thank them for helping us AND if you see anyone during Mission Week that you don’t know (at church or one of the events) introduce yourself, be friendly and welcome them. (Our Christian faith is on display and people are trying before they buy-in). Please also come to the events. They’re going to be good and they are real opportunities for us to share our faith (in less formal contexts than church). So this week get some courage and invite someone to church; a husband, a wife, children, grandchildren, work colleagues, neighbors etc… And finally if you are sitting at home – (watching this on youtube) – let me say it’s time to get back to church and join us during mission week. Church is not meant to be a show we watch on youtube each week – church is meant to be a community that we love and a community in which we serve to make disciples for Jesus. So let’s pray and let’s take some steps of faith this week to invite some people to one of the events.
 We’ll talk more about this in study 6. See also Lionel Windsor’s excellent little book Gospel Speech (Matthias Media, Sydney, 2015).