How the Cross Draws Secret Believers Out of Hiding

By Ashley Denton,

"Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night." - John 19:38-39

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had significant influence in the Jewish community and had kept their faith a secret all the way up to the day Jesus died on the cross. But witnessing all that happened that day and the last breath of Jesus on that cross changed everything. They threw caution to the wind and asked Pilate for His body. Then single-handedly in the light of day, they prepared His body for burial. Working together and quickly to lay Him to rest before sundown (the beginning of the Sabbath), these two secret believers made their love for Jesus a spectacle. Joseph’s tomb was near the hill upon which Jesus had died, so their work to lay Him to rest would have been visible to all.

PUT YOUR LOYALTY TO JESUS ON DISPLAY
Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night months earlier wanting to know how to be born again. But since that time, he had followed Jesus at a distance, in secret (see John 3). But now by the light of day he carried the lifeless body of Jesus with Joseph to lay Him to rest. Their loyalty to Jesus would have been obvious to those who crucified Him. Their loyalty was on display. What this meant for their seat of influence on the Jewish ruling council was now irrelevant to them. They witnessed Jesus finishing His mission, and now it was their mission to make Him known.

HE HAS DONE ALL OF THE WORK, WE GET ALL OF THE BENEFITS
Jesus’ last words were, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28), and “It is finished (John 19:30).” What more can anyone do to save humanity? Nothing. Jesus has done all of the work for you and me, and we get to enjoy all of the benefits. The righteous for the unrighteous, He reconciled us to God (see 2 Corinthians 5). The raw, vulnerable, excruciating pain Jesus endured on the cross brought Joseph and Nicodemus out of hiding.

THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND
How about you? Do you hide in your belief. I do sometimes depending on the situation. Are you secretly following Jesus? To get drawn out of hiding you need to consider deeply, the Cross. Read the account of the cross and allow the Holy Spirit to do in you what He did in these two men. They threw caution to the wind, they no longer cared if their reputation would be ruined in their community for aligning their lives to Jesus. After seeing what Jesus did for them on the Cross, this was the normal response… the least they could do to express their love and gratitude to Him. Joseph and Nicodemus came out of hiding and put their full weight down on the fact that, “Truly this is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).” No more secret belief.

ACTION FOR YOUTH WORKERS
Often young people are embarrassed or fearful of making their faith in Jesus known to their friends. One of the ways we can serve our young friends the best is to help them make their faith public by making your mid-week outreach event is something that students will want to invite their friends to. This takes a lot of work, but by partnering with them and providing a great venue for the Gospel to be shared, you are helping them make their secret faith in Jesus more open, and this benefits everyone. No one thrives in secret.

RELATED: ARE YOU TRYING TO LIVE UP TO IMPOSSIBLE STANDARDS? BE FREE!

-Ashley

Source: http://ashleydenton.com/2015/04/01/how-the...

Easter: Celebration and Opportunity

By Aaron LeDuc,

(Click here for our special blog post series for Holy Week as we prepare our hearts for Easter.)

You will often hear us say that every believer should see it as their own personal responsibility to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).  Discipleship is more than simply inviting someone you know to the gathering, but it is to be actively helping others to follow Jesus.  However, there are some opportunities throughout the year that can serve discipleship by inviting others to come hear the gospel.  Easter services not only center on one of the key parts of the good news, the resurrection of Jesus, but they are also an event that many in our culture are looking to attend even if they don’t regularly attend church.  Through the years, we’ve gathered many stories of people coming to saving faith while attending Easter services.

Take some time right now to think about people you know that would be receptive to an invitation to Easter.  Did you do it?  Seriously, stop reading right now and think.

Were there more than you thought?  How might God be calling you to step out in faith and invite these people to attend the Easter service with you?

It’s a great opportunity to join with God’s people in worship and praise, to hear the gospel clearly proclaimed, and to hear attestations to the miraculous resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  In light of this, please consider some of the following ways to invite others to our Easter services:
-Give them an Invite Card (in bulletins & back of sanctuary)
-Invite them through Facebook

For details of our Easter and Good Friday Services times and locations click here.

-Aaron

Never Stop Sowing | Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God – the Meaning of Mark 4:1-9

By Ashley Denton,

"Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ – Revelation 14:6-7

As I get to know student ministry leaders in dozens of countries around the world, one of the most important topics we constantly keep at the forefront is the Gospel of Jesus and how we can communicate it effectively to young people. As the passage from Revelation above excites our imagination about the activity of God in the spiritual realm to spread the yeast of his Good News to every tribe, tongue, and culture, we need to keep reminding ourselves that evangelism is absolutely central to the mission of the church. As we explore the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-9 in this post, I want to encourage you that no matter how hard you find it is to share the Gospel, or how discouraged you get, never give up on introducing people to Jesus. The central message of this parable is exactly that: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER STOP SOWING.

Each of the four Gospels are a type of “Top 10” list. We know that Jesus did and said more things than any library could hold… but the Holy Spirit in his perfect wisdom gave each Gospel writer a kind of “Top 10″ list to record those events, experiences, and teachings that fully told the story of the Good News of Jesus.

For example, to illustrate, in just the 3 chapters of the Gospel of Mark, he records enough one-liners from Jesus to easily make a “Top 10″ list of some of the most awe-inspiring statements Jesus ever made…

10. “Repent and believe the good news.”
9. “Come follow me.”
8. “Be quiet, come out of him.”
7. “I am willing… be clean!”
6. “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
5. “Why are you thinking these things?”
4. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
3. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
2. “If a house is divided against itself that house cannot stand.”
1. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

THE GOSPEL OF MARK SHOWS WHO JESUS IS BY WHAT HE DID & SAID

So here is the main text we want to consider in this post:

"Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 'Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.' Then Jesus said, 'Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.'" -Mark 4:1-9

As I see it, Jesus was like the guy jumping off the diving board throwing down HUGE canon balls and getting everyone wet. At this point of his ministry everyone was watching. He was making a huge splash.

The first three chapters of Mark brings a sharp focus to the identity of Jesus, and presents him to Mark’s primarily Gentile audience as UNARGUABLY the central figure of all of history.

Now something really interesting happens in the Gospel Mark as we get to the Parable of the Sower in chapter 4. Even though large crowds were overwhelmingly ATTRACTED to Jesus… at the same time there began an emergence of groups of people who were ABANDONING Him. The religious elite, and some common people couldn’t handle some of Jesus’ hard teachings so they rejected him and abandoned the crowds. Not only were people following him in droves, some were also ditching him and even saying nasty things about him as they walked away.

YOU HAVE TO GRASP THE CONTEXT OF MARK 4:1-9 TO UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WAS TALKING ABOUT

So by the time we get to Mark 4, the disciples are completely shell-shocked. The stuff they’ve seen Jesus do is rocking their world. The enthusiasm of the crowds following him is completely overwhelming, and yet they are confused as to why the most religiously educated leaders who allegedly knew the most about the long-awaited Son of God are ditching him and slandering his name.

They are disoriented.

Jesus wasn’t behaving like the Messiah they were expecting… he walks around from village to village teaching and loving on people… Why wasn’t he garnering any political support to bring together an army of followers to take back the land that the Jews rightfully belonged to them? Secondly, The religious elite and many others are disowning Jesus and even worse, some are calling him possessed (like we saw in Mark 3.) So the disciples are thinking, “Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”

Well Jesus, knowing that his disciples are dizzy with conflicting thoughts…  addresses their confusion in this parable. That is where we find ourselves in the text as we dive into the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-19

Click here to hear learn more and hear my talk on “Never Stop Sowing. Evangelism and the Meaning of the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-9”

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

What are three things you think the Lord might be speaking to you about from this message?
What are three ways you and your team could grow together as Sowers of the Gospel this year?

-Ashley

Source: http://ashleydenton.com