Discipliship and the Cost
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Luke 14:25- 35
Churches in America have a discipleship problem including the South. In Forsyth Country NC, the population in 2022 is 391, 532 another number has it more around 425,00. Out of this population only 25% are connected to a local church and that number is decreasing. Of that 25% that is connected less than 5% are making disciples and by that meaning they are intentionally discipleing someone. This is in the south where one assumes Christianity is everywhere, but in reality, this is not the fact.
I would imagine these numbers are worse in areas such as the North-East where religion is not part of the culture. The church in America is dying but where in countries like China which is projected to be the “next” Christian nation is producing more disciples of Christ than a country that can worship without fear. The eastern church will gather hundreds of people in a hot, muggy room to hear one page of scripture being taught for hours; in the west it is pulling teeth to get people to show up for Sunday School or commit to the great commission.
These are very concerning numbers for the church in the west and Christians ought to be concerned. How did a nation built on the freedom of religion produce less disciples of Christ than a nation built on Marxism the great evil of today? To answer this question is dual fold; First and understanding of a disciple is needed, second understanding what discipleship is.
What is a disciple?
In scripture there is not a direct verse that states this is a disciple but there are truths of scripture which leads to a definition. If you something to write with, ask this question; what is a disciple? Each church will have a collectively different answer, but I believe each church needs to have an answer that the people of the church understand. Understanding what a disciple is will lead to understanding how to do discipleship.
When I first came to Highland over a year ago I asked the wrong question; I asked all of you who were here at that time, we have since added to our numbers and lost some. The question I asked what your vision for the church is; the answer was growth and children. That was the wrong question. I needed to ask what is a disciple and how is highland making disciples?
The vison you have is carried out differently per person and if pushed there would not have been a collective agreement on how to carry out the vision of growth and children. In your conversations after church, you’re having questions about what is next in terms of a Pastor for the church, this too is the wrong question. The reason it is the wrong question because you’re at 11 members active and by active, I mean most of you show up Sunday. You don’t need to a call Pastor right away; There is a need of your fellowship with each other to gather around God’s word together and pray on forming the following answers and casting the vision from that.
What does Highland Community Church believe a disciple is?
What does Highland Believe discipleship looks like?
How will Highland live this out together?
Once these questions are answered and lived out; God may or may not increase your fellowship. However, if there is increase, chances are the Pastor will be risen from the increase to fulfill the growing need of a Pastor.
That does not answer what a disciple in; and because I want to challenge Highland with this answer, I will leave it open ended. In your next meeting will you ask the question of what is a disciple?
Section 2 Discipleship
To help guide this answer let us look at what discipleship is.
Main Point # 1 Discipleship is Training
Illustration: The school year is ending for us teachers which often brings excitement, relief, and the examination of our practice. The question every teacher asks at the end of the year is did my students learn anything? The one day you get an invite to their graduation or worse you see their getting married and check your age at the door. With each of these student’s is a period of learning or training. The same is with a disciple of Jesus, they are being taught the ways of God.
A. Knowing the word of God
A disciple must be a student of God’s word no matter if their going into vocational ministry or working a 9 – 5 job. A disciple is always a student of God’s word. There should be a level of excitement to pick up the word of God and study it. If a disciple knows the word of God, no matter how small or great that disciple can then teach what he or she knows to another pupil.
Illustration: The church in Asia is spreading like wildflower because they understood a portion of the gospel. In a Marxist country where the word of God is not accessible if one bible is given that bible will be distributed one page to per person to know and understand. That very page then will be taught and passed on. Knowledge of God’s word multiplies.
B. Training in ministry *Commitment and dirty jobs*
Illustration: Teachers present the knowledge a student needs to know, but every good teacher provides hands on practice.
Much like a teacher a disciple must be given hands on training in ministry. This is perhaps the most challenging for all disciples of Jesus, because it requires time. If Christians today can hardly get to church on time or commit to a bible study, they will likely not commit to serving the Lord in ministry.
The question is how if I told you the church needed to be mowed, how many of you would do it weekly? If the bathrooms needed to be cleaned, who would do it with joy? What if your ministry was a “dirty job” and never thanked for your service? How many of you would actually keep doing it because you serve the Lord? The small things in a church such as running sound is often what God will use to give you larger tasks within ministry such as starting a backyard bible club.
If you won’t come get trained in the word, and how to serve, God won’t use you; I gave you 5 and you did nothing with it, therefore give it to the one who did something with it. Training in ministry is committing to a weekly or bi-weekly study, it is doing the “dirty job” it is a lifestyle of submission to the ways of God.
Of yourself, have you committed to a bible study group where you show up more than just once every three months? When was the last time you did something inside the church that did not benefit you directly? When was the last time you opened your home for Christian fellowship? Is your Christianity consumer Christianity? If it is, your not allowing yourself to be trained as a disciple of Christ, and like the parable God will give it to someone else what he gave you.
C. Spiritual disciplines
The third aspect of discipleship training is spiritual disciplines. Followers of Christ are called to pursue holiness, and this is a life style of discipline.
· Is your family worshiping together? The first institution God made was family and throughout scripture we see teaching on family. God has made Christian families to be in covenant with him and I will speak on this more next week. I do need to emphasis in your family is not worshiping together not just on the Lord’s Day but throughout the week that is outside you are getting right with God, a primary task I challenge you with this week.
· Are you in the word of God daily? There is not a reason a Christian in America is not in the word of God daily other than sin and neglect of the soul. The word of God is on your phone with many ways to read or listen, the word of God is in print, the word of God is accessible that Christians in Marxist controlled countries don’t have and yet the know more of God than your typical church goer in the west.
· If you’re in the word of God daily, you should be in prayer daily.
This list could go on for a while, but worship, study of God word, and prayer are three primary disciplines a disciple of Jesus must have.
Main Point # 2 Discipleship is taking up the cross
Jesus in his teaching points to marks of a disciple, and there are many who attend Sunday services, but few are disciples. These disciples are redeemed sinners who will sacrifice everything to follow Jesus. This calling is not for the Sunday Christian, but is the calling of the true Christian.
A. Leaving father and mother
Jesus in this part of scripture understands his audience which may come from unbelieving home. To which Jesus responds to be my disciple you must reject your family. Jesus is not speaking to a family of believers but rather for the believer in an unbelieving family it may cost you your family. Are you willing to lose those family ties to follow Jesus? Jesus is not saying you must leave your family, but it will cost your family. For some of you this is not a conversation you ever will need to have and Praise God, for some of you this conversation will cost you everything.
Trix grew up in a religious home in North Vietnam, religion is non-existent and where it does it’s private. For her telling her parent’s she was a Christian was hard, but she had that conversation. In a lot of ways being America helped her, because family ties are slowing being shifted away over the last three years. Her mom laughed at her, and her dad said just don’t be weird. For some like Bob it could cost him a relationship with his family. Bob spoke to me one day and said he wrestles between belief and honoring his family who are not Christian.
B. Denial of Self
Being a disciple of Christ requires denial of self. We often hear this in the West and thing we deny ourselves, but the reality is we rarely do that. But what is self-denial? The best way to understand self-denial is to look at the gospel message. The Father gave his only son to take on the punishment we deserve, the son gave up everything to come and take our place on the cross.
Application: What is the one thing Jesus is asking you to give up that is painful but will advance the gospel? I asked this question before; what if God told you to close Highland so the resources and the building can to a church that is starting, and statistically church plants have more success then older churches? What if in all these parking lot meetings, God is asking you this question? It hurts but so did the Father having to turn his back on the son so that life maybe given upon Calvary.
C. Taking the beatings for name of Jesus
As Christians the worse thing in the West you will face is name calling because you don’t promote LGBTQ. Western Christians rarely know the sufferings of taking up the cross for Jesus, there are exceptions but most of you will go home to a soft sofa, play on your social media, watch Disney Plus, maybe go to a movie, none of that is wrong you have Christian liberty, but it’s not suffering. This country we think paying $5 at the pump is suffering, that is luxury that is costing more than we prefer.
Real suffering for Jesus, is knowing that if you assemble as a body of saints, any moment you can have your doors crashed in with an Ak47 pointed at your kid’s face if you say the name of Jesus again. That is was most in Marxist driven countries or Sharia Law countries face. In India where to preach Christ openly comes with your burning being burnt down or threats to your life is a daily thing for Pastors’ only than do we understand the slightest idea of taking up our cross.
So what if Jesus calls you to move across state lines, that is not taking up a cross that is calling a moving company for 5 grand to drive 8 hours in an air conditioned car listening to K.love. So, what if Jesus says close the church and give the keys to another, there are more than five churches within 10 miles of here who for the most are preaching the same thing. Highland is not suffering, my household is not suffering for the gospel, we have it good.
So if Jesus calls you in the West to close a church for another to spring up, or to move to another school, it maybe hard but that is not suffering as a disciple, that is called being obedient that just happens to upset your carnal idols. Polity Jesus is saying take up your cross and die. The apostles in the early church would travel with a coffin because they knew they were going to die preaching Jesus and so did many of the members.
If your life is not sold out for Jesus, your not taking up your cross your simply religious for which He will say I never you.
Main Point # 3 Discipleship is Covenantal
A. Active Members of a local body of Christ
Being a disciple of Christ has benefits and one of which is Christian brothers and sisters. That Christ calls a covenanted community together for the purpose of Iron Sharpens Iron. Which is you know a little bit of blacksmithing you understand iron is placed under a very hot flame and beaten with a hammer to be molded into the craft being designed.
God gave the local church for one of its purposes of being molded. The Pastor is called the body to Christ and to equip them for the work of ministry. A solid biblical church understands discipleship is beyond bible studies (thou that is a key element) it’s each member of that church putting each other to the flame to be molded by Christ who is the Word. All of us here have sin, some of us think very highly of ourselves, others are latching on to tradition making it an idol, some of are neglecting their duties as spiritual leaders in the home, and some of you are in a place of brokenness crying out in self-pity rather than turning to God you turn to make yourself a god.
A biblical brother or sister is going to say hey you know what I see this sin, but here is Christ.
I went to a Pastor friend of mine this week to basically confess I have some anger in me and part of is with Highland. His words were encouraging, and he did not excuse the sin that has caused me anger, but also reminded me to take the log out of my own eye so the speck in the other maybe removed.
I am grateful for this Pastor because he did not sugar coat and was not abrupt with me; but rather spoke as brother to remind me to look within my own depravity and turn to Christ. Thank God for his courage and encouragement in that. The question is do you have someone in your life that will say hey this speck in your brother’s eye is real, but let’s deal with the log in your eye first?
B. Connected in Christ
For brothers and sisters in Christ to work through their discipleship of self and each other, it must be rooted in Christ. If the Lord is not in your relationship, you can’t be in someone else’s walk with Christ. Ensure your walking with the Lord so that you may walk beside your brother and sister in Christ.
*Side not spotting the true brother or sister*
How do you as a Christian know your walking with someone in the Lord.
A. Be honest with this person before you commit to any sort of spiritual walk; Is this person daily in prayer and the word of God. If there not or give you a reason, there not it’s a yellow flag that their relationship with God either is not there or they need some more growth before they can walk alongside of you. As Christian (not Pastor) I won’t allow anyone in my life spiritually that is weak in the Lord, even if I know they know him. Create boundaries in your Christian walk. Not every Christian is a Christian, and not every Christians needs or should have the right to speak into your spiritual life.
B. Is this person connected with the local church and takes membership seriously? Pastor Fred made it clear on biblical membership of a church, if a Christian refuses to join a local church there refusing accountability of the elder and ultimately refusing the Christ and His church. Consumer Christianity is not Christianity. As a Pastor I don’t give much attention to non-members after a while, reason because they don’t have a commitment to the church, they have a commitment to their image as a Christian but that is not biblical Christianity.
C. Test their theology, which means you better know theology yourself. The Christian who is not a student of the word is quick to become prey to wolves. Would you walk into a wolfs den unarmed? You maybe called to disciple that person, but certainly they are not called to disciple you. So, understand the boundaries of Christian relationships. Paul is friendly with Timothy but he certainly not buddies with him like Titus. We each need a Timothy, we all need a Titus, and at some point, we are a Paul.
C. Commitment to Christ
If your life committed to the Christian faith, again are you sold out for Jesus or is Jesus just something you do on Sunday and make a nice little Facebook post to maintain your Christian image. Your either all with Jesus no matter the cost or you’re not in at all. I will say to you I never knew you.
Main Point # 4 Discipleship Multiplies
Conclusion: Discipleship is an act of worship *Gospel message*