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Faith Bible Church, NY
November 5, 1995
How to make Disciples, Part 6
Marks of a Disciple
Last week I tried to impart to you a vision of what every Christian should be and can be through discipleship. I used the Apostle Paul as a model, but I could have used any of many examples set forth not only in the Scriptures themselves, but on the pages of history and in modern times as well. People who demonstrate a vital relationship with God. People who live for a purpose beyond themselves and affect the world for the Kingdom of Christ. People who trust the Lord and have the peace that passes all understanding in every situation and the joy of the Lord in all circumstances. People in whom you can see Christ living through them.
There is no life as exciting as being a Christian. There is no purpose more glorious or significant than living for Christ. I hope last week’s message encouraged you in becoming like our Lord.
This week I want to go over some of the marks of maturity that Jesus gave. Each of these are things that will become part of the life of the one who follows Christ. They are traits of Jesus’ true disciples. They may not be present in a young or an ignorant disciple, but they will become present at the disciple of Christ continues to learn to obey all things whatsoever He commanded.
Next week I will try to explain in practical terms how an immature Christian becomes a mature one. So if these marks of maturity do not match your life currently, I do not want you to fret. These traits can and will become part of your character as you continue in the process of being a disciple. For the present I want you simply to know where you are headed and be aware of the areas that God will be working on in your life as He fulfills His word in Romans 8:28-30 that those He saves He will also conform into the image of His son.
Let me state these briefly, then I will go back over them in more detail
Luke 9:23-25, The mature disciple is willing to deny self, take up a cross daily, and follow Him.
Luke 14:25-35, The mature disciple puts Jesus Christ before self, family, friends and possessions.
John 8:31, The mature disciple is committed to the teachings of Jesus.
Matthew 9:36-38, The mature disciple is committed to world evangelism.
John 13:34,35, The mature disciple loves others in the same way that Jesus loves them.
John 15-7-17, The mature disciple abides in Christ, is obedient to Him, bears fruit, glorifies God, has joy, and loves the brethren.
None of these things are burdensome to the true Christian. Each becomes an increasing source of joy as the things of this world diminish in their importance and the things of God increase. Remember that conversion (salvation) is the not the end goal, but the beginning of a whole new and better life. As one song writer put it, “God loves you just the way you are today, but much too much to let you stay that way. We saw this played out in the life of Paul last week as he learned to the secret of being content in every situation as he found he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him to live a godly life.
Jesus not only called us to learn to live as Paul did but to also make disciples and teach them to obey whatsoever he has commanded. It is an exciting life as each of us learns to better obey the Lord. It is an exciting endeavor to be part of the Lord’s plan in helping others to do the same.
The first mark of a mature disciple is found in John 8:31. 31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” To “abide” is to “dwell in,” “live in,” “remain in.”
Salvation is brought to the individual through hearing the word. Paul says in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Knowing the Scriptures and what they teach about Jesus is vital to the disciples in both the initial invitation to know Jesus as savior and in continuing to mature in the Lord.
This may seem fundamental and basic yet it is first stumbling block to many that would follow the Lord. I used to be amazed that there would be people that professed to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ yet would not spend anytime reading the Bible. That no longer amazes me because I find it is so common. I would dare say that many of you here today maybe feeling some pangs of guilt just because I am talking about the need to read the Bible. You know you lack.
Well, if you are not taking time to read and study the Scriptures and you feel guilt, then there is hope. Where there is guilt then there can be correction. You need to confess your sin, and it is a sin, and then commit yourself to getting back into the Word. I have a lot of different aids to help you develop this into a good habit of life. I even put some catalogs from Walk Thru the Bible ministries and some samples of their various magazines that can help you develop a habit of being in the Bible and communing with the Lord.
Now let me take this one step further. Jesus says here that his true disciples “abide” in His word. Simply reading the Bible even on a daily basis will not make you spiritual because abiding is not merely reading. Abiding requires knowledge and application. You have to both know the Word and apply the principles, precepts and commands of the Word to all the situations you face in life.
I have consistently found that those who have a love for the Word of God grow quickly. That love may not be as well developed as David expresses himself in Psalm 119, but they have a deep longing to know God and so they make it a priority to read and study the Scriptures. If your priorities are not right, then it is time to change them. Look through the materials on the back table, or give me a call this week and lets talk it over.
The first mark of the mature disciple is abiding in Christ’s word. The second mark is found in Luke 9:23-25. And He was saying to [them] all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and [the glory] of the Father and of the holy angels.
The mature disciple denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows Jesus. In a real sense this begins at salvation itself and just increases as you walk with the Lord. Remember that the idea of taking up a cross is symbolic of death. It does not refer to having to with inconveniences and minor persecution as it is often used in our society. Having unmanageable hair is not a cross to bear and neither is being called names at work because you are a Christian.
The crises experience of salvation occurs when the sinner recognizes his need for God and cries out for mercy. This is the “poor in spirit” of Matthew 5:3. You have nothing to give, nothing to bargain with, nothing to offer. You stand destitute before G od, and in humility beg for His mercy to forgive, and of course that is exactly what He offers in Jesus Christ. Mercy and grace are given to the humble in heart. This requires a person to deny themselves because you can’t earn salvation and you not be good enough to qualify. You have to come to Christ on God’s terms or you do not come.
Soon after, or at least it should be soon after, a person is saved they will publicly proclaim their identification with Christ through baptism. I pointed out a few weeks ago that baptism is an identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Your old self is identified as being crucified with Christ and your new self being raised up to new life with Him.
This is what the analogy of the taking up your cross is all about. It is a daily thing. You “consider the members of your earthly body dead” to sinful practices, thoughts and attitudes as Paul puts it in Colossians 3. You set all those things aside and put on the “new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him…”.
The longer you walk with Christ the more you resemble Him. Your old self becomes a distant memory and the new self controls. Your life becomes less and less self-centered and more and more Christ-centered. That is what “taking up your cross and following Christ” is all about. Are you taking up your cross?
The next mark of a mature disciples is found in Luke 14:25-35, Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 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. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
This is similar in some ways to what was just said in Luke 9:23-25, except that family relationships are added to it. In the context of the passage the idea of hating your relatives and even your own life is not with the idea that you despise or have malice, but rather the idea that Jesus is more important than anyone else you may love, including yourself.
It takes that kind of commitment to continue to follow Jesus. Many are those that have been attracted to Christ, but because there was opposition at home they have forsaken Him. Some of you have struggled with this yourself. Somebody you love does not care for Jesus and you feel caught between the two. That can be a very difficult position, yet the Scriptures make it clear that the priority must always be given to God.
Jesus said in Luke 12:51 “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 “They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
It can hurt tremendously to be rejected by your family because you love Christ. The family of a Jewish girl I knew in California held a funeral for her when she committed her life to Christ and was baptized. They would not even acknowledge that she was alive when she would call and try to speak to them. Her love and concern for them only deepened, but they rejected her.
Marriages have broken up when one becomes a believer and the other does not. The unrighteous does not want to live with the righteous. It can hurt even more because as a person matures in Christ they develop a new love for their spouse and other people that is much deeper than they have ever had before, yet it is at the same time the unbeliever wants less and less to do with the believer.
As a believer develops their walk with Christ they understand more and more the priority He has in their life. Their own physical life and the relationships they have with other people are temporal, they will pass away, but their relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal. The mature disciple has Christ at the center of their world and everything else revolves around Him. Family, friends and even their own life becomes secondary. How do you measure up to this mark?
The fourth mark of a mature disciple is found in John 13:34,35. The disciple develops a love for others that had not existed before. 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The mature disciple loves others in the same way that Jesus loves them. This love is primarily seen in the relationships believers have with one another. The love that is to exist between Christians is to be of such a nature that the world takes notice and recognizes that they are a picture of God’s love. That they are Jesus disciples.
Notice that the action of love here is to be the same as Jesus’ love: “you love one another, even as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love is the model for the love we are to have for one another. What kind of love was that? Sacrificial, committed, forgiving, compassionate, and demonstrative.
Jesus had compassion on people, and because He was forgiving He could look beyond their current sinful condition to what they could become. He committed Himself to them in a sacrificial manner and it cost Him to love them, and He demonstrated His love in tangible ways with the climax being His dying in their place on the cross.
That is the way we are to love each other. There is no room for pettiness and bickering in the body of Christ. There is no room for back biting, gossip, and being judgmental. When these kinds of things do exist within the church it only demonstrates their immaturity, and over the years I have seen a lot of immaturity in churches. The more we all become like Christ the more these things disappear because of the humility and love that exists in mature Christians.
We are to love each other in the same manner as Jesus has loved us and then extend that same love to non-Christians, including those that do not like us. Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us (Matt. 5:44). That is a true test for maturity. How mature are you?
The last passage I want to us to look at this morning has several marks of maturity as well as explains how that maturity comes. Turn to John 15.
Here we find that the mature disciple abides in Christ, is obedient to Him, bears fruit, glorifies God, has joy, and loves the brethren.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and [so] prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and [that] your joy may be made full. 12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends, if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.
Earlier we said that the mature disciple abides in God’s Word. Here we find that he abides in Christ Himself. The meaning of abide is brought out in the analogy Jesus gives that He is the vine and we are the branches. To abide in Him means we draw our very lives from Him. He is the source of our nourishment and growth. Without Him we would shrivel up and be worthless.
Again we find that abiding begins at salvation. We are grafted in and new life begins to flow into us. As we continue to abide we grow bigger and stronger and soon will be able to produce fruit, which is the next mark of the maturing Christian.
Bearing fruit is the means by which we glorify God. Its presence is evidence that we are truly Jesus’ disciples (8) and that we are abiding in Him (5). What is this fruit? It is the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In short, a godly life lived in obedience His commandments which define a godly life (10).
When we live in a righteous manner and do righteous deeds we bring glory to God, and bringing glory to God is the purpose of our lives. We are to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 16).
The fruit of all this in our own lives is full joy as Jesus says in verse 11. That is why Jesus has told us these things. He wants us to know and experience the fullness of joy that God has for us when we abide in Him. Certainly we experience Christ’s love at salvation but we experience it to a much greater depth as we keep His commandments and that brings a deep, enduring joy that the world cannot take away.
The maturing Christian produces fruit because they abide in the vine resulting in the joy of a godly life that brings glory to God. This is most clearly demonstrated by our loving one another in the same way that Jesus as loved us. Loving each other in that manner proves that we have more than just a head knowledge, we have the Holy Spirit within us controlling our hearts.
In summary, the marks of maturity as a disciple of Jesus Christ is living a life that is reflective of Him. And that makes logical sense for as Luke 6:40 states, “A pupil (disciple) is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
Is your life a reflection of Jesus Christ? Where are you at on the road to maturity? Are you still walking or have you grown weary or become distracted? No one here is a perfect reflection of Christ but we should at least give a resemblance to Him. If you have become weary or distracted in your Christian walk, talk with myself or someone else in the congregation. That is what the body of Christ is for, to help one another become like Him.
THE STEPS TO MATURITY
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