Saturday, January 14, 2012

Epiphany 2

John 1:43-51
"Your Part in Church Growth"

Parishes across our Synod are asked to fill out numerous forms this time of year to show how much they have grown and in many areas across our country, there are churches that have not confirmed or baptized an adult in over 3 to 5 years. Here at Zion God has blessed us yet may mainline churches have been losing members. Churches all across our synod are losing members. By God’s grace, we have grown. (By close to 25% over the last twenty-five years.) That’s remarkably good but there is still room for us to grow.

Across our national church body, there has been a new interest in adding numbers to the church. In the nineteenth century, evangelism was identified with mass meetings, revivals, and evangelists. Today we happily have turned to a Bible based form of evangelism in terms of what some like to refer to as "personal evangelism". Recent statistics show that people join the church primarily through the invitations of friends. Sometimes it is called "relational evangelism". A Christian becomes a friend of a non-Christian; the believer invites him/her to church, and does what he-she can to help that unchurched friend. Our text gives an example of this type of evangelism when Philip brought Nathaniel to see Jesus. This morning let’s see how you can help the church to grow…

1. You must first follow Jesus – Listen to verse 43 of our text for this morning…"The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." Philip was called immediately by Christ Himself. Philip was called in a direct way: Jesus found Philip. Christ sought us, and found us, before we made any inquiries after Him. . Philip was brought to be a disciple by the power of Christ going along with that word, "Follow Me!"

Here we see the nature of true Christianity; it is following Christ, devoting ourselves to His will and His way, attending His movements, and treading in His steps. Here we see the efficacy of the grace of God, as it is the rod of His strength.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me". We find our totality in Christ alone. The world says "find yourself…find happiness in pursuing your own goals and traveling your own road, set your own compass, carve out your own niche in this world" John, on the other hand reminds us simply "He must increase, I must decrease"

2. You "find" an unchurched person - verse 45 "Philip found Nathaniel…" We are told that Philip was of Bethsaida, and Andrew and Peter were so too, (v. 44). These first disciples received not honor from the place of their roots, but reflected honor upon it. Bethsaida signifies the house of nets, because mostly fishermen inhabited it; there Christ chose disciples, who were to be furnished with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. They did not need the ordinary advantages of learning; their knowledge came from on high. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25”

Bethsaida was a wicked place. On the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee, Philip the tetrarch rebuilt Bethsaida and renamed it "Julias", after Julia, the daughter of Caesar Augustus.

In Matthew 11:21 we are told how Jesus spoke out against that city when He said "… Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes“ Yet even there was a remnant, according to the election of grace.

What mistakes and weaknesses Philip labored under: he called Christ "Jesus of Nazareth," whereas he was of Bethlehem; he called Jesus the Son of Joseph, whereas Joseph was but Jesus’ supposed Son. Philip serves us well as an n illustration. Young beginners in religion are subject to mistakes, which time and the grace of God will rectify. It was his weakness to say, we have found Him. Christ found both of them (Philip and Nathaniel before they found Christ. Philip did not yet comprehend what all of this meant but he was intent on finding his brother and sharing Christ with him.

So often, the excuse is made, "I don’t know it all so I can’t witness for Christ!" Jesus doesn’t expect us to "know it all" as if we ever could. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic Philip told Nathaniel all that he knew. That is what we are expected to do; we are to simply share Christ and tell our family and friends to come and see.

3. You tell what Jesus means to you - verse 45 (continued,) "Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and {also} the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Philip had just a simple acquaintance with Christ, yet he steps aside to seek Nathaniel. Notice what is happening here. When we have the fairest opportunities of getting good to our own souls, yet ever then we must seek opportunities of doing good to the souls of others, remembering the words of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," (Acts 20:35). Philip simply said, “we have found him of whom Moses and the prophets have written".

Notice the joy that Philip has upon this new acquaintance with Christ: "We have found him whom we have so often talked of, so long wished and waited for; at last, he is come, he is come, and we have found him!"

4. You invite the person to see Jesus - verse 46 "And Nathaniel said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him," Come and see." Come and see. Let us not stand arguing here, and raising difficulties to ourselves, which we cannot get over; let us go and converse with Christ Himself and these difficulties, will all vanish! It is folly to spend that time in doubtful disputing. Granted, there is much to be said for wanting "pure teaching "and "correct doctrine" and yet much time is sadly spent over disputes that matter little in the final analysis. "When reckoned in the counsels of God, whose going to care anyway!"

Philip persuades his brother to experience Christ personally. This is what we are called to do to share Christ and to experience Him personally in our life. Philip says to his brother Come and see; not, Go and see, but, "Come, and I will go along with you".

Jesus would go forth into Galilee to call these two brothers... Christ will find out all those that are given to Him, wherever they are, and none of them shall be lost. In mercy, He has called and found us. Like Philip go forth this day as you share Christ with your family and friends inviting them to come and see.

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