05 February 2013

ESTABLISHING THE CHURCH ONE DISCIPLE AT A TIME




John 1:35-51

When we come to a passage like this I’m reminded of the blessed event that took place for a 120 people waiting and praying in an upperoom. Which most scholars say that this was the place Jesus broke bread with His disciples, before being arrested in the Garden of Olives. We read in Acts 1:13-15  “And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.  All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)…”
What were they waiting for? The Holy Spirt and the beginning of the Church age.

Why is this event important to our portion of scripture this morning? Because the event we are going to be looking at this morning is the beginning stages to the day of Pentecost. The beginning of the established church age which continues still today. Isn’t that amazing that we are the continuation of the first church some 2 thousand years ago? It’s remarkable…it’s amazing…it’s supernatural. Throughout history, through much persecution, major doctrinal battles…..that the church continues to grow one person at a time still today. See! Let’s put ourselves in the in the shoes of these first called out ones this morning.
  • Times were very tough financially, government corruption, socially and morally.
  • Families and neighboring nations were hostile and somewhat violent towards one another
  • Crime was on the increase
  • Taxes were forcing families to lose everything, even their children
  • False religion was ramped and overruling in many cases
  • It was a corrupt and bankrupt society
  • Sound familiar?

This was a tough time to build and establish the church! Jesus would have his work cut out for him [figuratively speaking]. This portion of John’s letter is an amazing illustration of what the church was built for! To grow [mature] believers to reach out to others [lost sinners] with the message of the gospel. Think about it! The church [meaning locally] didn't all of a sudden become this massive congregation of 200 to 500 people meeting each and every Sunday. Yes, Peter proclaimed the greatest message ever told which touched and transformed the lives of thousand’s. But the when a church is planted it began just like John explains here in this passage! One person at a time….in this case 2!

Look what says in the [v35-v39] These two men were intrigued or curious to what this Jesus was all about. They were automatically taken back by what John said in the opening verse! [v35] “Behold the Lamb of God”. You can sort say their hearts were being softened by the that biblical statement from John the Baptist. Again remember what John said to the religious elite “I’m just a voice”. And voice only John was……because they immediately left there friend to follow this Jesus fellow. Something compelled them to follow Jesus for quite some time! Why? In [v38] Jesus says “What are you seeking?”. They wanted to know and hear more for this one whom John declared to be the “Lamb of G0d”

The same curiosity, passion and desires are happening today! Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. People around the globe are being transformed by the supernatural power found in the gospel message. This was God’s plan all along when it came to redemption…..saving lost sinners by transforming their blacken heart with a new one. Building the church one sinner at a time. I think the modern day church has missed this simple truth. There are thousands of how to grow or do church …some are good and some are completely humanism. Some are like how to be a successful CEO in a company! This isn’t a business this rescue mission for lost souls. And the fundamental error to most of this quick fixes or building bigger churches is that they forgot how the church was established. People being transformed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel message. It’s that gospel power that puts a burning passion inside of you and there is no way can contain it or bottled up!

Why do I say this? [v40-v42a] Andrew is so excited he had to tell his brother all about their stay with Jesus! Now….scripture doesn’t give us the details to their stay with Jesus but it must life changing at least for one of them! Why? The first thing Andrew wanted to do, was to do what? Share the glorious news with his very brother first. See we need to understand in this present church age……..it’s not programs, stately buildings that grow churches! It’s people. It’s people who follow Jesus because their lives have been passionately transformed. See! To follow although usually means to ‘follow as a disciple” it also can mean “to examine something more closely” as we see here in this passage.

We need to understand something! Andrew and Peter weren't yet officially followers of Jesus until He called them out by their boat one day. In Luke 5:1-11 “On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

These men established the church 2000 years ago and they turned the world upside down. And when you’re passionately in love with Jesus of the gospel; word gets out rather quickly. Look what we see next the following day [v43-46] Right out the gate we see Jesus approaching Phillip and Jesus says “Follow Me” Wasn’t this you? When the gospel finally tugged at the strings of your heart? It was for me!………I couldn’t what to tell my wife! I couldn’t wait to go to church and be with other people whose lives were changed by this message. One by one the church was being established…….First Andrew, Simon [whose name was changed to Cephas [Peter in the Greek] and then it’s reached Phillip and now the news has travelled to Nathanael.

Now Nathanael was a different kind of character! What do I mean by this? By the response he gives to his friend Phillip in [v46]. Nathanael was devote Israelite who took things seriously especially when it came to there writings and teachings of the Old Testament. Nathanael was a Galilean who despised people from Nazareth. But Nathanael soon changed his tune when the Lord displayed His Omnipresence "When you were under the fig tree, I saw you".

It’s as the Psalm that David wrote……

Ps 139:1-4 “……O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

Think about that statement for a moment!
  • Maybe Nathanael was just reading the story that Jesus spoke of in Jacob’s Ladder.
  • Maybe Nathanael was contemplating being baptized by John the Baptist.
  • Maybe Nathanael was thinking about the coming Messiah.
  • Maybe Nathanael was praying and asking God to reveal the Messiah to him.

Whatever it was that humbled Nathanael under the weight of that statement….everything changed for himHave you ever had one of those moments? A heart that is filled with discouragement, doubt, frustration and all of a sudden you read something or the phone rings and it’s a person who says “I was thinking of you today and the Lord just laid on my heart to talk to you” Those moments are supernatural moments! Just like the one we read here in the scriptures. I personally can recall a few of those moments in preparation for ministry and during ministry! 

That’s what makes God so awesome! That’s why I love the church so much! It filled with unique individuals whose lives have been transformed by His grace one person at a time. These men knew what it meant to count the cost for the sake of the gospel….for the sake of establishing the church. As Jesus said to Peter “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt 16:18. These men were nobody special as they began a journey that would establish the church to what it is today. What’s amazing is that they were just “a voice” like John! A voice that says “He must increase and I must decrease” as John the Baptist did when Jesus came upon the scene. These first disciples turned the world upside down for the glory of the gospel…..and it cost them there lives……

Peter a fisherman, stopped everything and followed
Preached a sermon on the day of Pentecost
Healed a lame man at the gate of the temple
Raised Dorcas from the dead
Wrote 2 New Testament epistles
His life ended by be crucified upside down in Rome

Andrew a fisherman stopped everything and followed
Preached in Asia Minor, and Greece and was crucified at Patros in Achaia

James a fisherman stopped everything and followed
He was a man of passion and zeal, he was also sensitive and graceful to all that came in his path. He had one desire proclaim the Love of Christ to the world
He was the first of the apostles to be martyred
He was executed by Herod Agrippa

John a fisherman stopped everything and followed
Participated in the healing of the lame man at the temple
Followed up Philip's work in Samaria
Wrote the Gospel, three epistles and the Book of Revelation
Was exiled to the island of Patmos and died a natural death in Ephesus

Philip was most likely a fisherman, stopped everything and followed
Friends of James and John
Attended the same synagogue as Peter and Andrew
Philip was used greatly in the spread of the early church
He was crucified Hierapolis in Asia Minor

Nathanael was most likely a fisherman (he was also called Bartholomew)
Very close friend to Philip almost like brother relationship
He was brought to Jesus by Philip
He ministered in Persia and India and took the Gospel as far as Armenia
He was martyred in Armenia

Matthew a tax collector stopped everything and followed
Loved the Lord, he embraced the outcasts of his world
A man of great faith and complete surrender to the Lordship of Christ
Writer of the Gospel of Matthew
Earliest traditions indicate he was burned at the stake

Thomas also known as "doubting Thomas" followed the Lord
He somewhat a worry wart, tended to be very anxious.
He anticipated the worst of times
Thomas cared the Gospel as far as India
He was speared to death for his faith

James son of Alphaeus also followed the Lord
Persistently confused with James the brother of Jesus in early church tradition
Some say he could have been Matthew's brother due to their name of their fathers Alphaeus (Mark 2:14)
Ministered in Syria and Persia
Some say he was stoned; others say he was beaten to death.

Simon the Zealot stopped everything and followed the Lord.
Zealot's were Politically minded, a group of extremists in every sense, a people who hated the Romans and killed Jews. He was a loyal, passionate and full of courage who loved the Lord
Simon took the Gospel north and preached in the British Isles
Like so many other Simon disappears from biblical record
All accounts say he was killed for preaching the Gospel

Judas not the Iscariot also known as "Thaddaeus" followed the Lord
Often been confused with Jude the brother of Jesus
Tradition associates his ministry with Edessa, a royal city in Mesopotamia, in the region of Turkey today
He was tendered hearted who followed his Lord faithfully to the end
Tradition says he was clubbed to death for his faith

Judas Iscariot the traitor handled the money for the group
He followed Jesus willingly
The betrayer of Jesus
Satan resided in him and Bible says he hung himself (Matt 27:3-5)

With the exception of Judas the traitor all these men went on to be used for the Lord in a mighty way impacting countries and most of all souls for His Kingdom. They did this to establish the church…one person at a time. None of them special or unique...Everyday people with real problems and issues in life...None of them looked back or walked away weeping. Jesus Said “….But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God……” Luke 9:62. These men counted the cost to follow by faith in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The question for us is………Are we as excited as Andrew and Phillip were to tell their closest friends? Or are we more excited about last night’s hockey game and the upcoming Super Bowl? These men followed and asked for nothing in return [fame, fortune] but the one they did do was be a voice to a fallen generation. The voice that would one day lead many to Christ to build the church on the foundation of the scriptures.

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