Matthew 28:16-17 | What is a Disciple? | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: Matthew 28:16–17
Back in October, I was with my family in northern California, and that was when it became official that I would have the privilege of being the pastor of Canyon Bible Church of Prescott; and on that trip I was involved in a phone conversation with Brad, Jon, and Dave that lasted, I don’t know, over an hour or so, and I told them, “I have the first teaching series.” So the ink was not even dry on the contract for me to come here, and I told them, “I’ve got the first seven weeks. We’re ready to go.” I’ve been waiting a long time to preach this series to you. We will be in Matthew chapter 28 for probably about seven weeks or so, and we will walk slowly through it.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this, but the book of Matthew is an argument to show that Jesus Christ, the one born in Nazareth in some nowhere town, Jesus Christ is King of the world. Always has been, always will be. He is the King of the world. No foreign leader, no mere man can be called the King of Kings. Only Jesus Christ.
So this argument is laid out in Matthew, and it starts in Matt. 1:1-17. When you read your Bible in Matt. 1:1-17, you think, why are all these names listed? Why does it show that this man was the father of this man, the father of this man? Maybe that’s a point I’ll just kind of skip over in my daily Bible reading. No big deal, right? No. It’s a huge deal. Because that’s the line of King David. Matthew is trying to show that Jesus Christ was born in a kingly line. Back then in the first century, people would have thought, you mean the one from Nazareth is born from the line of David? Yes. The one from that nowhere town is born in the line of David.
And then Matt. 2:1-12 will teach you that Jesus Christ is the King of the Jews. Herod, the leader of the Roman empire in that area, knew when this baby was born, he needed to kill him because he was a threat to his own crown. So Herod sends people to kill a baby, and because he can’t find the one baby, he is going to kill all babies under two years old so that he can try to hopefully find the one that is supposed to be King of the Jews. Matthew is showing us Jesus Christ is King, and nothing that any superpower wants to do about that can change it. Jesus Christ is King.
Matthew 21: Jesus enters into Jerusalem. These are the days before he will be executed. He enters in on the colt of a donkey. He enters in, people laying palm branches down. He enters in as a king. As a king.
And then Matt. 27:37: One of the darkest times in human history. Jesus Christ is executed on a cross. And the mocking soldiers put a sign on top of the cross that reads, you know it, “King of the Jews,” in their minds thinking, he’s not the King of the Jews. Look, he’s dead. And then three days later, he did what no human being could do in their own willpower. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Make no mistake about it, Jesus Christ is King. He’s the King. Matthew declares that. And the King in Matthew 28 rises from the dead and tells his disciples, we’re going to meet together; I’ve got a final proclamation, final instructions for you. And so that is where we come in our text.
We are starting a church, a church plant. We’ve got Elmo dribbling a basketball on the walls. There’s a lot going on here. You all come from different backgrounds, different places, different church backgrounds, maybe some of you have no church backgrounds, and the question in everybody’s mind is, what’s this whole thing gonna be like? Right, that’s your question walking in. What’s the music going to be like? Is there going to be coffee there? What’s this whole thing going to be like?
The resurrected King of the world declared a message to his followers before he went back to heaven for a time. And he told them what to do. It’s probably a good place to start our church, isn’t it? King, what do you want us to do? What do you want us to do? The reason the emotion comes is because that should not be too difficult of an answer. Do what I tell you in Matthew 28. But all around our world people forget this mission. And my heart’s cry is that we would never forget, never lose sight of what he has told us to do while he was gone.
That’s why we start in Matthew 28. We are starting this series called “The Resurrected King Gathers His Disciples.” What is he going to tell them to do? And we’re going to walk through what he tells them to do very slowly so we don’t miss anything.
Verse 16 of Matthew 28 says this: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” So Jesus had told them before he died, after I rise from the dead, I will be going to Galilee, and he’s implying, you need to be there with me. Galilee is where eleven of the twelve disciples were from. They weren’t from Jerusalem; they were from Galilee. Galilee is the region Jesus was from. Galilee is where the setting of most of your gospel stories—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—took place. Most of those chapters are in Galilee, set in Galilee. Not as many of them are in Jerusalem, where he died. Most of this activity was in Galilee. He preached the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. He transfigured himself so that his closest disciples could see a picture of him in his glory, post-resurrection glory. He did that on a mountain in Galilee. He calls them to this final meeting spot in Galilee. And then he rises from the dead and tells the women at the tomb, go to Galilee (Matt. 28:7) and tell my disciples to go and meet me there, the eleven. Judas was gone by now.
So Galilee is the place, and Galilee most likely is the place that 1 Corinthians is referring to in 1 Corinthians 15 when it talks about the fact that he rose from the dead and appeared to over 500 people. Now, in Matt. 28:16, you read, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee,” so if you just parachute in to verse 16, you think, okay it was Jesus and the eleven disciples on that mountain. No, no, no, when you read earlier in Matthew, you realize this is a bigger crowd around there. He’s highlighting the fact that the eleven disciples were there because he had just told the ladies, go get the eleven and bring them there with me. So this is a big crowd together. A big crowd.
That is why in verse 17 you read, “and when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The disciples didn’t doubt. The eleven disciples weren’t doubting here. They had already seen him, by the way, after he rose from the dead. But there were a number of people in Galilee who had not yet seen him rise from the dead. So some people have seen him, and they see him coming, and they fall down and they worship. The others are thinking, I thought he was dead. Is that really him? That is the explanation there. So there is this large group on the mountain, some worshiping him, some trying to figure things out, and he is about to leave, and he is here to tell them what to do while he is gone. That is where we are at.
So, if you had the question, what is Canyon Bible Church of Prescott all about? What is the mission statement of this church? Well, we can work long and hard to hire some PR guys to come in, you know, tell us what our mission should be. Let’s do some research and some studies and some surveys on what the neighbors think they want and things like that. Well, how about we just pause, and go straight to the Bible, and say, “Lord, what is our mission to be?” Here is our mission: Matt. 28:16-20. This is our mission.
Let me read verses 16 through 20 so you will see where we are going in the next weeks:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'
There is one command in that passage. Make disciples. And the rest is the argument for how to do that, in whose protection will we do that under. Make disciples. That is the mission. And so if we are going to talk for these next seven weeks about what it means to make a disciple and what it means to do that under the Lord’s care, what it means to do that with him always being with us. What does it mean to do that? What does it mean to make a disciple? If we are going to start talking about making disciples, don’t we have to start this morning by saying, what is a disciple? That is where we need to start. What is a disciple of Jesus Christ? What is a disciple of Jesus Christ? That is really our theme for the morning. And so this morning I want to look at the makeup of a true disciple, the makeup of a true disciple. We will see seven examples of what a true disciple is.
1. A True Disciple Learns a New Way of Life
So in this, as we talk about what a disciple is, I am going to go through the New Testament. I am going to go through actually the gospels and show what Jesus Christ thought that a disciple was, what Jesus Christ said a disciple was. What is a true follower of Jesus Christ?
Well, first, a true disciple learns a new way of life. One writer says this: “A disciple is someone who follows another person or another way of life and who submits to the discipline of that leader,” the discipline or the teaching of that leader. So it is a person who follows another, another way of life, and who submits himself to the teaching of that leader. That is a disciple.
So if you are a Christian, if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you’ve said, I follow the teaching of Jesus Christ. I follow him. What he says, I do. When it is popular and when it is not, I follow him. Your identity is with him.
In Luke 5, Jesus goes to call his first disciples when he is on earth, and he goes to call Peter. He goes to call Peter, and he is in Peter’s fishing boat after Peter had fished all night, not caught anything, just wanted to go home, and then Jesus tells him, let’s go fish again. Okay, let’s go fish again. They go fish, and what happens? Jesus sees to it that they have a huge catch, such a huge catch that multiple boats start to sink because of all the fish.
And what does Peter do? Jackpot. Money. Security for my family for months. Peter does not do that. He gets it. This is God. Peter takes all the dollar signs away from his eyes, and he falls down in the boat, and he says, get away from me; I’m a sinful man. When you come into contact with God and you come into contact with God in human flesh, you realize you should not be there. And Peter gets that. And so what does Jesus say?
Luke 5:9: “Peter and all who were with them were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,” and Peter has just said, depart from me; I’m a sinful man, “and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee,” the other disciples, “who were partners with Peter. And Jesus said to Simon,” listen to these words, “’Do not be afraid.’” Don’t be afraid of me. You’re right; you are a sinful man; I am a holy God. But don’t be afraid. “’From now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” It’s discipleship.
Now listen, Peter had his livelihood in these boats, had his money in these boats, and he leaves it all behind to follow Jesus Christ. Because when you truly come into contact with the person and the work of Jesus Christ, it only makes sense to let everything go to follow him. It only makes sense to follow him. It starts with an acknowledgement of sin or separation from God and then moves to giving your life to him as a follower. So a true disciple, first, learns a new way of life, follows Jesus Christ.
2. A True Disciple Forsakes All to Follow Christ
A true disciple forsakes all to follow Christ. And that could be all people, all things, all mindsets; whatever keeps you from Christ, you forsake to have it. If there’s a sin that you hold onto that he would not have you hold onto, guess what? You forsake the sin to have him. It’s called repentance. And not that you clean yourself up and do a bunch of good works so that you will please him, but at the very beginning there must be a willingness that nothing will keep me from following you. At the very beginning.
Luke 14:25-27. This is Jesus speaking. The narrator starts, “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned to them and he said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’”
Before you get upset at me, those aren’t my words. Those are the King’s words. Well, preacher, you’re saying that we’re supposed to hate people? The Bible doesn’t say that. That’s not what Jesus is talking about here. In comparison to your commitment to Jesus Christ, all other relationships take a backseat. That’s why he uses that drastic language. Jesus Christ is the one you attach yourself to, and if a boyfriend or a girlfriend get in the way and try to keep you from Christ, guess which one goes? They do. Even if a spouse or mother or father don’t want you to follow Christ, I’m sorry, I have to follow him.
Maybe it is self-righteousness that would keep you from Christ. The apostle Paul knew that. He was the pharisee of the pharisees. He could tell you all the Bible verses growing up in Sunday school. He knew it all. And in Philippians 3 he says, I gladly forsake all of it to have Christ. You can’t bring your self-righteousness to Christ and say, see, now I’m right with you. It doesn’t work that way. Because in this same book, the King said (Matthew 5), “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” So those who come to Christ forsake something, forsake your own power and prestige and desire for you to be tops in this world, forsake any people that keep you from Christ. Whatever it is, disciples forsake something.
The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament—I know it sounds like an intense book; it is—says this: “In a certain sense the conditions for disciples were comparable to those of slaves.” You basically say, it’s not my way; whatever he wants, I do. If he wants me to forsake this particular sin, I will forsake it. If he wants me to stop and end this horrible relationship that leads me to following the path of Satan, I will have to forsake it because I want him. A true disciple lets nothing get in the way of following Christ.
It was a few years ago that we were at our former church in Los Angeles, and there was a preacher who was preaching, and in the middle of his sermon he did what does not happen very often, he invited someone to come up to the pulpit. He invited a young lady to come up to the pulpit. And he said, this young lady is a Muslim woman. She has been beaten by her family and by her brothers for converting to Christ. That’s a picture of what we are talking about here. A true disciple is willing to, if need be, walk away from every other human relationship that would keep them from Christ in order to have him. And this lady did that.
There is another lady that has actually received some press in the last couple of years in the Christian world. Her name is Rosaria Butterfield. Rosaria Butterfield was a homosexual woman living with her girlfriend and hated God, hated Jesus Christ, and hated Christians. She was a professor in New England. She hated Christians, wrote about hating Christians and all that they stood for. Well, one of these Christian men and his wife wrote her a letter and said, have you ever learned about what Christianity truly is? We would love to have you over. And Rosaria Butterfield started going to their house to have these dialogues about what Christianity is. And she was won over to Christ by this man and his wife. She left her partner, right, because she is a disciple. You leave the sin that keeps you from Christ. And she went to church one day, first time, former lesbian, now in church, meeting people, talking to people, and she looked at some people around her, and she said, “I left my girlfriend for this; what did you leave?”
Isn’t that a good question for us? That’s our testimony. Whether you left a life of self-righteousness, a life of stealing, a life of lying, a life of immorality, whatever it was, you left something to come to Christ because disciples do. It is a visual representation of nothing matters to me more than having him. It’s the only way you can be right with Christ, if you are willing for nothing to get in the way of you and him.
There’s a song we’re going to sing after the sermon, and it’s an odd song to people who are not disciples of Christ. It really doesn’t make sense to them. Here are the words: “Jesus, I my cross have taken.” By the way, a cross is an instrument of death, not a nice little gold thing on your necklace. Those are okay, but let’s never forget it’s like an electric chair around your neck. It is an instrument of death.
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
From now on, you my everything are.
Perish every fond ambition,
all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.
We’ll sing that later. Disciples realize that nothing compares to Christ. So a true disciple is willing to give up anything to follow Christ.
3. A True Disciple Bears Much Fruit.
A true disciple bears much fruit. John 15:8: Jesus, talking to his disciples, “’By this, my Father is glorified,’” and right there we pause. Hold on a second. Jesus Christ, the God-man saying, listen, I’m going to tell you what glorifies God. Okay, I’m listening. “’By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’” Implication: If you are not bearing much fruit, you don’t prove to be a disciple of Christ.
Now let’s make sure that we’ve got this straight. Bearing fruit doesn’t make you a Christian. You got it? So, loving people, having joy, patience, self-control, goodness—you don’t do those things, and then—wham—you’re a disciple. That’s heresy. Bearing fruit proves that you already are a disciple.
Picture a man who is out of work, out of work because he is lazy, doesn’t want to look for work, doesn’t want to contribute to society, makes horrible decisions with the little money he has, doesn’t use it wisely. Have you got that guy in your head? Picture that man. And then a wealthy business owner, a large farmer—actually, he is an average sized farmer, a large farm—comes to this man and says, you’re going to be my employee, not because you deserve to my employee because actually you’re lazy, not because you’ve got all these skills and abilities because actually you don’t, not because you’ve got a great track record because you don’t. I am going to make you an employee, and you are going to farm the citrus that I have. That is what you are going to do. You’re going to farm the citrus.
Well, let’s say this man has been now at work for a couple of years, and a friend of his comes, and if the friend of his asks, tell me how you got this job, the answer would not be, I got this job because I really know how to get the most fruit out of this crop. I got this because I know all there is to know about farming citrus. That would be the wrong answer, right? Let me tell you why I got this job. You need to meet this man that gave me this job. Now if you asked, what is the proof that he is an employee, you can say, look, he farms and obtains fruit. So the proof that he has got the job is that he farms and bears fruit, but that’s not why he got the job. Same for a Christian. True disciples bear much fruit. That didn’t make them a Christian; they do that because they are a Christian.
Now think about this: Jesus Christ promised that the same Spirit that raised him from the dead would be in us as we seek to be holy. That’s a lot of power. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is inside of us. We’ve got the Holy Spirit of God. When that happens, your life looks a little bit different than it did before. That’s the point here. When you come into a collision with something that dynamic and powerful, you are changed. A true believer bears fruit. A true disciple bears much fruit.
4. A True Disciple Suffers Hatred.
This is what Jesus taught. He wanted us to be ready for this. Matt. 10:20-22, Jesus talking to his disciples before he sends them out: “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” So as you go out to preach the kingdom of God, preach the gospel, let the Spirit speak through you. Verse 21: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” You don’t sign up to be a disciple of Jesus Christ because it’s always easy on earth. If that’s why you signed up, let the words of the Lord inform that thinking this morning. You sign up because it’s the right thing to do, and he deserves all praise and glory, and that is going to mean difficulty in this life sometimes.
The apostle Andrew was crucified. The apostle Peter was crucified upside down. John was exiled to an island. Timothy was beaten to death. And we’re here, and if it gets too cold, we’ll have a heater. If it gets too warm, we’ll have air conditioning. We’ve got it pretty good, but let’s not forget, this was never meant to be heaven for us. So when it does get difficult, being a disciple of Jesus Christ, remember that’s what Jesus said would happen. And all signs point to the fact that it’s going to happen more and more increasingly. There will be more persecution, more hatred. And you know that what you stand for is not popular.
Now, it’s one thing to talk about God in the United States, and generally people are okay with that. Generally. But as soon as you start talking about Jesus Christ as the only way to God, wait for the hatred. Wait for the attacks to come.
The Grammy Awards were last Sunday night, and no, I didn’t sit there and watch them. But they happened last Sunday night, and they interviewed an entertainer that said he was a Christian. The entertainer said, I am a Christian, and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t understand that there is a God. Okay, sounds good so far. But then they asked him about Jesus Christ, and he quickly backpedalled and said, whoa, I believe there are lots of ways to God. My point is this: What if he would have said, yes, Jesus Christ is the only way to God? Watch the hatred fly.
Acts 4:12, just so we get this straight: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It’s not that difficult. John 14:6, Jesus saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now listen. Our message is that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life; and that won’t always be popular. True disciples suffer hatred, but they cannot become enraged. They cannot attack. We don’t fight the world. We do not fight the world. We love the world and serve them by bringing the message of Jesus Christ to them. We don’t fight. Violence, legislation—none of that is going to fix the world. Jesus Christ invading hearts and changing them from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh will start to change the world. And that’s what we do one person at a time. So when the hatred comes, who are we supposed to look like? Christ. Christ preached the gospel to those who hated him, and many people were saved. We’ll be hated, but we don’t return the hatred back.
5. A True Disciple Endures Until the End.
So a true disciple is hated, and you can see Matthew 13 and other passages about people who claim to be disciples, have some persecution, and then walk away; but a true disciple stays, commits, endures.
Matt. 24:9-13: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” Verse 13: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” True disciples endure until the end.
It’s Stephen in Acts 8—Stephen, being attacked because of this message about Jesus Christ that he was preaching. Stephen is being attacked, having stones crush his head, and he yells out what the Lord yelled out on the cross, “Lord, receive my spirit. Do not hold this sin against them.” And then I love these words: “He fell asleep.” That’s death for a believer. He fell asleep because he’s going to wake up again. He fell asleep. A true believer gets that this will be hard, this will be difficult, this won’t make me popular, but I’m enduring because I know what my future holds. I can’t die. And they endure.
6. A True Disciple is Rewarded at the End.
So pain, suffering, persecution, yes it could come. It will come in some regard. But guess what? A true disciple is rewarded at the end.
Some of you may have heard of the rich young ruler in Luke 18. This rich man, this moral man, would have been part of the Jewish religious system that held on to the Old Testament. He obeyed. He was wealthy most likely because he was such a good guy. He came to Jesus saying, Good Teacher, what do I need to do to have eternal life?—maybe expecting, you kidding me? Just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine. Well, that’s the opposite of what Jesus said. He said, keep all of the commandments. And this man, self-righteous in his own mind, said, I’ve kept them all. We know that’s not true. No one is perfect, except for Christ.
Then Jesus says, okay, fine, you’ve kept them all, then sell all your possessions and give all your money away to the poor. Does that mean that’s what it takes to be a Christian, you’ve got to give all your money away? No. Jesus was hitting him where he needed to be hit—his self-righteousness and his love of money. Money kept him from eternal life. That was his idol. That was the most important thing in his life. And the text says that this man went away sad. I preached a message on the rich young ruler years ago and called it, “When Jesus isn’t Worth It.” Other things are more valuable than Jesus sometimes, and Jesus wasn’t worth it to this man.
What I find interesting is the end of that story. The disciples are around Jesus, and Peter speaks up, maybe scratching his head because everyone would have thought, oh, the good kid’s coming to Jesus, the one who’s obeyed his whole life, the wealthy one because he’s so obedient. Oh, look, Jesus is going to like this guy! The kid goes away sad, the rich young ruler goes away sad, and everyone is standing around going, what’s happening here? And the disciples, Peter, say to Jesus, Luke 18:28, “We have left our homes and followed you.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one,” no one, “who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Jesus is saying, Peter, I know what you’ve left. You will receive a great reward. Now is not the time, but it’s coming. Disciples receive rewards. So now there’s a promise of suffering, but there’s also a promise of great reward coming from the Lord, and that’s what we hold out for when the suffering is present.
7. A True Disciple is Sent to Make More Disciples
The final characteristic of a true disciple of Jesus Christ: A true disciple is sent to make more disciples. And we’ll see this more in the coming weeks, but Matthew 9. In Matthew 9, Jesus is looking over the city of Jerusalem and weeping because they have no one to teach them about God, the true nature of God, no one to teach them about the kingdom of God. They don’t have shepherds. And Jesus is weeping. Matt. 9:36: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples,” these ones who have left everything to follow him, “he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly.’” He doesn’t say pray. Some of your translations might say beseech. Some of them might say beg. “’Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” He’s saying, disciples, you beg God to send out more people to preach the gospel to the kingdom. Beg God.
So you can imagine, right then and there, when he puts the period on the end of that sentence and ends that command, you can imagine them going, all right; let’s pray now. That would be the spiritual thing to do. Let’s pray. In Matthew 10, the very next chapter, they become the answers to their own prayers. Jesus sends them out into the harvest.
So it’s one thing for us to say, Lord, save my neighbor in Prescott. Lord, save my daughter’s soccer coach. Lord, save my boss. Lord, make wife a disciple. Lord, make my grandkids disciples of you. Lord, make my city councilmember in Prescott a Christian. That’s a good prayer to pray. Guess who the Lord uses all too often? You. Us. Not the preacher. Sometimes that happens. But he uses disciples. Good old-fashioned, everyday disciples of Jesus Christ are who he uses to bring more people into the kingdom.
And even in your own time this week, look at the end of Matthew 9. Look at Matthew 10. He is basically teaching them, this is what it’s going to look like. Okay, you’re going to go, and you’re going to preach the gospel, and I’m going to tell you what it’s going to look like. In verses 1-15, he sends them out. In verses 16-25, he tells them persecution is coming. In verses 26-33, he says, don’t be afraid. In verses 34-39, he says, this is a battle. That’s where he says the famous words, “Do not think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” It’s not always going to be easy preaching the gospel to people. It’s not always going to be easy. It’s a spiritual battle.
But then he says in chapter 10 verse 40, “Whoever receives you receives me.” What’s he implying there? While this is a battle, and persecution is coming, there will be people out there who receive the message that you preach to them. Is that encouraging news? Some of you have been preaching the gospel to grandparents or family members for decades. Jesus says there will be people who will receive the message about him. There will be. And that’s how he ends this dialogue to them. “Whoever receives you receives me.”
So what is a true disciple? I mean, a lot of people call themselves Christians, but in the Bible over and over—Matthew 10, 1 John 2, John 6—over and over there is this indication that it is not just calling yourself a disciple that makes you one. Because a lot of people call themselves one, and then when the years come they end up walking away from the faith that they never truly held onto. What’s a true disciple look like? First, a true disciple learns a new way of life, forsakes everything to follow Christ, bears much fruit, suffers much hatred, endures until the end, is rewarded at the end, and is sent to make more disciples.
And some of you right now are thinking, phew. That’s a heavy first day at church. And some of you might even be thinking, I don’t know if I can do all that. I’ve got good news for you. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t obey like you should. You can’t make disciples like you should. You can’t endure persecution like you should. But Jesus Christ is the sole power for your salvation. You simply come to him and acknowledge your separation from him, your inability, and he saves.
The Bible says in John 3 that he gives new life. You must be born again. How many of you made sure that you were born? No. You’re born by a power outside of you. Same way when you come to Christ. He is the one who will bring new life.
The passage I told you about where Peter looks at the rich young ruler, sad, dejected, walking away, also in that passage he says to the Lord, then Lord, who can be saved? If it’s not this guy, then who can be saved? And Jesus says these words: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” What is he saying there? There’s no human explanation as to why anybody is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Oh, that kid grew up in a good home, and he knew his Bible, and he’s just a good kid. That’s why he’s a Christian. No, no, no, that’s why he’s self-righteous. He’s a Christian because he’s been given a new heart by the one who gives new hearts. God has the power to save.
So if you’re in here thinking, I’m not a disciple, good news. That’s a great place to be. Now you call out to God who gives life. He gives life, and he gives it abundantly. So I would say, if that’s you this morning, call out to the Lord and acknowledge your sin before him and ask him to give you life. The one who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and believes in his heart that God saved him from the dead will be saved. You call him Lord, which means you call him master. You believe in your heart that he is who he said he is and did what he said he did. And you will be saved.
And for the believer, for the believer, let’s think about what we left to come to Christ. Let’s tell people that. Let’s tell people, I left the desire to have all the fame and glory, have all the human relationships, have all the immorality. Whatever it is that kept you from Christ that he helped you to overcome, let’s tell people that. Because disciples make more disciples. That’s our testimony. The Lord did a work in our heart, and he changed us.
There’s a poem called “I am a Disciple of Jesus Christ,” and no one knows who wrote it, but it’s a pretty good poem. So I want to read it this morning.
I am a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I will not look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed; my present makes sense; my future is secure.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set; my gait is fast; my goal is heaven; my road is narrow; my way is rough; my companions few; my guide reliable; my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, nor meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I will not give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I have prayed up, preached up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until he returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he comes. And when he comes to get his own, he will have no trouble recognizing me. My colors are flying high, and they are clear for all to see.
One life. You have one life. It will soon pass. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Lord, so often it seems so clear to us this is the only way to live, as a disciple of you. Father, help us. Help us as we seek to be followers of your son because there are times when it’s not clear. There are times when we don’t see clearly, we don’t embrace his commands, and we don’t even love him like we should. Help us, empower us, to walk out of here thinking, I’m a disciple, and that’s the only way for me to live. Lord, we come to you still having our flesh hang onto us, still not having that full and final salvation that we long for one day, and so we’re asking, by your power make us faithful this week. Make us faithful followers and make us faithful proclaimers. Because you, your Son, the Spirit deserve all glory from our lives. We pray in your Son’s wonderful, precious name. Amen.
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