How to Launch a Discipleship Ministry (John 1:35-42)


Subtitled, “One and Two” (a Sunday message given at Caloocan, Philippines UBF, January 23, 2011)
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.” (John 1:35)

Welcome to the Caloocan UBF Bible center. Today is January 23, 2011. [Think about the numbers involved in today's date, month, and year. January 23, involves three numbers, that is, 1, 2, 3. Year 2011 involves one number 2, and two number 1’s. If you add 1 to the number 2, you get 3. So today's date month and year consist of three numbers - 1, 2, and 3. Keep this fact in mind.]

Again, welcome to the Caloocan UBF Bible Center. Today you’ve come to an important place. In the eyes of a carnally minded person, this place might look insignificant: this place is run down; it is not like a royal palace or a gorgeous mansion. The shower is broken, the water sink upstairs does not work, and the windows are not properly sealed. In fact, this morning, there was no water upstairs; for some reasons not known to us the manager shut off the water. But still I say, “You’ve come to a very important place, for this house is the house of prayer for all nations.” As we come in and out of this house, may the Lord bless us to pray for the gospel to spread from this point on to the four corners of the world. May the Lord also bless our prayers to establish 1,000 well trained Bible teachers by the year 2020.

Personally, I thank you for inviting me to this place. I thank all of you, especially Dr. Paul Koh and Missionary John Jung, for the privilege to serve a Sunday message. The title of the message is, “Come and See” (subtitled, “One and Two”). This title is based on John 1:35. Let us read this passage altogether. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.” By the “One” I mean “one John”, and by the two, John the Baptist’s “two” disciples. So I want you to think about the significance of the three persons: John the Baptist and his two disciples, the significance to get the work of God started up and running.

Our Lord Jesus is the kingdom builder. He is the only General Contractor whom our Heavenly Father certified to build His kingdom. So in order to build God’s kingdom you must first learn from our Lord Jesus. How then did he build God’s kingdom? We find the answer to this question in the passage we’ve just read. He did not look for money. He did not build a big church building you see in Manila. No!

All he found necessary to jump start his ministry were three persons: John the Baptist, and his two disciples. That was it. With these three men, he already secured all he needed to see his ministry kick-start. So let us briefly think about them.

First, One.

Figuratively speaking, the way God’s work arises, grows up, and thrives, is like the way a tree gets planted, grows up, and prospers. Think about a tree. Every tree consists of two parts: the root system that grows down and the system that grows up. Roots develops into the subsoil. The part that is above the ground and grows up into the air is the part we see, such as the trunk, branches, leaves, etc. The one that is below the ground supports the tree. Although it rains and the sun shines, when there is no root system growing strong underneath the subsoil, the tree cannot grow strong.

Likewise, before the ministry of our Lord Jesus started out, the Lord God had to send a man named John the Baptist. As we know he was the only son of the Prophet Zechariah. After marriage Zechariah and his wife worked hard to produce a baby. But his wife remained barren for a long time. So they prayed and prayed. Finally, the Lord God blessed them with a son.

What kind of life eventually did John live? We find an answer to this question from what the angel said before his conception: “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

According to the prophecy indeed he was born filled with the Holy Spirit. He then went out and lived in the desert. He lived a simple mission-centered life. He did not wear fancy clothes. He did not eat expensive food. This morning, Brother Janemar and Dr. Paul served me breakfast: it consists of a bowl of curry rice and bean sprouts, similar to the food John the Baptist ate, that is, wild honey and locusts. Most importantly, he lived a mission-centered life, guided by the Holy Spirit. But in order for one to be filled with the Holy Spirit, one must live a holy life. In his day under the Roman rule a lot of people indulged in immoral lifestyles. Once I visited the sites of the ancient cities Ephesus, Corinth, and Athens. There I could see traces of the evil environments of John’s day. There was even an advertisement of the house of prostitutes, carved on the stones paving the street. Everywhere there were public bathrooms where men and women committed evil practices.

But John the Baptist did not compromise with the evil environments. He lived in a desert. He kept himself pure. As he lived a holy life, the Lord God blessed him so he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

John denied himself and lived for God’s mission. Instead of serving his own interest he fully devoted himself to serving the Lord’s interest. Because he lived a holy life, and preached the message of repentance saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near!” Many truth seekers repented and then followed him. Some people were superficial. So he said, “You vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Then some truly repented. Then John baptized them. In this way, as he became popular, the religious leaders started paying attention to him. So they sent their agents and asked him, “Who are you? Are you the Christ?” John said, “No.” Then they asked, “If you are not the Christ, who are you?” He then said, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” In self-denial, he always led people to Jesus Christ, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Referring to Jesus then he said, “I am not worthy to untie even the thongs of his sandles. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

Thus far we have been praying for Bible Philippines and World Campus Mission. It is our prayer topic that the Philippines be the light for the Gentiles. For this great work to happen, though, what the Lord wants to see is first of all a man with the Spirit of John the Baptist. Our Lord Jesus is risen. He works with his disciples. But before we see the great work of God arise in this nation, the Lord requires a man with the Spirit of John the Baptist. May the Lord bless this ministry with servants working with the Spirit of John who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Second, Two.

John the Baptist baptized a multitude of people. Naturally, many disciples followed him. But in the passage only two disciples are mentioned: Andrew and John (not John the Baptist, but John the author of John’s gospel).

So let us zero in on them: first of all, both of them have one thing in common, and yet they are different in function.

Firstly, let us think about the common point: we already know what it is, that is, they were sincere truth seekers. They did not come join the ministry of John the Baptist for any mundane purposes. They did not come with a superficial attitude. They followed him seeking the truth. They meant business in finding and meeting the Promised Savior to come. Look at verses 35-37. Let us read this passage. Here when Jesus asked, “What do you want?” they replied, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” This response indicates that they were truly truth seekers. They meant business in seeking the truth. When their mentor John the Baptist led them to Jesus, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God!” they immediately followed Jesus.

Following Jesus requires sacrifice on the part of the followers. At that time Jesus was in Judea. Soon Jesus moved to Galilee. Since then he moved from one place to another preaching the gospel. Imagine Jesus coming to Manila and preaching the gospel moving from one campus to another, like one day at Caloocan, another day UP, another day UNP, another day MCU and in this way if he keeps preaching the gospel 24/7, can you stick around Jesus all the time? I understand sister Cristen had to travel a long distance to come to the worship service. Like Christen, Andrew and John showed a deep level of commitment to Jesus. And when they followed they had one motive, that is, to know Jesus better. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” In other words, “What is your address?” What they meant was that they really wanted to meet Jesus in ‘person’; they wanted to have a ‘personal’ fellowship with Jesus. And when we examine the life of the Apostle John for example, since he had QT with the Lord all the days of his life, he grew up to be an influential apostle of apostles. No wonder that the Lord so blessed him that so many got inspired that they love to name their children John! No wonder that the Lord revealed to him the most that John came to write the book of Revelation! So we do need to follow their examples – the examples of John and Andrew!

This is my second visit to Manila, but it is the first visit to this Bible center. This morning in talking with Dr. Paul Koh, I could see that the Lord already blessed the ministry with sincere Bible students who had the sincere desire to know our Lord Jesus.

Next, but very briefly, I would like to mention about the difference between the two. In what respect are they different? In my opinion, I think Andrew represents quantity (quantity in the sense of the number of disciples), and John represents quality (in the sense of the quality of disciples).

Andrew is the kind of person who always brings something to Jesus. In the passage the first thing he did after finding Jesus as the Messiah was to go and bring to Jesus his brother Peter. Let us read John 1:40-42a. Immediately, Jesus changed the name of his brother to “Cephas” which means “Rock”. Later Peter became the rock foundation of Jesus’ church. Through Peter’s preaching even one day three thousand people came to believe in Jesus. We pray to build one thousand Bible teachers. But first we need to follow Andrew’s example. Let us invite students to our Lord Jesus, so that many Peters might come out of our invitation.

Next, John – While we need to take care of the number of people we also need to take care of the quality of disciples following Jesus. Last December I visited Kenya, Nairobi. There we had the African directors’ conference. In regard to the Christianity in Africa our missionaries said, “Christianity in Africa is a mile long, but an inch deep.” This means that in Africa we do have a quality problem.

So what kind of disciples should we work for? The Apostle John sets the ideal standard for the kind of quality-Christians God desires to produce. Already I talked a little bit about the quality of John as a Christian. So I would not spend time on this point further except addressing the question, “How can I be a quality Christian?” The answer is simple and clear: we need to follow Jesus “closely”. During Jesus’ public ministry the Apostle John examined Jesus closely. Staying closely with Jesus, sometimes leaning against the bosom of Jesus, and perhaps looking into the eyes of Jesus intently, he observed Jesus’ words and actions, trying to read Jesus’ mind, trying to learn from Jesus in every way possible. His efforts to learn of Jesus continued after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. And he did this until he finished his life’s journey in a physical body here on earth.

In this ministry I heard that students write testimonies on the Bible passages. This is one of the important ways to learn of Jesus. As you keep doing this, the Lord will help you to grow as children of God bearing Jesus’ image.

In conclusion let us read John 1:35. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.” With John and his two disciples Jesus built the foundation of the discipleship ministry. May the Lord bless the Philippines UBF with Jesus’ framework by working to follow the examples of John and his two disciples.

One word: One and Two

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