Peter Pan No More
Shaun LePage, November 27, 2005
A. In 1963, one of Walt Disney’s most popular movies premiered in theaters: Peter Pan. Of course it was based on a much older book by J.M. Barrie, but Disney’s film version made it a permanent part of American culture. At one point in the movie, Peter declares, “I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, Not me, Not I, Not me! So there! Never gonna be a man, I won’t! Like to see somebody try And make me. Anyone who wants to try And make me turn into a man, Catch me if you can. I won’t grow up. Not a penny will I pinch. I will never grow a mustache, Or a fraction of an inch. ‘Cause growing up is awfuller Than all the awful things that ever were. I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, No sir, Not I, Not me, So there!
B. In 1983, pop psychologist Dan Kiley coined a term for men who were childish and immature and refused to grow up: The Peter Pan Syndrome. Men with this “syndrome” have the following characteristics, according to Dr. Kiley: undependable; rebellious; angry; helpless; narcissistic; guilt-ridden; pitiful; dependent; manipulative and secretive. While this is not considered a medically accepted syndrome, it seems that it has reached epidemic proportions in 2005.
C. George Barna, who regularly conducts polls related to the spiritual lives of Americans, has written this: “In one recent nationwide survey we asked people to describe their goals in life. Almost nine out of ten adults described themselves as ‘Christian.’ Four out of ten said they were personally committed to Jesus Christ, had confessed their sins, and believed they will go to heaven after they die because of God’s grace provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection. But not one of the adults we interviewed said that their goal in life was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples. (This survey, by the way, included interviews with pastors and other church leaders as well as hundreds of people who regularly attend church services and programs.)” (Growing True Disciples, pgs.8,9)
D. I could stand up here and read statistics all day long but I don’t think that’s necessary because I think we all know that the state of Christianity in America is not very impressive. All of us personally know people who claim to know Jesus Christ but their lives don’t seem to show much—if any—evidence of spiritual maturity. Barna is right: Most Christians—in my experience—don’t think much about becoming a more committed follower of Jesus Christ or making disciples. Most American Christians just don’t want to grow up. The theme song for most Christians is: “I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, Not me, Not I, Not me! So there! …‘Cause growing up is awfuller Than all the awful things that ever were. I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, No sir, Not I, Not me, So there!”
E. But I’m not just complaining. I’m not ready to pack it up, give up and move to an island somewhere. I don’t believe the church is dead yet.
1. When Mike Westhoff, special teams coach for the Miami Dolphins, was in the hospital dying (so everyone thought) of cancer, he received a visit from his boss, head coach Don Shula. Up to that point, everyone who had visited him had done all but acknowledge Mike’s life was slipping away. Not Shula. He leaned in close to the assistant coach and said, “Listen, Mike, I need you in training camp in July-on the field, ready to go. We’re going all the way this year.” Mike Westhoff recovered from bone cancer and went back to work for the Dolphins. He later said, “I thought Coach Shula would tuck me in, but he didn’t. He treated me the way I could be, not the way I was.”
2. That’s it! Let’s start seeing the church the way it could be—not the way it is right now.
F. Let’s start by clearing something up: The fallacy that growing up is “awful”.
1. The reason people don’t want to grow up is because they think growing up is a bad thing. Is growing up really “awfuller than all the awful things that ever were”? The Bible says No! When we grow up—according to the Scriptures—we will experience the fullness of Christ. Our lives will be invested in work that has lasting meaning. We’ll be well-grounded and not tossed around—wondering what’s true and what’s not. We won’t be tricked into believing things that can hurt us and destroy our relationships and cause us unnecessary grief. We’ll know Christ—our Creator and Lord—more intimately. We’ll experience true and lasting love. Is this my imagination? Listen to Ephesians 4:11-16 [read].
2. Does that sound awful? No! It’s a lie that “never growing up” is somehow better. It’s a lie that staying immature is the best way to live your life. In fact, staying immature is “awfuller than all the awful things that ever were” because we’ll endanger ourselves spiritually and miss out on so much that God wants us to experience.
G. CPS: It’s never too late—4, 14 or 40—it’s never too late to start growing up.
1. Today we’ll conclude a series related to our core values.
2. We’ve been looking at how these values relate to the three primary relationships of every believer: Our relationship with God, our relationship with unbelievers and our relationship with believers.
3. Over the last couple weeks we’ve been looking at the Great Commission and how it factors into all this. Today we’re looking at that final aspect—the third activity—of the Great Commission: “Teaching.”
4. Let’s read again, Matthew 28:16-20.
II. Body: “…Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Let’s break this down into the six key words at the beginning of vs.20. Six words that reveal how important and how challenging this final level of Great Commission ministry really is.
1. The Greek word for “teaching” is a broad word—imparting knowledge through instruction.
2. Teaching was a vital part of what Jesus did
a) Matthew 4:23: “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”
b) Mark 1:32-38: “32That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
3. Teaching is a vital part of our work—this seems obvious, but it is important to remember because it’s easy to start emphasizing other things and neglect the importance of teaching. Listen:
a) Romans 10:17: “17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” “Word” there is rhema—the spoken or preached word of Christ. Eugene Peterson—in The Message—paraphrased this verse: “17The point is, Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.”
b) Listen to how Paul put it in 2 Timothy 2:1-2: “1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
4. This is a vital point: We are not talking about knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Christian teaching—the teaching Jesus commanded in the Great Commission—has a purpose. It is a means to an end.
5. What is that end? Look at the next word in Matthew 28:20:
1. The word translated “observe” in its most literal sense means to “watch over” like a guard on duty. When it’s used in relation to a command it has the simple idea of “obedience.” Just do it! Obey the teaching.
2. Teaching is a means to an end—the end is obedience. Each time we open the Scriptures—as a teacher or as a student—we must ask ourselves, “So what?” How should I change? How should I think differently? How should I talk differently? How should I treat people differently? What should I get better at? What should I stop doing? How should I apply what I’ve learned?
3. James 1:22-25 is so helpful:
a) “22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
b) Here’s the picture: When you open your Bible it’s like walking up to a mirror. The Bible—like a mirror—reveals the true you. If you look in a mirror and see that your hair is all messed up, your teeth have several unidentified particles stuck in them and you have part of breakfast stuck to your chin you then know what needs to be done. You need to comb your hair. You need to brush your teeth. You need to wash your face. You wouldn’t look at all those things and just walk away—go to work, go to school and not “do” anything about it. You would make the necessary changes! The Bible is a mirror. The Bible reveals to you that you need to do something about your current condition.
c) James promises that “this man”—the “effectual doer”; the man who “does” what the Bible tells him to do—will be blessed.
1. All=everything! This is not a smorgasbord—“I’ll choose this command, but that one is out of the question!” Imagine Marines in boot camp saying, “I’ll be happy to do the push-ups, but I’ll pass on the hiking.” To be a follower of Jesus is an all or nothing proposition.
a) You’re not following Jesus if you happily give, but then cheat on your taxes.
b) You’re not following Jesus if you praise His name in worship, but then take His name in vain when you’re hanging out with the guys.
c) You’re not following Jesus if you love the homeless, but dishonor the marriage bed by sleeping with your girlfriend.
d) I’m not saying you’re not a Christian. Christians are those who have received a free gift apart from works. Disciples are those who “obey all” of Jesus’ commands.
2. The word “all” in this phrase in Matthew 28:20 does not mean we should expect sinlessness, but that we should expect maturity; completeness. It’s the idea of being “fully trained.” Listen to Luke 6:40: “40A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Real disciples are “fully trained” (Luke 6:40) and “fully trained” means mature.
a) Listen to Colossians 1:28: “28We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Paul got the idea behind the “teaching” of the Great Commission—Christ-centered teaching for the purpose of leading disciples to maturity.
b) Listen to 2 Timothy 3:16,17 in the New Living Translation: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.”
3. But what exactly does maturity look like? Let me give you a tangible list of the marks of maturity. Be careful though! Maturity is more complex than a list of 8 or 10 or 12 things. You can’t just make a list, check off each one and declare yourself mature. But, a list can be helpful in getting down to business; evaluating where you are right now; setting goals for yourself; reaching the next level.
a) First of all, look at our Core Values. We believe these are the core values of a mature disciple. Allow me reorganize and combine a couple and reword this list to freshen it up for you:
(i) A mature disciple is a True Worshiper. He is actively obeying the foremost commandment. Jesus said the foremost commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). He is consistently praying and sincerely worshiping His God.
(ii) A mature disciple is a Bible Student. He wants to listen to sermons. She wants to read the Scriptures. He wants to go to Bible studies.
(a) The International Baptist Lay Academy serves as a training ground for church leaders in Eastern Europe. This Hungary-based ministry has trained numerous believers who have known oppression and persecution. In one particular class, a professor suddenly stopped his lecture after realizing he had taught into the break time. He apologized for holding them over into the break, but was interrupted by a student who said, “Professor, don’t stop. We’ve had forty years of break.” (Commission, July 1996, p. 31)
(b) That’s a Bible student—that’s a mature disciple—one who understands that this book is from God and God speaks through it and that “all” of it should be obeyed and applied to his own personal life.
(iii) A mature disciple is a Church Member. He recognizes that the Church is God’s instrument on earth so he is devoted to having real community with God’s people. He is plugged in and serving that local body of believers because he believes that every member of a church is a minister—he himself is a priest who is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through his service in that church.
(iv) A mature disciple is a Prepared Witness. He knows and understands and believes the gospel message and is actively involved in sharing that great good news in an innovative way with the people he knows and works with. He supports world missions through his giving or by physically going.
(v) That’s a different way of describing those core values.
b) But there are other things we should highlight and emphasize when we talk about what a mature disciple is:
(i) A mature disciple is a Trained Theologian. Don’t hear that wrong—I didn’t say a mature disciple is someone who has a seminary degree. But I do believe we should all be trained theologians. We are theologians—we all believe something about God (the definition of a theologian is simply “one who has knowledge of God). The question is whether our theology lines up with Scripture. We should all be reading or listening to tapes or attending classes and studies that help us formulate a more biblical theology. At the very least, a mature disciple needs to understand salvation by grace alone so that he can be assured of his salvation. He should know “Christology”—the doctrine of Jesus Christ—so he can know Christ better and be more Christ-like.
(ii) A mature disciple is a Faithful Steward. Yes, I’m talking about money. Everyone take a deep breath and relax. But being a faithful steward is about more than just money—it’s about life.
(a) A faithful steward has an eternal perspective. He understands that God owns everything and gives us what we need so that we can be a blessing to others—not so we can stockpile material possessions and live high on the hog. Listen to 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Two points of financial counsel:
1. These verses teach about “securities”: Earth wealth is not secure. Hope in God, not in wealth.
2. These verses teach about “investments”: By giving earth wealth we can store up heaven wealth.
3. If you find that you are struggling with materialism, please go back to these verses—1 Timothy 6:17-19—and read them again and again. Memorize them so that you can meditate on them.
(b) A faithful steward understands that God loves a cheerful giver. In fact, giving is one of the most tangible expressions of worship. Your elder board has considered this and has decided to make an improvement to our worship service: Starting next week, we’ll begin taking up an offering as part of our worship service. Let me explain our reasoning for making this change:
1. First, giving—as I’ve said—is an act of worship.
a. Old Testament worship is full of commands to bring offerings and sacrifices and tithes.
b. The New Testament does not require us to sacrifice animals and offer them in our services—thank the Lord! Christ Himself was the perfect sacrificial offering and therefore, we don’t have to do things that way anymore.
c. Instead, giving is—in the New Testament—an act of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. We don’t do it to get forgiveness of our sins, but because Christ already paid for our sins. In fact, New Testament giving is not just money, but our entire selves—all that we have is for the glory of God.
d. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” God is pleased—the very definition of the desired result of worship—when we give with a worshipful attitude.
2. Secondly, giving is Christ-like. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16). Listen also to Galatians 1:3,4: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” When we are fully-trained disciples, we will be like our teacher. Therefore, we must give.
3. Thirdly, some practical matters: 1) 1 Corinthians 16:9 seems to indicate that an offering was common in the early church; 2) 2 Corinthians 8-9 shows that giving should be perceived as a privilege—participating in the stuff of heaven by giving our earth stuff; 3) I will rarely talk about money from this pulpit. When giving is the subject of a text, I’ll talk about it. Someday I’ll preach a series on stewardship, but I guarantee you I will never make this a hobby horse to ride every couple months. 4) When we take up the offering each week, we intend to go out of our way to make sure no one feels guilty or uncomfortable. Listen to 2 Corinthians 9:7: “7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If you can’t give cheerfully—if you can only give “reluctantly,” please, please don’t give. God does not need guilt money. Community Bible Church doesn’t need “reluctant” giving. We’re trusting that God will take all those seeds of “cheerful” giving and multiply them to meet all of our needs. So, when we take up the offering, we’ll say something like this: If you’re visiting with us today, we don’t want you to feel compelled in any way to put something in the offering basket as it goes by. We consider giving to be an act of worship, so we consider our offering time an important element in our expression of worship to our God.
(c) ©A mature disciple is a Faithful Steward.
(iii) Again, there are other things we could add to this list.
(a) We could go to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and look at Paul’s lists for what elders should look like—the character traits of those who are chosen to lead the church. Those are simply descriptions of what a mature disciple looks like. Paul is telling us—choose mature disciples to lead the church and here’s what they look like.
(b) I believe strongly in what Luke 6:40 tells us—that a “fully trained” disciple will look like his teacher. So, we could go through the gospels and pull out all the transferable traits of Jesus and come up with more marks of maturity.
(c) ©The point is: We should be going through the Scriptures and asking ourselves, What is a mature disciple. Then, we should evaluate ourselves and set goals and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in getting to higher and higher levels of maturity.
D. “I”—Back in Matthew 28:20, the fourth word I want to highlight is “I”—Jesus was talking, so He’s the “I” of this phrase.
1. Here’s the point: Jesus is Lord. He is the King. What He says goes.
2. The whole issue of Lordship is really not that complicated. Jesus is Lord so we serve Him. We obey Him. Disciples are completely committed to Christ’s Lordship. We don’t commit to His Lordship to get saved—that would not be a gift, that would be a condition. We commit to His Lordship because He has saved us and we desire to follow Him.
1. Here’s what I think is the point: Jesus asked a lot from His disciples—yes, He actually gave commandments—and He expected us to “observe all” of them. As I said earlier, Jesus gave us—His disciples—a great deal of direction and guidance and truth and standards. He asks a lot of His followers.
2. Luke 9:23-26 is an excellent sample: “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
3. Jesus asked a lot of His disciples—we should too. We should ask a lot of ourselves and as a Great Commission-minded church, we should ask a lot of all who claim to be Christ-followers. We should ask, What did Jesus command? What does He expect us to “observe”? Then, we should get busy doing it—no matter how hard. No matter how high the cost.
F. “You”—One more word: “You.”
1. You=the Apostles; the Twelve. The only record we have of what Jesus “commanded” is found in the New Testament. Those men were given a very special task in the history of God’s work. They were given the foundational work of being moved by the Holy Spirit to remember the commands and teachings of Jesus and record the Word of God.
2. Acts 2:42 tells us the first church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” and we need to do the very same thing. Mature disciples are devoted to the Scriptures so that we can be devoted to our Lord.
A. No more “Peter Pans”!
1. Let’s bury that lie once and for all. Maturity is good. It is wonderful! Even if it doesn’t always feel so wonderful, it is our great purpose on earth.
2. Let’s commit ourselves this day to growing up in Christ and helping others grow up in Him. Our purpose is to glorify God by inviting people to trust Christ and grow up in Him.
B. Let me give you three questions to take home with you as you consider what you’ve heard today:
1. Am I learning the Scriptures better? A disciple is one who is growing in his knowing. A disciple is reading the Scriptures regularly—not necessarily a lot, but consistently. A disciple is a learner who is learning more about the One he is following.
2. Am I obeying what I’m learning? A disciple is one who is growing in his doing. Evaluate your activity. Are you doing the things a disciple does? Are you praying with expectancy? Are you worshiping with sincerity? Are you serving with humility? Are you giving cheerfully? A disciple is a doer of the Word of Christ.
3. Am I becoming a mature disciple? A disciple is one who is growing in his being—who he is. Do you see things with an eternal perspective? Do you—like Jesus—have compassion for people? Are you seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Who are you? Take a good hard look this week. A disciple is like Christ.
C. Be intentional. Evaluate yourself. Set goals for yourself. Plead with God to help you get to the next level. William Law put it this way: “If you stop and ask yourself why you are not so devoted as the (early) Christians, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.” (William Law, Courage—You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, Scripture Press Publications, p. 34.) Intend it. Choose not to be Peter Pan. Choose to grow up.