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Full Length Sermons

The Power of Invitation

Meet Jesus

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). (John 1:40-41)

Please open your Bible at John 1.  Our series is called “Meet Jesus,” and we are going to see today how that happened for the first disciples.  How did the first disciples meet Jesus?  What can we learn from this about how people will meet Jesus and follow him today?

 

John 1 records a remarkable week in the ministry of Jesus.

 

  • It started with John’s testimony (verses 19-28), when he confessed that he was not the Christ and that his ministry was to call people to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

 

  • Then (in verse 29) “the next day” (day #2), John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

  • Then (in verse 35) “the next day” (day #3), the disciples of John become disciples of Jesus.

 

  • Then (in verse 43) “the next day” (day #4), Jesus decides to go to Galilee.

 

If the first day was a Monday (we don’t know for sure, but let’s assume that for the moment), then the fourth day would be a Thursday.  The fifth day would be Friday and the sixth day would be the Sabbath.

 

  • Then in John 2:1, we read “on the third day.” That would be three days from the fourth day (or day #7).

 

So what we have here is a week in the ministry of Jesus.  Indeed, this is the first week of the ministry of Jesus – the beginning.  So if I was to give it a title, I would call this “How to Launch a Ministry in Seven Days!”

 

This should be of special interest to us as a church.  As part of our ‘Thrive’ campaign, we are committed, as a church, to launching a new campus in Northfield.  We won’t be doing that in 7 days!  Public worship services will begin next year, but the first gathering for prayer happened last Sunday evening, and throughout this year Pastor Josh and Pastor Tom will be gathering a launch group for this new campus.

 

Also connected with our ‘Thrive’ campaign, in the fall of this year we will be sending out Kujtim and Lauren Rushiti for the ministry of church planting in Durres, Albania.  Many of us will become involved in this initiative along with our other strategic commitments around the world.

 

This chapter was not written as a kind of ‘how-to’ for church planting, but surely there is something for us to learn here.  What can we learn from the launch of the ministry of Jesus?

 

Day #1: Establish Your Identity

Knowing who we are and who we are not

John said, “I am not the Christ.  I cannot fix myself, let alone other people.”  We don’t think for one minute that we have all the answers.

 

Christians need to be honest.  Our message to the community can never be: “We are here to show you how to live.”  We are not here to say “Look at us!” as if we had model lives, model marriages, or model children.  We are not the Christ.

 

We struggle with our own sins.  We have tensions in our own homes.  We have disagreements in our own churches.  If the whole world was full of Christians, it would be a great deal better than it is, but it would still be full of problems.  That is why Paul says, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).

 

Sinners who know that they are wholly dependent on the mercy of a gracious Savior cannot present themselves as the answer to the world’s problems.  There is a humility about all genuine gospel ministry and we see it in the launch of the ministry of Jesus: “I am not the Christ!  I am not worthy to untie the sandals on the feet of Jesus!  This is not about me!  It’s all about him.”

 

Day #2: Clarify Your Ministry

Proclaiming who Jesus is and all that he does

 

  • “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
  • “This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33).

 

We know that we are not the answer, but we are deeply convinced that Jesus Christ is.  We are here to draw attention, in every way that we possibly can, to him and to what he is able to do for all who will believe in him.

 

He takes away sins.  He drenches people in the life of God.  He can fill you with new affections, and he can strengthen you with new power.  There is hope for every person in Jesus Christ.  This is our ministry—to proclaim who Jesus is and what he does.

 

Day #3: Gather Your Community

Nurturing the core group of committed disciples

 

That is our focus today as we look at how the first disciples came to meet and follow Jesus.

I have four observations from these verses:

 

  1. The variety of means by which people come to follow Jesus
  2. The progressive steps by which people find their place in ministry
  3. The main desire by which people continue in discipleship
  4. The divine power by which people are able to change

 

The Variety of Means
by Which People Come to Follow Jesus

The first disciples did not all come to Jesus in the same way.  They had different stories, and they found their way to Jesus by different means.

 

Gospel proclamation

Two disciples of John “followed Jesus” (John 1:37).  They did this as a result of John’s preaching.  They heard John say, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and it was through this preaching that they moved away from him and became followers of Jesus.

 

One of those who left John the Baptist and followed Jesus was Andrew (John 1:40).  Many believe that the other was John, the apostle, who wrote this fourth Gospel.  He never names himself in the Gospel, though he later describes himself as “the disciple who Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20).

 

Personal invitation

Simon Peter became a follower of Jesus through the personal invitation of his brother Andrew: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” (John 1:40-41).

 

Then these beautiful words, “He brought him to Jesus” (John 1:42).  Andrew brought his brother to Jesus by sharing his own testimony, “We have found the Messiah!  Here’s what I have discovered in Jesus…”  Peter met Jesus and became a disciple of Jesus because he was invited by a friend.

 

You find the same pattern in the words of Philip to Nathaniel: “We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote” (John 1:45).  Think about your family circle.  Think about your friends and neighbors.  Think about your colleagues in your work place.  Who needs to meet and follow Jesus?

 

Some people come to Christ through the public preaching of the gospel (that’s why it is a good thing to invite people to come to church), but others are brought to Christ by the personal influence of a friend.

 

Direct intervention

The next day, Jesus decided to go to Galilee.  He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ (John 1:43)

 

As far as we can tell, no other human agency was involved.  Philip did not become a disciple because he heard a preacher or because he was invited by a friend.  Jesus Christ stepped into his life directly.

 

Christ does this, and we should be thankful for it, and pray that he will do it.  We should pray that, through our personal invitation, people will know that Jesus is calling them to follow him.  We should pray that, in our public preaching, people will know that Jesus is saying to them, “Follow me!”  And when people in your life are not open to a personal invitation, and they won’t listen to gospel preaching, you can ask God to make a direct intervention in their lives, to lay hold of them by his Holy Spirit and bring about a change of heart.

 

There will be some of us for whom that will also be true.  You can’t point to any particular preacher that you heard or person you met, but over a period of time, there was a growing hunger in your heart, and this led you to read the Bible and then to pray and somehow, in God’s kindness, Jesus Christ laid hold of you and you began to follow him.

 

It would be a good thing in the Life groups this week to share the story of how you became a follower of Jesus.  You don’t have to have a dramatic conversion story.  What matters is that, however you got there, you know Jesus, you believe in him, and you follow him now.

 

People become disciples of Jesus in a variety of ways.  Our approach should be to do all that we can in gospel proclamation, personal invitation, and prayer for direct intervention.  By all means win some!

The Progressive Steps
by Which People Find Their Place in Ministry

What we learn here in John’s Gospel about how the first disciples met Jesus helps us to understand what happened later, when Jesus called them into ministry:

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew… casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’  And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18).

 

When you put the Gospel accounts together, it is clear that Simon and Andrew already knew Jesus, and had spent time with him before Christ called them to leave their nets.  And it was later still that Jesus appointed them as apostles (Luke 6:12-13).

 

In these three Scriptures you have progressive steps by which people find their place in ministry.  This is very practical, “I want to serve the Lord.  Where do I start?”

 

Relationships established  

If you want to serve Christ, the first step is that you get to know him.  Spend time with him. Walk with him in the Word and prayer.  Follow him with faith and joyful obedience.

 

That’s what the first disciples did and over time they grew in their commitment to Jesus and their affection for Jesus, so that when he saw them at work in their boats, they were ready for whatever he might call them to do.

 

Have you been walking with Jesus?  And do you have a depth of affection for him, so that if he came along and told you to go anywhere and serve him, you would do it, if you knew it was really him?

 

Gifts cultivated

“I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

 

There is the particular sphere in which Christ will equip you to serve him.  What is that sphere for you?  Where do your gifts lie?  As you are following the Lord, what has he made you good at?  What does God bless when you do it?  And how are you using these gifts now?

 

After this the disciples continued walking with Jesus, watching him at work and learning from him as they prepared for the work that he had for them to do.

 

Ministries assigned

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)

 

Christ goes up the mountain to pray.  There are more than 12 disciples, and Christ ‘chose from them’ some whom he named apostles.  There was an evaluation going on.  Christ was discerning who should be given this work and who should be given other work.

 

Here’s the principle: Intimacy with Christ comes before activity for Christ.  You want to serve Jesus.  How is your own walk with him?

 

  • The first thing is that you are his disciple—that you are following hard after him.

 

We live in an activist culture, and many of us are activists.  So you say, “OK, what’s my position?  What am I going to do?”  But if activity for Christ precedes intimacy with Christ, what happens is that you will eventually crash and burn.

 

  • The second thing is that you have clarity over where your gifting lies and that you start using these gifts as you continue to follow Jesus.

 

  • The third thing is that you to trust Christ with regard to the particular ministry assignment that he has for you.

 

Don’t get hung up on having a position in ministry.  Follow Christ and he will make clear what he wants you to do and to be at each stage of your life.

 

The Main Desire
by Which People Continue in Discipleship

 

Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38)

 

The Gospels makes it very clear that many people followed Jesus for a time but then did not continue.  Some drifted in with the crowd, and then drifted away.  People followed Jesus for many different reasons: Some followed because of the miracles (John 2:23).  Others were caught up in what their friends were doing.

 

So this question of Jesus to the first disciples is really important.  What are you seeking?  What are you looking for?  There will always be people who want to attach themselves to Jesus in order to use him and advance another cause.  That is what Judas Iscariot did.

 

How would you answer Jesus’ question?  If Jesus Christ said to you, “What are you seeking?” What would you say?  Every heart is seeking something.  What are you seeking?

 

Here is another question for the Life groups this week.  Why are you following Jesus?  Many people follow only for a time, and then move on because they do not get what they are looking for.  This raises a question, not about Jesus, but about you.  What are you seeking?

 

At first sight the answer of these first disciples might seem rather pedestrian, but I want to suggest that they could not have given a better response.  And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?”(John 1:38).

 

 

This is a great response!  “We want to be with you.  We want to spend time with you.  We don’t want our experience of you to be a passing thing, when we happen to cross paths.  We want access to you.  We want fellowship with you.  Now tell us, ‘Where are you staying?’” He said to them, “Come and you will see.”  So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day (John 1:39).

 

What makes the difference between a person who professes faith and then drifts away and one who sticks at following Christ for a lifetime?  What makes the difference between a person who gets attached to the church for a time and then moves on, and a person who gives him or herself to ministry over the long haul?

 

The main desire by which people continue in discipleship is a true and deep love for Jesus Christ himself.  Why does Peter come back to Jesus after all the embarrassment and shame of denying Him?  “Lord, you know that I love you.”  Whatever sin you have fallen into, if you love him, you will come back to him.

 

Why does Paul persevere in ministry after so many sufferings?  “I want to know Christ, and to that end I will do whatever it takes, even if that means the fellowship of his sufferings.”

Christian, what will keep you following Christ even in the hardest and darkest times of your life?  You love him because he loved you and gave himself for you to make you his own.

 

Christ calls us, first, not because of what we can do for him, but because he wants us to be with him.  When Jesus calls the apostles, the first reason he gives for calling them is that they should be with him (Mark 3:14).  Whatever your ministry, Christ’s first priority for you is that you should be with him.

 

This was the great purpose for which Jesus died—that we should be with him.  When he said, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” our Lord was speaking about all that he would endure on the cross.  So why did Jesus suffer and die?  “That where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).  Jesus says, “I am going to lay down my life so that you can be with me.”

 

You have the same thing in John 17, the great prayer of Jesus, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am” (John 17:24).  Jesus wants you to be with him where he is.  He died to redeem you and he lives to bring you safely home.  Every time a believer dies, this prayer of Jesus is answered.

 

People who love Jesus want to be with him.  We don’t know where Christ was staying when the first disciples asked him.  Probably a cave, or someone offered him some hospitality.  He never owned a home on earth.  But now, Christ has ascended to his home in heaven, and to all who seek fellowship with him, one day he will say, “Come and you will see!”

 

The Divine Power
by Which People Are Able to Change

 

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John.  You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:42)

 

This was a special promise that Jesus gave to Simon Peter.  The footnote says that Cephas or Peter comes from the word for ‘rock’ in Aramaic and Greek respectively.

 

Why did Christ say these words to Peter?  Nothing like this was said to Andrew, John, or Philip.  A. W. Pink makes this suggestion: “By natural temperament Simon was fiery and impetuous, rash and unstable… What would such a man’s thoughts be when he first heard Andrew?  Would he not say, “Why, I would be a stumbling block to the cause of Christ: My impetuous temper and hasty tongue will only hinder, not help.” [1]

 

Try to picture this: Quiet Andrew comes to Peter and says, “We’ve found the Messiah!”  And fiery Peter says, “You better go and follow him then.  If I follow him, I’ll just mess things up.”

 

I may be speaking to someone today who is holding back from committing yourself to Jesus.  You say, “I know myself and if I became a follower of Christ, I would only let the Lord down.”

If that’s where you are, look at how Jesus deals with Peter: “Peter, I know all about you.  I know what you are and I know what you will be.  Right now you are an impulsive man, a sinful man, and an unreliable man.  But I will make you like a rock.  Follow me!”

 

John says in another place, “to the one who conquers… [Christ] will give him a white stone, with a new name written on [it]” (Rev. 2:17).  What we will be has not yet been made known, but there is hope here for every person today.  Follow Christ and you will find that whatever you are when you come to him, he is able to make you anew.

 

 

© Colin S. Smith

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[1] A. W. Pink, Exposition of The Gospel of John, p. 71