August 20, 2017
Aaron Brockett • Base Camp • Acts 9:1-19
Series: Base Camp
Message: Keep Climbing: Intentional Discipleship
Pastor: Aaron Brockett
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Study Guide (PDF)
Base Camp | Aaron Brockett | Acts 9:1-19 Good morning. Good to see everybody. How are we doing? Good. Good to see you today. Hope you’ve had a great weekend so far. If this is your first time to be with us, I want to welcome you. Here at the Northwest campus, would you please put your hands together and send some love across the camera to our other campuses: North, Downtown, our West campuses and anybody watching online. We’re so thrilled to have you guys join us. We are just so thrilled to see what God is doing in and through you throughout our city. We are in this seven-week series where we are working through our seven values that we have as a church. We do this every 18 to 24 months or so as a refresher for those of us who’ve been around for awhile, but also because we recognize that there are a whole bunch of you who were not here the last time that we walked through this. So if you’re new to church or if you’re new to this church, you may not have realized that a church even has values, but we do. We have seven of them. There’s nothing mystical about these values. It’s not like I received these on top of Mount Sinai. It’s not like I pulled off my best Charlton Heston impersonation and drove down to Brown County and came up I-65 with two tablets with seven values on them, although that would have been awesome. Actually, several years ago, there was a group of us here in the church who love Jesus, love this church, love this city, and we locked ourselves in a room for a day or more and, just through a lot of study and prayer and dialogue and maybe one near fistfight, we came up with these values as a church. Our values, if I could describe it to you, define who we are as a church and they describe what we do. One of the things that was kind of just a bucket of water in the face for me when I first got into full-time ministry about 20 years ago was that there were all kinds of suggestions for things that we could do as a church. Even now, my inbox and my mailbox are filled with all kinds of ideas from people inside of our church and outside of our church who want us to participate in programs and to give toward ‘this initiative.’ As I look at them, and as I consider them, I think about 98 percent of the ideas that come across my desk are really, really good ideas. We could do them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we should do them. If we did everything, then it would kind of dilute everything. One of the things that helps us to make these decisions is our values. But our values are even more important than that. Our values are personal. Our values should help shape the kind of people we are becoming. This is important because all of us still have work to do in our lives. All of us are still in process making progress. We are still growing. In fact, raise your hands at all of our campuses if you’ve arrived. Anybody? I’d like to meet you afterward if you have. I’d like to pick up some pointers. Me neither. I have not arrived by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve still got work to do. There is still too much me in me and not enough Jesus in me, and I still need to grow. Our seven values should help us in that process. So we’ve already looked at Relational Evangelism in week one. Last week we looked at Biblical Authority. Those two are foundational in the sense that without Jesus and without the truth of God’s Word, we have nothing to share and nothing to say that is of any value to this world and to the people around us. This is the value that we’re looking at this weekend. It’s this right here: Intentional Discipleship. Here’s what we mean by it. We will intentionally dig our spiritual wells, and that’s how I want you to think of it. I don’t know how many of you have a water well, but if you have a water well, that’s a place of reserve. When you need water, you have a well to draw from. Same thing is true spiritually. We want to dig our spiritual wells deep through—here are three ways—through study, through prayer, and the thing I really want to dial in on this weekend is through relationships. I want to break this down just a little bit, and we’ll kind of walk our way through it, kind of unpack it. We’re going to look at a passage of Scripture out of Acts chapter 9. I think that all of us would agree that the opposite of intentional is accidental. So if we’re not intentional about the way that we’re living our life, then it’s safe to say that we’re sort of accidental in the way that we’re living our life. We’re kind of stumbling our way through, making it up as we kind of go along. If you want to accomplish anything in life worthwhile, if you’ve got a goal in front of you, then you know that you’ve got to be intentional about achieving it. It’s not just enough to have a plan; you’ve got to actually work the plan. None of us ever want to get to the end of our lives and to say these little words right here: Man, I meant to. I meant to get around to that. I meant to invest in that relationship. I meant to take my relationship with Jesus more seriously. The antidote to I meant to is intentional. I want to give us this definition of the word disciple here. The word disciple just means learner. I want to try to make that as simple as I can because I don’t know about your experience, but my experience growing up in church was whenever I heard the word disciple or discipleship, I thought that it was like the graduate-level program for super-serious Christians who were super-spiritual. You know, the ones who carry the ginormous Bibles and they always have a highlighter in their hands. I just thought that that was a disciple. But let me demystify this. It just simply means learner, which means that we’re all disciples of something. Whatever you think about during the day, whatever you invest your energies in— that is what you are a disciple of. I kind of like this description. I don’t have a slide for this, but discipleship just basically means that I’m not just going to trust Jesus with my eternal life, I’m going to trust Jesus with my herein-the-now life. That’s a pretty good understanding of discipleship. It’s not that I’ve got my salvation and so when I die I go to heaven, no it’s, “I’m going to start trusting Jesus right now, in all the decisions that I make in my life.” Discipleship is what Jesus has invited every single one of us into. If you search through the scriptures, you’ll see that just as many times, if not more, Jesus didn’t just invite us to believe in Him—we’ve sort of reduced it to that—Jesus has invited us to follow Him, and that’s a different thing. He’s like: Follow Me in every area of your life. I don’t mean this to sound abrasive or mean-spirited whatsoever. I do mean it to sound pastoral. It’s that Jesus is not just that impressed with your belief and my belief. I think oftentimes we just think that’s all that He wants—He just wants us to believe in Him. In James 2:19, it says even the demons believe and they tremble. Did you know that demons believe? Contrary to popular belief, demons are not atheists; they believe. And Jesus is like: Hey, even the demons believe. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re tracking. He’s like: It’s fine that you believe, but I want something more for you. I want you to follow after Me. As a church, as one of your pastors, I want this for you as well. I want this in my own life. I want to follow after Jesus in every area of my life. So you bring those two words together, Intentional Discipleship, and what that means is that we want to be purposeful about our personal growth as Christ followers. Following Jesus certainly involves studying God’s Word, and it involves prayer, to be sure, but I want to spend the majority of our time today talking about that relationship thing, and I want to show you that this is how God always does it. In fact, I would go as far as to say this. God always, not some of the time, not most of the time, but always involves other people in your spiritual growth, and He’ll always involve you in theirs. Did you know that? I think that many times we just kind of think that, and maybe you’ve described it this way, maybe you have thought this before or you’re married to somebody who has said this before: “I believe in God and I believe that it is a private thing between me and Him, and so I don’t need church and I don’t need to talk about it to anybody, and I don’t need to be expressive about this.” I would just simply say that absolutely your relationship with God is personal, but it’s not private. Those two words mean very, very different things. You just can’t study through the Scriptures and come to that conclusion, that your faith is a private thing where you don’t need to talk about it, you don’t need to express it, or you don’t need to share it with other people. It’s certainly personal, but it’s not private. God will always involve other people in your spiritual growth, and He’ll involve you in theirs. Listen. Before you kind of bristle up and shut me down, I’m not saying I’m happy about this. I’m not saying this is easy. I’m not saying you’ll not ever get hurt, because you will. I’m not saying that people won’t ever break your trust, because they will. I’m not saying that this is cleaner or easier. I’m not saying any of those things. I’m just saying that this is the way that God always does it, and there is a reason why. Don’t misunderstand me. Discipleship is more than just personal relationships, but you can’t do discipleship without relationships. I want to show you one of the many examples of this in Scripture. So if you have a Bible app, would you please meet me in Acts chapter 9? I hope you do. Go ahead and turn there. If you have our church app in front of you, you can go to today’s message, click on the Live Notes, and all of the passages and all of the main points that I put on this screen will be in front of you on your device. You can actually take notes on it and interact and follow along, so that way you don’t have to worry about missing something. I want to show you this passage in Acts because we’ve been in the book of Acts all series long, and we will be. The book of Acts is actually a book written by a doctor named Luke, and Luke is describing to us how the early church got started. All seven of our values can be found in the book of Acts. The book of Acts tells us that we are not just to be a gathering of the crowds on the weekends, but we are also to be a movement of smaller groups of people during the week. In chapter 9, we meet this guy named Saul, whose life is radically altered by Jesus. In fact, some of you probably know the story. Others of you, maybe you’ve heard bits and pieces of it. Saul is this guy—later his name is going to be changed to Paul—and Saul’s story is one of several reasons why, as a church, we won’t give up on anyone, because if God can change Saul’s life, then there isn’t anybody He can’t change, including you and including me. I want to pick this up starting in verse 1. It says, “Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath,” that means regularly, “and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.” Now here’s what I want you to understand about this guy. Saul considered himself a religious man. Saul was a believer in God. He just was unaware of the gospel, maybe like some of us today. Maybe you believe in God, but you’re just unaware of the gospel. Saul was threatened by this new group of Jesus followers known as The Way—they were known as disciples—so he thought he was doing God a favor by eliminating them. In verses 3 through 9, as he is on the road to Damascus, God comes to him in a light that is so bright that it literally blinds Saul. It says in verse 4, “‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, lord?’ Saul asked. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” For the next three days, Saul sits in darkness and silence. He’s unable to see a thing. He doesn’t eat anything. He doesn’t drink anything. I’m sure that he didn’t sleep. I want you think about that for just a moment. This is a crucial time in his life. Saul’s life is about to be changed forever. Now, whether it’s going to be for the better or for the worse is yet to be determined. If you didn’t know the story, if you’ve never read this before, think about this for a minute. Think about where his heart could have gone. It could’ve gotten bitter. He could’ve gotten angry with God, like: God, I thought I was trying to do You a favor. I thought I was trying to serve You and this is what I get? You’ve blinded me. He’s lonely and he’s confused and he’s hungry, and nothing seems to be happening, and for three days he sits without any word from God. It’s just darkness and silence, and for all he knows, nothing is going to change. I just wonder if any of you have ever been in a situation similar. Now, maybe God didn’t physically blind you, but maybe He did emotionally or spiritually, and you just are in a season of life where you can sort of relate to this guy. You’re like, “I can’t make heads or tails of this. I don’t know why I’m in this situation. I don’t know why I lost my job. I don’t know why that person left me. I don’t understand what God is doing. I don’t understand why He doesn’t say something to me; I mean, I’m crying out to Him.” In those moments, your heart can go one of two ways. It can go toward the path of bitterness or it can go toward the path of change. Well, there’s about to be a breakthrough in Saul’s life, and it’s not going to come with him staying in isolation. It’s going to come in an unexpected way through an unexpected person. Look with me at verse 10. It says, “Now there was a believer,” so this is a Jesus follower, “in Damascus named Ananias.” He’s just minding his own business, living his life. “The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord!’ he replied. The Lord said, ‘Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.’” I’m sure that Ananias is like: Say what? Just think about this for a minute. If you were in Ananias’ sandals, and you’re just kind of living your life, you’re going to work every day, running the kids around, and all of a sudden God comes to you and He’s like: Hey, I want to interrupt your life. I want you to go down the street to this guy—oh, by the way, this guy is murdering Christ followers, of which you are one—and I want you to go in; I want you to befriend this guy. Just imagine what you would’ve said. It’s just like, “Oh, come on, God, really?” Well, that’s about what he says. Look at verse 13. It says, “‘But Lord,’ exclaimed Ananias,” that means he did so with great emotion, “‘I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone,” in other words, he has gotten permission to kill people, “who calls upon your name.’” In other words, Ananias is like: God, you’ve got to be kidding me. Not only is this guy Saul a murderer, but he is a murderer who hasn’t had anything to eat for three days, which means he’s a murderer in a bad mood, which is the worst kind of murderer. And God, I am not a fighter; I’m a lover. I mean, I prefer non-contact sports. My name is Ananias, for crying out loud. My apologies to all the dudes named Ananias today, but that’s just not a very manly name. By going, he’s going to be signing his own death certificate. And I would imagine if I’m Ananias, I’m sitting there thinking: Why do you even need me anyway? You’ve already blinded him. You’ve already talked to him. Can’t you just close the deal? Why do you even need me to go? Look at this, verse 15. “But the Lord said,” what’s the word? Say it out loud, all of our campuses ”‘Go,” which, by the way, is one of the most common commands in Scripture—go, don’t stay the same, move, “…for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.’” And you’ve got to love this. “So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said,” notice this, "'Brother Saul...” Wow. That’s a sign of affection. Think about this just for a minute, how that would’ve sounded like to Saul’s ears, how encouraging that would have been. It says, “You’re not alone, brother. I am here with you.” “‘...Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Instantly,” it instantly happened, “something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.” Now the Bible is filled with these types of narratives where you get finished reading it, at least for me, and you go, “Man, that was really interesting. Now, why was it necessary?” At least, that’s just me. My mind was flooded with all these questions as I read through this passage this past week. I thought to myself, “Okay, why did God blind Saul? Why did God choose him?” If you know anything about Saul’s story, his name’s going to be changed to Paul and he’s going to become one of the most influential leaders in the early church. He wrote much of the New Testament that you’re holding in your hands. Why did God choose him? Why three days of darkness and silence? Why send Ananias to say something that God easily could have said to him? And what did Ananias even really do that was all that significant anyway? Just go back and look at it. All Ananias did was he walked in and said: Brother Saul, God has sent me to you. And bam! He can see instantly. Now, if I’m Ananias, I’m going: Really? That’s it? I missed my kid’s soccer game for this? I thought I would say something profound. I thought that I would say something really influential to be worth writing down. In fact, the content of what Ananias said wasn’t really that earth shattering. I want you to get this right here. Why did God send Ananias? Well, maybe it’s not because of anything that Ananias could say that was of substantial content, maybe God just sent Ananias because there is power when another person says, “I’m here.” One of the most uncomfortable things for me to do when I first got into full-time ministry was making hospital visits. I would get this sheet of paper every Monday and it would basically tell me who all was in the hospital because they were sick, and so I would usually take one of my mornings or one of my afternoons and I would make the rounds to the hospitals and go in and meet with people and pray with people, and it was really, really uncomfortable for me for two reasons: One; hospitals creep me out. Anybody with me in that? Okay, a few of you. I don’t know what it is. Even now, when I walk into a hospital and I just feel the really sanitized air, I just feel like a nurse is going to jump out and shoot me with a shot or something. It’s just totally irrational. It’s never happened before, but I’m always looking around, like, “Don’t you dare give me a shot.” That’s one reason. The second reason is because I’d always put all this pressure on myself to say the right thing. I’d drive all the way to the hospital like, “Man, this person’s really going through it and they’re really in a lot of pain, and their family’s really confused,” and I would put all this pressure on myself and go, “Man, I’ve gotta go fix this and I’ve gotta go say something to where when I walk out of the room they go, ‘Phew, that man has been with the Lord.’” That was just how I felt, but I would end up going in saying, “Well, when life hands you lemons make lemonade.” Then I’d think, “Stupid.” Most of the time, when I walked out of the hospital room I felt like Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live. Do you know what I’m talking about? All the way back to the elevator, I’d be like, “Stupid. Stupid. Why did I say that?” Here’s the thing that I’ve learned and the thing that I have to constantly be reminded of even now. It’s that when I go to make a hospital visit, it’s not what I say; it’s just the fact that I cared enough to go. There’s just something about the presence of another human being, when they walk into the room and they just say, “I’m here, and I’m not quite sure what to say, but I’m here.” God has wired us up that way. You need it when you’re in the low points in life and you need it to actually get over that hump that you’re on when it comes to spiritual growth. We see enough of these types of examples in the Scriptures that show us that this is not the exception; this is the norm. God always involves other people in your spiritual growth, and He’ll always involve you in theirs. Let me come back to this value one more time. Intentional Discipleship is that we’re going to intentionally dig our spiritual wells deep through study, through prayer to be sure, but also through relationships. And I don’t want you to neglect this. It’s that relationship thing that is so huge. Relationships are all over the New Testament. Did you know there are 59 one another statements in the New Testament? Let me just read you a portion of them. “Love one another,” John 13. “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you,” Romans 15. “Stop passing judgment on one another,” Romans 14. “Instruct one another,” Romans 15. “Serve one another in love,” Galatians 5. “Carry one another’s burdens,” Galatians 6. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another,” Ephesians 4. “Bear with one another,” implying that it’s not going to be easy. “Admonish one another,” Colossians 3. “Encourage one another and build one another up,” 1 Thessalonians 5. “Pray for one another,” James 5. “Confess your sins to one another.” “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,” 1 Peter 5. And on and on and on I could go. It is all over the Bible. You and I just cannot do this alone. I said this two weeks ago: God always uses people to reach people, but the same is also true that God always uses people to grow people. I think this is why Jesus commanded us so relentlessly to love others. He said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God, but the second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. What’s underneath that? Well, because He knows that the way we grow is when we get involved in each other’s lives. This is why we keep urging you to get into a group that meets regularly sometime during the week outside of the weekend gathering—what we’re doing right now. Groups can meet in homes, they can meet in coffeehouses, they can meet at playgrounds, they can meet at work conference room centers, wherever you’re getting together with a smaller group of Christ followers—that is just basically saying, “Hey, I’m here.” It’s where you can study God’s Word and pray together and open up and actually share and other people can carry your burdens. You and I desperately need this. Spiritual growth happens best in relationships. That’s not the only place that it happens. There is a thing where you need to be individually in prayer, individually to be sure. I’m not disputing that. But spiritual growth happens best when you can do it with other people in relationships. Proverbs say this: Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. It also talks about how a cord of three strands is not easily broken. We need other people: people you can be real with; people you can meet together with on a regular basis; people who will encourage and listen and pray and cry with you; people who will speak truth into your life even when that truth hurts. But you know what? They do it because they love you, and they’re gracious about it. They’re not trying to tear you down. They don’t just affirm what it is that you want to hear, but they encourage and they love and they accept you for who you are, to be sure, but they also urge you to be who you’re currently not. They say, “Hey man, it’s time to grow. It’s time to move in your life.” So can I ask this question this way, and this is just for you individually. Who is your Ananias? If you go back to the passage, see that when God sent this guy into Saul’s life, what did he say? “Brother Saul, I’m here,” and instantly the scales fell. Have you ever had that kind of experience, when you got together with somebody? They didn’t even say anything profound, but just because they were there, just because they listened, just because you were able to communicate and talk, it was like something fell from your eyes. You were able to see clearly. Who is your Ananias? Maybe that question is phrased kind of weird. All I mean is who’s speaking into your life? Who has God sent into your life and are you listening? Are you letting them speak? There have been people whom God has sent into my life, Ananiases so to speak, and I shut them down. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say and I kind of turned them away. Sometimes we can do that. So when we urge you to get into a group, this is what we are hoping you will find. Let’s just be honest. There are all kinds of things working against this. Number one is maybe fear. It is one thing to come into any one of our campuses, sit in a room full of hundreds of other people, sing some songs, listen to me give a talk on stage, and then go home. It’s another thing to actually invite somebody into your life face to face who will speak into your life. That’s terrifying. That requires some vulnerability. That requires a lot of trust. We’re all busy. Even as I say this, you’re like, “Man, I don’t have time for one more thing.” There are all these things working against us, being in community with one another, and so what ends up happening is that we sort of drive ourselves further into isolation or we have this false sense of community behind our screen. We think just because we’ve got some interaction on Facebook or whatever, then that’s enough, but it’s really not and we end up finding ourselves in isolation. I was talking to a friend of ours this past week, and she was describing how her grandfather served in Germany during World War II. If you’ve ever met a World War II vet, they don’t speak about their experiences very often. But he began to open up to them one day, and he said one day that he and his platoon were in a beautiful German town. He said it was kind of quiet. It was a gorgeous day. He was kind of bored. He decided to get up and go for a walk. He walked about a quarter of a mile outside of town, outside the safety of his platoon, and he went up this hillside. He said the view was just absolutely gorgeous, when all of a sudden he heard a couple of rifle shots followed by a couple of sniper bullets that landed right at his feet. He realized what was happening. He was in the crosshairs of a sniper. His heart began to beat out of his chest, and he began to sprint back to the safety of his platoon, and he said this to them. He said, “You know, I was an easy shot up there all alone.” He said, “Snipers wait for someone to drift away from the group.” Can I say that the exact same thing is true spiritually? We have an enemy who will wait for you to drift from the group and then he’ll put you in his crosshairs, and in isolation, you’re an easy target. Ed Stetzer, who is an author and church statistician, recently came out with these stats from just surveying Christ followers in churches. About 21 percent of believers say they even see the need to connect with others—say they even see the need for it to grow in their relationship with Jesus. In other words, “My faith is private; I don’t need anybody else.” That’s kind of what that’s saying. Twenty-one percent say they even see the need for this, and then 65 percent say that they keep their personal struggles to themselves, so they’re not sharing it with anybody. About 50 percent of our church, I’m talking about Traders Point at all of our campuses, about 50 percent, as near as we can tell—and I know this isn’t like a perfect science—are not in groups. Now that doesn’t mean you’re not in any group outside of here and all that, and if that’s the case, that’s fantastic; I’m not trying to be legalistic. But as near as we can tell, there are still a whole bunch of you who are not in a group that meets during the week. I know one of the knocks on a big church—believe me, I have heard it a lot—is that because the church is so big, it’s hard to get to know other people. I hear that. I don’t fully know what the answer is to that. As I look back at the book of Acts, I see that they were a church of thousands, but they also met in smaller groups during the week. It is a tension that we’re just going to have to continue to manage because we are trying to reach more and more and more people for Jesus, which just means as you invite friends the church is going to continue to grow, so I blame you. In all seriousness, can I just say this? I’ve been a pastor of a really, really small church. The first church that Lindsay and I served in for four years when we were first married was 15 people, and when we got up to 100, all of a sudden we didn’t know everybody anymore. So it doesn’t matter if the church is 100 or 100,000, the tension is the same; you’re just not going to know everybody, so the point—you’ve heard me say this before—the point isn’t to know everybody, the point is just to know somebody. And there’s going to be this tension that we’re going to have to manage in that. I want to put it upon you and say, “You know what? You need to lean in and seek to be known and to get into a group.” Now let’s just be honest. Some of you, that’s one of the things you like about a big church— anonymity, right? And I usually know who you are because whenever I see you, you divert your eyes and act like you don’t know me. You’re not fooling anybody. Thankfully for you, I have a beautiful wife; she builds up my self-esteem later. Can I just say this? I get it. I totally get it. I’ve been hurt in the church. Maybe you’ve been hurt. Maybe you don’t trust all this. Maybe you’re trying to figure out this Christian thing. Can I just say this? If you’ve come to our church because this is a safe place for you to sort of be anonymous and kind of check things out, then I am so glad that we can be that for you. So you take all the time that you need. But I would just say this. You know what? Everybody needs a hospital room occasionally, but a hospital’s no place to take up permanent residence. Everybody needs a season in their life where they just need a little bit of anonymity, but anonymity is no place to live. I guess what I’m saying is just simply this. When you’re ready to make yourself known, please make yourself known. Take all the time that you need, build some trust, but eventually I want to know you. One of the reasons why our pastors stand out in the lobby is just because we simply want to make an introduction and get to know you. When I’m not preaching here at Northwest, I’m usually at one of the other campuses in the lobby. And the reason why I’m there is because I want to get a chance to meet you, so if you see me, come up and introduce yourself. Make your way over to Connection Central. Get on the website. On the very front page of our website, there’s a tab that you can click on. It says find a group. If you can’t find a group, there’s a tab to click so we can help you start a group. Here’s the point that I’m trying to make. Connection in a church is always two-way. We want to know you, but you’ve got to be willing to be known, and we can’t do discipleship for you; you’ve got to be intentional about it. What we do here on the weekends is really, really important, to be sure. It better be because we spend a whole bunch of time preparing. I’m spending like 20 hours a week trying to prepare a message and give you fresh bread every week, and I know the worship teams and the volunteers and the Kids’ Ministry team, they are every week investing hours and hours and hours of prayer and preparation so that you have a good experience here, but I’m telling you this. If this is all that you’re getting, it’s not enough.
Many of you, you’re not necessarily here every single weekend. And when we aren’t in each other’s lives, then we are in the crosshairs of an enemy who wants to get us out from the group, isolated, and then he’ll take a shot, except he’s a way better shot than that German sniper in the story. The author of Hebrews puts it this way in chapter 10, verse 25. It says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do…” One translation says, “as some people are in the habit of doing,” and that’s how it usually works. “But,” let’s just say it out loud together at all of our campuses, “But encourage one another...” That wasn’t very encouraging. Let’s just say that again. A little more zesto. Zesto’s not a word. “...encourage one another,” thank you for encouraging me in my faux pas, “especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Encourage one another. He’s like: Hey, that’s what we need. Encourage one another. What that doesn’t mean is you get down in front of somebody like, “Man, you’re just so fantastic. You’re just so great. Everything you do is wonderful.” That’s not what that means. Encouragement means, “Man, how are you doing? Are you making the right decisions? How’s your thought life? Are you keeping your head screwed on straight? Can I help you with anything? Man, I’m not quite sure what to say. I’m really glad you told me, though.” Encourage one another to stay in the race and to keep going and to keep following Jesus. This is what we mean when we talk about being intentional. Now let me just tell you, we’re not just talking about a group that meets mid week... Let me tell you what it’s not and let me tell you what it is. A group is not just merely a social gathering where you get together over at somebody’s house on the back deck and you’ve got some really great food and some drinks and you’re just kind of laughing it up and enjoying each other’s company. Hey man, that’s fantastic, but a group is more than that, and so if that’s all you’re doing right now in your group, I want to ask you to be more intentional. However, a group is more than just an in-depth Bible study. It’s not a seminary class where everybody’s walking into the living room with their three-ring binder notebooks and their highlighters, and, “You’ve got two minutes for a potty break,” and, “we’re going to take a pop quiz next week.” I’ve been a part of groups like that. They’re not fun. While studying God’s Word is an important element, it’s not a seminary class, so if that’s what you’re doing, be more intentional. A group is not where you get together and gossip and complain about something that you don’t like at the church. Now listen, I’ve been a part of instances like that where you don’t mean to gossip, the conversation just sort of goes there because somebody says, “Do you have a prayer request?” and you raise your hand. All of a sudden, you’re gossiping or you begin to talk about it like, “What do you think?” And then it kind of goes there. Here’s what I want to ask. When you drift into gossip, because that’s what happens most of the time, somebody would be courageous and intentional enough to steer that thing back on track into a healthy dialogue. Here’s what a group is. A group is where we ruthlessly eliminate spiritual isolation from our lives with other Christ followers. A group is where we receive the knowledge from God’s Word with responsive hearts. So it’s not a seminary class, it’s more like spiritual surgery. We say, “Okay, well this is what God’s Word has said, now am I willing to receive this?” A group is where we encourage one another to look more like Jesus in a world that increasingly no longer recognizes Him. A group is where we pull each other up out of the ditch when life knocks us into one. So I want to ask you to pursue this in your life. At all of our campuses, if you are just relying upon this one hour on the weekends, that’s fantastic. I’m glad you’re here. But it’s just not going to be enough to sustain you. As one of your pastors, I would never ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. Can I just tell you this? I’ve got this in my life, and I need it. I’ve got multiple groups in my life and multiple relationships in my life, men and women who don’t think I’m a big deal and they will just give me the truth. They just ask me tough questions. I have older men that’ll speak into my life and mentor me and guide me and shape me and help me to see things. So many times I had these conversations and it’s like instantly scales fall from my eyes. I’m like, “Man, I see what I was blind to.” I’ve got guys that are similar in age to me, guys who are in a similar season of life that I just need. I need them in my life to help me carry some of the weight that I’m shouldering. As one of your pastors, I can’t believe I get to do this. I can’t believe that God has seen fit to entrust me with this role here at this church, and I love this church. I consider it one of the greatest joys of my life to be able to serve Traders Point in Indianapolis in 2017. It’s amazing. Can I also tell you that I’ve never carried a heavier burden in my life than what I’m carrying right now? I feel it. I feel the responsibility for you. I feel the responsibility of what we’re doing. There are times when my knees start to buckle and right then God sends me other guys who will come up underneath the weight and say, “We’ve got you, bro.” I need younger guys in my life, guys who help me think in ways that maybe I haven’t thought of before, that I can mentor and encourage. The best way to learn is to teach, and I need this in my life. I want you to have it as well. Can I just end with this final thought right here? When it comes to a group, you may not think you need it now, but one day you will. You may not think you need it now. You may think, “Aaron, I think I’m pretty good.” That’s fantastic. I’m glad you’re good. One day you will. So when should you dig a water well? Before you need water or after you turn the faucet on? Yeah, before. You learned something today. You dig the well before you need it. The same thing is true when it comes to spiritual and emotional storms in your life. Dig the well before you need it. Hey, church, as a people, let’s be more than people with good intentions, let’s be intentional people. Father, we come to You right now and we thank You for the power in the truth of Your word as it serves as a scalpel, not a butcher knife. God, I pray that today’s message would penetrate our hearts. Me first, me first. God, You know I need this. God, You know that I need it in my life, and I suspect there are probably some other people who do as well. So Lord, today we just want to come to embrace the truth that You are going to involve others in our spiritual growth. This is not just a me-and-God kind of deal; it’s we. Father, I pray that as we grow as a church, and we give You all the glory for that, all the honor for that, and we are humbled by the fact that You are growing us numerically as a church, but God, we know that that’s not the goal. The goal isn’t just to attract crowds on the weekend; the goal is to dig deeper spiritual wells, and so, God, I pray that You’d help us to manage this tension well as we introduce people to You, but also as we facilitate people’s growth. God, help us to get into a group. I pray that 100 percent of our church would say, “You know what? We’re in a group. We’re meeting regularly during the week. It’s not easy. You know, it’s hard to figure out who’s going to watch the kids and there are personality types that’s like oil and water,” or “I’ve been in a group before and I didn’t get much out of it.” There are all kinds of things working against us, but God, I pray that we would not let go of this because we know that this is not the exception; this is the norm. This is how You do it. You give us the privilege of being in each other’s lives. And in the world we live in right now, we need it more than ever. So God, I pray that you would speak through us today in these final moments together. We ask this in Jesus’ name, and the church says: Amen. We’re going to take communion right now together today. What this is, if you’re new, is it’s a piece of bread and a little cup of juice that represent the body and the blood of Jesus. We do this every single week to make a beeline to the foot of the cross to understand that is the center of our faith. But also it’s this. This is not a time to gather your things. This is not a time to say, “Hey, quick. Let’s hit the exit so we can get to the restaurant before everybody else.” That’s not what this is. You’re not fooling anybody. What this is is a time for you to just stop and go, “You know what? Not everything Aaron said in that message is for me, but what’s the one thing that is for me? God, what did you want me to hear that I need to push down into my life?” That’s what this is. If you’re not comfortable taking communion, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, just let it pass. Nobody’s going to think a thing of it. The ushers are going to come, and after just a moment or two of reflection, the team will come out and lead us in one more song. Ushers, you can come now.
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