Summary: The primary mark of discipleship is that we love Jesus

March 4, 2020

Sermon Series 2020: Discipleship

Hope Lutheran Church

Pastor Mary Erickson

Colossians 3:16-17; John 12:1-8

Discipleship: Love Jesus

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our theme during Lent this year is Discipleship. Jesus had 12 disciples. They were his 12 best friends. They accompanied Jesus throughout the three years of his itinerant ministry. They witnessed all of his miraculous deeds. When he preached to the crowds, they were present. And in private, he was their spiritual mentor. They looked to him as their teacher, their Rabbi. But more personally, he was their friend.

We now count ourselves as disciples of Christ. Discipleship is a way of life. It means that we align ourselves with Jesus. We seek to follow his ways. We hunger to have a relationship with him.

Today we meditate on our first mark of discipleship. And I really think this is the most important of all the marks. It’s simply this: Love Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus means, first and foremost, that we have a relationship with him.

Jesus is more than someone we read about in a book. We can read about Abraham Lincoln. We can be grateful for what he did for our country. We can admire him as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest president we’ve ever had. And we can read Martin Luther’s writings. We can memorize his Small Catechism and be greatly enriched by his insights. We can appreciate his courage in the face of persecution and adversity.

But Lincoln and Luther both dwell in history. Jesus lives with us now. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.* He’s our eternal and living savior.

Jesus is more than just a historical figure in a book. He is vitally in communion with us. He has promised to be with us always. He’s with us, not in the flesh, but as spirit. And by being spirit, he’s closer to us now, he dwells with us more intimately, than he ever could in the flesh.

Discipleship calls us into communion with Jesus. Think about all of your closest relationships. Maybe it’s a parent or a spouse. It could be your child or your best friend. To remain strong and vitalized, we need to stay connected with them. Relationships take work. They require time and attention.

We all know what it’s like to have a really good friend. Maybe it’s from work. Or maybe they were a school mate or a friendship kindled through playing sports. But then the circumstances of life change, and they move away. If not maintained, that once intimate friendship slowly dwindles.

That same dynamic is true in our relationship with Jesus. That’s why Paul encourages the Colossians with numerous ways they can nurture their relationship with Christ.

First of all, he said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” We have the words of Christ as preserved in our Bible. When soldiers are deployed thousands of miles from home, they cherish the mementos from loved ones. Letters are kept in their footlockers. These letters are read over and over until they become dog-eared and smudged. They’re a lifeline to the one they love!

Paul encourages us to let Christ’s words dwell in us…richly. Not sparingly, not sporadically. Richly! The more connected we remain to the word of God, the closer our hearts remain with Christ.

Paul also encourages the Colossians to “sing hymns and spiritual songs.” Martin Luther once said, “Those who sing pray twice.” This is most certainly true! That act of singing is physical. It involves our whole body from the inside out. Singing hymns has a way of connecting our hearts to Jesus.

In times of challenge, in times of sorrow, in moments of great joy, the words and melodies of a hymn come to us and light our way. They express our innermost feelings. Those songs inspire us to see through to another day. They kindle our hope and multiply our gratitude. That’s why we sing when we come together as a community. Singing hymns and spiritual songs enliven our love of Jesus.

Thirdly, Paul directs us to do everything in the name of Christ. When someone is dear to us, we eagerly do things for them. We plan surprises to bring them happiness. We make their favorite meal. We do our level best in life so that they can be proud of us. Paul directs us to show our love for Christ through our words and deeds.

Mary from Bethany epitomizes this in her extravagant actions to Jesus. After Jesus had brought her brother Lazarus back from the dead, Mary planned a way she could demonstrate just how deeply grateful she was to Jesus. Mary obtains an extraordinary amount of precious perfume. It’s worth nearly a year’s wages. At a dinner gathering, she pours that perfume over Jesus’ feet. She lovingly wipes his feet with her hair. It’s an extravagant gesture of love.

Like Mary, our actions can speak to our love of Jesus. When we wake up in the morning, when we open our eyes to a new day, we can devote that day to Jesus. We can dedicate our words and deeds to his glory. When we awaken, we can say a prayer of dedication. We can pray, “Lord, thank you for this life and for your love. I love you, and I pray that my actions today might give glory to your name. Direct my thoughts, strengthen my steps. Place me in the locations where you want me to be. May I encounter the people you want me to meet. And may I be a particle of your love throughout this day.”

Friends, discipleship begins with love, love of Jesus. Nurture that love in your heart. Dwell richly in his word, sing hymns and spiritual songs, and in all you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus.

*Hebrews 13:8