What Should a Disciple Look Like?

What Does a Disciple of Jesus Look Like? A great question. We often attempt to develop new believers into what we think is a good disciple, but at the end of the day, our product looks more like the chief opponents of Jesus rather than his disciples. [ for example, see here ]

It is so important to see the end from the beginning, so we know what we desire in a follower of Jesus. Then we can take positive steps to see that vision come to fruition. Let me suggest these characteristics that should be developed into a disciple…

DDecided Faith – He or She Has Unwavering Assurance of Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone (1 John 5:13, John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:11-12, Ephesians 4:14, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 2:14)

IInward Growth – He or She is Developing Devotional Practices for Spiritual Growth (Mark 1:35, Genesis 19:27, Exodus 34:2-3, Psalm 5:3, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Timothy 4:13, Acts 17:11, Proverbs 2:1-5, Psalm 1:1-6, Joshua 1:8)

SSeparated from Sin – He or She has Embraced the Practice of Repentance and a Life of Sanctification (1 John 1:5-2:2, James 1:22, 2 Timothy 2:19-22, Romans 6:12-14, 1 John 2:15-16, Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 3:9-10, 1 Peter 1:14-16, Ephesians 6:10-20, Romans 13:14, Mark 14:38, 1 John 1:9)

CCommitted to Community – He or She is Small Group Focused and Does not Neglect the Gathering of Saints (Acts 2:42, Acts 17:11, 1 John 1:3, 7, Hebrews 10:24-25, Psalm 122:1, John 15:12, Romans 12:10, Romans 14:9, 15:7, 14, 1 Corinthians 12:25, Galatians 5:13, 6:2, Ephesians 4:2, 25, 29, 32, 5:21, Colossians 3:13, 16, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, 13, James 5:16, 1 Peter 4:9-10, 1 Peter 5:5)

IInvesting in Eternity – Uses Their Time, Talent, and Treasure for Things That Will Last (Ephesians 5:15-17, Psalm 90:10, 12, Ecclesiastes 3:1, James 4:14, Romans 13:11, Romans 12:4-8, Ephesians 4:11-13, Proverbs 3:9-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Luke 6:38, Proverbs 3:27, Galatians 6:6, Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 11:24-25, 2 Corinthians 8:9)

PPersonal Testimony – He or She is Committed to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Luke 8:38-39, Acts 26:1-23, John 9:25, 1 John 1:3, Colossians 1:28-29, Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Acts 8:35, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Luke 19:10, Mark 10:45)

LLordship of Christ – He or She Pursues Obedience to God’s Word and Self-control in This Life (Luke 6:46, Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 1:2, John 14:21, 23, John 15:10, 14, 1 Samuel 15:22)

EExtending the Love of Christ and his Kingdom – He or She Embraces the MVPs of Mission, Vision, and Proclamation (John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:16-18, John 15:13, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 John 4:7-21, Matthew 9:35-38, Acts 1:8, Luke 24:47, John 20:21, Isaiah 6:8)

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False Expectations

This message is a part of the new sermon series for 2016 at King’s Grant Baptist Church, taken from Luke 14:25-35. Here is the video of my message.

There was a debate perhaps 25 years on the meaning of salvation. At that time I discovered a tremendously insightful resource by John MacArthur called, The Gospel According to Jesus. It changed my life. This is what it was all about…

As Baptists we understand that salvation by grace through faith. No one earns salvation through their deeds. But can someone be saved and not follow Jesus as a disciple? Can Jesus be your Savior without him being your Lord? Can you pray a prayer as a younger person, and because Baptists believe in “once saved always saved,” it matters not that you never grow in maturity?

Let me tell you a story about someone coming to Christ while I was out witnessing with my pastor; this was my first full-time staff position after seminary. The pastor and I went out visiting and this young man, likely a senior in high school, sat and talked with us at his kitchen table. I sensed that the guy was not buying what we were selling, but before we left, he was on his knees praying the sinner’s prayer with my pastor. My question after that evening, after it was all said and done was, “will we ever see this guy get involved in worship, Bible study, or have any desire to grow in spiritual maturity at all?” Did he mean it? Was he ready to accept the challenge of following Jesus?

What are the expectations that WE have of Jesus and Christianity? What are the expectations that Jesus has of US?

When Jesus left the Pharisee’s house, great crowds followed Him, but He was not impressed by their enthusiasm. He knew that most of those in the crowd were not the least bit interested in spiritual things. Some wanted only to see miracles, others heard that He fed the hungry, and a few hoped He would overthrow Rome and establish David’s promised kingdom. They were expecting the wrong things.

Jesus turned to the multitude and preached a sermon that deliberately thinned out the ranks. He made it clear that, when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. In the matter of saving lost souls, He wants His house to be filled (Luke 14:23); but in the matter of personal discipleship, He wants only those who are willing to pay the price.

A “disciple” is a learner, one who attaches himself or herself to a teacher in order to learn a trade or a subject. Perhaps our nearest modern equivalent is “apprentice,” one who learns by watching and by doing. The word disciple was the most common name for the followers of Jesus Christ and is used 264 times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus seems to make a distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is open to all who will come by faith, while discipleship is for believers willing to pay a price. Salvation means coming to the cross and trusting Jesus Christ, while discipleship means carrying the cross and following Jesus Christ. Jesus wants as many sinners saved as possible (“that My house may be filled”), but He cautions us not to take discipleship lightly; and in the three parables He gave, He made it clear that there is a price to pay.

We are going to dive in to what it means to love Jesus Christ supremely and to carry one’s cross.

  1. Jesus’ Instruction concerning discipleship (Luke 14:25-27)
    1. In regard to the candidate’s family (Luke 14:25-26)
      1. Jesus was still traveling toward Jerusalem, and large crowds had joined him.
        1. Perhaps all these casual followers considered themselves “disciples” of this popular teacher.
        2. Perhaps they thought he was the Messiah and wanted to be there when he inaugurated his kingdom.
      2. Jesus needed to explain that following him did not mean receiving goodies, like the expectation of so many children.
        1. He wanted to explain what it meant to truly be his disciple. So he turned and spoke to them. His disciples had to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.
        2. This may be the only verse that teenagers will enthusiastically quote and follow, after all, Jesus said that I am to hate my parents.
        3. Certainly this caused a stir among the people. Who would possibly ask his followers to hate their family members and life itself? The point is not to HATE, but to LOVE others less. Your love for Jesus must be so strong that any other relationship of LOVE would look like HATE in comparison.
      3. Jesus never contradicts himself. Never has Jesus advocated “hatred”—in fact, he even commanded his followers to love their enemies (Luke 6:27, 35).
        1. In these words Jesus was not going against his own commands of love, or the fifth commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12).
        2. Instead, the word “hate” is a Semitic hyperbole—an obvious exaggeration to make a point (see Genesis 29:30–33; Proverbs 13:24). Their love for Jesus should be so complete and wholehearted that their love for family members, and for life itself, would pale in comparison, to the point of being like hatred. In first-century Jewish family settings, deciding for Jesus could mean alienation from the family.
        3. Jesus warned the would-be disciples that they must be clear about their true allegiance. Jesus’ point was that those who wanted to be his followers would have demands placed upon them. The task would not be easy. Sometimes relationships would be severed, and his followers would have to turn away and remain with Jesus (12:51–53). Those who cannot make that kind of commitment cannot be his disciple.
    2. In regard to the candidate (Luke 14:27)
      1. Besides being willing to love Jesus more than any others and more than life itself, the true disciple must be ready to carry the cross and follow Christ.
      2. Jesus’ audience was well aware of what it meant to “carry the cross.” When the Romans led a criminal to his execution site, the criminal would be forced to carry the cross on which he would die. This showed submission to Rome and warned observers that they had better submit too.
      3. Carrying your cross means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12:23–28). Bearing a “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives.
      4. Jesus gave this teaching to get the crowds to think through their enthusiasm for him. He encouraged those who were superficial either to go deeper or to turn back. Following Christ means total submission to him—perhaps even to the point of death.
  2. Jesus’ Illustration concerning discipleship (Luke 14:28-35)
    1. A disciple must be like a man preparing to build: the example of the unfinished building (Luke 14:28-30). The story has a couple interesting observations.
      1. Adequate Resources – mockery – a landmark of foolishness. If a person could not finish what he started, the community would mock him, and his unfinished building would be a testimony to his lack of following through.
      2. Adverse Reality – the calling to follow Jesus deserves serious thought and contemplation – the example of John Mark leaving the missionary journey (Acts 12:25-13:5, 13:13). The glamour and newness wears off and reality sets in. The young man did not count the cost of following Jesus and serving God as a companion of Paul.
    2. A disciple must be like a monarch preparing for battle: the example of a unsuccessful war (Luke 14:31-33) – To rush out with his soldiers, without first discussing the options, would invite disaster for any nation. It is far better to think it through beforehand. So those who want to follow Jesus should carefully consider their decision.
      1. The Christian life is a battle, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
      2. Satan is the enemy and our adversary, who seeks out downfall. He is the god of this world. Spiritual warfare is not a minor endeavor.
      3. For some, giving up everything may be literal, such as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–23 and many of Jesus’ early followers; for others it may be a willingness to hold loosely to material possessions.
    3. A disciple must be like a maître d’ preparing for a banquet: the example of an unsavory condiment (Luke 14:34-35)
      1. The maître d’ handles the reservations and preparations, so many Christians blend into the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ.
      2. But Jesus says if Christians lose their distinctive saltiness, they become worthless. Just as salt flavors and preserves food, Christ’s disciples are to preserve the good in the world, help keep it from spoiling, and bring new flavor to life.
      3. This requires careful planning, willing sacrifice, and unswerving commitment to Christ’s kingdom. Being “salty” is not easy, but if Christians fail in this function, they fail to represent Christ in the world. The person with ears should be able to understand these words and apply them.
        1. Salt without flavor is good for nothing; it has no purpose at the dinner table.
        2. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

What are those “costs” to believers? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. Family and friends may hate or avoid you. We may have to give up control over their money, time, or career. It is not like living overseas where Christianity is illegal, and may cost your freedom or your life.

Following Christ does not mean living a trouble-free life. All people must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciple so that they will know what they are getting into and won’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets tough.

The title of this message is False Expectations, so let me wrap this us by sharing with you what I would call one of the most haunting verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Talk about false expectations. Those who expects “well done, good and faithful servant,” heard Jesus say, depart from me, I never knew you.”

Discipleship is serious business. If we are not true disciples, then Jesus cannot build the tower and fight the war. Oswald Chambers wrote, “There is always an if in connection with discipleship, and it implies that we need not [be disciples] unless we embrace this. There is never any compulsion; Jesus does not coerce us. There is only one way of being a disciple, and that is by being devoted to Jesus.”

IF we tell Jesus that we want to take up our cross and follow Him as His disciples, THEN He wants us to know exactly what we are getting into. He wants no false expectancy, no illusions, no bargains. He wants to use us as STONES for building His church, SOLDIERS for battling His enemies, and SALT for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality more than quality.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He spoke these words, and look what happened to Him there! He does not ask us to do anything for Him that He has not already done for us.

To some people, Jesus says, “You cannot be My disciples!” Why? Because they will not forsake everything for Christ, bearing shame and reproach for Him, and letting their love for Him control them.

Will you be His disciple?

Next Steps:

  • How possible are this conditions for you?
  • What has it cost you to follow Jesus?
  • What cost of following Jesus seems too high for you?
  • What relationships of other loyalties do you need to pray about to strengthen your loyalty to Jesus?
  • In what area of your life can you have a deliberate effect for Christ this week?

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Becoming a World Class Leader

This is the final command of Jesus, regarding the Great Commission, from Matthew 28:16-20, Sec. 256 in Thomas and Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels.

Purpose: These are some of the last words of our Savior to His faithful followers. Last words are important. Do you remember the last words of a loved one who died or moved far away? It’s rare that we would forget last words from a loved one. The purpose of this lesson is to remember these last words. Christ’s last words in this passage ought to be our first concern as the church! These last words are the church’s marching orders. This passage is often called the Great Commission. The Bible never calls it the Great Commission. It is great because our Lord gave it to us. But I often think that when normal everyday people like you and I hear that word “Great,” we immediately exclude ourselves. We think, “a Great Commission can only be achieved by great people.” I’d rather join Donn Spader in calling it the Everyday Commission for everyday kind of people like you and me.

Historical Background: Jesus has died on the cross and risen from the dead. The proof of His resurrection is his post resurrection appearances. This passage describes His eighth appearance. All four gospels and the Book of Acts give us different versions of the Great Commission. Matthew provides us with an inclusive version of the Great Commission, where the other Gospels and Acts focus on evangelism. This passage tells us why the church exists on planet earth. Jesus here calls the disciples to be purposeful in making disciples of a lost world who are heading toward a Christless eternity in Hell rather than unintentional. The imperative in this passage is our marching orders until Jesus comes.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 28:19 – go (participle); 28:19 – “make disciples;” 28:19 – “baptizing” (participle); 28:20 – “teaching” (participle); Mark 16:15 – “preach.”

Jesus modeled making disciples throughout the gospels. We are told in Matthew 27:57 “…a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus” (literal translation). The Apostle John observes that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Acts 14:21

Amplified in the Epistles: Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14

1. When did Jesus prearrange to meet his disciples in Galilee? (Matthew 28:16; 26:32; 28:7-10) Jesus had predicted and prearranged a meeting in Galilee with the disciples and the brethren. Matthew 26:32 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee” (Matthew 28:7-10). “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” 8And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

2. What post-resurrection appearance was this Galilean meeting? Jesus appeared ten times after his resurrection and before his ascension. Matthew 28:16-20 was his eighth appearance.

Ten Post-Resurrection Appearances

  1. Appearance to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9-11;John 20:11-18 [NASB Sec.248; NIV Sec.173]
  2. Appearance to the women, Matthew 28:9-10 [NASB Sec.249; NIV Sec.174]
  3. Appearances to the two disciples traveling to Emmaus, Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32 [NASB Sec.251; NIV Sec.176]
  4. Appearance to Peter, Luke 24:33-35; 1 Corinthians 15:5a [NASB Sec.252; NIV Sec.177]
  5. Appearance to the ten assembled disciples, Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25 [NASB Sec.253; NIV Sec.178]
  6. Appearance to the eleven disciples, John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5b [NASB Sec.254; NIV Sec.179]
  7. Appearance to the seven disciples while fishing, John 21:1-35 [NASB Sec.255;NIV Sec.180]
  8. Appearance to the eleven in Galilee, Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:6 [NASB Sec.256; NIV Sec.181]
  9. Appearance to James, Jesus’ brother, 1 Corinthians 15:7 [NASB Sec.257;NIV Sec.182]
  10. Appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem, Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8 [NASB Sec.258; NIV Sec.183]

3. How many people assembled for this meeting? (Matthew 28:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:6) Eleven Apostles were present, and when you harmonize the chronological sequence of Christ’s post resurrection appearances we can confidently conclude that there were also “more than five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6). If this is true, and I believe that it is, then there are huge implications. This would mean that the imperative “making disciples” was not directed only to the apostolic leaders or to the church as an institution, but to every believer. These marching orders of the resurrected Lord were directed toward more than five hundred brethren who had joined the eleven on this mountainside (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6). I believe the local church is responsible to assist every believer in fulfilling the Great Commission.

4. Was Thomas among the group Matthew describes as “doubtful”? (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:36-43;John 20:19-29; 1 John 1:1) No, the doubts that Thomas had were addressed in Jesus’ sixth post resurrection appearance (John 20:26-29). John records that Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) John records that one week after that statement of doubt Jesus presented himself to Thomas and gave him the evidence that he needed. Thomas’ response after examining the evidence was, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:17)! There were no doubts left in Thomas or any of the other apostles. We can only conclude that the “some” is a reference to a few of the five hundred brethren that were also present (1 Corinthians 15:6).

5. What activity in Matthew 28:17 prepared the disciples to passionately obey the Great Commission without reservation? (Matthew 28:17) The activity that prepared the disciples to obey this commission was bowing the knee in worship to the Lord Jesus Christ. True worshippers are relentless in fulfilling Christ’s mandate in this passage. Unfortunately many Churches are anthropological rather than doxological in their orientation. John Piper writes, “Missions in not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t … Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.”

6. What right did Jesus have to command his disciples to go all the nations? (Matthew 28:18) Jesus had authority [exousia]

7. Should Christians obey government if they forbid proclaiming the gospel by any means? (1 Peter 2:13-17; Acts 4:13-22; 5:17-32)

The Apostle Peter taught that we should obey those in government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

In Acts 5:28 we are told that Peter had been forbidden to preach the gospel. The text says, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Peter’s response in Acts 5:29 was, “We must obey God rather than men.”

God wants us to pray for and “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” The only time we should disobey governmental authorities is when they totally disallow a biblical practice that we are commanded by Christ to obey. Then, for conscience sake, we must obey Christ who has the jurisdiction over those in heaven and on earth.

8. What is the main verb in Matthew’s version of the Great Commission? (Matthew 28:19-20) The main verb in this passage in the original language is to “make disciples” but the intent of Jesus’ command is to make disciples who can make disciples who can make disciples…” Jesus wanted to create a movement of multiplication (disciplemaking) not addition (evangelism only). Jesus didn’t merely want converts he wanted disciples.

The question has been asked, “Are disciples born or made?” They are born again to be made. The word “disciple” [mathetes] is a term that describes “a learner” [from manthano, “to learn”] in contrast to didaskalos, “a teacher,” hence it denotes “one who (follows one’s teaching” as a disciple – Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).

Disciplemaking describes the process of starting with the raw material of a seeker and seeing them become a believer, a worker and a reproducer. The word “disciple” is used to describe a person (seeker, believer, worker, and reproducer) at each level in the disciplemaking process. Seekers (John 1:35, 37; 2:2, 11); Believers (Luke 6:13; John 2:12, 17; 3:22; 4:2, 8, 27, 31, 33); Workers (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 20:17; 26:20); and Reproducers (Matthew 28:16; John 15:8) are all called disciples.

Christian or Disciple?

  • Acts 11:26, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
  • Acts 26:28, Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
  • 1 Peter 4:16, but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Every believer is a disciple but not every disciple is a believer. John 6:66 describes a group of seekers that are called disciples because they superficially connected themselves as learners of Christ until he began speaking the hard sayings. The early disciples in John 1 hadn’t placed their faith in Christ as their Messiah yet (John 2:11) but they were called disciples (John 1:35, 37; 2:2, 11; Luke 19:39) because they were learners in the sense that they were willing to investigate Jesus’ words and works. Other examples of disciples that weren’t believers include “disciples of John the Baptist” (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; John 3:25; Acts 19:1); “disciples of Moses” (John 9:28); “disciples of the Pharisees” (Luke 5:33).

Some passages are undefined concerning where a disciple is in the disciple making process. Luke reports, Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon (John 6:17, 19:37). Luke here identifies a large crowd of the disciples (more than the Twelve) but distinguishes them from the “great throng of people.” Jesus taught there were certain marks of a fully devoted disciple of Christ (Luke 14:26, 27, 33; John 8:31; 13:35; 15:8). The Book of Acts uses the term “disciple” to describe those who associated themselves with the church as the Great Commission was being fulfilled (Acts 1:15; 6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 25, 26, 38; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 16:1; 18:23, 27; 19:9, 30; 20:1, 7, 30; 21:4, 16).

9. Why doesn’t the word “disciple” or “make disciples” occur in the epistles, especially if the Great Commission is for the church? (Matthew 11:29; Acts 14:21; Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14). The word “disciple” or “make disciples” doesn’t occur in the Epistles because they focus on addressing the corporate assembly rather than the individual believers.

It has been said if you want to know how to disciple people study the Gospels; if you want to know how to do church planting study the Book of Acts. And if you want to know how to maintain and correct the church, study the Epistles. The root for the word “disciple” is “learn” [manthano]. Jesus used this word “learn” as an invitation to be discipled in the Gospels (Matthew 11:28-30). This word was also used in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul who discipled young Timothy (1 Timothy 3:14) and believers in the churches that he planted (Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9).

The book of Acts is a historical record of the first 30 years of the church. The church had no stated reason for existence if the Great Commission wasn’t their marching orders. The first Epistle to the church wasn’t sent until more than 15 years after the church’s inception at Pentecost. The expansion of the church over the first 30 years can be clearly outlined by the early church’s obedience to the Great Commission.

The Apostles moved from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12; 2:1,5) to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), then even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 13:1-4; etc.). This was in obedience to the Acts 1:8 version of the Great Commission. Even though the Apostle Paul was the last apostle to be chosen, “as to one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8) he also fulfilled the Great Commission to “make disciples.” Acts 14:21 says, “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples [matheteuo], they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.

Matthew 28:19-20 Paraphrased – “Go into all the world and recruit students for the school of Christ through salvation, initiating them into that school through baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then teach them to obey the commands of Christ and you can be assured that He will be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

10. How do we know that the church is to fulfill the Great Commission? (Acts 1:1, 8) First, the Book of Acts is simply a continuation of what Jesus began to do. Disciplemaking is the unfinished work of Christ. Acts 1:1 says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” We often speak of the finished work of Christ on the cross but the work of making disciples of every nation wasn’t accomplished in Jesus’ lifetime nor was it his intention. It was Jesus’ intention to create a movement of multiplication by investing his life in twelve ordinary men who could disciple others so that for generations to come the world could be reached.

The second reason is that the Great Commission wasn’t given to just the Apostles or the church as an institution but to every believer. Every believer is responsible to make disciples among their network of relationships at home, in the office, in community and in their family. Matthew’s version of the Great Commission was given to “The Eleven” and to “more than five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6).

11. What three steps does Jesus say are involved in making disciples? (Matthew 28:19, 20)

  1. Step #1 is to “Go” [Aorist Participle] and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). The Aorist tense denotes urgency.
  2. Step #2 involves “baptizing” [Present Participle] every new convert and establishing him or her in their newfound faith.
  3. Step #3 involves “teaching” [Present Participle] them to observe all the commands that Christ gave his disciples when He walked among them.

These three steps parallel the three steps that Jesus used when making disciples.

  1. He first would “Go” and invite seekers to “Come and See” in order to investigate his words and works (John 1:39; 46; 4:29).
  2. His second step was to have his disciples baptize (John 4:1-2) the new believers and invite them to “Come and Follow” him in order to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).
  3. His third step was to invite them to “Come and be with him” (Mark 3:13-14; Luke 6:12-13). It was during this stage of disciplemaking that Jesus taught them the ministry and life skills needed to be successfully deployed as workers in the harvest field.

12. What is involved in the task of going? (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47) The first step in making a disciple involves reaching out to unchurched unbelievers. The early church gathered to worship and scattered to evangelize. The goal of the word “go” is to preach the gospel and win people to Christ (Matthew 28:19). Every believer is to “go” and share his faith with his family, friends and co-workers. The scope of this task is “every nation” including our own. Every believer is responsible to “go” next door, to the next cubical at work, or to teammates on the sports field. Wherever you are, that’s your “Jerusalem” and God commands you and empowers you to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Mark tells us in his version of the Great Commission to “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Luke’s version of the Great Commission adds that we are to proclaim “repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).

13. Who should we target when we begin to make disciples? (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) We should start where we are. The disciples were from Galilee but they were in Jerusalem so that is where they started from.

14. What is the key word for missions? (Acts 13:1-4; Romans 10:15) The key word for missions is not “go” but “send.” Romans 10:15 says, “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”‘ God wants us all to be “World Class Christians” who are committed to cross-cultural Disciplemaking and global church planting. (Romans 10:15; Acts 13:1-4).

15. Why is baptism so important as the second step in the disciple-making process? (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 10:48, 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11) The reason baptism is so important is because no one has ever seen a salvation. The spiritual regeneration of a man or woman is a miraculous work of the Spirit inside of a person (John 4:14; 7:37,38; Titus 3:5). We can only see the results of a salvation.

Baptism is the fruit of a genuine repentance. The newborn child is now a “son of obedience” rather than a “son of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6). There is a natural desire that a new believer has to take the first step of obedience. Jesus taught disciplemakers to use baptism as an early litmus test to discern whether someone has been genuinely saved.

Mark 16:16 says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” This verse is not doctrinal in nature but missional. The gospel writers didn’t give us the Great Commission to help us define the essence of the gospel, but to describe what to look for as evidence of a true salvation. It’s only natural that we should see a new convert’s willingness to submit to baptism after they’ve made a genuine profession of faith.

When we go to the epistles, the doctrinal books of the New Testament, baptism is clearly not a part of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 writes – “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel…”. It’s clear that baptism is not part of the gospel. The Gospel isn’t the good news that if you trust Christ and get baptized you’ll be saved. It’s faith in Christ alone. If baptism were required, Paul certainly wouldn’t have said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Mark 16:16 at first glance appears to teach that you must be baptized in order to be saved. A closer examination reveals that “faith” is the issue. Notice it doesn’t say “He who does not believe and isn’t baptized will be condemned.” To say that this passage demands that a person be baptized it would have to say “but he who does not believe and isn’t baptized will be condemned.” The thing that condemns a person is their unwillingness to place their faith (believe) in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection.

Perhaps this illustration will help: If you get on a bus that’s going to New York and sit down, you’ll reach your destination. But what happens if you get on the bus and don’t sit down, will you still get to New York? Yes. In the same way, if you put your faith in Christ and aren’t baptized, you’ll still get to heaven. If you choose not to get on the bus, you won’t go to New York. In the same way, if you choose not to trust Christ as your Savior, you won’t get to heaven.

Once again, the reason Mark so clearly ties baptism to salvation is because he wants to stress the importance of baptism as an outward sign of what has already taken place inwardly. The earlier a person identifies with Christ and his body (the church) publicly ­the more dynamic the witness and the more consistent the growth spiritually.

16. How soon should a person be baptized? (Acts 2:41, 8:36; 16:30-33; 22:16 9:9, 18) The New Testament teaches that the command to be baptized should be obeyed by the new believer as soon as possible.

  • “at once” (Acts 8:36) – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
  • “same hour” (Acts 16:30-33) – And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
  • “same day” (Acts 2:41) – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
  • Three days after being saved (Acts 9:9, 18; 22:12-16) – “And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). The Apostle Paul was saved while en route from Jerusalem to Damascus. His conversion experience temporarily blinded him. When he received his sight, Ananias asked him why he had waited so long to get baptized. Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:12-16).

17. What is the curriculum that is to be taught in the third step of the disciple-making process? (Matthew 28:20) The third step in the disciple-making process is “to teach” the disciplee “to observe all that I (Christ) commanded” (Matthew 28:20). This involves equipping believers so that they possess the character and competence needed to reproduce themselves.

Jesus gave 244 Discipleship Commands in the gospels and they fall into 43 command topics. Christ gave specific commands at the “Win” (6), “Build” (4), “Equip” (31), and “Multiply” (2) levels or phases of disciplemaking. The Bible promises ten special blessings to those who learn and obey these commands.

The Bible promises that if you obey the commands of Christ you will…

  1. Be Jesus’ friend. “You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” (John 15:1)
  2. Enjoy God’s love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Fathers commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
  3. See your prayers answered. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)
  4. Prove your love to God. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
  5. Experience the security of your salvation. “By this we know that we have come to know Him,if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
  6. Know Jesus more deeply. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
  7. Have close fellowship with God. Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
  8. Genuinely love others. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments” (1 John 5:2)
  9. Avoid many of the burdens of life. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
  10. Be known as Jesus’ disciple. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

18. What is the goal in teaching this curriculum? (Matthew 28:20; 1 John 2:3; John 14:15) The goal of the teaching is found in the infinitive – “to observe all that I commanded you”. We have not discipled an individual until they are obeying what they learned.

19. What is the promise Jesus gives to those who make disciples? (Matthew 28:20) Jesus said, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus here promises two things:

  1. He will”manifest His presence” in a unique way when we are making disciples – “all the time not sometimes” (always);
  2. This commission doesn’t have a short shelf life. This is the mission of the church that is to be fulfilled until He returns.

Sources:  The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1 998
  2. Personal Disciple-Making by: Christopher B. Adsit, Here’s Life Publishers Inc., 1988.
  3. Go, Missions by: Ronald Blue, pages 341-353 Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 141, October­ December 1984, Number 564. A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press
  4. The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
  5. An Expository Study of Matthew 28:7 6-20 by: Edmond D. Hiebert, pages 338-354. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 149, July-September 1992, Number 595, A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  6. Discipleship and the Church by: A Boyd Luter, Jr., pages 267-273. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 137, July-September 1980, Number 547. Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Matthew 24-28 by: John MacArthur, Moody Press, 1989
  8. The Great Commission by: Cleon Rogers, pages 258-267. BibliothecaSacra, Volume 130,July-September 1973, Number 519, A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  9. Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible by: C.l. Scofield, page 1124, John 20:16 Study Note. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1967.
  10. “Who Sends the Missionary?” Voice Magazine by: Timothy B. Shorb, pages 8-10, May/June; Published by Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

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New Testament Discipleship

This message called, New Testament Discipleship, comes from 2 Timothy 1:3-12.

Christianity is not a solitary sport, it is a team effort. When we come to faith in Christ, we join a global and a local community, in essence, this community is a timeless spiritual family. When you join a family, you are not alone. People look out for one another. So, how are lives connected in corporate worship? In this room we are all pretty much spectators. It is in a small group that we become participants.

I love small groups and I always encourage people to get involved and join one. It is easy to shop around here at King’s Grant because we have so many groups from which to choose. If you want to explore a group in which to get involved, let me know.

I can talk a whole lot about why small groups are important, but time is limited and I want to go through this text. While Skip used this text two weeks ago, I plan to go in a total different direction. We can talk about timothy and his family, but I prefer to talk about Timothy’s and Paul’s connection through being a part of a faith community. Let’s get started…

1. Reassurance (2 Timothy 1:3) – I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.

The text tells us that Paul was praying for Timothy, and that he likely had confidence in him. The first thing you notice is the relational aspect of these to followers of Christ. Those who are connected to Jesus pray for one another. In a small group, we are pilgrims on the same journey, giving support, encouragement, and challenge to those in the group. It is a blessing to be involved with fellow believers on a similar journey.

Speaking of blessing, we have the potential to bring out the best in those whom we bless. From the very beginning, God intends for his people to bless others (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:8). (Smalley and Trent, The Blessing, 1986). What does a blessing entail? How do we bless others? Imagine doing all of the following in a small group…

  1. Expressing Unconditional Love: agape is God’s kind of love, you cannot earn it nor can you lose it. It is not a love that says, “I love you because…” or “I will love you if…” – it is a love that says, “I love you anyway.” There is security in this sort of relationship.
  2. Uttering Spoken Words: a blessing is only a blessing when it is spoken. It matters not how much you care about someone if you never let them know about it. When you invest into other people, you cannot keep silent.
  3. Articulating High Value: Perhaps you saw the movie called, “The Help.” The main character is a black maid who worked for this 1960’s white southern household. This strong woman had a great statement that she repeated in the film, and the little white girl was able to quote it back to her, “you is kind, you is smart, you is important.”
    1. It is like a family reunion, people are usually speaking to each other and talking all over the place but in that final hour people preparing for their goodbyes and are expressing the most important things that need to be said.
    2. Picture the undeveloped traits or habits or qualities in other people that can grow in their heart. Our desire is for them to be the best they can be for the kingdom’s sake.
    3. When we value others, we bring out their best.
  4. Picturing a Special Future: You can do this and thereby bring joy to people. You will make an impact on the kingdom of God and will be encouraging them to make a difference as well.
    1. Picturing a special future is like how Jesus encourages us by mentioning a wonderful statement at the end of time, “well done good and faithful servant,” which bring out the best in our lives, a desire for transformation into godly men and women.
    2. Kim is a hospice chaplain and I often remind her, usually when she leaves the house in the morning, or after a long and difficult day or week, that she is making a difference in the lives of people, especially at this critical stage in their lives, and the lives of their family members and staff.
  5. Disciplining When Needed: You may be thinking that I am just talking about parents and children, but discipline is greater than just a family because as followers of Jesus, we will fail many times in our lives. We need God’s discipline, and often that will come through fellow believers whom we trust and we know they have our back. We are to balance praise and correction. God deals with us rather than ignoring the wrong behavior; the same is true for our brothers in Christ. We cannot ignore behavior that goes against the teachings of the Bible. Ok, let’s move on to…

2. Reminiscence (2 Timothy 1:4-5) longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Two things are noticed here…

  1. Tears (2 Timothy 1:4) What Paul desired, (he longed to see Timothy again).
  2. Testimony (2 Timothy 1:5) What Paul described…
    1. The Reality of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5a) (mindful of the sincere faith he had).
    2. The Roots of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5b) (which came through his mother and grandmother)
    3. The Reinforcement of Timothy’s faith (2 Timothy 1:5c) (I am sure it is in you as well). It is important to think about from where we have come, and how faith entered our lives. It is very good to share with others in your small group about how you came to faith in Christ, and reaffirm the faith we see in others.

3. Refocus (2 Timothy 1:6-7a) For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity…

  1. Stir up the Gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6) (Kindle afresh the gift of God) Small groups are training ground for living life on purpose, being on mission, and living a missional life.
  2. Suppress the Fear (2 Timothy 1:7a) (we don’t have a spirit of timidity or fear). There is strength in numbers, so your small group will give you the encouragement you need to stand strong in the face of the struggles of life. Finally, we are to

4. Remember (2 Timothy 1:7b-12) Remember what, you ask?

  1. Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7b) (not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline). The Spirit is the one whom Jesus promised to send that would fill us with the power to change the world (Acts 1:8). We must remember that in a small group, we do not depend upon our own power, creativity, teaching, or anything, but we allow the power of the Spirit to flow through us.
  2. Son (2 Timothy 1:8) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
    1. Don’t be Ashamed (2 Timothy 1:8a) – of the testimony of Jesus. We know what Jesus did to secure our salvation, so never be ashamed of the gospel story. We don’t need to apologize to unchurched people about what we believe, especially when it goes against what the intolerant left mainstream culture promotes.
    2. Don’t be Afraid (2 Timothy 1:8b) – of Paul or Prison. When our society labels us intolerant and narrow-minded, and they come after the church and Christians, don’t be afraid to join with Paul in the suffering for the gospel. We stand stronger with a small group to help us navigate through the dark waters of modern culture.
  3. Salvation (2 Timothy 1:9a-b) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling,
    1. Our Conversion (2 Timothy 1:9a) It is important to understand that the purpose of a small group is to know Christ and make him known. The goal is not just a place to study the Bible, but to share life together, on purpose, with an intentional missional mindset. How can we get one more person to be a part of our group? One we get to a certain size, when will we birth another group where we can both continue reaching and teaching people? It is all about life transformation, and conversion is a great target. After conversion, we embrace our calling…
    2. Our Calling (2 Timothy 1:9b) Paul wrote about a holy calling. What does God want from you? What mission or purpose has he planted in your heart that only you can achieve? How will you walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ, and therefore make an eternal impact on the kingdom of God? BUT, our calling leads to service…
  4. Service (2 Timothy 1:9c-10) not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
    1. Our Commission (2 Timothy 1:9c). We don’t do any of this in our own strength or according to our own works, but according to the power of Christ. Remember that the body of Christ works together to accomplish the will of God. Each small group has the potential to embrace the commission and seek ways to be on mission together, and encouraging each of us to make an eternal impact.
    2. Our Commander (2 Timothy 1:10). We recognize that the Great Commission comes from our Great Commander. Jesus is the Savior, who abolished death and brought life and immortality through the gospel. Jesus causes our service to make sense. Non-Christians serve in order to give back (it is ME focused), but we “give back” with a purpose (because is it God focused). Serving can lead to…
  5. Servants (2 Timothy 1:11) for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. This verse reminds us that Paul was a Preacher and Apostle.
    1. What is a Preacher? It is not just someone who stands up here and delivers a sermon. The preacher (kay’-roox) really means, “a herald or messenger” or God’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). THAT is something that we all can do. We have a story to tell.
    2. What is an Apostle? The apostle (a-po’-sto-los) means, “a delegate, a messenger, one sent forth with orders.” The church is made up of believers, and we are literally “sent-out-ones.” Understanding this fact awaken us to the great possibilities of impacting the kingdom of God. Don’t limit God in what he can do in your life. Be open to go in whatever direction he has set before you!
  6. Suffering (2 Timothy 1:12) For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
    1. Confidence (2 Timothy 1:12a) “For this reason” expresses Paul confidence. All that he has gone through makes sense when he had the proper perspective. Remember this letter was written at the very end of Paul’s earthly life. He was expecting execution any day. In the midst of this uncertainty, Paul expresses solid confidence.
    2. Conviction (2 Timothy 1:12b) Paul is convinced, and knows for certain that he is in the hands of Jesus. What has Paul entrusted to Jesus until THAT DAY?Perhaps it is either the day of Christ’s glorious return or maybe the day of Paul’s execution. His life. Jesus is able to guard his life, so what have we to fear?

All throughout this passage I see the blueprints for small groups. The purpose of today is to discover what it takes to encourage sticky faith in our kids and in the lives of other people. Small groups encourage stick faith, and the family is God’s original small group. Get involved in one and live life in the community of faith.

The next steps at the bottom of your outline will help you to remember what community has been in your life in the past, and perhaps you will recognize the need to have a more connected community in your current situation.

Next Steps: Make it practical…

1. For whom do you pray on a regular basis? (2 Timothy 1:3)
2. Who has had the biggest role in your spiritual development? (2 Timothy 1:3)
3. What gift has God given to you? (2 Timothy 1:6)
4. How is the Spirit’s power, love, & self-discipline shown in your life? (2 Timothy 1:7)
5. Why has God called you to a holy life? (2 Timothy 1:9)
6. In what ways are you called to be a preacher and apostle? (2 Timothy 1:11)
7. When was there a time that you suffered for the gospel? (2 Timothy 1:12)

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How to Love God and Others

This command is all about how to love God and love other people, from Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:34-40

Purpose: To develop the character quality of agape love for God and our neighbors. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This kind of love is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate.

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Mark 12:28-34) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been worshipped as the “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Upon arrival in Jerusalem Jesus entered the temple, looked around and then he departed (Mark 11:11). The Jewish multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free them from Roman bondage. He made His way that evening to Bethany, outside of the city and spent the night there with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. The next day as He returned to Jerusalem, He cursed a barren fig tree on His journey to the temple (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14). Jesus entered the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers a second time (John 2:13-22) and attacked Israel’s religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

Jesus leaves and returns the next day (Mark 11:27-28), which says, “They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”

They must have thought “What nerve He has! First of all, He comes in yesterday and disturbs the entire place and then He thinks he can walk back in and teach! Where does He think He gets His authority to do this?” Jesus responds to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered, “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught that the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom:

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus in affect said to these leaders, first of all, you are like a son who says he will obey but doesn’t. Secondly, you are like a tenant farmer who leases out a farm and then you kill the servants and the son of the one who leased it to you before you’ll pay any debt. And third, you are like the guests who were invited to a wedding, to marry Christ, and you refused to come, so you are thereby shut out. The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46, Mark 12:12, Luke 20:19).

The religious leaders resented Him and wanted Him dead, but the Roman government had restricted their right to take lives, to execute their own criminals. So they attempted to publicly discredit him (Mark 12:13-34). As they confronted Him with the first question they hoped to force Him to answer in such a way that He will put Himself in a difficult position with Rome, so they can put Him to death as an insurrectionist. This first question (Mark 12:13-17) is a political question. The next two questions (Mark 12:18-27; 28-34) are of a theological nature and would discredit Him among the people.

Matthew 22:34 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.” When the political question from the Herodians and Pharisees had failed, the Sadducees asked Him a question with respect to the resurrection. But once again He doesn’t discredit Himself among the people through His answer. In fact, His answer silenced the Sadducees. This verb “to put to silence” literally means, “to gag.” He gagged them. It’s not that they wanted to be silenced; it’s just that they had no choice. This verb is used in Mark 1:25 in silencing a demon and in Mark 4:39 in silencing a storm. It is used in 1 Corinthians 9:9 of muzzling an ox. So he muzzled them. In other words, it is an unwilling gagging that they received, and he brought their argument to an end where they were unable to say another thing. They were without another thought, another idea, another retort.

It’s when the Pharisees “gathered themselves together” that an expert scribe joined them and formulated the last question to put Jesus to the test (Matthew 22:35). It’s this third question that created the occasion for Jesus to reinforce the greatest commandment that is found in the Old Testament.

Commanded in the Gospels: This command, “you shall” is from Leviticus 19:18. This command is often repeated in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39, Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: This command is indirectly illustrated in Acts. The early church found “favor with all the people” because they were so caring and loving (Acts 2:47). They did the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way!

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:8,9,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

Discussion Questions:

1. Who approached Jesus with the question? (Mark 12:28; Matthew 22:34-35) Mark 12:28 says, “one of the scribes came.” A scribe is one who was responsible to copy and interpret the law. Matthew identifies this same man as a “lawyer.” A lawyer was a scribe that was a law expert. In fact, the word “lawyer” that Matthew uses only occurs one time, and that’s in Matthew 22:35. On every other occasion, twenty-two times, he calls them scribes instead of lawyers. I believe that Matthew is suggesting that this man is a cut above that average scribe. He probably stood out among the scribes as a real expert. So he’s the one who structures and formulates the question and then proposes the question to the Lord.

2. What did this scribe think of Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:28b) The text says that he recognized “that He had answered them well.” The word “well” literally means that Christ answered, “beautifully, finely, and admirably.” Mark seems to suggest that the question asked by the teacher of the law, in contrast to many that had been asked by his colleagues, was a sincere one. He had been impressed by Jesus’ answer to the previous question. The law expert said in essence, “I know the Old Testament and that was a good answer.” So this Pharisees, this scribe, this lawyer, wasn’t filled with the same venom or hatred that all the Pharisees possessed. This scribe doesn’t seem as committed to killing Jesus. It appears that this scribe is attracted to the wisdom of Jesus.

3. What makes the scribe’s question so significant? (Mark l2:28c) The Scribe asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” There are two things that make this question so significant.

1) The first thing that makes this question so significant is that the Jews believed that the teachings of Jesus attacked the teachings of Moses. So if they could get Jesus to supersede Moses in some statement, go beyond what Moses said and set himself up as the authority, then they would discredit Him among the people, because Moses was the number one hero of the Jews for several reasons:

  • Historically in Judaism there is no one like Moses. Moses is the one who talked to God, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and that sets him apart from every other Jew.
  • Moses was the one God chose when God searched for a man to whom he could give His law.
  • Moses was the priority writer who penned the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch). The Sadducees only held to the writings of Moses, and they were part of his audience as well as many in the crowd who followed their teachings.
  • A Rabbi in the second century said this of Moses: “God called Moses faithful in His entire house and thereby ranks him higher than the ministering angels themselves.” So many Jews believed that Moses was in a category even above the angelic hosts.
  • He was the greatest one to them and that’s why Matthew 23:2 says that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” That’s the ultimate place of authority, it’s absolute power. To identify with Moses is to give direction and be in control of Israel. So if they could only get Jesus to affirm that His teaching supersedes Moses then they could accuse him of being an apostate and discredit Him among the people.

2) The second thing that makes this question so significant is that the rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, 365 which were negative and 248 positive. Attempts were made to differentiate between the “heavy,” or “great,” and the “light,” or “little,” commandments. The rabbis also made attempts to formulate great principles from which the rest of the law could be deduced. The most famous example comes from Hillel, who when challenged by a Gentile, “Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the whole law while I stand on one foot,” replied, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole law, the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

Some thought that the law about the fringes on the garments was the greatest; some that the omission of washings was as bad as homicide; some that the third commandment was the greatest. It was in view of this kind of distinction that the scribe asked the question; not as desiring a declaration as to which commandment was greatest, but as wanting to know the principle upon which a commandment was to be regarded as a great commandment. (Vincent Word Studies Vol.1)

The question posed to Christ by this scribe arose out of a works salvation understanding of the law and the keeping of its commandments.

Notice Jesus cites a familiar command from the Old Testament that is quoted throughout the New
Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

4. What commandment did Jesus say is the foremost? (Mark l2:29) Jesus quoted two passages from the OT (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18).

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, 0 Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5″You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

5. What phrase does Mark include that Matthew omits? (Mark 12:29; Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:4) Only Mark’s narrative reports that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, which is central to the Shema, named after the first word of the verse, which means “Hear.” In Hebrew liturgy Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 13:37-41 comprise the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith that is recited by pious Jews every morning and evening. Jesus merely identifies the thing that was most familiar to them and says this is the foremost commandment. It basically affirms two things: (1) the unity of God (“the Lord is one”) and (2) the covenant relationship of God to the Jewish people (“the Lord our God”).

It’s important to understand the connection that Deuteronomy 6:4 has with the words that follow. Israel has a covenant relation with God the Father. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares “The LORD is our God.” God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16,21). He expected no other lovers in Israel’s life. This covenant and love relationship wasn’t to be one sided. He expected it to be reciprocal. Israel is the wife of God the Father and the church is betrothed through the New Covenant to God the Son. Loving God is not an option for His people; it’s a mandate.

Bill Gothard writes concerning the basis of God’s jealousy:

“God is jealous because He has established a covenant with every Christian through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Allowing people or things to compete for first place in our affections causes grief and damage to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The motivation behind God’s jealousy is His overwhelming love and desire to bless us! He longs to demonstrate to the entire world the incredible things that He will do for believers who fully love Him.

God established a parallel covenant with the nation of Israel. He promised that if they would honor this covenant with Him by loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, He would make them healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation in the world. However, if they delighted in any other god, He would curse them above all nations on the earth.

I was aware of these Old Testament promises and warnings and of the jealous nature of God. However, I assumed they related only to His relationship with Israel, and that somehow in the New Testament He had become a benevolent God Who overlooks all of our straying affections. As I thought about this, the words of Scripture spoke with powerful authority, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God is just as loving in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. And He is just as jealous in the New Testament as He was in the Old Testament.

This explains the words of James 4:1-4: ‘What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?… You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.’

During those powerful moments of interaction with God and His truth, I realized that I am in covenant with the Lord and that in this relationship there can be no toleration of a competing affection. Either I focus my total love upon Him and experience His marvelous blessings, or I entertain various competing affections and experience painful discipline from Him.

I realized that in my own strength I could not love Him as I ought, so I asked Him for the grace that I needed to love Him with all of my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

6. In the first commandment, how are we to love God? (Mark l2:30) Jesus says, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.”

Notice Jesus’ response. His answer comes by way of a command that is repeated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are to love God and our neighbor.

God is to be loved completely and totally because he, and he alone, is God and because he has made a covenant of love with his people. In the covenant God gives himself totally in love to his people; therefore he expects his people to give themselves totally (“soul,” “mind,” and “strength”) in love to him.

John MacArthur points out that the Hebrew word for “love” used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice. It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapao in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).

We are also instructed to “love the Lord your God with ALL of our heart, with ALL our soul, with ALL the mind, with ALL your strength.” The word “with” should be translated literally “out of.” The Greek word ek stresses the source of our love. It must rise out of every part of our being. It must rise out of our soul. It must rise out of our heart, our mind, and our strength. The word “all” emphasizes the fact that God doesn’t just want part of the heart but all of the heart. A part won’t do. God wants you to love Him with your whole being. What a rebuke to half-hearted Christians today.

Theologians and psychologists love to dissect the human personality. Is man a two part person (dichotomy) or a three part person (trichotomy). It doesn’t appear that Jesus is sorting out the different parts of man. As you go through the Scriptures the different parts have different usages and sometimes overlap one another. Jesus is simply emphasizing that the accumulation of terms underlines the comprehensiveness of the love that we should have for God. We are to love Him with our total person.

Where do your thoughts go when you have a moment to just let them stray? When you are exhausted and only have a small reserve of energy left at the end of the day, how will you use it?

7. In the second commandment, how are we to love our neighbor? (Mark 12:31) Jesus says, “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus brought Leviticus 19:18 together with Deuteronomy 6:5 to show that love of neighbor is a natural and logical outgrowth of love of God. These two commandments belong together; they cannot be separated. The Apostle John in the New Testament stresses this point, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

8. How should we define the word “neighbor?” (Leviticus l9:34; Luke 10:25-37) In Leviticus 19:18, the neighbor is identified as “sons of your people,” or fellow Israelites. The Old Testament was clear in Leviticus 19:34 (a few verses later) that the word “neighbor” included resident aliens. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

The Jews of Jesus’ day held to a more narrow interpretation of the word “neighbor” to only include Jews and full proselytes. Jesus redefined the term to mean “anyone with whom we have dealings at all” (Luke 10:25-37).

9. What does Jesus declare about these two commandments? After stating the two greatest commandments Jesus said in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” The New King James translates this verse as “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” NKJV. This is illustrated with the natural division of the Law below.

10. How many commandments did Jesus give? It’s important to note that Christ gives two commandments and not three. We are living in a day when we are told there are three commands. For example, one writer said that if you don’t properly love yourself, you will be unable to love others. In fact he insists that you must be able to love yourself first before you can love God and your neighbor. The reason Christ did not give a third command was because the type of self-love that He was referring to we already possess. We already love ourselves. It is something that we do automatically and instinctively.

Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “So husbands are also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it.” Some would appeal to this text to prove that if you don’t love yourself then you can’t love your wife. But the text assumes that self-love or self-preservation is already clearly present in our lives. It’s not something that has to be developed or worked at. Notice first of all the word, “no one ever hated.” Hatred is the opposite of love. In other words, everyone always loves his own flesh. The word “no one” speaks of the universality of self-love which is taken for granted by this passage. It’s universal, “no one.” Notice the word “ever.” The word “ever” sets this forth as a timeless principle. In other words, this statement is true in all ages. There is not one person who ever hated himself. All men love themselves and that’s why they cherish and nourish their bodies.

11. What about those that cut their bodies or even attempt suicide? Many teenagers are willing to cut themselves in order to get attention. Self-love and often the occult (paganism) motivate these actions. Others are willing to attempt suicide to end the pain in their lives regardless of how much it will hurt others and be an offense to a Holy God in whose image they were made. Suicide is the ultimate act of self-love.

12. How has modern psychology influenced the church into making these two commandments into three? (2 Timothy 3:2) Nowhere in Scripture is it found that love of self is a prerequisite for the love of others. There are only two commands that Jesus gave. Numerous terms are used in modern psychology today to suggest that we must work at loving ourselves: self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-regard, self-worth, and descriptive phrases such as you need to feel good about yourself, you need to like yourself. Pastors who use these terms are confused, and they are adopting terminology and concepts and presuppositions from the world and trying to put them into Christianity, trying to sanctify those terms.

Paul warns Timothy that the Apostate church in the end times will be characterized by an emphasis on “loving self” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The idea of self-love has not been held or taught historically by the church, but things are changing.

  • John Piper, in an article from Christianity Today (Aug. 12, 1977, pg.6) writes, “Today the first and Great Commandment is, ‘Thou Shalt Love Thyself.’ The explanation for almost every interpersonal problem is thought to lie in someone’s low self-esteem.”
  • In the book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, the author writes, “If I could write a prescription for every woman in the world, I would provide each of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-worth… I have no doubt that this is their greatest need.” pg.35
  • In Dare to Discipline Dobson writes: “Self-esteem is their most fragile attribute in human nature; it can be damaged by a very minor incident and its reconstruction is often difficult to engineer.” James Dobson pg.19
  • James Dobson writes in What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women: “In fact, low self-esteem is a threat to the entire human family.” pg.28
  • In the book Hide and Seek he further says, “The manner of personal wealth is not only a concern of those who lack it. In a real sense, the health of an entire society depends on the ease with which the individual member gain personal acceptance. Thus, whenever the keys to self-esteem are seemingly out of reach for a large percentage of people, as in the twentieth century America, then wide spread mental illness, neuroticism, hatred, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and social disorder will certainly occur.” pgs.12-13
  • John R. Stott writes in an article, entitled: Must I Really Love Myself? “A chorus of many voices is chanting in unison today that at all costs I must love myself first.” Christianity Today, May 5,1978, pg.34

In others words, it doesn’t matter whom I tread on, whom I hurt, the first commandment really is to love yourself. That is not what Jesus said.

Robert Schuller writes about self-esteem when addressing the issue of hell. This is what he says about hell: “Hell is not having a good self-image.” He doesn’t believe in a literal hell, he believes in hell on earth and that is if you don’t have a good self-image, that’s hell.

Jesus emphasized self-denial not self-love. There are three reasons we should have reservations about the self-love theology.

  • Because from the beginning to the end the focus of scripture is the exultation of God and not man. It appears to me that Psalms 139:14 is virtually being rewritten today to be read as, “I will please me because for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No, the text said, “I will praise Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • Because I believe that Scripture has a high view of God and a low view of man. Throughout Scripture this is true: try James 4:1-10, you adulteresses, you adulterers. You can go anywhere in Scripture and see a proper evaluation of what we are like.
  • Because Paul designates self-love as a prime characteristic of evil of the last days: 2 Timothy 3:1.
  • Because too often “Christian writers” have proof texted their books with Scripture after having accepted certain pre-suppositions from psychology. The result has been eisegesis, “reading into the text” rather than exegesis, “reading out of the text.”

One of the consequences of self-love theology is a favorable opinion of oneself before salvation. If you have a favorable opinion of yourself before salvation, then you have a heart that cannot receive God’s mercy. It must become utterly empty of all opinion of your worth.

Luke 18:9-14 says, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10″Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11″The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12’I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13″But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14″I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was full of self-esteem and it would cost him his eternal destiny. The tax collector saw himself as unworthy and cried out for mercy. The text says, “…this man went to his house justified rather than the other…”

C. S. Lewis said, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that, and, therefore, know yourselves as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forgot about yourself all together or you see yourself as a small dirty object.”

The consequences of a favorable opinion of yourself after salvation is to rob God of His glory. The Scriptures teach that God’s glory is somewhat diminished if man glories in himself. Jeremiah wrote, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the rich man in his riches, or the mighty man in his might or let him who glories glory in the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).

13. How did the scribe affirm Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:32-33) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM. 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The teacher of the law not only reiterated what Jesus said but added two phrases to affirm Jesus’ words. The teacher of the law first added the phrase “AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM” which is an interpretive addition from Deuteronomy 4:35. This affirmed and underscored the uniqueness of Israel’s God. Secondly, the teacher of the law affirmed that the love of God and neighbor are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (v.33) which is in keeping with the teachings of the OT prophets.

  • 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
  • Hosea 6:6, For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In Judaism the law and sacrifices are set side by side with love whereas the scribe was declaring the superiority of love going against the accepted teaching of his day.

John MacArthur writes, “Genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If He truly has the person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being.”

John MacArthur adds, “The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Psalm 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Psalm 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Psalm 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Psalm 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Psalm 69:9), loving what God loves (Psalm 119:72,97,103), loving whom God loves (1 John 5:1), hating what God hates (Psalm 97:10), grieving over sin (Matthew 26:75), rejecting the world (1 John 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (John 14:21).”

It’s important to note that when the scribe repeated the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 he omitted the divine name “the Lord” and replaced it with the pronoun “HIM” in keeping with the practice of pious Jews of avoiding the pronunciation of God’s name.

14.What did Jesus recognize about the scribes reply? (Mark 12:34a) This says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently,…” Jesus pictures him as replying in the manner of one who possessed a mind of his own and really understood what he said. The man had comprehended the significance of Jesus’ reply (Portrait of Mark by: Heibert). But it’s the heart not just the intellect that must fully comprehend and embrace the way of Jesus.

15. How did Jesus appeal to the scribe to continue on his pursuit of the truth? (Mark l2:34b) Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This was “a compliment as well as an appeal to the scribe. His realization of the primary importance of love had placed him spiritually near the kingdom of God. He had come a long way for a scribe, but “not far from” insisted that he must go further and accept that love in the Person of Him who was “the kingdom incarnate.” “Whether or not he ever actually entered it, is written on the yet unread page of its history” (Portrait of Mark by: Hiebert).

16. What does a person have to do to secure entrance into the kingdom? (John 3:3-7) Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6″That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7″Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3-7). Jesus taught that a person had two options to enter into the kingdom. The first was to perfectly observe the Law of Moses that He summarized in two commandments in this passage. Entrance into the kingdom through the law requires no love lost for God or one’s neighbor EVER (Galatians 5:1-5).

The other approach is to be born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. This approach requires a recognition that we could never muster up enough effort in “the will of the flesh” to somehow satisfy a Holy God and be declared righteous on our own merits (Romans 3:20; 4:5; Philippians 3:9). John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This scribe (teacher of the law) was only one step away from entering into the kingdom. He was “near.” It appears that Jesus surmised that he was fully aware of heaven’s expectations and now he needed to recognize his own inadequacy to earn his entrance into the kingdom.

17. Were the religious leaders ready to question more after over hearing this exchange? (Mark 12:34c) The text says, “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” A.T. Robertson points out that the phrase, “After that, no one” is a double negative. The sense is the debate was closed and no one would venture (no one dared) to ask another question. Jesus was the complete victor on every side.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 7)

Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “And no one any longer was daring to ask Him a question” (pg.112). The double negative could be translated “no one, no not one”

1. In what way do you want to grow in your love right now: Toward God? Toward those in your neighborhood? Toward strangers? Toward the under resourced?

2. How specifically will you grow in your love? Whom have you selected?

3. What quadrant describes your love quotient?

Sources:

The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image by: Jay E. Adams, Harvest House Publishers, 1986.
3. The Danger of Self- Love by: Paul Brownback Moody Press, 1982.
4. The Expositots Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
5. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
6. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984.
7. Compassion: Showing Care in a Careless World by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books Publishers, 1984
8. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. I by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
9. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
10.Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
11 . The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
12. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
13. Our Jealous God: Love That Won’t Let Me Go by: Bill Gothard, Life Change Book Series, Multnomah Publishers Inc., 2003
14. Diagram from The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee, p. 71, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

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Life On Purpose

Life on Purpose, from Matthew 28:16-20

Why in the world am I here, today, on this planet, at this point in time? That is a question that people spend a lifetime trying to answer. For many, they discover their gifts, talents, and passions early in life and spend their lives pursuing their dreams. For others, they constantly drift from one cause to the next, which spills over into their work life, their marriage, degrees to seek, new relationships… where does it end? They question the point of life.

After all, it IS a very good question. Why we human being spend some 70-80 years on this planet, struggling through hurts and difficulties, enduring suffering and injustice and poverty, and health issues? What is the point of life?

The writer of Ecclesiastes had the same observation, that life is pointless, all vanity, chasing the wind. There is nothing new under the sun; and just when you think you see something new, like a vapor, it’s is gone.

That, in fact, is my testimony.

While in high school I thought about the purpose of life and I came to the conclusion that THIS temporary life was preparation for the everlasting NEXT life. If there is no heaven at the end of this life, then there is actually no purpose for our existence other than to eat, breathe, sleep, and procreate. Life is then no better than a dog, a flea, a monkey, or an amoeba. If preparation for everlasting life is the purpose of our lives, basically, God’s original intent, then it is extremely important to tell other people about how they can prepare for heaven.

Enter the Great Commission.

These famous words are not just for pastors and missionaries, they are for every follower of Jesus Christ. The question then becomes, will I accidentally carry out the Great Commission or will I approach it with intentionality? By accidentally, I mean going through life and reacting to others around, putting in a good word for Jesus only if someone asks us a question. By intentionality, I mean walking through life with an agenda, no matter what our vocation or position in life, seeking ways to get involved in spiritual conversations with unchurched people.

One clear fact in the early days of the Christian movement is that disciples shared the story of Jesus with other people.

The passage at the end of Matthew’s gospel can be divided into three sections:

  1. The Mountain (Matthew 28:16)
  2. The Mixed Reaction (Matthew 28:17)
  3. The Mandate (Matthew 28:18-20)

MOUNTAIN: One of the last meetings that Jesus had with his disciples was this mountaintop meeting in Galilee. The angel told the women at the tomb on that first resurrection morning to go tell his disciples that he had risen from the dead and that he was going ahead of them into Galilee where he would meet them. Some people interpret this event to be the appearance of Jesus to more than 500 of his followers (1 Corinthians 15:6). But from the mountain in Galilee we get a mixed reaction.

MIXED REACTION: The text says that when they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. The fact that Matthew 28:16 says that, “some doubted” is evidence to me that this gathering was probably with more than his eleven closest men. The text mentions the 11 present, but it does not exclude the possibility of more being present. It doesn’t say ONLY the eleven. But the phrase jumps off the page at me because these guys spent so much time with Jesus, had seen the miracles, heard the teaching, failed to understand the predictions, but witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection appearances…

HOW COULD SOME DOUBT? I suppose for the same reasons that many of US doubt today. It’s an incredible story. It’s hard to believe someone is actually raised from the dead. I choose to deny the reality of what I see in front of me. I think I could come up with a better plan to connect with God than this resurrection and faith thing. But the point of the passage is that we have in our possession, GOOD NEWS, so this leads me to the mandate of Jesus.

MANDATE: Have you ever considered why this passage is called the Great Commission? Is this information any greater than the other stuff Jesus taught? Like the Sermon on the Mount? The parables of the kingdom? His prophetic words to his disciples that he was going to be mistreated, abused, and killed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem?

Perhaps it is because this is the last statement of Jesus before the ascension? It is so true that his last command needs to be our first concern. This declaration applies directly to believers, sort of giving us marching orders, explaining the reason and purpose, and the procedure for the task before the church. By the church, I mean those who are born again and who make up the body of Christ. The task is given to each of us, not just to a select few who are deemed to be professional ministers or exhibit a special call of God in their lives. The Great Commission is for ALL of us, but what is the key information that Jesus leaves for us to understand and obey?

In this mandate, we have three sections to chew on…

We have Jesus’ Authority (Matthew 28:18)

The word POWER actually means authority, the right to use the power. Some people actually leave this part out of the Great Commission, choosing to quote only Matthew 28:19-20, but the authority of Jesus cannot be left out.

The entire gospel of Matthew stresses the authority of Jesus to the primarily Jewish audience of Matthew’s gospel.

  1. There was authority in Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:29) for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
  2. There was authority in Jesus’ healing (Matthew 8:1-13) There is the story of the Centurion who was under authority, just say the word and my servant will be healed.
  3. There was authority in Jesus’ forgiving (Matthew 9:6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
  4. There was authority in Jesus’ dealing with Satan (Matthew 10:1) Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
  5. Here Jesus declares that he has ALL authority (Matthew 28:18)

What is a good reason to emphasize the authority of Jesus?

  1. If he has all authority and power, what do we have to fear?
  2. Wherever he leads, we really can go. No matter the circumstance, we know that we are covered by his authority.

Christianity is a missionary faith, and his last command must not be taken lightly.

  1. He does not desire for ANY to perish but ALL to come to him in faith.
  2. We have a message that the whole world needs to hear, even those who live on our streets, in our neighborhoods, offices, community centers, co-workers, classmates, and friends.
  3. We really have the “good news” that a lost world needs to hear. They may not accept it, but they need to hear it.

In the early church we see that they operated on the basis of Jesus possessing authority.

  1. They ministered in his name.
  2. They depended on his power and his guidance.
  3. They did NOT engage a lost world in their own power.

We have Jesus’ Assignment (Matthew 28:19-20a) the activity in which we must become involved.

GOING – this is actually NOT the command in the sentence, but a present participle (going). The only command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.”

  1. “While you are going, make disciples of all nations.” The definition of a disciple – a learner, not an expert.
  2. No matter where you are, we are to seek ways to witness for Jesus and lead others to him (Acts 11:19-21)

BAPTIZING – Baptize them, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Evangelism – sharing the gospel, the gospel cannot be mimed, it must be spoken.
  2. What is the gospel? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
    1. The Gospel is Missional: we must not keep this good news to ourselves. We are under direct orders from the head of the church to share the gospel with every created being (Mark 16:15). “I PREACHED to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, said twice).
    2. The Gospel is Christological: It is about Jesus – HE died, HE was buried, HE was raised, HE appeared, HE appeared, HE appeared.
    3. The Gospel is Historical: The gospel is an undeniable fact of history, even referenced in non-biblical sources (Josephus and Tacitus) (note the verbs) – he died, he was buried, he was raised, he appeared…
    4. The Gospel is Theological: Theology is the study or talk about God. The gospel is theological because it addresses the offensive nature of man’s sin toward a holy God (Habakkuk 1:13)
    5. The Gospel is Scriptural: The good news about the death and resurrection of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament, two times in this text it says, “according to the Scriptures” (Romans 1:1-2, Isaiah 53:5, 10-12, Psalm 16:10)
    6. The Gospel is Personal: Christ’s death was for “OUR sins.” Jesus died for my sins and your sins, that is why it is good news… it must be personally appropriated: “I preached to YOU, which YOU also received, in which also YOU stand, by which also YOU are saved, if YOU hold fast the word which I preached to YOU, unless YOU believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

TEACHING – TEACH all that I have commanded you…

There are scriptural models.

  1. The example of the early church (Acts 2:41-47)
  2. The example of Paul (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

It is fine to have a systematic discipleship program, but let’s face it, many people in the church are educated far beyond their obedience.

  1. We make it to all these Bible studies and small groups, but we have made them an end unto themselves.
  2. The goal of any believer and any small group is to be missional. That simply means that we embrace the Great Commission and seek to advance his kingdom with intentionality.
  3. How can we get involved with lost people around us? Or impact those in our circles of influence? There is no impact without contact.

Teach what Jesus has commanded – faithful teaching from the Scriptures. Why teach the commands of Jesus?

  1. John 15:14 – to be Jesus’ friend
  2. John 15:10 – to enjoy God’s love
  3. 1 John 3:22 – to see your prayers answered
  4. John 14:15 – to prove your love for God
  5. 1 John 2:3 – to experience security of salvation
  6. John 14:21 – to know Jesus more deeply
  7. John 14:23 – to have close fellowship with God
  8. 1 John 5:2 – to genuinely love others
  9. 1 John 5:3 – to avoid many of the burdens of life
  10. John 13:34-35 – to be known as a disciple of Jesus Christ

Teach what Jesus has commanded YOU – this makes it personal. We are able to teach only that which Jesus has taught us. How are you growing individually? Personal devotion time? Personal Bible study and worship? How do you talk with other people about the things God is teaching you?

Perhaps a tool can help: The Bible App Initiative… you can find it in the Information Center and online, notice the web address in your outline (www.tiny.cc/groupquestions). Here is a quick list of what you can do with the Bible App Initiative this week:

  1. Attend worship and take notes on the pastor’s message.
  2. Sunday afternoon or evening, go to this webpage and select the proper page of questions (choose by book, then chapter or section of chapter).
  3. Print the questions to have handy throughout the week, perhaps leaving the page near the family dinner table.
  4. At a meal (for example) intentionally read the Bible passage, and then ask several questions to have a discussion with your spouse or family.
  5. You might have a question in mind to ask someone during the day (perhaps at school, at work, or in the neighborhood).
  6. Bible knowledge is one thing, but strive to discover the “take away” of this weekend’s passage, asking, “How can I apply this truth to my life?”

We have Jesus’ Assurance (Matthew 28:20b) which gives us an ability to get the job done.

  1. Jesus is not only in our midst when we get together, but he is with us when we scatter all over the world.
  2. Had Jesus stayed on earth, he could not have fulfilled his promise of sending the helper, the Holy Spirit to guide and remind us of all that Jesus said and did.

Biblical examples of Jesus being with his followers:

  1. While obeying this Great Commission, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1) and won many and baptized them (Acts 18:8) and taught God’s word (Acts 18:11). When it got tough, Paul got a special visit from the Lord (Acts 18:9-10) “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
  2. The end of the age: this indicates that the Lord has a plan, he is the Lord of history.

One way to be able to TEACH others is to be a LEARNER ourselves.

  1. Who are your favorite Christian authors?
  2. What are you reading in order to grow spiritually?
  3. Leaders are readers…

All this is designed to lead us into making disciples of all nations, to help others to know God and to love God; to be intentional witnesses and disciple-makers. We will not win the world by accident, we will not make disciples by simply inviting them to church. In our society today, we often equate evangelism with an invitation to church; but in reality, the Christian faith is more caught than taught.

Right now, as we think about the significance of the gospel message and our part in the Great Commission, we are moving into a time of reflection before taking the Lord’s Supper. This is a time of confession of times that we have fallen short, times when we have failed to be all that God desires for us to be, times when we have served ourselves before considering the needs of others.

As we partake of these elements, they represent the body and blood of Jesus. It is a meal that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus during that special Passover celebration, and that Jesus had now become the sacrificial lamb who would take away the sins of the world. No longer would our sins be covered, our sins would now be cleansed.

These elements, and our participation in this ordinance, proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus until he comes back. This is the first step toward our proclamation of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Lead through the Lord’s Supper…

Now that we have experienced communion together as the body of Christ, may we make the commitment to continue the proclamation of the gospel until the second coming. The times are urgent, and short, may God challenge us to make a difference in the lives of those around us, for his kingdom sake. Let this be a purpose for existence, to know Christ, and make him known.

Next Steps:

  1. Get involved in the Bible App Initiative – www.tiny.cc/groupquestions
  2. How is it that we continue to doubt, (which keeps us from being missional)?
  3. In what ways are you making disciples, and fulfilling his last command?
  4. What specific teaching of Jesus do you need to obey more consistently?
  5. How might you become more bold at putting in a good word for Jesus?
  6. In what ways are you a continual learner, yet living out your faith in practical ways, passing on faith to others?

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The Keys to the Kingdom

Perhaps you have asked yourself questions like these: What does God want from me? How does he want me to live? I remember my early days as a believer, and I would often ask God to show me his will, reveal what he wanted from me. I remember finding verses like Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” or 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification;” or Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” The goal back then was to be the best Christian I could be, walking in faith, walking in the light, walking in purity, but notice that the emphasis was always on ME.

But there are much bigger questions that believers must wrestle with. What is God’s global purpose and how do I fit into that? How does God expect me to do the work of evangelism? How am I making disciples? The preacher is always talking about the Great Commission and the need and responsibility that we believers have to be an intentional witness for the risen Savior Jesus Christ. I’m no Peter or Paul or Timothy; I’m just an average Joe who believes the story of Jesus, his work on the cross, and have put my trust in him alone for my salvation. I’m not ambitious enough to think that I can change the world, nor clever enough that God would use a person like me to make a difference. So, where do I fit in the Kingdom of God? How will I find my place in the Kingdom, which is our theme for 2015?

Perhaps you have been watching the NBC series on Sunday night called AD, the Bible Continues. While there are some portions embellished for story sake, the main story of the early days of the Christian church is great to watch. Those people had to stand up for what they believed in while the threats of imprisonment and death were constantly on their minds. God can’t expect us to live that way in this modern society.

Today, we seek out every possible way to be free from discomfort, and when we sense the need to go deeper with God, we use phrases like, “getting out of our comfort zone” or “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat” or we read books like “radical.” In actuality, we are NOT called to be RADICAL, but rather “radical” is a term that should describe the NORMAL Christian life. When we are not radically sold out to Jesus, we are living out some other gospel, not one that we read about in the New Testament.

Let’s get into First Thessalonians:

The first thing I want you to see in this passage is that Paul brought to the church a message with kingdom authority.

  1. Kingdom Authority:

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

The first thing I want you to see in these verses is…

The Manner of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2, 4)

  1. Paul was not a quitter (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2) He spoke with boldness, he suffered, he was mistreated, but he was dedicated to God, he continued to preach with a lot of opposition or contention.
  • He was jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) so he was a man with a police record, an ex-con, a jail-bird.
  • He was accused of being a man on the run from justice, and who would listen to such a man? There were people who twisted his message, his motives, and his methods.
  1. Paul was a steward (1 Thessalonians 2:4) he was entrusted with the gospel.
  • A steward owns nothing, but possesses and uses everything that belongs to his master.
  • A steward possesses faithfulness to his Master (1 Corinthians 4:1-2), we are not to aim for pleasing men, but pleasing God.

The people had no less than three charges against Paul. Let’s take a look at…

The Message of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3a). Paul’s message did not come from error; it was true and contained no deceit. This message came directly from God. People would accuse him of being mad, a crazy man, like…

  • Early in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21), “When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.
  • Later in Paul’s life when Festus thought has was insane (Acts 26:24), “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.

We need to have the same burning passion of constantly talking about Jesus, what he has done for us, and sharing what we know and have experienced.

The Motive of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3b). Another accusation came that Paul was preaching with impure motives. It is possible to preach the right message with the wrong motives. The early church had a practice of what is called “agape meals” which had been called “love Feasts” according to Jude 1:12. You can imagine how critics could take that term and reduce it toward something immoral, but Paul’s motivation was clean; it was pure.

The Method of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3c). There was no guile or trickery to win converts to faith in Jesus. The word has an image of “baiting a hook;” yet Paul did not trap people with cleaver salesmanship. Salvation does not come at the end of some cleaver argument or subtle presentation, salvation is the result of God’s Word connecting with the power of the Holy Spirit … for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In this passage, we see there was no deceit in Paul’s method.

His message of kingdom authority came out of his kingdom authenticity.

  1. Kingdom Authenticity:

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

First Thessalonians tells us that Paul invested his life into this community, and made a difference. People knew the truth of his word and his words. He was not a cheap peddler of elixir, or a feel-good gospel, or a prosperity gospel. People accused him of flattery speech and being greedy, but Paul’s readers knew that he told the truth, just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Paul also appealed to the witness of God (1 Thessalonians 2:5, 10) and to their witness as well (1 Thessalonians 2:11). A person with flattery speech will manipulate rather than communicate. In America, we are getting used to being manipulated and lied to, especially during an election year. We see this regularly happening today in the mainstream media, if you repeat a lie often enough, and loudly enough, it will be accepted as the truth.

Authenticity means being who you claim to be as well as being who you ought to be. This is a challenge for all of us. There has to be authenticity in our pulpit ministry, corporate worship life, and in our individual and family lives, too.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude.

  1. Kingdom Attitude:

7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

This section begins and ends with two great illustrations: he behaved as a mother with her child and a father with his children. This reveals the care and concern that parents have for their kids, and as kingdom people, we should have toward those inside and outside of the faith. A kingdom attitude understands that we do not live only for ourselves. The church does not exist for itself. The church is probably the only organization that exists solely for the benefit of those who are not members.

Think about how Jesus treated his disciples. He lived among them, coached them, taught them, challenged them, encouraged them, all these things are done in close proximity, as the body of faith. Babies are not birthed only to let them fend for themselves; neither are we to do the same with the children of God.

Believers in Jesus Christ must invest their lives into the next generation; it is imperative for human families, it is essential with our spiritual family. We must be of the same attitude, to work day and night, proclaiming the good news of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This type of investment of life and involvement in the lives of other people is different than church business as usual.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude; so to make this happen, we need a kingdom approach.

  1. Kingdom Approach:

12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

This verse tells us that the way in which we walk (meaning, the way we live our lives) must be in a manner worthy of God. The old approach is that we simply believe in the facts about Jesus whether we end up living according to that standard or not. It was all about right belief and praying a prayer of salvation. This approach has led us to the point we find the church today.

Think about the evangelism of the past, we were taught to go to strangers, knock on doors, or go to the unchurched people you know to make sure they hear a clear presentation of the gospel. We want them saved, to believe in the resurrected Jesus, the only way to the Father (John 14:6). That may be well and good, but I question the effectiveness of this approach. A kingdom approach involves living our lives in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom.

I’m not talking about lifestyle evangelism, which is generally translated as, “I won’t speak up and say anything about Jesus, I just let my life speak for me; after all, my actions will speak louder than my words.” The problem is that no one is perfect and lost people will be disappointed in other human beings in the long run.

While it is true that Jesus said to let your light shine before me so they will glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), Paul said in Romans 10:17, that faith comes from hearing. People need to hear you putting in a good word for Jesus. Lifestyle alone is not sufficient.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” It sounds good on the surface but let’s think about this logically. Doing acts of kindness for others will not invite them to fall on their knees and repent, it takes our speaking up so they can HEAR the gospel and follow Jesus. As an example of the importance of action, consider this, “Feed the hungry at all times, and if necessary, use food.” Being an advocate for hunger issues is different from feeding hungry people. How will people taste of the Bread of Life if we don’t provide the necessary food?

So, this new approach is all about getting involved in our community and impacting our circles of influence, more than creating the next great event designed to attract people to our church in hopes they hear the gospel from a professional pastor. In this attractional model, evangelism has become synonymous with an invitation to church.

So finally, Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened when possessing a kingdom attitude; employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity.

  1. Kingdom Activity:

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,

Paul sums up this entire section by thanking God that the Thessalonians received his message and accepted the message for what it was, the Word of God, and not the word of men. The challenge he has in this section comes right out of verse 14, that they would become imitators of the churches in Judea (1 Thessalonians 2:14). So, what is the church supposed to be doing?

One of the best places in Scripture to read about the activities of the early church is in the book of Acts 2:42-47. Back in April I was able to preach about Praying for the Church’s MVPs (the church’s Mission, Vision, and Proclamation) so I won’t revisit that today, but the point is, we are to be on mission in this life. The church must be active and on the move, we have marching orders, and HIS last command needs to be OUR first concern.

We have been entrusted with the gospel, and we must be good stewards of that which the Father has given to us. We are gifted in various areas, different people are able to serve in different capacities. It is important to find a place to give back, make a difference, and impact the kingdom of God.

We have kingdom authority and are challenged to live with kingdom authenticity; which can only happened when we have a kingdom attitude, employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity. This is how we make a difference in the lives of others, for the kingdom’s sake. These five things really are the keys to the kingdom.

Next Steps:

In what ways can you BLESS your neighbors and co-workers each week? Remember this means to

  1. Begin with prayer, then
  2. Listen, or
  3. Eat a meal that week with an unchurched person, or
  4. Serve someone in Jesus’ name, or
  5. Share YOUR story or HIS story.

How can you make sure that you are trying to please God rather than trying to please yourself or other people?

Into whom, and how, are you imparting the gospel of God and your own life to others (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)?

What is the difference between accepting a message as the Word of God and responding to it? (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

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Make Friends to Make Disciples

The idea of living the Christian life is to impact those around you for the kingdom of God. Check out this challenging word from Rick Warren, based on Romans 12:16.

Everybody’s looking for a true friend — not just acquaintances but people who are there with you when you need them most. God wants you to build true friendships with the people that are already in your life so that you can share the gospel with them. God has put these people — your co-workers and classmates, neighbors and teammates — in your life specifically so you can share with them about the most important decision they will ever make. If you don’t tell them about what Christ has done for them, then who will?

The Bible says to “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16 NLT)

Christians tend to fall into one of two extremes: isolation or imitation. Some Christians say, “I don’t want to get polluted by the world. I’m just going to isolate myself. I’ll build a wall and my own little culture.” Isolation doesn’t work! How are you going to build any friendships that way?

The other extreme is imitation, which says, “Let’s be just like the world. We’ll dress like the latest pop star. We’ll say whatever we want about other people. We’ll have whatever values and goals popular culture tells us we should have. We’ll be no different from the world.” That’s not what God wants you to be, either. He doesn’t want you to give in to the lowest common denominators of society.

The answer is not isolation or imitation. It’s insulation and infiltration. The Bible says you’re to be salt and light in the world. You’re to penetrate the world with God’s goodness.

When I go out to dinner and order sea bass, the first thing I have to do before I can eat it is put salt on it. That fish has lived its entire life in salt water, yet I have to put salt on it. What’s going on? That fish is insulated. If God can take a fish and keep it in salt water its entire life and not have the salt permeate the fish, then certainly God can take any believer, put us in the world, and keep us from being corrupted by the wrong values.

God wants you to be holy and secure in your faith. He also wants you to walk out your door into the world and get to know the people he’s placed in your life. As you build relationships with people around you and share Truth with them, you are to be in the world but not of the world.

“The Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

Talk It Over:

  • Why is it sometimes easier to isolate ourselves rather than get to know other people on a deeper level?
  • What are some ways you have fallen into the trap of becoming an imitator of the world?
  • If you were the only representation of Jesus Christ that someone had in his or her life, how would they perceive Christianity? How does that make you want to change?

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Praying for Our MVPs

My text today is from Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 1:8

The emphasis of this week’s chapter in the Thom Rainer book (I Am a Church Member) is on praying for church leaders, like…

  • The staff, shepherds, and sheep
  • His protection, perseverance, and preaching
  • His physical, mental, and spiritual health
  • His faithfulness, fidelity, and family, but let me broaden you prayer list to include…
  • The church’s mission, vision, proclamation (MVPs)
    • Mission
    • Vision
    • Proclamation

Pray for the Church’s Mission: The mission of KGBC is Knowing Christ and making him known. This statement incorporates two main functions: evangelism and discipleship. If we don’t do these two things, we cannot call ourselves a church. To see how we align ourselves with the mission of the early church, let’s go back to the birth of the church, in Acts 2.

Acts 2:42 tells us that “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

This verse appears to be the lowest common denominator for a church, ground zero. These four essentials are what the church is all about. But the description of these events must be read in context, which is immediate follow-up care for new converts to Christianity, Just look back at Acts 2:41.

One key word I see in Acts 2:42 is the word “devoted,” and this continual devotion covers four main activities.

1. Teaching: which includes preaching, and this is not just any teaching, or some positive or motivational message, but the “apostles’ teaching,” which focused on the Word of God, the Bible. They were wholly devoted to the revelation of God and the sacred Scriptures. The apostles were men who were with Jesus from the beginning to the end of his earthly life. They shared the stories and the teachings of Jesus. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit they were able to interpret Old Testament passages in the light of Christ and the cross.

Jesus had instructed them in what we call the Great Commission, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Without an instruction manual, we can assume that they taught or explained the nature of salvation, Christ’s work on the cross, the commands of Christ, and other lesson on the Christian life.

Regarding the commands of Christ, have you ever looked over all the imperatives of Jesus in the gospels? Imperatives are parts of grammar that are in essence commands.

2. Fellowship: teaching without fellowship would be a school, a place simply to dispense information. Koinonia refers to close, mutual relationships, sharing a common life, getting involved with one another. They not only learned through teaching, but they lived through fellowship. This is where we discover the essence of small group ministry.

3. The Breaking of Bread: the Lord’s church is gathered around the table, while baptism is mentioned prior to these verses, we know the church is devoted to two ordinances. Baptism refers to our conversion to Christ and the Lord’s Supper refers to our communion with Christ. An acceptable and inclusive term would be worship.

There is debate over this phrase. The definite article in Acts 2:42, “the breaking of bread” would refer to observing the Lord’s Supper, but in Acts 2:46, there is no definite article and would indicate sharing a meal together. In reality, they likely shared meals together and at the end, they broke bread in remembrance of Jesus.

It is interesting to note that the three other features in this verse are spiritual activities (teaching, fellowship, prayer) that the fourth one here would also be spiritual.

4. Prayer: The verse also includes the definite article and can be read, “and to the prayers.” The temple had set times for prayer and the disciples attended in those early years. In the early church they used the Lord’s Prayer during these times, as we find in the Didache, an early church manual for the church (late first century, section 8 on fasting and praying) that the Lord’s Prayer is recited, three times per day. By the fourth century, John Chrysostom defined prayers as “conversations with God.”

The emphasis for us today is to spend time adoring our Lord and Savior, confessing sin, interceding for others, petitioning for God to provide, and thanking him for his provision.

While you can have more characteristics in the church, you really cannot have less than these four.

Pray for the Church’s Vision: a vision is what spiritual leaders must have and then effectively communicate and pass on to the church (the congregation). Acts 2:43-47 is what we might call the vision of the early church. Let me suggest that “community life” was the vision of the early church fathers.

Acts 2:43-47 – Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

By the empowerment of the Spirit of God, he worked on their lives, integrity, trust, joy, confidence, dependence, unity, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, harmony, stability, grace… and what was the result (Acts 2:46-47)? (The Lord added to their numbers).

  1. A sense of awe – at the signs and wonders of the apostles. Everyone indicates those inside the church and outside of the church. The vision is to have a church that is empowered by our supernatural God, where awe at what God is doing here is a regular feature in worship.
  2. Sharing possessions – property was sold according to needs, the texts supports giving as needed, not turning over property due to force, like we find in communism. Nor was it a once for all disposal of property. The vision is to have people in the fellowship not only touched by Christ, but their wallets are touched as well.
  3. Day by day – Their spirituality was not just reserved for Sunday, but their faith permeated life throughout the week, day by day. The vision is to have people engaged with Jesus and with other believers every day, but not to the exclusion of engaging lost people (I’ll talk about that in just a moment).
  4. Continuing – indicated their commitment to the mission and the vision of the church. The vision is for people to have perseverance as they walk this narrow path with honor and integrity.
  5. One mind – indicates their desire for unity within the body of Christ, they had one mind. The vision is for all of us to be united in spirit and together strive to become more and more like our Savior.
  6. In the temple – this may seem odd in our one-day-a-week attending church, but the early believers tried to maintain ties with lost people in the temple in whatever capacity they could. It was much later, after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) where they decided that converts to Christianity need not become Jewish first. The vision is that people will no longer forsake the gathering of ourselves together, which is the habit of some… that is Hebrews 10:25.
  7. House to house – These home fellowship groups were the norm in the early church; it was not until about 300 years later that “church houses” were built so everyone could meet together (once Christianity became legalized in AD 313). The vision is to have believers engaging lost people in their homes. Most Americans say that their home is their refuge, away from the rest of this crazy world, but we must remember that JESUS is our refuge, and our homes are places of ministry. The ministry of hospitality is much more genuine than simply inviting people to church, where we hope they hear the gospel from a trained professional pastor. You may have heard the phrase “every member is a minister” but it is more accurate to say, “every member is a missionary” and I will explain that in a moment.

8. Meals together – this seems obvious but notice how these meetings were described: together, with gladness, and sincerity of heart. This goes back to their fellowship, being united in Christ. They had single-minded devotion to God with simplicity and generosity. Joy came from the heart and they felt no need to impress others. The vision is to be a missionary to your neighborhood, your workplace, the sports field, the community center, you name it. Taking the gospel outside of the walls of the church building.

Then we get to the results of our authentic Christianity:

  1. Praising God – This is the natural result of experiencing authentic Christian community; they remember the good things God has done in and through his people.
  2. Favor of outsiders – when people see that our faith is real, it speaks to the hearts of lost people. The early church won the admiration of those outside the church – their honesty, respect, passion, acceptance, joy, peace…
  3. Numerical growth – since all living things grow, and if the church is more of an organism than it is an organization, the church should grow. This growth came as a result of unbelievers seeing the genuine transformation as seen in the lives of disciples of Jesus. (See also Acts 4:4, 5:14, 6:7, 9:31, 11:21-24, 14:1, 16:5, 17:12).

They had all this growth in spite of intense opposition and persecution; sometimes this growth came because of it.
So, this mission of knowing Christ and making him know is clear within the church, and we can use the vision of the early church to guide us toward embracing a renewed vision at King’s Grant, but I have come up short, and perhaps you have noticed it. When I shared the mission section, I only talked about knowing Christ; I need to address the second part – making Christ known.

Pray for the Church’s Proclamation: let’s read Acts 1:8

This is the key to the whole concept of church: Acts 1 comes before Acts 2. Well, you might just be thinking, “well, duh!” So let me explain. We can talk a lot about what the church needs to look like, what it must include, and even get all excited about a vision for the future, BUT, if we focus on Acts 2:42-47 and leave out Acts 1:8, we are NOT the church.

For years, the churches all across America have used an “attractional” model in their evangelism strategy. By this I mean that through the years, evangelism has become an invitation to a church program. If we can only get my lost friend Bill to come with me to church, he can hear the gospel from a professional pastor. There is a flaw in the attractional model. How often are you able to bring an unchurched neighbor or co-worker to church? And for many of the believers here, when you are able to invite someone to come with you on Sunday, you can’t even sit with them because you are volunteering somewhere.

Here is an example: you spend time with Bill you invite him, to a Christmas program here at church, and at some point Bill becomes a believer! Then we tell him that he needs to attend church, read his Bible, get involved on some ministry team at church, and Bill seems to be losing his connection with lost people.

What if we trained Bill to maintain those old connections, partnering with a mature believer, and use those connections to the community center, school, social club, for God’s glory?

Missional: Let me share with you a better way. It is called a “missional model.”

In Genesis 12:1-3, look at what our missionary God said to Abram (later he named him Abraham):

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Using this very simple acrostic, you can effectively get the gospel past the walls of this building, and be confident that you are intentionally seeking God’s kingdom and interaction with lost people.

Begin with Prayer – remember that you are not trying to win people to the Lord, you are praying that God will reach your lost friends, perhaps through you, but that is not the goal.

Listen – ask lots of questions and honestly listen to their hurts, needs, struggles, joys, motivations,

Eat – this is an easy one; simply eat a meal with an unchurched person you know. It is amazing how sharing a meal brings down walls. It can be a fast food lunch or a dinner you prepare at home. It is an interestingly inconsistent that we would desire someone to be saved (and spend eternity with them in heaven) yet don’t invite that person into our home.

Serve – out of our listening and eating with people, how can we take what we heard to help meet their needs, how can we serve them, do things for them, expecting nothing in return?

Story – at this point there are two stories that you are seeking to share, YOUR story and HIS story.

We must be a praying church: and not just for an illness, an upcoming surgery, or safety when we travel. I mean a praying church where we spend time on our faces before God pouring out our hearts to God over lostness, broken families, unreached people groups, martyred Christians in the middle east, women and children trapped in the sex trafficking industry, men addicted to pornography, and yes, praying for opportunities to put in a good word for Jesus and then the strength to actually DO IT.

Ask God to give you a vision of being a part of authentic Christian community through the small groups that we offer here.

Better yet, pray about how you can actually use your home as a ministry tool.

Ask God to help you BLESS people each week.

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The Optional Gospel?

What part of the gospel is optional? This is our mission, God’s global purpose…

This book takes you on a transforming journey in authentic discipleship. During his time as pastor of a large and wealthy congregation, David Platt began to see a discrepancy between the reality of his church and the way Jesus said his followers lived. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt examines how American Christianity has manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences and challenges us to rediscover the path.

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