Following Jesus: What is a Disciple? part 2
November 8, 2018
Change. Sometimes the word change is a dirty word. Sometimes we don’t like change. We want things to stay the way they are. In fact, there are a lot of things we don’t like about change. We don’t like it when our bodies don’t respond the way they used to. We don’t like it when new technology makes us feel stupid. We don’t like it when politicians raise our taxes. And we don’t like it when change interrupts the life we’ve fashioned for ourselves.
But on the other hand, change is a good thing, isn’t it? Imagine if you never changed? Imagine if you never learned to read or write? If never learned the difference between right and wrong? If you never learned how to tie your shoes, ride a bike or drive a car? Imagine if you never learned to listen, to say thank you, or lend a helping hand? Think about it: to get to where you are in life today, you’ve had to go through all kinds of changes. Many of those changes have been good, and some have been really hard. But even the difficult changes you’ve experienced have formed you into the person you are today. So change is more often a good thing then a bad thing.
But today, I want to talk with you about a different kind of change: The kind of change that takes place in you when you become a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you were here last week, we began defining what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. And the first part of our definition said: A Disciple is a Follower of Jesus. And we dug into four characteristics that make followers of Jesus quite unique in our world today:
- A follower goes with Jesus,trusting in Jesus, not just for our salvation, but for all of life. We follow Jesus because we believe He is worth following.
- A follower is a student of Jesus, learning from Jesus how to live and love like Jesus.
- A follower loves Jesus,and proves his or her love by obeying His commands
- A follower depends on Jesus, knowing that you can’t live the Christian life apart from Jesus. So a follower lives surrendered to Jesus.
That’s the first part of our definition that comes from Jesus’s invitation to his first disciples: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
So now we come to the second part of our definition that speaks about the kind of changes that take place in the life of a disciple of Jesus: A disciple is someone who is being changedby Jesus In other words, as we follow Jesus He will begin to change us from the inside out. He will change our hearts, our minds and our actions so that we actually become more and more like Jesus… Simply put, we don’t change ourselves. Jesus does the changing. He promises to transform you into a person who lives and loves like Him.
In fact, we see this in Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus called the 12, they were ordinary people. If you look at their lives, you find they often acted in ways that were selfish, rude, clueless, and immature. They were far from spiritual giants, just regular guys with the same selfish and sinful struggles we all have. In fact, Jesus didn’t choose them to be his disciples because they were anything special. He chose them with an eye to what they could become. And He does the same for us.
That’s the beauty of God’s grace. Jesus calls us just as we are. He doesn’t ask us to clean up our acts before following him. It’s in the following of Jesus that He begins to clean up our act. He does this by transforming us and helping us become more and more like Him. That’s what we’re going to look at today: How Jesus “makes us” disciples: How He transforms us as we follow Him.
And the first change He makes in us is this: Jesus transforms our hearts: This is what God promised long ago. He said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 The truth is, that before anyone trusts in Jesus, God’s Word says that our hearts are rebellious, stubborn, unrepentant, foolish, wandering, hardened and sinful. Nothing good came from our hearts. Our hearts actually deceived us. Our hearts were far from God… But at the very moment you put your faith in Jesus, God puts a new heart in you and puts His spirit in you. Prior to that you were spiritually dead. But with this new heart, He made you spiritually alive. Before you couldn’t know or obey God. But once He gave you a new heart and put His spirit it you, you could know Him and follow Him… And now as you follow Jesus, Jesus begins to transform your heart, making your heart like His. Now He strengthens your heart, encourages your heart, and keeps you from loosing heart.
And He never stops His transforming work in your heart. As the Apostle Paul promised: “He who began agood work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 That’s good news. He loves you too much to leave you the way you are. By giving you a new heart and His Spirit, Jesus gives you all we need to become like Him.
But there’s more. The second change Jesus makes in us is this. Jesus transforms our affections: When you start following Jesus, He changes your desires. One of the first changes He gives us is a hunger for His Word. Peter illustrates this best. In John 6, when many people quit following Jesus because of his hard teachings. Jesus spoke to the twelve and said, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
This was one of the first changes I experienced when I started following Jesus. I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. His Word was just as He says it is. It was living and active and spoke to the core of my being. It was like food for my starving soul. You didn’t have to convince me to read the Bible. My heart craved God’s Word. And yet that’s just one affection Jesus transforms in us when we follow Him. Here’s another:
He gives us a genuine affection for His people: Perhaps this is best illustrated by the Apostle Paul. At one time he hunted down Christ followers hoping of imprison or kill them. But after meeting Jesus God changed his heart. These are his words: God can testify how I long for allof you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:8 When we start following Jesus, he puts in us a genuine affection for people we’ve got nothing in common with. It’s weird. People we used to never notice become kindred spirits. CEO’s become friends with Janitors. Grandmothers become friends with drug-addicts. Retirees become friends with surfing Pastors. When we follow Jesus, Jesus breaks down all relational barriers and gives us a genuine affection for anyone He’s died for.
But the biggest transformation Jesus makes is in our relationship with God: God is no longer some abstract, unapproachable judge. He becomes our Father, our “abba” who delights in us, sings over us, and gives us access to His presence. So with transformed affection for God we find ourselves wanting to pray, delighting in praise and growing in thanks for all He has given us in Jesus. And as a result of this new affection, we find ourselves wanting to please Him in every way.
And that leads to the third change that Jesus makes in us, and that is this: Jesus transforms our wills: And that may best be expressed in the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 As you follow Jesus something significant begins to flip inside of you. You begin to find that you become less and less self-centered and more and more God directed. And you find yourself wanting what God wants. Wanting what God wants for your life. Wanting what God wants for your relationships. Wanting what God wants in our world. And when this happens in you, you start becoming like Jesus, who said: By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. John 5:30 So as you follow Jesus, He makes you a different kind of person – one who lives for God’s glory. He changes what’s really important to us. And that leads us to the next change He works in us:
Jesus transforms our minds: God said to Isaiah:“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 One of the great privileges of following Jesus is that we get to know the thoughts of God. We get a front row seat to His wisdom and truth. We no longer have to listen to the empty wisdom of this world. That is why God’s Word tells us:Do not conformto the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 So the more we embrace the Word of God, the more we learn what God is like, what God wants, what God values, the more Jesus will transform our thinking to His thinking. We will think like Jesus. And that’s amazing. God doesn’t want you to just have a new heart, but a new mind. And when we begin to think like Jesus, then Jesus transforms one more thing within us. And that is this:
Jesus transforms our purposes: His purpose becomes our purpose. And what was Jesus purpose? Jesus said it himself: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 God’s purpose is clear. Peter said it this way: The Lord is not slow in keeping hispromise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 That’s what Jesus had in mind when said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17 He wanted His followers to embrace His purpose of making disciples, who make disciples of Jesus. That’s what Jesus calls us to do. That’s why Jesus transforms our hearts, our affections, our wills and our minds – so we that He can change what we are living for!
That’s what a disciple is: A disciple is a follower of Jesus who is being changed by Jesus so he might become more like Jesus. And when the more we become like Jesus the more we will embrace His mission and be His witnesses in our world.
So now that we know “how” Jesus works in us to transform us, the question we must answer is this: How do we put this into practice so that we see every person following Jesus together? How has Jesus set it up for us to experience the change He wants to work in us? That’s the second thing we need to grasp this morning. Because His change in us is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once.
2.The process Jesus uses to make us disciples: Jesus transforms us with His Word! We saw that briefly from Romans 12:2, that God’s Word is what transforms our minds to the mind of Christ. Timothy says it this way: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.2 Timothy 3:16 In other words, Jesus cannot change us unless we hear God’s Word, read God’s Word, study God’s Word and apply God’s Word. That is why God’s Word is central to our Journey Groups. That’s why ever person following Jesus together are to ask those two questions when they read God’s Word: What is Jesus saying to me? and What does He want me to do about it?
As we were reminded last week from James: Do not merely listento the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 So let me encourage you to get into the Word, and let God’s Word get into you. In fact, if you want to test the waters of a good Bible study, let me encourage you to check out the Engage Bible Studythat’s starting this Tuesday night. It is a six-week verse-by-verse study of the books of Ruth and Esther, that focuses on engaging your heart and giving you tools for transformation. If you’d like to be part of this study, let me encourage you to see Rick and Donna Shepherd (please stand) for details, or use your connect card to sign-up. Disciples are not just students of Jesus, but students of His Word. Jesus transforms us with His Word. That’s part of the process. Another part is this:
Jesus transforms us by His Spirit The Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit – the second person of the Trinity, the Spirit of truth, who gives us understanding of God’s Word. And His role is to teach us about Jesus and make us like Jesus, just as Jesus said he would: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
He will transform us by producing His fruit in us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 And so it is the Spirit who makes us like Jesus. It is the Spirit doing His work in us through the Word of Truth that makes us different. As Paul explains in Romans 8, Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 So Jesus uses His Spirit to make us like Him.
So Jesus uses the Word of God to change us, He uses the Spirit of God to change us, and He uses one more thing to change us: Jesus transforms us through His People
Paul in his letter to the Colossians captures the overall tone that discipling relationships are intended to foster: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 God’s people, caring for one another, being patient with one another, being gentle with one another, bearing with one another’s sins and shortcomings, forgiving one another and loving one another is God’s hothouse environment for growth. You cannot learn to live and love like Jesus in a vacuum. So Jesus calls us to follow Him with other imperfect disciples. And when we follow Him with other flawed and struggling followers, Jesus gives us opportunities to encourage, help, serve, pray and carry one another’s burdens.
This is why we want to see: Every Person Following Jesus with Others. This is why we have Journey Groups. So we can help one another to become more and more like Jesus. Jesus you see wants to change you so that His heart becomes your heart, His thoughts become your thoughts, and His purposes become your purposes. For then, we will not only start living and loving like Jesus – but He will make us fishers of men.
The truth is, Jesus loves you too much to leave you the way you are. He wants to change you, grow you, and make you a beautiful light of love and grace in this world. Do you want Jesus to change you? Do you want to come alive in your relationship with God? Do you want to live and love like Jesus? Then commit to following Jesus with others. Take a step of faith, connect with others in a Journey Group, and start experiencing the life Jesus wants to create in you.
Leave a Reply