Maybe you have noticed this or perhaps it has escaped your grasp about me. I almost never use the terms Christian or saved and I typically try and stay away from the word believer when I can help it.
Now…maybe you grew up in church and in a tradition where those were like sacred and holy words used to describe Gods people. I know that I did. I think it was in my reflection of the time spent in that tradition that has caused me to steer clear of those words and opt for some terms that are hopefully a little more helpful.
Tell stories about youth camps, revivals, and time spent at Hollywood where that point in time conversion and praying a prayer was a critical element but how there was never any transformation in those people. When I went back and looked at the Bibles definition of someone who is truly “saved” it almost never matched up with the lives of those claiming that. Worst of all, is that there was almost never any follow-up with those individuals and they ended up either ‘getting saved’ again, or becoming disillusioned with faith all together because they didn’t experience some magical transformation after they said that prayer.
No…christian, evangelical, saved, and believer all have a lot of baggage attached to them that actually makes them some very unhelpful terms. Instead, I like to use the word most often used by the Bible to describe those who have made a decision for Jesus: disciples.
This isn’t just semantics and I believe the language we use 100% matters.
For the next several weeks, we are going to be in a sermon series entitled Waypoints, in which we are going to work our way through all 111 verses of the Sermon on the Mount.
If you are unfamiliar with the Sermon on the Mount, It is Jesus’ single longest sermon recorded in scripture where He details what it looks like to follow Him as a disciple. In this series, we are going to be talking about some incredibly relevant and practical topics like: attitude, anxiety, lust & divorce, anger, forgiveness, integrity, our language, and much more.
But this week I just want us to focus on the first two sentences.
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
The first sentence of this passage tells us who this sermon is directed towards.
Let’s say you went into your doctor for some routine blood work and then a few days later you receive a letter and the first line of the letter is congratulating you on being accepted into a cutting edge cancer treatment research trial.
Immediately your blood pressure spikes. You read a little further down and notice that there is a cost to you of $100K but that there are financing options available. You read that the treatment, while incredibly painful will only last 6 weeks. A little further down you read that in the preliminary testing it has been noted to increase the survivability rate of this cancer from 20 to 33% survivability.
How are you feeling as you read this letter? Freaked out right!
Now…imagine as you finish reading the letter and you make it all the way down to the bottom of the letter that it isn’t actually addressed to you at all. Put yourself in the shoes of the person that letter was actually intended for…is that good news or bad news? Yeah you are probably ecstatic and hoping to receive that letter if you are the intended recipient.
This is why it is incredibly important that we understand who this sermon is intended for.
Over the course of this sermon, we are going to read words like these:
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you...”
“it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
“whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
If we are not the intended audience who stands to gain much by these words then this sermon isn’t actually good at all…in fact, much of it doesn’t even make sense if we are not in the intended audience.
And so…this morning, I want to do some work around that word disciple.
Talk about how disciple is a ‘church word.’
I want us to define that word well this morning so that there is no unintended baggage lying around in our minds surrounding it. If there is, then everything that follows is going to miss its mark. We have to understand who it is Jesus is talking to and what actually constitutes a disciple before any of what follows will make sense. If we think simply labeling ourselves as a christian, praying a prayer, walking an isle, signing a card, or attending a church is what makes us a disciple, then we are in trouble according to the sermon that Jesus delivers.
So without further ado, what is a disciple?
A disciple first and foremost looks to Jesus for direction.
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Disciple = Learner
Explain the hellenized concept of disciple. Explain how the Pharisees used it. Explain how it meant for the disciple to imitate the master so well that he could be the masters representative in his absence.
Jesus takes it a step farther though as he does all things...
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
A disciple is constantly re-orienting his life to the leading of Jesus in increasing submission.
Next, we see that:
A disciple is someone who makes other disciples.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Perhaps this is a little macabre but have you ever thought about what your last words will be? Let me rephrase it a little less morbid…have you ever given thought to the legacy that you want to leave behind…the thing you want to be remembered by?
Jesus’ final words on this earth were no different. Jesus had a mission and that mission was to culminate in a blessing and invitation to life for the whole world. If this mission was to be accomplished by Jesus while on earth then He was an abysmal failure. What if that wasn’t the plan at all though? What if the plan was the same as it had been since the creation of the first man in the garden…that God would partner with mankind to bring blessing and life into all the world?
This was Jesus’ parting commission to us. That we would partner with him to make disciples of the entire world. That we would bring the message that their is life and vitality and blessing to be found as we die to our self and look to Jesus for all direction.
How are we doing at this? More importantly, how are you doing at making disciples?
I am actually convinced that we are all natural disciple-makers.
We will naturally inculcate the things most important to those within our sphere of influence.
I want you to think about that for a second. The problem is that we have been discipled so effectively that you and I probably can’t even decipher the things we hold near and dear as inalienable truths from things that inconsistent with what God calls good and evil.
In order for us to understand this phenomenon then, we have to look backwards where the examples are a little more evident. I think of some of our forefathers in the faith. Men like Jonathan Edwards…noted theologian, pastor, and writer who majorly shaped Christianity in the United States.
He wrote this:
“A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken-hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable and full of glory, is a humble broken-hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behaviour.”
“Nothing sets a Christian so much out of the devil's reach than humility.”
Or how about this:
“Holiness appeared to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature; which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul.”
You could go to any of his books or commentaries and pull quotes from any page that are just as powerful and impacting. It’s no wonder that he was at the helm of one of the greatest revivals in American history because that is just how he spoke. Powerful. And yet, I know that as he wrote those books and those sermons, he did so staring out across a field of slaves that he owned.
Does this make him an evil man that we need to cancel? No…I don’t believe so…but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
For New Englanders of their elite status, the Edwardses’ participation in the slave trade and slave ownership was unexceptional. One scholar notes that Christian men like Edwards often justified slavery as “an extension of long-accepted practices of servitude and dependency.” It was what he knew! Men like Edwards couldn’t see the forest through the trees because they had been discipled in this mentality as natural and normal from the time they were born.
Here is the point I’m trying to make by chasing this rabbit. If brilliant theological minds like Edwards can overlook something so glaringly obvious as the inconsistency of slavery with the Bible because of how they were discipled…do you think we perhaps do this about all sorts of little issues? I believe so. I believe we conflate things with our faith that have no belonging, stamp it as truth, and then pass it along to those within our sphere of influence.
What does Jesus say in his commission to us though…? We are to make disciples of our worldview? Of our political view? Of our social view? Of our cultural or nationalistic view?
We are to make disciples teaching them to OBEY ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU!
Being a disciple means engaging in deep relationships with others where we are being discipled and where we are making disciples of others. It means we are allowing people into the intimate recesses of our lives and characters to see the areas we are living inconsistenctly with what Jesus has commanded and calling us to something deeper. It means that we are not a reservoir too…that we are constantly pouring into the generation of disciples and not-yet-disciples to teach them the same thing because there is good news and life found in following after Jesus and His teaching.
A disciple lives a life of action and impact.
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
We live a short life…75-90 years if you are lucky. What we do in this life matters. Jesus doesn’t call us to merely an intellectual faith. This story comes at the end of Jesus’ harsh words to the Pharisees who had turned their faith in God and subsequent actions into an intellectual and mechanical faith. What they did only served to better themselves.
As we follow Jesus and are changed by Jesus, the resultant life is one of impact.
A disciple of Jesus is constantly stepping into broken places to bring the tangible love of Jesus.
A disciple is someone who has made a conscious decision to follow Jesus in these three ways and is constantly surrendering themselves to Jesus in greater degree.
Talk about the waypoints series and how it is not simply a manual for a better life or in getting to God…that if you would just do these things you will get to heaven. No! The picture of a disciple in the sermon on the mount is a picture of what our outward transformation looks like as we are inwardly transformed by Jesus. You and I have no more power to attain to the picture of the disciple presented in Jesus’ sermon on the mount as we have to grow wings and fly to the moon. This transformation happens as we give our lives to Jesus and go back to that decision every single day and live in light of it’s implications.
Break it down in picture format by drawing on the blackboard…do the three circles.
Finish by inviting people to follow Jesus.