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Follow Jesus: Being a true disciple in 2017
The title of my New Years message today is, "Follow Jesus: being a true disciple in 2017". With the new year upon us, I have been thinking a lot about being a disciple lately and what it really means to follow Jesus. I decided to look up my Bible software and see how the New Testament describes followers as Jesus. I found that it used the term disciples 282 times, believers 26 times and Christians only 3 times. This got me thinking about the terms disciple, believer and Christian.
Being the Bible geek that I am, I decided to look up the Greek words used for disciple in the New Testament too. One is math-ay-tes this means learner or pupil. The other is math-ayt-yoo-o this talks about being a student or a pupil, but also a teacher too. It is about learning and also passing it on to others.
Today I want to have a look at what the Bible says about being a disciple and what things are expected from a true follower of Christ. Here are some of the things.
1. A true disciple is willing to answer the call to follow Jesus
When Jesus called the first disciples we see that He came and saw the fisherman by the lake in Mark 1.
Mark 1:16-21 – One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed Him. 19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed Him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. 21 Jesus and His companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, He went into the synagogue and began to teach”.
He simply said to them to, “Come and follow Me”. We see that they heard the call, received it and simply left everything to follow.
In New Testament times a disciple was someone who wanted to learn from another person. You could become a disciple of a Rabbi, a Craftsman or a Philosopher. The learner would attach themselves to the person and learn the particular skill. Often the pupil had to beg over a period of time to be the apprentice. If accepted, they would watch, learn, practice and eventually do it by themselves. When the skill was fully transferred, they would go on their way.
This was very different to Jesus He chose His disciples, not the other way around! He turned the whole process upside down when He chose His disciples!
As we have seen, being a disciple was about connecting with someone else to learn their ways. This is how it was for the 12 disciples that Jesus called at the beginning of His public ministry. They stayed with Him for three and a half years. The watched, learnt and were sent out to do things themselves.
Being a disciple of Jesus is about committing to a way of life and of learning and growth. It goes past just believing in something, it is more about learning to follow and to heading in a new direction full steam ahead.
2. A true disciple loves and accepts others like Christ did
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. A true disciple should love God and love others.
As I shared in my Christmas carols message, it is interesting when we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He loved and cared for all types of people. Here are a few examples of the different groups of people Jesus spent time with. The Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Romans, Zealots, Samaritans. Jesus also had followers who were women which was unheard of for religious leaders of His time. He welcomed children. Combine this with Jesus spending time with social outcasts of the day like tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers shows that Jesus was a Saviour for all people. He didn’t discriminate. He just genuinely loved and cared for people, no matter whom they were or what they had done.
The phrase “one another” appears over 221 times in 100 verses in the New Testament. One many of these occasions it talks about loving one another, caring for one another, helping one another, supporting one another. For me to be a true disciple of Christ I need to pay attention to what the Bible says about this.
Loving others the Jesus way means opening ourselves up to others and to want what is best for them. It is interesting that it says people will know we belong to Christ because of the love we show to others. I want to be known as a true follower of Jesus. A true disciple loves people like Jesus did.
3. A true disciple shares their resources to help others
In this life we have a choice to spend our money how we please. We can choose to save it and spend it all on ourselves or we can see ourselves as stewards of God’s resources. One of the great examples we see from the early church in Acts 4:42-47.
Acts 2:42-47 – “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved”.
We see that the community of believers shared their possessions and sold some things so others would not go without the basics of life. Even though they were a new community of believers, they seemed to understand the importance of sharing and caring. As you can see on the screen in verses 44, 45 and 46.
They understood what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.
A true disciple knows to store up their treasures in heaven and to seek first the Kingdom of God as it tells us in Matthew 6:25-33. We should really look out for each other and not just see this life and my journey, but our journey together. A true disciple sees the world and its needs through God’s eyes and uses their resources accordingly.
4. A true disciple understands the Lordship of Jesus
When I came to Jesus back in 1989 I was conscious that I was not just asking Jesus to save me a from my sin, but I was asking Him to be my Lord as well.
The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10 that, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
In these verses, it talks about believing in our hearts that Jesus died and rose again for us. He paid the price for our sin in dying for us on the cross. A key part of the salvation message is also the Lordship of Jesus. He needs to be Lord of our lives. We are under new ownership and submitted to His authority.
For me this means Jesus is my King. He is my ruler. I bow my heart to Him and I bow my knee before Him. He controls my life and He is the one who gives the orders. My job is to yield and obey.
In a world where we are told we are number one and the most important person in the world, we need to reassess this thought and bow our lives afresh. Jesus is number one. He always has been and He will be always be.
Yes, Jesus is my Saviour for which I am eternally grateful, but He is also my Lord, my Master and my King. And as a result, every part of my life needs to be completely submitted to Him.
5. A true disciple helps others to follow Christ
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells us to go and make disciples.
Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
As we know, this is the last words of Jesus before He returned to heaven. We are told to make Disciples, not Christians. As we saw earlier, a disciple is someone who is committed to a journey of learning, service, growth and teaching others.
A true disciple knows how great it is to know, love and serve Christ and they want to help others to follow Him too. For me personally, the day I became a Christian is the greatest day of my life. Knowing Jesus personally and asking Him into my life was a true turning point for me. My life was good, but I lacked a sense of purpose or real meaning. Now my life is full of hope, purpose and meaning and I want to share this with others. I also want to share the great love Jesus has for others too.
My Atheist View of Life before Christ
I will live my life according to these beliefs
My Christian View of Life after Christ (Read the same from the bottom up)
This is what my time here as Pastor of the church will be marked by – helping people to follow Christ and live their lives from the bottom of that poem upwards. My role is to help new people come to faith in Christ and to help people grow in their faith, knowledge and trust in Him. My task, like all of us here, is to help people become disciples of Christ. My hope is that this church will love God, love one another, do good deeds and make disciples who make disciples.
In today’s message, I have wanted to remind us what it is to be a true disciple or follower of Christ. I am hoping that in some small way it has inspired you to be a better follower in 2017.
So today and this year let us remember that –
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