Summary: Understand the critical difference between a secular church and the church of the Christ.


To begin this morning, let us read a few passages of scripture. I would like you to look for a common thread of thought that connects these writings. Are you ready?

John 8:31

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.

John 15:8

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Of all the possible threads of connecting thought, let us focus on just one. In chapter 8, focus on ’My word’ and ’disciples of Mine’. In chapter 15 centers on ’My Father’ and ’My disciples’. In these passages, Jesus is the center of focus yet each passage reveals an identifying flag for His disciples. The disciples’ identity is Christ. Christ is what distinguishes His disciples. Here is a very important principle: If Jesus Christ is not the focus of identifying any assembly of people, that group of people fails to produce disciples of Jesus. They produce clones of themselves.

Remember the divisions in the Corinthian church. They were headed down the wrong path. Paul wrote: Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:12) That sub-assembly of people who claimed to be disciples of Paul could only reproduce clones of themselves around their particular point of view. The point of view centered on their conclusions (right or wrong) identified as from Paul. The same thing is true of the groups of Apollos, Cephas, and Christ. All of these groups were dead wrong in their behavior. Why? Because their particular doctrines was what distinguished them, not Christ. Christ was no longer preeminent but reduced to a secondary position. A particular doctrine about Christ became more important than Christ Himself. God forbid. This morning let us understand as completely as possible why Christ is our distinctive and not any other thing. In doing so, we will need to understand the role of the doctrine of Christ in discipleship. We begin today by listening.

Listen to Jesus Define the Distinctive

According to Jesus, Continuing in His Word Distinguish His Disciples

Jesus made this declaration as recorded by the Apostle John. Jesus was in a public discourse with ’the Jews’ and specifically with ’the Pharisees’. As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:30-32) In context, freedom, which comes from knowing the truth, is freedom from sin. Jesus had already pronounced the Jews in bondage to sin. Listen; - And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He {i.e., I Am That I Am}, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23) The Jews did not catch the ’I Am’ statement of Christ here, but they did in verse 58. The Pharisees went down a path of apostasy. But true disciples

Reject Traveling on a Path to Apostasy

Jesus contrasts Himself with the Pharisees. The contrast deals with power and authority to adequately deal with sin. The Pharisees, no matter how holy and righteous they appeared, were yet in their sins because their power was from ’below’ and ’of this world’. It was power coming from themselves. It was self-reliant righteousness derived from their doctrines and traditions. Jesus warned his disciples: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)

How did the Pharisees go wrong? There are clues within scripture. And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” (Mark 7:6-13)

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