The opening statements of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are about the type of people Jesus taught were blessed by God. The kind of people who were and would experience in fuller measure God's favour. The striking thing was then, and still is today, the kind of people Jesus said were blessed. They were all the wrong people... What does this mean for us today?
In Matthew 5-7 we find Matthew's summary of the core of Jesus' teaching. This was not just a collection of spiritual ideas, but Jesus' vision and proclamation of what the Kingdom of God was like and who it was for. Jesus had a clear vision as well of how His followers were to respond to His teaching... to put it into practice.
God is in the business of using ordinary people for His extra-ordinary purposes and Kingdom. The life of Philip serves as an example and inspiration for us as the same God at work in Philip is looking to be at work through us. For this we need to renew our confidence in God and His ways.
How did the early church grow from 120 to the approximately 2 billion today worldwide? The early church not only carried out some basic practices, but their attitude was of being devoted to Jesus through them and because of this they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our question, if we want to see God move more powerfully today, is are we willing to be devoted and empowered... even if it means God calls for us to change and sacrifice?
The early church devoted themselves to a set of basic practices that helped them fulfill Jesus' Great Commission and Great Commandment. While we live in a different culture and can't do things exactly as the early church did, we can still engage in the same practices, the first in our series being devotion to the teaching of the apostles. To apprentice ourselves to Jesus requires we know His teaching.
Knowing our identity in Christ and personal vision from God isn’t enough to see these made manifest in our lives. It also requires our taking steps to live these out. Good intentions will not get us to the positive destinations we want in our life. Following Jesus requires effort on our part to turn our intentions into steps that will lead us in the direction of His Kingdom.
This is the second sermon is a series looking at practical ways to help ourselves grow to be more like Jesus. The tagline for Connect to Others is I am helping someone and someone is helping me be a reproducing follower of Jesus. We are not designed to follow or become like Jesus by ourselves. We need at least one other person who knows what is going on in our inner life to help us follow through on what God speaks to us about. Without accountability we will struggle to become more like Jesus.
In our culture it is possible to be a Christian without being a disciple. Disciples are those who seek to discipline themselves to be like Jesus. This requires right information, reflected upon, then put into practice. Only then will we see the Holy Spirit working to transform us to be like Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are called to train ourselves, not just listen to his teaching.