June 17, 2011

Christians Are To Make Disciples of All Nations
(homily notes for Trinity, 2011, by Rev. John Gishler)

Jesus did not teach His followers to just attend church, be good and hire evangelists. He challenged them – and us to “...go and make disciples of all nations...”. (Matthew 28.19). “Make” is a verb – an action word. As Christians we have been baptized into a new covenant relationship with God who loves us, Jesus who died in our place for sin and the Holy Spirit who guides, heals and nurtures us. As we grow deeper in this relationship and discover our spiritual gifts we naturally want to share the good news of Gods’ grace, love and healing with everyone around us. This is a challenge in our time as many people have not had good teaching or have rebelled against God. It is not easy – but it is a wonderful gift to give others.
1. We are Baptized to proclaim the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...”(2 Corinthians 13.14).
Our Baptism is not just for us. Our Baptism is to strengthen and protect us in the ministry we are baptized into. That ministry is to “make disciples of all men”. The way we do this is by telling people about Jesus. Specifically by sharing the good news of Jesus sacrificial death for us personally, so we could be forgiven and live in right relationship with God. We need to reflect often on the “grace” that we have received. We have done nothing to earn our salvation. There is nothing we could do that would take away our lifetime of guilt and shame. The good news is Jesus has done something that can take away our lifetime of guilt and shame. All we have to do is repent and ask seriously for forgiveness. Jesus will remove our guilt and restore us to right-relationship with God. Grace is the gift of undeserved forgiveness. Grace is what makes us innocent, even when we were guilty. It is very hard for many people to believe this amazing good news. Many people have been spiritually wounded by believing the lie that they are somehow not wanted or unloved by god. I have seen these captives freed from evil lies through the healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. We are Baptized to proclaim the “love of God” (2 Cor. 13.14)
The God of Christianity is a God who loves. We can see this amazing love as we look out the window at the beauty of creation. The Genesis reading reminds us that God is also the creator. Everything that has been created - including each person, is created to be a sign of the love of God. This God who loves us does not love with a love that is weak, indecisive, changing or inconsistent.  Our God’s love is strong, decisive, unchanging and constant. We see God’s love all through the Bible. From the beginning of creation to the end of the book of Revelation, God is reaching out in love to individuals. He is always expressing His love by correcting, guiding and providing second chances. The God of Christians does not ‘lower the bar’ to make life easier. In fact He often seems to be ‘raising the bar’ to challenge us to grow spiritually. We are never alone. He is always there to pick us up and offer His love.

3. We are baptized to proclaim the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13.14).
When we say we believe in God we are also saying we believe in “God the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit does not just appear at Pentecost.  As we have just read, the Holy Spirit was “hovering over the waters” at the creation of the world (Genesis 1.2). The Holy Spirit was also present through the Old Testament prophets, giving words of knowledge and wisdom. Our work as modern disciples includes helping people understand that God is still with us through the Holy Spirit. We experience God in visions, words of knowledge, personal conviction for sins (our conscience) and in healing prayer. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that we experience personally as the gifts of love, joy and peace. The Holy Spirit is our connection to each other, to Jesus and to the “Saints” in heaven. It is this connection that is broken when we fall into sin. The church is to be a place of worship, teaching and Christian fellowship where people learn about God and experience the love of God and others. It is to be a place of forgiveness and healing where people can go when they need payer or emotional support. It is not the minister but the love of the community that draws new people in. We proclaim the fellowship of the Holy Spirit by our example of being a loving and healing church fellowship.

The challenge: to regain our mission of making disciples of all men
The Lord Jesus is very clear about what it is we are to be doing as a church. The mission is not about us. The mission is what He said it was. The mission we were all baptized into is to make disciples by proclaiming this good news to all people in all places.
In his Second Letter to the people in Corinth the Apostle Paul challenges them as us to not only know about but also to be ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’.

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