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Encouraging Discipleship

Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus

Bible readings:Acts 2:42-47; Matthew 28:19-20 (Guiding Principle 3 - Encouraging Discipleship)



But wait, there’s more! The catch-cry of television hucksters and con artists and salesmen. And that more that we want always seems to involve paying more, doesn’t it?

But if we want more out of our faith, out of our life with God, there is a way to get it, to discover more joy in our faith, to have that peace that we need in a changing world, to become more like Jesus every day. This becoming more like Jesus we have always called in the church SANCTIFICATION.

And we who with our Lutheran ears have always shied away from any concept that we can cooperate with God in our salvation, have never been very comfortable hearing this, but it is absolutely true: we can cooperate with God in our sanctification! In fact, the more we want out of the Christian life the more we need to cooperate with God! It is not works’ righteousness to say this, that “works righteousness” concept only applies to our salvation, to being made, well, righteous! (being saved, becoming believers.)

I am convinced that most of our preaching is designed for people who are pre-conversion, pre-salvation. But most of the people who hear our preaching are there because they are believers, in other words, already converted, already saved! They need to know that Jesus loves them and saves them by Grace, but, then what?

Now that we are saved, converted, heaven bound believers we are not ordered to go deeper in our faith, we can stay as we have always been, that’s called being members.

But what if we could go deeper, put some practices into place that mean that we could continue to grow in our faith on this journey through life, to reclaim that fire of passion about our faith/life, to be productive in our faith communities?

Well the good news is that we do have that opportunity. And it is just that, an opportunity, not a demand. We are not ordered to do these things, we are called to do them. Because our calling is not to be MEMBERS of a church. And I know that for a fact, because Jesus never said in the great commission: Go and make members of all nations. Let them sit in the pew for all of their earthly lives and never grow and never change.

No. Go and make what? Disciples! And isn’t it a loaded word?

A disciple is a learner. One who sits at the feet. The word disciple carries with it the echo of another word that comes from the same root word: discipline. It suggests that it isn’t going to be easy. It will take discipline, effort. We will need to apply ourselves. But nothing ever worth working for is easy.

The idea of sanctification, of discipleship, I think of like this: I love my children just as they are, but I love them too much to leave them that way. They are great kids, but I have not been tasked with raising kids, so they can’t stay kids all their lives. I have been tasked with raising men and women, and it will take work, but if they want to become good men and women it will take work on their part, and learning some good habits.

And Anne and I will try to give them the tools to do that. And God gives us the tools to do that, too. No good worker tries to make a masterpiece with tools they have never used before, or doesn’t use the right tools and then gets upset when the job doesn’t turn out right. It takes practice, and application, and humility to learn how to use them.

What are the tools for the process of discipleship? In other words, what opportunities do we have, what gifts has God given us to help us in this process of becoming more like Jesus, of growing as disciples?

Later in the year, I am going to preach a series of sermons about 6 practices, that we find feature prominently in the life of the early church, a time when the faith was being added to daily in number, and the believers were all “Of one mind”. So often we want the results like they had back then, and the growth and life and blessings, but without putting in the work. But there were things that we are told that the early Christians dedicated themselves to: and these are 6 practices that we can use to get more out of our walk with Jesus, to go deeper in our Christian journey, to be not members but disciples. These practices are: Daily Prayer, weekly worship, daily bible reading, serving in and beyond the congregation, growing through nurturing relationships, and generous giving.

Remember, you are not forced to do these things. They are not an obligation, as we have so often seen them, and we hear the words: “Read your bible” as a command, and something to make us feel guilty, that we have not read it enough. But I want us to change the way that we see these things. We don’t live in a place where the bible is banned, we have the GIFT of being able to access it freely, and we CAN read it every day, praise the Lord! Worship isn’t banned here, we CAN worship every week, in more forms than ever! Thank you God! We CAN pray, we CAN use the freedom we have to serve others, and we CAN, through a healthy, realistic understanding of what God has first given us, freely and generously give back to him in time, money and resources so that the church can work in the lives of others.

I had some other Pastors tell me recently that we have to get back into the church buildings because THIS (an online community) is not church. And my question was: “Why?” Why is it not church? Yes, we have always met together in person, but if we have been able to help you grow in your faith in some tiny way over the last months, or in a big way, and if we can help you go deeper in your Christian walk in the days to come, then we are doing exactly what we are called to do, to help make disciples, because if you are learning, if you are growing in your faith, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We may need to look again at what it means to be church, and ask ourselves: Is everybody welcome? Because the fourth guiding principle of St. Marks, and one that is really tough sometimes, is inclusivity.

Can we like Jesus, look beyond race and background and gender, beliefs and faith, and truly love EVERYONE with the love of Jesus? What will this look like?

Join us next week as we explore this together.

May God bless you richly as you grow as disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

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