Follower, Learner, Disciple. Sunday Dec 31,2017
We live in an age where it seems that we follow many people and things. We are like sheep who have gone astray. Society holds up actors and entertainers as the ultimate examples follow. After all they are rich so they must know something we don’t. Notice how they seem to set the trend for how we dress and how we act and what we hold as exciting. And they are often a topic of discussion.
I’m not sure why that is. But perhaps it has to do with the fact that we spend a lot of time watching the media. That includes social media as well as movies and TV. So, these people are always before our eyes. The young are the most impressionable. They are always on the hunt for the next coolest thing. And these people seem to offer it.
Sometimes being a follower can get one into a lot of trouble. A number of years ago one of my sons got into a lot of trouble following his older brother and his friends. His older brother was playing in the neighborhood with several other kids. They did not want the much younger brother to tag along with them. Because they were up to no good. One of them had brought a spray can of paint and decided to spray graffiti on outside wall of an apartment building under construction. When someone one inside saw the kids, he yelled for security. All the kids ran except for the young brother. When the kids took off they tossed him the empty spray can. So, when the security guard came around the corner there was my 4-year-old son standing there holding the spray can. When he was brought to my door to dispatch punishment I asked him if he had done it. No dad. He was eventually cleared of the offense when it was realized he was a bit too young to spray the particular words on the building since he couldn’t yet read let alone write.
But never the less he continued getting into trouble, being led astray by others.
So, the answer is obviously to follow someone who won’t lead you astray. Something that parents hopefully try to teach their children.
As Believer’s in Christ we are told to be followers of Jesus. When you read the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you read about who He was what Jesus did that made Him worthy of being followed.
In Acts 11:26 we read where Believers were first called Christians:
“And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
This was a brand-new term coined to describe Jesus’ Followers. Christian literally means “little Christs”.
Today, I believe the term has lost it’s original meaning.
But notice who were called Christians: “the disciples”.
What is the definition of “disciple”? It means a follower or learner.
Today, we in Western Christianity have a tendency to add a twist to the definition. It has become a program to build maturity into Believers in Christ. Which is not a problem on the face of it. But we do it in such a way as to divide Believers into 2 categories. Those that are disciples and those that are not. After all discipleship is not a requirement for salvation. But it is, according to Jesus, a by-product of salvation. A progression from salvation to maturity.
When a baby is born we don’t leave them on their own to grow up. We train them.
So, what does the Bible say a disciple is?
Matt 28:18-20 known as the great commission gives us insight.
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Jesus did not say go and make converts or go and make believers, but He specifically said “Go therefore and make disciples”
So, understanding what a disciple is, is important. The latter part of Verse 19 shows us: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;”
While the most common understanding of the word disciple is follower, the most accurate definition in terms of what the GK actually means is learner.
A disciple is a learner, an apprentice, someone who is learning to imitate his master. (repeat)
A Learner conveys a truth that it is an on-going process. God is in the business of conforming us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Ro 8:29. It doesn’t happen overnight. The process will take a life time.
As I said before, when a baby is born we don’t leave them on their own to grow up. We train them. A child is always learning. As parents it is up to us to make sure they learn the right things.
Jesus defines a disciple in very clear terms in scripture, saying His disciples will be distinguished by three primary marks of characteristics.
1. Learning to love like Jesus.
Notice, the first one is love, not knowledge. Jn13:34-35
34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
How will the world know who we are according to Jesus? By our love for one another.
Jesus repeats Himself a few verses later. John 15:9
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
And again, in verse 12:
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
And again, in verse 17:
"This I command you, that you love one another.”
Let that sink in as to how important this is. True followers of Jesus are those who love.
They love God, they love one another, they love people.
Followers express that love through their unique gifting and personality, but they love never the less.
One of the most effective disciple makers I’ve ever know just happened to be the most loving I’ve known. His name is Harvey Swanberg. He was the pastor of the church that Jacquie got saved in Anchorage.
Prior to ever attending that church, I remember standing in line at the service counter at a car dealership and listening to the service manager angerly explain to this man why his car couldn’t, and wouldn’t be fixed without more money. This man, who I didn’t know at the time, stood there and suffered verbal abuse from this manager. And all he said in return was the Lord will work it out if they would just make another attempt at fixing his car. I remember standing there amazed at this short, little man with a huge smile that wouldn’t quit. He reminded me of Mister Magoo. Remember that cartoon? He was so patient and kind hearted towards this angry service manager. If it had been me I would have reached across the counter and smacked the manager silly for being such a jerk. Or at least returned his verbal abuse.
Later, when we started attending the local church, I recognized this short, little man from the car dealership, it was Harvey Swanberg! It wasn’t long before Harvey’s love had reached into my family. Harvey has since gone home to be with the Lord, but I’ll forever be indebted to his loving example.
Just remember, Followers of Jesus learn to love like Jesus.
2. Learning to lose like Jesus.
The second distinguishing mark of a disciple, according to Jesus, is really the first mark carried to its fullest expression. John 15:12-13
12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
This is sacrifice: To lay down one’s life for your friends.
Five other times Jesus defined His followers in terms of sacrifice or self-denial. (Mat 10:38, Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23, 14:27)
In Matt 16:24-25 Jesus says:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
And in 4 of those verses Jesus adds words similar to Matt 16: 25
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
So, what is Jesus saying? To follow Jesus is to lose one’s life. Meaning to die to self. Considering others as more important than yourself. Php 2
This is hard stuff. In Luke 14:27 Jesus was very clear about what a disciple is:
"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Now it is words like these that cause many to not want to be a disciple. It sounds like too much work. I’m not sure that I can do that.
On the surface that sounds ridiculous. Like a child that doesn’t want to grow up.
So, my question is: Why not? After all Jesus paid a high price for our redemption. He paid our debt of sin in full so that we could be called children of God. And yet we are still reluctant. Listen to these words from scripture:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
“..for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
So, we are pretty much without an excuse to not be a disciple.
So, let’s look at how Paul succeeded in making disciples.
In 1 Thess 2:7-8 Paul demonstrates his love and sacrifice to the Thessalonians.
“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
In Eph 5:1-2 Paul again talks of love and sacrifice:
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Aw, come on. How can we be imitators of God? What does that look like? Is it even possible? Look at verse 2.
Imitating God means walking in sacrificial love for God and people. Literally love and sacrifice.
And we can only do this by the power that God gives us in the H.S. He doesn’t leave us powerless. He doesn’t tell us to do something and expect us to do it in our own power and strength. If we do we are going to fail.
So, this is what Jesus promised to His disciples: John 14:16-17
16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
The H.S. is called the Helper.
So, what can we do? Pray! Confess that we are lacking in strength and desire and always seem to fail and throw yourself into His arms and tell Him you cannot do this. Please help Me, LORD. Help me to love others as you love me. Help me to die to self so that I put others first. Help me Lord for I am weak. Help me.
What do you think His answer will be? Yes! I will do that. That’s why I sent you the Helper.
3. Learning to live like Jesus.
The third mark of a disciple according to Jesus is found in Mat 28:19-20
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
Disciples are recognized by obedience to all that Jesus commanded. This includes what He states in these verses. Go and make disciples.
Meaning that as disciples we are to disciple others.
This is all summed up in John 15:12-14
12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 "You are My friends if you do what I command you
In these three short verses Jesus lays out the essence of what it means to be His disciple.
It lays out 3 things: love, obedience, sacrifice.
It is the least we can do to have that abundant life that Jesus promised us.
Notice this goes along with what Jesus says the greatest commandment is: Matt 22:37-39
'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
It is obvious that this is near and dear to the Lord’s heart.
So let me recap: three marks of a disciple of Jesus:
1. Learning to love like Jesus.
2. Learning to lose like Jesus.
3. Learning to live like Jesus.
A learner, following Jesus.So, in closing. Who do you follow? Who are you a learner of? My prayer for you as we start a new year is that we make our lives matter by who we follow and who we love. The unsaved world depends on it.