Most Christians understand that God must be their director, that they should seek to please God, and that Christian discipleship entails living under Jesus’s lordship. We get that. The problem comes, however, when we fail to make him our audience. And so the frustrated, guilt-ridden man complains, “All my efforts to reason with my coworker haven’t worked. I’ve failed.” The depressed woman utters in despair, “I’ve tried hard to love my angry spouse, but it hasn’t worked. He’s still planning to file for divorce.” Both of these people are living for Jesus as their director, but not as their audience. Their frustration, despair, and discontentment come because their audience—other people—are not pleased with their performance. As our director, the Lord alone can dictate our behavior and call the shots. But that’s not enough. He must also be our audience—the only one we seek to please, the one whose acceptance we most cherish, the one whose “well done, good and faithful servant” affirmation most satisfies, the one we play to supremely, and the only one whose smile or frown finally matters.
Robert D. Jones
If our goal is reconciliation, we have an unbearable burden. If our goal is pleasing God, reconciliation may be a beautiful benefit.
God’s love for the individual as a consequence of the gospel, not the heart of the Gospel. This has big implications for evangelicalism, which has always prided itself on getting the gospel right. Here it has particular implications for spirituality, for it means that genuine biblical spirituality will reflect an express this corporate gospel. Many traditions of spirituality 10 towards individualism: evangelical spirituality, if it is biblical, I’ll not fall into the same trap. Stanley Grenz tells us that spirituality for a post modern age will need to be communitarian rather than individualistic, and Christianity that is lived as well as believed. This is biblical spirituality.
Peter Adams, Hearing God’s Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality
This community spirituality clearly requires a certain level of relationship. We need to be sharing our lives. We need to be with other Christians “daily.” We need friendships that are real, open, and intimate. We need to give one another license to dig into our lives and challenge our hearts. We need leaders who foster this culture by giving and receiving this daily exhortation, who lead not only from their pulpits but with their lives. The word of God needs not only to be central to church life but thoroughly to pervade every aspect of it.
Chester, Tim; Timmis, Steve (2008-08-21). Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) (Kindle Locations 2117-2120). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
But because we are subject to favour, and flatter ourselves, it is wisdom to take the benefit of a second self, that is, a well chosen friend,
living or dead,
books I mean,
which will speak truly, without flattery, of our estates. ‘
A friend is made for the time of adversity,’ Prov. 17:17; and two are better than one, Eccl. 4:9, for, by this means, our troubles are divided, and so more easily borne. The very presence of a true-hearted friend yields often ease to our grief.
Of all friends, those that by office are to speak a word to a weary soul are most to be regarded, as speaking to us in Christ’s stead.
Oftentimes, especially in our own case, we are blinded and benighted with passion, and then the judgment of a friend is clearer. Loving friends have a threefold privilege:
1, Their advice is suitable, and fit to our present occasion, they can meet with our grievance, so cannot books so well;
2, What comes from a living friend, comes lively, as helped by his Spirit;
3, In regard of ourselves, what they say is apprehended with more ease, and less plodding and bent of mind.
There is scarce anything wherein we see God more in favour towards us, than in our friends, and their seasonable speeches, our hearts being naturally very false and willingly deceived
Richard Sibbes, The Soul’s Conflict With Itself, chapter 14
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/the-disciple-at-play/
Of all the words in our language which have been undergoing change of meaning, perhaps none have been more abused than this word ” friend.” Having as its root idea the thought of love —for it is really the present participle of the old Anglo-Saxon verb “freon,” to love—it marked in old time the close union of two persons—other than relatives—in the bonds of sincere love for each other, love that made each, care for, and desire to serve, the other better than himself. It is now used too often in a loose way. A man is my friend to-day if he be but a passing acquaintance, or if we are on speaking terms.
George Campbell Morgan. “Discipleship.”
Morgan then goes on to develop the matter of friendship and discipleship at some length. First, he notes that due to the overwhelming consecration to Christ, mutual devotion to Christ is means of permitting the deepest friendship — even though it at the same moment limits the depth of friendship with others (for where there is a conflict on a matter of one’s greatest concern, there must also be a limitation on the extent of the friendship).
Discipleship actually creates a basis for the most profound friendship on multiple grounds. First, Christian discipleship has a ground in self-denial. Both God and others must come before the self. Christian discipleship creates a common bond of concern and consecration to the things of Christ. Each will seek the transformative work of the Spirit in the other.
Perhaps most importantly, each will live with the bond of love, which seeks the best for the other:
Love is never blind, and we shall know each other more deeply and truly in that life of mutual love, than it is possible for man to know man by careful calculation or closest critical observation. It has been said that “Love will stand at the door and knock long after self-conscious dignity has fallen asleep ” which is only another way of expressing Paul’s great word “Love suffereth long and is kind,” and because this is true the clear vision of friendship ever makes demands on eager, consecrated service. The good recognized will be developed by fellowship, and where that good is costing my friend much sacrifice and suffering, by encouragement and fidelity. The shortcoming will be matter concerning which the friend will mourn and pray in secret, and of which he will speak in such tones of tender love, that his brother will be won to the higher surrender which ever means victory and advancement. So together, and by the reciprocity of this holy comradeship, there will be a building of each other up, and a several growth in grace.
Finally, in a way made possible by Christ, for the mutual disciples of Christ, death does not end friendship. Rather, as Campbell puts it, “Death is but a pause”. And thus discipleship makes friendship more profound than it could be otherwise.
John MacArthur’s first session on fellowship is already up on the Shepherds Conference website — it is well worth your time. http://media.shepherdsfellowship.org/2014/General%20Sessions/1001.mp3
In that he speaks of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. You really should read it if you at all care about Christian fellowship, as opposed to mere socializing.
Here is a bit from Nichols recent book on Bonhoeffer:
“To put the matter succinctly, Christ makes community possible. Christ makes life together possible. Or as Bonhoeffer puts it himself: “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.” This is exactly what he already said back in his dissertation. But here he also has much more new to say. And here, in Life Together, he’s fresh from the experiences of Finkenwalde. Those experiences taught him a great deal about what he already knew to be true.
One of the things experience taught him had to do with our idealistic notions of church life. We can think glowingly of Christian community, as if it were some utopian commune. Such notions, Bonhoeffer argues, should be dismissed as soon as possible. The utopian story goes something like this. The utopian story goes something like this. The church is made up of Christians, who have the indwelling Spirit, have been raised to new life in Christ, have been given new hearts, and have been given grace upon grace. Consequently, everyone loves everyone else to the fullest degree. But all too quickly we realize this is not the case. And so enters disillusionment, confusion, even resentment. In such times people even go AWOL.
Bonhoeffer calls this a “wish dream,” and because of this wish dream “innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down.” He then surprises us. Writing of how “God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams,” Bonhoeffer adds, “By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” God in his grace shatters our illusions and dreams of peace and harmony. The church is not a hippy commune or a hipster club. The sooner we come face-to-face with the disillusionment with others and the disillusionment with ourselves, Bonhoeffer adds, the better off we and the church are. There is a realism here that we should appreciate, and a realism that, once grasped, goes a long way in sustaining true and genuine community in the church.
We come to grips with all of our own limitations and weaknesses and besetting sins. And we come to grips with the same in others—even in our leaders and heroes. Then we live in real and not ideal communities. Church is not a wish dream. We also need to jettison our misplaced zeal to see the Christian life as a wish-dream life. The Christian life, like the church, is lived in the real world.”
Stephen J. Nichols. “Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World.” Crossway, 2013. iBooks.
My brother is rather that other person who has been redeemed by Christ, delivered from his sin, and called to faith and eternal life. Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is not true merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ, but through Christ we do not have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.
That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. 25-26
Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live his call, by His forgiveness, by His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what he has given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? 29
This is a first draft of a lesson for Sunday August 18, 2013:
John 6 records two days of the ministry of Jesus. On the first day, Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000. The next day, the people had loved him, left him. In John 6:66 we read
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Yet just the day before these same people had come “to take [Jesus] by force and make him king” (John 6:15). How could the same people who were willing to make Jesus king be unwilling to follow him 24 hours later?
They really didn’t want the King of King and Lord of Lords. Rather, they sought something a bit less; a constitutional monarch who would protect them and help them, but one who knew his place. Jesus knew this of the people:
“Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26).
The same pattern played out some time later. On Sunday, Jesus was hailed as king when road into Jerusalem. On Friday, the people called for his death.
Many people are willing to permit Christ to be Lord and King, but only a king with an asterisk. Jesus can ask for our obedience, but only so much. We see Jesus not as the glorious king, risen Savior, meditator between man and God, Alpha and Omega – rather, we a swell helper who makes our lives better, easier, happier.
Now most all of you will protest, No I don’t. I see Jesus as who he is.
I must most emphatically say, No we don’t. We do not see the Lord high and lifted up. We do not see him in his transcendent splendor. Our view of Christ is small – far too small.
This has been a constant problem for Christians – even in the best of congregations. Paul wrote to Philippi for two reasons. First, he wrote to give thanks for their gift which helped to support Paul in prison. We see this in the beginning and the end of the letter. Look at Philippians 1:5. Do you see the words,
Because of your partnership in the gospel. If you have the NASB you’ll see the word “participation” – same idea. The Philippians were furthering Paul’s ministry by sending him help. He mentions the help at the end of the letter. Beginning in 4:10 Paul writes of their gift and his joy at their willingness to further the proclamation of Christ.
Paul wrote for a second reason. Two women, Euodia and Syntyche were quarreling over something. When Paul mentions their names in 4:2, he doesn’t tell us the cause. All we know is that the trouble was so serious that Paul was certain that it was still a problem when he wrote his letter. There was time Epaphroditus to leave Philippi, travel to Rome, deliever the letter; recover from a near-fatal illness and bring the letter back.
While the Philippians were willing to have fellowship with Paul, they were unwilling to have true fellowship with one-another. Now it’s interesting, rather tell them twenty different ways to knock it off and behave, Paul actually goes at their heart and shows them that they have a far too low view of Christ. Their made theology was showing up in their bad conduct.
Look how Paul thinks through their situation. In 1:9 he speaks of how he has prayed for them. He has prayed that their love will abound – that tells that perhaps their love was weak.
Paul then goes to explain how their love will abound, “with knowledge and discernment”. Verses 10 & 12 tell us the result of such love abounding through knowledge and discernment: they will be blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness.
True fellowship results in maturity. That is precisely what Paul seeks for the Philippians. Let me show you.
Look down in 1:27. Here Paul gives the Philippians a command:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
That is our focus this morning. To understand this we will first start with what Paul means by the Gospel. Second, we will look at what it means to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
The Gospel is a Proclamation about Christ
It is faddish in some circles to say Gospel-this and Gospel-that. Most of the time, what me mean is something like “good” or “godly” or “Christian” or “appropriate”. The Gospel is not everything that is stated in the Bible. The Gospel is not everything in the NT. The Gospel is the proclamation that the Son of God became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. That Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of his Father. That Jesus wholly without sin was crucified by conspiracy of all the leaders, Rome, Herod, the temple authorities. That he hung upon the Cross and, as he Paul writes in Galatians 4:13, Jesus “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. That having suffered the full weight of punishment due us, Christ rose again on Sunday morning. Christ then ascended into heaven, where he reigns at the right hand of majesty on high.
Now, we poor miserable sinner, enemies of God, by nature children of wrath, find ourselves adopted as sons:
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV)
In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul gives a slightly different version of the Gospel which emphasizes more the graciousness of God in coming to us and the glory of praise and worship which is due to Christ and which will be given by all in heaven, in earth and under the earth.
We Must Live Worthy of the Gospel
Now that we have shown what is meant by “gospel” let us look at Paul’s command in Philippians 1:27,
Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel.
This is the place where we cross our fingers and cut Jesus down to size. God saving us, adopting us, making of joint heirs with Jesus – all good. Jesus as king – that is where we draw the line. In the way we live, we are too often like the rebellious people of parable in Luke 19 who say, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
Again, at least one of you will say, That is not true of me! Oh, but it is. To live worthy of the gospel is far more demanding than I think you realize. Let us consider the implications of Christ as King.
1. Christ is More Important Than our Physical Freedom
Look first at Philippians 1:12-13:
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
Look at the middle of verse 12, see the words “what has happened to me” or as the NASB has it, “my circumstances” – by those words, Paul means, “falsely accused, imprisoned, potentially facing a death sentence”. When Paul weighs out prison against Christ being glorified, Christ’s glory outstrips it all.
In Acts 5:41 we read that the disciples of Jesus
left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Christ has the right to demand our freedom; and yet we begrudge him our time. If we do not think the gospel is worthy of our inconvenience, how will ever think that the gospel is worth losing our physical freedom?
2. Christ is More Important Than our Rights and Honor and Status
Paul goes to mention those who bizarrely “preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (Phil. 1:15). By doing this, such people think they will somehow afflict Paul in prison (Phil. 1:17). This is a strange passage. Yet at the least it means that some people were seeking to dishonor Paul by stating that Jesus is Lord. Yet Paul was perfectly willing to suffer whatever insult they sought:
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Philippians 1:18 (ESV)
In 1 Peter 4:4, Peter writes of friends and family and co-workers who slander and insult Christians on account of the claim of Christ. And of such slander Peter writes
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)
In Chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul gives a long list of all his privileges and rights as a man – he calls this his confidence in the flesh.
At this point, I want you to make a mental tally: Start to up your reputation, your honor, your aspirations for work and home and school. Think of all the things you have and want – maybe your retirement account and investments, or perhaps you dreams for school or career or marriage. No one is listening on your thoughts so tell the truth.
Now gather up these things, these hopes these possessions and watch them burn:
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV)
If you are willing to have Christ as true King, if you are willing to live worthy of the Gospel, then you must believe in your heart of hearts that you would willingly lose everything for Christ’s sake – and do so with joy.
3. Christ is More Important Than Your Money
This important enough that we need to take a second look at stuff. When we think generally about our stuff, we have a tendency to give Christ some – but secretly we hold back a reserve. There is a couple mentioned in Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira. They sold a certain parcel of land to give to ministry, but they held back a portion. Now it was not a sin to keep the land, and it was not a sin to not donate all their money. The trouble was the idol to money raised up in their hearts.
The pair wanted to give lip service to giving much to Christ – but they wanted to hedge their bets.
Now, you are saying, I am not like that? I would never have lied to Peter – ah, but they lied to the Holy Spirit, “You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:4). Think of it, you have stood in church singing
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all.
And yet, in your heart you have reserved a bit of protection in case God doesn’t come through. I am not saying that you must this moment give everything away. But I am saying that you at this moment must forever give up the pronoun “mine” and replace it with “his.”
In Luke 12, Jesus speaks of the rich fool. By every account, this man was prudent, wise and rich. He made his money and he kept his money – and his money was his ultimate protection:
20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20–21 (ESV)
In Mark 10, we read of the rich young ruler who had perfectly kept the law. Jesus told the man to sell all that he had – for to live worthy of the Gospel, we must willingly give up all at Christ’s command. But the rich young man went “away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
Jesus then explained to his disciples, ‘
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 (ESV)
But to be rich is our dream – isn’t it? Shia Linne in his song “False Teachers” says:
Visualize Heretics christianizing the American dream
It’s foul and deceitful, they’re lying to people
Teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of a needle!
But beloved, that Christianized American Dream makes it through the church – in subtle ways.
Now you will say, I am not rich. Yes, but you are. All of us here have wealth and ease that the people who sat on the Mount while Jesus preached could never imagine. It only takes a little wealth settled down in the heart to sink a man to hell. The human heart is like a paper boat – as long as the wind blows it along, it does well. But as soon as a quarter is cast in, the whole drowns.
In James 2, James says that if you see your brother in need and you don’t use your money to help him, then you are one who has a worthless, dead faith: “What good is that?” James asks. What good is it to mouth Christ as Lord and then keep your stuff when you see a needy brother. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
John makes the same point in 1 John 3:17:
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17 (ESV)
Now, this does not mean that you must care for every poor person in the world – but you must care for every poor brother whom you see. Look at John’s words, “and sees his brother”.
James and John say that your claim to Christ stands in question when you have stuff your brother has need. Are you beginning to feel the radical weight Christ has laid upon your life?
4. Christ is More Important Than Your Life.
In the next section, Paul rights that he would willingly give up his life for Christ,
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21
Now if Christ has the right to demand even your life, then Christ has the right to take everything short of your life. Christ has the right to require you to be beaten falsely and unjustly at work:
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Peter 2:18–20 (ESV)
I want you to consider that baldly. Christ has the right, as your king, to subject you unjust abuse. Christ the right ask for your body. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
While Paul is speaking specifically of God’s right to control your sexual behavior – and yes, as king, Jesus has the right to make demands of your sexual behavior – but Paul himself applies the principle to one’s work and freedom in 1 Corinthians 7:23. Since Christ has bought you, body and soul, you must give up your body as Christ sees fit.
Look at the end of Philippians 1, look down at verse 29:
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, Philippians 1:29 (ESV)
Do you have any idea what that means? Do you realize that part of the gift you received along with saving faith is suffering? That does not mean that someone else gets the suffering and you get the ease. Not at all. Christ has granted you suffering. He has the right to take your body, your life, your ease, your family, your possessions. All of it belongs to him – he can take it whenever he wants – and you must respond like David in Psalm 39:7:
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it. Psalm 39:9 (ESV)
As the Puritans would say, You must kiss the rod which God uses to strike you.
5. Christ is More Important Than Your Relationships
Perhaps you have made it through the first series of test laid out by Paul in Philippians, but now turn to chapter 2. Paul first reminds them of all the good and comfort they have received in Christ. Then he lays commands them to realize that Christ is more important than their relationships or what they want to get out of their relationships:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:3–5 (ESV)
The command here is a command of love: You must truly love one another. It is important to remember: the command to love does not mean that you don’t have to love when you don’t feel like it. While it is more pleasant to love in action when the emotions carry us along, love is not limited to feeling like it.
There is someone at church whom you do not easily like. You don’t get to ignore the command to love, just because it will not be pleasant for you. If your brother – who is difficult in ways – is there, you must love him.
Look at how Paul describes love: You are not most important.
He gives two negative describes of what he means. First, you may not act from “selfish ambition”. Your personal desires can’t stop your obligation to love. Second, you must not look out only for your own interests. Obviously, you have obligations and you are elsewhere commanded to be prudent. But, you are forbidden from merely considering your own interest.
Paul then gives two positive aspects of love. First, you must in humility count others as more important than yourself. This means that when you look at situation and see your desires and your brother’s needs, you have put your brother first. Second, look out for the interests of others.
Let us consider what this means in practice: There is something you would like or need. There is something your brother or sister needs. You think, this would be very difficult for me to do. Love says, you must do it anyway.
Think about it: If Christ has the right to take your life and take your money – then surely he can require you to use a part of your life and a part of your money. If Christ can command you to love your enemies (Luke 6:27), then surely he can command you to show active to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
But I still fear that you don’t understand the true weight of this command. Look at the structure of chapter 2. Paul gives some reasons for his command, that is verses 1-2. Then Paul gives the command, that is verses 3-5. Paul then proves up the command by measuring it and placing it in the context of what Christ did for us.
The Son of God graciously appears among human beings to save us. That is the true measure and cause of our obedience. Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 2:21:
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)
The command that you love is measured by the love and obedience of Christ.
Now Paul wishes to make the importance of this command perfectly clear. Look down at verse 12 of chapter 2, go to the end of the verse,
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
He has been describing their duty to love. He then brings up this matter of fear and trembling. This is not light matter. Jesus is the end and lord of your relationships.
Jesus is more important than your immediate family. In Mark 3, Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters come to take him out of a house. Mark writes in verse 21, “they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” When Jesus heard his family were outside he said,
Here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my mother and brother and sister! Mark 3:35, ESV.
Later Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 14:26:
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. Luke 14:26 (ESV)
Do you see, to live worthy of the gospel means that Jesus is worth so much more than my life and family that even familial relations seem like hatred when compared to our love of Christ. This is a big deal for many Christians – they often sound more like Mormons who make a man’s family his saving grace, then Christians who work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
But you will say, But we are commanded to love our wives! But pay close attention to the command of Ephesians 5 – it is a command make disciples, it is a command for godliness. Husbands, love your wives – then in Ephesians 5:26-27 we get the goal, the wife’s sanctification. In Ephesians 6:4 we get the purpose of raising children, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Your relationships, your marriage, your children, your friendships – they are not about you. Marriage is not about you loving someone and living happily ever after. It is about the Gospel.
All your relationships are about the Gospel.
What Then Shall We Do?
What does this mean? It means that the way you think about your life, and the way you think about church and your time and your money and your family and your friends all must be weighed and measured against the gospel.
When you look at this weight, you may just think – I cannot live up to that. True. Alone you can do nothing; but Christ has sent his Spirit. You must
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13.
But see one thing more: Christ has given you his Spirit – but he has also given you one-another.
Remember the first of Paul’s letter to Philippi: He thanks them and prays for them, because they have been participating with him in the fellowship of the Gospel. Paul writes that God did not let Epaphroditus die to show mercy upon Epaphroditus and mercy upon Paul,
But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Phil. 2:27.
In Christian fellowship we give up life, and possessions and rights and relationships, but we gain more than we lose. In God’s economy, we are losers by hording. In the wilderness, the foolish man gathered too much manna and on the next day he found it filled with worms. The foolish Christian seeks to horde his money and time and family and life – foolishly thinking that he is prudent and godly. Such a man will find his hording has resulted in worms.
The economy of Christ is far different. For those who truly let Christ be king, the reward is great:
29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29–31 (ESV)
Romans 12 presents an interesting quandary for the modern, North American Christian. Verse one presents a command: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
That command receives further detail in the next verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The diligent, serious Christians reads these verses and thinks, I must do something. Yet, as John Street (TMC, head of Biblical Counseling department), explained once, Probably every sermon you have ever heard on this passage is wrong. Not wrong in the sense that it is used to teach a dangerous heresy. Rather wrong in the sense that we miss an important aspect of the passage.
The default of far too many Christians is to read an individualism into the passage which Paul never intended. We read the command “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” and think I, personally and independently, must do something. But consider the matter carefully: Bodies is plural, but the sacrifice is singular. All of you are presenting one sacrifice.
Consider the movement of the passage: Paul commands a living sacrifice. He then explains that we must live differently from the terms of culture; rather, our mind must be transformed. We not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Why? Because all the individual believers make up one body:
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Something rather interesting happens at this point: the next several verses do not contain a finite verb. A general rule of Greek grammar is that a sentence has a finite verb which is the main verb and other verbs which are either participles or infinitives. You could think of this as a main idea with the other verbs as related ideas hanging on the main idea. In fact, we have go to verse 14 and the word “bless” before we get a “normal” sentence.
It is typical to simply break this up into various sentences and infer a finite verb. For example, the translation handbook reads:
In Greek verses 6–8 form one sentence, and it is rather complex. It begins with a participle and there is no main verb in the entire sentence. Although a verb is not present in the Greek, the context makes it clear what verb is implicit: we are to use (RSV “let us use them”; NEB “must be exercised accordingly”).
However, as James Dunn (Word Commentary, Romans) explains, there is a different way to understand the structure which takes into account the actual grammar and the flow of Paul’s argument:
It is almost universally assumed that v 6 begins a new sentence (e.g., neb, Barrett, Michel, Käsemann), with the second halves of the subsequent phrases filled out with imperatival force—so particularly rsv: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (the last four words having been added to the text). This forces the sense too much in one direction (a “somewhat harsh ellipse,” as SH recognize). The sentence reads more naturally as a continuation of the body imagery of vv 4–5 with the meaning of ἀλλήλων μέλη spelled out in terms of different charisms. The point then of the following phrases is that they are a description of the Christian congregation functioning as “one body in Christ” ….
Considered in this way, the nature of the spiritual sacrifice comes into view. The sacrifice is not longer a “me and Jesus” sacrifice of radical individualism (whether the song means precisely that is a different question), but is a sacrificing of oneself in love: this is a passage which introduces an extended discussion on Christian community (see, e.g., 1 Peter 1:21-22, sanctification and being “born again” bring about a radical transformation of brotherly love; Paul’s argument concerning the law is that love fulfills the law, Romans 13:10).
Gore explains that transformation sought by Paul is more than isolated holiness; it is a holiness, a transformation, a sacrifice which brings about a radical transformation of human life together:
And when St. Paul, justifying himself here, as before and later on, by the special divine favour which has made him the apostle of the Gentiles, proceeds to develop his exhortation, it appears that with him, as with St. James, the form in which ‘divine service’ shows itself must be love of the brethren. To be called into the body of Christ—the society which is bound into one by His life and spirit—is to be called to social service, that is, to live a community life, and to cultivate the virtues which make true community life possible and healthy. Of these the first is humility, which in this connexion means the viewing oneself in all things as one truly is, as a part of a whole. Of the faith by which the whole body lives, a share, but only a share, belongs to each member—a certain measure of faith—and he must not strain beyond it. But he is diligently to make the best of his faculty, and do the work for which his special gift qualifies him, in due subordination to the welfare of the whole whether it be inspired preaching, or ordinary teaching, or the distribution of alms, or presidency, or some other form of helping others which is his special function. Besides humility there are other virtues which make the life of a community healthy and happy, and St. Paul enumerates them, as they occur to his mind, in no defined order or completeness. There must be sincerity in love, that is in considering and seeking the real interest of others; there must be the righteous severity which keeps the moral atmosphere free from taint; there must be tenderness of feeling, which makes the community a real family of brothers; and an absence of all self-assertion, or desire for personal prominence; and thorough industry; and spiritual zeal; and devotion to God’s service; and the cheerfulness which Christian hope inspires; and the ready endurance of affliction; and close application to prayer; and a love for giving whenever fellow Christians need; and an eagerness to entertain them when they are travelling—for ‘the community’ embraces, not one church only, but ‘all the churches.’
Nay in a wider sense the community extends itself to all mankind, even those who persecute them.
In short, the spiritual sacrifice is a sacrifice of myself in love of God which leads to love of neighbor.
Volume 2 of the commentary on St. Paul’s
Epistle to the Romans, A Practical Exposition
By Charles Gore, D.D.
Lord Bishop of Worcester
Chaplain to His Majesty the King
1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, 1 Peter, 1 Peter 1:22-25, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:13-15, 1 Peter 3:4, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 Peter 5:8–11, 1 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Timothy 4:7, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 2 Timothy 4:1–2, A Sermon on Discipleship, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 13:23, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, Acts 18:5, Acts 18:8, Acts 2:22–24, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:35, Apologetics, Authentic Christianity, Biblical Counseling, Colossians 3:16, Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Discipleship, Ecclesiastes 5:1–2, elders, Ephesians 5:25–26, Evangelism, Evangelism, Exhortation, exposition, Fellowship, great commission, Hebrews, Hebrews 13:7, Henry Francis Lyte, I My Cross Have Taken, James 3:1, Jesus, Jesus as Lord, Love, Luke 12:47, Luke 6:35-36, Mark 10:21, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Matthew, Matthew 29:16-20, Nehemiah 8:8, Paul, Preaching, Romans 15:14, Sermon, Teaching, Theology, Thomas Nagel, Timothy, Titus 1:5-11, Titus 2:3–5
(The following sermon was given on November 25, 2012 at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank calvarybiblechurch.org. While the basic doctrine remains the same between the sermon as given and the text, there are points of emphasize which differ from the two formats. The text is posted with the audio at https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.calvarybiblechurch.org/audio/sermon/2012/20121125.mp3
When I was in law school, I was broke. Of necessity, I would cut out luxuries, which at times included food. Thus, free food was of great interest. On a Friday evening, a fellow student led me down to the Hare Krishna Temple for a free vegetarian dinner. At the end of the meal, my friend, who had some expertise in the religion began to explain the meaning of various pictures hung around the room. A recent convert sat with us and tried to help explain the religion. My friend had to correct the young acolyte on his theology.
At that point, I felt sorry for the young man: he had shaved his head, put on a saffron robe and didn’t really understand what he had joined.
Yet, something similar takes place with Christians all the time: Christians regularly fail to understand the prime directive of our religion: let me prove that to you. Turn to Matthew 28, and I will show you the command — and the problem.
We will start in verse 16 for some context:
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Look down to the middle of verse 18, Jesus first states his credentials:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
When we call Jesus Lord, this is what we mean. We mean the man Jesus the Christ, resurrected from the dead, is the Lord of heaven and earth. Revelation 1:5 says of the exalted Lord:
Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
Hebrews 1:4 tells us that Jesus, “sat down at the right hand of majesty on high”.
People sometimes identify conspiracies or speculate on whether this group or that group secretly rules the world. Yet, here Jesus claims to rule everything, heaven – earth, living – dead. There is no secret ruler of the world who stands behind Jesus: he rules it all.
When someone refers to their authority, it is best to give closer attention. Imagine some random guy drives up next to your car and Hey you! Pull over!. If he produces a badge which reads, FBI the authority of his office would require more response from you.
Jesus does something similar here: Matthew 28:17 says that some people doubted, that is, they hesitated before Jesus and did not know what to do: Should we worship or no? What was the status of Jesus: was he like Lazarus, merely alive again? What should we do with this man? Jesus answers their shifting hearts:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Have you ever seen the movie scene where a character shoots off a gun to get everyone’s attention? Jesus does something even more striking. What then does he say?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This bit contains a command and an encouragement. The command is quite simple, Make disciples. The encouragement is that the God-man who commands heaven and earth will be with you always. That command is the prime directive, it is the prime purpose of the Christian church. While we may do many particular things, everything we do must in the end support our duty to make disciples.
Unfortunately, Christians routinely fail to understand the command to make disciples. We fail to understand the means of discipleship. We think it is some discrete action, special and separated from our “real” life — usually entailing reading a book together, it also appears requires meeting in a coffee shop.
In truth, we constantly make and made as disciples. We may do that poorly or well. You may be making disciples of the flesh or disciples of Christ, but you are constantly making disciples. Therefore, you must become more aware of how disciples are made so that you can be both a more godly disciple and disciple maker.
As you will see, discipleship involves both formal instruction of deliberate teaching and the informal instruction of living together. Ignorance of the nature of discipleship hurts us all, because we all need one-another’s spiritual gifts put into service in order to grow in godliness.
Second, we fail to understand the purpose of discipleship. Discipleship means to bring human beings to the end that they give glory to God in Jesus Christ as Lord:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether it entails caring for one’s children, prayer, working hard at one’s vocation, or bible study — the is always God’s glory. As the Catechism puts it, The chief end of man is to glory God and to enjoy him forever. See this, discipleship requires far than even your personal godliness. Disciples proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ as Lord of Heaven and Earth. Therefore, the honor of King flows from our diligence in discipleship.
For the rest of the time this morning, we will examine the command. First, observe the structure of the command. It consists of two parts, which will be our two points:
I am going to cover a great deal of ground.Yet, in case you miss something, I will have my notes posted on the website.
Here is the first point: Make disciples by baptizing.
On its face, we might think that the first element of disciple making, baptizing only happens in the brief of moment of actual baptism. However, when we look at the practice of baptism as mentioned in the book of Acts, we will see that baptism is a shorthand which refers to the introduction of one into visible membership within the Christian church. It takes place along the boundary between the world outside and the life inside the Church.
To fulfill the command Go, make disciples by baptizing entails three elements. First – believers – must proclaim Jesus as Lord. That proclamation is the good news: God became a man, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, who fulfilled the law, suffered and died for the sins of mankind, then rose again on the third day. This same Jesus now possesses all authority in heaven and earth.
Second element, the one who hears the good news commits to this Jesus as Lord.
Third, the one who hears and believes is then baptized – marked off as a member of the Church.
This is the first aspect of discipleship: Believers proclaim. Those who hear, believe. Those who believe, are baptized.
When we look at the descriptions of Acts we see a larger pattern. First, Jesus is proclaimed. Second, someone believes. Third, the believer is baptized.
Let me show this in the book of Acts. If we wish to understand what the command to baptize means, we would do well to see how the Apostles understood and lived out this command.
The first reference to water baptism takes places in Acts 2:38, where Peter calls for baptism by those who believed the message preached. Verse 41 reads:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The next reference to baptism comes Acts 8. Philip tells the Ethiopian eunuch of the work of Jesus. Acts 8:35 reads:
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. Acts 8:35 (ESV)
The man hears, believes, is baptized.
The same pattern is repeated throughout the book: Jesus is proclaimed, people believe, they are baptized. Peter proclaims Jesus to the household of Cornelius, people believed, they are baptized (Acts 10:47-48).
Lydia is baptized upon hearing of Jesus (Acts 16:15);
Paul proclaims Jesus to the Philippian jailer and his household, they believe and are baptized (Acts 16:33);
the Corinthian believers hear Paul preach that “Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:5), those who believed were baptized (Acts 18:8).
So we see that the command to make disciples begins with the proclamation of Jesus which, when believed, results in baptism. Thus, to obey the command of Jesus to make disciples, we must first proclaim Jesus.
A. Two points about the proclamation
I will take a small detour and make two comments about the proclamation: First, we proclaim Jesus. Second, we proclaim Jesus at all times.
1. We proclaim Jesus
There are two basic mistakes which I have seen when it comes to understanding evangelism. Neither one of these mistakes are bad in the sense they are heretical or foolish. They are mistakes in that they take a secondary aspect and make it the primary point.
The first mistake is to think the proclamation is a reasoned defense of the faith: it is answering questions and countering objections. Those things are important in their place, but they are not the main thing. When Peter stands up in Acts 2, people have questions about the disciples speaking other languages. He answers by telling the people this is not about us, it is about Jesus. He quotes a prophesy about the Messiah and then turns to the story of Jesus:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22–24 (ESV)
In Acts 13 we get a sample of Paul’s evangelistic message. Paul tells the story of Israel to a group of fellow Jews. After giving some introduction, he gets to his point:
God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus. (Acts 13:23).
He then tells the story of Jesus: his life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives the summary statement of the message which was of first importance:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (ESV)
It is not complicated, difficult, hard to remember. We have rebelled against God. God, to remedy that breach, promised and then sent Jesus who fulfilled the law, who died for our sins. Yet, death could not hold Jesus. So Jesus rose from the dead and is now King of King and Lord of Lords.
There are no questions. Someone may refuse to believe history, we cannot overcome that with arguments – although the arguments may take away an excuse. But in the end, the fault does not lie with the story but with the refusal to believe that
All power in heaven and earth
Belongs to Jesus. The problem is not information, it is a refusal to receive Jesus as King. Thomas Nagel, an atheist philosopher put it like this:
I am talking about something much deeper—namely , the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
Sure we can answer questions, but in the end realize that the you have been commanded by the Lord of heaven and earth to proclaim that he is the Lord. It is that simple.
The second error is to make this proclamation overly personal. Often we give our testimony, wherein we tell what Jesus has done for us. We tell a story of what I was and what I have become and how Jesus has made by life better. Those things are all true and they have their place. But in the end, the proclamation is not my life is better because of Jesus. Rather it is, Jesus is the Lord, the ruler of heaven and earth. Repent and believe!
Should they believe, then they may be baptized and enter into the Church.
2. We proclaim Jesus at all times
It is good and right to proclaim Jesus in public. It is good and right to proclaim him on the streets. But we must also proclaim him in private, in our lives and with our dearest relations. Not everyone is supposed to preach on a corner, but everyone must proclaim Jesus.
Do you have friends or family, children or parents, co-workers and cousins? Proclaim to them. But someone will say, I do not have a door to proclaim. It is the holiday season, surely you can find some reason to raise the fact of Jesus at Christmas!
But you do so by means of your life. Your life must look different, there must be a graciousness, a love, a hopefulness in trials which opens the door. Look at 1 Peter 3:13-15:
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:13–15 (ESV)
Do you see that? Your life is supposed to be such that your mere existence will lead others to question you about your hope – your living hope – and you are to do this by the way you live. Your life is to be a testimony to Jesus, a demonstration of hope. When others see that life, they will ask and you respond by proclaiming Jesus.
B. The Problem
From what I can tell, the reason most Christians hesitate to share their faith is that they believe themselves hypocrites, their own life is so lacking that they do not feel it right to proclaim Jesus. And so, feeling themselves to be disobedient, they disobey to lessen the pain of the disobedience – which only makes it worse.
The solution is two-fold. First, we are not called to proclaim ourselves, but Jesus.
Second, our failure to follow the first element of the command to make disciples relates to our failure to the second half of Jesus’ command
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
It is to that command that we will turn.
Here is the second point: Make disciples by teaching.
Let us look at the contents of the command, you will find it in Matthew 28:20. You are to make disciples by
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
This element of the command has three parts: First an action: You – all of you – teach. Second: teach them to obey – keep the command, observe the commands. Third, the content of the instruction, all that Jesus has commanded the disciples.
We are going to focus our time on the first element, the action, teaching.
A. A Disciple Learns and Follows
A disciple is someone who learns and follows. All of us are disciples – indeed, everyone in the world is a disciple of something or some idea. People who change their clothing and style and entertainment choices in response to the directions of our overlords in the Burbank entertainment business are being discipled. Schools are disciple making machines. Families are disciple making machines. Governments make disciples. Businesses and cultures make disciples.
Disciple takes place in formal, prescribed education and in informal moment by moment encouragement, discouragement or imitation. You are all busy all the times making disciples and being disciples. Jesus is not introducing a completely new thing into the world. Rather, he is saying that discipleship must be built around him. We are called to make disciples who proclaim Jesus as Lord.
A. Formal Teaching
By formal teaching, I mean the exposition of the Scriptures. It is the pattern we see in Nehemiah 8:8:
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Nehemiah 8:8 (ESV)
Read the Scriptures, explain the Scriptures, apply the Scriptures. This is the primary element of disciple making for those within the church. Discipleship begins at the pulpit. Thus, when you come to church on Sunday morning, you come to be discipled.
The formal exposition of the Scriptures within the congregation is at the top of the list of our responsibility as a congregation: to teach, to be taught and to support those who teach. Let me show from the Scriptures. Turn to 1 Timothy.
The first command which Paul gives to Timothy is found in 1:3: Protect the teaching of the doctrine to the church:
remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.
Paul ends the letter with the command to protect the teaching of the church:
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. 6:20-21:
Here’s the summary:
Command: Protect the doctrine delivered to you.
Enemy: those who teach a different doctrine.
Purpose: Right doctrine leads to faith.
And the end sought is found in 1 Timothy 1:4:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Doctrine leads to life: Throughout the letter, Paul ties proper doctrine to proper conduct. Thus, Paul throughout 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus stresses the importance of teaching, training teachers, selecting teaching, do not get sidetracked from teaching. Elders are those who are (1) able to teach, and (2) those others should imitate. When Paul writes to Titus, he puts the emphasis on teaching.
In 2 Timothy, Paul waits in a miserable prison knowing he will be killed. How then does he end his instruction and encouragement for his dear friend and ministry help?
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1–2 (ESV)
That sounds like Jesus proclaiming, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
I charge you in the presence of God of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom
This is solemn, terrifying: a dread command follows:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching
Do you see the pattern? Jesus says, I am the Lord, therefore, proclaim me, teach everyone everywhere to follow me. Paul says, God himself requires something of you, teach, preach, everyone to follow Jesus as Lord.
1. Question: Must Everyone Become a Preacher?
At this point, someone will decide that they must become a preacher and that they are sinning if they keep their job as an electrician or a salesperson or a policeman. Does this mean that all of you must become vocational teachers and preachers? No, the NT nowhere gives such an instruction. In fact James writes in the third chapter:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 (ESV)
In 1 Timothy 3:6, Paul warns against permitting new convert to become overseers and instructors. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul prohibits women from the work of teaching the entire congregation. And in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul warns of the excesses and dangers of young men teaching. Paul gives rather exactly limitations on which may be able to hold such positions, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-11.
2. You do have an obligation, support, listen, obey.
In short, most people won’t be the primary expositors for a congregation. However, that does not mean that you have no responsibility in that regard, your regard is to support and uphold the men who have the responsibility for the congregation. That is a very different sermon, but I will commend you all as being so kind and generous that I am often humble by your goodness.
But there is something more: you have an obligation to come near and listen:
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 (ESV)
Your job is to both support those who do teach and come to learn, with hearts and ears prepared to receive and apply the word of God.
I want you to see how coming near to learn and to apply is part of your discipleship: Discipleship requires a willingness to submit, to learn, to change. One who will not hear and obey cannot change. All the instruction in the world means nothing if you will not take it to heart.
I say this to you as a solemn warning: If you hear the words of Scripture exposited and you refuse to listen and to obey to the commands of the Lord, you will be broken by that same Lord. In Luke 12:47, Jesus warns:
And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. Luke 12:47 (ESV)
No, train yourselves for godliness, as Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7.
3. There are many places for teaching
Without question, a congregation must have common exposition from the Scripture. But not all exposition will take place in this room.
We also have classes on Sunday morning where you can ask and discuss the Scripture. In Acts 19:8, we read of Paul reasoning and persuading with men form the Scriptures. In verse 9 we read that Paul took disciples and reasoned with them daily from the Scriptures. This seems to be a bit different from the public expositions. We see a similar pattern with Jesus: he preached to everyone, but he had a smaller group whom he taught in more detail.
There are also small groups, and home Bible studies.
We at times will do personal exposition of the Scripture help brothers and sisters when the understanding and application of the Scripture becomes particularly difficult. This is called biblical counselling.
What I want you to see is that in each of these instances, from preaching on Sunday morning to personal exposition to help a marriage, there is particular gifting – that means someone has the abilities to do the work – and there is training. One of our primary jobs as overseers of the congregation is not to do all the teaching ourselves.
Rather, a great part of our responsibility is to train the people in the congregation to rightly handle the word of God. That is why we have Sunday evening classes and interns and other classes to help you become fit to administer the word of God. I do not want to make this sound elitest – it is not. Rather, it is the model of Scripture: Paul trains Timothy. Jesus trained the 12. Paul instructs Timothy to train other men.
It is also common sense: I have no training in electrical work – I don’t even have much gifting with such things. Which of you would ask me to rewire your house? Who wants me to program their computer to handle their bills?
Before I became a lawyer, I had to go to school for seven years. Then, when I graduated, I effectively became an apprentice for another few years. Having dealt with the law and dealt with theology and scripture, I can tell you that handling the Bible as it requires is far more difficult and certainly more frightening than picking up a statute.
I want you all to become better equipped to handle the word of God. I want more of you to be trained to be Sunday School teachers and biblical counsellors. That is the desire of our the elders here. If I were to die in this pulpit, it is good to know that there are men here who could step up and finish out the sermon – would to God that there were more.
B. Informal Teaching
This is one of the elements of discipleship which many Christians miss: You are all called to be constantly discipling one-another. While it not be as formal as holding a Bible and expositing the Scripture from a pulpit, it is just as important. However, the content of all such informal instruction is always and only Scripture. It is small, applied portions of Scripture – pre-digested if you will – but always and only Scripture. Your own experience of itself is nothing.
Some of this informal teaching involves actually instruction. For example, fathers are to instruct their children:
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (ESV)
Parents, you have a constant duty of discipleship for your children. You are to constantly train them in the words of God. Yes, you cannot make them believe, but you can take away any excuse for ignorance.
Husbands, you have a duty to your wives. In Ephesians 5, Paul writes:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, Ephesians 5:25–26 (ESV)
Therefore, you husbands who have suffered in difficult marriages: have you instructed you wife as to the Lord. Have you washed her in the word? Have you exhibited the grace of Lord in giving himself up for us all? Before you come to a pastor and ask about your marriage, ask first about yourself: have you cared for the discipleship of your wife?
Because in the end of the day, she has been given to you so that you may lead her to Christ. She does not exist for your ease, but for your responsibility. If she sins, it is either because she does not know the Lord or she has not been taught to observe all that Christ has commanded.
Wives, you are not off the hook here. Now, I know that some of you have husbands who do not follow your Lord. What then are you to do? As John Street says, Do not write Repent! at the bottom of his beer can. No, you are to instruct your husbands in the ways of the Lord, but exhibiting the hope and grace of the Gospel:
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 1 Peter 3:1 (ESV)
Now you wives you have difficult husbands, let me ask you this: If I were to follow you about for a week, a month, and were to see how you actually speak to your husband and you actually treat him, would we – you and I – conclude that your conduct was chaste and respect, gentle and quiet – as Peter prescribes for you?
And so, if your husband is a misery to you could it possibly be because you disobey the Lord you claim to follow?
4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4 (ESV)
Do you see, husband and wives, parents, that much of your grief comes at your own hands? First, you have failed to be obedient disciples of Jesus because you are not obeying him. Second, you have not sought to be disicplemakers, you have not sought to bring you child, your wife, your husband to become a follower of Jesus – but rather, you have sought to turn your children and your husband and your wife into followers of you?
Are you even surprised that having rebelled against the Lord, that the Lord will not bless your home?
But there is more to disciple to be done:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3–5 (ESV)
This is not formal classroom stuff – it can include class room instruction, but it is deeper and more informal than that. This is a young mother who is friends with an older woman who has raised her children and they are friends. This cannot happen if we segregate every adult on the basis of age. It takes time and effort to be friends. We cannot simply assign this mother to this woman.
You women who have raised your kids and have been married for 1700 years have a duty to these new moms. You have to find them, invite them over – or invite yourself over to her house and drink tea and help with her children and encourage her. When the young wife complains of her husband, you set her straight. When feels overwhelmed because her son can’t read at 2 years of age, laugh and encourage her.
I remember my wife, after having been married for several years, crying because there was so much she didn’t know and had learned the hard way and no older woman had taught her what to do.
The same applies for you men. It is not the elders’ job to train every man here in the day to day responsibilities of being a man. And you older men know this, these younger men have not been told much of anything which is true about marriage.
I don’t want to hear any more about our senior congregants not knowing where to serve. The church needs the wisdom acquired from living in this world and working out the Scripture in real life. The entire congregation suffers when you fail to apply this command
This is an instruction: You are grown up and you know the world and you know the unbearable pain of being a husband or wife or parent – you know what it is to cry over an erring son, or to feel at your wits end because you can’t make a mortgage payment. God let you experience those difficulties and gain comfort so that you could share that with others:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (ESV)
You don’t have go through a book or do homework assignments – you just have to comfort and encourage and help them live like a Christian.
But there is even more! All of you are supposed to be doing this with everyone. No Christian has an excuse for not discipling others. In Romans 15:14 Paul writes:
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. Romans 15:14 (ESV)
And in Colossians
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 (ESV)
And in Hebrews
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)
Do you see that? You are all obliged to one-another. And also that cannot happen unless you are together, a lot. If your church life is 90 minutes on Sunday morning, then do not be surprised when your life looks like it. This also means you. You personally, whether old or young, God has called you to this work.
C. Live Together
The end of the instruction is love: “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:4). The commandment is to love – God and man.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (ESV)
This only happens when we are together. In Acts 2:42-47 we get our first description of the early church. Listen to this and not how often they were together:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)
Do see something amazing? They spent their time living like Christians and the Lord added to his church. The church didn’t grow because some crazy program or scheme or attraction or stadium rally – the Lord made it grow. The job of Christians is to be disciples. The job of the Lord is to change hearts.
In that living together, they were able to learn, to teach, to obey, to provoke, to encourage, to exhort, to confront – Hebrews 3:13 tells us that this must take place every day. In his sermon the section of Acts 2 quoted above, Martyn Lloyd Jones makes this observation:
Christianity of theirs was central in their lives. It was the controlling factor of their lives. It was everything to them. This is true of every Christian, and it is here that we see the contrast with those popular views of Christianity that I have tried to dismiss. The popular view is that Christianity is something that we add to our lives. The main tenor of our lives is very much the same as that of everybody else in the world, but we have one difference—on Sunday mornings we go to a place of worship for a brief service (Authentic Christianity, Heart, Mind, Will, 70).
Discipleship is a process by which we become something new (2 Cor. 5:17). To become fit to live with The Lord forever becomes the dearest thing of our lives. Imagine you are preparing to move your entire family from one house to another — it becomes all consuming — packing, carrying, planning, traveling. Your life becomes shaped to fit your new home. We would think someone terribly amiss you spent all his effort on accommodating his live to the house he was leaving. But isn’t that what do in how organize and spend our lives. As Thomas Brooks wrote, the world will be burned for being a witch. And yet we live as if this world and our life upon will be forever.
Discipleship fits for us for leaving. Discipleship is the Holy Spirit unfolding the Word of God in our hearts and lives and making us into people who love God and who love one-another:
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:22-25.
You see, discipleship is not an add-on or option — it is what we are. The Ruler of Heaven and Earth has commanded that it be so — and, when he speaks, it causes it to be so. To be a Christian is to become a disciple of Jesus.
The final leg of discipleship is imitation. This last element is another sermon in itself. I have about 7,000 words of rough notes on the topic – but I have only room for about a tenth of that.
We act and live like those around us. Now, people do not look so much like where they are from but rather what they watch in movies or shows or games and music. But the principle is the same, you will become what you see you and hear. Parents, by painful and shameful experience, you know your children will imitate you.
When Christians are around one-another more often, they will begin to imitate one-another. Our ultimate source for imitation is God. Peter repeats the command from Leviticus, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16). Paul, in Ephesians 5:1 writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Jesus in Luke 6:35-36 tells us to imitate the Father.
We are also told to imitate Jesus. Jesus says to follow him (Mark 10:21) and Peter writes,
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)
Now those who imitate the Lord and are called to be models for others to imitate. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:16,
I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
Paul also writes:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)
This is a pattern which carries down to the church today – we cannot follow Paul or Jesus by natural sight, but we can follow in the faith:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)
Again, this is a process which entails all y’all. First, you must imitate the faith of other more mature Christians. Second, you – whether you want to be or not – are a model for others; people will see you and imitate you. That should cause you some concern for how you live.
Conclusion: What then is to be done?
The work of discipleship is a work which requires each of you. Knowing that, listen to these words of Peter and take them to heart, hear them and obey them knowing that in so doing, you will be about the Lord’s work and fulfilling the Lord’s command.
This work is difficult, flesh-crossing work. You will be checked at almost every step. The Devil will seek to destroy you. The world will seek to distract you. People will seek to unravel your faith. Your flesh will seek to lead you to sin. Your heart will prove traitor. These enemies, coupled to the curse which lays upon this world, will cause you to suffer and sorrow.
Discipleship causes pain, because discipleship turns on destruction. You born into rebellion, into a foreign kingdom — and now have been rescued, translated into a kingdom of light. But the thoughts and hopes of that old kingdom still stick to your heart. Discipleship entails nothing less than the destruction of every hint of that kingdom to raise Christ as king alone:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-19
We would not send soldiers into battle without training — and even then, training continues. The soldier in Afghanistan cannot forget for a day he is at war — but he knows that one day he will come home if the enemy does not kill him in the field.
The Christian cannot fall by pain or death — it is only sin which can derail the believer. Therefore,
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8–11 (ESV)
“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”
by Henry Francis Lyte, 1793-1847
1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my All shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.
2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends may shun me;
Show Thy face, and all is bright.
3. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.
4. Man may trouble and distress me,
‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
5. Take, my soul, thy full salvation;
Rise o’er sin and fear and care;
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
What a Father’s smile is thine,
What a Savior died to win thee;
Child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?
6. Haste, then, on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close the earthly mission,
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.