Last week we looked at “Everyday Evangelism for Everyday Christians” and today we look at Everyday Discipleship for Everyday Christians …
and I might as well say it upfront: While evangelism can be fun … discipleship is not; and, if Jesus and I can’t convince you to embrace evangelism, we will never convince you to embrace discipleship.
That’s (the pic above) about as funny as discipleship will get.
Discipleship is difficult
Here is a poor metaphor for what I’m trying to say; it’s something like my saying: “It’s Christmas: Eat, drink and be merry … put your feet up; let your hair down … celebrate” only to be saying a little later: “It’s new year, time to lose those extra pounds; time to get that body-mass-index down; time for more cardio-exercise …. C’mon, c’mon, let’s get started with some running on the spot … lift those knees … hup, hup, hup!!!” That’s discipleship … it’s hard work, and in Luke 14:25-35 Jesus tells us to count the cost before we become His disciples … He doesn’t want us to begin what we cannot finish. In this way Jesus is very unlike gym owners who, this time of the year, are advertising all kinds of deals to get you to sign up for their gym … but they don’t tell you that the going will be tough and that most who sign up will not continue until their contract expires. They don’t tell you to count the cost before signing up … but Jesus does!
You see, God does not want his people to be passive believers …. No, He’s looking for active disciples. Jesus called his disciples to go into all the world, to evangelize and baptize, and the ultimate goal was to produce not merely converts but disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
So, what are disciples?
The word “disciple” is packed with meaning, but it is clear from the New Testament that it meant, first and foremost, students of Jesus who wanted to become like Jesus ... so they followed him and learned from him (Luke 10:38-42).
Second, it meant putting allegiance to Jesus first in your life (Mark 1:16-20).
Lastly, it meant to be a man or woman in mission, sent into the world to minister both in word (Luke 10:1-20) and in deed (Luke 10:25-37), both sharing your faith and loving your neighbour, belief and practise.
Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where He walks, go with Him wherever He goes, study the words that He says, obey the instructions He gives, imitating His life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands and purposes (Matt. 16:24-26). I hope you can see that discipleship is different to salvation. Salvation requires faith alone … discipleship requires obedience
A Brief word on obedience
Jesus said on the night of His betrayal (Jn 14): 15 If you love me, keep my commands … 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me … 23 Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching …24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching …
The great commission has two parts. The first is for us to go and make disciples. That’s the evangelism we looked at last week. The second is of no less significance, but often set aside to secondary importance if used at all. It is to teach them (apprentice disciples) to obey. In fact, there cannot be a disciple without this training in obedience. And there cannot be training without accountability… this is true of any apprenticeship. You don’t leave them to teach themselves.
How did Jesus teach discipleship?
Jesus ministered to the multitudes 17 times. However, there are approximately 46 mentions in the Gospels and Acts where He spent His time in private with His disciples and it is in these smaller group settings that He trained His committed followers in discipleship. He ministered one-on-twelve, but also one-on-one, one-on-two, and one-on-three. In these small group settings, He taught, rebuked, corrected and trained, always holding them accountable to His standard. He wanted them to become like Him and He believed they could become like Him …. He believes the same of those who choose to become His disciples today … remember, He hasn’t changed. You can become like Jesus, in fact, according to the Scriptures, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). And the place where this is taught and learnt is still where Jesus did it … in small groups. But not just any small groups … small groups committed specifically to discipleship, who agree to hold one another accountable in specific areas of obedience, who speak the truth to each other in love (Eph 4:15) and who teach, rebuke, correct and train in holiness.
Belief and Practise
Discipleship is really the “doing” or “practise” or “actions” part of Christianity. There is a “belief” part and a “doing/practise” part to Christianity. I will show you my faith by my deeds (James 2:18) says Scripture.
What is the belief part? That’s what we looked at last week and we said Jn 3:16 and Eph 2:8-9 sums up the gospel:
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Eph 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
The belief part is of course the faith part of Christianity. And the faith part of Christianity is the really good news part of Christianity … namely that we are saved by faith, by believing the events of Easter.
That people are saved simply by believing in the events of the crucified Christ on the Cross is what Paul says is seen as scandalous or foolishness in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Most want to say: “Surely I must do something in order to be saved!”
No, … just believe, have faith, that Jesus has done everything.
“Believe and be saved” say Paul and Silas to their jailer when he asks how he can be saved … Acts 16:31 It’s too good to be true, isn’t it? That’s why it’s called good news! Now please don’t be offended when I say this … You don’t even have to love Jesus … you’re not saved by loving Jesus, that would make salvation a work, something you do … you’re not saved by loving, but by faith …. Scandalous, but true. That’s the belief part of Christianity … and that’s the part that saves you.
But there is meant to be a doing part to Christianity as well, and it follows salvation by faith and it is the practise of Christianity after salvation.
Jesus once healed 10 lepers (read about it in Luke 17:11-19) and they all ran away healed, except for 1, who when he saw his healing, returned to Jesus. The others were all healed, they didn’t lose their healing, but they got what they wanted (salvation from the disease of leprosy) and disappeared. Only one came back to Jesus and gave glory to God. I see a similarity, based on my experience after 24 years of full time ministry, … with Christians and discipleship. Most Christians are happy just to get salvation from Jesus … I’m not sure if even 1 in 10 go on to discipleship. And once again here is the scandal of the gospel: you don’t have to go on to discipleship … you’re not saved by being a disciple, you’re saved by faith alone; so you might well say, why bother, I’m saved. Just like those 9 lepers, why bother to go back, I’m saved from my leprosy… I’m saved from my sin.
I go back to what I said at the start: God does not want his people to be passive believers …. No, He’s looking for active disciples … people who desperately want to be like Jesus and do what Jesus did. And what did Jesus do? Acts 10:38 puts it beautifully: “He went around doing good.”
Discipleship is the doing part of Christianity. That great text from Ephesians goes on to say why we are saved: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10
Last week I encouraged us to read the Bible … here is why the Bible says we should read the Bible:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim 3:16-17).
The writer to the Hebrews says this: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards good deeds” (Heb 10:24).
Discipleship is the doing part of Christianity … I’ll let Jesus have the last word on this point: ‘You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Mt 5:14-16).
That’s what the one leper did … he saw the good deed of Jesus and gave glory to God. Discipleship is the doing part of Christianity … and when done properly (and the temptations to do it improperly are huge) it leads to people glorifying God.
Scandalously, as I said earlier, discipleship is optional … you don’t have to become a disciple to be saved, … just as you don’t have to do good works in order to be saved … and you don’t have to love Jesus in order to be saved! But … why wouldn’t you want to?
Discipleship is the doing part of Christianity, and according to Scripture, what we have done will be judged on judgement day. Listen to 1 Cor 3:11-15
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Paul expects that all people will be judged regarding their works on Judgement Day. The life of faith is a trust that is placed in the care of the believer, and our stewardship of this grace will face the scrutiny of divine judgment at the end time (Jesus told a number of parables in this regard).
What will be weighed on judgment day is each person’s work (3:13). This is consistent with what Paul says in Rom 2:6 … God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’ … and later to the Corinthians: “It is necessary for all of us to appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each may receive according to what he has done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
What one does, how one builds on the foundation of Christ, how one lives up to one’s calling, these are the matters on which the judgment will focus, and these are the matters of discipleship. Paul’s primary subject matter in all his letters is the proper behaviour of the life of faith because the last judgment will focus on how one has lived the life God has given, on how one has walked in God’s grace … these are the subject matter of discipleship.
Notice the ongoing scandal in these verses:
If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Even if you have no good works to offer, the straw of your Christian life after salvation is burnt up, yet you will be saved … holding on to the seat of your pants as one escaping through the fire … but saved you will be because you are not saved by doing good works, you are saved by faith… but really, is that the way you want to mark your entrance to glory?
We, as Elders, want to encourage you deeper and deeper into discipleship. We want to find ways to spur one another on to good works.
The primary objective of the Church today as outlined by Jesus is for disciples of Jesus to develop other men and women into disciples so that God’s kingdom can come and God’s will be done on earth, in Hellesdon, even as it is done in Heaven. That is the call of discipleship.
So I close with a word to the saved: do you want to become a disciple?
And a word to the many who are already disciples: do you want to go deeper into discipleship … do you want to become more and more like Jesus?