Sunday Sermon: ‘Helping Them to Follow Christ’

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One of the first things many people do whenever they apply for a new job is to examine the job description. “What is this employer expecting of me?” is one of the first questions we want to have answered. Of course, “What are they going to pay me?” is the second. Ha!

Sometimes when people consider joining Twin Oaks they ask me a similar question. “What will Twin Oaks expect of me?” That’s a good question that deserves careful consideration. What should a church expect from its members? Here are some of the answers I came up with.

1) That they know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Here’s an alarming statistic. Thom Rainer reports in his book, ‘High Expectations’ that “half of the churches in America today do not require that their members be Christians.” What’s even more shocking is that Rainer reports, “a significant minority of churches … do not expect that their members will be Christians!” [1] That’s not only ridiculous, it’s unbiblical.

2) That they are striving to follow Christ as their Lord.

3) They are growing in their knowledge of God’s Word.

4) That they attend services whenever possible.

5) That they find a place within the body of Christ to serve.

6) That they support their fellow believers through prayer and with words of encouragement.

7) That they support the ministry of Twin Oaks with their financial giving.

Perhaps you could add other things to that list, but those of seven things stand out to me. “Does a church have the right to expect that from their members?” some might ask. Consider some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples just before He ascended back up into heaven.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The phrase ‘go and teach’ (vs 19) literally means -‘Go and instruct people how to be My disciples.’ ‘Go and teach people how to be one of My followers.’ The mission of the church is to teach people how to follow Jesus. Our goal is to make disciples from people living all around the world. How do we do that?

1) The first step is salvation.

In Mark’s gospel we read – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Helping people receive Christ as their Savior is the first step.

2) Step number two is baptism.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” (vs 19) Baptism doesn’t save us, but being baptized in the name of Jesus declares to others that we are a follower of Jesus Christ. We read from Acts 2:41 “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” ESV Many believe that the order is: salvation, baptism, and church membership.

3) Discipleship is the third step.

Jesus said, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” Literally Jesus was saying, “Teach them how to follow Me. Teach them how to be one of My disciples.” As I have prayerfully studied this passage, I see three important ingredients to helping someone follow Jesus.

HELPING THEM TO FOLLOW CHRIST

I. The Role of Scripture

Jesus said that we are to teach people how to observe ‘whatsoever He had commanded.’ How do we do that? We help people follow Christ by teaching them the Word of God.

John wrote – “…this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” [2]

The psalmist wrote –“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” [3]

We read from the book of Ezekiel – “I will put my Spirit within you,and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” [4] The New Covenant contains the desire God places within us to obey His Word.

In order to help men follow Jesus Christ, we must teach them the Word of God. The Word of God must remain foundational to all that we say and do. Why is it so important that we teach the Bible? Paul wrote these words to a young man who was a pastor –

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

First we should note that it is from the Greek word used here for scripture that we get the English word ‘graphics.’ The words written on the pages of the Bible are from God.

Secondly we see that these words have been given by inspiration of God. Literally, they are God-breathed. How God did that I’m not sure. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:21 that these men wrote as they were ‘moved by the Holy Spirit.’ Some translations say, ‘carried along.’ It’s as though these men were moved to write God’s Word much like a ship is moved when the wind fills its sails.The Spirit gave these men the ability to write down what God wanted us to know.

Because all scripture has been given to us by God, all scripture is profitable for us to study and learn. It is to our advantage to study what God is saying to us in the Bible. We read from Psalm 1 –

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

Blessed is the man who carefully studies the Bible and strives to obey what it says. How is this man blessed?

1) He is blessed with that which will sustain him.

Psalm 1:3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season…

The thought is that this man will be able to draw in everything he needs to remain strong and healthy. This man is going to receive everything he needs to survive and even to flourish.

“Whose leaf also shall not wither…” the psalmist says. During seasons when external circumstances could cause him to wither and die, this man will continue to be strong because he is be able to draw from the river everything he needs.

2) He is blessed with that which will stabilize him.

Psalm 1:3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…

Notice, he has been ‘planted’ by the rivers of water. He remains stable in all seasons because he lives by the rivers of water. We read from Psalm 92 –

Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green… NIV

3) He is blessed with that which will enable him to find success

Psalm 1:3 …and whatever he does shall prosper.

Does this mean that he will be the richest man in town? Probably not. However, this will succeed in whatever he does. Why will he succeed?

a. He will be protected from the things that could destroy him

b. He will be guided in the things that will bless him

In order to help men to follow Jesus as one of His disciples, we must teach them the Word of God.

II. The Role of the Teacher

Jesus said for us to go and teach them. In order for men to know how to follow Christ, someone must teach them.

A. Christ Gives Teachers to the Church

The word ‘teach’ refers to some systematic way of imparting information. The Bible says of the early church – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” [5] The apostles held weekly if not daily Bible studies. There was constant teaching of Bible truth.

Today this teaching comes during a Sunday morning sermon or a Wednesday night Bible study. One of my primary duties as your shepherd is to systematically feed the sheep the Word of God.

This teaching also comes through Sunday School, Teens for Christ, and Awana. It also comes through various Bible studies.

The early church is a model for us to follow. They were constantly gathering together in order to learn the life-principles found in the Bible.

The Bible tells us that God has given the duty to certain people within the church to be our teachers. Paul writes –

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…

Paul is talking about spiritual gifts here. One of the spiritual gifts given to certain members within the church is the gift of teaching. Someone has described the spiritual gift of teaching as the supernatural ability to study God’s Word and to understand it in such a way that we are able to share this information with others so that they may apply it to their lives. Teaching involves the ability both to study, and to communicate.

The Bible also tells us the reason God has given to us these teachers. Their purpose is to – “equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” [6] In Ohio we used to call our Sunday School – ‘Equipping U.’ I’ve considered using that here as well. Discipleship is not about filling people’s heads with knowledge. It’s about equipping God’s people to live the Christian life.

B. Requirements of a Teacher:

It requires great dedication and discipline in order to be an effective teacher.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

1. Teachers Are First and Foremost – Students

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God…”

This word carries with it the idea of diligently pursuing something. A good lesson is not developed in a few minutes. It takes time to properly study God’s Word.

One of the things I have learned down through the years is that the best time to begin preparing for Sunday morning is on Monday morning. Live in your lesson throughout the week and you’ll have more than enough to say when it comes time.

2. Teachers are Laborers in God’s Household

“… a workman that needeth not to be ashamed…”

Another translation of the workman would be – laborer. An effective teacher is a servant to his or her students. We are servants of Christ and servants of His people. Pastor Cannon used to encourage his assistant pastors with these words from the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints… NKJV

3. Teachers Have Been Given to Guide Us

“…rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Literally it means to cut a straight path. This world has become so crazy that sometimes it feels like we’re living in a jungle. That’s why God has called certain men and women in the church to become our teachers so that they might take the sword of the Spirit and help us cut a straight path.

I don’t think that we can overemphasize the importance of godly, Spirit-filled teachers. They have been given the responsibility of handling the Word of God and what they teach us each week has a tremendous influence upon how we live.

III. The Role of the Student

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

We’ve considered the role scripture plays as well as the teacher. But there’s a third important ingredient for making disciples. Can you guess what it is? It’s the student. What is required of the student?

A. The Student is Required to Grow and Develop

It takes spiritual hunger on the part of the student in order for them to become a committed follower of Jesus Christ. The greatest lesson in all the world will do not good if it falls on deaf ears. Peter said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby…” [7] Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” [8]

B. The Student is Required to Apply What They Learn

James says, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” [9] Filling people’s minds with knowledge doesn’t necessarily produce disciples. Students must choose to apply what they are learning. Jesus said, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The word ‘observe’ is often translated in the Bible as -‘keep.’ A modern translation would be – ‘obey.’God’s pattern for the student is: Listen / Learn / Live.

The Apostle John wrote – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” [10]  The children John was referring to were not his physical children, but men and women, some of whom he himself had personally led to Christ, and of whom he had been given the responsibility of discipling.

“There is nothing that brings me more joy than to know that those who are sitting under my teaching are learning to live their lives based upon the truth of God’s Word. There is nothing that brings me more joy than to know that God has somehow used me to help someone else follow Christ.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

CONCLUSION

What would the church be like if we were operating in the way Christ intended?

1) Everyone with the responsibility to teach would always spend quality time in God’s Word so that they might fully understand what God is saying and then share it with their students in a way they can understand and apply to their lives.

2) Everyone who has the responsibility to listen would come with the desire to study the Word and learn how to apply it to their lives.

3) Lives would be changed. We all would become committed followers of Jesus Christ.

God bless those who teach and God bless those who listen and learn.

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[1][1] Thom Rainer, High Expectations, (Nashville, Broadman & Holman, 1999) 52.

[2] 1 John 5:3

[3] Psalm 40:8

[4] Ezekiel 36:27

[5] Acts 2:42

[6] Ephesians 4:11 NLT

[7] 1 Peter 2:2

[8] Matthew 5:6

[9] James 1:22

[10] 3 John 1:4

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