Being a Disciple of Christ
We turn our hearts to hear God speak to us as He loves to through His Word.
Remember, apart from God’s written revelation to us, we have no reliable guide to know and grow in our love for Him. None!
For the counsel of friends, the feelings of our hearts, even praying to God, none of those are God’s voice that speaks without error to us and can be fully trusted.
Even the Apostle Peter, when describing his being an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty at the Transformation declares: “And we have the even more sure prophetic word to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place….” II Peter 1:19
If you have been here at Hope for any length of time, you know how we endeavor the whole counsel of God. We believe the most faithful way to learn God’s Word is by studying biblical books in their entire context. That’s lectio continua- preaching through entire books of Scripture verse-by-verse.
In the last 10 years God has privileged us to study Ephesians, Acts, I, II Peter, Esther, John, Jonah, Titus, a number of the Psalms and Genesis. At this pace, it will take 50 more years for us to cover the entire Bible!
Well, this morning we are going to look at the Scripture in more of a big picture perspective.
Because I shared with the elders at the end of last year how the Lord has impressed upon my heart our need as a church to grow in a particular area: making disciples.
In fact, that was the marching orders our risen Lord Jesus impressed on His men as they gathered in Galilee: “go and make disciples!”
So, that’s the vital call of Christ we want to wrestle with for a couple of weeks. And by God’s grace, that will impact all we do this year and the years to come.
The pressing question is, “How we can be men and women whom Christ uses to multiply disciples for His sake?”
I thank God for the growth He has given us as a church both spiritually as well as in those He has added to our fellowship. These are exciting times
in the life of our church! I believe these are the best days we have seen thus far- and by faith in our great God they will only get better for His glory!
Yet, as I think about our church family, many of you have never seen God use you to make disciples for His sake.
In other words, you have not seen God use you to lead lost souls to Christ so they in turn do the same.
It’s been said from studies that 95% of all Christians have never seen God used them to lead another person to come to know the Lord.
So, it’s timely for us to hear what God has to say throughout His Word about the urgency of making disciples of Christ.
My prayer is that we will hear the cumulative force of many biblical texts that speak to this issue: Christ’s calls for us to make disciples.
I can assure you, God’s Word will shake us out of our comfort zone. It’s going to confront the “play it safe, I’ve never done that before” self-styled approach to the Christian life. It may even offend you.
You see, a call to N.T. discipleship is radical. And yet it’s thoroughly biblical.
Now, there’s no way we can individually or as a church be thoroughly committed to making disciples without first clearly grasping what is a disciple of Christ
It’s like a driving instructor who has never driven before trying to tell a learner how to drive. It just doesn’t work.
So, we start with what it means to be a disciple (week 1) and then, what it looks like to make disciples.
We could say it this way. Being a disciple and begetting disciples- that’s God’s high calling for all His children. We will look at 4 aspects of being a disciple of Christ:
Call to be a disciple
Cost of being a disciple
Carrot stick (rewards)
Let’s start with the biblical 1. Call to be a disciple of Christ
The first place we find the word “disciple” in the Bible may surprise you. It’s in the O.T. book of Isaiah. In fact, Isaiah is the only place in the O.T. where we find the word “disciple” used. In Isaiah 8:16 the Lord is speaking and says,
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”
That word “disciples” is key for our understanding. It’s limmud which describes one who is a learner.
So a disciple is a man or woman who submits himself to being taught by another.
That tell us a disciple doesn’t think he knows it all but has a teachable heart.
Now, who are these disciples of whom Isaiah speaks? They are God’s faithful remnant who kept written records of Isaiah’s prophecies.
These likely include the two men mentioned in verse 2, Uriah the priest and Zechariah, who kept the prophesies of Isaiah.
We see that same word use of disciples used in a beautiful way in Isaiah 50:4.
It describes the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. Listen to how “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.”
Here we have the Messiah, Jesus Christ speaking as a disciple. He says to God he has the tongue and ear of a disciple. This tells us Christ is the model disciple for us. With his tongue he speaks for the Lord. And with his ear he listens to the Lord.
In other words, Christ pays careful attention to hear and speak what God tells Him.
That’s the point of the last time Isaiah uses that word “disciple” in 54:13. “All your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great.”
You might be thinking, I don’t see the word “disciple” in that verse. Well it I in the original.
For the word “taught” come from the same word (limmud) that means a “disciple.”
So, God is telling us through Isaiah, to be a disciple of the Lord means that you are taught of the Lord. That’s the main point.
So, let’s say it as it is. A person who is not actively learning of the Lord is not living as a disciple of the Lord.
And on the other hand, the one who is actively being taught by the Lord is a true disciple of the Lord.
So, keep that in mind this O.T. foundation (that a disciple is a learner) as we now look at the concept of being disciple in the N.T.
The first place we see disciples in the gospels is in Matthew 4 (and they are called disciples right after this in Mat. 5:1).
This is at the outset of Christ’s ministry when He calls Peter and Andrew to be His followers.
Would you look at it with me in Matthew 4:18?
Matthew 4:18–22 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Christ literally says, “Come here after Me.”
Let’s be clear on what Christ is doing here. He’s calling these men to follow after Him, to obey Him, to be His disciples.
Friends, here we see something vital: the call to be a disciple of Christ is a call to follow Christ.
You see, the heart of becoming a disciple of Christ isn’t about getting a new title, it’s not about receiving some honor, and it’s not about going through some slick curriculum.
No, becoming a disciple of Christ boils down to responding to His call and choosing to follow him for the rest of your life.
Peter and Andrew got the picture. And look at their response, v. 20: “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Let’s read on and see the response of others to Christ’s call. Verse 21: “Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
Christ calls, they come. No delay. No deliberation.
They left their fishing (way of life), they left their father (closest relationships), and followed Christ. Now keep in in mind these two disciples who
were brothers, James and John we will return to them after while.
I want you to see another man whom Christ called to be a disciple. We find him described in the next gospel, Mark 2:14–17.
Speaking of Jesus, we read, “As He passed by, He saw Levi (that’s Matthew’s old name) the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (and Luke 5:28 tells us that Matthew “left everything behind.”
And watch the reaction of the religious leaders:
15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Matthew had worked a nasty job. He collected taxes from the Jews for the Romans.
And as a tax collector, he would get a cut from the profits meaning he was ripping off his own people. So, he had an awful reputation as a traitor to his own people.
Well as soon as Jesus told this sinful man, “Follow me!” Matthew gets up and follows Him.
And the religious teachers and Pharisees hate Christ for being a friend to sinners like Matthew.
So, Jesus makes it clear that the ones he came to call to follow him aren’t good people but sinners.
That’s important for us to grasp. You can’t become a follower of Christ by being good.
You become a disciple of Christ by first recognizing you are a sinner who desperately needs a Savior.
For Christ is the friend of sinners. He came to call sinners like you and me to follow Him as His disciples. And He warns us against following Him our way not His.
Look with me at 3 would be followers of Christ in Mat. 8:19-22. We will take them one at a time.
Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Now what that scribe says sounds wonderful- that he would follow Jesus anywhere. It reminds us of Ruth’s great resolution, “Wherever you go, I will go!” Ruth 1:16
Yet Christ’s answer shows us this man failed to understand the cost of discipleship- self-denial, sacrifice, and suffering!
For Christ, unlike animals in the wild, had no permanent place of refuge. So that scribe had not counted the cost in claiming to follow Christ.
During the Civil war in the early 1860s, many volunteers joined the ranks as soldiers without realizing what they were getting in to. They didn’t grasp how going to war was far more than taking part in drills, parades and receiving medals of honor. Yet 620,000 men died in the Civil War, by far the greatest toll of any war in American history.
So too, Christ warns of not counting the cost in following Him.
Look at the second person who tries to follow Christ his own way:
Verse 21: Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”
What’s wrong with the man’ reply? He’s making an excuse why he can’t follow Christ now. By the way, it’s not a matter of can’t but won’t.
In fact, that statement “bury my father” may betray his waiting till the time his father died so he could get the inheritance.
So, Christ knows this man’s motives are self-serving. That’s why he tells him, “Let those who are spiritually dead take care of those temporal matters.”
Well, those two men failed the test. They were not true disciples of Christ. So how can we be sure we are true disciples of the Lord?
We must carefully examine what following Christ as a real disciple looks like.
Let’s look in the gospels at the purpose for which Christ chose individuals to be His followers.
Mark 3:13–14 gives us the first important goal for Christ choosing His followers.
1. To spend time with Him
And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach.”
We must not overlook the first reason Mark tells us why our Lord appointed those 12 men. It was so that they would spend time with Him.
This is wonderful! Christ doesn’t just choose followers to serve Him. He chooses followers with whom He might spend time and share his life!
That speaks of friendship and fellowship. And if you are a disciple of Christ, that’s one of the wonderful reasons He called you to Himself- so that He could share his life in close communion with you!
In John 3, after Jesus shared with Nicodemus that he must be born again, we read in verse 22 that He went with his disciples south into Judea.
Listen to the first thing we are told Christ was doing there: “And there He was spending time with them….”
Friends, Christ calls a person to be His disciple so that he might share His life with them. He loves to spend time in fellowship with them.
Think of it. Christ the Creator of the universe who upholds all things by the word of His power chooses followers with whom He can enjoy daily friendship.
And the expectation is that His disciples must never underestimate the great privilege of a master who loves to spend time with them!
For what could be more wonderful than enjoying daily friendship with the Lord Jesus.
That’s the lesson Christ impressed on busy Martha recorded for us in Luke 10.
Christ came and visited her and her sister Mary.
Martha goes into high gear scurrying around, distracted with all her preparations.
Meanwhile Mary just sits at the Lord’s feet hanging on His every word.
Well, Martha gets uptight in doing all the serving alone and says to Christ, “Tell her to help me” (v. 40).
Well, our Lord set things straight, and to Martha’s surprise tells her Mary had chosen the best- spending time in fellowship with Jesus.
Christian, we need to hear this in all our busyness. Christ our greatest friend calls us to Himself that we might spend time with Him.
So how does that look in your daily life? Are you bothered about so many things or are you basking in the best- fellowshipping with the Lord Jesus?
It’s not just spending time with the Lord at the outset or close of the day. It’s a heart that loves to talk with Him as your closest friend throughout each day!
Christ not only chooses His followers to be with Him but also 2. to speak for Him.
The second half of Mark 3:14 that we read earlier goes on to tell us the second reason Christ appointed the 12. It was so that “He might send them out to preach.”
Preach what? Luke 9:2 tells us, that Christ “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom of God- that’s the sovereign rule of God over all through Christ the King of kings!
That was the message the disciples took to the world.
And friends, that’s the message He has called every one of us to talk about- not ourselves but of Christ.
In fact, that defining mark of a disciple Paul emphasizes in II Cor. 4:5. “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”
When God stopped Paul in his tracks, He gave him a passionate desire to speak of Christ.
After Paul spent several days with the believers there in Damascus we are then told words that would define his life: “And immediately he began to proclaim Jesus.” Acts 9:20
Now there’s a misnomer in the churches that goes like this. New Christians really aren’t ready
to tell others of Christ- they need lots of time. Well, the gospel isn’t complicated.
It’s God the greatest giver who gave Christ the greatest gift to man the greatest sinner.
And if you turn from sin and trust fully in Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved.
Next week we will see how this ties so beautifully to the calling to proclaim Christ- that’s at the heart of making disciples.
The third reason Christ calls disciples-
3. To obey Him Look with me at one of the most misused texts in the Bible. John 8:31–32 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
On March 14,1968, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at Grosse Pointe South High School.
He stated, “I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth. Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
He quotes from Jesus’ words about beings set free by the truth. While that may have sounded good, here’s the subtle danger. He’s ripped that verse from its God-given context.
The freedom King has in mind is not freedom from sin against God. And the truth he refers to is not the truth of Christ revealed in God’s Word.
So, mark it well. The only way to have true freedom is realize you are a slave to sin.
And that only comes by doing what Christ says, “continuing in His Word.”
Continuing in Christ’s Word means you submit your life in surrender to Him. And you continue to learn of Him- that’s the meaning by the way of the N.T. word “disciple” here. It’s mathetes, a learner of Christ.
So it is, obedience to Christ and His Word is a hallmark of a true disciple. You are no longer a slave of sin but a slave of Christ!
And that leads to the fourth mark of a true disciple or learner of Christ. You are called-
4. To bear fruit for Him
In the great Upper Room Discourse, our Lord taught His disciples with a wonderful metaphor from nature.
He tells them in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Then He makes the connection for them between being disciples and bearing lots of fruit.
Verse 8: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
And our Lord drives it home a third time in verse 16 telling His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
Now that applies to all disciples of Christ that truly follow Him.
They are chosen by Christ for prolific fruit bearing, which tell us this. If a person truly belongs to Christ as His disciple, it will be evident in abundant spiritual fruit that is borne.
Here this well. Where there’s spiritual life there will always be spiritual fruit.
That’s why Christ says in Mat. 7:16, “You will know them by what? Their fruit!
That’s why we don’t have fruit inspectors in the church who run around with spiritual magnifying classes saying, “Let’s see, I wonder if there’s a itty bity piece fruit, even a shriveled raisin in this person’s life.
No, a disciple, a true follower of Christ bears much fruit!
He or she can’t help it because it’s God’s Spirit within that produces fruit that’s seen and fruit that stays!
Let’s now move to the
B. Cost of being a disciple of Christ
And this is where we see the line clearly drawn between the true and false followers of Christ.
May it be that God will make clear to us which side of the line each of us is on.
So, look at the test of discipleship the Lord Jesus gives in Luke 14:25–33
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
O those are hard words to swallow. What does Christ mean by hating those in your own family including parents, wives, children and siblings? What does it mean to hate your own life?
Christ is calling His followers to such devoted love for Him that makes all other loves look like hatred in comparison!
In other words, for a real disciple of Christ, your love for Christ much go so far beyond all other object of your heart affections so there is no close second. That includes self.
You can’t be a real disciple of Christ and love your life more than you love Christ.
You say, “that sounds like a radical type of love.” You’re right. It is.
And look at how far that consuming love must go to follow Christ:
Christ, in Luke 14, continues: v. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
So clearly, you can’t follow Christ as a would-be disciple on your own terms.
The cross for first century Jews was not a decoration. It symbolized suffering and death. Not just any death but death by crucifixion.
So, to take up one’s cross as a disciple means to prepare to die the most awful death.
Christ says, that’s required for anyone who would follow Him- dying to your pride, self, and if He wills even to living in this world.
It’s full surrender to Christ. And that makes you a target of hatred by the world.
Our Lord told His disciples what to expect as He approached the cross: John 15:18–20 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his
master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hung by the Nazis put it this way in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship”: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We read earlier of Jesus calling James and his brother John to be His disciples. Well, one day Mark 10:35 reports they asked that they might be able to sit next to Christ in His kingdom.
Christ’s answers (v. 39) by telling them of another privilege: “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
The privilege Christ has in mind is dying as martyrs for Him.
Well, Acts 12:2 describes what happened 14 years later, in 44 A.D. James became the first apostle to die for Christ when Herod put him to death by the sword.
And church history tells us every one of the other disciples of Christ except for the Apostle John (who died of old age) died by execution.
The apostle John, in Rev. 12:11 describes faithful disciples of Christ in the midst of the Tribulation. And he says this of them: “they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
After victory in battle, the great Napoleon often walked across the field of conflict to check on his wounded and dying soldiers.
On one such day after the Battle of Eylau (1807) a wounded man from his cavalry saw the French general approaching and raised his head from the blood-stained snow.
He said with a faint voice, “Turn your eyes this way, please, your majesty. I believe I have got my death wound. I shall soon be in another world. But [in spite of] that, long live the Emperor!”
Napoleon dismounted from his horse and helped carry the man to the field surgeon. Large tears rolled down the cheeks of the dying solider as he fixed his eyes on his great general.
He then exclaimed, “I wish I had a thousand lives to lay down for your Majesty!”
How much more the follower of Christ ought to be eager to live and even die for our great Savior.
”For Christ died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” II Cor. 5:15
So following Christ means committing myself to do whatever God wants me to do with my life.
It’s giving God a blank check with my life and letting him fill in the price.
The Call of being a disciple- Christ says “come, follow Me. The Cost of being a disciple- it will cost you your life. And now, the
C. Carrot stick (reward) of being a disciple
What we may ask is the reward for following Christ as a genuine disciple?
That’s what went through the Apostle Peter’s mind when he said to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
And Christ tells him, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times (Mark 10:30 says 100 times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” Matthew 19:27; Luke 18:29-30
Christ is saying what you lose and leave behind in falling Him can’t compare with how He will reward you. And He promises that in this life and the life to come.
That’s not health and wealth- getting as much money in your pockets as you can.
It’s not material prosperity. It’s far better. Christ is promising the outpouring of His great love, joy, peace, and hope on your life for following Him. And to that He adds eternal reward in His presence!
Long before Jim Elliot was shot through with arrows in the jungles of Ecuador he wrote, “He is not fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose!”
Well Jim didn’t come up that on his own. He got it from Christ who had called him to follow Him as a disciple: “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.” Luke 9:24
As we go to prayer, would you ask God to help you see if you are really a disciple of Christ.
Do you love to spend time with Him?
Do you love to speak for Him?
Do you seek to obey Him?
Does your life bear fruit for Him?
And have you taken up your cross and followed Christ?
Gracious God, holy Father. There’s nothing greater in the world but to be a follower of Christ and to belong to Him. For You have shown us that if we are not His disciples, then Christ is not in us and we are not His own. Father, thank you that Christ’s call “Come and follow Me” still goes out today. I ask that you show those who are living for self rather than living for Christ that they are on the wide road that leads to destruction. We praise You O God that Christ gave Himself on the cross and longs to be the Savior of all who will forsake their sin and following Him in faith. So, cause all who are not Your own to cry out to you for mercy that today would be the day of their full surrender to Christ as Lord and Savior.
This we pray to for the praise of Your glorious name, amen.
Being a Disciple of Christ Selected Scriptures Hope In Christ Bible Church 2/2/20
Intro. II Peter 1:19; Mt. 28:19
A. Call to be a disciple of Christ Isaiah 8:16; 50:4; Isa.54:13; Mat. 4:18-22; Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:28; Mat. 8:19-22; Ruth 1:16
1. To spend time with Him Mark 3:13–14; John 3:22; Luke 10:40
2. To speak for Him Mark 3:14; Luke 9:2; II Cor. 4:5; Acts 9:20
3. To obey Him John 8:31-32
4. To bear fruit for Him John 15:5,8,16; Mat. 7:16
B. Cost of being a disciple of Christ Luke 14:25-27; John 15:18-20; Mark 10:35,39; Acts 12:2; Rev. 12:11; II Cor. 5:15
C. Carrot stick (reward) of being a disciple Mat. 19:27; Luke 18:29-30; Mark 10:30; Luke 9:24
God, have I counted the cost and taken up my cross and followed Christ? Am I living as a true disciple in obedience to Christ as Lord?