Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Great Commission Part2 :The Mark of a Disciple - Genuine or a fake!

Part 2 - Genuine or fake?

The Mark of a disciple

How many have seen this (lifts up a Rs 500 note). Do you know whether this is fake or genuine? According to the government there are 169 crore counterfeit currency notes in circulation in the country. The most embarrassing thing is when you give a 500 rupee note to a shop keeper and he lifts it to view it against the light to check if it’s a fake and he turns to tell you he can’t accept the note. You thought it was a good note! 

Just as there are fake notes to be discerned there can be fake disciples in the church. 

How do we distinguish between the two ?  The Reserve bank of India has come out with 5-6 checks to find out if a 500 rupee note is fake or genuine. In the same way Jesus has given us some indicators. Let’s look at some scriptures this morning.

We can look at Mr X, Y or Z to see if they are fake or genuine but the question is am I a true disciple of Jesus?The RBI is the authority on whether a currency note is a fake or a genuine. Jesus is the authority on whether a person is a fake disciple or a genuine one.

The bible gives us three indicators.
TEXT: John8:31-31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

1. The first indicator is that we hold onto the teachings of Jesus. Verse 30 Even as He spoke some put their faith in Him/ the Jews believed in Him. But that was not good enough. We have to hold onto the teaching. James says show me your faith and works. Works must accompany faith. The works prove the genuiness of the conversion, of the faith. The works do not save you but prove you. It’s not physically holding onto the Bible. Other translations use the word ‘abide’. Does the person highly value the Bible and Jesus teaching? i.e. the sum of everything Jesus taught. Knowing is not enough. It’s putting it into practice.
James 1:22 warns us not to be merely listeners of the word but rather does of the word. You can come to church week after week and be completely deceived because we do not put it into practice. So let’s be doers of the word. The Word of God is tightly linked to the WORD OF GOD i.e. Jesus (John1:1). So how do we do this?
i.                 We hold onto the teachings and person of Jesus. John15. We need to be rightly related to both. Are we a people of the word? Are we devoted to it? We need to read, meditate, study, journalize, and memorize the word. A woman asked her pastor to visit her at home and pray for her. When the pastor arrived, the woman turned to her daughter and said, "Honey, would you bring mommy’s favorite book." A minute later, the little girl brought in a T.V. Guide.
              When the Word is first in your life it will show in your conduct, words and attitude.

ii.                 Spend time with Jesus himself. We need to learn to abide in him. We should be in love with Jesus. No matter how busy you are spend a few minutes with Jesus.  When he walked on this earth Jesus spent time with the Father daily.

2. John13:34-35-“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
True disciples love each other. John 15:12 -My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.How did Jesus Love His disciples – he laid down his life for us. Can we refuse His commands? This is not a convenient love – it’s sacrificial. This love is outworked in relationships – reaching out to new people at the meeting, having people in your home. We love by not gossiping about each others, or back biting. Lets not devour one another or discuss one another in a negative way. Sort out your problems between the two of you. If you can’t resolve it, take a mature Christian along or bring the matter to your pastor. What about discrimination – “he/she is not my type, not my caste, community, doesn’t speak my language” What about the little children? Jesus blessed the children. Are we willing to make sacrifices by laying down our won preferences? Through the week call each other up – don’t just stick with familiar friendships.
Most of the bitterness within the visible church has nothing to do with doctrinal differences. It can be traced instead to a fundamental lack of love, and an unwillingness to accept the humility that love demands. One way to show love is by forgiving those who have wronged us--whether we are asked or not. No matter how serious the wrong you have suffered may be, love demands that you forgive it. Christ forgave those who had mocked Him, spit on Him, and then crucified Him. The wrongs we generally suffer seem insignificant compared to what He suffered, and yet He was immediately willing to forgive.

3. A true disciple bears fruit. John15:8 this is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. You know a tree by its fruit. Without fruit it’s hard to tell what tree it is unless you are a botanist. What fruit is Jesus looking for?

i. Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." The fruit of the Spirit – Christ like  character. This ought to be manifested in the disciples life. You will not be perfect but you will be growing. You may not be very patient but you are changing.

ii. Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. We should be thankful people. A Christian is one who gives thanks in His name. Do we see how much we should be thankful for?

iii.                Rom 15:26-28 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. A disciple is one who gives. Our attitude toward money determines our Christianity. We can’t say “Lord you can have all of me but don’t touch my purse/cheque book”

iv.               People being saved 1Cor 16:15You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters.. First fruit- a disciple is involved in making other disciples. We are concerned about people going to hell. Who because of you is going to heaven? Who is following Jesus today, because of what you have done?  As true disciples we should be constantly reaching out.

Jesus died for us and we should be involved in having a right relationship with his word and person. We should love one another and we should bear fruit in our lives. God will allow the fruit to develop in your life. Let’s examine our hearts. Am I a true disciple of Jesus? Am I living for myself or for Jesus?

Remember His great sacrifice that was motivated by great love for us. Let us respond to this with great love and obedience showing ourselves to be true disciple of Jesus.

Colin D Cruz
Nov 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caring for the Church – Part 2: Handling Hot Potatoes

Handling Hot Potatoes!
This is a summary of a seminar given by Malcolm Kayes at TOAM2011 , Bangalore
The pastoral and the prophetic go hand in hand. Hosea 12:13. “The LORD used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him. Some people think you are either a pastor or a prophet. But Moses was both. You may be stronger in one of them but you need both in the church.
Acts 20:28:   Keep watch over yourself and the flock. Be Shepherd of the church of God which he bought with his blood. So don’t ever apologize for being a Shepherd. You won’t be perfect. You can apologize for making mistakes but not for leading people.

This is our responsibility and our role. God has appointed you to Shepherd his church – be confident in this otherwise you will be hesitant and fearful of people. This is in any context – be it the small group, small church etc.

Discipling and shaping those under your care
1 Vision: Giving purpose for the context always helps. We as church are there for building one another up and for reaching out. So you set the pattern and atmosphere through your vision.

2. Teaching: We don’t lead by coercion. You lead by showing people what God’s word says. You illuminate their conscience through the Word of God. That’s how you lead. The best leadership is inspirational and motivational. Sometimes you lead more forcefully or deliberately ( like what you do with kids)but not always. People must learn responsibility and consequences through an enlightened conscience.

3. Example – This is the best. Are you faithful to others? Leading in a local church is where the rubber hits the road. Encouragement – thanking people who serve. We must always do it. The serving team are heroes – they need loads of encouragement. We must exhort people. The New Testament is full of it. It has its place - privately and publically. We need a positive culture within the church.

 Here are some Pastoral responsibilities and tools
3 levels of care:

1.      Basic – the one anothering in church. A lot of people push onto the church what they do not want to do themselves. Friendship, social times are important. Small groups – is it pastoral or evangelical. You need a philosophical framework for pastoral care. Teach people to do the basics for one another. Your best friend is your best counsellor – they know you best. Be clear about the role of a small group leader – do they care of the people pastorally? If so train them to do that. Let them know what they should pass onto their senior leaders .This has to do with responsibilities and spheres of authority.

2.      Specialist Care – This deals with life controlling issues like unforgivenss, eating, alcohol. Do you have a way of dealing with this? 3 areas of care-1. Fan into flame – helps people with their strengths, gifts or burdens.2. Life shapers – 8 weeks. They have prayer partners to help them.23. Prayer counselling – for charactering relational issues. We have a team of people who spend three evenings with these people initially.

3.      Crises care – this is an emergency situation where it’s all hands on deck,. Anyone available go first eg) a death, accident etc.
Watch out for energy sappers – they want your time but won’t put any effort into changing. They attract attention to themselves and get a lot of attention for others as well. Sometimes they need boundaries and need action points.

Making disciples – we also have leadership training.

Dealing with the weak,  and the wayward.
Some sheep are silly and some sheep are actually wolves.
·        Be prepared to follow hunches /promptings of the Holy Spirit. HE has made you the leader. If someone has a poor attitude or bad body language – don’t get hyper, have a gracious talk. Ask how they are doing and open the door for conversation.
·        Beware of church hoppers – it’s not wrong to leave but it’s more profound that you think especially if they live in the same locality. Sometimes its unresolved issues and you need to check that. Beware of those who want to make a contribution too quickly – those with vitality, vigour. Be careful of those who just lead of out of their gifting and not character. When you have people’s heart – you have their faithfulness, giving, attending and gifts.

Context for admonition:
Be patient and resilient. Sometimes we want quick change. God is patient with us. Sometimes progress is slow. Also be a little thick skinned. It’s not that you are without emotion but you should be able to absorb pain and disappointment and move on. Choose not to be offended. There’s no need to take abuse – stand up but don’t take offense.
Wisdom – discern between big and small issues. Sometimes they are small and sometimes its big. So ask questions.
1 Discern between big and small issues. Sometimes they are small and sometime big. So ask questions. Is this a mistake/sin caused by immaturity or will fullness. This will determine the response.
Is the person a mature Christian or an immature one? Just because they have been in church a long time does not mean they are mature.
Is this person idle, timid or weak .1Thes 5:14 warn, encourage, help and lastly encourage everyone. Different strokes for different folk.
Has the person got a burden or a load? Gal 6:2, 5. We are to carry each other’s burdens. Each one should carry his own load/responsibility. Burden is an unexpected problem. We should help.
We should encourage people to carry their own load/responsibility. Always work towards people taking responsibility for what they should. Don’t create dependency.
Have you heard both sides of the story?

Confronting people – Am I the person to do this or can someone else? You are safe ground if you don’t like doing it. (if you enjoy it you are a danger to people). Be spiritual – have some discernment. Be loving and considerate and have a desire for restoration.
Pray about the timing and be accountable yourself. Beware lest you get sucked in to their sin. Be a person who known’s God’s word to bring God’s truth. Do it as a brother or sister.
Dancing with the wolves? No thanks!!

We need to be apostolic is dealing with wolves. Don’t ignore the trouble makers. Grace does not mean no accountability, authority and discipline. It’s does not mean everyone agrees. A grace church is an environment where we can share our differences.
Rom 16:17-20 Keep watch. This is often repeated in other epistles. These warnings are not light.
Divisive, pulling in opposite directions, complaints, gossip, unteachable. Different teaching, opposing mission. Paul showed little patients with trouble makers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Making , Marking and Maturing - An introduction to discipleship.

 This is a summary of a new preaching series started at Word Of Grace Church 
by Colin D Cruz.

How many of you have like reading mystery stories? When we go on holiday, we like to take a fat mystery book along to read. They are often unputdownable. The most frustrating thing would be if the last few pages of the book were missing and you don’t get to know who the murderer is, did the good guy win, what was the outcome? You are left hanging.

Imagine if the gospel of Matthew end at chapter 27. What’s in chapter 27? – It ends with the killing of Jesus and his burial. Luke 24:17 records that after Jesus death the disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and they faces were downcast and sad, because this Jesus was brutally killed and buried. But we thank God for Matthew 28 which records Jesus triumphant resurrection. He appeared to the ladies at the tomb, he appeared to the disciples and to another 500 people over a period of days. He spent 40 days with the disciples before he ascended into heaven. This is his last time on earth – his last few moments till he comes back. So what he says during this time is of prime importance. What do people say on their death beds? It’s not about paying the milk bill. They will say something really important. Jesus communicated some very important things. This is called the great commission. If this is the last and foremost thing on Jesus mind before he ascended into heaven and after he rose from the dead, it would be good for us to pay attention to what he said. In the last few months I have been preaching on Finance and giving. I want to thank and appreciate you. Expect the Lord to give you back as you have sown a seed.

Today’s message begins a new series and this is an introduction to that series.
The summary of Jesus’ teachings and last words can be summed up in two words: Make Disciples.

 Text :Matt 28:18-20 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.”

1.      Make them: 
You may have read this text many times before. Imagine you are Ratan Tata who is producing all kinds of card and he puts you in charge of the production because he is going away and he tells you “make cars” and he corresponds with you via email, text messages etc. When he comes back after a long time he find the factory covered in dust, the workers and sitting and playing cards having a good time with one another. He asks you whether or not you recovered his email and text messages. And you reply “yes”. We have even framed it, some of us have even studied it by heart, translated it into different languages and some of us have even begun to study deeply the meaning of your letter and what exactly do you mean by a ‘car’”! The mandate was “make cars” not debate about it.

Jesus' mandate is to make disciples. One day we will meet him and he will evaluate our lives. We will enjoy the grace of God but we have a challenge to face as well. Jesus has given 212 commands in the New Testament and they can be summed up in tow words – make disciples. But to do this we have to understand the word ‘disciples’. This is not a short process. It’s a lifelong process – the moment you are born again you are a disciple. But not all disciples are equal – it depends on how you grow. This command “All authority is given.. Therefore go...” – is it only for the mature Christian? It is for everyone. “Go – it’s an assumption. It is actually “as you go make disciples...” so whether you are a housewife, a student, a young Christian you can still make disciples.

The first step is we take the gospel message to the not yet believer – the message is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. You will have the joy of seeing souls saved because of you.
You may be working in the IT, call centre etc, pray and ask the Lord whom you can share the gospel with. Think of someone whom you can begin to pray for and see them come to faith. This is what we will be held accountable for. When one sinner repents heaven rejoices. This is close to Jesus ‘heart – he come to seek and save the lost. Jesus said he will make you a fisher of men not a Bible scholar. How long is it since you are a Christ follower? Are you fishing? Do you have stories of fishing? So, no matter where you go, God can use you to make disciples.

This morning if there is anyone here who have not yet put their faith in Jesus, here is an opportunity to do so.

2.       Mark them.
The second thing Jesus says is “Mark them” – people who own cattle have their own special marking on their cattle so they know which ones belong to them. Our kids mark everything that belongs to them – their pencil box, the pencils, their uniforms etc so that things don’t get mixed up with other people’s stuff. So how did Jesus tell us we should mark them? By baptism. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, son and the Holy spirit” This is how Jesus instituted marking. Baptism is very important in the New Testament. Whenever someone cames to faith they got baptized immediately. They did not wait a long time. The Phillipian Jailer got baptized at midnight. Apostle Paul as soon as he received his sight he got baptized even before he could eat or drink anything.
Marking a disciple is very important. If you are not baptized, Jesus will ask you about it. It is baptism by immersion. It always follows repentance. Its immersion, not sprinkling. It’s like “dip chai”/ tea bag tea.

3.      Mature them.
 Mature: “Teach them to obey” After a disciple is made and marked he needs to be matured. As discipleship is lifelong whether you are 7 or 70 you never stop learning. As disciples each one of us has an “L” plate on our backs all our life. There is so much to learn from the Bible- we go from one degree of glory to another. Being confirmed in to the image of Jesus is the goal. What is the process? Most people think the process is “teaching them”. No. Its teaching them to OBEY. Today there is no shortage of teaching o the TV, internet etc. Teaching is not the issue – obedience is the challenge.
We can increase the knowledge but obedience is the challenge. As someone said “one gram of obedience is better that one ton of knowledge” It is good to know the bible verses that talk about love and forgiveness but when you are offended and you don’t forgive it useless. We need to teach people to obey everything. How can I learn and put into practice. It’s good to memorize but is we don’t put it into practice it’s of no consequence.

There are two things you might ask and two things you need to know.
Why should I obey? Why should I make disciples?
1. All authority had been given to Jesus. Phil 2:9 Jesus  was raised from the dead and God exalted him to the highest place where every knee shall bow and tongues confess. The reason we are commanded to make disciples is because Jesus is the ultimate authority and judge. And He says he is giving us authority to make disciple. The King of the universe has given a command. When a General in an army gives a command a soldier will not question it. How much more when Jesus does? Here is Jesus higher than any commander giving us a command.

2. Jesus gives us a promise “And surely I will be with you...”The context is in the making of disciples – Jesus has promised us success, his grace is upon us.
This is an introduction to a new series we are beginning. Jesus ascended on high and he had given us a command to make disciples and he will take an account from us.
We need to become disciples and we all need to make disciples so that on that day we will hear “Well done good and faithful servant”.

You can listen to the audio version of the sermon by clicking here

Colin D Cruz
Nov 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Caring for the Church

This is a summary of a seminar taken on Caring for the Church by John Groves at TOAM 2011, Bangalore.
It’s good to have pastoral leaders. While we love to talk about the prophetic and evangelism, we need the patoral ministry. Its important in order to bring people to maturity. Pastors are caricatured into being “nice but not effective”. That’s not true. 

Pastoring is for men and women.I prefer to use the word Shepherd – the bible talks a lot about it. The Bible refers to Shepherd a lot and not “leader”. One can have a very romantic view of shepherds.

Shepherds live dangerous lives – they are strong and rough characters. He has to handle wild animals. It’s a demanding job. It’s not routine – you have to keep finding good pastures, protect them , count them in and out and know them by name. Shepherds in those days were on the edge of society and treated with contempt and seen as quirky. It’s amazing that the angles appeared to the Shepherds. This is the sort of picture of Shepherds that the Bible is referring to – not polished and professional. It requires courage and initiative. He receives criticism and sometimes treated with contempt.
But God loves the word Shepherd.  In psalm 23 he calls himself our Shepherd. The Old Testament god uses it to describe himself a lit. Those who lead his people will be like shepherds according to the Bible.
Psalm 77:70-72 “.. To be a shepherd to his people...he shepherded them with integrity of heart.”Under shepherds can be men and women –there will be different levels of Shepherds – not all are at the local level.

The big difference between us as under shepherds and God as our Shepherd is that we are not perfect.We are meant to reflect God’s Shepherding heart – but we do fail at times just like Moses, Aaron and David did. God gets angry with them but he did not rid himself of the principle of using under shepherds.
In the New testament, God comes as a man – Jesus. Jesus is the perfect man – the archetype of a Shepherd without any flaws. He is the good shepherd/Great shepherd. 1Pet4:4 he is the Chief Shepherd. He is the supreme example.
In the N.T – local church leaders are described as Shepherds. Twice when local church leaders are described in an interesting way 1Pet5:1-3, Acts 20:17, 28. Local leaders are also describes using three terms for the same people – Elders, overseer, and Shepherd. Elder – spiritual maturity and experience. Overseer – manages things well and leads. Shepherds – gifting of God, he has His  heart attitude. Eph 4: Pastors is one of the gifts.
The risen Lord Jesus gives gifts – how does shepherding come? Like all gifts, as you do what comes into your hands – as you show an interest and concern for people, people will recognize the gift in you.
It comes out of being what god made you to be and serving others. That is what we do – serve the leaders and the people. Let God do the promoting. You do what you have to do – that’s all.
There are 6 aspects of biblical shepherding.
  1.       Prophetic – It has a prophetic element. You will not always hear this. The Old Testament prophets were shepherds. They confronted sin, warned of consequences of sin. They pointed the way, restored and brought renewal. They proclaimed God’s truth, rebuked, challenged and confronted the people. Jesus shows this element – he challenges religious bigotry and legalism. He challenges the disciples for their lack of faith. He asks penetrating questions. Confronts the hypocrisy and sin.

New Testament is full of care for the people but carrying a prophetic element of exhorting, comforting, confronting and challenging sin.
This is very important – our words will challenge and confront people. It will ask penetrating questions and thought provoking questions. We are accountable to God – we should never be aggressive but don’t avoid the difficult challenges. This may not fit the modern world. There is a strong individualism, emphasis on personal choice, political correctness is important, you can’t criticize an opinion. However we cannot avoid the physical element of confrontation. We cannot avoid that what we sow, we reap We must tell people what God thinks about certain things, we should teach taking responsibility, teach repentance and seeking forgiveness. We should emphasize the corporate aspect of our faith. “Modern pastoral care has too much consolation and too little confrontation". Although we must love we must not be afraid to confront. This is one on one and in groups.

2.Provision – A good shepherd is concerned that people are well fed. This is a major part. You should take your Bible with you when you visit people. This is the food – it carries its own authority. Sometimes people are eating “junk food” and will listen/read nonsense and we should be able to explain why that is not good. It’s important to understand that God’s truth changes people. If we get people to understand what (1Cor60 has done for us it will be life changing. Paul draws attention to their relationship with Christ in order to confront sin. This is called task theology – putting theology and truth into pasturing. This is a good way. A lot of people are in a mess because they do not believe the truth – they believe the lies of the culture or about themselves. They need to know “who am I in Christ”

3.      Priestly – we don’t have priests. That’s Old Testament. In the New Testament we are all priests. But there is a priestly element to a Shepherd – he intercedes for the people he cares for. He prayers for the, He stands before god for the people. The only high priest we need is Jesus but there is a priestly element in what we so. We pray for the people we look after, we receiver things from God for them pictures, words etc. We work at reconciling them to God. We help them to understand that Jesus reconciles them to God.

4. Physical concern for the whole person – spiritual and physical. All through the Bible it shows he is the Lord who heals you. Jesus healed a lot demonstrates God’s heart for our well being. Real Shepherd’s care will be concerned for people’s health, marriage, children, jobs etc. It’s clear in John 5:14-15. They will pray for the sick, bring deliverance for the demonized. The church has always been on the fore front of leading social reform and practical care, education, hospitals, prison ministry etc. It’s part of the King of God. Its works out in any context. It’s the Shepherd’s heart.  You will try and help them be better workers, employers, etc etc.

5.Protection- This is truer of a church leader but true for all leaders. Acts 20:28-30. There are two types of attack that come on the sheep, external i.e the wolves come in and Internal i.e division n the church. A good shepherd will try and protect them from both i.e false ideas and teachings, demonic. But he ensures peace and unity between the people. If you are a local church Shepherd these are major responsibilities we shoulder.

6.      6.Purpose – the flock need leading. They took the flock somewhere. We need to lead the people with what God gives them. Don’t be too democratic – we need to lead.
7.      We need to give vision and direction. They need guidance about where you want to take them. We do not lord it over them or micro manage but we give leadership and vision through the Word of God and our own faith, what we’ve heard from God, our own example . We also need to explain things so that the understand what you are doing. People want to follow and do what s right but we need to communicate. It’s a lot easier if they can see what you are seeing. It makes it easier. Rom 8:12 – use the gift diligently i.e with a lot of care and effort. It’s not a lay man’s gift. Biblical leadership is hard work.

8.      One of the ways you lead is by example – we must live with purpose and direction if we are asking others to do that. Explain some of your weaknesses ( sensibly). When you are leading, lead from a place of relationships as much as possible. There should be friendship. Keep yourself in the grace and love of God. Be motivated by grace and out of what you know what Jesus has done for you. Legalism is motivating out of a sense of duty, fear and to show what I am. You might slip into that but try and keep yourself fresh in your won motivation. When you are shepherds and care for the needy – don’t forget the strong sheep. Keep the mature Christian informed, inspired and involved.