We need our whole lives to be converted and transformed. Transformation goes beyond a point-of-decision faith, where we "decide" one moment to accept the gift of salvation but then we live without the ongoing transformation that God calls us to. The example for this is Lydia. She was converted, and her life was changed. She led her household to faith, and opened her house for hospitality. Her home became a church.
Paul spends a great deal of time in Ephesians teaching the gospel and its implications. God has reconciled us, God has brought us together, God has acted for us. Therefore, Paul says, let us walk in a manner worthy of this calling by being united together in both doctrine and behavior. The goal is maturity.
In Acts 11, Peter defends himself against a faction in the church that is disturbed that he preached the gospel to people they did not approve of. This raises several questions for us about whom we have fellowship with and whom we do not have fellowship with.
The rule that Peter sets out is simple: When he saw that the Gentiles (Cornelius' household; Acts 10) were given the same Spirit that he and the other apostles were given (on the Day of Pentecost; Acts 2), he could not stand in God's way. If God includes someone in his church, so should we.
In John 9, Jesus restores sight to a blind man. This infuriates the religious leaders, who call the man's parents in to testify, to see if they might find some way of accusing Jesus as a fraud. His parents refuse to testify because they are afraid of being put out of the synagogue.
The religion of the Temple is a religion based on fear, control, rules and regulations. It is not a way to God. Jesus contrast himself with this failed religion, calling himself the door and the good shepherd. His sheep know him, hear his voice, follow him, and receive protection from the Father.
We know Jesus, hear his voice, and follow him through daily walking with him in prayer and fellowship, seeking to bear witness of his works to others, so they may be brought into the fold.
Each gospel, after Jesus' resurrection, records him giving a mission to his followers. In John, the mission is made very clear: "Follow me" (21:19). We might read this and wonder, "But what does that mean?"
We learn what it means to follow Jesus through his interaction with Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves him, and each time, when Peter confirms that he does, Jesus tells him to "feed my sheep." Love for Jesus is demonstrated in feeding his sheep.
The idea of feeding Jesus' sheep is simple: it describes the care of and ministry to those who belong to Jesus. It describes discipleship. In each gospel, the parting words of Jesus to his followers is to become disciples who make disciples.
Let us live out this mission.
The gospel is God's plan for the world. We can spend our lifetimes building things for ourselves, or we can give ourselves to something bigger than ourselves--to God, his gospel, and his life.
The purpose of a gospel is to make known the person and ministry of Jesus. But what happens next? What does the church do? Matthew and Mark end with a call to mission, for believers to go into the world and make disciples. John ends with the call to feed Jesus' sheep, to continue the discipling ministry that Jesus had with his own disciples, to take that ministry to others. Luke ends differently because his gospel flows into another book, Acts, that demonstrates the actual ministry of the church (through the apostles) that was commanded at the end of the other gospels. Thus, Luke's *ending* is also a *beginning*.
But it, too, deals with the questions of how to make Jesus known in the world. Luke demonstrates three ways by which Jesus is made known among us, and by which we can make him known among all nations: in Christ-centered testimony and teaching, around the Lord's Table, and in the text of the Bible.
In Isaiah 40, the prophet preaches about the comfort that God will bring to his people when they learn to trust him and depend on him. Many times, we worship our own idols rather than the living God. Nothing can compare to God. Let us wait for renewal from him.
When our lives become too complex, we seek to simplify them. But when our faith becomes too complex, we tend to add more. More Bible studies, more activity, more things to do. We need to resist the urge to focus on our personal accomplishments and instead seek a simple faith that aims to know Jesus (not about him) in both his power and his suffering so that we may become like him and attain the resurrection of the dead.
In Acts, the church multiplied and grew when it obeyed God. In Acts 9:31, this is portrayed as being because they walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Is it possible that we do not grow and multiply today because we have neglected that way of walking?