Welcome to Joining Jesus.

SPECIAL NOTE

On 1st March 2019, I will be beginning the ‘Joining Jesus’ Podcast and be launching a new ‘Joining Jesus’ discipleship process that will be available at The Rooftop Academy www.therooftop.org As such, to avoid having too many, and possibly confusing ‘titles’ I thought it would be best for the weekly email that I send to have the same title. Therefore, ‘Stay On Mission’ from now onwards will be titled ‘Joining Jesus’. If you are being helped by these emails, from 1st March, please feel free to find out more about the podcast and discipleship process. Here is this weeks article.

  1. A new life

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Matthew 16:21-24

I have chosen to begin the new series under the title ‘Joining Jesus’ with some of the most challenging words that Jesus spoke during His ministry.  The words above are also included in the gospels of Mark and Luke and they challenge us to the core.  But in this first article I want to focus on Jesus’ actions before we look, over the coming articles, at His words.

Matthew writes:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

These words may be very familiar and the problem with familiarity is that it can lead to us failing to let the truth of what is being said really impact us.

Jesus is about to share with His disciples that there is a huge cost involved in following Him.   But what is about to happen to Him makes it clear that the price He is will pay is even greater.  The words that stand out from the verse above are: ‘suffer’, ‘be killed’, and ‘raised to life’.  The outcome is going to be glorious, He will be raised from the dead!!  But this will not happen without Him suffering and being killed, as Paul writes to the church at Philippi:

And being found in appearance as a man, he (Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:8

Jesus suffering and death were not as a result of Him being overpowered against His will, it was an act of obedience which was necessary for His mission to be accomplished.  This is seen in His explanation to his disciples that ‘he must go to Jerusalem….’  He chose to do what would result in pain and even death because He knew this was required for His mission to be completed.  He was obedient to the purposes of God in the face of the most terrible torture that man has invented – the cross!

Obedience is a characteristic that seems to be out of vogue for many within the church.  We like to speak of ‘blessings’ that will bring benefits but not so much about obedience that will cost us something.

However, as with Jesus, the blessing follows the obedience, Paul continues in the letter to the Philippians:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:9-11

This week, I encourage you to reflect on the vital role that obedience played in Jesus being able to fulfil His Mission with the result that He was ‘exalted to the highest place’.  What does this mean for you as a follower of Jesus as you seek to join Him in His Mission?

Dennis

Welcome to Joining Jesus.

SPECIAL NOTE.

On 1st March 2019, I will be beginning the ‘Joining Jesus’ Podcast and be launching a new ‘Joining Jesus’ discipleship process that will be available at The Rooftop Academy www.therooftop.org As such, to avoid having too many, and possibly confusing ‘titles’ I thought it would be best for the weekly email that I send to have the same title. Therefore, ‘Stay On Mission’ from now onwards will be titled ‘Joining Jesus’. If you are being helped by these emails, from 1st March, please feel free to find out more about the podcast and discipleship process. Here is this weeks article.

2.  Have you missed the point?

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Matthew 16:21-24

The Jesus who asks us to follow Him and join Him in His Mission is the one who ‘died for us’ as Peter writes:

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’. 1 Peter 3:18

The mission that Jesus asks us to join Him in is something that is far more urgent than merely filling up empty seats in church buildings.  It is not a mission that is intended to give people a better life – it is a mission that is fulfilled when people surrender to Jesus and receive a new life, al life that begins in this world and will continue forever.

Having spent several years travelling to many parts of the world and visiting churches in a variety of different situations I have reluctantly reached a sad conclusion.  The conclusion that I have come to is that the vast majority of Christians have lost, or maybe never had, a deep passion for a mission that is about saving people from an eternity without God!  Somehow, it seems we have missed the point!

Remarkably, in the scripture we are looking at, we discover that we are not the first people to completely miss the point!

Immediately after Jesus had explained His mission to the disciples, Matthew records:

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Peter had missed the point and not understood that Jesus’ Mission was not just something that made life better here, it was a mission with an eternal perspective, hence the enormously challenging words from Jesus in response to Peter:

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus now rebukes Peter and at the heart of this rebuke is that Peter only has in mind ‘human’ concerns not ‘the concerns of God’.  As a result, Peter was a stumbling block because while he saw things from this perspective he would get in the way of the true mission of Jesus!

This can easily happen to us as churches and individuals, we can become so focused on ‘human concerns’ – our own problems and issues as individuals and, as churches, keeping things the way we like them to be and ensuring that we are ‘on budget’.  These human concerns can mean that we completely miss the point and see our mission as ensuring that our needs are met – this can make us a stumbling block!

For us, as for Peter, there is a rebuke from Jesus if our focus is on ‘merely human concerns’.

This week I encourage you to take some time to read through the scripture verses above and ask the Lord to reveal to you whether you have in mind ‘the concerns of God’ or ‘merely human concerns’.

Dennis

3.   Humility and cost!

But after Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.  Matthew 1:20-25

I know many people who were given a name at birth but who, for one reason or another, never use the name in later life.  The result of this is that many people never find out what their original name was.  My Grandfather’s name was Isaac but everybody called him Mick.  My wife’s grandmother’s name was Violet but everybody called her Betty.

The name ‘Jesus’ that was given to Mary’s child was used throughout his life.   But there was another name that the child was given that is seldom used as a name:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

The name that people would call the child born of the virgin was ‘Immanuel’ because this too describes the most remarkable and mind-blowing truth.  In order for God to save us He had to come to be with us!   As John records in his gospel:

‘The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us’  John 1:14

It is so hard for our minds to fathom the enormity of this truth!

What we celebrate at Christmas time is an act of complete selfless humility that is demonstrated by the creator of the universe.  His mission was so important to Him that he was prepared to become a creature and lay down His life.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians expands on this remarkable truth and, this Christmas, as you thank God for what He has done, can I encourage you to reflect on the words that Paul wrote, copied below, as you spend time with the Lord and ask how you can join Him in His Mission:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature  of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:5-8

Saving us from our sin cost Jesus His life!  What are you prepared to lay down that will enable you to join Jesus in His Mission?

2. Jesus –  The rescuer!

But after Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.  Matthew 1:20-25

We all have a name, and our name has a meaning which may, or may not, describe something that is true about us.  My name is Dennis and by looking on the internet, I discovered:

In English the meaning of the name Dennis is: Dionysius is the mythological Greek god of wine responsible for growth of the vines and the originator of winemaking: (equivalent to the Roman god Bacchus.).

Clearly, my name doesn’t describe me at all!  It is just a name that my mother chose because she liked the name, or, maybe it was popular at the time.

In the case of Jesus, His name was no accident, it was a name that fully described the whole purpose of His life on earth.

The angel said to Joseph:  “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 

The name ‘Jesus’ was not chosen by Joseph or Mary, it was the name that they were instructed to give Him because the name described why He had come.  Joseph was told to name Him Jesus because he will save people from their sins.  There is clearly a link between the name the child was to be given and what He would do with His life.

The name ‘Jesus’ stems from the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ which means ‘God saves/delivers’.  As such, the angel said to Joseph:  “….you are to give Him the name ‘God saves’ because he will save people from their sins.”

Jesus whole life, as revealed in the name He was to be given, was a rescue mission – he came to SAVE people from their sins.  His only focus was on fulfilling this mission and, as His followers, He invites us to Join Him in His Mission!

As Christmas approaches and you reflect upon all that Jesus has done to rescue you and save you from the consequences of sin, reflect also on the mission that He has invited you to join Him in.  This mission was his entire purpose, how much of a priority is it to you?

But after Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.  Matthew 1:20-25

A couple of days ago, in our local supermarket, I said to the young lady at the checkout, ‘Merry Christmas’.  Yes, it is that time of year again, it is Christmas.  The day before I passed on my first Christmas greeting of 2018, I had been on the London Underground travelling to the city for a meeting.  As I stood on the platform waiting for the train, I was looking at the array of advertising billboards on the wall on the other side of the track.  One of them grabbed my attention, it said something like:  “Christmas is all about family and friends’ but the words family and friends had a line through them and, over the top was written the word ‘presents’.  This was an advert for an online Christmas gift website!

As I looked at this, I reflected on the message that was being presented to the thousands upon thousands of people who will read it.  Clearly, the message is that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ!

While I am saddened to see this, and so many other ‘messages’ that leave Christ out of Christmas, I am also really encouraged by the fact that there are still millions of people who do make some time for Jesus during the Christmas period.  In the UK where I live, church buildings that are almost empty for much of the year are often filled to overflowing for carol services.  In addition, there are so many other places and occasions where the story is told as churches use other buildings and locations as venues for celebrating and sharing the story of the birth of Jesus.

Christmas provides us with a great opportunity to join Jesus in His Mission and it is vital that we make the most of what is still a unique opportunity.

A number of years ago a Christian ministry engaged in a huge national survey in which they asked people across the UK who don’t go to church two questions:

           “When would you be most likely to go to church”?

           “What would be most likely to get you to go”?

The answers were:

“Christmas”.

            “A Personal Invitation”.

Over the next few weeks I want to draw some important things out of the bible story about the birth of Jesus but, during this week, as Christmas begins to take centre stage, be asking God who you could ‘invite’ to hear the story this Christmas.

 “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost”  Luke 19:10

Recently, thanks to the amazing generosity of some very special friends, my wife Lynn, and I were able to spend a week together at Pensacola Beach in Florida.

The first couple of days were dominated by the frequent updates regarding Hurricane Michael that was heading for the Florida Panhandle.  We were fortunate, as Michael headed east from where we were and made landfall at Mexico Beach.  My heart goes out to so many people whose lives have been impacted in ways that are unimaginable, please pray for them!

The day after the Hurricane had passed the sun rose on a beautiful day so Lynn and I decided to go for a long walk along the beach, a place of amazing beauty.  As we walked along we began to notice so many things that had been washed ashore as a result of the hurricane.  We saw dozens of enormous Jelly Fish, Starfish, slugs and worms as well as many other things that we didn’t recognize.  We also saw thousand of sea shells of all shapes and sizes so Lynn decided that she would make a collection of the best ones that she could find.

She made an announcement ‘I am going to look for the best sea shells and take them home with me’.  Having made the announcement she began to do what she said and our walk slowed down considerably as she went from place to place and closely examined piles and piles of shells.

As I watched her doing this I was reminded of the verse in Luke chapter 19 and the amazing truth that Jesus, the son of man, came to SEEK the lost.  As Lynn was on her knees and up to her arms in shells it struck me again that Jesus, when he became a man, went looking for the lost.  He didn’t wait for them to come inside a building but he went to find them.

Over the next few weeks I will share some of the very simple, but deeply profound things that Lynn experienced as she was looking for the shells that she wanted.  Many of these deep and profound truths are very similar to the things that we will experience as we join Jesus in His Mission and go looking for the people that Jesus came to seek and to save.

This week, take a moment to reflect upon your witness as a follower of Jesus and please think about this simple question:  ‘Who am I seeking so that they will come to know Jesus?’.

 “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost”  Luke 19:10

You may remember that I began this short series of reflections on ‘seeking’ as a result of my wife deciding to look for sea shells while we were on the beach in Pensacola.

As she did this there were a few things that she said that I found deeply significant as we consider joining Jesus in His Mission.

One of the first things that she said was “All of the best shells are at the bottom of a deep trough of water” she added “and they are not on the surface, you have to push your hands deep into the sand to find them.  If I do that I’ll get dirty and wet”.

How amazing that such an innocent comment can help us to see such an amazing truth!

The shells that had made it to the shore were nearly all broken and cracked and she didn’t really want those.  The unbroken ones were not quite on the part of the beach where she could walk.  She would have to go into the water, get wet and dirty, and step outside of her comfort zone and, even then “I might get all wet and dirty ands till not find what I am looking for”.

I then heard her begin to call out to me “oh no,  look there are enormous jelly fish that are all around the shells, and there are slugs and worms…….”  She was realizing that finding the shells presented her with some challenges that she was not enjoying!

As with looking for shells so it is with looking for the lost.  Those that Jesus sends us to seek are not all turning up at our church services every week.  Many of them are in places where it is a little harder to reach them.  They may not agree with all that we say and they may not be living the kind of life that we approve of. Finding them may require that we step outside of our comfort zone and, as Lynn said “get all wet and dirty”  not literally but the reality is that seeking the lost among people who are beyond the walls of the church is not neat and tidy.  We will find people who are often dealing with many issues, their lives are not always ‘together’ and introducing them to Jesus takes time, and effort and sometimes is just hard!

But, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?

To step from heaven into humanity and to die on a Roman cross is probably as big a step outside of a comfort zone as anybody could ever take yet Jesus did it!  For you and for me!

This week, ask the Lord to remind you of all that He did to ‘seek and to save you’ and then ask Him to guide you to those that he wants you to seek – even if it may not be comfortable!

 “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost”  Luke 19:10

Welcome to ‘part 3’ of my brief series that was inspired by my wife Lynn as she went looking for shells on Pensacola Beach.

As Lynn continued with her search for shells she began to find some that she really liked and, after a while she had a good collection.  She then wanted to show them to me and pointed out that while she had so many shells they were all different, and it was true.  Her wet hands were filled with so many shells of all shapes, sizes and colours, but they were all shells!

Lynn was really pleased that her collection was made up of shells that were not all the same and she told me “It would be so boring if they were all the same, the variety makes the collection much more interesting and exciting”.

The simple statement that she made struck me as deeply significant as we consider what it means to join Jesus in His Mission.  Naturally, we so often choose to be with people who are very similar to us, but the Kingdom that Jesus came to build, will be made up of all kinds of people.  The people that we should be seeking may have different coloured skin, they may be different shapes and sizes and have different cultural backgrounds and other ways of doing things. But, here is a very important truth:  The kingdom of God is not made up of people who are all the same and ‘just like me’.  The Kingdom that Jesus came to introduce is to be available to all people, every nation, people group – what an amazing ‘collection’ far greater than Lynn’s sea shells!

This week, take some time to ask the Lord to help you to see people who are ‘different’ from you as being ‘made in His image’ and people that He loves and wants to be reached with the gospel.  Ask the Lord to help you to see beyond the things that may hinder you from connecting with them and to give you the passion to join Jesus in His Mission as you seek to introduce Jesus to them.

 “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost”  Luke 19:10

After a long time of searching along the beach Lynn had collected an amazing array of sea shells.  When we sat down at the end of our walk, she was keen to show me the results of her ‘seeking’ so she laid the shells out on the table that we were sitting at, it was a very impressive collection.

As she began showing them to me, she started to examine each shell really carefully and noticed, to her horror, that not one shell that she had collected was perfect!  Each one of them, on close examination, had a tiny peace missing, had a small chip, or was slightly discoloured in one part.  Even the best of the shells was imperfect!

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote some words that are very familiar to most Christians:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

This is a verse that is often used in an ‘evangelistic presentation’ and while this is valid it is not what Paul was really pointing to when he wrote his letter to the Romans.  His point was that both Jews and Gentiles were sinners who fell short of the glory of God!  There is nobody who has a right to God’s mercy and who can consider themselves ‘more worthy’ than anybody else – we all have cracks and imperfections – we were all lost!

To the Christians in Ephesus, Paul wrote:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.  (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Those in the church are no more or less worthy than those outside and, as such, what should drive us as followers of Jesus, is a passion for imperfect people, to hear and believe the Good News that we have received, the message that Peter spells out in his first letter:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  (1 Peter 3:18)

As followers of Jesus, every one of us is the recipient of a gift that we don’t deserve and could never earn.  We have received a free gift that is indescribably generous!  As Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to share the gospel with others, we should recognize that:

Freely you have received; freely give.  (Matthew 10:8)

From one ‘imperfect shell to another’, can I encourage you, this week, to reflect on the enormous generosity that God has lavished upon you even though you don’t deserve it.  Ask Him to fill you with a passion to share the great news of the gospel to the ‘cracked and even broken’ shells that are around you. For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost!

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Over the past few weeks we have been considering how the first church was devoted to ‘learning’, the fellowship’, and ‘prayer’.  It is perhaps not surprising to read that there was an outcome to their devotion.  This is seen at the end of the passage:

‘And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’.

It is important to take careful notice of how these words are written, the passage doesn’t say ‘and because of their devotion they became the fastest growing church in the city’.  The growth is not credited to them but to God, it was the Lord who added!  This truth is similar to the words that Jesus used when He sent out the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-24).   He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”. (v2)

The Harvest field is not ours it is the Lord’s and this is a key thing to remember as we seek to stay on Mission with Jesus.  It is not about us feeling that we have to ‘get people saved’ and ‘get them in church’, rather it is about us recognizing that Jesus is already at work in the harvest field and He is inviting us to join Him where He is – where the people are!

There are two vitally important implications of making His mission our focus:

  1. As we meet together with other believers our focus should be not on ‘the church’ but on Jesus and His Mission.  How can we learn, be in fellowship and pray in such a way that we will be empowered and equipped to be effective in the harvest field where we are scattered?
  2. The number that defines us is not limited to how many people turn up at a church building or worship gathering on a Sunday. The activity of God is taking place in the lives of people that have never been through the door of a church and many of these people are our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and perhaps even family.  It is this ‘number’ that our focus should be on.

As you seek to ‘stay on Mission’ this week please remember that our mission is not about merely swelling the number of people that attend a worship service so that we can be seen as a successful church.  Our mission is to join Jesus in His Mission and, as we devote ourselves to Him, to trust that he will do the ‘adding’.