30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

March 12, 2000

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"The Meaning of Discipleship"

Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking you for tuning in this morning to WAVG radio to listen to a message of God. Once again I want to encourage you to get your Bible, pen, and piece of paper out and be ready to write the scriptures down and turn to them as the truth of God's word is presented this morning. How many times has it been that you have heard something discussed in matters of religion and wished that you had a pencil handy to write down that passage of scripture or that particular thought? I want to give you a chance right now to get your pencil and paper ready so that you can be prepared to write these verses down so that you can do some serious study at a later date. Jesus said: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). As we discussed on this program several weeks ago, many false prophets are out there trying to deceive innocent people into believing a lie. I want to make sure that I am only presenting the truth of God's Word and I want you to test my words to make sure that I am not putting forth a doctrine that is false but rather is true. My wife used to work at a bank as a teller and one of the first things that she was taught was how to tell what a real dollar bill looked like. Once she knew what the real dollar bill looked like, then she knew that anything else that did not look like the real thing, was a counterfeit. So it is with religion. All we need to do is learn what the truth is, and then we will know that any other doctrine put forth is not the truth. I want to encourage you this day to learn the truth. Jesus said plainly in John 8:32: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Every sincere, religious person will want to learn the truth in order to make sure that his call and election is sure (2 Pet 1:10).

This morning we are going to discuss "The Meaning of Discipleship." Before we can ever hope to be an effective Christian, Husband, Father, wife or mother, or Example in the Lord's church we must understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is defined as "A pupil or follower of any teacher or school; A follower of Jesus." (Webster). A Christian learns that he or she must forsake everything and every person and put Christ FIRST in their life. To Forsake is to "Give up; renounce; to leave; abandon; desert." (Webster). Friends we need to realize that those that are unwilling to do so, will not enter into heaven and will never become the servant that Jesus wants us to be. When we grasp the true meaning of discipleship and the importance of FOLLOWING CHRIST then and only then will we become an effective servant in His kingdom.

Unfortunately there are many, far too many that are not able to grasp the true meaning of discipleship and as a result, find themselves trying to serve God while at the same time trying to conform to society and the ways of man. We must understand the truth of Jesus' words as He said: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt 6:24). The imprisoned apostles upon being freed in Acts chapter 5 were warned by the officers not to teach things pertaining to Jesus. But we find it stated in verse 29 "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men." All in the listening audience this morning must understand that it is an impossibility to serve Christ Jesus and hold onto the fleshly enticements of the world around us. But again, far too many seem to want Christ to hold on to one of their hands, while they are holding onto the world with the other hand. That simply will not work. With Jesus Christ it is either all or nothing. If He is not at the very top of our priorities, then He is at the very bottom. He will not accept a place in the middle. If we are not willing to surrender completely to the demands of Christ, then we should just stay in the world and continue to do the things like the masses around us. We just cannot serve Christ and mammon. Jesus makes that very clear. Jesus appeals to all mankind to come unto Him. His words are tender and sweet as he pleads "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt 11:28- 30). As a result of this invitation, there are many that set out to follow Him, seeking to become His disciples. However, Jesus warns that we cannot be His disciples UNLESS we first count the cost. We must take a stand for Jesus above all else, because anything short of this will not make us a worthy disciple of His. I invite you now to turn with me in your Bible to the book of Matthew, chapter 10, verses 32 through 39. Please read along with me as we notice from these verses the cost one must pay to be a true disciple of Jesus: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; "and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."

After reading this passage of scripture, do you think that the Lord is saying that if we follow Him, then we cannot have any kind of relations with our family, our father or mother, son or daughter? No, He is not saying that. He IS saying that we cannot put them ahead of our love and service for Jesus Christ. He is saying that everything, and that includes everything, must be secondary in our life - He must come first. When the choice comes to decide between Christ and whatever else it might be, we must choose the Lord and His desires in our life. In Matthew 16: 24-27, we hear the Lord saying to his disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

In this passage we find that Jesus puts following Him above even our own life. Those early Christians were faced with that decision on a continuing basis. Many of them suffered death rather that renounce their faith in Christ. Fortunately, we are not faced with that kind of decision, at least not in the country in which we now life. He goes on to say that there is no eternal profit to gain everything in this world, while at the same time neglecting the proper spiritual food for our soul. Without a steady diet of Bible study, and living for Christ above all else on a daily basis, then we will gain nothing when it is time for us to lay our lives down. Whatever cross comes into our lives, we must be willing to accept it and bear it, rather than renounce our faith in our Lord. In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus very plainly lays out the cost of discipleship. Notice now as the inspired writer Luke records these words: "Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Now friends, let me ask you, is there anything wrong with burying the dead, or bidding a house guest a fond fair well? No. But, Jesus is saying that if these things take precedence over doing the will of Christ, then we are not truly his disciples. We must first obey Him.

We see from these scriptures that the Lord wants all to follow Him, but we first must count the cost of doing so. If we are not willing to be TOTALLY committed to Jesus, then we cannot be one of His disciples! By His very own life Jesus demonstrated what it meant to be a follower and to deny self. Did He not come to do the will of the Heavenly Father? Listen to what He says, "My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16). And again, in the prayer of Christ, we hear Him say, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." (John 17:4). Christ submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus spent His whole life on this earth trying to get all of mankind to realize and understand that we too must do likewise, to be obedient, first listening to and following our Lord. If we really want to be the disciple of Jesus, then we must allow His word to lead and guide us in all that we do, in all that we say, yes, even in every facet of our life.

Jesus fully expects us to serve Him all the time. If we serve Him only when it is convenient and pleasant, then we have not denied our self; neither are we the Lord's disciple. To be His disciple we must REMAIN in His word. Jesus said: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32). Paul reveals that it was for this that Jesus died, so that those of us who "live" as a result of His death might stop living for our own pleasure, but for the pleasure of Him who died on our behalf. Again, I encourage you to open your Bible and hear the apostle Paul as he speaks by inspiration in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."We are exhorted to continue in the faith and as a result of this, we will encounter tribulation. But you know what, all is worth while as we strive for the everlasting kingdom, that reward in the very presence of Jehovah when this life has ended! If you are truly looking forward to that great moment, then you need to ensure that you are following FIRST after Jesus Christ in every aspect of your daily life.

A Disciple of Christ proves His allegiance by doing the Lord's will. Part of that proving can only be realized when one takes the necessary time to read and study His word to us, the bible. Daily Bible study is needed and required for us to become the true disciples that He intends for us to be. It is only through study that we can come to a full knowledge of "What Is Truth" that pertains to our teacher, Jesus Christ. Are we like our teacher? If so, then be determined right now to follow Jesus. If we do, we can have peace through His word which says: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

As we set forth in the beginning of our lesson this morning, a disciple is a "learner." Each and every one of us should be learners of Jesus. You know, if you think about it, every Christian should be a student in the classroom of Jesus. One thing that each Christian should gain is information on how to conduct our life as a Christian as we are determined to follow after the teachings of Christ. I am reminded of what the apostle Paul recorded in the New Testament book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 17-24. Please read along with me as we read these verses and then I'll make some comments regarding them. "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."

In these verses, Paul is talking about the importance of putting off the old man and putting on the new man, the one that has been baptized into Christ and has made a commitment to Jesus to serve Him and Him only. He begins by stating in verses 17-19 that there are some people that pursue vain interests in life. Their understanding has become darkened and they have alienated themselves from the presence of God. He encourages these Ephesians not to walk like the rest of the Gentiles in this way because those that so walk have removed themselves from the source of eternal life. Friends, there is nothing more important in this life than to serve Christ. To serve man will only result in disappointment and despair. It is only a life lived for Jesus that we can find happiness, peace of mind, and a life beyond the grave that we can live forever.

In verse 20 we see the dividing line of the text in that Paul says "But you have not so learned Christ." The Christians at Ephesus where Paul is writing were told that these things that the Gentiles were practicing that were contrary to the ways of Christ were things that were never taught by Christ or the apostles. To be a disciple of Christ requires one to live for Him, not the ways of the world. Christ is not of the world but is God. Friends, who is it that will judge us in the last day, the world or Christ? Jesus said: "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." We see from the Bible that it is Christ that will judge us and this being so, we better insure that we receive our day to day foundation principles from our Lord.

In the concluding verses, 21-24, Paul points out that if we have heard Jesus, and have been taught by Him, that we will be one that will shed our old self of those things that we practice that are contrary to Christ's law and then put on the new person, the one that is determined to be a true disciple, that is a learner, for our Lord. Though we must live among sinners, we don't have to act like them. We should stand out as being different. The apostle Peter wrote: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). Friends, can it be said of you that you are peculiar as far as the rest of the world is concerned? Do you stand out as being different from most? A disciple of Jesus is not afraid to STAND OUT and be different, because we are.

A disciple of Christ realizes that this world is not our home. When we realize something it means to know or to understand. Listen to the Hebrew writer as I read from Hebrews 11:13-16: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." The Israelites of the Old Testament sought to enter the promised land. Today, each and every one of us should seek to enter into the promised land of heaven. It is promised to everyone that believes in Christ, and of course believing means that one will do what Christ asks of them. However, far too many people become satisfied with this life and take no time to invest in life after death. God says in this passage of scripture that we just read that He is not ashamed of those who willingly serve Him and obey Him. He is proud of us as we are of our own children when they listen to our words of direction.

The true Christian, disciple in Christ has learned Christ because he has been taught by Him. Christianity is not bought, caught, or fought, but is "taught". We cannot be a Christian, a disciple of Christ, without learning Christ and His doctrine. Students of Christ are sticklers for remaining in His teaching. We know this is true because in 2 John 9-11 it says: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." It is not only evident to God, but it is evident to all those around us when we practice righteousness. We only have fellowship with Christ and our Father when we are abiding in the teachings of Christ. Are you abiding in the teachings of Jesus today? If not, you are not in fellowship with our Lord.

Once again I ask, when people see us and our ways, do they see our teacher? Acts 4:13 says:"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus." It doesn't matter how much or how little education we have received, what matters is our daily walk with Christ. Can others look at you and know that you are a student in the classroom of Jesus? Friends, if these scholarly Jews had no problem knowing whose classroom these apostles were in, then those of the world will have no problem knowing either. Let us not dishonor the name of Christ. Wear His name proudly. When we believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins we put on His name. We are called Christians. To be a Christian one must be wearing Christ. Think about it, a Christian without Christ would only be left with I-A-N because C-H-R-I-S-T would be missing. Therefore a Christian without Christ means I Am Nothing!

Those of us that have been taught by Christ are controlled by His message and we put our trust in Jesus and His truth. It says in Ephesians 1:13: "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." That is why a disciple of Christ will study the Bible and desire to come to a full knowledge of the truth and of the teacher.

Friends, this lesson must be learned and applied in our life before we can ever be an effective husband or wife, mother or father in our family relationship. Self-centeredness must be destroyed. We must take up the cross of Jesus and proudly display Him in our life. Our progress in the Lord will be evident before all when we do!

This morning I have been talking about "The meaning of discipleship." But, who is a disciple of Christ? A disciple is one who is willing to follow Christ in every aspect of their life. In Acts 11:26, we learn that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Thus, a disciple of Christ Jesus is a Christian, a follower of Christ.

Our question then is: How does one become a Christian? That can be answered quickly and easily. To become a Christian, one must first believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We see that the first element necessary in order to become a Christian is to believe in Jesus. Believing means a willingness to submit to His instruction, His will for us. We gain this strong belief in Christ by hearing Him. Romans 10:17 states: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." We need to get our Bible and read from the word of God to learn about Jesus. This is absolutely essential in order for us to hear the good message of the Messiah. Then, once we have gained a belief (faith) in Christ it will lead us to ask, "What shall I do?" To that question the answer lies in the apostle Peter's response to the Jews on Pentecost. He clearly says: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Mark 16:16 says: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." From these scriptures, as well as many others, we learn that one must Hear the Word of God, believe that Christ Jesus is the Son of God, repent of past sins and be buried in the waters of baptism in order to be forgiven of past sins. The one who does these with an honest heart will be cleansed by the blood of Christ and the Lord will add his or her name to the saved (Acts 2:47).

Friends, if you consider yourself a disciple of Christ then you will DO that which Christ has asked for you to do. Do you love Jesus? Jesus said: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Are you a friend of Jesus? Jesus said: "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). Again if we love Jesus, if we are a friend of Jesus we will do what He commands of us. Now listen once again as I read a passage of scripture of what He commands of us: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." Friends, it can't get any plainer than that right there. A disciple of Christ is a learner of Christ, a follower of Christ. Won't you give your life to Him today and follow Him from now on so you will be able to have an eternal home in heaven?

Thank you for listening this morning to "What Is Truth?" I trust that you were edified and encouraged by the lesson this morning as we all strive to do much better in our day to day life for the Lord. Please tune in again next week at 8:30 AM here on WAVE 1450 AM. for another message from God's inspired word.

This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"