This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled Big Rocks where we look at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith. Our first week we spoke about Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians. Then we talked about Salvation, what it is, why it was necessary, and what our response should be to this incredible act of love. Today we are going to talk about the idea of discipleship and what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.
The Importance of Discipleship
There are many ideas today about what it means to be a Christian. Hundreds of theologians have weighed in with their opinions; pastors, Sunday School teachers, church goers. All of us have an opinion as to what we think it means to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ. Some people think that if you come to church each week that alone makes you a disciple. While that is a good start, I do not think going and sitting in a church sanctuary makes you a disciple any more than going and sitting in a garage makes you a car. Other people think that salvation and discipleship is the same thing. Salvation, that free gift from God that comes with us professing our belief in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, is not the same as discipleship. The thought is that “I have professed, God has saved me, see ya in Heaven!” But is that really it? Is that really the mindset believers should have after they receive salvation? I am here to argue no, that is not it.
There is more! When we accept Christ and have that true conversion experience, we are changed! We are transformed into a new being with new desires and new outlooks, and our faith will begin to generate works for Christ. Now let me take just a moment to clarify something here. I have told you from this very spot just a few weeks ago that in order to be saved there was nothing you had to do but accept the freely given gift from God. If you accept Christ as your Savior and ask him to live in your heart, that is it...salvation is yours. I am not wavering from that today. I am not saying that works is now required for salvation. We are not talking about a faith vs. works controversy. Paul often spoke of salvation and he was speaking about our inward devotion. What we read from James this morning is James talking about our outward action as a result of that inward devotion. They are not competing but complementary. Today we are taking that next step from salvation and talking about discipleship. Salvation is the acceptance, discipleship is the natural response. Once we accept the gift, and are transformed, discipleship is the natural result of that act.
So James is not challenging anyone's salvation, but basically he is asking “what now”? What is going to be our response to salvation? Are we going to sit on our hands or are we going to go out and live as James is encouraging us to, as Christ has commanded us to.
What Are We To Do As Disciples?
Well what are we to do as disciples? I have a few ideas, and feel free to add your own ideas to this list later. But, the first is to spend time with Jesus. If we are to follow someone we need to understand who they are and what they want of us. So spend time with Jesus. Our first Scripture lesson this morning models this ideal for us. Here in the Gospel of Luke we have two sisters that have welcomed Jesus and his disciples into their home. Both feel they are serving their guest, one by doing, the other by listening. However when Martha, the doer, asks Jesus to tell the listener, Mary, to get to work Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen what is right and it will not be taken from her.
Mary made the choice to not get caught up in the doing for Christ at the expense of being with Christ. That can be a pitfall for all of us. It is easy to get so busy doing for the Kingdom and being what we feel is a good and faithful disciple that we neglect spending time with Christ. Do not let the doing for Christ become more important than spending time with Christ. Take that time daily! If this is a habit for you God bless you and I pray it stays that way. If not, start with just five minutes a day, in a quiet, uninterrupted place. Pray, by adoring God for who God is, confess for our shortcomings, thank God for all the things God has done in your life, ask for what you need God's help with, and then listen. Next, get involved with a Bible Study, read the Word! Love God with your heart and know God with your mind. Be with God, talk with Christ, and listen for the Holy Spirit. The only way we can be good and faithful disciples is to first spend time with and get to know the One we are longing to serve.
Next, live it out! Once we spend time with Christ, go and live for Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to continue to grow in our faith, to become more Christ-like, more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions. The theological term for this is “sanctification” which means “being made holy.” Find a cause, find a group, find a person and be Christ for them. Often times the only way people experience the love of Christ is through their interactions with us. A smile from you as you walk by, getting something from a top shelf for someone else, letting someone ahead of you in a line. All of these are easy ways to begin. Then look for ways to make a lasting impact. Become a literacy tutor, volunteer with Meals on Wheels, give of yourself at a soup kitchen. Find a place where you can get involved, love another, and make an impression that they cannot help but know that it came from God.
Another thing we can do as disciples is to stay plugged in. To be a disciple of Christ is not easy, but incredibly rewarding. And in order to have the strength and energy to be an effective disciple you need the energy and strength that comes from being plugged in, connected with a body of believers. When we get together and the Spirit is moving among us, the energy, the strength, the love is almost overwhelming. Being a disciple of Christ can wear you down, make you physically and spiritually exhausted...and sleep will not cure those ills. But, being with a group of believers, having a church family to pick you up and encourage you, can. Please be connected. And more than just a trip to our corner of Lake Weir and 17th Street once a week. Find a small group, a bible study, and if there is not one established, talk to me and I can help you get one going.
We are all called to be disciples of Christ and in order to do that we must spend time with Christ, live out His love to others, and be connected with other believers.
There was an anonymous poem that was written in the late 1970's that I want to share with you:
club and discussed my hunger. Thank you.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your
chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.
I was naked and in your mind,
you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless and you left me alone to pray.
You seem so holy, so close to God.
But I''m still hungry and lonely and cold.
It is one thing for us to talk about what we believe and how Christ is living in our hearts. It is entirely a different matter to live it out. So I encourage you to ask yourself, am I living as Christ has called me to live, or am I standing on the sidelines just watching His Kingdom grow without me?
We are all called to discipleship to be active hearers, doers, and givers of the love of Christ. He wants you involved, and he will equip you, strengthen you, and love you all the way through. And to me that sounds like a good deal!