Gospel of John 16:12-13
Third Sunday After The Epiphany, January 22, 2023
Third in a Pastoral Series on Practicing Baptist Principles Dennis W. Foust, PhD, Senior Minister
On Sunday, November 15, 1964, I made my commitment to follow Jesus Christ. I know this to be true because my mother recorded that date in her records of our family. I walked forward at the end of worship that Sunday, received a hug from my father, the pastor, and we prayed together. My parents talked to me back over at the parsonage that afternoon. Since I was only nine, they wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing. Over the years, they told me what I said: “I want to follow Jesus wherever he leads me.” I knew exactly what I was doing that day when I walked down the aisle to my Dad. I wanted to follow Jesus. Yet, I must tell you that while I knew what I was doing on that day, I had no idea of what it meant for the rest of my life. On that day, I gave all I understood about myself to all I understood about God revealed in Jesus. Through these intervening decades, there have been many times of spiritual renewal when I have given all I understand about myself to all I understand about God. The Christian life is a continual journey of spiritual growth through spiritual renewal. Beginning with my parents, I learned about the Baptist practice of Soul Freedom. Through the years, several people have helped me better understand what it means to be free to follow the Spirit of God and the implications of doing so.
Over the past two Sundays, I have taught you how to practice the Baptist principle of Soul Freedom. First, you are free to make your own commitment to a personal relationship with The Living God by following The Way of Jesus. Your baptism becomes an invisible watermark reminding you that every aspect of your life is immersed in your commitment to God in Christ.
Last Sunday, I taught you how Soul Freedom is the antithesis of creedal coercion. As you practice Soul Freedom, you Make Up Your Own Mind. Soul Freedom makes you both Responsible before God and Response Able in your relationship with God.
Today, I am teaching you another foundational practice in Soul Freedom.
As you follow the Spirit of God, you are a minister in daily life.
Jesus taught his first disciples to follow the Spirit of God. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” Jesus told his followers they would do great works.
As you mature, you understand more about yourself, more about God, more about your purpose in life because you are following God’s spirit into more truth.
The Reformer, Martin Luther challenged the Church in Rome. The Roman Church taught the only way to have a relationship with God was through the sacraments, by the authority of the priests. After Luther challenged Rome, the Anabaptist movement emerged. ‘Anabaptist’ means ‘to baptize again.’ They rejected infant baptism and practiced believer’s baptism. Later they were called “Mennonite” because of the spiritual leadership of Menno Simons, who made a conscious decision to leave the Catholic priesthood and follow Jesus in believer’s baptism.
Many Anabaptists (Mennonites) migrated to Russia to flee persecution. When religious freedom there was threatened, they immigrated to North America along with others from Germany, Switzerland and Holland. Over time, Soul Freedom brought forth the understanding that each follower of Jesus continues Jesus’ ministry. Each follower of Jesus is a Minister in Daily Life.
Through the years, I grew to understand that we are all ministers. I am called to minister as a pastor. My pastoral role includes equipping followers of Jesus be Ministers in Daily Life. Too often, we only enlist people to be church members, attenders, and participants, while neglecting to emphasize equipping God’s people to be the church as scattered ministering servants in daily life. The Letter to the Church in Ephesus states, “…pastor teachers have been given to the Church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry…” As you express your Soul Freedom relating with God by following The Way of Jesus, you join a Priesthood of Believers. God calls every disciple of Jesus to be a minister in daily life – continuing the ministry of Jesus connecting Sunday with Monday in creative ways.
Today, you have been given an insert entitled –
EXPERIENCING SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
BY FOLLOWING GOD’S CALLING THROUGH MINISTRY IN DAILY LIFE
My friend Ross West wrote a book entitled, ‘Go to Work and Take Your Faith Too.’ He tells the story of a medical doctor who became concerned about the healthcare that was not provided to people in the poorest area of his city. He resigned his medical center position and became involved with a medical clinic in a housing project. When he explained to people in his local church how his discipleship had prompted him to live out his profession in this manner, most of them could not understand. The physician explained, “If I had gone to Haiti to do the same thing, they would have funded me as a missionary.” Through the years, I have been a pastor to many church ATTENDERS. But listen closely, followers of Jesus who experience the fulfillment of their discipleship and the joy of their salvation are those who choose to express their soul freedom by following the Spirit of God continuing the ministry of Jesus as ministers in daily life.
Consider the following three questions:
1. What have been the five most significant accomplishments in your life?
2. How has your discipleship as a follower of Jesus influenced you in these accomplishments?
3. What advice would you give to a teenager about following the Spirit of God in daily life?
Tom Graves, a former pastor of St. John’s was influenced by Findley Edge. Findley was also a significant influence on my life. Here are some words Findley gave me:
the Church’s “problem is not primarily that attendance statistics are declining or that the budget is becoming increasingly difficult to raise. It is that we do not know who we are or what we are called to be as the People of God in the world. Or, if we do know, we are half-hearted in our commitments to be the People of God in the world. We are God’s servant people called to continue the mission of God through the compassionate ministry of Jesus.”
Beloved, let’s be honest, there are people who call themselves Christians but do not invest in compassionate ministries of redemption & reconciliation – mercy, justice & humility with God. They attend church. But they do not know who they are as The People of God. HOWEVER, THAT IS NOT US. Because we are free to follow the Spirit of God, we choose to be God’s servant church, whether we are gathered or scattered.
We give all we understand about ourselves to all we understand about the servant God – every day.
Amen and AMEN! May it be so!