As we approach our 40th anniversary, we’ve been talking about name change and specifically to Arise. This past Sunday we had a discussion and a vote and the results of the vote are…we’re tabling it until the next Annual Meeting in January of 2024.
But, as we’ve talked about, whether we change the name or not, we are still called to arise to the calling of God on our lives.
See God’s people are called to arise again and again throughout the Scriptures. So, we’ve been looking at a few of these different calls, and how they work together.
In our first week, we talked about how the Church needs to arise to focus. For too long the Church as a whole, whether it be Alliance, or Baptist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or pentecostal, we have focused on the wrong things. We have split and divided on things like music, atmosphere, or when will end times events happen. Instead of coming together on what really matters, the core of the Gospel. God created us to be with him. Our sins have separated us from God. Sins can’t be removed by our good deeds. Paying the price for our sins, Jesus died and rose again. Everyone who puts their trust in Jesus has everlasting life. Life everlasting begins now and last forever. God has called us to unite on what matters and not on secondary issues.
Then in our second week we talked about how God has called us to arise to repentance. To enter into a relationship with Jesus; to have him be our Savior; to gain salvation and be saved, we must repent of our sins. That means we have to recognize that we have sinned against God and turn towards him and away from it. There can be no salvation without repentance. That’s why some of the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel of Mark is, “…repent, and believe the Gospel (1:14).” But it doesn’t stop at the door of salvation. Repentance doesn’t end with the sinner’s prayer. It just moves purpose. For the believer, repentance is to correct breaks in our relationship with God. When we sin after gaining salvation, repentance is recognizing that God is still good, and these things don’t align with his goodness and we want him to throw them out of our lives. And so repentance is good for us, and it’s an example for the world that we know we still mess up and that’s why we continually pursue God, because he is bringing us further away from sin’s influence in our lives and into his holiness.
And that’s what we talked about last week, arise to holiness. God is perfect and that perfection is called holiness. He is perfect love, perfect patience, perfect justice, perfect mercy, perfect knowledge, perfect grace. And he created humanity to be perfect as he is perfect. But we have sinned. We have been unloving, and not patient. We have committed injustices, and have not given out mercy. We use knowledge to make ourselves look better or belittle others and we don’t give out grace to those who we don’t think deserve it. But God has called us to his holiness, and so when we turn to Jesus as our Savior, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God makes us holy. When we recognize that sin has no power over us, trusting Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and diving into God’s Word, we move further away from it, becoming more like God in his character of holiness.
So it’s living a life of repentance, moving towards ever greater holiness, that we move to the last call to arise, Church we need to arise to mission.
Today is Resurrection Sunday. It’s the day that we recognize Jesus’ rising from the dead roughly 1,990 years ago. The reason why this is so important, is because the whole of the Christian faith rests on this day (see 1 Corinthians 15).
See every other religion in the world doesn’t have to rely on historical events. Buddhists and Hindus have their teachings that don’t need to be pinpointed to a specific time in history. Even Islam, though it makes historical claims, doesn’t have a historical point that they say if you can prove this wrong, then our whole faith falls apart. But the Christian’s holy Scriptures tells us this. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
This one historical moment carries with it the whole of the Christian faith. And so many have sought to debunk it. Many have given reasons and arguments for why it couldn’t happen. The Roman guards were asleep, the woman had the wrong tomb, or maybe it was the disciples who stole the body, which could have look something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23UNLLbOS3w
But each of these arguments fall short, and when you do the whole breath of research, you either come away with the ‘ view like Atheist New Testament Scholar Bart Erhman who says, something happened, he just doesn’t know what. Or you come to the view that ex-atheist J. Warner Wallace takes, that it has some of the best evidence of any cold case he’s ever investigated.
The resurrection of Jesus, his coming back to life, is the foundation to the Christian faith and has show to endure for 1,990 years. And because of that moment in history, Jesus has called his followers, his disciples, his people, to spread the message of the Gospel. This commission comes in Matthew 28, starting in verse 16, where we read…
“16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
I love the way this passage begins, Jesus calls his disciples to a mountain. In the Old Testament, mountains were where people met with God. It was a place of mystery and several mountains were considered holy places because people met God on them. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus consistently goes on mountains to teach, inferring that he was God meeting with his people.
But when the disciples show up, it says “they worshiped him, but some doubted.” No matter where we are in our relationship with Jesus, whether just starting out or we’ve been around for decades, if we have our doubts, Jesus still calls us to the mountain to meet with him.
And it’s in response to that doubt that Jesus says this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus is in complete control, his resurrection proved it. If the resurrection didn’t happen, if the disciples fooled the world and played the best April fools joke ever, then nothing Jesus said matters. But because the resurrection happened, because it’s a historical point that has a ton of cold case evidence, Jesus is in control and everything he says matters.
So the next words out of Jesus’ mouth matter, “Go therefore…” This is action. Jesus is saying, based on who he is, his life, his death, his resurrection, his disciples are to go out in his authority to achieve his purposes. And what are those purposes? To make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all the commands Jesus gave.
We are to be disciples of Jesus, not merely believers. We are to be followers, putting his words into practice in our lives. If we’ve have said a prayer accepting Jesus as our Savior, but we’re not putting his words into daily practice, then we are not disciples. We may believe Jesus is real, that he died and was resurrected, but we’re not his followers. If we’re not putting his commands into practice, which means we have to read what those commands are, we’re not disciples if we don’t, at the best, we’re fans of Jesus, but Jesus isn’t wanting us to be his fan, he wants us to be his followers.
I’m a fan of the LA Dodgers, have been since I was a kid, but I don’t follow them. I don’t know their starting line up this year, and I haven’t for several years. The difference between a fan and a follower, is commitment; Jesus is calling his disciples to a life commitment to him. To know all his stats so well that we know which play he’d make without needing to ask him. And unless we’re seeking to know him as he wants us to, we’re just playing. We’re not doing the mission he has called us to do. Because that mission is to make disciples.
It’s to live out the Gospel message in our own lives through repentance and seeking God’s holiness, and it’s to share the Gospel message with whoever God brings into our lives.
Jesus’ final words gives us a glimpse into why, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is going to walk with his disciples through the work of the Holy Spirit until the day he returns. From the best days to the worst days. From moments where we’re happy beyond compare, to where we are in the most devastated circumstances. Jesus wants to walk with his disciples.
This is why Paul wrote this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God wants to work out good in our lives, but we must show that we love him by doing what he says, and seek his purposes in our lives. When that happens, God’s goodness, through both the best and worst times with show itself. And we will know that we are his disciples who have arisen to his call to the mission of the Gospel.
This week I want to challenge you, first if you have never put your trust in Jesus as your Savior, this is the day. There’s a verse that states that today is God’s favor, today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). What that means is that we don’t have the guaranteed of tomorrow, we only have this moment right now, so why put it off. If you are here today, God is calling you to salvation. He’s calling you to repent of sin, to turn to him, and walk the rest of your life with him; growing in his holiness that he created you to share in. And it can be a simple prayer of, “God your right, I have sinned and am lost without you. I trust that Jesus was crucified for my sin, but rose again to bring me eternal life. I accept his sacrifice for me and I want to follow you the rest of my life.” Seek God while he is close.
For the disciple of Jesus, my challenge for you is this. In your bulletin is a piece of paper. Ask God to bring to your mind a person he would have you share the Gospel with this year. Fold the paper in half, and rip it into, then write their name down on the top and bottom half of the paper. You take the top half, and on the way out, there’s a bulletin board with a map of the world. Tack it on to that board. I’ll be praying for your person, as you are reaching out to them. And it will give others an opportunity to pray for your person too.
Let us be a people who are following our call to arise to Jesus’ mission, that we may reach people for the sake of the Gospel, and let us do this on the foundation of our Savior’s resurrection. Amen.