Summary: What are the characteristics of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. This sermon seeks to answer that question
The Character of a Disciple
“Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get,” said the Cat.
“I really don’t care where” replied Alice.
“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
- from the “Alice in Wonderland” Movie
When scientists decided to put a man on the moon, they didn’t think, “Well what do we need to get from Earth to the Moon?” Instead, they imagined the landing and then worked their way backwards in terms of the processes, procedures and equipment needed to accomplish that goal. In other words, they started with the end in mind. The Cat was trying to tell Alice, which road you take depends a great deal on where you want to end up. That makes the point: we need to begin with the end in mind. When you think about it, that’s pretty sound advice to plan anything: your finances, your life, even your career. Perhaps nothing is more important than beginning with the end in mind when it comes to your spiritual life. In other words, what do you want to be when you reach spiritual maturity? Or to put in the form of a questions we all encounter as children: what do you want to be when you grow up, spiritually?
Put quote on scree Steven Covey writes, “Are you--right now--who you want to be, what you dreamed you'd be, doing what you always wanted to do (and I’m going to add, ‘spiritually)? Be honest. Sometimes people find themselves achieving victories that are empty--successes that have come at the expense of things that were far more valuable to them. If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.” Covey says that all things are created twice. There is first a mental creation, and second, a physical creation. The physical creation follows the mental. Take for example the building a home which always begins first with the creation of a blueprint. Here’s the point he makes: if you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what God wants for you in your life, then you will empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. What we need to do is connect again with God’s plan for our life as a follower of Jesus. Granted, each of us will have different expressions of being a follower of Jesus based on your spiritual gifts, abilities and passion, but all of us are called to become like Jesus. But what does that look like? John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, asked a similar question and answered it in a 1742 short pamphlet titled “The Character of a Disciple”. In it, he asked, “What does it mean to be a Disciple?” and answered it based solely on Scripture, the guide for our life and in Jesus, the example of our faith. He went on to identify the biblical characteristics of a follower of Jesus Christ and thus a Disciple. From this, he created a discipleship system to build such qualities and characteristics in the people called Disciple. In other words, Wesley began with the end in mind and then worked his way backward to bring about such transformation and results in a disciple’s life.
Today we’re going to look at Wesley’s “Character of a Disciple” and then in the following weeks, we’re going to look at the Means of Grace or the spiritual disciplines of a Disciple which develop that character. These are the means through which God’s grace works in our life. Throughout this series, the hope is that you’ll wrestle with the question, “Am I really a really a Disciple?” Wesley identified three movements of God’s grace in our life. First is prevenient grace. This God’s love at work in our life before we know Him as Savior which is loving us and wooing us seeking a response. Second is justifying grace which we receive when we confess our sins and accept God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. That’s the beginning of the journey of faith and becoming more and more like Jesus. This is God’s sanctifying grace at work in us to developing our character, heart and mind to become like His Son. From this point on, we seek to lead a life of holiness. For God is holy, and calls his people to be holy. Leviticus 11:44 says, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” When we respond by consecrating ourselves entirely to God, it is by God’s grace that we become more holy. Wesley named 2 kinds of holiness. First is personal holiness which is avoiding sin and developing the character of Christ. As we do, our lives show evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” Also evidenced in our lives is a growing love for God and others. This then leads to social holiness which is meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs of people. In Wesley’s time, these needs were a lack of good education and health care, poverty and of course, receiving the good news.