The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.

 

 

A King Will Be Born In Bethlehem

Scripture for this Bible study – Micah 5:1-5; Isaiah 7:10-16; Isaiah 9:1-7

MICAH 5:1-5 (NIV)

[1]  Marshall your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. 

VERSE One is a prophecy or a “foretelling” of what is to come in the near future.  It is the PROPHECY that king Nebuchadnezzar was going to attack Jerusalem and that king Zedekiah would be struck on the cheek with a rod.  This all came to pass and king Zedekiah, the “ruler” at that time was taken captive and tortured resulting in the king being blinded.

This initial verse in Chapter 5 describes a picture of strife, defeat, and hopelessness.

The following verses are a contrasting picture of Micah 5:1 as the Prophet Micah changes direction in Verse 2 to a PROPHECY for the distant future.

Micah quotes the LORD who states He will send a King with the following attributes: 

He will be born in Bethlehem, a town approximately 5 miles south-southwest from Jerusalem.

Compared to Jerusalem which was a large city with majestic buildings, Bethlehem was small.  When people ask me where I grew up I tell them San Diego, California.  But actually, I grew up in Pacific Beach/Clairemont, California which is an area located about 9 miles north of San Diego.  Very few people outside of the area know about “PB” because of its small and relatively insignificance.

Out of something small and weak God brings significance and strength.

Out of Bethlehem…verses 2-5

Out of this insignificant little town would come to the Messiah, the King of Kings who was in the beginning and forever will be.

He will be a shepherd His flock.

He will provide for them physical and spiritual needs.

He will care for them, unlike the earthly kings that look only to their own interests and well-being.

He will RULE by the strength of the LORD and not the strength of engineering, technology or reason.

His extent of Authority will not be limited to Jerusalem or Israel but will stretch to the ends of the earth.

He will have complete AUTHORITY over every tribe, every kingdom, and every nation.  All because His flock can never be out of His reach or authority and He will be their PEACE.

Through the Christ-child born in Bethlehem, we have eternal security knowing that He has conquered Satan, death, and the grave that provides an eternal home for each one of us who believes in the miracle.  That is PEACE that cannot be shaken if we live our lives according to our Faith.

The Sign of Immanuel – Isaiah 7:10-16

The second PROPHECY to look at regarding the BIRTH of Christ Jesus is in the Book of Isaiah.

Ahaz was the king of Judah at the time (approximately 700 B.C.) and was under the threat of attack from both Syria and Israel who made an alliance together.

God sent the Prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to give him the message not to lose heart but instead be calm, quiet and do not be afraid.  The LORD was telling him that he didn’t need to look to Egypt, or any other nation for armies of flesh because God was going to provide. He even tells Ahaz that “if you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all.”  [Isaiah 7:9]  

That MESSAGE applies to us as well.  Our FAITH isn’t something that should be worn around your our necks as a medal but it should dictate how we live our lives.

Ahaz must not have heard God’s message because it says “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz”  (verse 10).  This time God even tells Ahaz to ask for a sign from Him that what He says is true.

Is it then OK to ask God for a sign?

Well, that depends on the motivation of the heart!

During Jesus’ earthly life the Pharisees asked for a sign but would not have believed because their only motivation was to trick Jesus.

Gideon asked for a sign to make sure that he was going to do God’s will and when he received the sign he obeyed the Lord’s directions in FAITH.

That’s what the LORD offered Ahaz but Ahaz in his pride and arrogance answers with a spiritual cliché saying, “I will not ask.  I will not put the Lord to the test.”  

The truth here?  Ahaz didn’t believe, he didn’t have FAITH and he didn’t want to hear anything that was contrary to what he already planned.

Like Ahaz, many times we come-up with our own plans for the future and when God intervenes through the Holy Spirit we sense that still, small voice telling us that we should PRAY, or He gives us that uneasy feeling that what we are planning on doing is not what God wants us to do and many times we don’t want to hear it.  We like OUR plan and it makes perfect sense to us.

But the sign that God gave to Ahaz is the same sign that He gave to the whole world.  Isaiah told Ahaz,

To Us, A Child Is Born!

The third prophecy I want to look at with you regarding the BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST in Isaiah 9:1-7.

The NINTH CHAPTER begins…

[1] But [in the midst of judgment there is the promise and the certainty of the Lord’s deliverance and] there shall be no gloom for her who was in anguish.  In the former time [the LORD] brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, He will make it glorious, by the way of the Sea [of Galilee, the land] beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  (Amplified Bible)

“And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

This is the very reason for us to REJOICE, this year and every year and every single day because you and I have seen a great light and that great light has dawned on us.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God has been given to us in a spectacular way.  Jesus refers to Himself as the Light of the World in John 2:12. This LIGHT shines regardless of the circumstances that surround us in this life.  It is the LIGHT that gives us hope because it shines in a DARK and DYING WORLD.  It is Jesus Christ who calls us and says…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden”

With Jesus, we have HOPE, FORGIVENESS OF SIN AND ETERNAL LIFE.

All of this comes about because of God’s zeal.

It was God’s zeal for you and me that caused Him to send His Son Jesus to be born of a virgin in the little, insignificant town of Bethlehem so that God Himself could take on flesh and walk among us, experience life just like you and I, but without sin so that He could become our SACRIFICE paying the penalty for our sins.

He was crucified, dead, buried, rose again on the third day and ascended to heaven where He purchased a place for you and me and offering it as a FREE GIFT!

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

One day He is coming back because Jesus said,  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”  (John 14:3 – NIV Bible).

The proof given in God’s Word and is true and His PROPHECIES will all come to pass.  So this Christmas let’s CELEBRATE His birth remembering what He did for us, but let’s go even further than that, taking heed of what Micah said to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:9:

“He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness”

Let’s live our lives according to what we BELIEVE so that others will truly understand the true meaning of Christmas and see that Great Light shining in the midst of darkness.

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CREDITS & SOURCES

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV; Amplified Bible (AMP, except where noted.

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

Bible Gateway Commentary.