The Content of Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-God’s plan in human history is to redeem people, moving them from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Son. This looks like God’s people, in God’s place, serving under God’s rule and blessing. 

-A disciple is: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. Summarized by an arrow picture

-Today we’re going to look at the idea summarized in the movie Pay it Forward. Don’t recommend watching it, I haven’t even seen it myself, but the storyline is brilliant (feature a young Haley Joel Osment coming off his smash hit The Sixth Sense). His teacher challenges his class to come up with a way to make the world a better place. He says he’ll find 3 people to help, with something big that they can’t do for themselves, who are asked to do the same for 3 more people, and so on and so forth, until pretty soon you’ve helped a literal country’s worth of people.

-You may have seen or heard of this happening on a smaller scale in a drive through, but there always ends up being someone who stops the chain!

-This concept is a good summary of discipleship: each person reach 1 other person with the gospel message, who will reach 1 more person until it literally takes over the world! Paul summarizes this idea in 2 Tim. 2:2“what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people, who will be able to teach others also.”

READ/PRAY – Col. 3:12-17 (573)

What is the Bible?

-Great place to look is a dictionary! Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms

-Really brief summary: God’s Word.

-Inspired: summarized as “God-breathed” These are God’s very words that are being spoken to us as we hear, read, think about them. That means it is authoritative, the final say in all our lives and the means by which we understand what holiness is. We wouldn’t know who God is apart from His revelation in His Word.

-Because it is God’s very Word, it is also truthful. Everything it says is true and corresponds to reality. The difficulty with this is sometimes we’ll get our interpretation or understanding wrong. The problem isn’t with the Bible, it’s with us! Our tendency is to look at the Bible as the problem instead of looking at ourselves. 

-Next, we see that the Bible is sufficient. If you want to know how to grow in holiness, what God is like, how we got here, the purpose of human existence, look to the Bible! Other things based on the Bible can be helpful, but the Bible is the only one that is completely true. 

-Because it is sufficient, that also means it’s necessary for us. If the Bible is the only place we can truthfully and perfectly know God, we need it like a fish needs water, or a human needs food. We can’t survive without it!

-We also praise God that His Word it clear. It is able to be understood, however, it can’t be understood completely, and it requires the proper tools (and the HS). 

-Finally, and most importantly for our topic today: the Bible is powerful! I have lost count of the number of testimonies I’ve heard where someone picked up the Bible and started reading, and suddenly were confronted with who Jesus is and put their faith in Him! 

-A few weeks ago I heard another story of someone who was intrigued enough to start reading the Gospel of John, only to get to John 8 and stop because they were scared of how Jesus would respond to the woman caught in adultery. Months later, their curiosity got the best of them and they returned to John 8 and seeing Jesus’ response was enough for them to believe in Him.

-But the Bible isn’t just powerful for salvation, notice the other effect: transformation. As disciples, we’re called to pursue transformational learning. It’s not enough to be a bunch of eggheads walking around with more biblical knowledge (trivia) than anyone else, we need to live it out.

-This is summarized by 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Do you want to know how to be complete? Know, live, breath God’s Word, and then live it out by your good works.

-Do you realize how powerful God’s Word is? We read it in a place like Rom. 1:16, but do we actually believe that? God’s Word has toppled tyrannical dictators, literally changed the course of western civilization, and was the tool used to save everyone in this room who believes in Jesus as their Savior.

-Many people miss heaven by 18”, the space between the head and the heart.

-How do we ensure that we’re not one of those people? What is it that we need to help others grow as a disciple, and ensure we’re growing as disciples?

-I gave it away last week: the proclamation of the Word of God, done by the people of God with prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, and this can only come about by persevering step by step, moment by moment and day by day. The 4 Ps, hold on to those, because those are the focus of our series! I even gave you blanks this week to fill out because they’re that important! (I don’t like giving you blanks because it causes your brain to listen for just those things instead of the whole message)

  1. Proclamation of the Word of God

-This is why we began with a question. If the Bible is God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to us then we need to make that the focus of our lives. Jesus summarizes this idea well when He’s being tempted by the devil: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

-Brothers and sisters, think about that reality. If we’re not spending time with God in His chosen means of revealing Himself to us we are killing ourselves, cutting ourselves off from the source of life He’s given to us.

-I’ve shared this example before, but it has stuck with me. We as Evangelicals claim to be people of the book, but how early in our worship services is God’s Word opened? Go look at some other churches, see when the Bible is finally opened! Usually it’s when it’s time for the sermon. If you just attend a RCC service every week for 3 years the whole Bible will be read to you, yet it’s not always applied, lived out, or trusted to be enough.

-Similarly, the fact that you’re sitting here tells me that over the course of your life, you’ve eaten food. Yet how many of those meals can you remember? A couple, but those are literally lifegiving to your body! Spiritually, you need to be ingesting God’s Word, even though it can at times feel completely plain, ordinary, and boring (like eating kale). It’s giving us life, it’s transforming our minds, and conforming us (SLOWLY) into God’s image.

-Think of a cup of tea (tried it, came back to coffee!). Tea is water that has been transformed. Takes on the smell, flavor, color of the tea literally transforming the water. We need to steep ourselves in God’s Word so that we are transformed, so that what comes off us is the small, the flavor, the color of God instead of us.

-Let’s look at 1 passage in connection with this idea. Col. 3:12-17

-Just as we saw in Eph. We see another reminder to put off the old sinful ways, and put on God’s characteristics/traits.

-Love is the new ethic and standard of living for believers. Peace is possible in and through Christ. “And be thankful” Good week to have that reminder! If we are “In Christ” than gratefulness should be our MO. No room for Eeyore’s in God’s house!

-How does this take place? By letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly. How can Christ’s word dwell in you unless you’re spending regular time in it? Richly, not just haphazardly or a little bit. A rich cup of coffee has a ton of flavor in it, our lives should be so steeped in God’s words that that’s all we know! I have heard it said that the gospel is a well that we need to keep come back to again and again and again. We’ll grow deeper and deeper, but it’s never a new well. Same place, same person, same methods, but we become changed.

-This dwelling in Christ’s words isn’t just for us, we’re to use it to “teach and admonish” each other. Do you let God’s Word teach and admonish each other? There is nothing more powerful and encouraging than speaking God’s Word to each other. We can even do that with singing!

-On top of all those things is “whatever you do.” Everything you do (word or deed, life encompassing) should be done as an act of worship to God. Are your words and actions representative of Him? Is your life matching your talk, and is your talk matching God’s Word?

-Think of how the book of Acts talks about the spreading of the early church.

-As God’s Word spreads, disciples are made or matured. It doesn’t happen apart from God’s Word going out!

-Think of what we saw over the past 3 months in Ephesians! (a brief overview of the entire book here:

-The book begins by praising God for his work before the dawn of time to call a people to Himself. A people who heard “the word of truth” and then believed, leading to the third person of the Godhead living in you.

-Then Paul gives thanks for the church’s “faith and love toward all the saints.” The Word is planting itself in people’s lives and being made visible through their actions. 

-These new actions leads to a new life that is completely dependent on God, because we were/are dead without Him, but now because of His grace in us, we can live transformed lives.

-This transformation is seen by 2 very different people becoming 1 new person under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, making us citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. 

-This proclamation continues in chapter 3 where Paul shares how he preached this message of God’s plan from eternity past for all people, leading to Paul praying for the church be strengthened in Christ so that He will dwell in them.

-As they’re strengthened, Paul urges them to “live worthily,” which is accomplished through God’s people using their gifts in service of each other so that everyone will become mature.

-This is the opposite of the way the world works, they have not “learned Christ,” they haven’t put off their old selves which means they have no hope of putting on the new self! The rest of the book is an explanation of how they show they’ve “learned Christ” in all the areas of their lives (marriage, children and parents, slaves and masters). 

-Paul ends this wonderful book by asking for prayer to boldly proclaim the gospel, just like we should be doing to the world and each other on a regular basis, in order to encourage each other to move 1 step closer to Christ.

-So what does it look like to proclaim the word of Christ to each other? Is it only singing? Is it only preaching? Do we have to walk around with the Bible app open on our phone to look for the best verse for every conversation we’re having? (that would be funny) 

-Think of all the examples the Bible gives us of how we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (taken from The Vine Project, 86):

-You could write a letter. Most of the NT is letters! Letters mean a lot more today than they did 15 years ago, much more encouraging than a text!

-You could invite a group of people to your house for a late night get together. Share stories, share a meal, and talk about what God has been doing in your life [Acts 20:7-9 Eutychus] 

-You could talk about the sermon from that day as you go out and grocery shop after church on a Sunday. I ran into a couple people at Sam’s Club at about 1 PM last week! [Acts 17:17-18] 

-You could look for opportunities to encourage the barista at Caribou when it’s so early you’re just grumpy (it worked for Paul in Acts 16:13-14)

-You could find the local meeting place (I think in MN that’s Target!) and look for opportunities to share with others about why God makes sense in this crazy world we live in [Acts 19:9] 

-You could read Scripture in here or in class or even if you think God has given you a gift to preach, to let me know and have you preach here! [1 Tim. 4:13] 

-Or you could talk about it during your commute, in an Uber, on the train, it worked for Philip when he was going about his daily life! [Acts 8:29-35]

-There is no area in your life that is left out of the need for God’s Word to speak truth into. But here’s the other part about it. You don’t even need to open the Bible to proclaim the Word of God to someone else.

-Imagine sitting down with a child who is afraid of beginning school for the first time. You can encourage them to trust in God, that God is always with them, that God will never leave them alone. You could open the Bible to Phil. 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” You could take the child to 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Or you could summarize those ideas for him. 

-But this assumes that you know enough of God’s Word to be able to proclaim it in any situation you find yourself in. This is how you demonstrate that you’re letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! If you know God’s Word, love God’s Word, and are letting God’s Word soak into every pore of your being, that’s what will come out.

-But that’s only the first P! Don’t worry, we’ll walk through the next 3 much quicker, because we’ll be looking at them in more detail in future weeks!

  • Prayerful dependance on the Spirit of God

-We saw this verse last week, but it bears repeating this week 1 Thess. 4:17. We’re commanded to pray without ceasing. Pray for the people you come into contact with, pray that God will bring to mind the truths of His Word in every situation and circumstance. 

-Maybe you’ve had a situation where someone is sharing something going on in their life, and you’re reminded of a verse that you’d been meditating on the week before, and you share it. Isn’t that a wonderful way to let Christ’s Word dwell in you richly? 

-I have a friend who’s been praying for opportunities to share the gospel with his boss. They were meeting to talk about a big project that was due soon and he said “I hope we can get it done!” The boss said “hope isn’t real,” and my friend took the opening!

-Once again, this assumes you know it well enough to be able to bring it back to mind when those situations arise. And what better things to be praying back to God than the very Words He inspired! (Read the Bible and pray those truths!)

-“Prayerlessness, like Wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.” (TVP, 90)

  • People are God’s fellow workers

-I read a quote last from Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, but I only shared 1 line from it. I wanted to read the whole thing this week. 

-We cannot do this alone, we desperately need each other. Yet how often do we try to do it alone, in our own strength, in our own power? Jesus never meant for us to work on discipleship in isolation, but we often miss this until we’re at our breaking point, and then we start to open up to others! If we let others in at the front end, if we open up to others and both encourage and are encouraged by them, we’ll have people ready to speak truth to us when we’re weak.

-Is this God’s job, or ours? Yes! Paul calls us the body of Christ today. We’re supposed to represent Him to those we contact. Think of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:6-9. We can plant, we can water, but we can’t force anyone to grow. We plant and water indiscriminately! We spread God’s Word far and wide, anywhere we go and with anyone we come into contact with! We are God’s chosen means of spreading the gospel message today, in word and deed.

  • Perseverance, step by step

-One of my favorite verses of all time is Gal. 6:9.

-Notice the key to reaping: not giving up. Perseverance is expected in the Christian life! That doesn’t mean it’s easy, doesn’t mean it always comes naturally, but a verse like this gives us hope to NOT give up! No matter how hard it gets, keep doing good.

-Paul talks about this all over his letters! Think of all the putting off and putting on we studied in Ephesians! In between Christ’s 2 comings we positionally are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, but we still strain and groan and grow while we’re here on earth. Think of how Paul summarizes this in Phil. 3:12-14

-We continue pressing on! We continue straining forward! We keep our eyes on the prize: the upward call (discipleship)

-How do we put this all together? The 4 Ps: Proclamation, Prayerful, People, Perseverance. We, Word, Worship, Witness.

-None of us are in the same spot, none of us have the same temperament, none of us approach problems exactly the same. We need each other to speak God’s Word to each other and continually encourage us to take 1 step closer to Christ. But remember, the message for believers is the same message an unbeliever needs. Wherever anyone is on this arrow, what they need is encouragement from God’s Word. We’re not trying to make clones, we’re trying to become what God has uniquely created and wired us to be.

-Discipleship isn’t systematic or programmatic. That’s part of why there’s so much confusion about it! It’s the same tools, but leading to a different result. 

-No 2 snowflakes are the same, just as no 2 Christians are the same. God has chosen a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him, it requires a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him to others.

-This week, who is 1 person you can intentionally “pay it forward” to, and find a way to encourage them to take 1 stop closer to Christ.

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