Pastor Scott L. Harris
June 27, 1993
Who is a Disciple?
Introduction & Review
Some of you may remember the case of Larry Flynt who some years ago made a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems someone became burdened to share the gospel with him, went to talk with him, and he responded to the message he received. We immediately think, “Praise the Lord,” another sinner is saved. But as time went on something was amiss, you see, Larry Flynt is the publisher of the hard core pornographic magazine, Hustler. The media joked about him that Mr. Flynt was a “porn again” believer.
Was he saved? All the evidence says, NO, for he never exhibited any evidence of repentance or regeneration. And as we have seen in the past, Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that while salvation is by God’s grace through faith we are expressly “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” When a person does not walk in those good works that is clear evidence that something is wrong. It could be – ignorance, immaturity, discouragement, or faith in something other than Jesus Christ, but they are not saved.
Now the problem with the Larry Flynt episode, just as I suspect is the problem with a host of others who are supposedly saved but now live lives as deeply entrenched in sin as ever, is that the gospel they received was incomplete. They were told of an intellectual faith and of a salvation given by a God who is a warm, kind, and permissive Grandpa. The salvation they were told about was a free candy bar to eat that is sweet and that demands nothing from your life except to eat it and enjoy it. It is a gospel that is relatively new and was rarely heard even 50 years ago.
As we have been examining the book of Matthew we have been seeing over and over that Jesus’ call is not for people to come eat a candy bar, but to choose between two paths of life. One path leads to eternal life and one path leads to eternal damnation (Matthew 7:13f). One is for those made righteous by faith in God and they walk in righteousness, the other for those who walk by sight living according to the desires of their flesh, the whims of their emotion, resulting in walking in sin. One is for those that come to God according to God’s plan and directions, and the other for those that try to win His favor by their own means and methods.
The passage we have been examining the last several weeks in Matthew 10 includes Jesus’ instructions and warnings to the apostles before they went out for the first time to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (See: Confidence for Disciples). This morning we are going to look at a section of this passage in which Jesus tells us what it means to be His disciple. It is the same call given to those who would follow him and enter the kingdom of heaven. Salvation is a free gift in the sense that you cannot in any way earn it or pay for it, but it has definite consequences as we shall see today.
In recent years there has been a bit of a controversy among evangelicals over the nature of discipleship. Zane Hodges, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, began to promote the idea that there was a separation between salvation and being a disciple of Jesus. That notion has been picked up by others and promoted widely. However, the thesis is a false one. There is no separation between salvation and being a disciple because as I have pointed out before, a disciple is simply a student, a learner, someone that attaches themselves to a teacher in order to learn from them and become like them. There are those that read the Bible and think highly of Jesus and even try to imitate some of His character qualities, yet they do not know Him personally, they have not repented from their sins, they have not placed their faith in Him alone, they are not regenerate. There are pseudo-disciples of Jesus and they are not saved. But when it comes to those who are saved, there is no such thing as a saved person who is not a disciple. Romans 8:29, among other passages, makes it very clear that the purpose of our salvation is to become like Jesus Christ. Thus we can say that you can be a disciple without being saved, but you cannot be saved without being a disciple. Every true believer in Jesus Christ is also His follower.
Two weeks ago we already saw a couple of the hallmarks of those who are Jesus’ disciples. In Matthew 10:24 we saw the humility that comes with following Christ. We will not be above our master, but will simply strive to be like Him. A consequence of this is that we will be treated like the master. The ungodly hate Jesus and they will hate us the more we are like Him. However, we need not fear them for they can only kill the body. They cannot touch the soul for that belongs to God alone (Matthew 10: 28). Those who follow Jesus will receive opposition from the world, but they are intimately known and cared for by God with even the very hairs of our head being numbered by Him (Matthew 10: 30).
THEY CONFESS CHRIST – Matthew 10:32, 33
Another hallmark of a disciple that we examined two weeks ago is that a true disciple confesses publicly the Lord Jesus. Look at verse 32, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” Again, the idea of confession is to “say the same thing as another,” to “voice agreement with him.” Confession of Jesus means to agree with Him about who He is, and that is more than an intellectual acknowledgement of facts. It is a declaration of your true belief which carries with it the dedication to live according to your belief. You can say anything you want, but your true beliefs will be demonstrated by your actions. Jesus is not talking here about a verbal acknowledgement; He is calling for an affirmation of your true belief. “Shall confess” is in the future indicative case meaning it is an on-going affirmation, not a confession that happened once a long time ago.
This confession is to be “before men,” so it is public in nature. Remember the context here contains persecution. It is the willingness to confess that Jesus is your Lord and to continue to do so even when that will cost you, possibly even your life. Jesus says here that for those who will do that, He will in turn confess them before the Heavenly Father.
Matthew 10:33 brings out the flip side which is the hallmark of someone who is not a disciple. “But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.” Again, the “shall deny” demonstrates not someone who failed once, like Peter when the Lord was standing trial, but someone who is characterized by such behavior. A true disciple who fails as Peter did will also follow his example of repentance and continue to confess Christ publicly afterward. Jesus is making a distinction here between those who fear God and those who fear men. Those who deny Jesus or fail to profess Jesus before men in order to gain their favor or avoid their disfavor demonstrate that they are more concerned with what men think than what God thinks. Such a person does not understand who Jesus is and what He has done for them. Jesus says that He will not confess such a person before the Heavenly Father.
Three hallmarks of a disciple so far then are: 1) Humility. 2) Proper Fear of the Lord. 3) Public confession of Jesus. A fourth hallmark is found in Matthew 10:34-39. A true disciple values Jesus Christ more than anything else.
THEY VALUE CHRIST – Matthew 10:34-39
Look at verses 34-36 where again we find the theme of opposition to Jesus by the ungodly. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” We already saw this theme back in verse 21 where Jesus said that, “brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death.”
The apostles, like all the other Jews of the time, were looking for the Messiah to be the conquering king who would put down Rome, establish Israel as the ruling nation, and who would bring peace to the world through His reign. This is why Jesus corrects them in verse 34, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth.” We need to keep in mind that when Jesus came the first time, He came to pay the penalty of our sins. When He comes the second time, He will fulfill what the apostles had in mind which includes putting down all His enemies (Revelation 19). It will be then, and only then, that true peace will come to the earth.
Until that time, there will be division among mankind between those that will follow Jesus and those that will not. There will be a sword between them, and history has certainly demonstrated that from the slaughter of believers during the first century to the continuing persecution of believers in many nations in our own day. It has been estimated that there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all the previous centuries.
Since the division that Jesus brings is spiritual rather than ethnic, the division will occur even within the family unit. The picture we have in Matthew 10:35 is a family consisting of a husband and wife, an unmarried daughter, and a married son with his wife. The husband and wife are believers and the rest of the family is against them. This illustration is right out of Micah 7:6 in which evil people rise against the godly and a man finds his enemies are in his own household.
MORE THAN FAMILY
Family relationships are important and Jesus uses that to stress the fact that if you are to be his disciple, you must value Him more than family. Verse 37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
What relationships exist that can be closer than those that exist in a family? A husband and wife, a mother and her children, a father and his children. We can have close friends, and some of you may have close friends that you feel are closer than your family, but when a family functions according to its design, nothing can approach the depth of relationship that exists there. Even Proverbs 17:17 alludes to this where it says, “A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity.” A brother sticks with you even when the going is tough and friends depart. There is some truth to the saying that “blood is thicker than water.” Yet Jesus says here that you are to love Him more than the dearest member of your family.
It is not uncommon to find people that are attracted to the Lord. They like what they hear, they will acknowledge that the story is true, and they desire to even follow Him, but they stop short because they fear how that will affect their family. A husband or wife failing to come to Christ for fear that it would lead to a separation from their spouse. It may not even be a physical separation such as an unbelieving spouse unwilling to live with a believing one. It may not even be the fear of the ridicule they may suffer at the hands of the unbelieving spouse. Sometimes it is just the fear that coming to Christ will diminish the good relationship they have with their spouse.
Sheldon Vanauken wrote a book entitled “Severe Mercy” tracing his relationship with his wife, Davy. Their lives revolved around each other. They even read every book the other had read just to better understand one another and experience what the other had experienced. They decided not to have children because they feared that would interfere with what was really a self-centered relationship with each other. They erected what they called, “The Shinning Barrier” to make sure nothing would ever come between them. Over the course of time Davy came to know the Lord, and as she grew to know Him more, her love for the Lord increased. Her love for her husband did not decrease, but it matured and her priorities changed. She loved the Lord more and wanted Him to know what she had. She prayed that the Lord would do whatever it would take to bring Sheldon to know the Lord like she did. Sheldon did not like what had happened. He resented Christ for coming between them. The Shinning Barrier had been breached by someone he could not compete with. Davy’s prayer was answered. She came down with a terminal illness, and through that illness Sheldon was finally brought to understand the importance of eternity versus the temporal. He saw his wife’s death as a severe mercy to himself because it was a severe thing to go through, yet is was a mercy for him to finally understand the truth and discover what true love really is.
Jesus’ plan for the husband / wife relationship is better than anything the world can even imagine. Yet there are those that refuse to come to Him because they do not want Jesus to interfere with their world.
The same is true with parents and children. Children fearing that their parents would be offended or vice versa. How often I have found people unwilling to be baptized because of what their mom or dad would say if they made that sort of identification with Christ. Some of you may fall into that category. You have made a profession of faith, but you have yet to obey His command to be baptized because you fear your parents. Yes, I am very aware of some of the things that happens in families when one of them becomes a Christian. I have had more than one church friend who had only the church as his family because family rejected him for coming to Christ. One Jewish girl’s parents even held a funeral for her and would not speak to her. When she would call them, they would say, “we do not have a daughter by that name anymore, she has died.”
If you are hesitant to come to Christ or to identify with Him by public profession or obey the command to be baptized, then look closely at this verse. Jesus says that those who love a family member more than Him are not worthy of Him. The idea here is that they are not deserving of belonging to Him and being honored by Him. To belong to Christ is a privilege so precious that no other relationship can compare. It is a duty so imperative that no other duty is more important.
When a choice has to be made, and the division that Jesus brings forces the choice between Jesus and even the most cherished family member, there is only one choice that can be made regardless of the reaction or consequential action of that family member. The choice must be Christ.
John Bunyan was told to quit preaching or be thrown in prison. The personal hardship did not concern him, but the fact that it would put his wife and family into utter poverty weighed greatly upon him. Yet he knew the great obligation was fulfilling his duty to Christ. He wrote from prison, “The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I would have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor bind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I have besides. Oh, the thought of the hardship I though my blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces . . . But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. Oh, I saw in this condition, I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it. I must do it.”
Do you love Christ more than anyone else?
MORE THAN THEMSELVES
The call to follow Christ does not end with just that you must love Christ above anyone else. You must love Christ more than yourself. Verse 38, “and He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
A person who loves another person is not worthy of Jesus and neither is a person that loves their own life more than Jesus. The idea of taking up a cross to follow is an idea that the disciples would have quickly recognized. Only a few years before, a zealot named Judas who had been fighting against the Romans had been caught. In order to teach the Jews a lesson about fighting Rome, General Varus ordered the crucifixion of over 2,000 Jews. Their crosses lined the roads of Galilee from one end to the other. When a Jew heard the word “cross” they did not think of it as a reminder of Jesus’ love for us, something to be made into a pretty piece of jewelry or a symbol used to adorn places of worship. They did not even think of it in terms of having trials in life. They thought of one thing only – death. A cross was the instrument by which the Romans executed people who opposed them or the system of law they had established.
Too often we talk of “bearing our cross” referring to some inconvenience we have suffered. But even if that “cross bearing” was referring to genuine physical suffering because of religious persecution, it would not have the same meaning as what Jesus says here. Jesus is calling for those who will be following Him to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in His service – death.
That may seem pretty radical, and in a sense, it is, but it is also perfectly logical. Look at verse 39, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” The sense of “his life” here is really “himself.” In other words, the person who spends their time in a self-centered pursuit to “find themselves,” will find that the end product will be what Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes – a life of vanity. Their life will have been worthless in the final analysis. They may have enjoyed some good times and may have even benefited their fellow man, but their life will have been futile from the eternal perspective.
At the same time, the person who loses themselves in unselfish service of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. lose their life for Christ’s sake, will find in the final analysis that they have gained life and eternal rewards. Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians in South America, said it so well in his diary, “He is not fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
You cannot keep your life, and the harder you try to keep it for yourself, the greater the sense of loss when it ends. But you can exchange your life for something you cannot lose. A life with meaning and purpose in the present and eternal life with the savior in the future.
What is your greatest love? Is it Jesus, or something else?
THEY RECEIVE A REWARD – Matthew 10:40-42
No sacrifice made on our part compares with what Jesus gives us. Matthew 10:39 implies that this is eternal life, but it is also the forgiveness of sin and peace with God. Christ also gives rewards to those who will follow Him. Matthew 10:40-42, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
To summarize these verses, any service done to any of God’s people in Jesus’ name amounts to service to Him and will be rewarded. When you go representing Christ bringing the whole gospel message to someone and they receive you and the message, they receive Jesus, and the person who receives Jesus receives God the Father as well. When we help out those that are serving the Lord we share in their reward even to the point of giving a cup of cold water to believers who seem insignificant and unimportant. When we are a blessing to others we are also blessed, and when other believers are a blessing to us they too are blessed. In God’s work the lowliest believer can share in the blessings of the greatest. True disciples gain reward.
Many people claim to be Christians, but the proof is in the pudding. A person who has truly put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin based on His substitutionary atonement on the cross, will demonstrate the hallmarks of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. They may fail at times in each of these areas, but their lives will be generally marked by them, and where they do fail, they will be repentant and striving to be like Christ. They will have humility in becoming like the master. They will fear God more than man. They will confess Jesus publicly. They will value Christ more than family and even one’s own life. They will receive a disciple’s blessings.
If these things do not mark your life, your very response will demonstrate something about where you are really at with the Lord. If you are defensive and angry, you need to go back and start at square one and learn what it means to be poor in spirit and understand that salvation comes by Jesus Christ alone according to His plan alone. If you are sorrowful but unwilling to change, then you are on the dangerous ground of complacency. Sorrow alone is not enough. Godly sorrow brings repentance while worldly sorrow brings death. If you are burdened to get right with God, then the Holy Spirit is working on your heart; follow His lead, confess, repent, and thank Him for His forgiveness, and then strive against the sin that so easily entangles you fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12). If these hallmarks fit you, then praise God for what He has already done in your life. Be a blessing to someone else and show them the way, for then you are a true disciple.
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