Six weeks ago, we began looking at a fairly straight-forward question: What does it look like to make disciples? Does it look like Sunday morning…
Have you ever wondered why you’re still here? I’ve often thought “Wouldn’t it be nicer if God would just teleport us to heaven the moment we accepted him as our Saviour?” We could be done with sin once for all and we could immediately enjoy the wonders of being with our Creator. That would be way better than staying here on this sin-soaked planet – enduring the pain and the hardships of life.
The Apostle Paul wrestled with this very thought of how it would be better to go and be with the Lord, but at the same time, he knew that God had a purpose for him to remain. He writes in his letter to the Philippians:
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25
Paul recognized that he had a job to do. He had a purpose on this planet – and that was to make disciples – in Paul’s words, his job was “to help people grow and experience the joy of their faith.”
And our job is no different. We read in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
God has chosen for us to be part of his plan of redemption. We are to be his messengers of this Good News. We are to be disciples who make disciples.
Last week we defined a disciple as:
One who is following Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.
Those three elements are key to true discipleship. And the big question that we’ve been trying to tackle for the last several weeks is: how do we become and how do we make those kind of disciples as Jesus commanded us?
If that’s one of the main tasks that Jesus has given us to do, if that’s a major reason why we are still on this planet, then how do we do that effectively? How, in 2017 here in Canada, do we make disciples who are following Jesus, are being changed by Jesus, and are committed to the mission of Jesus?
Well, the Bible doesn’t give us a checklist to follow or a no-fail formula for disciple making – but it does give us all kinds of examples in the New Testament and in the old, of people making disciples – helping others trust and follow God.
And so for this message series, we’ve categorized those examples into 5 different contexts. These are five types of relationships in the Bible where we can see discipleship happening.
And so far we’ve looked at the public context, the social context, and the personal context.
And I don’t want to take too long to give you a full recap, but here are the keys points for those three contexts so far.
- In the public context, disciples can be made in a crowd through teaching, preaching, and inspiration. A good modern example of this would be the Sunday Morning service. It is here that we are we are motivated, persuaded, encouraged, influenced, moved, stirred, spurred on, energized, and awakened in our journey with Jesus.
- In the social context, Christianity is caught, more-so than taught as we see first hand from others what it looks like to follow Jesus. This sort of discipleship happens within a community – usually 20-70 people. For us this would include many of our church functions outside of the Sunday service – such as backyard BBQs or serving together in the town’s Fall Festival or our Mother’s Day brunch.
- Then last week we looked at the personal context. If, in the public context we can be discipled by strangers, and in the social context by acquaintances, then in the personal context, we are discipled by friends who support and challenge us. These family-like relationships allow us to practice things like forgiveness and mercy and patience and all that other good stuff as we learn to love others like Jesus did. This is the kind of discipleship that happens in families or small groups of 4-12 people.
And now today we want to look at a fourth context – the Transparent Context.
16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him. Mark 1:16-18
Over the past several weeks, we’ve defined discipleship as the process of helping people trust and follow Jesus. We drew that definition out of the great commission in Matthew 28, where Jesus instructed his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching to obey all that Jesus had taught. So as we looked at that passage, we came to the conclusion that discipleship is all about helping people trust and follow Jesus.
But now this morning, I want to give you another definition. We’ve defined: what is discipleship? But now I want to define: what is a disciple? And I realize there is certainly going to be come overlap in these two definitions – but I think this will help us gain a clearer picture of what a disciple actually is. And based on this passage that we just read, this is the definition I would give you.
“A disciple is following Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.”
I think those three elements are key aspects of true discipleship.
- A disciple follows Jesus – we talked about that when we defined discipleship. It starts with trust – because only when we trust Him, that will we follow Him. That’s why discipleship is helping people trust and follow Jesus.
- A disciple is being changed by Jesus. In the NLT translation, Jesus says “I will show you how to fish for people” – but the more literal translations of that passage make it a bit clearer that Jesus is inviting them to be changed. The ESV says “I will make you fishers of men.” And the NET says “I will turn you into fishers of people.” So there’s clearly a process of change here. That’s important for us to remember as we think about out own discipleship today. We can’t stay the same as we follow Jesus. If we’re not changing, we’re probably not following.
- A disciple is committed to the mission of Jesus. Jesus is inviting us to do exactly what he is doing. Our mission is his mission – and that is to make fishers of men. To make disciples who will make disciple who will make disciples.
And so if we are a disciple of Jesus – those three things are happening. We are following Jesus, we are being changed by Jesus, and we are committed to the mission of Jesus.
Now I realize that I’ve pretty much just given you an entire sermon super condensed into one minute – I probably should have taken a whole message to work through all that – but I wanted to give you that definition as we begin to look at the next context of discipleship.
If you’re just joining us today, are a mid-way through a series of messages called “Discipleship that Fits”. We recognize that Jesus has called us to be disciples and to make disciples, but we’re not always sure exactly how to do that. And because our world and our culture and our circumstances are different from Jesus’ – we can’t mimic Jesus exactly in how he made disciples. We sure can’t walk on water or raise people from the dead or have 12 men follow us around everywhere. But we can certainly learn the patterns and and principles that Jesus used in the discipleship process and apply to them to our own unique situations today.
And so we’ve been looking at the five contexts where Jesus made disciples. These are the five kinds of relationships that Jesus had where discipleship happened.
So far we’ve looked a the public context and the social context. And now today, we’re going to look at the personal context.
So just to give you a quick recap – the public context is typically when we are gathered in groups of 100 or more. Examples of Jesus making disciples in this context would be when he preached to the crowds, or did miracles in the marketplaces or on the mountainside – or all the parables that Jesus told. Certainly that played a part in helping many people trust and follow Jesus. A good example of our modern equivalent would be the Sunday morning worship service where we gather to hear preaching and teaching as well as to share stories with one another of how God is at work in our lives. That too, helps people in a significant way to trust and follow Jesus.
Then last week we looked the social context – that’s more like a group of 20-70. We were reminded of all the dinner parties that Jesus attended and how he used that social context to live out the lessons that he wanted people to learn. If the public context is where Christianity is taught – the social context is where Christianity is caught. We’re not just hearing how to be a disciple – we’re seeing an example right in front of us – we might even be participating in that example. And so for a church, the social context includes everything from kids clubs to potlucks to helping at the Fall Festival to Survivor Parties – And in all these gatherings, we (and everyone else there) gets the opportunity to see how Christians live. We get to live out all those one another commandments – like “serve one another”, “have compassion on one another”, “forgive one another” – “encourage one another.” All of this helps us learn to do by doing. We get to participate in the lesson.
And now today, we’re going to take that one step further – one level deeper – as we look at the personal context.
This video was certainly made to make a point – but I like it mostly because it asks a really good question. They frame it in different ways, but really, the bottom line of what they’re asking is “What does it look like to make disciples?”
Does it look like a big building and lots of programs? Does it look like a soup kitchen or a Bible study? Are disciples made in a Sunday morning service or over coffee at Tim Hortons?
And furthermore, how are you and I supposed to be involved in the whole process? What is our own discipleship look like? Is it faithfully attending church every Sunday? Is it signing up for a small group Bible study? Is it going for coffee with a mentor every second Wednesday?
What does it look like to be a disciple? And what does it look like to make disciples?
Because that really is the core of what Jesus has called us to do. I think that’s the main reason why we are still on this planet. We are called both to be disciples and to make disciples.
So exactly what does that look like?
Two Sundays ago, we baptized Allison and Lisa – and they declared in front of all of us by being baptized, that they desire to be a disciple of Jesus. And I know that many of you have made that same declaration – either through public baptism or through just your own personal resolution.
So what do we need to do? What do Lisa and Allison need to do now – to be disciples of Jesus Christ? How does that actually play out in their lives? How does that all play out in our lives?
Well, it’s those questions that are exactly I want to explore in the next few weeks as we look at “Discipleship that Fits”.
I think most of us would agree that Jesus calls us to make disciples. I think we’ve heard that often enough. But I think we struggle with figuring out exactly how we do that. In fact, I’d argue that many of us struggle just to understand what it really means to be a disciple.
So to help us work through all this, here’s my plan for the next several weeks. First of all, I want to bring some clarity to what it means to be a disciple – that’ll be my main focus for this week. But then, in the weeks to follow, I want to look at some practical ways for us to be discipled and to make disciples within five different contexts of life.
And I’ll explain all that a little later – but my framework for these messages is coming from a book I read some time ago called ‘Discipleship that Fits’ and I’ll be borrowing quite a bit of my content from those pages. Don’t worry – the Bible is still very much the foundation for everything I’m going to say, but this book has just helped me organize my presentation of those Biblical truths. You’re welcome to read the book yourself – it’s a pretty easy read and of course, is very Biblically based.
So in order to clarify exactly, what is a disciple, I think perhaps the best place to start is with the great commission. This is the passage where Jesus’ original disciples are directly commanded to go and make disciples. It’s found in Matthew 28 – starting at verse 18. To give you the context of this passage, Jesus has just risen from the dead, he has appeared to his disciples, and he’s about to return to his Father in Heaven. And so Matthew is about to conclude his whole account of Jesus’ life on earth with these final sentences from Jesus. This is what it says:
Who here had $100 in 1997? Anybody? I think I probably did. That was the year that I turned 18, so I’m pretty sure I could have scraped together a hundred bucks. I think most of you guys would be right around that age as well, so a little older – some a little younger. But probably most of us could have scrapped together $100. And I was just wondering, if we had made some different financial choices back then, how different things would be for us today? So I did some figuring this week, and I found out that if you had taken $100 in 1997 and just deposited it in the bank – the interest rates were about a 5% back then – so today, with the compound interest, that $100 would be worth $270. To be honest, that’s not really that great. I think I’d rather just have spent that money 20 years ago.
But then I thought, well, then instead of putting that money in the bank in 1997 – what if we had instead invested it in gold – Well, had we bought gold with that same $100 in 1997, today that gold would be worth $447. That’s a little bit better isn’t it? That’s nearly twice as much as you would have made from the bank. That would have been a much better investment.
Now back when I was 18, I never would have even thought about investing in gold – but I might have invested in the stock market. So let’s say instead that we invested in a good stable company like Walmart. That same $100 invested in 1997 in Walmart would now be worth some $1,381.00. Now that’s starting to be a pretty good investment! That’s three times as much as gold, and 5 times as much as the bank – 13 times as much as our original investment. If only we had know this back in 1997.
But you know, back in 1997, the dot com craze was just starting. People were investing in tech companies like crazy. What if we had been a little more risky and invested in one of those tech company? What if we had invested in Microsoft? I think that would have been a good idea, because that $100 invested in 1997 in the Microsoft Corporation, would now be worth… over $5,500. That’s just from a little $100 dollar investment. Isn’t that incredible? Just by investing $100 in 1997 – you could have over $5000 today. That’s a good return! If only we had been wise enough to invest in Microsoft 20 years ago.
But let me give you just one more scenario. Back in 1997, there was another struggling tech company – that year this company lost about 1 billion dollars. That’s a pretty huge loss! But they hired a new CEO that year named Steve Jobs and things turned around for them. So had we invested just $100 in the Apple company in 1997, today that $100 would be worth $734,906.67 – nearly 3/4 of a million dollars! Imagine if you had only had the foresight in 1997 to invest $100 in the Apple company! You could retire and live pretty luxuriously on that $100 investment.
Isn’t it incredible how a simple little investment can grow into something amazing! Well, that’s just exactly what Jesus is talking about in a parable that we’re going to look this morning.
For those of you who missed last week, we’ve just begun a new series on the parables of Jesus Christ.
And just in case you don’t know what a parable is, last week we defined a parable as a parallel. It’s a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. The story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you can compare the two to help you understand the spiritual truth.
Jesus actually starts off many parables by saying something like “The Kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” and then he goes on tell the parable – which illustrates the spiritual truth that He’s trying to explain.
And that’s just what we see in the parable that we’re going to look at today.
“One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” Luke 8:4
Now we’re just going to stop right there. Before we go any further, we need to talk about this verse – specifically about this word “parable” that we just read. Now if you don’t speak Christian-ese, this word “parable” might seem a little foreign. It’s not really a common, everyday-language kind of word. The guys at the shop don’t usually tell ‘parables’. But Jesus did. And lots of them. In fact the count in my Bible says that Jesus told 46 different parables. And I’m sure He told many more than that – they just weren’t recorded in the Bible.
So what exactly is a parable? Simply speaking, a parable is really just a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. For example, Jesus would tell a story about something very common like a farmer planting seeds – something that everybody in that time would understood and know what it was all about – many of his listeners would have been farmers themselves, so they knew about planting seeds. But within that story of a farmer planting seeds, Jesus would have a hidden spiritual truth that would be illustrated by the characters and events that happen in the story.
You could almost think of a parable as a parallel. You know how parallel lines run directly beside each other? Well, in parable, the story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you could compare the two. In fact quite often Jesus would begin his parables by saying something like “The kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” – then He would tell this story – drawing a parallel between the story and the spiritual truth about the Kingdom of heaven that He wanted His listeners to learn.
So when we read in Luke 8:4 that…. “One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” we know that Jesus is about to tell us a story about something very common and very familiar – something we already know all about – and that in that story will be a parallel, hidden spiritual truth that Jesus wants us to learn and understand.
So let’s try this again: Luke chapter 8 – starting at verse 4:
One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out,“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Luke 8:4-8
So you can see that the story in itself is not all that profound. It’s just a farmer tossing seed around – some of it grows – some of it doesn’t. There’s no unexpected plot twists along the way. No surprise endings. It’s just a boring, mundane event of life. But there are some significant spiritual truths that are hidden within this story. So let’s see if we can wrap our heads around what those parallels might be.