Message No. 4: Our Enlisting In Discipleship
Reading Luke Ch. 9v18-26. Part 2.
Preached By Ken Humphries,
The rich young ruler had morals, manners and money. He would be made welcome readily into many a church membership today, with no questions asked. He would make a good "joiner", but he would have been a poor disciple. He was not prepared to deny himself, take up his cross and follow all the way. Luke 9v23.
"And he said unto them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Enlisting in discipleship means three very distinctive commitments, 'denying self' 'taking up the cross' 'following Jesus', that will mean discipline, training, and involvement.
Making disciples was so very important to the Lord Jesus he decided to spend three and one half years with this group of twelve men that even when he would not longer be with them they would continue undaunted.
Jesus would later say to this same bunch of men minus one, plus one, go into the entire world and make disciples. You see, disciples are not born, they are made in the school of obedience and discipline. The disciples themselves had to learn that very truth. Why?
Because of a lack of Spiritual Understanding: Matt. 15v15-16.
The Lord had chosen these men to evangelise the world, but they had a problem. They did not understand the teaching of the Saviour. They were dull, and blind to His wonderful ministry. In fact, every time the Lord asked them did they understand, they answered, "yes Lord," but time soon revealed they did not understand at all.
Dr. John MacArthur says, "They were so dull, they didn't even know when they didn't understand."
They did not even understand the role they were to play in His great work. They lacked spiritual understanding, which Jesus had to put right. How did He do that? By enlisting them in His service and teaching them daily. As a matter of fact we read in Acts 1v2-4 that Jesus taught them even for forty days after the resurrection "of things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
He was constantly teaching them that He might bring them to a fuller understanding, that of course is what discipleship is all about, always learning from the master and coming to a knowledge of the truth. Unlike some who are always learning and never come to an understanding of the truth.
Because of a lack of Scriptural Humility: Mark 9v33-37.
An interesting thing to note about the twelve, they were proud, jealous, and filled with envy. What a statement to make about these good men! Well, it’s a correct statement, let me display. Mark 9v33-37.
"And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,
Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth not me, but him that sent me."
The argument about who would be the greatest in the kingdom in Matthew 20v20-28 became so heated that James and John actually had their mother, approach the Saviour about the matter. How lacking in Scriptural humility! But look at the reaction of the others in Matthew 20v24.
"And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren."
Why were they furious? Because they could not abide such a lack of humility, they could not stand the stench of pride? No. It was because James and John jumped in before the others and asked the very thing that was running around in their own minds. Their indignation was not righteous it was selfish.
Clearly, there was a gaping lack of Scriptural humility.
C. Because of a lack of Sanctified Faith: Matt. 6v30.
This third problem stands out quite vividly. They surely lacked faith. In fact, the phrase Jesus most often used to these men was, "O ye of little faith." Do you remember in Marks Gospel Jesus said to them, "How is it that ye have no faith?" They did not even believe the reports of His resurrection when told. What a motley crew. These were the men Jesus was going to transform in order that they would change the world. I am quite sure that Jesus did these wonderful miracles, not only for the belief of the people but for the benefit of the disciples.
Because of a lack of Sustained Commitment: Mark 14v50.
Obviously a fourth problem existed with the disciples, a real lack of commitment. They had give assurance, "Oh, we will never forsake you or deny you." But when the push came to shove and they faced the crisis time when Jesus needed them most, they were not to be found. Judas betrayed, Peter denied, and the rest simply disappeared. They were unwilling to commit to the conclusion. In Luke 5v11 we are reminded, when Jesus called His disciples
"They forsook all, and followed him," but Mark in his gospel chapter 14v50 says, "They all forsook him, and fled." When the stench of death hit their nostrils they took off.
Because of a lack of Sovereign Power: Matt. 17v14-21.
A fifth problem was showing itself with the disciples, they were, at times, powerless, as this incident in Matthew 17 shows up. They were unable to cast out the demon from the epileptic boy. The reply Jesus gave revels the problem, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me. And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he departed out of him; and the child was cured that very hour." So the disciples waited until they had Jesus alone and said privately, "Why could not we cast him out? and Jesus said unto the, because of your unbelief; for truly I say to you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, move from here to yonder place; and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit, this kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting."
The twelve were chosen sovereignly by God to be the associates of Christ in the founding of the church. They were chosen through prayer, and they were chosen to be trained. In that training, Christ had to overcome their lack of Spiritual Understanding through instruction, their lack of Scriptural Humility through example, their lack of Sanctified Faith through wonderful miracles, their lack of Sustained Commitment through prayer, and their lack of Sovereign Power through the agency of the Spirit of God in their lives. And yes, He, did accomplish His task, they were transformed. Acts 4v13.
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled, and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
How would they know they had been with Jesus? Why, they did the same things, they said the same things, they love the same way. When Jesus had completed His training program with them they went out as living mirrors, reflecting Him. They became little Christ's! Luke 6v40 puts it well.
"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher." (NASB).
The crying need of today is for many of us to unlearn much of what we now know, and learn what He knows. Jesus said in Matt. 11v29.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn of me."
Let me then endeavour to unpack this statement of our text Luke 9v23.
This statement is:
1. Impartial yet Individual in its Declaration! V23a. "If any man"
This call comes to all that would become a disciple. It means fellowship, in tune with the Godhead as revealed in Luke 9v20.
"He said unto them, but who say ye that I am? Peter, answering, said, The Christ of God."
What ever was to come later, at that moment Peter knew wonderful fellowship with the triune God and it was revealing. Discipleship means fellowship and is something each individually born again believer must work at with every fibber of their being. Scripture teaches fellowship like this, and it is important we understand.
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, "I told the Lord that he could have all that there is of William Booth.
Fellowship with the Saviour is necessary: 1 Cor. 1v9.
Fellowship with the Spirit is necessary: Phil. 2v1.
Fellowship with His Sufferings is necessary: Phil. 3v10.
Fellowship with the Saints is necessary: Acts 2v42.
Fellowship in Service is necessary: 2 Cor. 8v4-5.
Fellowship with Satan is unnecessary: Eph. 5v11 + 2 Cor. 6v14.
To stand by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. End quote! Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot.
Dr. Vance Havner says, "The majority of church members live at such a low standard one would have to backslide to be in fellowship. "End quote!
Oh, the importance of a right fellowship with God, it is the beginning of a true discipleship!
This statement is:
Inviting yet Imposing in its Design! Luke 9v23b. "Come after me."
In his book 'The Disciplines of Life' V. Raymond Edman says, "Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down… above all, the disciplines of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of character that can come only from discipline." End quote!
Discipline without direction is drudgery.
Imagine six-year-old Kevin, whose parents have enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, he sits in his living room and reluctantly strums "Home on the Range" while he watches his friends play in the park across the street. That's discipline without direction. It's drudgery.
Now suppose Kevin, is visited by an angel one afternoon during his guitar practice. In a vision he's taken to Carnegie Hall. He's shown a guitar virtuoso giving a concert. Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician's fingers dance excitedly on the strings with fluidity and grace. Kevin thinks of how stupid and clunky his hands feel when they halt and stumble over the cords. The virtuoso blends clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar. Kevin remembers the toneless, irritating discord that comes stumbling out of his.
But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts slightly to the one side as he listens. He drinks in everything. He never imagined anyone could play the guitar like this. "What do you think Kevin?" Asks the angel. The answer is a soft, slow, six-years-olds "Wow!" the vision vanishes, and the angel is standing again in front of Kevin in his living room. "Kevin," says the angel, "the wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years." Then pointing at the guitar, the angel declares, "But you have to practice!"
Suddenly the angel disappears and Kevin finds himself alone with his guitar. Do you think his attitude towards practice will be different now? As long as he remembers what he is going to become, Kevin's discipline will have direction, a goal that will pull him into the future. Yes, effort will be involved, but you could hardly call it drudgery.
The "come after me" means discipline and many dear Christians feel as Kevin did toward guitar practice, its discipline without direction. Prayer threatens to be drudgery, meditation on the Scriptures seems dull, ridged obedience seems unnecessary, the real purpose of discipline like fasting is often unclear. First we must understand what we are to become. And Paul makes that very clear in Romans 8v29. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son." God's eternal plane ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christlikeness. We will be changed when Jesus Christ appears, we will be like Him 1 John 3v2. This is no vision folk; this is you in a few years. Knowing what we are to become we should be working hard at it while time permits. "Come after me" means a life of discipline.
This statement is:
3. Insistent yet Inevitable in its Demands! v23c.
"Let him deny himself and take up his cross."
John Wesley said, "there are just two paths in life, the path of the will of God, or the path of the will of self. They run parallel but lead in different directions." End Quote.
The disciple is called upon to deny self, take up the cross, not to be conformed to the image of this world but to be transformed like unto Christ. Now, unless I deny self I cannot take up the cross, you cannot walk both paths at the same time. Either we yield to the Spiritual Disciplines and their demands or we remain on the path of the will of self. What we must most understand about the demands of discipline, that is, its most important feature, is its purpose. Just as there is little value in practising the scales on a guitar apart from the purpose of actually playing the music, so there is little value in practising Spiritual Disciplines apart from the single purpose that unites them Colossians 2v20-23 and 1 Timothy 4v8. The purpose is godliness. Thus Paul's words in 1 Timothy 4v7 "Exercise thyself rather unto godliness."
The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.
Godly people are disciplined people. It has always been so. Remember some of those amazing heroes of church history? What is it that marks them out for the history books? Why, godliness! In my own Shepherding of God's flock experience I cannot recall one individual who came to spiritual maturity except through Spiritual Discipline.
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace ... is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Charles Spurgeon expressed it this way. "I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace-mark that-yet it will be the channel of it."
The channels of peace and all that Christ gives that lead us to holiness are the Spiritual Disciplines. Pursue them fervently.