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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 24, 2019
How to make Disciples: An Example of Obedience
This morning I want to continue from where I left off last week, except instead of starting to mark off the process and characteristics of a mature disciple of Jesus Christ, I want to impart to you a vision of what every Christian should be and can be through discipleship. I want to give you an example of a true disciple of Jesus who exhibited maturity because he had learned to obey whatsoever the Lord commanded.
I have already pointed out several times that much of modern American evangelical Christianity has concentrated so much on getting as many people “saved” as possible that it has lost the actual purpose and message of the gospel while often even perverting it. Too many people are given partial truths that make them think they are saved from hell and going to heaven, but the sad reality is that they are not. They may have walked an aisle, raised their hands, touched their TV or even prayed a prayer, but they do not believe in the Jesus Christ who is presented in the Scriptures. (See: How to Make Disciples: Evangelism). They have not been reconciled with God because they have yet to repent of their sins, and as I pointed out last week, repentance is central in the gospel message. (See: How to Make Disciples: Obedience)
They want heaven because they want to avoid hell. They want eternal bliss, but they do not want Jesus Christ interfering in their current life. However, the plain fact is that you cannot have eternal life without having Jesus Christ. The apostle John stated it this way in 1 John 5:11-12, “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” I can’t think of anything worse than thinking you are saved and only finding out too late that you are not because you have believed in a different Jesus and means of salvation.
It is also tragic that there are so many others people that do genuinely know the Lord Jesus Christ, but there is something missing from their lives that has robbed them from the joy of a daily walk with Christ. They have salvation, but they lack the peace and joy that should be part of the Christian life.
This is illustrated by the story of a man in England who got on a train and started up a conversation with the other passengers in his compartment. He said that he could guess the occupation of all the other men by just looking at him. He looked at the first fellow dressed in finely tailored clothes and said, “You are a banker.” “Quite right,” the man replied somewhat surprised. He examined the next fellow and noticed his soft, skillful hands and the look of wisdom in his eye and said, “I believe you are a medical doctor.” They man replied quite amazed, “Why, yes I am.” The man then carefully inspected the last man in the compartment. He was a rather small man who was quite wizened and pale and appeared a bit grouchy. He finally said, “You are a minister,” to which the man quickly replied, “I am not, I’ve just been sick lately!”
As one writer described it, Christians live in a bittersweet world. There is a certain bitterness to life in the sense that it is distressing and harsh because we see clearly the reality of sin and its effects in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we love. Non-Christians may see the evil around them, but they cannot see it as clearly as a Christian because they have no point of reference to compare it with as does the Christian who compares it with the Holiness of God. The non-Christian may recognize that they do wrong things, but the Christian is more acutely aware of it because of his ever increasing aversion to sin and especially in his own life.
At the same time, there is a certain sweetness because we know what Jesus has done for us and the kind of life He has in store for us. We rejoice in the forgiveness and fellowship we have from the Father and His promises for eternity. There is joy in having the burden of sin lifted and being without any condemnation because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). There is joy in the prospect of living in eternity where there will be no sin, pain or suffering (Revelation 21). There is joy in knowing that your life matters and now counts for something far beyond yourself. There is peace and joy in any circumstance because we are no longer bound to the troubles of this world. We live, as the hymn writer put it, on a higher plane. Jesus said that we would have tribulation in this world, but since He has overcome the world, we can have peace and be encouraged (John 16:33).
What then accounts for miserable, grouchy, sour faced Christians? There are several reasons. As I have already said, some of these people are not true Christians so they do not really have a basis for joy to overcome the troubles and trials of this world. There is nothing more miserable than trying to live the Christian life without being a true disciple of Jesus except perhaps a Christian trying to live as a non-Christian. The two kinds of life are incompatible for the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to each other (Gal. 5:17) leaving the individual just miserable.
Many years ago when I was living in California and co-leading a young singles adult Bible study, there was a fellow named Jeff Levy that had made a profession of faith and was regular at the Bible study. However, over the course of time he seemed just more and more miserable and restless. In the course of conversations with him I found that he was still trying to keep a foot in the world, or as it turned out to be, he was trying to put a foot into Christianity. He went to U.C. Berkely to work on his law degree and it was not long before he turned his back on Christianity and denied the truths about Jesus Christ which he had previously affirmed. He became an apostate. In a very revealing conversation he had with the co-leader of the Bible study, he resisted all efforts to persuade him to come back to Christ, and one of the main reasons was that he was now happy and content which he had never been while trying to live as a Christian.
The same is true when a Christian tries to live in the world. There is a very interesting story concerning Robert Robinson, the author of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It turns out that later in his life he had wandered into sinful practices and he became a deeply troubled man. In an effort to relieve his mind, he decided to travel. In the course of his journey he became acquainted with a young woman who in the course of their conversation asked him about a hymn she had been reading. It was none other than the one Robinson had written many years earlier. Efforts to evade the question proved fruitless and suddenly breaking down in tears he said, “I am the man who wrote that hymn many years ago. I’d give anything to experience the joy I knew then.” Though the woman was greatly surprised, she assured him that the “streams of mercy” he had written about then were still flowing. Mr Robinson turned his “wandering heart” back to the Lord and was restored to full fellowship.
The Christian cannot live joyfully in worldliness any more than the non-Christian can try to live joyfully as a Christian. Trying to keep a foot in both worlds only leads to misery. So if you are trying to do that, it is time to stop it and start living for Christ alone.
How do you live for Christ? Well that is the reason many other Christians seem miserable. They simply never learned how to live as a disciple of Jesus. They do not know what the goals of the Christian life actually are and how to pursue them. They are instead living by the rules and standards they have picked up from other Christians often without understanding the reasons for them. Their goal becomes trying to fit in with the religious group they are associating with instead of what Jesus actually desires from them. Over the next couple of weeks I want to impart to you a vision for what your life can be like and how to get there by walking with Jesus Christ. This is founded on being a disciple of Christ and learning to willingly obey everything whatsoever Jesus has commanded.
Overcoming the Difficulty of Living for Christ
Living for Jesus is not easy. It takes discipline and you have to apply yourself to learn the lessons. But like anything else worth having, living daily for Christ is far more valuable than the effort at learning how to do it.
One of the reasons living for Christ is hard is because every lesson includes additional instruction about the necessity of being humble and trusting God. Every lesson is a strike against the pride of humanity and promotion of the glory of God. That is the way it should be, but people naturally want some of that glory for themselves. People want to think they are valuable in and of themselves and not just because of the actions of God. That truth requires eating a lot of humble pie that is hard to swallow. But like bitter tasting medication, once you do swallow it, the healing takes place and life becomes so much better because circumstances and what other people think of you no longer controls you or your outlook on life. Humility allows you to live for the glory of God and pleasing Him instead of trying to please self or others to gain approval and glory from them.
What do you think would be the mental and emotional state of a man who had a job that required him to endanger himself in traveling to many countries? The methods of travel were unreliable and often not safe. Bandits and assailants along the way made things even more risky, and the officials in some places could not be trusted. You might think this person would either be a little fool-hearty or paranoid. What do you think this person’s relationship with God might be like?
What if I were to add that this person had already suffered transportation breakdowns that had almost cost him his life on several occasions, that he had already been falsely imprisoned on several occasions, that he had already been beaten up by mobs on several occasions, and on at least one occasion was battered so severely that he had been left for dead, yet he felt that his job was so important that he continued to go back again and again into the same situations. You might think this person to be crazy and a prospect for the psychiatric ward. What do you think his relationship with God would be like? Do you think he might resent God for not protecting him better?
What if I were to tell you that this man found reason to rejoice in all these circumstances? That may seem impossible or at least far fetched to some of you. Or perhaps you might think it is plausible but not probable that there would be more than just a few people like that around. What if I were now to tell you that this person wrote and said that every Christian could and should be like him in their attitude? Could you see yourself that way?
The person I am speaking of is the Apostle Paul. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 where Paul gives a brief synopsis of some of the things he has suffered for the cause of Christ. While you are turning there, let me quickly set the background for what he writes. Paul is giving a brief defense of his apostleship in this passage. He is not bragging or boasting. He is writing reluctantly in order to put to shame some that were boasting and making themselves out to be something they were not.
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes.] 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 [I have been] on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from [my] countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 [I have been] in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure upon me [of] concern for all the churches.
It is easy to see from this that living for Christ can be difficult. Sure, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but it is His plan, not yours. God’s definition of a wonderful life takes into account pain and hardship and the hatred that this sinful world shows for that those that live for Him. God’s wonderful plan for your life may include suffering for His name. Paul certainly did, yet we do not find Paul complaining about anything which he suffered for the cause of Christ. I dare say that no one here has ever suffered anything that begins to resemble what Paul went through, yet we are more apt to complain about life’s circumstances and what we have to suffer than Paul. We are more inclined to try to blame God for things that go wrong and cause us hardship or heart-ache. Too many Christians understand the sovereignty of God only enough to want to blame Him for the troubles of their lives and not enough to praise Him in the midst of those same troubles. Why? Because they have yet to be made into a disciple who “observes / obeys whatsoever Jesus commanded.”
Paul did not arrive at this kind of spiritual maturity in a day, and neither will you. He had to learn every day to understand more about God and His ways as well as about himself and his weakness. As he applied what he learned to his daily experiences in life, he became more and more like Christ in his life and his outlook. He learned to die to self in order to live for Christ. He expressed this quest in Galatians 2:20 saying “I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” That should be the goal of every Christian. Each of us should be diligently striving to die to self and live for Christ resulting in you becoming more and more like Christ in life and outlook.
Learning to Live for Christ
Turn to Paul’s letter to the Philippians in which he marks out some of the things that can and should be in the life of every Christian. These things became part of Paul’s life and perspective, and they should become part of your life and perspective too.
First, I want to stress that Paul learned these things. He was not supernaturally zapped with practical holiness and a godly viewpoint. He, like every Christian, was supernaturally given the Holy Spirit, but from that point on Paul had to work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. He had to learn to submit to the Lord and follow Him.
Look at Philippians 4:11 and notice what Paul says here about his perspective on life and how he arrived there. “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Paul learned to be content. You can learn to be content. Content here does not mean complacent or apathetic. It literally means to be “self satisfied” with the circumstances, and Paul states here that he learned to be content in all the extremes of circumstances from poverty to abundance, from being filled to going hungry. Paul was self satisfied that he would do fine regardless of whatever situation came upon him. He had learned a secret, and from comments he makes it his various letters, it is apparent he learned it the same way you and I learn these things. His personal experiences were used by God to force Paul to learn and apply Biblical truths to each circumstance he encountered. The more experiences he had, the more he understood the Biblical truths that were to be applied in the situation. The secret is what he states in verse 13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” You can live in peace and serenity regardless of the situation. You can be self satisfied regardless of the circumstances. You can live in a Christ like manner and put into practice the commands He has given me regardless of what is happening to or around you. You can live, as someone well described, as a thermostat instead of a thermometer.
A thermometer is completely controlled by its environment and indicates its temperature – cold, pleasant or hot. A thermostat reacts to the environment in such a way as to control it calling for heat when its cold and coolness when it is hot. You do not have to let circumstances control your reactions. You can learn to live in such a way such that you control your reactions in any circumstance which changes the perspective of the situation. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
That, my friends, is the goal of this aspect of discipleship. Practical application of the truths of Scripture into daily life so that you are a model of Christ to the world. You can do all things – live for and model Christ in all circumstances – through Him – the Holy Spirit – who strengthens you. You can live in control of how you respond to the varied situations of life so that you glorify God.
How did Paul do this? Consider first Paul’s situation as he writes to the Philippians from a Roman prison. He was not in prison because he had violated any laws, but because the Jews who were against Christ has slandered him and made false accusations against him. This was compounded by a corrupt Roman Governor who did not carry out justice for him. After a couple of years of this, a change in Governors and more false accusations, Paul appealed to Caesar, survived a harrowing journey across the Mediterranean and was now awaiting trial. Compounding his situation were other Christians who were purposefully seeking to add to his distress by their manner of preaching. How did Paul respond? He wrote in Philippians 1:12-18 that he rejoiced because his imprisonment turned out for the greater progress of the gospel (12). He specifically cites that the gospel message had spread throughout the whole praetorian guard and beyond (13), and others had become more bold in preaching Christ (14). Paul rejoiced that Christ was proclaimed regardless of his own personal circumstances (18).
Paul was not sure if he would come out of that prison alive (1:20), but his response in verse 21 was, “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He went on to say that he was between the two about which was better: to live and continue to serve Christ and them or to depart and be with Jesus.
Because of what Paul had experienced and learned, he was able to encourage the Philippians concerning persecution that was now coming against them. Philippians 1:29-30, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” The word, “granted,” is a verb form of the Greek word “grace” (carivzomai / charizomai). It means to “grant graciously and generously, with the implication of good will on the part of the giver.” Paul tells them that God had granted to them graciously to suffer for Jesus’ sake. What a concept! Suffering for Christ is part of His grace to us! I know, so you say, “then spare me the grace, I am doing fine without the suffering.” But that is precisely the point. You are not doing as well as you think without suffering for Jesus. Paul understood what he had personally gained in his suffering for Christ, so he sees it as something good instead of bad.
Look at Philippians 2:17. Here Paul states, 17 “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 And you too, [I urge you,] rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.” Paul rejoiced to be used of God in the lives of the Philippians even if meant personal sacrifice. Paul’s life was not easy, but it counted for eternity, so he encouraged them to follow suit. What about your life? Does it count for eternity?
Paul’s desire was for the Philippians – and by extension to us – to have the same sort of life that he had, one with meaning, purpose and joy in all circumstances. Paul found joy not only in salvation (ch. 3), but also in living in holiness (ch. 4), living in submission and service to Christ (ch 2) and even in suffering for Jesus’ sake (1).
What was the source of all this? The Lord Jesus Christ. That is why he repeats that theme throughout the book. In Philippians 3:1 he tells them, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” In 4:4 he tells them, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” But you cannot have that joy without a vital relationship with the Lord, and that grows through the process of discipleship. You must learn to observe / obey whatsoever Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:20).
Paul’s attitude toward life is what could and should be in every Christian’s life. But let me issue you a warning here. There is a process to becoming mature in Christ like Paul. Experience has to drive home the truths of God’s word so that its principles and precepts are not left stuck up in the head as mere intellectual paradigms. The truth of God’s word must be driven deep into the heart, the seat of your desires and will, where you live them out on a daily basis.
There are times I get grumpy, but it precisely at those times I am reminded about how much I lack, how much I need the Lord, and how far I still have to grow. And when I am grumpy, I usually find I get help pretty fast through either an encouraging word, a mild rebuke or both. My wife and family do not like me grumpy and neither does God, so he uses them and you to help me mature so that I won’t be a SPOG – S P O G – a Sullen, Pessimistic, Oversensitive, Grouch. God does not want you to be one of those either.
However, it is much worse to try to hide behind a fake smile when you are actually struggling in life. Such a smiley face not only leaves you in a very lonely world, but you also cut off the very resources God has provided to help you grow. There will be no rewards in heaven for “best Christian impersonator.” You are only fooling yourself. Everyone else already knows you are not perfect even with all your effort to project that image. God was not finished with Paul. In Philippians 3:12-14 he states directly that he had not “already obtained it” or “already become perfect,” but he was “pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” God is not finished His work in maturing me. He is had not finished His work in maturing you either.
No one wins when you hide the things you struggle with behind the mask of a plastic smile. God has designed the church as a body in which each member is given specific gifts and abilities in order to help out the other members of the body. We are all in this together. Are you doing your part? Are you allowing others to do their part in helping you toward the goal of becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ?
Paul exhibited his maturity in being able to be real about his bad circumstances and yet also rejoice in the Lord in all of them because he could see the Lord at work. Paul had matured to this point because he had learned the Lord’s commands and how to obey them while trusting the Lord for the outcome. You will not mature unless you learn the same lessons.
Next week we will start looking at the process by which we mature into true disciples of Christ who bear these characteristics: *Disciples who are willing to die to self and take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23-25). *Disciples who will put Jesus before self, family, friends and possessions (Luke 14:25-35). *Disciples who are committed to the teaching of Jesus and to telling others about Him (John 8:31, Matthew 9:36-38). *Disciples who love others in the same way that Jesus loves them (John 13:34,35). *Mature disciples who abide in Christ, are obedient to Him, bear fruit, glorify God, are joyful and love the brethren (John 15-7-17).
Sermon Notes – November 24, 2019
How to Make Disciples: An Example of Obedience – Selected Scriptures
The emphasis on “saving” people instead of making them __________of Christ has resulted in false gospels
Eternal life is given __________ to those who actually have Jesus Christ – 1 John 5:11-12
It is tragic that many true Christians remain _________and so still lack the peace & joy that should be theirs
Christians live in a bittersweet world. Bitter because they recognize _____. Sweet because they know _____
It is miserable to try to live the Christian life without being a _______ disciple of Jesus (and vice versa)
Trying to keep a foot in the _____and trying to live the Christian life at the same time only results in misery
Other Christians remain miserable because they have never _________ how to live as a disciple of Jesus
Overcoming the Difficulty of Living for Christ
Living for Jesus is not easy, but its value is far above the __________ needed to do it
Living for Jesus requires __________ and trusting God, which are contrary to natural human pride
What would you think if a man who continually put life and limb at _______ in traveling for his job?
What would you think if he continued after having already ________imprisonments, beatings & shipwrecks
Do you think such a man could be ________in such circumstances and advocate others follow his example?
Paul ___________ many dangers and hardships – 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
God’s wonderful plan for your life includes pain, hardship & persecution – ___________ for His name
Too many people understand God’s sovereignty enough to blame Him, but not _______Him when suffering
Paul learned of God and how to walk with Him through his daily ______________ of life
Paul learned to die to __________ in order to live for Christ – Galatians 2:20
Learning to Live for Christ
Paul was given the Holy Spirit, but he had to learn to ____________ to the Lord and follow Him
Philippians 4:11-13. Paul learned to be content – “__________________” – through his personal experiences
The secret to contentment is being able to live for _________in every circumstance by the strength He gives
Become a _______________ , not a thermometer
The goal of discipleship is being able to practically _______the truths of Scripture to daily life – model Jesus
Paul was unjustly in ________due to false accusations & had others purposely seeking to add to his distress
Paul responded by rejoicing that it resulted in the spread of the __________ and making others more bold
Paul was not sure if he would come out of that prison alive (1:20) – but for him, to live is ___________
Philippians 1:29-30 – Paul encouraged them concerning their own persecution – it was God’s _____to suffer
Paul considered suffering for Christ as something ________ because he knew what he had gained from it
Philippians 2:17 – Paul rejoiced to be used of God in the lives of others even if meant personal ___________
Paul wanted others to have a _______ like his full of meaning, purpose and joy in all circumstances
Paul ________in salvation, living in holiness, living in submission & service for Christ, & suffering for Him
You cannot have the joy Paul did without a vital, growing relationship with _______- becoming His disciple
Becoming mature like Paul requires the process of discipleship – the truth of God lived out from the ______
_____from negatives & get help from others – Don’t be a SPOG: Sullen, Pessimistic, Oversensitive, Grouch
There are struggles in the Christian life, so don’t be _______ either – you are still in the process of maturing
God designed the church to be a body in which each member ________ the other members
Paul was __________ about his circumstances, yet learned to be content and rejoice in them
True disciples of Jesus will mature to develop these characteristics:
*Die to self to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-25),
*Putting Jesus Christ ______(Luke 14:25-35),
*Committed to the teachings of Jesus (John 8:31)
*Committed to world evangelism (Matt. 9:36-38)
*Loving others as Christ does (John 13:34-45)
*___________in Christ, obedient to Him, bearing fruit, glorifying God, joyful & loving others (John 15)
KIDS KORNER – Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following:1) Count how many times Paul is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents how Paul demonstrates Christian maturity.
THINK ABOUT IT – Questions to consider in understanding the sermon and its application. Why does trying to get people “saved” instead of making them disciples of Jesus so often result in a false gospel? What is actually necessary to have eternal life? Why would a person who is not actually a disciple of Jesus be miserable in trying to live the Christian life? Why would a true Christian be miserable in trying to keep a foot in the world? Why do Christians have a greater awareness of sin than non-Christians? Why do Christians find life to be sweet even though they are aware of sin? What are some reasons that many Christians are miserable, grouchy and sour-faced? What are common goals people have in living their lives? What should be the goals of a Christian in living life? How do you think you would respond if you and experienced things similar to what the Apostle Paul experienced (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)? What is your response to the following true statement: “Many Christians understand the sovereignty of God enough to blame him for the trouble in their lives, but not enough to praise Him in the midst of those troubles”? What is your reaction to Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:20? Do you view your life the same way? If so, why? If not, why not? What were Paul’s circumstances when he wrote to the Philippians? What does it mean in chapter 4 that he learned to be content? What is contentment? How did he learn it? What is the secret of contentment? Explain. What is the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Which are you more like as you live your life? Why would Paul view suffering for Christ’s name sake as a gracious gift (granted) from God (Phil. 1:29-30)? How / what had Paul gained through his suffering? What are some of the things about which Paul rejoiced as stated in Philippians? What would be the proper response when you are feeling grumpy? How can you avoid being a SPOG – Sullen, Pessimistic, Oversensitive, Grouch? What is the problem with faking a smile while you are struggling with life? Paul demonstrates great maturity, so why did he still feel he had to “press on toward the goal . . .”? Have you reached perfection yet? What should you then do? How should being in the body of Christ help you when you struggle with the trials and tribulations of life? How can God use you to help others when they struggle? What is the relationship between being a true disciple of Jesus, Spiritual maturity and obedience to Christ’s commands.
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