When I told one of my best friends that for my second career I wanted to preach, he gave me life-changing advice: "Try to imagine talking about your subject every single day for two years. If the idea still thrills you, you've found your topic." For me, that's discipleship.
Here are three foundational passages for anyone who longs to preach about something more than a fire-insurance relationship with Jesus:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20)
1. If heaven is the ultimate goal of the gospel, then discipleship is merely an option, like a choice in the cafeteria. But discipleship is not a choice, it's the mission. There is something lacking in each one of us until we become disciples and until we make disciples of others.
2. Discipleship is open to anyone willing to worship Jesus. Intellectual curiosity is not the ticket in, nor are good works. And here is the really good news: doubt does not disqualify you from worship.
3. At the place of worship we discover that Jesus considers us partners in his mission. He never intended the original twelve disciples to be the only ones: he intended they would reproduce themselves. Amazingly, he intends the same for us as well.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
1. The good news is better than we think: the Father intends that each of us can become conformed to the image of his son. This is staggering: if we are disciples of Jesus, the Father has set a destination for each of us—Christlikeness!
2. Jesus is unique: the only begotten of the Father. Yet that same Father is determined to have a large family. He sends a spirit of adoption into our hearts. We see him as our true Father and we discover our older brother is none other than the Lord of glory.
3. When we first heard the gospel presented as Jesus‘ sacrificial death on our behalf—how many of us imagined the Father had a destination in mind better than Heaven itself?
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
1. If the destination of Christlikeness seems too far-fetched, Jesus comes to our rescue. He himself offers to be our guide and instruct us in the kind of life that flows from being with our Creator moment-by-moment.
2. We can simultaneously learn from him and find rest in him. For example, anyone who has tried to learn a new language, skill or life-habit understands the hard work involved. Yet Jesus tells us that when we are in right relationship with him we will experience new life and refreshing at the same time. No university in the world can offer that combination.
3. Human models of training and leadership depend on intelligence and worldly wisdom for their effectiveness. In this passage the King himself looks heavenward and gives thanks that the kids at the head of the class have no advantage over the rest of us. In fact, they are in the dark—God rejoices that human intelligence is inadequate while offering the benefits of relationship to all who will simply come to him. Who wouldn’t take a deal like that?