We live in a society that prioritises wealth and status. The more we have (money, qualifications, experience, etc.) the greater our ranking. Whether we realise it or not, as Christians we might have set a high bar for pre-Christians to become part of the Kingdom. Jesus, however, did the exact opposite. During His time, He kept the bar low. Jesus welcomed people from the fringes of society to be part of His movement. Matthew the tax collector (Matthew 9), the Samaritan woman (John 4) and the demon-possessed man (Mark 5), to name a few. These people were in pain – physically, mentally and spiritually – and He healed them and turned their lives around. But the stories never stop there. These recent followers of Jesus began testifying about Him and bringing people to Him. They immediately started a movement.
- Who were the people around the table at Matthew’s house? Who did this offend? Why?
- Read Matthew 9:17. Jesus is talking about harvest (wine) that cannot be contained in an old container (wineskin). New wine cannot be poured into an old wineskin because the old, stiff wineskin would burst from the fermenting of new wine. What or who is the new wine and new wineskin in this metaphor?
- Read Matthew 25:40-45. How do you see Jesus in this parable? Why do we need to be Jesus with skin on in today’s world? Based on this passage, how do we do that?
- God is raising up everyday, ordinary people to see Jesus’ movement happen. We as disciples play a part in that movement and we need to be in sync with God’s desire for our lives. What does having the same desire as God look like to you? What stands in the way of this?
- What do you think God is calling you to? What are you going to do about it?
- Think about the everyday, ordinary people around you. Name one person in your life right now that you would like to bring into this movement.
God is raising up ordinary, everyday people to start movements that cannot be stopped. He desires for us to participate, and as Christians we are to desire that too; to be Jesus with skin on, to disciple and to multiply. Jesus did that by engaging with those around Him. He had conversations and helped people along the way, and those people kept their movements going by doing their part in their own environments. How are you going to start yours?
As we settle into a new stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, we are challenged to lift our eyes and envision what the church of the future could be like. We have all faced significant change and necessary adaption over the last few months, yet as we look at the example of the early church in Antioch, we see what our future church needs to look like. We are called to truly reflect Jesus, and to be obedient to his calling on our lives.
Read Acts 11:19-30
- Read Acts 11:19. Throughout history, some of the most significant times that the gospel has spread have been when believers were under persecution. Why do you think this is the case? How do you honestly feel about being personally persecuted for the advancement of the gospel?
- Read verses 20-21. What can we learn from these disciples? Why do you think their work was so impacting? Would this work in your context today?
- Read 22-24. What traits were evident in the life of Barnabas? Would others say that you have any of these traits? Why / why not? What changes might you need to make for this to be true for you? How did God use Barnabas in this situation?
- The disciples focused on promoting “Only Jesus.” How might this be counter cultural today (even within church circles)? What can we do to ensure Jesus is our only message?
- Read 25-26. Barnabas went and found Paul and together they discipled the believers. What can we learn from this?
- The disciples were first called “Christians” as a slur because they were like Jesus. How can we too live a life that enables others to see Jesus first and foremost when they see us?
- Read verse 27. The disciples were led by the Spirit as to where to focus their resources and efforts. Are you Spirit-led in this? How?
The future church can learn a lot from the early church about the mission of God in the hands of ordinary people. We all have a part to play in shaping the church to come, but it must start with us taking personal responsibility. If the church of the future is to reflect the biblical traits we see in the church at Antioch, what is one area of your life you can focus on this week towards people seeing Jesus when they look at you? Who can you share your faith with this week? What is one step of obedience that God is calling you to take right now?