Summary: This is the first sermon in a series of 8 on the biblical characteristics of a disciple.
Discipleship Series, Sermon #1 (6-3-03)
There was a man by the name of John Harper who was born into a Christian family on May 29, 1872. He became a Christian 13 years later and had already started preaching by age 17. He received training at the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, and in 1896 he founded a church, now known as Harper Memorial Church, which began with 25 worshipers but had grown to 500 members by the time he left it 13 years later.
In 1912 Harper was traveling on the Titanic with his 6-year-old daughter. After the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink, he got his child into a lifeboat but made no effort to follow her. Instead, he ran through the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!" Survivors report that he then began witnessing to anyone who would listen. He continued preaching even after he had jumped into the water and was clinging to a piece of wreckage.
Harper’s final moments were recounted four years later at a meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, by a man who said:
I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a piece of the boat that awful night, the tide brought Mr. Harper near me. "Man," he said, "are you saved?" "No," I said, "I am not." He replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, "Are you saved now?" "No," I said, "I cannot honestly say that I am." He said again, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," and shortly thereafter he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I was John Harper’s last convert.
Folks, my desire for us is to make us as urgent about saving souls as John Harper was. So much so that our last moments are used to win the lost to Christ, no matter what the cost is to us.
Jesus’ last command to us comes in the 28th chapter of Matthew starting at verse 18 when he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This statement was made by Jesus to his apostles shortly before he ascended to Heaven. This as you probably know is what is commonly called the great commission. Now I ask you, are you striving to be a learner, a student, a follower, and a leader for Christ? Are you striving to be like Him in every aspect of your life and are you taking opportunities to share his message with others?
I don’t think we can expect to fulfill the "great commission" if we don’t have a clear understanding of what a disciple is and how we can be one? So throughout the next 8 weeks we are going to take a closer look at what it means to be a disciple, how we can be a better one, and how we can make disciples of others.
Jesus’ command to us sounds so simple and it is very straightforward, go and make disciples of all nations. Go make disciples of everyone, not just people we know or people we are comfortable around, but everyone who does not know him! It also doesn’t preface it with, when you have spare time, when it’s convenient for you, or when you decide you’re comfortable to do it, it says GO and make disciples.
I think we as a church body, that includes the Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists and especially us here at the Wesley Foundation, have gotten so comfortable with where we are at in our walks that we have completely lost site of this command that Jesus left us with. I consider myself to be a pretty giving and unselfish person because I’m willing to give of my time, talents, and money to those that are less fortunate than me. If someone calls me to help them out, I’m wiling to change my schedule to accommodate them. But all of that aside, I am a very selfish person. I’m as selfish as they come because I have become comfortable simply focusing on my walk with God rather then focusing on winning others for Christ. When a friend of mine asked me if I picked this summer’s sermon topics to preach to her, my response was that “this message is as much for myself as it is for anyone else.” I believe that any ordained pastor would tell you that they need to hear this message as much as any one of you. I tell you this just so you know that we are all in this together and we are all called to the same task no matter what your career may be. My hope isn’t to make you feel bad about yourselves, but I hope tonight I’m able to make some of you feel convicted enough to want to refocus your energies on Jesus’ command to go and make disciples!