Follow Me: The Command to Disciple

This is the third of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

In this series, we’ve explored what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We looked at Jesus calling His first disciples and saw that the call of discipleship is initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This involves both belief and repentance. Next, we saw that the cost of discipleship requires loving family less than Jesus, bearing our cross, and relinquishing everything. Even though this cost seems high, what we get in return is infinitely more valuable: the righteousness of Christ.

We’re going to wrap up our “Follow Me” study by looking at one of the first and last things Jesus gave to His disciples while on the earth: the command to make disciples. True disciples of Jesus Christ are supernaturally compelled to make more disciples.

Commanded and Accompanied

READ Matthew 4:19; 28:18-20

Notice in these two passages that Jesus doesn’t suggest that His followers make disciples. He doesn’t highly recommend it. He didn’t teach them the latest evangelism technique or instruct them on how to be a role model. No, Jesus gave them a clear command: “Go and make”. From the very beginning, Jesus intended for every disciples to make more disciples.

It is also important to note that He doesn’t give them this command and leave them to figure it out on their own. On our own, we are destined to fail. That’s what’s great about being a follower of Christ: He doesn’t leave us alone! The commands that Jesus gives His disciples can only be accomplished by the work that He does in them. In Matthew 4, He promises to make them fishers of men while in Matthew 28, Jesus tells His followers that He may be leaving them physically, but He will always be with them in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit continues to mold and shape us into the image of the ultimate Disciplemaker.

The Motivation for Disciple-making

What then is our motivation to make disciples? Should we do it because we feel guilty if we don’t? Should we do it to check off that box on our Heaven Admission Form? Not at all! Look at the Apostles: they were supernaturally compelled to tell others about Jesus. As a result, not even death could stop them from obeying this command.

When we think of the things that motivate us to make disciples, Colossians 3:1-13 shows us six reasons we should be compelled towards gospel multiplication:

  1. We are dead to sin and given a new life in Christ (v 1-3)
    The correct mindset is essential to the discipleship journey. That’s why Paul begins this section encouraging us to “seek the things that are above” and “set your minds on things that are above.” When we are saved, our focus is changed. Before Christ raised us, we are consumed with gaining more wealth, power, and pleasure. However, after we have died to sin and been raised with Christ, the goal of our life is completely changed. Instead of seeking our glory, our aim is to glorify God. This is our new life purpose. Discipleship is the means to accomplishing this goal. The more we learn about the one who has hidden our life with himself, the more satisfied we are. The more satisfied we are in him, the more glorified he is in us.
  2. We have a certain hope of glory with Christ (v 4; Hebrews 10:32-39)
    In addition to the new life we’ve been given, discipleship is motivated by future glory with Christ. Now we face trials, difficulties, and struggles. This is to be expected. As Jesus said in John 17:14-15: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Though life on earth has its share of suffering, the promise of future glory motivates disciples to endure temporary discomfort.
  3. God hates sin and will punish it (v 5-8; Genesis 19:15-17, 23-26)
    As we look forward to this future glory, we must remember that we are currently at war. Paul makes that very clear by telling us to “put to death” our sin. Notice Paul doesn’t say “suppress sin” or “get sin under control.” God wants us to actively and vigorously kill it. The process of discipleship helps us to identify and war against the sin in our lives. Like God commanded the Israelites to wipe out entire people groups as they were conquering the Promised Land, we are commanded to completely destroy the sin that reigns in our life. Anything short of extermination is a dangerous compromise. We cannot look back to the sinful desires we once enjoyed, lest we become like Lot’s wife. Like her, we were once living in our sin. However, when she was told to leave it all behind, she didn’t take her sin or God’s hate for it seriously and chose her earthly desires over the salvation offered to her if she would turn in faith and flee. As a result, God’s just wrath was shown against her sin and she was punished. The same call is offered to us today: turn from the sin God hates and put it to death, resulting in new life in Christ, or remain in our sin and endure the just punishment for it.
  4. We have a new nature in Christ (v 9-11; Galatians 3:27-29)
    Disciples of Christ have been given a new nature with new desires. The imagery Paul uses here is that of taking off a muddy, sweaty, dirty shirt and putting on a clean one. A change in identity has occurred. The ongoing discipleship process brings our behaviors into line with this new identity that we have in Christ. This new identity isn’t rooted in cultural, economic, or legal distinctions, but in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  5. God’s electing love for us (v 12)
    All Christians have been chosen by God to be the heirs of salvation. God could have justly left every single person to face the eternal consequences of their sins; however, he showed mercy to some in order that they might be redeemed. Talk about motivation! As those who have been adopted as sons of God, we are to pursue him wholeheartedly, seeking to know and honor our Savior while making him known to everyone around us.
  6. God’s forgiveness of our sins (v 13; Matthew 18:21-35)
    The final motivation for discipleship found in this passage is the forgiveness we have been offered. As we grow in our relationship, we realize what an enormous debt we have been forgiven of by our Father. Like the king in Matthew 18, God has paid the wages of sin on our behalf in order that we might be freed to pursue him. This realization enables us to be patient with our friends and family and point them to Christ and the forgiveness found only in him.

For 2000 years, Jesus has been calling out to men and women all over the globe: “Follow me.” This isn’t a call to a comfortable, carefree lifestyle or to tread a path of superficial religion. It’s a call to taste a pleasure that can be found only in a supernatural relationship with Christ that compels us to leave everything to follow Him and make more disciples.

For more on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, check out David Platt’s book Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. 

BONUS: Pictures from the 2014 HACM Spring Retreat

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Follow Me: The Cost of Discipleship

This is the second of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

How would you respond if someone asked you: “How do I become a Christian”?

There are two ways to reply when asked this question: 1) Tell someone how easy it is: just acknowledge a few truths about God and then pray a prayer and you’re set! 2) Tell the person that the call to discipleship is a call to die so that they can live.

So, which of these is correct? What does it mean to truly, biblically follow Christ? Does it look different in a third world country as opposed to America? What does it mean to know Jesus and identify your life with His? In other words, what does it mean to be a Christian?

The first lesson outlined the two elements of the call to discipleship (repentance and belief) and then defined the call to discipleship as initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This lesson will focus on answering the question “What does it mean to follow Christ?”

Three Costs of Discipleship
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus addresses three costs associated with being a disciple:  Continue reading

Biblical Sexuality and Sexual Purity

Date: April 13, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Lawson Hembree

REVIEW
Biblical Manhood-The essence of Biblical masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
Biblical Womanhood- The essence of Biblical femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.
Biblical Marriage– The sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.

INTRODUCTION

When it comes to teaching on and talking about sex at church, it’s hard to imagine a topic that is at the same time more awkward and more important.

Awkward because of the way our culture has sensationalized the sexual experience and saturated our minds with it’s unrealistic and yet tantalizing images; awkward because sex between married couples is personal but not exactly private—we all sort of politely pretend sex doesn’t happen, and at the same time happy to celebrate someone getting pregnant and the birth of each new baby!

But at the same time it’s important. In the age of AIDS, STDs, abortion, and addictions, sex, when perverted, has the ability to forever alter and destroy lives. Important because it stands at the center of our experience of what it means to be married; important because more than anything else in this life, it gives expression to a physical intimacy and pleasure and joy that ultimately points beyond itself, to the intimacy and pleasure and joy we will know for all eternity in union with Christ. In fact, sexuality is so important that a whole book of the Bible, Song of Solomon, was dedicated to it.

Unfortunately, the church in general has disregarded a healthy theology related to sexuality beyond the “don’t do this” or “don’t do that” approach. Few churches, youth groups, or even Christian parents take the time to instruct young people on sexual purity from a gospel perspective. Combine these two factors with a hypersexual culture, and you have a generation of young men and women with a flawed view of love and sexuality as well as an increased bondage and addiction to sexual sin.

Since it is such an important and often overlooked topic, we are going to spend some time talking about sexuality from a biblical perspective. Why did God create sexual intimacy?  What is it for? And how do we protect and cultivate that intimacy in marriage?  Continue reading

Follow Me: The Call to Discipleship

This is the first of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

Jesus first spoke the words, “Follow me” to twelve ordinary men two thousand years ago. They answered the call, leaving behind their families, friends, and jobs, to follow a Man who would give them a new family, new friends, and a new mission.

Ever since that time, Jesus has called out to millions with the same two words: “Follow me.” Men and women, rich and poor, young and old, red, yellow, black, and white have responded to this summons.

But what is Jesus asking us to do when he says “Follow me”? Is it simply to “pray and ask Jesus into your heart”?  Do we just have to gain an understanding of who Jesus is and what He did? Or is it something more?

This series will be looking at three components of Jesus’ call to “Follow me”: the call to discipleship, the cost of discipleship, and the command to disciple. Along the way, we will see not only the gravity of what we must forsake in this world but also the greatness of the One we follow in this world. In Him is found indescribable joy, deep satisfaction, and an eternal purpose.  Continue reading

Biblical Marriage

Date: March 30 and April 6, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Blaine Hubbard

DEFINITION: Biblical marriage is the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.

FOUR PASSAGES DEFINING BIBLICAL MARRIAGE:

  1. Genesis 1:27–28
    Men and women are both created in God’s image. They are equal in value and dignity as His special creation. Additionally, men and women have been given unique gender roles that complement each other and allow them to reflect distinct qualities of God’s character.
  2. Genesis 2:23–24
    God created humans as male and female so that there might be a one-flesh sexual union and covenantal cleaving with a view to multiplying the human race, and displaying God’s covenant with his people, and eventually Christ’s covenant with his church.
  3. Matthew 19:4–6
    Remarkably, Jesus picked up on this link between the pre-Fall creation order and marriage as a life-long covenant. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus weaves the two Genesis texts together to show not only the definition of marriage, but also the danger of divorce.
  4. Ephesians 5:24–32
    This text on the meaning of marriage makes the distinction between male and female — husband and wife — covenantally significant as a portrayal of Christ and the church. In other words, from the beginning there has been a mysterious and profound meaning to marriage. It is important to note that Christ and the Church don’t illustrate marriage, marriage illustrates Christ and the Church. Paul refers to it a “mystery”: that God made men and women with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church.
    This means that the basic roles of wife and husband are not interchangeable. The husband displays the sacrificial love of Christ’s headship, and the wife displays the submissive role of Christ’s body, the Church. The mystery of marriage is that God had this picture in mind when he created humans as male and female. Therefore, the profoundest reality in the universe underlies marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman.

Continue reading