South Sydney Anglican Church
28 February 2021

Making disciples is both Punctilear and Linear

Speaker: Matt Johnson

Bible Passage: Matthew 28: 16-20

Big Idea:       Making Disciples is both Punctilear and Linear

Matt.28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 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.”

Point 1:          People need to hear the Jesus story and make a Decision

Point 2:          People need to accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord

Point 3:          People need to be baptized into the Trinitarian Faith

Big Idea:       Making Christian Disciples is both Punctilear and Linear

Intro:              Well morning friends, visitors and those joining us online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue to think about making disciples for Jesus. Jesus commanded the church to make disciples. But today I want to explain that making disciples has both a PUNCTILEAR aspect and a LINEAR aspect. Making disciples is about both 1) the initial step of faith (in time), and 2) the million and one subsequent steps of faith (over time). We are interested in both…

PRAYER:

Well when you think about a person becoming a Christian what do you imagine? (SLIDE 1). Perhaps for you – you think a person becomes a Christian the moment they say a sinners prayer. (SLIDE 2) Perhaps for you, a person becomes a true disciple of Jesus when they get baptized (SLIDE 3). When did you become a Christian?

Now whether you can put your finger on that exact point in your own life may be difficult, especially if you’ve been raised in a Christian home. It may feel like you were always a Christian. But we need to understand that for all of us (whether conscious or subconscious) – there was a point where we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord. This is the punctiliar aspect of becoming a Christian. PUNCTILEAR means a specific point in time. LINEAR means progressing through a series of stages over time. And becoming a disciple of Jesus is both punctiliar and linear. (SLIDE 4) You become a disciple of Jesus and you never stop becoming a disciple of Jesus.

Now a CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY is basically an explanation of how you first became a disciple. Your testimony focuses on the punctiliar aspect of becoming a Christian. KERRY SALT: I know of a man that had a very traumatic childhood. He had a tiny bit of Sunday School as a kid. But sadly, his father killed his mother while he was still young. These events left scars.

But he was very smart and he got first an engineering degree and then a law degree. He also set up an IT company which did very well. By mid 40’s he owned outright A) two houses in Surry Hills, B) two houses in Redfern, C) several houses in the western suburbs and a couple of hundred acres in Tasmania. But then, in his early 50’s he had a complete emotional breakdown and he ended up homeless. He still owned all his houses. But he lost interest in money and lived on the streets. Then, one cold night he walked into a prayer meeting in the Baptist church on George St – heard a short gospel talk about Jesus and he listened to them singing. (Sadly, I can’t remember what the hymn was). But he said that the words of the songwere the most beautiful words he’d ever heard. The next day he came back to the church – spoke with the pastor and decided to become a Christian.

Every Christian has a story about how they became Christian. No one is really born a Christian. It all comes down to a decision – will I trust Jesus with my life or not.

Point 1:         People need to hear the Jesus Story and make a Decision

Show:                        Matt.28:18-20 (READ)

Explain:        Well here Jesus says that we make disciples by baptising and by teaching. A) Baptizing points to the punctiliar aspect of becoming a Christian and B) teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded points to the linear aspect of becoming a Christian. There is a point – where you become a Christian and get baptized. This marks the initial BIG decision. Then there is a lifelong process of obeying more and more of what Jesus teaches which involves a whole series of LITTLE decisions. (Making disciples involves both the initial decision and the subsequent decisions). But what I want us to think about today is WHAT WE NEED TO DO in order to get generally cynical, Sydneysiders to make that first big decision for Jesus where they agree to get baptised. Like I said a few weeks ago; “Baptizing people is NOT as easy as going to the pool in Ward Park, jumping on people and while we hold them under the water saying, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.” No! Generally we need to get people to agree.

Now I’m not going to talk today about INFANT CHRISTENINGS. I’ve shared with you my views on infant christenings before AND I’m not really in favor of that practice. As I understand it 1) baptism and 2) the Lords Supper are sacraments of the church given to people who have faith. Even our own Anglican Articles say that sacraments are given to quicken, strengthen and confirm our faith in God. So for that (and other biblical reasons) I believe faith is meant to be present in people before they are given sacraments. Now if you disagree with me (and believe in infant baptism) I’m not going to argue with you. I think this is an area where Christians can agree to disagree. But generally speaking all Christians agree that baptism with water is part of becoming a Christian.

Sadly, in recent years some radicals (in Sydney) have tried to say that Jesus’ command to baptize people is a command to baptise people with the Holy Spirit, not water. They say you don’t need water baptism to be a Christian. All you need is Holy Spirit baptism. But the wordNEED” is misleading. All you “need” to be saved is faith in Jesus  your Saviour and Lord. But I’d still say a Bible, a good church, prayer and baptism will be helpful for you as a Christian. Even after Pentecost (and the giving of the Holy Spirit) the early church continued to practice water-baptism when people became Christians – and we should too….

But the question is – how do we CONVINCE rational, autonomous and generally cyncial people to submit themselves to this super-weird Christian ritual called baptism.

Illustrate:      Just think about it. If I was to try to convince you to go BUNJEE jumping or SKYDIVING for the first time – you’d probably have a few questions. Tell me again why I’m doing this… I mean who in their right mind jumps off a perfectly good bridge with elastic bands tied around their ankles. OR out of a good plane with a bed sheet tied to their back. Truly, it doesn’t matter how much you tell me it will be great and don’t worry – I’m still going to have some questions.

 Apply:            The same is true of baptism. If we want people to get baptized they’re going to need to know 1) a bit about Jesus – the one telling them to get baptized? They will also need 2) to know a bit about God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in whose name they will be baptized in. Baptism is a response to Jesus and the Trinitarian God, so if people are going to get baptized they need to know about Jesus and the Trinitarian God.

Now in the history of the church – the way we present Jesus and the Trinitarian God to people has been diverse. The most common way has probably been through Christian sermons. Someone talks about Jesus and then they tell people they need to believe, repent and get baptized.

Then, after weighing the evidence about Jesus some people believe and they agree to get baptized. At other points in history simply putting A BIBLE in people’s hands has been enough. Stacks of people have become Christians simply because Gideons put Bibles into hotels and hospitals. People have then read the Bible for themselves – worked out what Jesus was saying and decided to become Christians. BUT WHATEVER THE METHOD – people need to hear about WHO Jesus is, WHAT he did for them and HOW they should respond in faith, repentance and baptism? This then leads to the first big decision – will I trust and obey?

Now like I said there are LOTS OF WAYS to introduce people to Jesus. But our church has opted for a 7-week course called Christianity Explored. We try to whet people’s appetitesthrough sermons and short talks. (But these days a 20 minute talk is usually not enough to make a fully informed decision about Jesus). So, when people start to show a little bit of interest – we generally invite them to Christianity Explored where they read Mark’s gospel, watch a short video, and ask whatever questions they may have.

(Now let me say I have a lot of confidence in this course. In the last few years I think about 70-80% of people who have done this course with our church – ended up becoming Christians). Of course, after that people still need to grow and become mature and that’s often a messy road to recovery). But let me show you just a short promotional clip for the course Christianity Explored because this is what we are going to invite people to do in Mission Week (SLIDE 7).

Point 2:         People need to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord

Show:                        Matt.28:16-18 (READ)

Explain:        Well when it comes to becoming a Christian – there are two things that people need to accept in principle. FIRST, that Jesus is their Savior who died for them and SECOND that Jesus is their Lord who they obey. Understanding Jesus as Savior is usually an exercise of the intellect or mind, accepting Jesus as Lord is an exercise of the will or volition.

Now we see in this passage that when the 11 disciples first come to Jesus some worshiped him, but others doubted. Doubt usually arises when there is lack of clarity and it is often linked with confusion. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is hard to understand. Now we know that in the end – all 11 disciples came to true and genuine faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. They all eventually put the pieces together and got it.

This is normal. As disciple makers – it is our job to help people overcome doubt and confusion about Jesus. Now the big problem for everyone is the cross. THE APOSTLE PAUL WRITES that the cross is a A) stumbling stone for Jewish people and B) foolishness for Gentile people. It doesn’t make sense to  most people. If Jesus was so significant – why did he die on a cross? (PAUSE) Its our job to help people understand the cross. (GOSPEL) People need to see that they are sinners deserving God’s punishment. Gods punishment for sin is death – physical and spiritual. But Jesus took the punishment for us when he died on the cross. Basically, Jesus did the time for our crime because he loves us.

Now friends, at this point we are primarily dealing with a COMPREHENSION issue. Most people can’t understand what the cross objectively achieved. They’re not being obtuse. They just don’t get it. So we need to explain: (SLIDE 8) Penal Substitutionary Atonement. The penalthy of sin, was paid by our subsititute Jesus when he died on the cross – so that we can be forgiven and have peace with God. Now the whole Old Testament sacrifricial systemexplains these concepts.

And we really need to help people grasp these concept intellectually. They need to understand how the cross pays for thier sin. And they need to see that God sent Jesus to do this for us – because he loves us and wants to forgive us.

Illustrate:      Now truly this is an intellectual exercise. It’s like helping people to grasp algebra or learn to ride a bike. There is a right way to understand the cross. It is like explaining to people that 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. But sometimes helping people to see that it equals 6 – requires patience and illustrations. But when they get it – there will be a light bulb moment. You will literally see the cogs grind as Jesus’ death = penalty for my sin paid. Oh, I get it now…

Apply:            Now if people comprehend the cross properly it will as JOHN WESLEY said – strangely warm the heart. But it’s your job to stoke those fires. You need to help people see that if God is willing to die for them – He must love them very, very much. Again, at this point it is still intellectual comprehension. If A) Jesus died for you, then B) God must love you. Again, the penny should drop – with an audible jingle. Now if there is no audible jingle – then they are either as thick as a brick or you are a rubbish teacher. But either way you need to go back to if A Jesus died for you then B God must love you. (They need to get this). But Jesus didn’t just die. Jesus rose again. Jesus’ resurrection proves that He is God. Again this is a rational comprehension exercise. A) Who alone has power over life and death. B) Answer: only God. So C) if Jesus also has power over life and death – who must He be? (Bingo, everyone’s a winner). But if Jesus is God (and he died for us), this means we should worship him and obey him and do everything he commands.

Now this is where it stops being intellectual. We all want to be boss of our own life. But ifJesus is God AND He loves us enough to die for us – then we should trust him and obey him. So people need to now make a choice. Will they trust and obey Jesus?

This is no longer an intellectual exercise. This is practical and its volitional. Do they want to let go of A) self-rule, death and hell in exchange for B) Jesus’ rule, eternal life and heaven? (Now it is a good deal). But it’s still like handing over $100 to get a new pair of shoes. Do I want what Jesus is offering that much that I am willing to give up self-rule? This is the big decision point. And in SALES SPEECHwe are now trying to close the sale.So if we are going to close the sale we need to ask them to make a decision. We need to ask them; 1) ARE YOU READY 1) to surrender your life to Jesus; 2) give your heart to Jesus, 3) pray a sinners prayer or 4) receive eternal life OR 5) repent and be baptized. People need to know it’s decision time. (Now of course, the Holy Spirit has a big role to play right here). But we also need to be persuasive and ask them to make a decision because;

Point 3:         People need to take a step of faith and get baptized

Show:                        Matt.28:19-20 (READ)

Explain:        Well at some point – people need to take a step of faith. And the first big step of faith in the Bible is usually baptism. The Bible tells people to believe in Jesus, repent and get baptized. No where in the Bible does it say believe, repent and say a sinner’s a prayer. Now this does not mean that a sinner’s prayer is necessarily wrong. A sinner’s prayer can be a true expression of faith and that is what we are looking for – active real faith. But the first expression of faith and repentance that the Bible generally calls for is baptism.

Do you believe Jesus is Lord enough to obey him and get baptized? Do you love Jesus enough as your Saviour to obey him and get baptized? Making disciples is all about helping people take this initial step of faith in response to the gospel and then helping people take susequent steps of faith as well in response to the gospel. In the Bible study we have been doing (in conjunction with this sermon series) it says making disciples is all about moving people to the right. Let me show you (SLIDE 8).

According to the Bible everyone starts life in the kingdom of darkness. We may have been raised in the church. But that doesn’t make us a Christian. There comes a point where we all need to make a decision – will I personally live with Jesus as my Saviour and Lord or not. Those who decide “yes” (and then take obvious steps of faith) – become Christians. This is the moment they are born again. But once you’re in the kingdom of light – the job isn’t finished. Making disciples is about moving people further and further to the right of this diagram. The first real step of faith may be to get baptized. The second step of faith may be to deal with some sin in their life). The third step of faith – may be to commit themselves to church or daily Bible reading. The 53rd step may be to trust God with their money and begin to tithe.

Now some of us are going to be better at helping people take the initial step of faith, others of us are going to be better at helping people take additional steps of faith. But making disciples is all about helping people to take these steps of faith – A) trusting in God’s Word and B) relying on God in prayer. Our goal is to keep moving people to the right until we are all like Jesus. Now next week – Tim Brake is going to explain how we keep moving people to the right.

Apply:            So as I finish – let me ask – have you truly taken the first step of faith accepting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord and getting baptized? If not, why not? If not, sign up for Christianity Explored today via one of the visitor’s cards and we’ll let you know when the next course is running. But my second question – is are you still moving to the right? Are you still taking new steps of faith? Many Christians begin by taking a few big steps for Jesus. But then, we often get hung up, on a particular thing we know Jesus wants us to do – but we don’t want to do it. Often it’s a cherished sin like pornography or unforgiveness that we don’t want to let go of. So we refuse to take that step of faith AND we begin to stagnate. We stop moving to the right? If that is you – admit it today. Talk to Jesus about it. Ask him to forgive you, ask him to help you and get back on the horse.

We are a church who is trying to make disciples – by encouraging people to take the first step of faith in Jesus out of the kingdom of darkness and then many more subsequent steps of faith in Jesus towards the kingdom of light? For this is how pilgrims – progress.

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