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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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