Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Disciple is Called to Disciple

We made it to the last part of this week's series.  We have spent the past three days going through the steps of becoming a disciple in order to define what a disciple is and, as a disciple, who we are called to be in Christ.  Whereas the past few days we talked about who we should be in Christ, today I want to share how that message should be shared with others.  Just to review, here is the text we have been parked on all week.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."  Matthew 16:24 NKJV
And now that we know what a disciple is, we can better understand today's central text:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.  Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
In other Bible versions, it is translated to "teach" all nations.  The fact is that we are not called to just preach to all nations, but to make disciples of them and teach them God's Word.  I am not minimizing the work of the evangelist as the evangelist is the lead charge in the march of the Gospel.  It is the work of the evangelist to present the Gospel to spiritually starving peoples.  Once that Gospel is preached and God adds many to our faith, it is the rest of the church's job to teach them.  It is not enough to just preach the Gospel, we must also teach those who have accepted the Gospel about being a follower of Jesus.  I think that sometimes we confuse the role of church.  The role is not to evangelize but to teach.  The role of the church is to make disciples.  The evangelist goes out and brings people into church and the church raises them up into disciples of Jesus Christ.  Evangelism is but the first part of the life-long process of discipleship. 
Unfortunately, discipleship is something that is sorely lacking in today's church.  We love to sit and church and hear all of the wonderful things God has done for us, but we neglect teaching what we should be doing for God.  Some teachers, such as Joseph Prince, have said that teaching the "do"'s and "don't"'s is the lowest form of preaching.  If that be true, and I emphatically disagree that it is true, then Jesus has called us to the lowest form of preaching.  Jesus says right here in the Great Commission that we are to be "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you."  We are to not only teach the grace of God, but what that grace does to us.  We are not saved by works, but we are expected to produce fruit. Fruit production is the result of Holy Spirit in us, which is given to us when we come to Jesus.  If there is no fruit in your life, then you are either not saved, not living right in God, or you have not been taught by an obedient teacher.  Of course, the last two possibilities go hand-in-hand as people who do not want accountability generally find teachers who do not provide it. 
As Christians we are called to be disciples of Christ, as disciples Jesus calls us to make disciples of all the nations.  Therefore, the call of the church must be discipleship.  God clearly spells out the role of the church in His Word. 
 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—  Ephesians 4:11-15 NKJV
We see that as disciples we all have an important part to play in the church collective. Those parts we play work with the parts played by others for the purpose of equipping of the saints.  What are we equipped for?  We are equipped for edifying the body of Christ.  If the church is the body of Christ and the role of the church is to edify the body of Christ, does that mean the church is supposed to edify itself?  Yes, it does mean that.  The primary goal of the church is to train us as disciples so that when we are sent out of the church (and just leaving to go home on Sunday counts as being sent out in this case) we are equipped to edify the world.  The role of the church is to grow disciples so they can go out in the world and bring in more new believers who in turn are discipled and equipped to go out into the world and bring in even more new believers.  That cycle repeats itself as God adds to the number of believers.  I know we are not all called to be evangelists, but we are all called to evangelize. 
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Mark 5:13-16 NKJV
We are the light and salt of the earth and called to let our light shine before men to see our good works and glory our Father in heaven.  We are all called to share the light that is in us.  We are all called to share Jesus.  While we may not be called to the fields of some foreign land and we may not be called to preach the Gospel from the stage of a giant crusade, but we are called to share our faith.  We are called to share it not just by our words but by our actions.  Our good works need to be visible to the people around us and they must be attributed to God.  Our good works have no value if they are done in our own strength and at our own motivation.  Our good works must be works called of God and in His strength. 
I think we see from that last passage in Mark that even today's message flows from the rest of the week.  When we lose our saltiness, it is because we lost our witness.  It means we are not living for God.  Our witness has no power if our lives are not submitted to God.  If you are not submitted to God, any preaching will be seen as hallow words from a hypocrite.  What is it that hides our light?  It is ourselves.  As a Christian, the light of Christ should naturally shine through us.  The only thing we can put in front of that light to keep the rest of the world from seeing it is ourselves.  It is when we put our own desires, our partaking of sin, our greed and selfishness, and our temperament at the forefront of what the world sees in us.  We resurrect that which was crucified with Christ and it hides that light that Jesus is trying to shine through us. 
I hope you are seeing the whole pictures now.  When we deny ourselves, we are free to submit to God.  When we deny ourselves, we take the cover of self off of the light of Jesus and allow it to shine forth for all the world to see.  When we take up our cross in submission to the Father, we are following Jesus because Jesus lived to serve His Father.  When we take up our cross in submission to God, we are sharing ourselves as the salt of the earth.  What I mean is that our salt is our witness and our witness is premised on our obedience to the Father.  And so as the light and salt of the earth, our good works are seen by the world and our Father is glorified.  Jesus came to glorify the Father and so by our good works glorifying the Father we are following in the example of Jesus.  When we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus we are the light and salt of the earth reaching the world for Christ with our good witness and works thereby glorifying the Father. 
Reaching others for Christ is only the first step.  As disciples of Christ, we must lead others in their growth.  We must teach them, be an example to them, and pray, encourage, correct, and exhort them just as others did for us when we were babes in Christ.  Discipleship is what we are called to and as disciples we are called to make disciples of all the nations.  The focus of making converts instead of disciples has led to a weak church tossed to and fro by every new wind of doctrine.  Let us reverse that trend and answer boldly the call of the Great Commission of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."  Matthew 16:24 NKJV

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