Disciples-Teach About Good News ~ 20110130 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/06 What did Jesus teach – about the character and conduct of a disciple?
We claim to be disciples of Jesus, followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be disciple-making disciples of Jesus. So we spent some time looking at what a disciple believes. What we believe about God, about the Scriptures, about mankind, about sin and its consequences, and about the good news that Jesus preached. Jesus taught and we believe that the bible, Old and New Testaments, are God breathed authoritative truth that we must build our lives on. Jesus taught and we believe that there is only one God who has always existed in the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that God is good, and that he created us in his very image and for his pleasure. But we disobeyed, we rebelled against him and we have earned his eternal punishment. We deserve his wrath, and there is nothing we can do to remedy our hopeless situation. But we believe that Jesus took on human nature to die in our place to pay for our sins and give us eternal life. This momentous event demands a response from us; namely repentance and belief in the good news. Repentance, we saw, is mind and heart transformation as we embrace the forgiveness that he brings. This is the truth Jesus taught and the truth we believe. If we claim to be disciples then we will believe and teach these things.
But Jesus taught us more than how to think. He taught more than what to believe. He taught us how to behave. He taught us what our lives should look like. He told us what to do. That's what I want to look at this morning. As disciples of Jesus, as followers of Jesus, what should our conduct, our character look like? Making disciples is more than simply persuading people to subscribe to some facts. Jesus said:
Notice it says making disciples means 'teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you'.
Jesus Demands Obedience
Jesus clearly calls us to a life of obedience. He says in Luke 6:46:
If you say I am your Master, Jesus says, then obedience would demonstrate the truth of your claim. Otherwise, you speak empty words. Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn.8:31); “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, ... the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (Jn.12:47-48); “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn.14:15); “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” (Jn.14:21); “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” (Jn.14:23); “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn.14:24); “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (Jn.15:10); “You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Jn.15:14).
Jesus goes on to say in Luke 6:
Jesus demands our obedience as evidence of our love for him. Anything else is mere lip-service. Following Jesus is hearing his words and doing them. It is the path of wisdom and provides a solid foundation that will weather the storms of life. Genuine disciple-making is about transforming life and character and desires so that we live the way Jesus lived and prioritize the way Jesus prioritized and feel the way Jesus felt and do the things Jesus did.
Christ Formed in You
Genuine discipleship is about, as the New Testament writers put it, being "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom.8:29); about being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom.12:2); that "we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom.6:4); "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh" (Rom.13:14); "thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Cor.15:57); "you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2Cor.3:3); "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2Cor.5:17); "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal.2:20); "you... have put on Christ." (Gal.3:26); "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal.5:24); "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:10); "for to me to live is Christ" (Phil.1:21); "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil.2:5); “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:27); “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3); “Christ, who is your life” (Col.3:4); "I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!" (Gal.4:19); "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1Cor.11:1).
As disciples, we are to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. We are to be imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ. There must be an organic connection between the truth we believe and the life that grows out of it. Jesus talked much about a healthy root producing good fruit.
In the parable describing the different soil conditions, only one soil was considered 'good' and produced fruit. Jesus explained it this way:
Jesus taught about a life of freedom being rooted in his word.
A life of freedom grows out of the truth Jesus spoke. The freedom Jesus is talking about in this context is freedom from slavery to sin.
Genuine disciples bear fruit. True followers of Jesus live a transformed life characterized by radical obedience. How does this happen, and what does this look like? We'll start with what this transformed life of radical obedience to Jesus Christ looks like, and then we'll look at how this can happen to us.
What? The Life of Love
We'll start with the broad commands and move down to the details. Jesus gave us what he believed to be the first and greatest commandment:
First, love of God. Second, love of neighbor. The life of a disciple is a life of love. A definition will be helpful here. Love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. Sometimes it is helpful to distinguish biblical love from some common misconceptions. Biblical love is not that ooshy-gooshy feeling of twitterpation that you had in junior high when the object of your affections walked by. Love is not primarily a feeling or emotion. Love is primarily a verb – an action word. There is certainly a necessary emotional aspect to love. I don't think simply working hard to do good to someone out of mere obligation and a disgruntled sense of duty can rightly be called love. That's why I say love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. So, love of God means a deep desire to see him glorified and a life lived in active pursuit of his glory in all things. Love God with all heart and soul and mind and strength.
And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. We are never commanded to love ourselves. It is assumed that we all do that already. Paul says “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,” (Eph.5:29). We all always (rightly or wrongly) deeply desire and pursue our own best interest. Jesus tells us that naturally and that deeply to desire and pursue the highest good of others. In John chapters 13-15 he even raises the standard:
Love God by Loving Neighbor
The standard is high. Jesus, in his lay-down-your-life-for-your-enemies love, set the standard for us. So we are to Love God with all heart and soul and strength and mind, and we are to love our neighbor, including our enemies, as ourselves. What does this look like? It is interesting that in Matthew (22:39) and Mark (12:31)'s accounts of the greatest commandment, Jesus says “the second is like it”. The second commandment is of the same nature as the first or corresponds to the first. As we look at more of Jesus' teaching, we find that the two can become one. We can love God by loving our neighbor. Jesus said:
So, according to Jesus, we can love God by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and prisoners. He says “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”.
When we combine the description Jesus gives of who is blessed in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, we find things like this: blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn or weep, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, those who are hated, excluded, reviled, spurned, and spoken evil of on account of Jesus.
In Luke's Gospel, these blessings are followed up by several woes. Jesus pronounces woe on those who are rich, those who are full, those who laugh, those who are well spoken of. I wonder which category we fall in more comfortably.
He goes on to tell us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to let our light so shine that people see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Mt.5:16). Our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees; we are to do and teach God's commandments. We are not to be angry or insult our brother, but to seek reconciliation. We are not to look with lust, but honor the marriage covenant. We are to be men of our word. We are to return good for evil, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, we are to forgive and not condemn. We are to give to those who ask, without looking for the praise of men. We are to pray and fast privately and lay up our treasures in heaven. We are not to be anxious about the future. We are to judge ourselves before we seek to correct others. We are invited to ask, to seek, to knock and we are taught how to pray.
This is the way of obedience. Doing these things, Jesus concludes, is like digging down deep and anchoring your life on an unshakeable foundation. When the storms come, you will not be shaken.
How? Come to Jesus
That all sounds well and good and might even get an 'amen'. But I can't even remember all that stuff, and the stuff I can remember, I'm not sure I want to live like that. It sounds risky and dangerous and hard. Remember, we said that being a disciple requires an inward transformation of mind and heart? This is a result of the good news. Jesus says we must come to him to have life.
The life Jesus offers when we come to him is this transformed life of love. Listen to how Jesus invites us to come:
So as we look at Jesus' description of the life of selfless love, we should not view it as a long list of do's and don'ts that we need to carefully follow. That would be to burden us with a heavy load. Jesus says that when we come to him, we find rest for our souls. Not turmoil, wondering if we have done enough and measure up, but rest. Rest, because we believe in the good news that Jesus came to bear all our sins and failings and shortcomings on the cross. Because of the cross, we stand on a firm foundation of forgiven sin. We are not endlessly climbing a ladder in hopes that we can earn God's favor. God has freely given us his favor in Jesus. This is not a religion of measured performance, but a relationship that transforms our hearts. Following Jesus is easy and light, because it flows naturally, out of a transformed heart.
Abide in Me
Jesus describes our continuing relationship with him in terms of abiding:
The power for living the transformed life of selfless love flows from Jesus to us through our intimacy with him. When we stay connected to him, plugged in to him, his life flows through our veins. When we are abiding in Jesus we bear much fruit. We can do nothing apart from him. This is very practical. The evidence of a genuine disciple is the fruit of a transformed life. I must stay connected to Jesus if I hope to bear any fruit. How do I stay connected?
How to Abide
-Acknowledge total dependence on him. The branch dies when severed from the vine.
-Let Jesus' words abide in you (v.7, 10). Knowing, memorizing, meditating and acting on the words of Jesus is a way to abide.
-Abide in Jesus' love (v.9-10). How does the Father love Jesus? Meditate on that for an hour. 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love' Remain under the fountain.