“Functioning As Faithful Followers” 9-10-17

Let’s focus again today on our lives and the indicators, the evidence, the proof, that demonstrates we are true disciples of Jesus.

Brennan Manning –
“What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses and relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far country. Yet, they kept coming back to Jesus.”
― Brennan Manning,

I think the most wonderful and incredible event in a person’s life is when they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. When a person realizes that they can have a real relationship with God. When a person understands that they need to repent from the sin in their lives and is born again in Christ.
When a person gives their heart to Christ, that is not where the story ends, that is where Discipleship begins.

The old puritan preacher C H Spurgeon, said this, “The faith which saves is not one single act done and ended on a certain day: it is an act continued and persevered in throughout the entire life of man.” As we learn more about God, we grow spiritually. As we serve God we grow spiritually. As disciples of Christ there should be tangible proof in our lives that we are followers of Jesus.

As we continue to live out our daily walk of faith, there are two questions we need to ask ourselves: Is being a disciple making a difference in you? Is your discipleship making a difference in others? The truth is, following Jesus should be making a real difference in your life, and by God’s grace and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, you should be making a difference in the lives of others. A real, living relationship with Jesus should be making a radical difference in both your life and the lives of those around you.

If you know Jesus as Lord, if you are saved, then there was a moment in time when you were born again, you stopped living in the darkness of sin and stepped into the eternal light of God. Your heart was changed, your sins were forgiven, you came from death to life, spiritually speaking. That’s where the transforming work of God began and begins in your life and mine. When we are first saved, we don’t instantly become spiritually mature in our words, actions or behaviors.

Just like babies we need to learn to walk, talk and behave! We have had to learn how to walk in Christ, we had to learn how to talk to God, and behave in a way that brings honor and glory to God. But, when it comes to living out a life of faith, we eventually have to grow up and really live as dynamic disciples.

Listen to how the writer of the book of Hebrews expresses this in Hebrews 5:12-14 (NLT) – “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

A mark of a disciple is growth in spiritual maturity, we are meant to grow, to progress from baby steps to running the race, being disciples and making disciples. We disobey God when we refuse to grow spiritually in Him and through Him. We are meant to move forward in our faith and service, not be content with standing still. As disciples who are really living a life of faith, we must be willing to move forward and allow God to make us and form us and change us into the people He has called us to be so that we can become more like Christ.

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The Bible is clear, as followers of Christ, we need allow God to transform us, to change us, our nature, our personality, our thoughts, our actions and reactions. As Dynamic Disciples, we cannot remain as we were, we are to move forward and develop a mature faith. How do we do that? How do we move on? How do we grow up? By prayer, by reading the Word of God, by being faithful in being the church and in church, by making our spiritual life and our relationship with God our top priority.

Is God your top priority? Are the marks of being a disciple evident in your life? This morning I want us to consider three marks or aspects of being a disciple. Faith, Following and Function.

The First, and possibly the most important, is that a disciple must have Faith in Jesus Christ.
Listen to the words of Jesus in John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” When we come to faith, when we turn to Jesus we are assured of eternal life, our sins are forgiven, we pass from death to life.

Galatians 2:16 says: “we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Our faith in what Jesus has done for us sets us free, He has paid the price for our sin, we are reconciled to God in Christ.

Part of having faith in Jesus is believing what the Bible teaches us about Him. Jesus is God.
He was incarnated, born of a virgin. He lived a perfect life without sin. He willingly went to the cross and died there as a substitute for your sins. We deserve hell as the punishment for our sins yet Jesus paid the price for all our sins, past, present and future. The free gift of salvation is for all who trust in Jesus.
We are saved by faith not by our religious effort or moral accomplishments it is God’s gracious gift to us. Jesus physically rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and one day He will return. All these facts and things are simply incredible!

So a disciple is thankful for the gospel, a disciple understands they have been forgiven of their sins, a disciple believes in the substitutionary atonement of Christ. A disciple has faith in a God who loves them, cares for them and has a perfect plan for them.

The second mark of discipleship is Following Jesus – Acting like a disciple. How do we act like a disciple? We follow Jesus and learn from Jesus. A Disciple of Jesus is a follower of Jesus. Listen to these verses from the Gospel of Matthew:
In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!
Matthew 8:22 Jesus said Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed Jesus.

Matthew 10:38 Jesus said If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
Matthew 19:21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
To be a disciple of Jesus we need to follow Him and learn from Him.

The third mark of discipleship is Function – A willingness to serve. A true disciple is willing to serve God and each other. We can serve God and each other in many different ways, some require a lot of effort and preparation others are simpler: Greeting people at the door, greeting newcomers in the pews and learning their names, serving at meals and functions, serving on committees. If there is something you can get involved in why don’t you?

The preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said: “Men and women no longer exercise in sport as they used to. Instead, people tend to sit in crowds and just watch other people play. And I fear that the tendency is even presenting itself in the Church. More and more we see people are just sitting back in crowds while one or two people are expected to be doing everything. Now that, of course, is a complete denial of the New Testament doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ, where every single member has responsibility, and has a function, and matters.”

Church is not meant to be a spectator sport. We the people, are the church and we express our love for God and each other by active participation. A disciple of Jesus should want to be more than a spectator, a disciple of Jesus should want to experience the blessing of following and serving their God.

We are called to be church together, serving God and each other. It’s more than a feeling of belonging – it’s willing participation. It’s more than just saying we care – it’s actually helping, doing. It’s more than just saying we believe, it’s faith in action, putting into practice what God has taught us.
It’s more than just being served by others – it’s having a servant heart, a kind heart, a generous heart. It’s more than just saying you’re forgive – it’s forgiving others as Christ has already forgiven you. It’s more than just dreaming about reaching the lost – it’s actually doing something to reach them. It’s more than just being taught from the pulpit – it’s about inspiring others to learn and grow and make disciples. It’s more than just living for Christ, it’s about growing spiritually in Him.

It’s more than just giving what you feel like – it’s about sacrificial living for the Glory of God.
It’s all about following Jesus as Savior and as Lord, it’s learning how to live and serve. It’s about being an active, faithful, dynamic disciple. It’s being a participant not a passenger.

Being a disciple is about dying to ourselves – our wants, our needs, our desires. To be a dynamic disciple we need to give our lives completely to Jesus. To be a dynamic disciple we need to let God work in us and through us to accomplish His purposes not ours. To be a dynamic disciple we need to faithfully follow Jesus and walk as He walked. To be a dynamic disciple we need to love and serve others as Jesus was willing to love and serve.

As I close, my hope, my prayer is that the Marks of Discipleship will be evident in our lives, and that each day we will grow in Spiritual Maturity. May God help each of us to be faithful followers functioning together as dynamic disciples for His honor and glory.

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