Living as Disciples of Jesus
A Sermon Delivered to
21 April 2013
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Last week we saw how Jesus, after His resurrection, persuaded the apostles, particularly Peter, to finally leave the fish killing business forever, and concentrate fulltime on preserving life in this world and the next.
They were to be living as disciples of Jesus before the whole world.
Let’s take a look at one of the results as recorded in Acts 9:36-43.
36. Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did.
This is the way we should all be, but we need to remember that true kindness and charity extends to every other living being in the whole of God’s creation, whether they are human beings or other animals.
37. And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.
38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, “Do not delay to come to us.”
Our calling in the ministry of love, compassion, and peace does not end, and we are to respond as Peter did.
39. And Peter arose and went with them. And when he had come, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.
40. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
42. And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
This is very important for us to understand. All the glory that comes through and from our Godly ministry belongs to the Lord and not to us, for everything we do, we do in the power of the Holy Spirit.
43. And it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.
It is also important for us to understand that our ministry as loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God for the whole of God’s creation extends beyond this earthly realm right into heaven, as we are told in Revelation 7:9-17.
9. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;
Note specifically that we are being told that this multitude is made up of people from all over the world, and not certain people from a certain church; they are people who truly sought the Lord our God even if they hadn’t known Jesus.
10. and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11. And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
And like John, we may have questions about who these people are.
13. And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?”
14. And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Those who believe in the rapture of the believers before the tribulation, and that everyone else goes to hell, had better look at these verses again, because these saints are the sinners who have come to believe in Jesus Christ during the tribulation.
15. “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them.
16. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat;
17. for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.”
This means that there can no longer be any pain, or suffering, or mourning, or death.
This is the perfection that Jesus told us to live by every day here on earth in Matthew 5:48, when he said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” NASB
Every time we think of taking revenge, we are violating this edict.
Every time we are indifferent to the suffering of animals, and eat their flesh, or wear their skins, or test on them in laboratories, or use them in entertainment, we are violating what Jesus commanded us to be.
We need to end our warring madness against the whole of creation.
If we now turn in our Bibles to John 10:22-33, we go back in time during Jesus’ incarnate ministry.
22. At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem;
This holiday is more commonly known to Christians as Hanukkah or Chanukkah, as it is sometime translated, which means “dedication”, and is an eight day reminder of the dedication of the Temple when the lamp oil was only enough for one day, but miraculously lasted for the entire eight days.
23. it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
24. The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Usually, when the word “Jews” is used this way, it is referring to the religious hierarchy and, even to this very day, we find the same hardness of heart in the vast majority of the Christian religious hierarchy.
We are not to follow their hard of heart examples; we are to live as Jesus taught us to live, and believe in Him with every part of our being.
25. Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me.
26. “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.
27. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28. and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
The religious leaders didn’t believe because of their hardness of heart.
They liked living with prestige in the world, more than they liked or believed in God.
29. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30. “I and the Father are one.”
Once again Jesus is plainly telling them that He is their Messiah. He is God incarnate among them.
So what do these religious leaders do?
31. The Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
This sure shows their hardness of heart, but note the way Jesus responds.
32. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”
33. The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
Even if they didn’t believe that Jesus was Messiah God, where is the love and compassion that they were to have?
It is not there.
Ever since we entered the ministry and did our best to live as disciples of Jesus, we also came to see and understand that hardening our hearts to the suffering of animals prevents us from fully communing with the Holy Spirit.
Only a soft heart can truly commune with God.
The indifference to the suffering of animals also seems to be the root cause of all the hardness of heart and violence in the world today.
Even drinking small quantities of alcohol separates us from the constant awareness that the Holy Spirit is with us; so we became vegans and, when we did, we also began feeling the pain and suffering of the whole of God’s creation.
Thus, like the disciples who had returned to fishing and the ways of the world, and realized the errors of their ways, we also rejected the ways of the world in our former lifestyle and began living as disciples of Jesus, for the benefit of the whole of creation.
This is the reason that a vital part of our ministry is dedicated to helping to free the whole of creation from its present corruption.
Are we all doing the same?
We hope and pray we are.