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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 17, 2019
How to Make Disciples: Obedience
This morning we will continue in this short series in the practical application of the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His followers in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Going therefore, 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. That means that He has the right to command us what to do and expect us to obey Him. It also means that 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. He is able to enable the incapable if they make themselves available.
The command is to “make disciples” which is carried out by the three participles in the verse: Going, Baptizing and Teaching them. We spent two weeks concentrating on the first aspect of making a disciple which is going to all nations – evangelism. (See: How to Make Disciples: Jesus’ Example & How to Make Disciples: Evangelism). Last week I concentrated on the second aspect which is baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You will receive varied responses as you tell people what you know about Jesus and invite them to learn more. Some will reject your message very quickly. Some will respond very well in the beginning and may even be very excited about Jesus. However, as the troubles of life come upon them or they begin to experience persecution because of their interest in Jesus, they will turn away. Others will walk with Christians for quite awhile, but eventually their concerns about and interests in the things of this world will cause them to become sporadic, stop coming and walk away. Their failure to continue is the evidence that even if they made some profession of faith, they were not truly disciples of Jesus, for He said in John 8:31 that true disciples would continue in His word.
Some of those you evangelize will become true disciples of Jesus, and after they have learned enough about Him, they will want to identify themselves as such and be baptized. As Paul explains in Romans 6, baptism is the outward sign of identification of a person with Jesus Christ in death, burial and resurrection. The person they used to be has been crucified with Christ and died, and they have become a new creation in Him risen to newness of life (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17). (See: How to Make Disciples: Baptism).
This week I want to concentrate on the third aspect of what it takes to make a disciple of Jesus Christ – teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded. Obedience is the central aspect of making a disciple for it not only encompasses both evangelism and baptism, but it is also the practical result of being reconciled to God and entering into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
The Centrality of Obedience
I think it is easy for us to see the necessity of obedience for someone to get baptized. That is especially true when we consider that being baptized as a Christian can quickly result in persecution in many areas of the world. Even here in the United States, it can result in rejection by family and friends. You have to believe and love Jesus more than your desire for comfort and safety to do it. That requires obedience to His command to identify with Him in baptism. That means it is something you initiate and do and not something done for you as a baby. Infant baptism just gets babies wet. If you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you have not done that yet, then pick up a copy of the paper on baptism from the literature rack so that you will understand what the Bible teaches about Baptism, then talk to me about it and we will arrange for you to be baptized.
The link between baptism and obedience is easy to see, but teaching men and women to obey Jesus Christ is also central to the Gospel message. I have made the point in earlier sermons that evangelism is not about us saving someone for neither you nor 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 becoming His disciple and being saved. That is what Jesus Himself did. He invited others to “come and see” and learn who He was, what He could do and what He would do for them if they were willing to follow. Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), yet He never manipulated people to get a response. He told them the truth offering blessings to those who would believe and follow and warnings to those who would not. He also continually raised awareness about what it meant to believe and follow Him resulting in many who initially were interested walking away (John 6:26-66; 10:30-59)
Consider for a moment the messages Jesus preached and the invitations He gave to people. He began His public ministry preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He concluded the Sermon on the Mount with the exhortation to hear and act upon his words and the warning about not doing what He said. Those who would hear and act on what He said 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 (Matthew 7:24-28). His invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 was to “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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, 30 for My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” Repentance, hearing and acting, and coming to Jesus all require obedience to Him.
In Matthew 12:50 Jesus states clearly that 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 14:21, “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 that each of the synoptic gospel writers conclude their gospel accounts with statements that include elements of obedience to Christ as part of telling others about Jesus.
Luke 24:45-48, “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 16:15-16, 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 28:19-20 “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 states directly what the others imply. Repentance, baptism and even belief are based upon obedience to what Jesus said for all are commanded. Baptism noted in Matthew 28:19 & Mark 15:16 is commanded. Repentance, as noted earlier, is the first message that Jesus preached, and it is the message He continued to preach throughout His ministry (Luke 13:3 & 5, i.e., “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”).
Repentance is what Jesus commanded the apostles to preach as previously stated in Luke 24:45, and the apostles obeyed that command. Peter proclaims in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away,” and in Acts 8:22 he says, “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” Paul declared to the Gentiles in Acts 17:30-31, “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, having furnished proof by raising Him from the dead.” In Acts 26:19-20 Paul said, “So, King Agrippa, 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.”
Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of action, and the repentance that Jesus and the apostles were commanding was a change of mind about sin, self and the Savior resulting in submission to Christ. In regards to sin, that you have not kept all of God’s commandments and are therefore justly under His condemnation – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In regards to self, you cannot change yourself and become right with God – There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks God (Romans 3:10-11). In regards to the Savior, He is the only means of receiving God’s grace to be saved through faith in Him – “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). A change of mind of this nature will result in submission to Jesus because it means believing that He is Christ and Lord (Acts 2:36). Those preachers who do not include repentance as part of their gospel message have a different gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the offer of salvation from sin to all who will believe in Him (John 3:16, etc.), yet even such belief is a response of obedience for it is commanded. 1 John 3:23 states this directly, “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ . . . ” Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Both repent and believe are imperatives, they are commands. That is also true in John 10:38 and 14:1.
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 got him in trouble in the beginning. 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 seldom 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 offer man a fire insurance policy. Presenting salvation as from hell unto heaven is not only shallow but in the long run it also perverts the gospel. Salvation is from sin and its consequences which includes eternal damnation in hell, and it is also unto righteousness and its consequences which includes eternal blessings in heaven. While salvation has a mystical element to it since it is spiritual, it is also something that has very practical ramifications. Salvation reconciles the sinner to God and that of necessity will affect how the saved person lives. Ephesians 2:10 is clear that salvation in Jesus Christ is so that we might live for Him and perform the good works for which He created us. Obedience is foundational to make a disciple of Jesus because it is part of the gospel message.
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 both advance the kingdom of God and to mature Christians.
Advance the Kingdom
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He died on Calvary to redeem sinful men and bring them to salvation, or as Colossians 1:13 describes it, “[God] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” There were many potential 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 angels proclaim the message, and in fact, angels will do that prior to the consummation of the ages according to Revelation 14:6-7, but that has not been Jesus method in the past or present. Why? Because God chose to use men instead. You and I might think angels 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, ordinary, simple, weak, often foolish people like us, to demonstrate His power and glory. So Jesus choose us instead of angels to go into all the world proclaiming the gospel to advance His kingdom.
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, Jesus spent only about three years in public ministry and He spent the bulk of that 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 16:5-13, Jesus speaks about the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit which is conditional upon Jesus returning to Heaven. 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.
Jesus physically limited Himself when He took on human flesh, but the Holy Spirit was not limited. 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 Twelve for three years and then sent them out after the Holy Spirit came. The result was 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 that they had “upset the world” or “turned the world upside down” (KJV). That is quite a charge, but it 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” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8). This principle was at work. The 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 fathers were to diligently teach their children to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 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 reflect the parents failings more than their successes, but it takes diligence to make them disciples of Jesus, and too often parents are passive thinking the church will accomplish it for them. Let me be blunt about this. The church cannot fulfill that responsibility for you. At best, we can only assist you fulfill it.
Discipleship continues and expands as it crosses family lines and creates generations of spiritual descendants. This principle is seen in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul tells 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 all that I have already 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 Himself spoken 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 man’s selfish sin nature. For that reason, most people need to have some personal interaction with the messenger in order to see it lived out in that person’s life before they will believe it is really true. 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 and then teach them how to walk with Him.
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. God chose us in Christ that we might be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4), and the demonstration of His righteousness (Romans 3:26), making known the riches of His glory among all people (Romans 9:23-24), and proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9). He saved us that we might do the good works which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10), cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15), and be to the praise of His glory and grace (Ephesians 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 mention a few of the marks of mature Christians, things which God wants to be in your lives, and next week I will expand on them.
Luke 9:23-25, The mature disciple is willing to deny self, take up his 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. Conversion 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.”
Jesus has called us to make disciples and teach them to obey whatsoever He has commanded. Learning to know, understand and better obey the Lord is an exciting life because you become part of the Lord’s plan in helping others to do the same. Life gains eternal purposes which transcend the present.
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.
Sermon Notes – November 17, 2019
How to Make Disciples: Obedience – Selected Scriptures
Introduction – Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus has all ____________ so He is able to enable the incapable who are available
We fulfill the command to _____________________ by going, baptizing and teaching
Efforts to evangelize will receive ______responses: Rejection, temporary growth then departure, true belief
True disciples will want to be ___________to identify with Jesus – death, burial & resurrection to new life
_______________ is central because it encompasses evangelism, baptism and living as a disciple of Jesus
The Centrality of Obedience
The necessity of obedience in _________ is easily seen – especially if it is known it will bring on persecution
Teaching men and women to obey Jesus Christ is also central to the _____________ message
Obedience demonstrates a reconciled ____________ with God – John 12:50; 14-21, 23-24
Repentance, baptism & even belief are based upon obedience to what Jesus said for all are ______________
Repentance is a change of __________ resulting in a change of action
A change in mind about ______ – all have sinned – Romans 2:23
A change in mind about _________ – you cannot change and save yourself – Romans 3:10-11
A change in ____________ to submission to Jesus the Savior because He is Christ and Lord – Acts 2:36
A gospel that does not include a call to repentance and obedience to Christ is a ____________ gospel
Salvation is ______________ and its consequential curses to righteousness and its blessings
Advance the Kingdom
Jesus came to rescue us from the domain of darkness and ___________us to His kingdom – Colossians 1:13
God could have had ____________ proclaim the gospel, but He did not (Exception – Rev. 14:6)
1 Corinthians 1:25-31 – God has chosen to glorify Himself by using ____________ people
__________ could have done all the work of proclaiming the gospel Himself, but used a different plan
John 16:5-13 – Jesus ___________ to teach a limited number of men and then give them the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit would ___________ Jesus’ ministry in calling people into His kingdom
______________ is better than addition – from 120 to 10,000+ in weeks to 1.5+ million in 60 years
The apostles “upset the _________” (Acts17:6) and the churches they planted did the same (1 Thess)
Making disciples ensures that the message will continue through the ___________- Parents disciple children
Parents are responsible and must be _____________- the church can only assist you in raising your children
Discipleship also crosses family lines to create generations of ______________descendants – 2 Timothy 2:2
Mass media can impart knowledge, but life change takes more ____________ involvement
Reaching people for Christ depends on Christians becoming _____________ mature
God saves people so that they will _________ Him – restoring them meaning and purpose in life
God chose us in Christ that we might: *Be _________ and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4),
*Proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9),
*Do the good works which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10),
*Cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15),
Marks of maturity include: *_________________ to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-25),
*Committed to world evangelism (Matt. 9:36-38) *Loving others as Christ does (John 13:34-45)
*Abiding in Christ, obedient to Him, bearing fruit, glorifying God, joyful & loving others (John 15)
Conversion is the not the end goal, but the beginning of a whole new and _________________
Learning to walk with the Lord brings an exciting life lived for _________purposes transcending the present
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 obey / obedience is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents the importance of learning to obey Jesus’ commands.
THINK ABOUT IT – Questions to consider in understanding the sermon and its application. What enables believers to obey The Great Commission? What kinds of responses can we expect to our evangelism efforts? What marks the true disciple of Jesus in the Parable of the Sower? What is the meaning and purpose of baptism? How are baptism and evangelism linked to obeying Jesus? What was Jesus’ message at the beginning of His ministry? Did that message ever change? What does obedience or lack of it demonstrate about a person’s relationship with God? What commands are included in the conclusions of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke? What is repentance? How important was that theme in Jesus’ preaching? In the preaching of the apostles? What is the link between belief and obedience to Jesus’ commands? What is a Christian required to believe? What can be concluded about a gospel that does not include a call to repentance and obedience to the Lord? What is salvation from? What is salvation to? Why didn’t God use angels to proclaim the gospel? What kind of people does God choose to serve and proclaim Him? Why doesn’t Jesus do all the proclamation of the gospel Himself? What is the importance of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the Gospel? Why is multiplication a better way to grow than addition? What is the importance of making disciples in the continuation of the church? What is the responsibility of parents in teaching their children about Christ and living godly lives? How can the church help? Why is mass media insufficient to make disciples? Why does God save people? What are some of the marks of Christian maturity? How mature would you rate yourself? – babe, youth, young adult, adult, senior? What can / should you do to continue to mature?
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