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Faith Bible Church, NY
November 12, 1995
How To Make Disciples, Part 7
Putting it all together
We have been talking about various aspects of the Great Commission now for two months. This morning I want to wrap everything up and put it in a package you can take home and apply to your life.
Matthew’s gospel account concludes with Jesus’ final instructions to 500 or so of His followers that met Him on a mountain in Galilee. He said to them, “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.
The commission to make disciples is a command, not a suggestion, and in fulfilling it the work of the Lord Jesus Christ would be carried out from generation to generation. It could be carried out because Jesus has all authority and the right to command and the power to enable those He commands to complete the work assigned. Jesus would be present with them, though not in bodily form, until the end of the age. The disciples would not be left alone.
The purpose of Jesus’ becoming a man and coming to earth was to “seek and save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). He came to call sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32). As I pointed out in the early sermons in this series, salvation has to do with being made free from the bondage of sin (Rom 6) and its consequences, not just avoiding Hell. Much that is wrong in American evangelicalism is due to the fact that the gospel message has been perverted at this point. We are much more concerned about getting people to do what we think will save them from hell, like walk an aisle, raise their hand, pray a prayer, etc., than in calling them to what Jesus calls them.
The emphasis throughout the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is on bringing people into a relationship with God marked by personal faith in Him. They trust Him and therefore live for Him. The continuing call to everyone that has faith in God is to continue to mature in their walk with God. To become more righteous and holy in their daily lives that they might bring greater glory to God.
In the context of Romans 8 we find in verse 29 that those who are saved are also “predestined to become conformed to the image of [Christ].” The lives of the saved are to be marked by “Christ living in [them]” (Gal. 2:20). They are not to “be of this world,” but be “sanctified in truth” and unified in Him (John 17:16-24). The regenerate are to “put on the new man” (Eph. 4:24) and “walk holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph 1:4) and do the good works which God ordained that we should walk in (Eph. 2:10). Certainly salvation has the future element of escape from God’s wrath because there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but in the present salvation is also to be a taste of what is to come when “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).
The point of salvation then is for the saved to glorify God by becoming like Jesus Christ in their daily lives. Salvation is not the end product but the beginning of the journey. Christianity is about Christ and people becoming like Him, and that is why Jesus commission was to make disciples and not to save people.
Turn to Ephesians 4. Paul starts this chapter speaking about the unity that is to exist in the church because of our common bond in Christ. He then goes on to explain in verse 11f the structure and purpose of the church. “And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
We will explore every aspect of this when we study this book beginning next year, but for now just take note that God gives to the church gifted people (vs 11) to train them so that they can do the work of the church in building up the whole body (12). The purpose of all this is so that every Christian will be mature (13) and not be like children who are easily swayed to false beliefs (14). It takes every believer using their individual gifts for the whole thing to take place.
Consider that only Jesus Christ could individually bring someone into complete spiritual maturity. Only Jesus Christ is perfect. He not only could present a perfect model of a spiritual life, but He also could read the hearts of men and match His teaching perfectly to that person. You and I cannot do that. We need other people involved in the task so that those we disciple will not carry the same blind spots that we have and can be taken beyond where we are at.
Timothy was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. Paul had such an influence on the man that Paul called him, “my true child in faith,” yet Timothy was not just the product of Paul, but that of his mother and grandmother, Silas and others. It takes the whole church to produce a mature disciple of Christ. One person cannot do it alone.
How does the Church bring a person into spiritual maturity in practical terms? Let me give you a simplified outline of the steps. It follows the general pattern given by Jesus with His disciples except it becomes more complex because there are so many more people involved.
THE STEPS TO MATURITY
It all works by following the commission given to us. As we have seen over the last two months the Great Commission is one command with three aspects. The command is to make disciples and that is accomplished by going to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and then teaching them to obey whatsoever things He has commanded.
The first step to being a disciple is finding out about Christ and that is the first aspect of the Great Commission. We go and invite people to come and learn of Him. Evangelism leads to salvation, but it itself is not saving people. I cannot save anyone and neither can you. God does the saving. Evangelism is proclaiming who Jesus is and what He has done in providing a way to be reconciled to God. We tell people the good news of Jesus Christ, but it is God that does the work of salvation.
Jesus invited people to come and see Him, to watch Him and learn who He is and what He can do for them. We do the same except in a more complex manner. We have special outreaches like the one last night in which we have someone tell a group what Jesus has done in his life. There is some element of the proclamation of the gospel in every service that takes place here. In addition most of our programs are designed to allow non-Christians to come and observe us so that they might be attracted to Christ. Non-Christians attend not only our special outreaches, but also our worship services, our Sunday school, home Bible studies, youth activities and children’s programs.
We do the same thing as individuals with our friends and acquaintances. We proclaim the gospel to them in both word and deed and by what we say and how we live before them.
We must be careful in evangelism not to bring people into a false profession of faith or give them false assurance. We need to tell people the gospel. We need to be resourceful and find the point of interest that we can use to invite people to learn more of Jesus. And we need to entreat them to respond and be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:20), but we also need to make sure that they understand who Jesus is, what it means to believe in Him, and the consequences of that. We need to give them room to say no. We have not been commissioned to market the gospel or sell Jesus.
As we present the gospel to others and invite them to come learn of Jesus, some will come to trust Jesus as savior and Lord, others will not. Some will show an initial interest only to later reject Him as they learn more about Christ. That was true in Jesus’ day and it is still true now. Some will reject Christ because like the rich young ruler we mentioned last week, they love the things of this world more than God. Some will reject Jesus like those in John 6 because they want a savior that will fit the working of their minds. They will reject Him because of He teaches things they do not understand or do not want to believe, such as His claim to be God in human flesh, of salvation being by grace through faith and not of works, of the historical and scientific accuracy of the scriptures, of His claim to be Lord and have a right to command, and expect them to walk in obedient righteousness.
Some of the people that we tell about Jesus and who see Him living in us respond and believe in Him too. They enter into a relationship with the Lord Jesus. Salvation occurs and they want to be identified with Him regardless of the consequences. That is what the second aspect of making a disciple mentioned in the Great Commission is about. They are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Baptism is in a sense the culmination of evangelism. The new believer willingly identifying themselves with Jesus Christ, but in another sense it is also the beginning of a new life since it is
also one of the first steps in learning to obey the commands of Christ, and learning obedience is the dominant imperative of being a follower of Jesus. The new believer enters into what I call “foundational Christianity.”
It is one thing to be learning about Jesus, it is another to start living for Him. Jesus first invited the disciples to “come and see” who He was and what He was doing. Next, Jesus invited them to “come and follow” Him. He began to show them what life was really about and how to live it. It was the beginning of their training to eventually become disciple makers themselves by learning the basics of being a disciple themselves.
The Scriptures often refer to new believers as “babes” because they need to feed on milk. They cannot yet handle solid food.
It is our desire to lay a basic foundation for new Christians so that they can continue to build on it throughout their lives. That is why we have people who are already trained to take you through a fundamental discipleship class as either individuals or in a class. Some of you have been through the “One to One Discipling” book, others have used things like the “Designs in Discipleship” series, “Fundamentals of the Faith,” or something else. All of those things are designed to give you a basic understanding andor application in your own life of things like the nature and attributes of God, the Bible and how to study it, prayer and praying, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, fellowship, witnessing, and dealing with temptations. Each is designed to develop in you habits of personal Bible reading and study, prayer, fellowship and telling others about Jesus.
If you believe you would benefit from taking part in being taught the fundamentals of Christian living, then let me know and we will see what we can arrange. There is no reason that it should take longer than a few months for a new Christian to develop a fundamental understanding of Christianity and develop the essential good habits of Christian living.
I am calling the next level Basic Christianity, but it is really only an expansion of Fundamental Christianity. While it may only take a few months to gain the fundamentals of Christian living, it can take a lot longer for all the major areas of your life to be affected. We will be in the process of “learning to obey whatsoever [Jesus] has commanded” for the rest of our lives.
In basic Christianity we want you to be further established in all those fundamental elements I mentioned earlier, such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, and loving others, but we also want you to begin to become self feeding. The teaching is no longer bringing up brand new concepts, but corollaries to things you have already learned. You are no longer having to be told exactly what to do, but are gaining the ability and sensitivity to apply the Biblical precepts in your own life.
Most of the church programs function at this level. The goal is to bring you into a greater understanding of God and His will so that you can live for Him. Sunday School, the teaching in the worship services, specialized classes such the Women’s Bible Study, Parenting classes, Home Bible Studies, etc., are all designed with the idea of stimulating and encouraging you in your daily walk with the Lord. Take advantage of them.
This level of discipleship also occurs among individuals within the church as they talk with one another. It takes place in those informal counseling sessions when you start talking about a subject with a godly person and they present the biblical principles that apply.
The next level is Personal Involvement. Any and every Christian should be personally involved in ministry, the difference here is that they are now taking on responsibility for leading those ministries. After Jesus’ disciples had been with Him for awhile they began to work with as His apprentices. He would allow them to start doing things as He watched and as they were successful He gave them more freedom.
This starts by helping out with a ministry and then gaining positions of increasing responsibility. Those who are faithful in little things are given greater responsibility (Lk 16:10). Remember, I didn’t start out as a pastor. I started out helping in the nursery, going to convalescent homes to do puppets, sharing a thought in Sunday School, giving my testimony at a jail service, working as a counselor at a Christian camp, co-leading a home Bible study, etc. Along each step of the way I was becoming more personally involved in the work of Christ. I was trained by scores of people. I practiced, I made myself available, I was given opportunities and I gained experience.
This is an area we have been working on in the church to improve our effectiveness in training people to serve the Lord. We still have a ways to go. A lot of things are being done on an individual basis, which is fine, but it has tended to be on a haphazard basis. We are striving to be a little more thoughtful about the process. The leadership classes and Teacher Training classes are all part of this. Vacation Bible School and the Children’s church programs have been good areas for us to train new teachers. But we still have work to do in developing people in other areas of ministry such as: gifts of mercy and compassion, hospitality, helps, enco uragement, evangelism, etc.
The last level in making a disciple is having them fully equipped to lead others. Personal Involvement was the training ground for this level. Jesus trained His disciples over a period of several years, and then He released them to go out and repeat the process. This did not mean that the disciples were perfect, in fact they still learned things as they went along, but now the full responsibility was on their shoulders to make sure that Jesus commission was carried out. This is the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the mature Christians. We easily understand that this is the duty of pastors, missionaries and such. We may also understand that Elders, deacons, and those on the Women’s Servant Council have an official duty to shoulder this responsibility, but this is the goal for every believer.
You may not have an official position such as those I mentioned because God did not gift you that way, but you do have a responsibility to disciple others into spiritual maturity and train others who do have the same or similar gifts to them by their personal involvement with other people. Ministers of mercy train up more ministers of mercy. Godly nursery workers, more godly nursery workers. Kitchen workers, more godly kitchen workers. Prayer warriors, more prayer warriors.
The Great Commission has a two sided responsibility. Those who have been trained must disciple those who have not, and those who have not must pursue being trained. No Christian will ever have an excuse for not becoming mature because God is always faithful to provide a way for that to happen, though it may be difficult at times.
The goal is spiritual maturity in life and service to our Lord. The goal of this church is to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want train everyone who comes here that wants to follow Christ to be mature in Him in an efficient and effective manner. Jesus trained His disciples and they turned the world upside down. That task is now given to the church. Let’s make sure each of us is involved in the process whereby we can turn the Hudson Valley upside down for Christ.
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