In the past two thousand years, countless sermons have been preached about Jesus and His disciples. It is thrilling to learn of how they shook the world, turning it upside down. So many stories have been told of the wonders they performed, yet in all of the excitement, how many true disciples of Jesus Christ have been produced?
Surely millions have received His salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but the mandate Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19 was to make disciples of all nations. Perhaps it is time to look at this subject a little closer, to be sure we have not strayed from His Great Purpose.
America has become a very great and influential nation in this century, and our philosophy has had both positive and negative effects on many cultures. At the heart of our nation is the belief in individual rights. Here and around the world the pursuit of health, prosperity, freedom and personal happiness has been elevated to the status of "the right" of every individual. This is truly a wonderful concept that was handed down to us by the founders of the United States, but today we are seeing it carried to an extreme.
At the news stands we see magazines entitled People, US, and Self. The desire for mere pleasure and self fulfillment has driven many into an obsession, and the failure to find this elusive rainbow has brought great depression upon many. The fact remains that life doesn't always turn out as we would prefer, no matter how diligently we strive -- but there is hope.
Real hope was brought to us in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here was one individual that truly lived as human beings were destined to live. Even though His earthly life was cut short, He remains the most influential man that ever lived. In three and a half years He accomplished a work in twelve men, as well as in many others, that continues to change lives today. He promised abundant Life to all that would heed His Words and follow Him. This is a life filled with both pleasure and pain, but it is guaranteed to be one that is rich, full and rewarding.
Today He continues to hold out the promise of an abundant life to you and me. Eternal Life is for us now. It is full of love, peace and joy, but there is a price. The main requirement is that it must be shared. True happiness is in giving, even in sacrificing. Jesus found the greatest joy of all in giving His Life for humanity. His disciples are called to give their lives away in many ways also. By this means, they too can experience abundant life.
You do have a right to be happy, for Jesus purchased that right for you with His own blood. He demonstrated the truth of it every day before everyone, and His followers found their own happiness in the sharing of His Life with others. They learned from Him that they could know their heavenly Father. Through intense devotion and fellowship with Him, they found a power that was greater than any human could possess on His own. They learned how to bring people of all walks of life into this experience, some of whom were even socially undesirable.
All of the ills of society can be healed today by the Love of God in Jesus Christ, but He is not going to come and die on the cross again to prove His Love. That proof has to come from those of us who know it and have experienced it. We are the living letters that God has sent mankind to read. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to wake up and realize that the love of pleasure and self satisfaction is killing us too. We can only find the greatest pleasure of all when our lives are lost in HIM.
In the past, we have been taught that all fun is sin. Well, I am here to say that no one has more fun than a true disciple of Christ. We do not separate ourselves from people in fear of contamination, but we naturally mingle among unbelievers as Christ did. We might go bowling or out to dinner with them, or even play music with them, neither compromising the truth of the Gospel, nor standing above them as a holy object. While making friends at work, or in holiday gatherings, we always look for the opportunity to demonstrate the grace, love, peace and joy He has imparted unto us.
"Spiritual" or "Christian" gatherings are not the only place where Christians can have fun. As long as our desire is to first please and glorify Him, every day is an adventure. Jesus spoke much of feasting and partying. Once He said that we should invite into our homes those who cannot return the favor. I believe in the benefit of this kind of fellowship. Together we can all enjoy good food and good company. He was not just laying down a religious edict. He was revealing how disciples desiring abundant life can discover a wonderful and joyous experience!
Who has not been touched when witnessing a selfless act? How much better our lives would be if we all became addicted to this type of sharing? Let those of us who are shepherds, teachers, and leaders of any kind in the Church, renew our commitment to the Great Commission. May we all become true ministers -- that is servants of God and His Glorious Gospel, devoted to Him and to making disciples of ALL NATIONS! They must be taught the principles of abundant life -- self denial instead of self indulgence, prayer and praise instead of strife and complaining, giving and loving rather than hoarding and accumulating. We must empower them and inspire them by our examples, but may we never drive and dominate with words of fear and guilt.
All things that pertain unto life and godliness are freely available to everyone from the hand of God. The Good News of the Kingdom of God has made this real unto us. We must now embrace Him and these wonderful gifts that can only be possessed as we give them away.