Summary: Many are skeptical of the church because of perceived hypocrites. How do we obtain credibility in our witness to others? How do live and walk in such a way to be an effective witness? We must walk in Christ to possess the credibility we need.
The Credibility in Discipleship
We have spent several weeks discussing the importance and need for discipleship. In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us to teach all nations to observe His teachings. In essence, those who follow Christ as His disciples are expected to make other disciples. We are to invest in their lives, sharing the truth of Christ and the Gospel with them.
As I pondered the responsibilities of discipleship, I realized that one must gain the trust of another if discipleship is to be effective. We cannot bear influence on another if that individual lacks trust and respect in us. One of the greatest hindrances to the church is hypocrisy, whether simply perceived or reality. If we are to be effective in discipleship, we must have credibility among those we seek to disciple. Simply, our walk must match our talk. Those we seek to influence must be confident in our sincerity and faith. If the goal is reproduction and multiplication, we must ensure that we are setting the right example to follow.
With these thoughts in mind, I want to examine the traits disciples should possess as we consider: The Credibility in Discipleship.
I. A Walk of Recognition (Eph.5:1-2) – In this great chapter, Paul discusses the walk of the believer, the follower of Christ. If we are to have any credibility in discipleship, we must walk in the way of righteousness. Consider:
A. The Admonition (1) – Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children. That seems simple enough, but Paul speaks of great significance here. The word followers literally means to be imitators. We are admonished to imitate the God we serve. That is a very tall order. Time will not permit, nor do we have the ability to comprehend all that He is, but we must strive to imitate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Matt.5:48 – Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Lev.19:2 – Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. 2 Cor.3:18 – But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 1 Pet.1:15 – But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.
We will never obtain sinless perfection in this life, but we must strive to imitate the Lord we serve. We must seek His holiness each day, denying the flesh, and striving for maturity in Christ. Those whom we invest in are not seeking perfection; but they are seeking sincerity and a genuine desire to maintain a godly life. If we will commit to imitating Christ, we will have credibility in our discipleship efforts!
B. The Expectation (2a) – And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us. Again we find a simple statement with profound implications. Paul does not refer solely to the steps we take as we journey through life, although that is part of it. Our journey must be guided by the Lord, and we must walk in a way that pleases Him. The greater context here speaks of our entire manner of life. Regardless of our location or whoever we encounter, the gracious love of Christ must be evident in our lives. Our lives must consistently show the love of Christ if we are to be an effective witness and make a beneficial impact on others. 1 Tim.4:12 – Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Let’s look a bit closer at the text. The word translated love is the Greek word agape. This is God’s eternal, unmerited, unchanging love. It speaks of God doing what is best for us, even when it is not necessarily what we desire. It is in essence, perfect love. This provides valuable insight to discipleship. You don’t always have to agree with someone to love them. Genuine love will provide a gracious rebuke when necessary. It seeks maturity and eternal benefit in the relationship more than immediate comfort.
We are to walk in love as Christ loved us. Think about that for a moment. His love is sacrificial, giving Himself for the need of others. His love is without boundaries. It is not limited to those who are familiar, kind, or even receptive. The love of Christ is extended to all people. He loved us when we were unlovable. He became sin so that we could be forgiven of sin. He endured the righteous judgment of God in our place. We were guilty, deserving of wrath, and He endured our punishment for us! If we will determine to live our lives in love as Christ loved, we will have the credibility we need to gain the respect of others. In loving them as Christ does, we will have the ability to overlook their faults and failures as we strive to lead them into a greater knowledge of Christ.