(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.