In the book of Matthew, Jesus described what it meant to answer the call to come after Him and be one of His disciples. We can answer the call to be a disciple of Jesus.
Good morning, church! It is good to see all of you here this morning. I am excited to begin a new series today, entitled, “Life On Life Discipleship.” I pray today that this series would not be just another sermon series, but that it would be a time of renewed vision in our church for making disciples the way Jesus did, recognizing that He calls each of us to Himself, to be a disciple. Having that, He calls us to be makers of disciples, disciple makers. He calls us to be a church together of disciples making disciples. That is, in a nut shell, the next three sermons.
Today, I want to focus on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Have you ever heard someone from outside of the church, you invited them to church, and they said, ‘Yeh, I don’t want to have anything to do with that religious stuff. The church is full of hypocrites.’ Have you ever heard that said? Have you ever had someone say that to you? It kind of hurts. ‘No, you should come to my church. My church is not like that. We are the real deal, we are authentic, we are not hypocrites.’ But, the truth is, no matter which church you visit, this church included, there are hypocrites here. There are people here who claim to be Christ followers but they are not really Christ followers.
So, this is what we are going to address when we talk about what it means to be a disciple today; what it really means to be a Christ follower. Not just being able to say, ‘Yeh, I go to church.’ But what it really means to be disciple of Jesus. It is my heart’s desire as a pastor, we just celebrated 25 years of ministry last week and we are thankful for God’s faithfulness, is that we are going to have a renewed emphasis on this idea of being discipled as we make disciples. How it is done is “Life on life.”
People might not be attracted to the church because of us but they are always attracted because of Jesus. Have you ever noticed that? No matter how far from God they are, they respect Jesus. They admire Jesus. They are attracted to His love, His grace and His forgiveness. Maybe that is why you are here today. You are attracted to that but you are not so sure about the people around you.
Jesus says,’I want you to come to Me and then I want to make you a disciple who would make disciples. First, be with Me.’ That is life on life, not a call to an organization, not a call to a philosophy, but a call to a person. His name is Jesus. He wants to make you a new person. We are going to be looking at that today.
Would you like to know, I am asking you, would you like to know what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus? That is what we are going to unpack today. In the book of Matthew, Jesus had been asking his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Some of the disciples, maybe they are sitting beside the campfire, I can visualize it. They are sitting beside the campfire, maybe eating some fish. “Who do people say I am?” One says, “Some say, You are Elijah coming back from the dead.” Others say that He is another prophet. It got quiet for a moment. I can see Simon standing and he says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus leans over and He puts His hand on his shoulder and he says, ‘I am not going to call you Simon anymore. I am going to call you Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build My church. Man did not reveal this to you; God in heaven revealed this to you.’ Jesus is affirming Peter. Peter sees Him for what He is.
Many of you are here today and you know who Jesus is. You know that He is the Son of God, that He lived, He died and He rose again. You know that about Him. But, may I say this to you; it is not enough just to know those facts. You have to come to the Person. Then He says to Peter, he says to the disciples, he says ‘I am so glad that you recognize who I am. Here is what I am going to do. I am going to go to Jerusalem and the leaders there, the leaders and the Pharisees, they are going to cause Me to suffer and die. But, on the third day I am going to get up.’ Here He is , He is revealing the plan. Then, Peter, who had done so well earlier, says, ‘Lord, I forbid this, this will never happen. I can’t let this happen.’ Peter who was a star immediately was a falling star. Jesus turns to him and says, ‘Get behind me, Satan.’ And then this verse, that I am preaching from today, where He says, ‘You thought being a disciple was this? But it is actually this.’ Ok, so that is where we are going to look.
We will be looking at Matthew 16:24. Jesus is explaining to Peter and to us what it means to be a disciple. One verse, power packed, so much meat on the bone, that we will be good to cover it today. Here it is: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This is God’s Word, Amen?
What it means to Be a Disciple of Jesus:
1. You have a new identity.
You have a new identity. Let me unpack this a little bit. Notice that the verse starts with the word, then. Then is a time word; it shows a sequence. I have already described what happened before. Peter did good. Peter did bad. Then Jesus said this. Peter professed him as the Christ. Peter tried to stop Him from doing His job. Jesus says, ‘Let me clarify what it means to be a disciple. You thought it was going to mean this; well, actually, it means this other thing. You got the Christ part right but you didn’t understand the following part; let Me give you the traits of a Christ follower.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me…” So here, I am looking at myself, who here wants to be a true disciple of Jesus? Man, I do. I do. Who could be? Who would qualify? He says anyone. Do you here this? If anyone. That means everyone in this room. If anyone would. Ok, that’s a word. What’s that word? If anyone would, that means if you are willing. He is not going to force it on you. Is there anyone here that would come after Jesus? If anyone would come after me, if anyone woul follow me. Here are the three traits. So I am checking. Some of you raised your hands. Some of you weren’t sure; did he want me to? You are like, ‘I don’t raise my hands anywhere unless it’s a football game that I am waiting for this evening.’ It doesn’t matter if you raised your hand. Where is your heart? Are you willing to come after Jesus? You know who He is. I assume that, kinda, because you came. Or, somebody drug you here; I didn’t see anybody coming in chains. You all, basically, got here voluntarily. Except for the kids. They can’t help it.
If you were here last Sunday evening, you heard both of my sons stand up and look at you and say, ‘You people ruined me. My dad made me come to this church, now look what happened. Now we are preaching and leading worship. It’s awesome.’
I don’t know how you got here, but are you willing? Anyone who would, it says, come after me. Would you walk in His footsteps, will you be a Christ follower, a disciple? That word, Christian, has been used so overused that it has lost meaning. But, it’s original meaning, when it was first heard, it meant “little Christ.” You guys look like little Jesuses. You are meant to act like Jesus.
Here is the first attribute. (1) Deny yourself. See that? That is the first attribute, the first trait to being a Christ follower is that you say no to yourself. Self denial. Deny himself. It is in the command and it’s in the middle Greek voice; we do not have an English equivalent. What it means is look inside yourself and command yourself to get off of the throne. Look inside your heart and say, ‘Who is driving? Who has the keys? Is it me or Jesus?’ He says, if you want to be a Christ follower, you need to get out of the driver’s seat and let me drive.
You have heard me say this over and over again, if you see somebody with a bumper sticker that says, “God is my co-pilot,” go and slap them because God wants to be the pilot but not the co-pilot. ‘Who is driving?’ He says, you must deny yourself. You need to say no to self (like you are talking to yourself, I know it’s weird.) Yes, Jesus; no, self. He models it for us.
In the book of Philippians, Paul describes how Jesus modeled self denial. It says, “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to grasp but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.’
Be like Jesus. Have the mind of Jesus. He let go of His rights in order to be obedient to the Father. He emptied Himself. It is hard to pour water into a full cup. You have to have an empty cup and, preferably, a clean cup. Jesus said, ‘You want to be my disciple, get empty. Say no to your former life. Say no to your former identity. Find your true identity in Me.’ That scares us. ‘Well, I am all I have ever known. I have been working on this identity ever since I was born. It is shaped by all of my experiences that my family taught me, what my teachers told me, what my coaches, my peers told me.’
But the sad truth is we all carry a false identity, a fallen, broken, identity. It is a sin marred identity. Jesus made us in His own image. God made us in His own image. But sin has caused this image to be marred and to fall. So, that old identity that we want to cling to and hang on to is actually a lie, a false identity. The only way to find your true identity is to say no to your old identity and yes to your identity in Jesus. We identify ourselves by what we were.
Many of us identify ourselves by our habits. ‘I am lazy, I am an introvert, I am an extrovert, I am an alcoholic, I am a divorced person, I am an adulterer, I am a homosexual…’ We identify ourselves by our habits or our desires. ‘That’s my identity?’ That is a false identity. Or, we identify ourselves more “glowingly” than we deserve. We say, ‘You know, I am the smartest guy in the room. I am intelligent. I am smart. I am this. I am that. I don’t need any help. I can do this myself. I got this.’ We have the false identities. I could go on. Maybe I didn’t get yours, May I did.
Jesus wants you to empty yourself of that old identity. You are not what the world has named you. You are not what you have named yourself. You need to hear Jesus tell you your true name. Jesus told his disciple, ‘I am not going to call you Simon anymore. I am going to call you Peter. I am going to make you a rock.’ You are a little bit “willie nillie” right now; you are having a hard time keeping your word, but I am going to change you. If you will empty yourself and let Me come in.
Christ wants you to empty yourself so He can fill you up with your new identity in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Colossians 3:9-10 (ESV) … you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. It is like taking off the old clothes and putting on new, righteous clothes that belong to Jesus, made in His image, your right and true identity. If only we could see.
Oh, if only we could see how Christ sees us. Ahh…the power, the glory, the grace, infinite, mercy, love that He wants to put in us. Oh, if we could only see it, but yet, we walk around in these broken, false identities. We are lying to ourselves. Say no; I want Jesus. I want to know my true name. I want to be like Him.
Paul said in Galatians 2:20 (ESV) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. He said, ‘I died with Jesus and I was raised with Jesus; it is Jesus that I want people to see in me. I want my new identity.’
I don’t know how many veterans that we have in the room. I respect you; I admire you. My son is in the military; he is a chaplain for the National Guard. I admire you guys and gals. I often think I wished I had been in military but I am not sure. I don’t it’s kinda like maybe I wouldn’t have when I start looking at what they do to the vets. As soon as they sign them up, they take them to a far off place far from mama. They shave their heads. Why do they do that? Then, they take away all of their civilian clothes, even issuing them underwear, socks and t-shirts. Every detail in common.
I was talking to one of our church members who is a marine and he said they issue everything the same. They give you a little stamp with your name on it so you can stamp all of your stuff so that it wouldn’t get confused because everything looks the same. According to the military manuel, the explanation for why they do this is called “The intentional erosion of the individuality.” They are tearing the individual down so they can build them up again in the image of the soldier. They are tearing down the civilian and building a soldier. But they can’t build the soldier until they empty the old identity. They must shave the head, get rid of the clothes and put a new identity on them.
We understand, but we resist that as Christians. We need to get a Christian hair cut! ‘Gary, I knew you were going to go there and get all legalist.’ No, I am playing a little bit. But what we need to be willing to say is that we need to be willing to take on the new identity. Identify your life with Christ and stop identifying yourself with who you really aren’t anyway.
Look at Peter. Peter, man, he is such a mess. He gives me hope. How about you? Here he is; he got the Jesus part right and got the following part wrong. Over the next three years, you would think he would have figured it out, but the night before Jesus was crucified, Peter still hadn’t gotten it quite figured out. The night before Jesus died, Jesus is predicting Peter will go and betray him. Jesus is talking about his body, his blood, broken for you and shed for you. ‘…whenever you eat and drink this, remember Me. Proclaim My death. This is during the Last Supper. Peter stands up and says, ‘Lord, I will die for you. I will give my life for you. I will deny myself to live for You.’ What did Jesus say to him? Do you think Peter meant that? Do you think he meant it? He didn’t know his own heart. He didn’t know the twistedness, the weakness and the false identity that was in his heart. He didn’t realize how deep it went. Jesus looked at him, who knew his heart, and said to Peter, ‘I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Not only will Peter deny himself, but he will deny Jesus. Three times. Before the sun comes up. Peter drops his head. And it happened. Peter couldn’t deny himself; we can’t do this without Jesus. ‘How can I say no to self, I mean, that’s…’ You have to follow Jesus so He gives you the power to say no to yourself and yes to Him.
So we know Peter denied Jesus three times but then when Jesus was raised from the dead and Peter and He were together again, Jesus asks Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love You.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’ Jesus says a second time, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ ‘Lord, you know I love You.’ ‘Feed my lambs.’ A third time, Jesus asks, ‘Peter, do you love Me?’ ‘Yes, Lord, You know all things. You know I love You.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’ Why is Jesus doing that? He is restoring Peter to his true identity. Peter never denies Jesus again because Jesus is now on the throne. The Holy Spirit comes into Peter and Peter is no longer Simon, the guy who was all talk and no action, always shooting his mouth off and doing the opposite. The guy who goes back fishing again after he said he was going to follow Jesus. No, this is Peter, the rock. The new identity that Jesus named him.
When he was in Rome, sometime later, the book of Acts has already run out so we don’t have this in the scripture but the 1st century fathers kept record of this, that when Peter was crucified just as Jesus was, he says, ‘I am not worthy to be crucified like my Lord.’ So, they crucified him upside down at his request. What? Peter died for Jesus. He denied himself and he never denied Jesus again. He had a new identity. He was the rock.
What does Jesus want to do with you? He has an identity for each of you. We must deny ourselves. What does that look like? Say no to self and say yes to Jesus. Stop calling yourself by those old names. Start calling yourself by the name that Jesus wants to speak to your heart.
Here’s the second trait:
2. You have a new discipline.
You want to follow Me, come after Me? You must deny yourself and take up his cross. The second attribute is: (2) Take up your cross. He is talking to the disciples. If you want to come after me, a man must first deny himself and take up his cross. In other words, your cross. I must take up my cross. Take up. That’s the opposite of empty. Empty yourself and take up your cross. There is a picture there, isn’t there? Pour yourself out, taking on the new identity of Jesus, then taking on His discipline of cross bearing. Take it up.
In the book of Luke 9:23, it says to take it up everyday. Take it daily. Take it up. Put down the old identity, take up your unique cross. Why does it not say to take up the cross? Because there is only one cross that was carried by Jesus and I can’t carry that one and you can’t carry that one. That is the cross that He bore. That was the cross that only He could bear. That’s the cross that paid for all of our sins and put to death the power of sin over us so that we could victory over sin and death through Jesus. That is the cross. He doesn’t say to take up the cross. He says to take up your cross.
Now, I look around the room, and I guarantee I could find several beautiful pieces of jewelry that men and women, especially women, are wearing. ‘Well, I am taking up my cross. Look at my gold cross. I got my cross, right? It is around my neck.’ Well, join all the people in Hollywood; it is a popular symbol. It doesn’t matter if you believe or not. It’s a cool thing to wear around your neck. A cross, gold or silver, whatever. Jesus is not saying, ‘Put a cross on your steeple.’ He is not saying, ‘Put a cross around your neck.’ Am I against that? Is He against that? I don’t think so. I think that is fine; that is cool. That is not what He is talking about. Take up your cross; what is this? What does this mean?
First of all, it’s not the cross, it’s your cross. Look at Luke 14:27 to clarify. “…whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me can not be My disciple.” What is that? What is my cross to bear? What is your cross to bear? Yours doesn’t look like mine. It won’t hurt me in the same place that it will hurt you. This is not a piece of jewelry. This is a means for your execution. This is a torture device, Jesus hasn’t died yet on the cross, but the disciples knew exactly what He was talking about when He said to bear your own cross. They didn’t go, ‘I need to get a necklace.’ They went, ‘That’s what the Romans are doing to us, up and down these streets, and they are torturing people to death. What are you talking about, Jesus? You want me to take up a means of self torture?’
We have locked the doors, so don’t try to get out. I am not finished. Stay with me. Not really. You came willingly. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Man, I have been working on this this week; I have been meditating on this so I can talk to you. But, first for me, because every time I study God’s Word it hits me first. Because I am just like you. I am a sinner saved by grace. I have a unique cross. Some of you are very disciplined in certain areas and terribly undisciplined in others. We all share this trait. Some people are pretty good at going to bed on time and getting up on time. Some people are really good at dieting. Some people have good control over what they say. But then there is this other area…..right?
I saw on FaceBook yesterday, a couple of our members did the Krispy Kreme donut race in Raleigh. Apparently, you run about two miles, then eat a dozen donuts, and then run back two miles. They should call that “the vomit race.” How do people do that? They are raising money for a good cause. A couple of you did that. I saw your faces on FaceBook. I don’t want to do that. I would vomit just running; forget the donuts. I don’t want to eat a dozen donuts. I don’t want to run. I can walk fast. Some of you are great runners. I kind of want to be like you. But that’s not my cross to bear. My cross is a discipline to die from my former life and not to play with it, but to take it up everyday, saying, ‘Jesus, I am yielding to your correction.’ I am going to carry this old, splintery cross; it puts blisters on me. But I want the old Gary to die. Whatever my new name is, the book of Revelation says we get a new name.
Peter got his new name early. I want to know what mine is. Maybe some of you kinda know it . I spend alot of time praying to the Lord, asking what my true identity is, what is my real name. I will share it with you. It feels kind of weird to share it with you. I think this is it. It often comes from the place of your deepest loss. Because Peter was not a rock; he was “flip-floppy.” So, God made him a rock. My father died when I was eight years old. The whole time I was growing up, I had a father wound. I was a little boy, trying to follow his coach, or whoever, his uncle, his grandfather, just dying for a man to take notice of me and to treat me like a father would treat a son. There was a brokenness in me. Little girls and boys today are living in fatherless homes. They have the same father wound. As I grew, the Lord Jesus saved and gave me a new identity. He healed that wound in me. I am healed in that area; I am not broken anymore in that area. God has given me a new name. Every where I go, I am a father. Now, I am a grandfather. If I meet other pastors that are younger than me, I want to pastor them and take care of them. That is not who I used to be. I used to be broken. Now, the deepest desire in me is being a daddy-type person. I want to take care of people. I didn’t use to be that way. I wanted someone to take care of me. This is what God wants to do. I am not sure that is exactly the name (daddy); but I think it is pretty close. I have spent time alone with God.
If you will do that, He will whisper who you are; He wants you to die to self and give you your true name. It is not what you think it is. It is often the opposite of your deepest weekness. It is often the place of your deepest brokenness that He turns into your truest self. That is what He does. In Matthew, He says, “Whoever does not take this cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake with find it.”
This cross bearing is about dying to the old and living to the new life. Jesus again models it, just like he did, emptying himself in Philippians in the same passage, it says, “Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Even death on a cross.” So He emptied himself and He was obedient to the cross. He says, “Come follow me.” Empty yourself and take up your cross. I (Jesus) took up my cross. It was the one that noone else could bear. I had to come down and bear this one because noone else could bear this one. But I want you to bear your cross and I (Jesus) am going to live in you and that discipline, leaning into that correction, it will allow me to mold you and make you into the person I want you to be. It is going to sting a little; discipline always does. But, don’t run from it; lean into it. Take it up.
Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. What is human nature? Run from pain. Avoid pain at all cost. Most of our addictions have to do with coping to medicate the pain. Most of our bad habits having to do with running from pain towards pleasure. ‘I don’t like to hurt.’ Jesus says, ‘You want to follow Me. It is going to sting. I love you and I am going to be right there with you, but there is no way to do this, I must be honest with you. There is no way to do this without pulling off the bandaid and getting at the wound of your former identity, getting in there and getting out the splinter and infection and cleaning it up. It is going to sting.’
You go to the doctor and if they say it is going to hurt a little, watch out! It is going to hurt a little. They can medicate it but it is still going to hurt. The doctor is there to help you heal. It has to hurt to heal. Jesus says, I want to give you your new identity, I want you to be a Christ follower. But you have to take up your cross.
Remember, the soldier in the boot camp, who got his head shaved, got new clothes all alike. It is not enought that the soldiers have a new identity; they have a new discipline. They have to run, do push ups, sit ups and exercise. People are yelling in their faces. I look at this image and think, ‘Man, it is fun to look at.’ I like to watch movies about it, but I am not sure I would want to be there. Some of you were there and you may tell me that I wouldn’t want to be there, either. But there is something attractive about it. This idea of a group of people who willingly become one. It creates a brotherhood who are willing to die for one another. They are dressed alike, same haircut… but it’s not just that. Now, they have the same discipline. They have all bore the same cross. Now, it has changed them. The discipline has changed them.
When I was a freshman in college, as I came at registration, I was a believer, I became a Christian when I eight years old and had gone to church all of my life. At registration, there were tables for club signups. One table was this group called Campus Crusade for Christ; you could sign up and they would tell you when the first meeting would be. So, I go to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting, and this guy, Tom, walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, do you want to start getting together and studying the Bible?’ He was a cool looking dude, around 25 years old, he has a wedding ring so he is married and has graduated from college. He told me he was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ and would be coming over to my campus once or twice a week. He told me he would like to work with me. So, I am talking to this guy, Tom, and I am thinking that he could ask anybody at this meeting. He must be impressed with me. Hmmm….this guy wants to work with me one on one. I am feeling pretty good about that. So I told him, ok, I would meet with him.
We started meeting. I didn’t take maybe one or two meetings before I started thinking that I regretted saying yes to this guy. It wasn’t because I was so special. It was because he was getting ready to put something on me. He was getting ready to do life on life discipleship on me. He was taking me through the disciplines of following Jesus. He says, ‘Gary, are you going to the fall retreat? All of the students with Campus Crusade for Christ do this fall retreat. Are you going to that?’ I told him, ‘That costs alot of money. I am not sure if I am going home that weekend. I have a girlfriend back home…’ He tells me to trust him, that it will be life changing. He used the “man card” on me.
The first night, Friday night, I am at this retreat. I hardly know anybody, I am still a freshman. I am still getting to know people. Tom is there, though, so I sit near him. The speaker at the retreat was talking about how to have quiet time. Do you know what a quiet time is? I didn’t know what a quiet time was. I thought a quiet time was when you slept in in the morning. No, a quiet time is when you get up, get along with God, read your Bible, pray, maybe journal a little bit and get your day started right. That’s a quiet time. So I said, ‘Oh, ok.’ So they did a teaching on a quiet time. Then, they encouraged us to get up the next morning and have a quiet time. I thought to myself, ‘That’s good for the rest of you, but I plan on sleeping in.’ I am going to do my own quiet time the way I have practiced it in the past. Tom comes over to me and says, “Can we have our quiet time together?” I said “Okay” begrudgingly. Let’s do it before breakfast. I looked at the schedule and it said breakfast was at 7am. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I am a college student, it’s Saturday morning. What’s going on here?’ I was already in then, so I went, showed up with the guy.
We watched the sun come up in the woods, leaning up against a tree. We were sitting there reading the Bible and Tom says, “I’ve been reading the book of Acts, what have you been reading?” I was thinking I hadn’t been reading anything, but anyway, I tried to make something up. And, he said, let’s read the book of Acts together, so we read a couple of chapters and then we prayed. He says, “I am going to move over here, and you move over there.” He asks me, “Have you ever written a letter to God?” So, I did. I want you to know something. That morning, it was aggravating, I lost sleep, it went against my night owl, sleep in nature, it felt awkward, but it changed my life. I started having a daily quiet time after that. I started hearing from God. Then, this crazy guy, he just kept on bothering me, he was meeting with me weekly. We started studying the Bible together every week, not in the dorm room, but in the sandwich shop on campus where the other students are. Let’s study by the fountain when it’s a pretty day where everyone is hanging out sun bathing. I was thinking to myself, ‘I am going to be hanging out with you with a Bible in my hand, in a public place, on campus.’ That was a problem for me at age 18. I was identifying with Christ but I didn’t want anyone else to know about it. So, I said yes.
We would go, we would be sitting and reading the Bible together, and he would say, “Do you see that guy over there?” I would say, “Yea, what about him?” He would say, “He is sitting over there by himself.” I said, “So?” He said, “Let’s go talk to him.” I didn’t want to do this. He tells me he would do the talking and I would do the praying. I agreed that I could do that. On the way over there, I was asking the Lord to not let anyone see me doing this. So, we go talk to the guy, and Tom says to the guy, “Hey, we just saw you over here sitting by yourself. My name is Tom and this is my friend, Gary. We have been talking about spiritual things. I wonder, would you be interested in joining our conversation?” Invariably, the guy would say yes! So, then, we are sitting with this guy, and it gets more comfortable. I was getting excited then and started to talk more. After a few weeks of this, I told Tom that this is kinda fun, you do the talking and I do the praying. I was actually starting to pray the right stuff at this point.
One day, Tom says, “I think you should do the talking and I do the praying.” I said, “Oh, man…” and then I said yes. And then he said, “Why don’t you start leading worship at our weekly meetings?” And I said, “Oh, man, I don’t….” and then I said yes. He said, “Why don’t you go on a summer project this summer. Instead of working this summer, why don’t you spend your whole summer sharing the gospel now that you are leading worship?” I said, yes. I kept saying yes and I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into but after two years, Tom told me he was leaving. He told me he was called into the ministry further and was going to further his studies; he was moving to Dallas. I never saw him again after that. He messed my life up. For two years, he took this 18 year old, poured his life into me and challenged me. He caused me to do cross bearing as a discipline, going against the grain of my flesh. It changed my life.
Have you ever had a relationship like that? I had been going to church the whole time and it had never affected me like that until one person took the time to spend time with me and show me what it looked like to be a Jesus follower. Do you have a Tom? Do you have someone pouring into your life? Do you have someone, like poor little Gary was, that you are pouring your life into?
See, that discipline might mean that they are teaching you about witnessing, they are teaching you about the Bible, they are teaching you about having a quiet time. It may also mean they are teaching you about marriage, about parenting, about finances. We have a financial series that we are showing in the bulletin; there is an opportunity to be discipled in that. It could be a lot of things. Are you willing to be discipled?
3. You have a new purpose.
A new identity. A new discipline. A new purpose. The last two words of the verse….”follow me.” Three attributes: (1) Deny yourself (2) Take up your cross, and then the last, (3) Follow Me. Follow Me. What does it look like to follow Jesus? You are not following a religion, you are not following a philosophy; you are following a person. What is it that He wants to do with you once you follow Him?
Look at Mark 3:14 (ESV) And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach. He called them to follow him so that they might BE with him and then He sent them out to preach. You see, you can’t be with Jesus before you catch His purpose in your heart, then you start wanting to reach the world through the message. When you are with Him, you catch His passion and purpose, and then, you get a new purpose. But He first calls you just to be with Him.
What does that look like for you? Jesus is not here physically. He will live in you in your spirit and you will hear Him speak through the Word and through prayer. But what does it look like? We are the body of Christ. We need, everyone of us, someone that is pouring in and someone that we are pouring into. Someone we are being with. Christianity is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. We are the body of Christ. We need to be with the body of Christ. He says you are called to me.
In John 5 it says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Remember, Jesus said He emptied Himself? You empty yourself. Jesus too up His cross; you take up your cross. He does whatever the Father does; you do whatever Jesus does. That is what it means if you want to come after Him. Take on His purpose.
He tells what His goal is with His disciples in Matthew 4:19 (ESV) And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” You can’t follow Jesus without getting the passion and purpose of Jesus. If you are really following Jesus, you are going to want to make disciples. Being a disciple of Jesus means being a disciple who is a disciple maker.
Where do you start? Are you a mother? Are you a mom? Start with your kids. They are your potential disciples. Pour your life into them as others have poured their life into you. Are you a dad? Your kids, your family, the people that you love. Start with your neighbors, your co-workers, your fellow students.
We are called to make disciples. This is what will change the world. We can have church, this is awesome, we come together and worship, we celebrate God’s Word, we celebrate God’s people, we celebrate Christ’s body, broken and His blood shed and HIs resurrection. We celebrate the bringing of offerings. This is worship. It is awesome. We are supposed to do it and we are supposed to do it together. You can’t do it at home alone.
But, Life on Life Discipleship happens one life with one life. One life with one life. I want to see this. I want to see this. Don’t you want to see this? 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) Paul says, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. Follow me; I am following Jesus. The truth is, if you want to be a Christ follower, these three traits will mark your life. If you will start saying no to self and yes to Jesus. If you will stop yourself by those old names; maybe your parents gave it to you. Maybe your peers. Maybe a teacher or a coach. Maybe you looked in the mirror and said, “I am ugly, I am fat. I am skinny. I am too tall, I am too short. I am too…” We tend to do that. We give ourselves these false names and then we live them out in all of its brokenness.
Say no to that old identity and yes to your new identity in Jesus. Then take up this discipline; be obedient to the cross that Jesus want you to bear. Recognize as you take it up it will not make you popular with those who don’t follow Jesus, especially other so-called Christians, who won’t understand why you are so serious about following Jesus. Following Him, you will look for someone else to pour your life in to.
Jesus said in John, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending You.” Church, you are sent. You are called to be disciples. Then you are sent. We gather for power. We scatter in obedience. Will you pray with me? Will you put off the old and put on the new? Will you decide today to be a disciple of Jesus? Let’s pray.