Message No. 3: The Essentials Of Discipleship
Reading John 8v25-45. Part 2.
Preached By Ken Humphries,
I want to extend somewhat the 'Essentials of Discipleship' by turning your thoughts to John 13 and then eventually to John 15. Why? Read the following illustrations.
"I will make the place of my feet glorious"-among the poor, the devil-possessed, the mean, the decrepit, the selfish, the sinful, the misunderstood-that is where Jesus went, and that is exactly where he will take you if you are his disciple. Oswald Chambers.
"It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master." At first sight this looks like an enormous honour: to be "as his Master" is marvellous glory-is it? Look at Jesus as he was when he was here, it was anything but glory. He was easily ignorable, saving to those who knew him intimately; to the majority of men he was "as a root out of a dry ground." For thirty years he was obscure, then for three years he went through popularity, scandal, and hatred; he succeeded in gathering a handful of fishermen as disciples, one of whom betrayed him, one denied him, and all forsook him; and he says, "It is enough for you to be like that." The idea of evangelical success, church prosperity, civilised manifestation, does not come into it at all.
Oswald Chambers. Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 2812-2813. (Do those two illustrations tell you why?
The second segment of The Essentials Of Discipleship I would like to consider with you beloved is…………
A Love That Is Reflective! John 13v35.
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another."
Medical science has poured millions of pounds into trying to lengthen life and to some degree, at least, have been successful. May I ask a question! How much time and effort do I spend on trying to deepen life?
I spend a great deal of time on my hobby, preparation for preaching, reading material I have an interest in, plus many other things but how much time and effort do I spend on deepening my spiritual life?
There Is A Love Demanded Here: John 13v34.
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
You see, the Lord knows the propensity of the human heart to be censorious, cynical, and critical. To be hateful, hypocritical and hostile, therefor he demands love. Now in making such a demand He is saying two things.
(1) Take note of the impulse of your love: (His love)
Peter and John, I know you are so different in temperament but because of my love you can love each other. Simon Zelotes and Matthew, I know you come from opposite backgrounds but because of my love you can love each other with a godly love. Daring Andrew and Doubting Thomas, love each other in your Lord. As I have loved you, with a love that suffers long and is kind, with a love which many waters cannot quench, with a love that is stronger than death, so you sink your differences in loves wide, deep sea.
Take note of the impact of your love: John 13v35.
The badge of true discipleship is not the doctrinal statements to which we subscribe, not the types of hymns we prefer, not in the ritual we observe or the ordinances we cherish, not in our soul winning zeal, nor our faithfulness to the church we attend, important as those are, but in our love one towards another.
Its as the world of sinners lost and ruined by the fall see something that is real and different they will be pricked in heart and mind and then convicted by the Holy Spirit. That’s the impact of such love!
There Is A Love Divine Here: John 13v34. "As I have loved you."
Take a moment to remind yourself just how Jesus loved! John 13v1.
"He loved them unto the end." (eis telos) His was an enriching love, an edifying love and an enduring love. He loved them to the furthest extent, to the uttermost, not in terms of time but in terms of readiness to save them and serve them.
He desperately wants that His disciples love, as He loved them or at the very least moving toward that kind of love. John in his epistle makes it so very clear that there be no misunderstanding. John is writing to help struggling believers gain assurance. He says so in 1 John 5v13. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (Emphasis added). But along the way he has another purpose, and that is to destroy the false assurance of those who profess faith in Christ without really knowing Him. He makes godly love the litmus test for true Christianity. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4v8.
There Is A Love Displayed Here: John 15v13.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Tertullan, the first century historian said of those early Christians. "See how they love one another, see how they are ready to die for one another."
This was the banner of discipleship in the early church!
Its interesting, our Lord's last words to the Church at Ephesus, "Thou hast left thy first love." In spite of the outward activities of that church the penetrating gaze of the Lord Jesus spotted a fatal flaw. Yes, they had maintained their doctrinal steadfastness and continued to act as though all was well within when of a truth their orthodoxy had degenerated into mere formality. The thing that is so interesting is, they did not know things were not right, they were totally unaware of their true condition. Can such a thing happen today? Of course it can and often does. As it happened with Israel, the honeymoon ends. The loss of a vital love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ opens the door of spiritual apathy, indifference to others, love for the world, compromise with evil, people filled with their own importance, and, ultimately, the death of the church testimony altogether. God laid a terrible indictment at the door of Israel in Ezek.16v8-15. God had covered Israel with every conceivable beautiful thing but in verse 15 he says, "But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornication's on every one that passed by; he it was."
Many a church testimony lies in ruins and as dead as the dodo and everybody around is aware of it except the church concerned.
Like the elderly gentleman whose sight was not good, and as part of a group going around an art gallery, he insisted on making his knowledge known to the party about every exhibit they stopped at, that is, until they stopped at one particular exhibit. He began as before to express his knowledge; he waxed eloquent about the painter having been wrong in his judgement of colour, shape of the mouth, the colour of the eyes, the size of the head and many other flaws. Eventually his wife could stand it no longer, she moved very close to him and whispered, John, you are looking in a mirror!
Is my church displaying this quality of love that evidences true discipleship?
Stop right at that point preacher! Before you ask that question, you should be asking, are you displaying that kind of love? You see dear folks, the church is you and I and as we are so is our church. Our love most certainly needs to be reflective of Christ's love.
At this point in the life of Jesus and the disciples we discover Jesus taking time to teach his disciples some of the realities of life. With the solitude of the upper room now over, the agony of betrayal and death ahead, Jesus turns His and their thoughts to fruitfulness. He turns to this great subject of the vine and the branches, a subject by the way; every believer should give special attention.
Think about this next illustration!
Victorious living and effective soul-winning service are not the product of our better selves and hard endeavours, but are simply the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are not called upon to produce the fruit, but simply to bear it.
Roy Hession in The Calvary Road. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 13.
Think About The Vine And Its Background: John 15v1.
"I am the true vine and my father is the husbandman."
The vine was one of three trees that symbolised the nation of Israel. Psalm 80v8-19. The very same thought occurs in Isaiah's famous song of the vineyard. Isa. 5v1-7. Now, just before this discourse in John 15 the Lord Jesus had told his disciples a very provocative parable of the vineyard and the evil husbandman who were plotting to murder the divine owner's son. Matt. 21v33-46. The Lord Jesus then applied that parable to the nation of Israel and especially to its leaders. "Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Matt. 21v43.
Then we read, "When the chief Priests and the Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them, but when they sought to lay hands on him they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet." Matt. 21v45-46. Now its against that backdrop that we must interpret this "I am" saying of Jesus. Israel was God's vine, but she had borne no fruit, so the kingdom of God would be taken away and invested elsewhere. In short, with the light of the New Testament revelation in our hands we can see the Lord was referring to the church. In this present age, God's purposes are centred in the church. Thus we are called believers, brethren, disciples, Christians and saints.
It is too bad that anything so obvious should need to be said at this late date, but from all appearances, we Christians have about forgotten the lesson so carefully taught by Paul: God's servants are not to be competitors, but co-workers. A.W. Tozer in The Next Chapter After the Last.
B. Think About The Vine And Its Branches: John 15v2-4.
(1) There Is A Pruning And Purging Of The Branches Going On. v2-3.
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
We see Him at work with the pruning saw, cutting off dead, useless and unproductive branches quite ruthlessly. There is evidently no room in the vine for the unfruitful branch; it must be cut off. What does this mean? Well, it means there is a cleansing work going on at all times, which means people like Ananias and Sapphira who give the devil an ear and become fruitless, eventually are cut off and taken home to Heaven. In their case it was more sudden than most, none the less it is an example to us that we might understand, only clean fruit bearing branches remain as part of the visible, vocal, viable vine. The husbandman is busying purging the branches that bear fruit as well. Wherever He sees a branch on the vine that is busy bearing fruit, He does not simply leave it alone and allow it to get on with the job of bearing fruit, No! He begins a work of purging, which at times can be painful but necessary, to increase the fruit bearing of that branch. However, we are reminded in John 15v3 there is a gentler way. "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." The divine husbandman will not always resort to the pruning blade. The disciples and local church members who read and obey Christ's Word are continually kept clean by its effective power, it’s a source of continual cleansing to the individual, it penetrates the very heart of pretenders and eventually they are shown up for what they really are. Some may hide amongst the ripe fruit for a time, but rottenness will display itself in due course. Remember your dictionary definition of 'mature' ripe, almost rotten, believer be careful. Hearing, believing and obeying the Word of God, are the springs of vital spiritual life in the vine.
There Is A Placing And A Producing Going On: John 15 v4.
"Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me."
The place of the branch is in the vine, and the power of production is in the vine. All life and fruit are derived from an original connection with the vine.
A vine branch is lifeless, useless, and fruitless unless it remains connected to the vine. The disciple, the church, have no life in and off themselves, the disciple, the church, can flourish and bear fruit only by maintaining its connection with the True Vine.
Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Andrew Murray.
(C) Think About The Vine And Its Bounty: John 15v5.
"I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing."
In Hampton Court in London is a large green house containing an old and magnificent vine. Its branches run everywhere. It foliage is beautiful, its fruit is colourful and abundant. Even the remotest tiny tendril, seeking a corner to which it may cling, is vitally connected with the parent stem. That vast vine is an organic whole: one branch does not try to dominate the other or direct another branch. Each branch runs back to its source. The branches are independent yet dependent. Each reaches out to its own corner of the green house, each ads its contribution to the splendour of the whole. Each is busy producing its own foliage, flowers and fruit.
Such should be the life of every believer, disciple. Branches reaching out with the life of Christ. Not in competition, confrontation but complementing. "Without me you can do nothing." There is no such thing in the bible as a freelance Christian. We may go through the motions for a time, but all we produce is worldliness, carnality, legalism and death.
Real discipleship means being a Christian God's way!
Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God.
Resolved second: That whether others do or not, I will.