Part Two of the sermon entitled Deciphering Discipleship which was originally given on April 23, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.
Sermon Scripture Text: Mathew 28:18-20
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Churches try to fit discipleship neatly into a one size fits all seminar or small group topic every now and again, when in fact it needs to be ongoing and looks different for each person. Ogden believes discipleship done well in churches actually works better when congregations are split into smaller groups starting with two or three people that meet together on a regular basis for studies and discussions, who then go out and each start groups of two or three so that everyone can have an accountability group and a safe place to learn and grow and be mentored.
Being a disciple means making a choice to be a continuous life-long seeker and learner of the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a continual process that isn’t ever completed in this life. Billy Graham says, “Salvation is free but discipleship costs everything we have.
Jesus isn’t present on this earth anymore in a physical body, so how then do we become disciples and followers of Jesus Christ? Where do we look for guidance? We can’t leave our homes and follow after him as he travels from place to place. Paul gives us the answer to this question in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,5 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
Paul is writing to his student Timothy to encourage him in his ministry at Ephesus. He is reassuring him that he has all the tools he needs in place to be successful in his ministry. God has authored the scripture through human hands, which have been taught to Timothy from a young age by his mother and grandmother. With this faith formation, if Timothy will continue to choose to immerse himself in the written Word of God, he will be fully equipped for every good work and demand of his ministry.
We need to develop the intentional habits of daily Bible study and prayer into our lives every day, not just on Sundays. Reading books by outstanding leaders of the faith help us to understand things we may be struggling with, but they are not a substitute for reading God’s Word.
By soaking ourselves in the Word of God, his ways begin to become more engrained in us. This is how we learn Christ’s ways. This is not just a New Testament concept. We read in the very first verses of Psalms 1, Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
As Anabaptists, we should actually be a little of ahead of other denominations in the area of discipleship because at the core of our Confession of Faith and formation as a denomination is the belief that we should live our lives by being a people of the Book, using the Bible as our guidebook on how to live and treat others.
We come to our believer’s baptism after accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, but we don’t stop there. We go forward as people of the Book, committed to learning the Jesus Way of Life and serving others as Jesus instructed in the Sermon on the Mount. Baptism doesn’t signal the end of our part of the covenant. It is only the beginning.
It is a lot like placing an online order or calling an order in. I work at a company that is a redistributor. Every day customer service receives calls from customers who want to place orders. Once an order is confirmed in customer service (or baptism takes place), the product (Us, people) becomes committed and belongs to the buyer (Jesus, God) but further steps have to be taken for that product to ultimately reach its buyer. The process doesn’t stop there. The transaction isn’t complete yet. The order has to be sent to the warehouse where it is picked, then taken to the shipping department where it is prepared for shipment, and then picked up by the shipping company to be delivered at last to the buyer.
After baptism, our journey isn’t over, it is only just begun as we begin a new life in Jesus Christ. We need to equip ourselves to go out and do God’s work here in His Kingdom on earth as we advance throughout our lives until the time when God calls us home. This equipping allows us to be prepared to shine the light of God’s love into the lives of others, and thereby do the work of disciples and invite those others to become a part of our circle, or churches, to be followers of Jesus with us.
At the beginning of our time this morning, I told you the story of the little dove that was trying to put out a forest fire with a few drops of water at a time from its wings. While the intent of this little bird was good and true, it wasn’t really equipped for the business of putting out fires.
When we don’t devote ourselves to consistent Bible study and prayer, we become like the little bird. We are unequipped to go forth and make disciples as we are commanded to do in Matthew 28:18-20.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells us, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” This could be the creed for a disciple’s life!
We are like trees. We nourish our roots with the Word of God. When we do this daily, we grow strong roots, roots that are watered by the Word of God. It becomes a part of our very being. It molds us into followers of Christ. With our strong, well-watered roots, we are equipped to reach out to those around us and help them find the same Living water that has helped us grow.
True discipleship can’t be measured. It isn’t about how many people you help lead to Christ, but more so about how closely you draw yourself to Christ and walk in the Jesus Way during your time here on this earth. It is about being humble and obedient to doing his will as you go out and serve a world that is longing and looking for the light of the Gospel.
Before we can go forth and add to the circle of the followers of Jesus, we must first become disciples of him ourselves. We must become dedicated life-long learners and seekers of his Truth.
“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
Are you a follower of Jesus today?
If not, are you willing to take the first step and plant yourself as a young sapling on the way to growing into a tall, strong tree of faith?
Are you ready to become what the Lord is calling you to be today?
Are you a disciple of Jesus?
If you missed Part One it can be found here.