Determined to Disciple
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name.” Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.” Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.
Lifeway posted a study that said between 1996-2016, the SBC recorded over 7 million baptisms. The bad news, even with 7 million baptisms, the total membership of the SBC remained about the same. Why? Where did 7 million people go? Now, sure, there were some deaths, but that does not account for even half.
There is a problem, and it’s not just among Southern Baptists. People are walking away from the church either in ignorance or disgust. Take for example the announcements from popular Christian author Josh Harris and Christian musician Jon Steingard who have decided to renounce their faith.
Nashville Pastor, Robby Gallaty, suggests that this due to poor or non-existent discipleship. He says that most churches do not have a a good plan in place and I agree. Many folks will come to salvation, get baptized and we feel like our work is done. We hand them a Bible and tell them to read it… maybe start with John. You know what that’s like? It’s like taking a person who wants to be an astronaut and handing them a big manual on rocket ships and saying, read this… maybe start at page 1007 and we’ll see ya next week.
Folks, this simply will not do. And as we begin to learn from Romans 15 this morning, I want to urge each of us today to be Determined to Disciple.
Paul actually provides us with a clear mandate for this in the first 2 verses. Listen to what he writes in v. 1:
The first idea is that of being a helper for the sake of another’s spiritual maturity- we bear their weaknesses, or help carry them. This will help us connect last week’s teaching in Romans 14, that the Kingdom > Preferences.
In v. 2, Paul states the goal. Let’s read that: (Read v.2)
IOW, we are to do things that edify one another. That word, edification in v. 2, means ‘building up.’ It carries the idea of constructing a house. We start with a foundation and we then must put up walls and a roof, do some plumbing and electrical, etc. And BTW, Any of you who is a home owner knows that the work is never truly finished!
What we have in the church is a lot of neglected properties and a lot of unfinished work.
ILL- I remember back in 2008 how so many builders were active. Houses were popping up all over. But, when the market crashed, I saw a lot of footers and foundations that never received walls.
So, Paul is reminding the church of the Great Commission- that is to make disciples, not converts, of all nations. But how? Many of you might be thinking, I see the unfinished work, but I am no spiritual carpenter. Further, you might be thinking, I still have work on my own house! I can’t go working on someone else’s house until I get mine all done...
Discuss: What does it mean to make disciples?
Well, friend, listen up. We are going to receive from God, through Paul’s writing, instructions on how we can help build one another up into mature disciples and hopefully walk out this morning Determined to Disciple.
The first instruction Paul gives is to:
Pursue God’s Glory (4-6)
Pursue God’s Glory (4-6)
This is the “so that” in verse 6… let me read 4-6 again for you.
We often look at discipleship/ disciple-making as a program or process whereas we see people as projects. Once they’ve passed a certain point either in time or classes, we consider them ‘discipled’ or done. That is not what Paul says. We are seeking to build one another up for the glory of God
Let me ask you, when it comes to God, how much glory is enough glory? (Hint: We cannot give enough!!)
Now, let’s look up to v. 4-5, our role as a disciple-maker is one of perseverance (that’s staying power). This should let us know that disciple-making is not easy, short, or convenient. But it is necessary.
ILL- Think about parenting. Imagine if parents only parented when it was easy and convenient…
It is necessary to persevere in disciple making. Because, Paul states, without it, we will not have the hope that comes through growth in Christ. By the way, this relationship benefits both the disciple and the disciple-maker. I would argue that my greatest growth in Christ takes place when I am pouring into another. I learn so much more when I am teaching… often as I am teaching!!
Discuss: How can I adjust my view of discipleship?
We build one another up through the encouragement of God’s Word through the highs and lows of life. We speak love and truth in the dark moments of despair and the joys of celebration. And all this, we do unified in Jesus for His glory alone.
And it’s in pursuit of God’s glory that we can persevere. Let’s face it, people are disappointing at times. They don’t always learn what you are trying to teach and they don’t always do what they should. Everyone grows at different rates and is shaped a little differently. So, if we pursue some sort of program, we will often leave behind babies in grown-up clothes. They may walk away with either a legalistic view of the church or possibly believing that Christianity is nothing more than a few moral rules and a book few people understand.
A few weeks ago, we did some math, and I want to ask you to put on those thinking caps again this morning. If you do a weekly discipleship class, and let’s say you are coming every week of the year but 4- taking off a few holidays and such. That’s about 48 hours of “discipleship”- 2 days out of 365. Is there any wonder why people walk away from the faith if this is the way we view discipleship?
Let’s pursue God’s glory and persevere in discipleship relationships - even when (and maybe especially when) it’s inconvenient.
The second piece of advice Paul gives is to:
Meet People Where They Are (7-13)
Meet People Where They Are (7-13)
Verse 7 says to accept one another as Christ accepted us… well how did He accept us?
In Truth- He did not pretend we were not sinners. He acknowledged our sin and paid the price for it on our behalf
In love- He saw past our worthiness and extended love and mercy though we did not deserve it(Rom. 5:8)
Paul says that all people have hope because of Christ- both Jew and non-Jew. And you and I are to meet them where they are and walk alongside them in pursuit of God’s glory.
This means that people have different starting points-
Some grew up in church and know some Scripture. They have a foundation, and might just need a connection and application to life
Others might not know who Jesus is or what the Old Testament says. You might have to lay a foundation before you can share with them what their role as Great Commission Christian is.
Some have had bad experiences in church, some have seen the Bible misrepresented or have believed a false Gospel.
And we have to go to where they are. Sometimes physically. You might not realize this, but there are more lost people outside the church building than will ever be in the pews. And how will they know of the wondrous Gospel if we keep on waiting on them to ‘show up’?
I am reminded of a man who called me in tears over a broken marriage. He professed to be a Christian, but was not involved in a church. His wife had an affair… he was hurt deeply. He was thinking divorce when he called. I didn’t have any magic answers- I just listened and asked him some questions. “How did your marriage honor God? What do you think God would say to you and your wife?” We had several conversations over the next weeks. In our time talking, we both learned about the depth of God’s grace. He experienced it as God restored his marriage through counseling and made it better than it was at the start. I saw God do what seemed impossible, and was strengthened in my own faith. When we meet people where they are, we can walk together towards Christ.
This is the hope of the Gospel, not that we would earn our righteousness before God, but that He would cleanse us and give us His own righteousness and seal us with the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe the Gospel? What keeps you from meeting someone where they are and pursuing Christ together?
Finally, Paul says:
Teach What You Know (14)
Teach What You Know (14)
Paul’s words are for you this morning.
I am convinced, looking out among you, that God has supplied you with knowledge through His Word and goodness through the Holy Spirit in order that you would admonish (teach) one another.
Here’s the thing: You may not have all the answers, and that’s ok. But, if you know Jesus, you know enough to lead someone to Him. In order to lead, you only have to be one step ahead.
There is a story recorded in the Gospels where Jesus sent out people to preach the Kingdom of heaven. They did not have all the answers, but they went and God blessed their efforts. They came back to Jesus saying that people responded, demons were exercised, and sick were healed!
Many of you have never attempted to disciple someone. Perhaps you are scared… Friends, do you trust God? Then teach what you know. Tell of the grace of Jesus, His love and mercy that overwhelms you when you consider that you were dead in your trespasses, BUT GOD, reached down and gave you life everlasting!
You might be thinking, Pastor, you’re kind of stomping on my toes here… what gives?
As the Apostle Paul notes in v. 15, I am being bold in order to remind you these truths because of the grace that God has shown me.
Friends, are you being faithful to God’s command to Go and make Disciples? Let’s get on that path together right now. Repent. Change your view. Change your priorities. The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.
Discuss: Who will I begin to disciple? (Write a name and set a date)