Friday, June 19, 2009

Men's Breakfast: Introduction to Discipleship

It has been a long time between posts, but it is because I have been working on putting this little talk together for the men's breakfast at our church tomorrow morning. I've read about a half dozen books on discipleship, and to try to condense all of that into about 10 minutes has been a challenge! This is the text of my talk:

How many of you today will raise your hand and say you know Jesus?
Okay, how many of you know the song “Jesus Loves Me”?
Okay, now I want to tell you about Jesus Loves Me. The words were written before the turn of the 20th century by Anna B. Warner, who lived from 1820-1915. The music was composed by William B. Bradbury who lived from 1816-1868. There are four verses in the Baptist Hymnal, but I looked on the internet and found that another 22 verses have been written over the years.
Now, how many of you know the song, “Jesus Loves Me”? Well I just told you all about it! Can you not sing along now?
Perhaps we should revisit the first question again also then. How many of you know Jesus? I can tell you that you know about him. Perhaps you know:
1. He is the son of God.
2. He was always with God and part of the Trinity.
3. He was born of a virgin
4. He was born in Bethlehem on December 25th, 0033 before He.
5. He grew up as a carpenter’s stepson in Nazareth
6. He became a teacher and healer
7. He performed miracles
8. He was crucified at a place called Golgatha, the place of the skull
9. He was buried in a borrowed tomb with a big rock in front of it
10. He rose on the third day.
11. He lives today in Heaven with God.

So, with all of that information…do you know Jesus? How well do you know him? Do you know Him as well as the man sitting next to you? Do you know Him as well as your wife, your children, your brother, your parents?

I have a young nephew named David*. David is 20 years old and in college in Denver*. A few months ago, David got a DUI. Not too long before that, he expressed that he probably wasn’t going to heaven because of the bad things he has done. He said his mother and brother would probably make it, but he and his father probably would not. My initial thought for David was that he needed to settle his life down and conform a little to the way things really are in the world, and lose some of his rebellious, self centered attitude. Then it struck me that David does not need to conform, David needs to be transformed, in accordance with Romans 12:2 that says;
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…"
On Easter Sunday this year, we had a Sunday School lesson about (what else?) the resurrection. Our lesson was out of Matthew, and the Sunday School board chose to stop the lesson right before Matthew 18 v 19, which you will recognize as The Great Suggestion:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you...

My commentary today is to point out that not only are we not making disciples, but that we are not disciples ourselves!
How can we expect to make others into something that we are not ourselves? Can we teach others to obey what we do not obey? Should they do as we say and not as we do?
So what is a disciple? In its simplest (and most complex) form a disciple is a follower.
Lifeway conducted a survey in 2005 wherein they asked 1300 evangelical leaders across the world to name the top 10 issues facing today’s churches. According to the survey the number one issue facing churches today is prayer; discipleship was number 2. I’m going to go ahead and stress discipleship today, because being in the top 10 is still pretty significant, even though Bro. Johnny has indicated that in an effort to make our church more attractive than other churches in town, we will be going from 10 commandments to 8, and you can chose which two you want to throw out!
When Jesus called Peter to be His disciple in Mark 1:17, he simply said “Follow Me”. Do you know what the last thing Jesus said to Peter was, recorded in John 21:22? “Follow Me”.
So how do we do it? How do we follow Him? I have come to realize that I can read my Bible, that I can read every book in the library about Jesus, that I can teach my Sunday School class for the next 50 years, and still have never followed Him the way He intends for me to if I am to call myself a disciple of Jesus Christ.
What He wants from me is a personal relationship with him, whereby I get to really know Him. We can learn all about Him, but we prove we actually know Him when we begin acting on what we know about him.

We are all familiar with the parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:26 when he said, “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like the foolish man, who built his house upon the sand…”
In his book “The Cost of Discipleship”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus and his disciples despised and rejected of men, yet today we have a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and one supposedly committed to Christ.
He goes on to say that the grace that saved our souls from Hell is a costly grace, it is a grace that was paid for with a man’s life. When we fail to genuinely repent of our sinful life, and actually turn towards a life of following Christ, then we have accepted a cheaper form of grace. If all Jesus called you for was salvation, you would not be here today. You were created by God and recreated in Christ Jesus to worship God and to be like him. Max Lucado wrote a book called “Just Like Jesus”, and the theme of the book is that God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.
Bonhoeffer also wrote that the command of Jesus “Follow Me” is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, the burden is light. 1st John 5:3 says “His commandments are not burdensome”
Mt. 11: 28-30 says:
Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart….

Have you ever seen a young bull placed in a yoke with an old bull? By the end of the day the young bull is exhausted from fighting the yoke and the old bull’s path. Eventually he learns that if he’ll just go where the old bull leads, it makes for a pretty easy day.
We had a puppy a few years ago that I tried to teach to walk on a leash. I drug that puppy down the street til his little paws were raw, but he stubbornly refused to be led. The puppy learned to walk on the leash, and I learned a valuable lesson, as my children gently led the puppy down the street. The puppy knew the children loved him, and he wanted to follow them!
The easiest way to learn to follow Jesus is to spend time with him. Not just “formal” time, but everyday time. Brother Lawrence was a French Monk in the 17th century who decided to follow Jesus’ example and try to be in constant communion with God. He eventually reached the point where when he was called to prayer in the monastery, he could not see the difference between prayer meeting and sorting beans in the kitchen. A more modern example is Frank Lauback, a missionary teacher who traveled all over the world teaching people to read. At age 45 he resolved to live in “continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will.”
In Thessalonians Paul instructs us to give thanks in all things and to pray without ceasing. This is how we really get to know Jesus and be His disciple. This is how we are in the constant process of being transformed as we mentioned in Romans 12:2, and if you go on and read the conclusion of that verse “…then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

* I chose not to public post my nephew's given name or location.

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