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!

______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

“I DO DECLARE!” – More than an Expression

FIRST, LET ME START WITH A DEFINITION:

“To DECLARE is defined as to state or announce something publicly; to say positively or emphatically”  (Your Dictionary).

So, with that definition in mind, for us to DECLARE something–we are going to have to open our mouth and SPEAK–to “say so”.

“Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that JESUS is LORD and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”  (Romans 10:9 AMP).

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation [for deliverance from eternal death] to everyone who believes…”  (Romans 1:16).

“And He (JESUS) said to them,  Come after Me [as disciples–letting Me be your Guide], follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men!”  (Matthew 4:19 AMP).

SECONDLY, TO CONSIDER OUR REDEMPTION BEFORE DECLARING:

Psalm 107:2

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has delivered from the hand of the adversary.”

It is evident that the Psalmist considered the mercy of God and the delivery of Israel from the hand of the enemy, of such extent, that those who had been redeemed were to DECLARE their redemption by God’s hand so that they all might know God’s POWER, LOVE and MERCY.  Their redemption was something about which one could REJOICE, PRAISE GOD, and DECLARE–tell others.

When you consider that their redemption was a physical redemption from the hand of another nation, by contrast the magnitude of our spiritual redemption in Christ Jesus becomes paramount.

The apostle Paul stated that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law and the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Galatians 13:13-14).  He further taught that those who lived under the Law were redeemed by JESUS; where they might receive the adoption of sons and daughters and become heirs of God (Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 9:15, 11:39-40; Romans 8:16-17).

So then, if the physical deliverance of Israel was considered sufficient cause for them to DECLARE their redemption, how much more should the greatness of our redemption cause us to SHOUT about our redemption from the roof tops (Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3).

Declaring of the Redeemed
Declaring of the Redeemed

Can you imagine some of your neighbors conversing in the middle of the street about the ‘religious crank’, shouting on top of their roof,  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It’s More Than Just Knowing the Spiritual Facts–

If the people of God today were made to realize the greatness of God’s love, mercy, and goodness toward them in Christ Jesus, their mouths couldn’t be muzzled; kept from declaring to others what God has done for them and keeps doing for them.

God so designed His kingdom to be dependent upon the REDEEMED of the Lord–the born again believers–the SAVED in Christ Jesus; not to just know it; think about it; demonstrate it by good deeds and that’s all good!  But it comes down simply to… the “saying so”.

GOD HAS GIVEN THE REDEEMED A RESPONSIBILITY:

A “responsibility” of PREACHING and TEACHING the Gospel of His Son.

To DECLARE and "Say So"
To DECLARE and “Say So”

To the REDEEMED, Jesus said to His disciples “Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit.  Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you…”  (Matthew 28:19-20).

Paul said that “For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy,  God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him)”  (1 Corinthians 1:21 AMP).

REDEMPTION PRODUCES DISCIPLES AND TO DECLARE:

In preparing for this POST, I ran across article by the Author Tim Stevens, entitled Three Points On Discipleship:

#1.  A DISCIPLE has his feet pointed toward JESUS and is moving.

#2.  A DISCIPLE-MAKER is intentionally taking someone else along for the journey.

#3.  A MATURE DISCIPLE doesn’t require anyone else to continue taking steps with and toward JESUS.

The Responsibility of “Preaching” or “Teaching” God’s Truth is that Man May Be Saved–

Sorry to tell this to the Church, but this responsibility isn’t placed in the hands of predetermined clergy of the community you live in.  The New Testament knows of no clergy distinction.  Every Christian is to grow in GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ          (2 Peter 3:18); to sanctify–set apart–the Lord God their hearts and to be ready always to give an answer to every man or woman who asks them a reason of hope that’s inside of them (1 Peter 3:15).

Paul scolded Christians who by reason of time…should have been teachers–“mature disciples” but who had not grown in knowledge.  Rather than being “disciple makers”, they still needed someone to teach the elementary principles of the Gospel (Hebrews 5:12).

When Christians were dispersed from Jerusalem because of persecution “they…went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

Paul instructed Timothy, saying “And the [instruction] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also”  (2 Timothy 2:2).  The REDEEMED of the Lord are to “say so.”

THERE ARE MANY REASONS THE “REDEEMED” DON’T SAY SO:

Some are lacking LOVE for the Lord.  JESUS said,

The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me…(John 14:21). 

And verse 24 continues with:

Anyone who does not [really] love Me does not observe and obey My teaching.  And the teaching which you hear and heed is not Mine, but [comes] from the Father Who sent Me.

Since the Lord JESUS has placed the responsibility of DECLARING the MESSAGE of REDEMPTION upon the REDEEMED, a failure to “say so” indicates a lack of love of the Lord and others; our neighbors.

Still others are ashamed of the Gospel.  They will talk to others about everything but their redemption (Romans 1:16).  After an unscientific observation, men in particular are guilty of this remission.  I’ve particularly noticed how men will stand congregated before and after a Sunday worship service discussing the weather, tractors (I live in a rural community),  politics and the world while the their wives discuss Book Clubs, ministering to the needy, upcoming Bible studies, etc.  Why is that?

Many put other things first and make no arrangements of time or opportunity to teach God’s plan of redemption to others [making disciples–“fishers of men”].

Many others are worldly (1 John 2:15); not interested in spiritual things, consequently are not really personally concerned with those who are not saved; redeemed.  Since the Body of Christ is called the CHURCH–a body must have feet, so we better start walking; quit leaving the results to the “visitation pastor”.  “Say so” yourself!

Truthfully, the redeemed of the Lord should lay aside every hindrance, to be busy DECLARING GOD’S MESSAGE (Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:7).

Have We Mislaid the Importance of “Declaring the Word” and “Disciple Making” in our Churches?

Churches today are so focused on getting “new-comers” placed in a ministry first, “Disciple Making” from “Disciple-Makers” have disappeared.  Oh, I know, I’ve read the official church statement on the bulletin–“what we BELIEVE”–often quotes Matthew 28:19-20, but who are the DISCIPLE-MAKERS in the Body of Christ?  Where did they go?

WHO ARE THE “DISCIPLE-MAKERS”?

A disciple-maker is someone who God brings into your life, who you intentionally enter into an up-close personal, life-long relationship with.  I’ve heard Christian physiologist say, “you will probably on have two or three ‘up-close personal, life-long relationships’ in a lifetime.”  Let me say, “It only takes ONE!

The purpose of this Holy Spirit inspired relationship is “teaching them to observe all things that Jesus commanded you”. 

OBEDIENCE here is not to the disciple-maker, but to the Word of God.  It’s learning to agree with someone else’s directions, yielding your contrary opinions, in favor of the written Word (Romans 12:2).

It is not blind, unquestioning obedience with everything a disciple-maker says, even in decisions related to making purchases, where to go on vacations, or changing jobs.

The New Testament teaches the necessity of discernment (1 John 4:1), mutual submission (Rom. 12:10; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21), and accountability to God (Rom. 14:21; Gal. 6:5).  BOTH disciple and disciple-maker are transformed in the process.  BOTH are a various points along the journey, but the marks of the seasoned disciple-maker’s life can be evidenced by greater depths of fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).

“Declaring” and “Discipling”–A Lot “Under the Hood”–

There is SIMPLICITY here in the announcement:  If you are waiting on, relying on the church to feed you spiritually, you are probably NOT a mature disciple.

Accounting For Different Relationships–

The church can only be a PART of the equation.  DISCIPLES, in declaring God’s Word, must have a personal relationship with JESUS (up), as well as relationships with other people in church (in), AND… relationships with people far from God (out).  Each set of relationships has a purpose in the life of a DISCIPLE–a follower of JESUS.

Philips, Craig and Dean bring to the forefront the thought of DECLARE IT–TO SAY SO in a popular song “Let the Redeemed”–

Let the redeemed declare it

Look what God has done

Tell of his endless mercy

And His everlasting love.

Let the redeemed declare it

Name above all names

Lift high this King most holy

Lavish Him with praise

Let the redeemed.

Now is the TIME FOR THE REDEEMED TO “SAY SO”–TO DECLARE WHAT HE HAS DONE and become MATURE DISCIPLES under Holy Spirit’s guidance!