Discipleship

Discipleship is an unpopular New Testament word. It is not often used in today’s vocabulary. It seems to frighten many people because of its overtures of dominance by one person over another.
 
In reality, however, this is far from the truth.    Essentially, the basic meaning of discipleship is learner
 
If we were to use words like apprenticeship, mentoring, guidance or wise assistance, then maybe that fear would be alleviated. But, in fact, discipleship involves all of these aspects.
 
For discipleship is something that the Lord promoted in His plan to show us how to live our lives under His gentle, perfect, encouraging, guidance.
 
Jesus never dominated any of his followers. Yes, He frequently challenged them and placed them in situations that would stretch their confidence in their abilities. But Jesus always gave each individual freedom of choice, just as He does today.
 
In fact, we know from the Word that many He challenged walked away!
 
So if this is the method that Jesus promoted, why I ask, is discipleship resisted among so many Christians today?
 
I believe the answer lies in the fact that our human nature wants to rule. We want to do our own thing!   However we have missed two important facts.   As Christians we know,
 
      1. We are no longer our own
      2. We have a responsibility to look out for each other
 
How is this?
 
Firstly, by giving our lives to Christ we have become servants of the most high God. Our lives no longer belong solely to us. They now belong to Jesus.  Many Christians have never actually grasped the fact that Jesus is not only our saviour but is also our Lord too!
 
1 Cor 6:19-20  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
 
Maybe the truth of this verse hasn’t been understood, or worse, is understood but ignored.
 
The fact remains that as Christians we do not have the right to pursue only our own selfish desires, because Jesus paid for our redemption through giving His own life so that we might have eternal life. Yet despite this, we can still turn away. But who loses most by such folly?
 
Secondly, the bible makes is full of references to show we are held accountable for our brother’s welfare
Gen 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
 
Matt 18:15  "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.
 
Luke 17:3
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
 
Rom 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
 
2 Thess 3:14-15  If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
 
James 2:15-16  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
 
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
 
We are very much accountable to each other!
 
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I want to take a few moments this morning to highlight some of the benefits that arise from embracing the simple principles of discipleship, of following Jesus in every aspect of our living.     Jesus said,
 
Rev 3:8 See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;
 
We want to show you that there are good, exiting things on the other side of that door that God is inviting you through.
 
So just as Jesus gathered his disciples into a group, we are convinced that taking an active part in your home group is as valuable to you in learning and practicing discipleship, as it was to those men back then.
 
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I want you to think back to the time when we were all at school. Which teachers were the ones that most influenced you or inspired you?
 
I’m going to stick my neck out and say, “I bet that teacher was enthusiastic about their subject, made their lessons interesting, but maintained discipline and would stand no nonsense”
 
To be a disciple of Jesus requires a desire to know more about God’s ways, and as Peter Kaunda reminded us just before Christmas, to be disciplined in our intent to learn and put these into practice. 
 
An indifferent or ‘laid back’ disciple is an enigma. You cannot be an indifferent disciple. A disciple is by definition a ‘disciplined follower’.
 
So lets look at four key ‘disciplines’ that a disciple is required to follow,
 
1.    Listening
2.    Practicing
3.    Serving 
4.    Loving
 
1.    Listening
 
Jesus very often used the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him listen”
 
If we were to put this into today’s language, it might well be paraphrased “Now this is pretty important, so listen carefully and think through what I am saying!”
 
It’s no good just being hearers of the Word. To hear and not understand is valueless. To hear wise counsel and ignore it is stupid. To hear wise counsel, and consider it carefully before putting it into practice, is evidence of wisdom and maturity.
 
God places great importance on following instruction exactly. God doesn’t accept half followed instructions. Remember, King Saul lost his mandate as Israel’s king through doing things his way rather than as instructed.
 
What do you do concerning the word you listen to Sunday by Sunday? Do you just listen to it, perhaps mark it out of ten, or rate it as interesting or boring, then forget all about it?
 
Or do you consider it as a word that might have application in your life?
 
Listening and discussing the word was a regular occurrence amongst Jesus’ disciples. It should also be one of the key activities in your home group too. So often discussion can bring real clarity to a topic, and often can give direction to your life!
 
 
2. Practicing
 
Jesus disciples were not simply a cosy discussion group, but were sent on a mission to influence people with the gospel. You can read about it in Luke 10.  They returned feeling excited, ‘over the moon’, and utterly surprised at what had been accomplished because they had listened and followed precisely what they had been asked to do!
 
They didn’t work alone but in pairs, which in itself reinforces the concept of working with others. The home group is of much greater value and can be much more effective than is generally realised.
 
This is reinforced by one to one relationships that we encourage you all to enjoy.
 
Jesus didn’t teach them to be passive, but told them to be active in their lives.
 
      Matt 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
 
I want to encourage you to actively increase your efforts to reach out to others from your home group.
 
 
3.    Serving
 
If Jesus is our example, and remembering that our church logo embraces the words, ‘following Jesus’, then we need to do what the Lord taught his followers,
 
      Luke 10:45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
 
He first of all served his disciples, before serving all of mankind by laying down his life in order that we might gain eternal life.
 
Again serving one another, our family, our friends, and our neighbours is advocated throughout the Bible.   The are many accounts of serving; the Good Samaritan, helping the poor and needy, helping the widow and the orphan, honouring parents, or helping a neighbour in need.
 
You see in every way we serve another human being, we actually serve the Lord himself!
 
      Matt 25:34-40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
 
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
 
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
 
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
 
You might say, ”I want to do these things too.” Where do I start? Simple! Follow Jesus’ example. He first served his group of disciples. You can serve within your home group, by honouring them by making every effort to be available for them.
 
4. Loving
 
When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment Jesus replied,
 
Matt 22:36-39 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'
 
I needn’t make a comment about how you show love for those that God has linked you with. I’m sure that will be obvious to everyone without me attempting to elaborate.
 
However, there is one more verse that summarises so poignantly the impact of being a disciple who puts into practice of all that he or she has been taught.
 
John 13:34-35  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
 

 

Brian Foster, 25/01/2011