I want to begin this morning by briefly reviewing where we have been in this series “The Five Purposes of The Church. ” We have already examined three purposes – worship, outreach, and fellowship. Today we are going to look at the purpose of discipleship and next week conclude with service or ministry.
(Show overhead with quoted phrases on it).
The first Sunday we looked at worship and I suggested that the purpose of worship is “to personally experience God” in a variety of ways so that we become a better follower of God.”
Then we looked at outreach and I suggested that purpose of outreach is “to help people come home to God” by taking the God of the church into the community.
Then last week we looked at fellowship and I suggested that the purpose of fellowship is “to enable us to live for God everywhere” we go so that others will be interested in following God, too.
A balanced and healthy ministry must include all three of these elements plus discipleship and service. But what is the purpose of discipleship? In fact, what is Discipleship? Discipleship is again one of those church terms that we use a lot but fail to sometimes clearly define.
There are many “things” in the church culture that speak of discipleship. There are discipleship groups. There are discipleship programs. There are discipleship churches – congregations that are built around discipling people. So it is a familiar term to us. But what is its purpose? Why is it important?
Our text for this morning is Luke 14:33. This verse is part of a statement by Jesus that we sometimes like to over look because Jesus says some very hard things. However, I believe that once we have a better understanding of what discipleship is what he says will make sense.
Once again in your bulletin is a copy of a chart from the book The Purpose Driven Church with the segment on discipleship highlighted. I want to look for a moment at this segment because it helps us understand the purpose of discipleship.
One of the first things we notice is that the task of discipleship is to edify. Now what does edify mean? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster thesaurus, edify means to better, enhance; elucidate; educate, instruct, teach. But to make better how; to enhance what; to elucidate, or make more clear, who; to educate in what; to instruct in what; to teach what? Christ and Christianity. A purpose of discipleship is to deepen our relationship with God by making the implications of this relationship more clearly to us.
Rick Warren has said that there are five areas of learning or measurements of maturity that are important for becoming disciples: knowledge, perspective, conviction, skills, and character. Now this list is a series in and of itself. But, let me offer a simple statement that helps us understand what discipleship is in these terms. Discipleship is gaining the knowledge of scripture, which changes one’s perspective, provides us with Biblical convictions, helps us develop the skills of a servant, and enables the Holy Spirit to transform our character into a Christ-like one. This is a functional definition of edify – it involves education, enhancement, and instruction.
Now, let’s look at the objective of discipleship – maturity. What does maturity mean?
Well, returning to our thesaurus, the word mature comes up in the search and it means: to age, develop, ripe, ripen, grow, or grow up. What are we to develop into? How are we to grow? What are we to grow up as? One word says it all! Jesus Christ! A part of the purpose of discipleship is for us to grow and develop into a person who is more and more like Jesus as the years go by.
Now, let’s look at the life component section of our chart. It says my walk. Now what on earth does that mean? You may be thinking, “I walk fine! I may have a kink in my knee but I walk just fine. In fact the other day, I . . .” Wait, wait! That’s not what I mean.
Walk refers to how you are living your life. It refers to the sum total of your behavior plus your choices plus your attitudes plus your priorities plus your beliefs. It is the sum total response of how you live your life.
And what that requires is what the next two columns are all about – principles to live by and a foundation for living. All of us, every person here this morning live by a set of principles. Now what are principles? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a principle as a general or fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption.
Everyone one of us has a set of principles that we live by. Every one of us holds a set of assumptions about what is right and what is wrong; what is true and what isn’t true.
And these principles govern our actions and the values and beliefs behind those actions. Now let’s take a moment and list some principles that people live by these days:
Place on overhead
People live by the principle of: (have congregation offer suggestions).
Now, let’s take a few of these suggestions and ask, “What happens when this principle is either taken away or deeply shaken?”
These principles form for us a foundation for living. We build our lives on these principles and when they come crashing down or they begin to crack – our lives start to unravel, don’t they?
Discipleship provides a foundation for living and that foundation is what? God and a life that is God-shaped and God-led and God-empowered!
Finally, the emotional benefit of Discipleship is stability. All of these principles that we have listed are unstable. Wealth can disappear in a heartbeat. Power can be taken away in a second. Status can be lost overnight. What then is the most stable force for living there is? God.
Now, having said all of this, I want us to take a look at Luke 14: 25 – 35.
Read the passage
Jesus says three important things regarding Discipleship that directly deal with what we have been presented with.
1. If you want to follow me, you must love me more than anyone else, including yourself.
Jesus is speaking of ultimate loyalty. He was saying to the large crowd that was following Him, “If you want to follow me, no one and nothing else must come first.”
Discipleship is about commitment to God first and foremost before anything else. Our walk – the principles we live by and the foundation we build on must now and forever be God-centered. Nothing else can exist there.
Christian history contains numerous stories of people who physically died for their faith because they refused to follow anyone but God. Their walk was based on unshakable principles gained from study of the Bible and an unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ alone.
2. Do you want to follow me? Count the cost; make sure you understand the price to be paid to follow me.
Discipleship is about maturity. It is about growing up, ripening into a full flavored faith. Jesus was trying to help the crowd that was following Him understand that you need to weigh the pros and cons of all of this before you make the decision to follow Him.
In World War II, one member of a German prison camp was not a Jew or an allied POW. It was a German pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who had made the decision to join the opposition to Adolph Hitler. The decision would cost him his life not long before his prison camp was liberated by Allied troops.
Several years before he died, Bonhoeffer wrote a book entitled the Cost of Discipleship. In that book he wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him, “come and die.”
That’s quite a statement to make. For Bonhoeffer, it was a prophetic statement about his own life. But, what did he mean?
Bonhoeffer meant that if one is going to really follow God it requires you to give up your agenda and your rights and follow God no matter what, no matter where, no matter why. Jesus says the same thing in our passage.
Discipleship is about a total 100% no-holds barred commitment to God that puts everything else second. And this commitment is carefully and completely understood before it is entered into. In doing so, there is stability, strong principles to live by, and a strong foundation for living.
3. If you are going to be my disciple, you have to give everything up!
Jesus cannot make it plainer than that, can he? If you want to be my follower, my disciples, if you really, really, really, really want to go where I go and do what I ask you to do, if you really want your life to be shaped and formed around me – then you have to give everything up.
The things that we have listed – they have to be let go of. They cannot be our security. God must be our security.
And that security costs us everything – our abilities, our money, our time, our priorities – everything. But, to me, it is worth it!
Let’s take another look at the diamond diagram. Discipleship is at the second base position. It is between fellowship and ministry or service.
It is between growing in Christ and serving in Christ. Why? Because if you choose to be a disciple then the hardest part of that choose is the serving part. Discipleship is the line that is crossed from knowing Christ and growing in Christ to making the conscious decision to serve Christ.
That’s what Jesus turned around to say to the crowd who was following Him. Are you ready to serve me, to do what I ask of you, to go where I ask you to go?
I don’t know about you, but I have found that I have had to recount the cost several times in my life after my initial commitment to Christ at the age of 8.
Once during my teens I remember of really struggling with letting go of the desire, as I look back at it now, of wanting to fit in and be “in” to the extent that I was slowly walking away from God and toward status. I remember the night during a revival service when I almost dragged one of the laymen down the aisle after the praying had started and recounted the cost and made the decision to pay it and come back to God.
Then there was the time in college when one my professors laid it on the line in chapel and I knew that I need to recount the cost and again made the decision to follow Him no matter what.
Another time came at the end of a painful time in my 30’s when I had to decide if I was going to keep paying the cost or finally sell out to my own selfish ways. I decided to keep paying the cost of following God.
I have never regretted those decisions. They have not been easy. But they have been right. What they have required of me is to basically say, I give up! I give it all up to you, Lord, all to you, I hold nothing back, take it all!
What is the purpose of discipleship? (Put new overhead up) – To turn us from being served to server. Jesus himself said that he did not come to be served but to serve.
In a few moments, the Sunday School class that I lead will be meeting. We are going to be talking about making adjustments. In this particular segment of study the authors, Henry Blackaby and Claude King, of our workbook, Experiencing God, list several different kinds of adjustments that God may require us to make if we are going to follow him. Here they are: (overhead up)
God may require us, individually and congregationally, to make adjustments in our:
- 1. Circumstances – like job, home, finances, and others
- 2. Relationships – family, friends, business associates and others
- 3. Thinking – prejudices, methods, your potential and others
- 4. Commitments – to family, church, job, plans, tradition, and others
- 5. Actions – how your pray, give, serve, and others
- 6. Beliefs – about God, His purposes, His ways, your relationship to Him and others
Take a moment and look carefully at this list. Discipleship is about making the necessary adjustments to totally follow God. Which of these adjustments do you need to make? Which of these adjustments do we need to make?
We are concluding this morning with a hymn that came in my conscious thought as I read through this sermon on Wednesday. It is a hymn that I used to sing as a kid and it very eloquently states the main point of this sermon. That to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means for us to go deeper and higher in the love of Jesus because it is the love of Christ that we proclaim.
In conclusion, I simply ask, “Are you ready, not willing, but ready to say “yes” to God no matter what that means so that you become the servant of God no matter where, no matter how, no matter what?” The altar is open to make that commitment today. Obey the God this morning and do the right thing. Amen.