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The Discipleship That Has Shaped My Life

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
July 12, 2014 6:00 am

The Discipleship That Has Shaped My Life

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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I couldn't make this dramatic evening fulfillment because this is the familiar sort of fulfillment of a longing and of a dream that I have longed for for at least 54 years, that we and I would be at a place in my nation, America, in a local church, we would even say in North Carolina, a church that would be trying to live out a lullaby national creed because that creed, the national creed of America, is the greatest affirmation of dignity in the world. There have never been a creed that was as biblical and profound as the American creed.

We hold these truths to be self-evident. You cannot make a greater statement than that, that all human beings are created equal, as endowed by their creator with certain rights, chief among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that we were going to do an experiment in human history that had never been experienced before, that we would become a migrant nation, affirming the migrants' dream, one nation from all nations under God with liberty and justice for all. That looks like the kingdom of God. That looks like the struggle to reflect the kingdom of God here on earth.

No sooner than the ink was dry, we brought slaves in here. And with just a few exceptions, the church has compromised that gospel and lived beneath that in society. And this revelation of God in Jesus Christ came to display that power within his love. We call that the gospel, to pull that off. And he commissioned us to be those people that this would be the greatest good news in the world, the greatest good news that night, that day when the angels said, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which would be to all people, all people, all people, for unto you is born this night in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord. That was the incarnated God. That was the God that said, and creation and the world were without form and void and darkness upon the face of the deep. He said, let there be light. And there was light. That God has shined his light, that light into our hearts to give us that light as we look in the face of Jesus Christ. And we was commissioned to be those people to pull that off.

2014 years later, there haven't been very much of that effort. We have created language of division in our world. And we still create language of division. But I'm here tonight or this day, really with some people who are now trying to meet this head on. I believe this is God. I believe it's God who are trying to get at that great tradition, that great racial, cultural divide that creates war and death and genocide all over the world. And the church has participated in that. But God is raising up a people who's confronting that head on and who's believing that that gospel, that love of God, that love that was showed on the cross, that was the greatest, that love, which we call the gospel, that that love is the power of God to bring Jews and Gentiles, black, white, together in one body, into his body.

And he gave his body the help to do that. And now they're developing these people all around the world, all around the world. I've just got back from Malaya, just in China, just in Jamaica. And what's going on here now is going on, beginning to go on around the world. A new people emerging, a new people emerging that's not now trying to colonize people and subjugate people and dominate people.

They're not going there to get their wealth and control it. They're going there to bring people the good news that we can be in the body of Christ. I can hear John saying in his little episode, behold, look, what kind of love is this? This kind of love that we can become the sons of God, the son and daughters of God.

This is the day. Now, I don't quite care about what you think about it, because I really don't think we can do anything about it. I don't think we have tried to do this very much before, but I think God is doing it.

God is doing it. I think you got to make a decision. You just got to make a decision on whether or not you want to be with it, against it. That's what Gomelius, the great theologian in the early church, when he saw the early church doing that, they had a counselor to try to stop it.

He said, you got to waste your time. You might find yourself fighting against God. We might find some kind of language and stuff so we can condemn that.

That don't have anything to do with it. What we need to be doing is getting on board. And I believe there are people like this getting on board. I think God has waited long enough. And I think God has bared with this nation a long time.

And I don't think of no accident that we are the richest nation on earth, in fact, the richest nation that ever been imagined in history. And we're even trying to deprive people from some of the basic, like health care of all people. I'm not talking about how you deliver it. That's a political thing.

That's a political thing. Because Jesus came to do that. That was the whole idea when he would come, that he would be concerned about the poor and the oppressed.

That was his first sermon. The spirit of the Lord God Almighty is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach this good news to the poor, to heal those of the sick, to preach the deliberate day of the Lord. We're trying to come up with language to circumvent that. You're trying to come up with language.

We can call it Obamacare, any kind of care. It's not all of that. It's whether or not we are willing to obey God.

What we are willing to be the people of God. And if you're realists thinking that this political system can help you, they are bogged down. All they can do is raise money and get themselves elected.

They can't make decisions for us. This is a God thing. This is a church thing. This is the people of God that's got to show that light, even to our politicians and to our leaders in our society. We are living at an exciting time in history. And this congregation here is seeking to obey.

I'm fine with it. This is the first generation in my 84 years that values diversity. What prejudice is to prejudge people before you know them? The only answer to that problem is to try to get to know people. And that's what God wants us to do. The highest words that God can speak is to know Him. And to know Him and to know one another. He's calling us together to be that people. That should be joy.

What's wrong with that? What's wrong with us attempting to live out that love? Well that became a part of my early day discipleship. And so my thoughts tonight is, today is about this love. This kind of discipleship that shaped my life. I think there's several incidents in my life that shaped me.

Now that I look back at it. Number one, my mother died when I was seven months old. And she died of a disease that had to do with nutrition deficiency. My mother died of starvation. I think the first words that I can remember is, I grew up. Your mother's dead. I probably was crying like any other child.

Probably crying for some affection for some love. And I probably was saying, Mommy, Mommy. And the words I heard was, my mother's, your mother's dead. I think that helped to shape my life. When I first remember hearing the Gospel, now I'm sure that probably on the radio or someplace that people had preached the Gospel. So it was the environment that I grew up in. We was not religious people.

We didn't go to church. And so I grew up in that kind of environment. It wasn't until I was 27 years old, after leaving Mississippi, after my brother was murdered in a racial incident, I ended up in California. And the people started out a little ministry they called the Child Evangelism. They called them Good Lose Club. And my oldest son, who was about three years old, got into that club somehow. And I began to see him and I thought his behavior was something unique. He showed a new sense of love and embracement.

And I liked it. And I had really, as he went into the Good News Club, and then they got him into a local Sunday school. And he would invite me to, he invited me to go with him to that Sunday school. I went there really because I was seeing something happen in him that I liked. I wasn't going there to stop him. I was going there, I think I was going there out of competition in the sense that if they were doing this for him, I know I wasn't doing it. Then I wanted to do that so I could love him.

I've always been competitive. And so I really thought that they was doing something with him that was greater than I could do and that I was doing. And that he would have a greater love for them than he had for me. And so I'm really there really to try to observe, just see what it was they was doing to him.

After going there for a few weeks, they put me into an adult class. And I began to, they were studying the life of the Apostle Paul. In fact, they were studying the acts of the apostles. And one of the things that gripped me was this guy's motivation. Why was he making this kind of sacrifice for religion? I thought, why was he suffering for this religion?

I thought religion was something you suffer with, not for. And so I looked at him and I could see it. But I became his admiring. And then he explained himself. This was the first time I heard the gospel.

And he was explaining himself. And it was actually, it comes out of a racial passage, out of that passage where Peter was siding with the Jews when they was there, siding with the Gentiles when they were there. And Paul confronted him and said he was a hypocrite. He didn't walk according to the gospel. He didn't walk according to what the gospel could do. The gospel was to make us brother and sisterhood in one body.

It was to break down those racial barriers that separated us. That's why Paul could say I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it, the gospel, is the power of God unto salvation. But I was wondering what would motivate him. And he said Galatians 2.20 is a power packed statement of the wholeness and the fullness of the gospel. He said I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith and the grace of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. For the first time in my life I associated love with Christianity and love with God. So growing up without a mother and growing up without a father, growing up in a broken home, the home is supposed to be the institution that transfers love. It's the greatest institution outside of the church in the history. The fact that the church's love is modeled after human love, not the other way around.

The other way around. They love me. And I said if there's a God in heaven that loves me enough to send his only begotten son to die for me, then I want to come in again. I found that God. And he changed my life completely. And what I was deciphered in, those early days, people surrounded me and they deciphered me.

I'm worried about us. I think we bring the discipleship back. But the idea is that we make them Christian without deciphering. The idea is deciphering is to make them Christian. And you can't decipher people back.

You have to decipher them to grow. They call them Christian at a certain place in the history of the church because they were behaving like Christ was there. That's what discipleship is about. It's about confirming our behavior as he was so are we in the world. And it's that love that people are supposed to see in us.

Great love to no one in this, the woman in his life, for his friend. And so I, they deciphered me around Acts 1-8. This is important.

You need to get it right around. When we are born again, we become new creatures. We become babes. And the idea now is to decipher us into understanding the life of Jesus Christ.

He said, go into all the world and decipher the nation. Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I'm with you even to the end of the world. So the idea of discipleship is to affirm those virtues in us like love, peace, joy, perseverance. That's called the fruit of the spirit. And it's that fruit that shapes our character. And we become what it is we are talking about. What I'm really saying here in the background, what has happened to us, we say one thing and live another. And what I'm saying here, we've done that through history. We have made the great statement and we have learned how to play that game but never implement it. What I'm really saying here, we are at a crucial time in the history of the church. We are at a time that we can implement that. Because God is in our bag.

We have tried. And the Christian life is not the life that we can live. The Christian life is the life of Christ. That's what the creation is about. That's what the incarnation is about. It's about Christ living out his life in us.

But it's living it out with intentionality. The task is a mission to carry this gospel to the end of the world. That was the last words of Jesus. But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me. Both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the other most parts of the world. I was a disciple around then.

The mission is the mission of making disciples, to make disciples to carry this gospel to the end of the world. And so we make them Christian. And once you have established people as something, it's difficult to talk with them because they hear you, it's putting them down. One of the worst things that I can say, I said to somebody, you're not a Christian. I don't say that.

Because it almost sounds violent. It almost sounds judgment upon people. So that was the idea. That's what we got to do.

We got to become discipling churches and we're discipling those people to be disciples so that we can be like Jesus so that the world can know we're Christian because of our love that we have one for another. That's our mission. That's our package.

That's our product. The product is the well-packaged incarnation of God. God living out his life through us that we have this treasure of God's presence in these earth and vessels so that the excellent power may be of God and not of us. I was discipled around that, what the mission was. The third virtue that I was discipled around the mission was 2 Timothy 2. He said, be strong in the grace as in Christ Jesus.

That's a big statement. Be strong in the grace as in Christ Jesus. What is the grace of God? The grace of God is all the redemptive acts of God coming together to redeem us. So it's for by grace are you saved through faith.

That's not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of our works, let's imagine both. But he created us to be his workmanship to cure this gospel in the world.

That really ought to make chills run down. That this eternal God enlists you and me as human beings to join with his redemptive work in the world. And so he tells us to be strong in that grace that was in Christ Jesus. And the thing that you have heard of me, discipleship, among many witnesses, discipleship. That you are to commit unto faithful men and women who shall be able to teach others also.

And so I, that was my background. So three years after my discipleship, I felt called of God to go back to Mississippi where I had never said that I'd want to live. But I ended up going back there in 1960 and I found my state aflame with racism and bigotry. It was a contradiction to all the Bible talked about and we was the Bible belt in society. Black folks had accepted inferior fearful reduced idea of the gospel.

It had become more emotional. White folks had taken the word of the Bible and talked about it but didn't live them out. And I saw that. And that's when I committed my life that I wanted to do that. I wanted to preach a gospel that was stronger than my racial identity. I wanted to preach a gospel that was stronger than my economic hope.

I wanted to preach a gospel that could bring black, white, Jews and Gentiles together in one body and the world would know we was Christian because of our love for each other. That went on. I committed myself to that but it wasn't until almost ten years later I was being tortured. Twenty-three of us were being tortured in a Brandon jail. And what we were being tortured about, helping people to vote. Those basic rights that we had talked about.

One person, one vote. We was talking about becoming human. Our constitution at that point, our supreme court had witnessed the fact that the black man had no rights that white men respect and one person wouldn't vote and we become persons when we could vote. The civil rights movement was about becoming a person. It wasn't about electing the worst of the evil, the best of the evil. It was about us claiming our humanity in a statement, in a country that said we hold these truths to be self-evident.

That all human beings are created equal. We was tortured on that jail. And that night when it was torturing me.

Now I'm aware of the fact that I was bribing God. I know that this statement. When I was, it was torturing me. And you know what torture is, do you? I don't think we know what torture is.

I don't think we understand that. Torture is to bring people to the place that you know you're going to die. But don't kill you. And at that point you will say two things.

The first thing you will do, you will tell the truth. The second thing you will do when you torture, you will say whatever the torture wants you to say. That's why it's evil. That's why they're evil.

That's what makes torture evil. Because you're going to tell the truth. And then eventually you're going to tell, say whatever the person wants you to say. In that situation, I said to God, this is what I said to God. I said to God, if I come out of this jail alive, I want to preach a gospel that can reconcile people across racial and social barriers and to make a new experience in church history and to be able to participate in that. And that was 50 or so years ago. And I am here tonight seeing that.

Seeing a no breakthrough. There have never been a time in my 84 years, and I'm an amateur historian, that there have been this intentional around the world church claim. And these networks are coming online all over the world. I was at a world conference two weeks ago in Malaysia where people was coming together from the communist country, from Latin America and from down under. They was coming together where people are going and living in villages. And they're learning how to preach the gospel and establish churches in these Muslim world. And they're learning how to establish them in these whole cities like in China where they're building them in these high rise buildings. And they're doing much like you folks are doing. Taking old warehouses like this and shaping them into places to bring these people, to decipher them, to send them into the world.

It's something going on. And we ought to be grateful and thankful that we can be a part of that. Closing with that. What I learned when I came out of jail, of course, as soon as I got out of jail I didn't want to do it. That's why I knew I was bargained with God. That's why I sort of knew I was tortured. I was telling both lies and the truth at the same time. I was saying what I wanted to say. I got out of jail. But look, people ask me all the time, what was my recovery?

Again, it was a grace act. I really wanted to be a victim. I wanted to be able to blame those folks. And so I wouldn't have to take no responsibility for nothing. All I had to say was there are bad white folks and naturally I would have said there's black folks in the world and so I could have been a victim. I really wanted to remove myself from being responsible. That's basically what our society is doing. Our society is a victim society.

Think they deserve everything without any responsibility and to get everything without any gratitude in society. I'm grateful for that cross. If I could sing, I would sing it tonight. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart was rolled away.

It was there by faith. I received my sight and now I'm happy. Joyful, joyful, a little different.

Joyful. My joy today is waiting on and seeing the church. I tell young folks today when I'm preaching, I say to them, y'all be careful now when you listen to me because it might sound like I'm turning the world upside down but I got so much hope for this generation. I got so much hope that this generation of people who are being born, who are reaching out to the world, to embrace people who are different from them and to learn from them and to be empowered by other people and how we can nurture and cherish each other and knowing each other makes us stronger in the faith.

We enrich our lives by the difference and this is the first generation that I know of that embraces that difference. I saw the problem in Mississippi then. I saw the problem. I said, how are we going to change the poverty?

That's the big thing. How are we going to change the poverty in Mississippi? I could see the fact that success for most of my young folks in the community while we're working was to get out of that community and not come back and I began to think of what can we do and I began to look at the Bible again and I began to see maybe the incarnation is a way to do it. Maybe what I should do is these young blacks that I can reach for Jesus Christ, I should decipher them in their faith, help them to go to school and maybe go to college and get them to relocate back in the community. I'm now developing a philosophy.

I'm now developing a philosophy based on incarnation. God in heaven, Jesus, left the most secure gated community in the history of the world. In that community, every one of those gates had pearly gates. He left those pearly gates and he came down here and lived with us. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. He came into his own and the word was made flesh and he dwelled among us.

He gave sight to the blind. He loved the poor and then he gave himself for us and I began to say that might be a way if I can get these young folks to go to school and then if I can get these young white people to relocate and come into our community and we could be brothers and sisters. I'm seeing that in this town. I'm seeing you guys doing that in this town, joining together with the predominantly black congregation and others and joining together to be the people of God so the people can see that they're working.

We've been talking about it and they're segregating. We've been going to church and these homogeneous churches and satisfied and we are talking about reconciliation. We got to be the president of God. That's what the church is about. The church is God's family in neighborhoods where people are in pain. If you don't want to go, don't go. If you don't want to go, don't go. But if God speak to you, harden out your heart.

Harden out your heart and if God speak to you and if God call you and he don't call everybody go, we would call that genocide. John wants to affirm the dignity of people. He wants to make a model. He want to make a reflection of the kingdom of God. The world is all not going to be church. That will come when Christ himself established his kingdom here on earth. Our job is to be a witness that that kingdom is coming. And so I said we got to get a philosophy. The three R's of development was bond.

Relocation. If God did it, we can do it. If he dwell among the people, we can do it.

Not everybody, I don't want you to walk out of here feeling guilty. I don't think that's a necessity for you to be a Christian. But I think once we become a Christian, we need to listen for the voice of God. And our will becomes his will.

His will be done. If God haven't called you, don't go. But if God have called you, don't harden your heart. God is not a hurting God. He's not making people to, he leaves it to our conscience and our will. Our conscience, people get mad with that because they don't want to go. They just get mad. And they'll think you're telling them to go and you're telling them I don't want to go.

And that ain't God speaking. Probably not. It's probably not.

It's probably not. Because I think God is going to woo you with his love. He wants you to see that you can bring value.

He wants you to see that your life can be enriched. And that's when reconciliation is going to take place. That's the second order. The third and final order is what we call redistribution. When I used to say that, we were living in that communist fear age. Uh oh, he's a communist. He's taken all the money from the rich and given it to the poor. Well if I took all the money from the rich and given it to the poor, the poor that I know, the rich would have it back tomorrow night because we'd go out and buy you some savings.

So I'm not quite that stupid. That ain't what I mean. I'm thinking about something more than money. I'm talking about values. I'm talking about love. I'm talking about work ethics. I'm talking about creativity. I'm thinking about education. I'm thinking about those things that bring value. That's where wealth is developed out of that in society. Don't be duped. Don't be duped. Don't let these poverty slow and disturb you or distract you.

They got a lot of them. Like give people a fish and they'll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they'll eat for life. That's a lie.

Whoever owned the pond determined who eat fish. So what we do is we give slogans to the poor and we come up with ways to discredit all of their own effort. That's why it's so important that we come.

We need to talk about coming and living among people and being affirmed in that community. I think we're on our way. I think we're on our way. Well, I'm glad. I'm glad. I'm feeling a sense of fulfillment. I have been too over ambitious in my life. Now that I'm 84 years old and seeing what I'm seeing.

Now that I'm 84 years old is in this place tonight, today. And then Lord, seeing what I'm seeing, Lord, today with those young people who are intentionally preparing themselves, going into the neighborhoods where they're young to bring their skills and education. And I'm seeing that in Alabama.

I'm seeing it around the world as I travel. That's the new movement. We know the problem. We know the problem. We have a solution.

That solution is Jesus Christ. No other foundation can no one make but the foundation which is Jesus Christ. Can we pray together? Father, I thank you. I thank you for what my eyes are seeing in the young people and the encouragement of senior people today who are seeing that they too want to join with this movement that is church planting across racial and cultural barriers. Lord, I pray that you would bless it and bless our time together. We ask all this in Christ's name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-03 19:36:53 / 2023-09-03 19:48:39 / 12

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