Return

Jesus

Withdraw and Pray

Luke 5:15-16-" But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray."

Jesus had just healed a leper and again demonstrated his power and authority over physical sickness. Once again Jesus poured out mercy as he brought immediate healing to an societal outcast. Jesus' touching of the leper made him unclean in the eyes of the religious authorities, and thus, demonstrated his identifying with the leper rather than the religious establishment. Jesus showed, as he had so many times before, that he came to rub shoulders with the isolated; the unclean; the broken; the lost.

Jesus told the leper to tell no one what he had done (v.14), except for the priest to whom he was to go and sacrifice according to the Old Testament Levitical law (Leviticus 14:2-32). The sacrifice itself would not cause the cleaning; the sacrifice would be one of thanksgiving for the cleansing Jesus had done. The man's sacrifice would be an opportunity to witness to the priest, proving that Jesus was divine and working miracles throughout the region.

So why does Jesus tell the leper not to share the incredible miracle that just occurred? So that crowds would not continue to build and riot, seeking Jesus only for miracles. Yet we get the sense that the leper may not have kept the good news to himself. For "now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities."

Jesus' popularity continued to grow. People wanted to hear him and be healed by him. The amazing news could not be contained. But instead of embracing the popularity and following the demands of the crowds, Jesus withdrew to desolate places to be with His Father. Jesus went where prayer led, not where people led.

Time and again we read of Jesus spending time in silent prayer (Luke 6:12; 11:1). The Son of God desired to commune with his Father and delighted in following his Father's leading. God knew where Jesus' work was to be done and how it was to be done and with whom it was to be done. Time in prayer gave Jesus clarity in his ministry and mission as he sought the Father's will, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, who empowered Jesus for his ministry (Luke 4:14; 4:18). Quiet, intimate times of prayer in secluded, desolate places gave Jesus the right mindset, which was to obey his Father, abide in his love (John 15:10), and to preach the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:18).

Let me ask you: has your prayer life diminished recently? Are you seeking to live life in your own power instead of God's power? Are you feeling crushed by the crowds? Is anxiety taking over? Has the lure of popularity and worldly desires hooked you? Let me encourage you to do what Jesus did: pray. Find a desolate, quiet place to pray and pour out your heart to the Father. Ask him to strengthen you in the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16-17) so that you can live each day in joyful obedience. Plead with God to grant you wisdom in everything going on in your life today. If our Savior needed to meet with His heavenly Father in prayer, how much more do we!

How We Grow as a Missional Church

*We’ve been going through the Missio Basics, a four-week preaching series aiming to reorient us around four gospel distinctives that fuel Missio Dei Peoria. These four “basics”--gather, go, grow and give--help to shape and define the way we live out our gospel identity here, near and far for the glory of God. You can read more about these four “basics" here.*  

A few weeks ago, we looked at several ways in which we grow in the gospel, abiding in Christ so that we are saturated with his power and presence in our lives. As new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we seek to become mature disciples who are sent out on God’s mission to make, mature and multiply disciples. What is a disciple? A follower of Jesus who is increasingly learning how to submit his or her life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. As we grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) we increasingly grow as disciples in our awareness of our need for Jesus in the everyday stuff of life. We learn to walk with Jesus and learn to be led by Jesus in every place and in every way.

Learning to submit all of our lives to Jesus doesn’t happen overnight. We believe that discipleship is on-going process of increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus.

All-of-life is the key! Learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—and training others to do the same—requires that we listen and obey God’s word in three essential environments: life on life, life in community and life on mission.

 

LIFE ON LIFE

Life on life discipleship means that we get up close and personal with others. People have access to our lives and are committed to speaking the good news of Jesus to us. We become vulnerable and real with others, providing the opportunity for God to grow us in his grace in and through the love, words and actions of his people—people who are committed to bringing our brokenness out into the open and reminding us of the gospel of Jesus that restores us.

Jesus lived life on life with his disciples. He knew them intimately. He observed what they believed and watched the way they lived their lives as they followed him. He knew their brokenness and witnessed all the wrong they said and did. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

If we desire to be a people who are learning to submit all of our lives to the power and presence of Jesus, we need to have people in our lives who get up close and personal with us. We need people to speak the gospel to us when they observe our faulty thinking and sinful behaviors. We need disciples in our lives who tell us when we’re not believing the truth about Jesus and what he has done to transform us.

Life on life discipleship means we have to be willing to be vulnerable with others, knowing full well that it will get messy, uncomfortable and difficult. But God is gracious. He will use this process to grow us in becoming devoted followers of Jesus in all of life.

 

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus we see that he discipled his followers as they lived life together in community. In fact, looking through the gospels, you could say that this was the primary way he discipled! As the disciples followed Jesus for three years, they did so together—learning, growing, even failing!—together.

The church is Jesus’ body. It is one body made up of many parts (Romans 12:4-6;  1 Cor. 12:12-31). Each of us has a role in equipping one another in building up the body of Christ, with a commitment to see one another develop into a mature disciple. In fact, discipleship that happens as we live life together in community will lead to disciples looking more like Jesus as he works through his body.

One of the things we believe about our true identity in Jesus is that we are God’s family. We are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another in Jesus. The life we now live as God’s family is not a burden; its a privilege. We share life together in community, centered on the gospel, showing the world what God is like in and through our lives together.

 

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus called his disciples to follow him on his mission to make other disciples. He taught his disciples how to make disciples as they lived on mission together, telling them that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). The disciples were witnesses to everything Jesus said and did. They walked with him, talked with him, learned from him. They saw Jesus demonstrate compassion and mercy, forgiveness and love. They saw him cast out demons and heal the lame and sick.

Jesus used the mission to shape and form his disciples. While on mission, the disciples’ own sinful hearts were exposed as Jesus challenged them to think correctly about God, the kingdom and themselves. The disciples learned quickly while on mission that they were selfish, prideful, angry, and ignorant. Yet, Jesus moved toward them in forgiveness and love, always training them in the true ways of God. After awhile, Jesus invited the disciples to share in the work he was doing. He sent them out on his mission together—preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. After their return, they reported to Jesus all that they had experienced (read Luke 9 and Luke 10). Still, the disciples had much more to learn. For three years, Jesus trained his disciples, nourishing their hearts, minds and hands to live their lives for God’s glory and God’s mission. Jesus trained his disciples for mission while they were on mission!

 

Our God is a missionary God, and we see his missionary heart all throughout the biblical story. God sent his own Son to earth to rescue and restore all of humanity and creation from the tragic affects of sin. Jesus came to be one of us, to live among us—to be with us!

Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection saying, "'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).

Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to empower his disciples to know his true word and to fulfill the mission of making disciples! And for those of us who belong to Jesus, we too, have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, teaching us all of God’s truth and empowering us to live out the gospel in all of life—life on life, life in community and life on mission.

Just as Jesus’ Father sent him, he now sends us. We are missionaries…literally, “sent ones.” We are disciples…learning to increasingly submit all of our lives to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. In Christ’s power, may we seek to live all of life for the glory of God!

Why We Gather As A Missional Church

*This past Sunday we kicked off our new series, "Missio Basics," a four-week preaching series aiming to reorient us around four gospel distinctives that fuel Missio Dei Peoria. These four “basics”--gather, go, grow and give--help to shape and define the way we live out our gospel identity here, near and far for the glory of God. You can read more about these four “basics here.  

If you’ve been a part of Missio Dei Peoria for any length of time you’ve heard us teach that church isn’t an event or a building. You’ve heard us preach that the church is God’s people, saved by God’s power, for God’s purposes. We emphasize the importance of living everyday life with what we call gospel intentionality—purposely living out the good news of Jesus in word and deed. We encourage people to see all of life as countless opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, happening over coffee and meals, in the workplace, at the gym, in our neighborhoods. We seek to live our lives as missionary servants, sent by Jesus to show the world what God is like, beautifully demonstrated in a Jesus-centered community on mission (what we call Missional Communities).

So why is it important for us to gather together every Sunday morning to sing and hear a sermon and partake in communion? If we teach that discipleship is life-on-life, in community and on mission, doesn’t a Sunday gathering seem to conflict?

You can listen to Sunday’s sermon for great answers to these questions…in fact, start there!

Heres' some additional thoughts on why we believe it’s essential for the scattered church to gather regularly as a family of missional communities:

1. We gather to remember the gospel story.

The Church is a story-formed community that is rooted in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As we gather together each week, we sit under the authority of God and hear him speak through his word, the Bible. The Bible narrates the world for the Church, and the gathering of the family of God is the primary place for this to happen. We hear God’s true story loud and clear as we remember his mighty deeds—past, present and future—and find our place in his story. The organization of our gatherings, including the songs we sing, the liturgical rhythms of praise, confession and assurance we recite together, and the other elements of worship point to who God is and what he has done in Jesus to rescue the world from the ravages of sin.

2. We gather to retell the gospel story.

Each week we gather to hear God’s word preached. Preaching is a powerful means by which God’s people may be nurtured and empowered for God’s mission. Preaching helps us to see that the Bible is one unfolding story that is the true story of the world. Preaching helps us to see that the family of God must learn to live everyday life more and more in this story. Preaching brings listeners face-to-face with Jesus and his saving power to equip us to live all of life for his glory. We retell the good news of Jesus as we encourage one another through times of prayer, sharing of stories, and partaking in communion together.

3. We gather to respond to the gospel story.

Our Sunday gatherings help nurture and form a family of missional communities that are rooted in the gospel and come to know God’s saving power in worship, preaching, and prayer. But it doesn’t stop after the gathering is done. In fact, we gather to be equipped and encouraged so that we can be sent out into our culture as a people living the new life of God’s kingdom. We respond to the gospel story as we live everyday life—Monday through Sunday—with gospel intentionality.

Michael Goheen in his book A Light to the Nations points out that a people responding to the gospel story will be:

  • A community of justice in a world of injustice; a community of generosity and simplicity in a consumer world
  • A community of selfless giving in a world of selfishness and entitlement
  • A community of humble and bold witness to the truth of God in a world of uncertainty
  • A community of hope in a world of disillusionment and consumer satiation
  • A community of joy and thanksgiving in a hedonistic world that frantically pursues pleasure
  • A community that experiences God’s presence in a secular world (pp.209-210)

What other amazing things occur when we gather together? How is God glorified, Christ exalted, and Missio Dei Peoria empowered for mission as we gather together each week?