The gospel of the kingdom makes disciples.
This good news of Jesus’ and his kingdom rule is:
There is one God who is the creator of all things, including man created in God’s image. This Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is holy, just and the definition of love.
Though we were once in fellowship with God, we are now cut off from him because of the rebellion started by our parents in the garden. The root of that rebellion was their choice not to believe God and to try and make themselves God instead. This treasonous act failed and the judgment was eternal death.
Terribly, this rebellion is passed on from generation to generation as a curse, the curse of sin and brokenness and death and all things wrong in created order. Even the dirt was cursed.
All people inherit both the sin and the judgment. Our sin makes it impossible for us to earn our way back to Father.
Since we can’t earn our way back to Father and out of the curse, God the Father, being rich in mercy and eternal purpose began the work of redeeming us from the curse through revealing himself to man who once knew him face to face. The entire bible records and explains the culmination of that work of redemption in the coming of the ultimate missionary, Jesus, to break the curse and redeem us back to Father and establish his kingdom rule.
Jesus, fully God and fully man, lived perfectly and revealed Father clearly.
In the fullness of time he went to death on Roman cross as the perfect sacrifice to ransom us from the curse of the fall. Jesus paid the penalty of our sin and rose from the grave conquering death and proving what all he said and did was true. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection all those who will repent of our sin, believe this good news and follow Jesus have their sin debt cancelled and the very perfection of Jesus accounted to us so that we are adopted as Father’s children.
But that is not the end of the story. All those who repent and believe are given a mission to engage in taking this good news of Jesus’ rule to all nations and telling the good news that Jesus kingdom is being spread over all things and that Jesus is taking back all things from the curse of the fall, including people who will repent and believe, and he is going to return and complete the establishment of his rule in a redone and sin free created order where his people will have Eden regained and face to face fellowship fully restored forever.
That’s our message of the kingdom.
That powerful message makes disciples. We are not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who’ll believe.
So, what is a disciple?
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ. In keeping with the mandate given in the Great Commission a disciple is someone who has been made a disciple, baptized and is learning to obey everything Jesus taught.
“been made a disciple” – through the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of Jesus Christ through the verbal proclamation of a disciple of Jesus Christ through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in the powerful gospel, a dead and counter-gospel enemy of God is reconciled to Father and given the Holy Spirit and thus birthed to new life in the kingdom of God.
“baptized” – baptism is a post-conversion activity in which the transformation of the gospel is recognized by the community of the kingdom (church) by entering into the water to be immersed and brought back up from the water thus putting on display for the public the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that has been made effective the death of the candidate’s bond to the curse, the removal of the guilt of sin and their resurrection to new life in Christ.
“learning to obey everything Jesus taught” – the baptized follower of Jesus Christ now begins the journey of life in the community of the kingdom, as a student of the Manual in community (private and public), working out the reality of their salvation and membership in the kingdom of God by engaging their domain of society as salt and light with the powerful gospel among all nations
What kills discipleship?
- Seeing salvation as a result of a prayer prayed rather than a process of people being drawn to Christ through the proclamation of the good news (you can’t help a person who is dead in sin to obey Christ, but you can help a person who is being awakened to life to see, believe and obey Christ).
- Seeing discipleship as a transfer of information rather than hearing and obeying Jesus
- Thinking the kingdom advances through training and mobilizing pastors
The pastor’s job is Ephesians 4:12.
- Thinking discipleship is complicated and unattainable
- Thinking discipleship can be done outside of community
- Thinking discipleship can be done without personal transformation in the process
- Thinking discipleship is a time stamped, linear course that is completed upon memorization of the information
- Thinking discipleship can be done without the influence of all nations (we have things to learn from the global church)
The Metanarrative of the Gospel is key in understanding discipleship.
Creation – Man and God in relationship with no barrier
Fall – Rebellion breaks fellowship with God and introduces the curse into all of creation
Redemption – God pursues, wins and restores mankind and all of creation to himself in the establishing of the kingdom and the king, Jesus
Restoration – God completely and fully establishes the kingdom, the king returns and rules his people forever in the new heaven and the new earth
We are currently in the stage of redemption. God is reconciling all things to himself, including us as persons and us as the church.
In Acts we see this worked out in the 1. Holy Spirit being sent by Jesus to fill his individual followers and walk with them in relationship, 2. Those disciples were enabled to and did bind together into the church and that church began to be diverse (Cornelius and other Gentiles), and 3. That body began to affect domains of society as they made disciples and proclaimed the good news leading all to way to Rome.
This working out of redemption can be seen in three parts in Acts, and they can be summed up like this:
Up: Reconciliation between God and man making children who hear and obey
In: Community of the kingdom is forged and bound by indwelling Holy Spirit in each disciple
Out: Making disciples in one’s domain of society that has global impact
What does discipleship look like at TRCC?
We call it the Radical Life (John 15).
Radical – of or going to the root or origin; fundamental.
Radical is abiding in and rising from the root to bear fruit.
Discipleship is ongoing and never a completed course.
Discipleship is affirmed through the production of fruit.
Discipleship is affirmed through the painful, necessary and joyous pruning of the Vinedresser.
Discipleship is engaged in through continually abiding in Christ Jesus.
Discipleship is evidenced, as one keeps the commandments of God’s kingdom, namely love of God and love of neighbor as oneself.
So, what does this Radical Life look like at Three Rivers Community Church?
The Radical Life is:
Up: Communion with God (Hear and Obey)
Jesus is the essence of transformation
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
- We have been reconciled to the Father
- We have been transformed from slaves to sons and daughters!
- We have the indwelling Holy Spirit as our built in Counselor / Guide / Helper
- We can now hear and obey
- How do transformed followers of Jesus hear Jesus?
– Righteous promptings deep in your soul
– Righteous desires in your soul (Psalm 37:4)
– Thoughts that are louder than thoughts but maybe not quite audible
– The audible voice of the Holy Spirit
– A prophetic word from a brother or sister in the Lord (tested and found
to be right)
- Consistent and disciplined study of Scripture
Statistics are continuing to show that very few people in the evangelical world are consistently reading Scripture and thus there is a famine of knowing God and his word.
45% of those surveyed say they read the bible more than once per week!
1 in 5 say they never read their bible.
If that is all that are reading Scripture then don’t be surprised if our existence in the faith is dry and devoid of the voice of the Lord.
- How do transformed followers of Jesus obey Jesus?
– Do what he says regardless
– Don’t expect immediate results. Obey and trust our obedience is part of the
master tapestry of Father’s good and providential work.
So, we are in communion with God. What does this produce?
In: Community (Community of the Kingdom)
Community is the context for transformation
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
“There is a church because there is a mission not the other way around.” – Ed Stetzer
The church as a whole is vital for the Christian not merely some off and on small group meetings.
Church membership is right and biblical:
- The Garden of Eden had an inside and an outside (Gen. 2:8, 3:24).
- Noah’s ark had an inside and an outside (Gen. 7:16).
- The people of God in the wilderness had to be ceremonially clean to remain inside the camp and not to be cast outside (Lev. 13:46, Num. 5:3).
- The nation of Israel was to have an inside and an outside, as represented by food laws, festivals, political boundaries, places of worship, and even strong provisions against inter-marriage (Lev. 11, Lev. 23, Josh. 14-21, 1 Kings 8, Deut. 7:3).
- In the New Testament, the ethnic and cultural boundary markers of the Old Testament are exploded. But a clear, bright line remains between those who are God’s people and those who are not, as indicated by their profession of faith and the visible fruit of their lives, as well as by the practices of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Rom. 6:3-4, 1 Cor. 11:17-34, Gal. 3:27). Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are what give substance and shape to a church’s membership. There is an inside (those who have been baptized and are welcomed to the Lord’s table) and an outside (those who are not).
- In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul challenges the Corinthian church to judge those who are inside the church and leave judging outsiders to God. How did the Corinthians know who was in and who was out? They knew whom Paul was talking about because some people had formally, publicly identified themselves with the church in Corinth while the rest of the city had not. Those who had were inside the church. They were the church’s members. Those who hadn’t were not.
Engagement in the corporate and scattered body of Christ through covenant membership is essential is being a follower of Jesus Christ.
- People reconciled to the Father can now be reconciled to each other from all nations and live life together.
- People in community can and must love each other. (John 15:12)
- People in community can hear and obey together.
If all we did were to gather together and love each other we would be missing the full scope of the mission.
The last part of the Radical Life is…
Out: Collision (Impact your domain of society by making disciples)
Serving one’s domain is the catalyst for transformation
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- Father has given to us the message of reconciliation
- Father has given us the message of reconciliation, and it’s a message to the world. So the whole church is glocally relevant.
- Father has made us all “ambassadors”
- Father’s mission demands his values come into transformational collision with the values of the curse. So, we expect collision.
Disciples of Jesus Christ worship Jesus Christ. He is our reward and our goal.
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”