“Disciple” (Part 2)
Series: Names for the People of GodA
April 24, 2016
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation of this sermon is available upon request from me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Open Bibles to John 8
Illus. – Did you know that Walt Disney initially had a different name for Mickey Mouse? He originally named him MORTIMER Mouse!
He told his wife about his creation and said the name for the little critter was going to be
“Mortimer Mouse” and she said, “Well, that’s a dumb name!”
So Disney asked her what he should call him and she said, “How about ‘Mickey?’”
The rest is, as they say, history…thank goodness! Can you imagine what it would be like if you went to Disneyland and everything you saw was “Mortimer Mouse!”…or little kids the world over wearing “Mortimer Mouse” T-shirts?…or little boys and girls all across the fruited plain going to sleep with little stuffed Mortimer Mice?
This shows the power of a name. It also shows that it does pay to listen to your wife!
We’re in a mini-series on “Names of the People of God.” In Acts 11:26 we’re told that the name “Christian” was first used in Antioch for disciples.
One theme I’ve tried to get across in this series of sermons is that names are important in the Bible and that we should live up to the meaning of our names. Last week we began looking at the name disciple—God’s true goal of every believer.
We saw that Jesus says in Luke 14 that being His disciple involves three critical tests:
• First, it means loving Jesus supremely (verse 26) – So much so that our love for others seems like hate in comparison.
• Second, Jesus said in verse 27 that being His disciple means being willing to bear the cross of the world’s rejection. The world will mock us if we follow Christ and obey Him supremely. Jesus was saying, “Don’t be surprised by that; that is your cross to bear for Christ.
• Third, Jesus said in verse 33 that to be His disciple means that Jesus becomes the Lord of our possessions. He says a disciple must “forsake” all that he possesses to be His disciple. But the Greek word translated forsaketh literally means “to properly categorize.” Jesus is saying that our possessions and material possession must be in their proper perspective and priority…with Jesus and His kingdom and His kingdom FIRST.
Those are the tests of discipleship, but Jesus had more to say about discipleship. I discovered that He teaches three things that will characterize true disciples.
Let’s look at them:
I. FIRST, TRUE DISCIPLES DWELL IN GOD’S WORD. – John 8:31 – “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.”
Who were these words addressed to?—The verse begins, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him...” These Jews were believers in Christ as their Savior, but were not yet disciples. These were beginning Christians and Jesus was pointing out to these believers that believing is only crossing the starting line. Jesus wants you to cross the FINISH line. (Hence the racing motif in my slides.)
Jesus continues: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” The word “continue” in the original Greek text is ménō (μένω). Of the 120 times it is used in the New Testament, it is translated in the KJV as “abide” 61 times and “dwell” 15 times.” In other words,, about two-thirds of the time, its primary meaning is the idea of “living or dwelling or lodging in something continually.”
A continuous dwelling place is called a “home.” That’s the way Jesus wants us to feel about His Word, the Bible. We’re to make ourselves at home in God’s Word; to spend a lot of time in it.
But this takes work and discipline on our part. J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “Continuance is Christ’s Word is not automatic; it is the result of strong purpose and self-discipline” (Sanders, Spiritual Discipleship).
This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2.15).
And the Psalmist says in Psalm 1:2 that the man who meditates on God’s Law day and night is BLESSED.
May God help you to let God’s Word become a part of you by dwelling in it daily. Part of being a disciple of Jesus is dwelling in His Word and living in it and obeying it. So we need to set aside some time each day to read God’s Word.
But it means more than just reading it: It means listening to what it says; taking its commands and applying them to your life; OBEYING what it says.
What a tragedy when we don’t spend time in God’s Word!
Illus. – When the now-famous poet Elizabeth Barrett became the wife of Robert Browning, her parents disowned her because they disapproved of the marriage. But Elizabeth wrote her parents almost every week, telling them that she loved them and longed for a reconciliation. After 10 years, she received a huge box in the mail that contained all the notes she had sent…and not one had been opened! These “love letters” have now become a precious part of classical English literature, but how sad that they were never read by Elizabeth’s own parents!
If you’re a child of God, His love letters from Heaven ought to be precious to you! Are you reading it often?...dwelling in it?...listening to it?...obeying it? If not, then you are depriving yourself of the many blessings in the Christian life and you’ll not be a strong disciple.
II. SECOND, TRUE DISCIPLES LOVE ONE ANOTHER. – John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Jesus said that when the world looks at us to see if we are really Christ’s disciples, they won’t be looking primarily at our HOLINESS, as important as holiness is in our lives. When you do not strive to be holy, the world justifiably calls you a hypocrite.
But every religion demands of its followers some kind of holiness or virtue:
• Devout MOSLEMS seek to be holy as they define it.
• Serious HINDUS follow the path of virtuous living as they understand it.
• Devoted BUDDHISTS seek to live a moral life.
Holiness is important, but it not what primarily identifies us as Christ’s disciples.
Neither is CORRECT DOCTRINE the mark of the disciple to the world. I would never imply that doctrine is not important. It is, but doctrine doesn’t mean a thing to those outside God’s family.
Jesus tells us here that the distinguishing mark TO THE WORLD of a disciple of Jesus Christ is OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER. – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
More than any other thing, that’s what captured the world’s attention in the first century. In a world of ROMAN cruelty and debauchery; in a world of GREEK hedonism of looking out only for self and fulfilling selfish desires; in a world of JEWISH religious hypocrisy and intolerance and bigotry and bickering and infighting and backstabbing—along came Christianity.
What was it that so amazed and mesmerized the world about early Christianity?... Though they persecuted and martyred Christians, there was a saying throughout the Roman Empire that characterized Christians wherever they were found: They said, “Behold, how they love one another!”
THAT’S what distinguished them from all the other religions of the world. THAT’S what was different about the early Christians!
And that’s how your non-Christian friends, family and co-workers will judge your faith! In our day, how do most non-believers view Christianity generally? They see it as judgmental and hypocritical and unloving and bigoted. Most associate it with the Crusades and the Inquisition. Say you’re a Baptist, and all too many assume you believe like the Westboro Baptist Church.
What a tragedy to be associated by the world with the very OPPOSITE of how Christianity was perceived in the first three centuries!
Too often, in this area of love, we do not act like true disciples. Too often Christians can be selfish and self-centered and unloving. Instead of showing the world the love of Christ, some believers show how little we know of real self-denying, unselfish, giving, sacrificing Christian love…and thus we fail to impress upon the world that we are really disciples of Jesus.
• Don’t say you’re a disciple of Christ if you talk about people behind their back
• If you’re selfish, and greedy and ungenerous, don’t claim to be a disciple!
• Don’t say you’re a follower of Jesus if you fuss and bicker and fight with others.
• If you become bitter, hold a grudge, or try to get even with someone, instead of making things right like the Bible says, keep your trap shut about being a disciple.
• If you’re haughty and proud, and think you’re better than someone else, or think you’re more spiritual than others, your discipleship is falling short.
• If you’re partial to or exclude certain people of a certain class, race, color or ethnicity, you’re not being an example of a disciple of Christ.
God help us to be true disciples by LOVING one another! – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
III. THIRD, TRUE DISCIPLES BEAR MUCH FRUIT – John 15:8 – “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
Too many Christians are fruitless, and therefore never really become true disciples.
The Bible talks about fruit in several ways, but in the entire context of this verse, Jesus is talking about the fruit of HIS CHARACTER which He produces in our lives by way of a vital and living relationship with Him.
He says in verses 4-5 of John 15: “Abide [there’s the same Greek word ménō again, meaning dwelling, living, lodging, continuing. Jesus says, Abide…] in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Then Jesus goes on to talk about the painful process of “pruning” whereby God disciplines us so that we bear more fruit. And then He ends this section of scripture in verse 8, which we just read, by reminding us that much fruit-bearing reveals that we are Jesus’s disciples
This is a passage of scripture that deserves its own sermon, but what I want us to focus on today is what this fruit looks like in a believer’s life who is abiding in Christ.
A parallel passage that fleshes this out in a more detailed way is Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is the same thing as abiding in Christ and He abiding in us. Paul uses the same word “fruit” to describe what happens when we abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit.
Let’s read Galatians 5:22-23 now: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance…”
Let’s examine these character traits, these manifestations of the Spirit’s fruit in the person who abides in Christ.
• First is the character trait of LOVE.
This refers to true, selfless, giving agape love even for those who don’t deserve it.
Would the people around you who know you describe you as a loving person?
• Second is JOY.
This isn’t just an emotional state of mind of happiness in the times when all is going well in your life. This refers to joy that abides in the bad times as well as the good times? Even in times of sorrow or trials; even when you don’t feel “happy,” this is a joy in your inner core that never goes away; that sustains and gives hope.
• Third is PEACE – This refers to a lasting, genuine peace that overcomes fear and worry and anxiety?
• Fourth, LONGSUFFERING
There are two Greek words to express what we often call patience in English. One had to do with patience with CIRCUMSTANCES. The other one had to do with patience with PEOPLE. The word used by Paul here is the second one—patience with the PEOPLE in your life—your spouse, your children, your boss, your neighbors? This means “suffering long” with them and the things that might annoy you about them.
• Fifth is GENTLENESS
This refers to responding when under pressure in a gentle way, rather than being easily provoked. Do you have your temper under control so that you are always gentle, rather than violent or out of control?
• Six, GOODNESS – This refers to kindness and concern for others and acts of service for others.
• Seven is what the KJV translates as “FAITH”
The Greek word as used in this passage means “faithfulness.” So is your personal life and spiritual life characterized by faithfulness? Are you a faithful spouse, a faithful employee, a faithful church member?
• Eight: MEEKNESS
In English, the word “meekness” infers weakness: a namby-pamby, spineless weakling. The Greek word means something different altogether. It means the ability to accept what God brings into your life without complaint and, even with thankfulness—something that reveals great STRENGTH, not weakness. Are you able to gracefully bear life’s many troubles without grumbling?
• Lastly, Paul talks about TEMPERANCE
“Temperance” means self-control. Do you exercise self-control in what you think about and dwell on?...in what you choose to look at, listen to or say?...in your eating habits?...in your sexual life?...in your temper?
Being a disciple is the life-long development of these qualities in your life. It takes work, patience and dependence upon God to weave these qualities in your life.
So that ends our study of the name disciple—a wonderful, yet difficult name to live up to. A disciple of Jesus has three defining characteristics. Are they present in your life?
• Are you spending time in God’s Word; dwelling in them; living in them?
• Are you showing love to God’s people as well as those outside His kingdom?
• And are you abiding in Christ so much that the fruit of His Spirit is showing in you?
God help each of you to determine in your heart to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus and to not only cross the starting line to be a BELIEVER; but to finish your course, to go the distance by being a true DISCIPLE.