“FROM BELIEVERS TO DISCIPLES”                   By Pastor YAU

Text: Mark 8:34-38; Matthew 4:19                           September 24, 2006

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   “I may consider it.” A close friend asked Gandhi, the legendary prime minister of India, “Since you admire Christ so much, why don’t you become a Christian?” He replied, “When I meet a Christian who is a true disciple of Christ, I may consider it.” But isn’t it what a Christian supposed to be—a true disciple of Christ?

2)   A disguised disciple: Dr. Joe Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute, wrote in his book: Following Christ, “Many of us who claimed to be followers of Christ live out our faith as though Christ exists to follow us instead of we follow Him. We come to believe that Christ exists to satisfy our needs and demands. This disguised form of self-serving religion sets Christ up as one more commodity in life to enhance and empower our dreams.”

 

REASONS SOME PEOPLE GO TO CHURCH:

1)     It is fashionable: Once I read an article in a Chinese website which asked a soul searching question: Why do many Chinese from China go to church in the U.S.? One of the reasons the writer suggested was: because it is fashionable. Going to church on Sundays is the culture of the land: better than get up late, go out to lunch, play marjong or other meaningless routines in the afternoon. While it is better to go to church on Sundays than going gambling or shopping, if one goes to church for that reason, he will miss the most important part of doing so. Being in fashion is not bad but that should not be the reason of going to church.

2)     It is a place to social: To the recent comers to this country, being with “my own people”, speaking “my language”, “meeting my friends”, are important parts of life in a strange country. It is important for an ethnic church to provide a place where people of similar background may feel more comfortable to congregate and promote friendship, culture, tradition or just be there. But a church is not a civic center or a place of social activity where people go because of cultural, language or social purposes.

3)     It is beneficial: A church should be able to provide support for her people in many ways but following Jesus for the purpose of getting something is not what Jesus meant when He found the church. There are some so called Christians who accept Jesus for the purpose of “having Jesus by my side to help me when I need Him.” Jesus is not a Genie whom you may command in your time of needs. God is never our servant but we are His. Some may go to church to find girl friends. Others may go to build “guangxi” for personal benefits. Still others go to church looking for position of leadership, power or recognition.

4)     It is good for my kids: It is true that many churches have programs that are good for kids and youth: Bible study class, group activities, programs that encourage character building and healthy life style and habits just to name a few. But churches are not training grounds for youth and children only. Parents should not use the church as a children sitting place where they can drop their kids off and they can go and do something else without kids bothering them. It is important that parents are involved with their kids and youth when they are learning and growing. Churches are good for everyone in the family, not just for kids.

 

JESUS ASKS MORE THAN THAT: What did He ask of a disciple?

1)   It is a personal decision: This is what Jesus mentioned first when he started talking about people who want to follow him. The verb in Greek text means “wish, want, decide,” and all indicate a personal choice. No one can make that decision for you except yourself.  Following Jesus is not a popular contest, not following a crowd, not because it is fashionable or because of someone else but you. It is your personal response to the call of Jesus the same way he called his disciples. Christianity is not built on mass movements but on individual commitments. That is why Jesus used a singular pronoun “any one” in his call.

2)   It is about priority: When Jesus set the conditions on following him, he asked that we “deny” ourselves to following him. “Denial” doesn’t mean “non-existence” or “worthless” but means “place it under” or “secondary”. It is about priority: about who or what is the primary purpose of your life. Life comes with many elements and often times they are in conflict of each other. A true follower of Jesus will always place Jesus and his interest on top of his list of priority at the expense of his own interest and that is true “denial.” The adverb “must” indicates that self-denial is not an option but a pre-requisite.

3)   It is about paying a price: Apart from salvation which was paid in full by the blood of Jesus, spiritual growth is always about paying a price. Through the history of Christian church, no one became a strong follower without paying a price and the size of the price is in accordance with his level of commitment. When Jesus asked that his followers “carry his cross”, he meant “bear the burden of self sacrifice.” This is true in many areas of worthy pursuit: sports, music, military, scientific research, just to name a few. Anyone who is serious on his pursuit, he must pay a price to be the best he can be. Same is required of a true follower of Jesus.

4)   It is about “following” Jesus: In Jesus time, a follower of a rabbi is more than a student who learns from a teacher. It is a process of life transformation, imitation of life purpose, style, value and mind-set. A true follower of Christ is a “mini-Christ” in form and substance. He will follow Christ’ steps, values, life style, ways of handling things and people, purpose and direction. This “following Christ” comes after he has denied himself and is willing to carry his cross, his share of self sacrifice. Without those pre-requisites he can’t truly be a follower.

 

WHY FOLLOWING JESUS? If following Christ involves so much high costs, why would anyone want to follow him?

1)     Jesus is God: This is the biggest difference between following Jesus and following other founders of religion, philosophy or political system. While many of the founders of religions were respectable people, all they tried to do was searching to know about God. But Jesus was God to begin with. When John began to introduce Jesus, he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Why would anyone want to follow some other religious founders who may be sincere in search of God when he has Jesus as God he can follow?

2)     Jesus is eternal life: When many of his followers turned back from following him, Jesus asked the Twelve if they want to leave him too. Being the assumed spokesman of the Twelve, Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, whom shall we follow? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:66-68) All religious founders have their own words and many of them contain ethical or moral values. But none of them had words like the words of Jesus that leads to eternal life with God. This is another important difference between following Jesus and following other religions. No words of other religious founder offer eternal life except the words of Jesus.

3)     Jesus is the good shepherd: When Jesus described his relationship with his followers, he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) In fact, from 10:1-16, Jesus detailed his role as a good shepherd that he will lead, protect and provide for his sheep. Following Jesus is not something to lose but everything to gain.

4)     Jesus is the light: In a personal testimony given by John, he called Jesus the light, “The true light that gives light to every man.” (1:9) In the Bible, light represents truth, direction, knowledge and life without the bondage of sin. All these are objects of earnest seeking by countless sincere but ignorant religionists and philosophers. Man was born with the yarning for truth, knowledge of self and all about the world, right direction for his life so he won’t live his life in the bondage of sin. You can have all these if you are committed to follow Jesus.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    We are called to follow: As Jesus called the 12 disciples to carry on his mission of salvation for mankind he continues to call all Christians to be followers, not just believers. To believe is to be saved. To follow is to portray the life of Jesus so others may see him and be saved. This is the only way to accomplish the mission Jesus has entrusted us.

2)    Gain life, not the world: Jesus laid out a final choice for us: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (8:36-37) To be a faithful disciple of Jesus is not to benefit Jesus or others but to benefit yourself, your own soul. Nothing you may gain in this world may exchange for your soul. Make a wise choice.

3)    If you have not yet believed: You need to take the first step to be a follower of Jesus and it is to accept him as your Lord and Savior. Then you need to make a life commitment to be a true follower of him so others like your family and friends may see him through you and be saved. This is how the mission of Jesus is to be accomplished: one follower at a time, starting from you.