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Faith Bible Church, NY
October 22, 1995
How to Make Disciples, Part 4
This morning we come to Part 4 in what is becoming a series on “How to Make Disciples.” All of the messages on this topic are really just an effort to make the Great Commission Jesus gave to His followers in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age . ”
We can fulfill this command because Jesus has all authority. He has the right to command us what we are to do and expect us to obey Him, and He has the power to work through us to accomplish His goals. The command is not dependent upon our ability, but our availability to Him.
The command itself is to “make disciples.” It is carried out by the three participles going, baptizing, and teaching them. We spent two weeks concentrating on the first aspect of making disciples which is going to all nations, or evangelism. Last week we concentrated on the second aspect which is baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign of identification of a person with Jesus Christ. The person who has been evangelized has learned enough about Jesus to want to be a true disciple of His and be identified with Him.
THE CENTRALITY OF OBEDIENCE
This week I want to concentrate on the third aspect of making disciples of Jesus Christ by teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded. This is really the central aspect of making a disciple, for it not only does it encompasses the other two aspects but it is also the practical result of being reconciled to God and entering into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
Christian baptism is a result of obedience to Jesus Christ. He commands us to be baptized as a sign of our identification with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. In Christ we become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) and our old self is crucified with Him on the cross (Gal. 2:20). Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of our old self and being raised to new life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6). It is easy to understand that Christian baptism is a result of our obedience to Jesus, but obedience is also key to the gospel message too!
Teaching men and women to obey Jesus Christ is central to the Gospel message. We have made the point here that evangelism is not saving someone, because neither you or I can do that. Salvation is the work of God. Evangelism is introducing people to Jesus Christ, that they may learn of Him with the purpose of eventually following Him. Remember that Jesus Himself simply invited others to “come and see.” He opened the door for people to come and learn who He was, what He could do and what He would do for them if they were willing to follow.
Think for a moment about the messages Jesus preached and the invitations Jesus gave to people. His ministry started with Him preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven in at hand.” The Sermon on the Mount concludes with the exhortation to hear and act upon his words and the warning about not doing what He said. Those who would heed and do would be wise and have a solid foundation for life while those who did not would be foolish and their lives would collapse like a house built upon the sand. His invitation in Matthew 11 was to Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” All of these require obedience to Him.
In Matthew 12:50 Jesus states clearly that a it is obedience to God that demonstrates a relationship with Him – “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” He states the same thing in John 14. In verse 21 He says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” He adds in verses 23,24, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. 24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
Obedience is not some optional part of the gospel message. It is a vital aspect of it. Consider how the gospel writers conclude their gospel accounts with statements that include elements of obedience to Christ as part of telling others about Jesus.
Luke 24:45 “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 “You are witnesses of these things.
Mark 15:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned
Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ”
Matthew just directly states what the others imply. Repentance, baptism, and even belief are predicated upon obedience to what Jesus said for all are commanded. Baptism as we have already seen above in Matthew 28:19 & Mark 15:16 is commanded. Repentance, as noted earlier, is the first message that Jesus preached (Matt. 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”). He continued to preach it throughout His ministry (i.e. “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:3,5). Repentance is what Jesus commanded the apostles to preach as previously stated in Luke 24:45, and it is what the apostles preached. Peter in Acts 3:19 –“Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, & 8:22 –“Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you and Paul in Acts 17:30 –“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed & 26:20 – I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but [kept] declaring both to those of Damascus first, and [also] at Jerusalem and [then] throughout all the region of Judea, and [even] to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance..
The gospel also contains the command to believe, so even belief is a response of obedience – 1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ…”.
God rules over His creatures and gives commands to them. The fact that men rebel and disobey the commands does not in anyway diminish the fact that God commands and He requires men to obey. There are blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience. That was true in the Old Testament, it was true in the New Testament, it is still true today. Obedience to God is inherent within the gospel message. It is man’s disobedience that has got him in trouble to start with. It is Christ’s obedience and substitutionary sacrifice of His own life that allows for our justification. That in Him we might be made righteous before God because of His sinlessness.
The gospel presented by most American preachers no longer contains this element of the need to obey God, but the fact remains that obedience to God is part of the gospel message. God did not send His Son into the world to become a man and suffer and die in man’s place just so He could issue man a fire insurance policy. Presenting salvation as from hell unto heaven is not only shallow but in the long run perverts the gospel. Salvation is from sin and its consequences unto righteousness and its consequences. It is not just some ethereal, mystical transaction, but something that has practical ramifications. Salvation has to do with being reconciled to God and that must affect how we live. God saved us so that we might live for Him and perform the good works for which He created us (Eph. 2:10). Obedience is key to making disciples because it is part of the gospel message.
THE GOAL OF MAKING DISCIPLES
There is a two-fold goal in making disciples and both of them center in learning to obey the Lord. The goal of making disciples is to advance the kingdom and mature Christians.
ADVANCE THE KINGDOM
I put advancing the kingdom first because it was first on Jesus’ heart: to seek and to save that which was lost. To bring sinful men to salvation or as Colossians 1:13 describes it, delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Jesus came seeking men and women to bring into His kingdom. There were many ways that Jesus could have accomplished the task that was before Him, so it is important to note what He did not do as well as what He did do.
First, Jesus could have had the angels proclaim the message – and in fact there will be angels that will do that in Revelation 14:6,7 prior to the consummation of the ages, but Jesus did not have that done. Why? Because God chose to use men instead. You and I might think they would do a better job of it, but God has His own plan and reasons.
1 Corinthians 1:25-31 gives us some insight into this: Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
God glorifies Himself by using people, people like you and me who are ordinary, weak, and sometimes foolish, to demonstrate His power and glory. Jesus did not use angels to preach the gospel and advance His kingdom, he chose to use us instead.
Second, Jesus could have chosen to do all the work Himself. Certainly Jesus did a better job of preaching than any man. He did a better job of talking with individuals about their relationship with God. He knew just what to say to expose the person’s heart that they might see their need of being reconciled with God. He knew when to strongly rebuke and when to tenderly comfort. And because He was without sin He could have lived on earth as long as He wanted before the cross, or stayed on earth after the resurrection and personally told everyone what He had done for them. I think we would all agree that we would prefer Jesus in the pulpit to me or any other preacher, but Jesus did not do it that way.
Instead we find that Jesus spent only about three years in public ministry and he spent the bulk of His time with just 12 men. Why? Again, God has His own plan and reasons, but we gain insight into this in several passages.
In John 16 we are told about the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit, but His coming is predicated on Jesus returning to Heaven. Verse 5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [them] now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
Because Jesus had taken on human flesh He was physically limited, but the Holy Spirit was not. Jesus could talk with only one person or one group at a time, but the Holy Spirit could speak through many people to many other people all at the same time. The Holy Spirit would multiply Jesus’ ministry in calling people into His kingdom. The Holy Spirit would also work on the hearts of the unbelievers in preparing them to hear and respond to the message of Jesus’ disciples. The principle here is that of multiplication verses addition.
Which would you rather have, someone to give you $1 million up front or a doubling amount starting at 1 cent for 30 days? A million is attractive, but if you take 1 penny and simply double it for 30 days the result is $10,737,000. Quite a bit more attractive. Jesus trained the 12 for three years then sent them out after the Holy Spirit came. The result, not just the 10,000+ saved in Jerusalem in the first few weeks after the birth of the church, but the estimated 1.5 million who were followers of Christ by the turn of the century despite the persecution that had risen against the church. In Acts 17:6 those who were opposing Paul & Silas were charging them with “upsetting the world.” That is quite a charge but is based on the fact that wherever they went they left followers of Christ who affected others for Christ.
Writing to the Thessalonians Paul said, 6 “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” The principle was at work. Disciples brought forth more disciples who brought forth more disciples. It was multiplication, not just addition. The gospel message spreads both farther and in the long run faster through making disciples.
Making disciples also ensures that the message will continue through the generations. Throughout the Old Testament we find that God commanded one generation to proclaim to the next His glory and works as well as His commandments. The father was to diligently teach his children to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and might (Deut. 6:4-9). Psalm 78:4 – But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Yet we find that even after all the miracles that occurred in the wilderness and those that occurred as Joshua captured the promised land, the second generation following did not “know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
The only method by which to ensure the message of the gospel continues from generation to generation is discipleship. Children certainly should be disciples of their parents, and in a real sense they always are, though they tend to always reflect the parents failings more than their successes, but making disciples crosses family lines and creates generations of spiritual descendants. This principle is seen in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to Timothy, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Paul had learned from Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:15-19) and he discipled Timothy. Now Paul is telling Timothy to disciple other men who will in turn disciple other men. That is four spiritual generations.
The Great Commission centers on making disciples because that is the most effective way of affecting the most people in the shortest amount of time for the kingdom of God. And please keep in mind here all I have said about salvation.
If salvation was about an intellectual consent to a bunch of facts then God would have enabled man to come up with modern electronic communication methods much earlier and Jesus could have spoken Himself to the media’s vast audiences around the world. But salvation is more than intellectual acknowledgment. It involves beliefs that affect the very core of who you are and your understanding of everything around you. It is a message that goes against the grain of what is natural in man, his selfish sin nature. For that reason most people need to have some personal interaction with the messenger in order to believe that the message is really true. They need to see that the message is true in the life of the messenger. The gospel moves quickly where people see the changes in the lives of those bringing the message. Praise the Lord for modern mass communication methods, but praise Him even more for people to tell other people about what the Lord has done for them personally.
One of the goals of making disciples is to effectively advance the kingdom of God. The second goal is to bring Christians into spiritual maturity.
I placed this goal as second but in doing so I do not want to diminish its importance in the least. The goal of reaching people for Christ depends on Christians becoming spiritually mature. It is as people become mature in Christ that they start having a significant impact on those around them. It is also how you bring greater glory to God and that is the very purpose of our lives.
As I said earlier, God does not save people just to give them a fire insurance policy. He saves them that they might glorify Him and have the purpose and meaning of their lives restored. He saves us as the demonstration of His righteousness (Rom. 3:26), to make known the riches of His glory among all people (Rom. 9:23,24), that we might proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9), that we may do the good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10), to caused the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:15), that we might be to the praise of His glory and grace (Eph. 1:6; 1 Peter 4:11).
How can all this be done? Some of it occurs because of the nature of salvation itself being the work of God, but a lot of it comes by become mature in Christ. Let me quickly give you some of the things that mark mature Christians, things that God wants in to be in you lives. Next week we will expand on them.
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 disciples are 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. Conversion is the not the end goal, but the beginning of a whole new and better life. As one songwriter put it, “God loves you just the way you are today, but much too much to let you stay that way.”
Jesus has called us to make disciples and teach them to obey whatsoever I have 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.
Next week we will examine more closely the marks of spiritual maturity and the steps by which we become better disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE STEPS TO MATURITY
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