What is a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ, Part 2

Yesterday we left off with Jesus referring to those who listen to “these words of mine,” meaning all that Jesus had been speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount up to that point. So the question we want to begin with today is this: Just what are those “words” to which he referred? What, in particular, are the words of Jesus?

The message(s) of the Sermon on the Mount is powerful, convicting, and even devastating. What’s in the Sermon on the Mount? Are the words and teachings found there relevant to us today…some 2,000 years later. Well…you tell me…

In chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ words focus on…

  • Our character
  • God’s blessings
  • How to influence others
  • God’s Law
  • The righteousness God expects from us
  • Murder
  • Anger
  • Hate
  • Reconciliation
  • Adultery
  • Lust
  • Divorce
  • Taking Oaths
  • Truth Telling
  • Revenge
  • Going the extra mile for another person
  • Loving your enemies
  • Giving to the needy
  • How to pray
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • How to fast
  • Humility
  • Treasures in heaven vs. treasures on earth
  • Putting God first
  • Priorities
  • Worry
  • God’s provision for you and your family
  • God’s Kingdom
  • Judging others
  • Hypocrisy
  • Persistence in prayer
  • God’s goodness to his children
  • How to enter into heaven
  • True and false prophets and how to tell the difference between them
  • True and false disciples of Jesus and how to tell the difference between them.

So you tell me: Is any of that relevant to your life?

Now, to bring his teaching to life as well as to drive home his point about being a faithful disciple, Jesus tells us a story about two builders – one he calls wise…and one he calls foolish.

But before we look at this familiar story, there’s one part of it that may not be so obvious. It’s easy to miss. I know I did for many years. You see, Jesus is not, in this parable, comparing and contrasting a Church-goer from a non-Church-goer. He’s not comparing and contrasting a committed Christian to an outspoken pagan who’s never darkened the door of a church.

I think we would all breathe a collective sigh of relief if that were the case because we would all say, “Whew, well at least he’s not talking about me.”

Now, to be sure, Jesus has plenty to say about the “official” unbelieving world…but that’s not his focus here. In this parable…Jesus is comparing and contrasting you…and the person sitting right next to you this morning. OUCH!

Jesus is talking about two different kinds of people who, for all practical purposes, look just alike in almost every way. To put it in our own language, we could say that both people go to church. Both can recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer from memory. Both sing every verse of every hymn or song. And both will sit and hear every word of the sermon.

That’s the point that Jesus is making: Both houses that the builders built looked identical with this crucial exception: The foundations were completely different. One builder searched, found, and labored to build his house on a firm foundation of rock. The other took the path of least resistance and built his house in any old place…on nothing but sand. And Jesus will later share why that’s a big deal… and just how catastrophic building your house on the wrong foundation can really be.

So, Jesus calls the builder who built his house on the rock, wise. The builder who built his house on the sand was called, foolish.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look and see what the two different foundations of rock and sand stand for in our lives and why it matters. (Click here to read Part 1 of this series)

Grace and Truth,
Dale

What is a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ? Part 1

Almost 13 years ago, my church’s Vision Committee, after much prayer and discussion, decided that Southside’s Mission Statement would be:

Building the Family of God into Faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ.

But they also wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just another church with just another mission statement. They didn’t want to simply talk the talk…they wanted to walk the walk. And so, with that in mind, the church put together a search committee that would be tasked with the goal of finding a person whose ministry would focus on helping to build the family of God at Southside into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

In doing this they were showing how seriously they were taking the familiar words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel –what we call the Great Commission. Jesus said…

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

By God’s grace…at least from my perspective…I was hired as Southside’s Minister of Discipleship. The idea and goal of discipleship is vital to the life of Christ’s Church. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for putting the burden of discipleship on my heart and allowing me to do what I at Southside.

Can any church be faithfully living out its calling… its commission… if making disciples of Jesus Christ is not a priority? But that, of course, raises the question: What exactly is discipleship and what text would be helpful in giving us a deeper understanding of it? I mean, after all, you can be a disciple of anything or anyone? What makes a disciple of Jesus Christ a faithful disciple? Obviously this subject is not peripheral in Scripture. It’s front and center throughout God’s Word.

Having said that, as I pondered what text to preach, one stood out in my mind that I thought would help us in understanding what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:24-27.

Our text comes at the very end of what we call, “The Sermon on the Mount.” For three chapters Jesus taught what we might call, “The norms of the Kingdom.” Or, what I like to call Kingdom Discipleship. Our Lord is basically focusing on what our character and conduct should look like if we would be faithful citizens of his Kingdom. (By the way, this character and conduct are grounded in the Gospel that Christ preached in Matthew 4. This is no “self-improvement” program Jesus is running.)

Jesus begins these concluding remarks in verse 24 with these words…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine…”

His very first word here is “therefore.” And remember my number one rule about the word, “therefore.” Whenever you see the word “therefore,” always ask what it’s there for. The reason why is because it usually means something like this: “Based on what I’ve just said…go and do such and such.” And that’s exactly what it means here.

Again, Jesus says in verse 24…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine

In this verse, Jesus is telling us exactly what the “therefore” refers to – “these words of mine.” He’s referring to the words that he had just been preaching, which we call…”The Sermon on the Mount.” Of course, Jesus’ words can never be separated from who he is. You see, Jesus embodied everything he said. His person, works, and words are all part of the same package. They always point to his Father in heaven…and to him.

Next time we’ll take a look at what “these words of Jesus” are and what they mean… and why it matters.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

Jesus, Salvation, and Hell (Bibliography)

You’ve heard the questions… maybe even asked the questions. At the very least you’ve thought about them…

  • Do you have to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved?
  • What about those who’ve never heard of Jesus… that innocent native in Africa?
  • Is there salvation outside of the Christian faith?
  • Do people really go to hell?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

These are tough questions and they’re asked all the time. In fact, on the Board of Ordained Ministry here in Florida, we ask a similar question or two in hopes of getting our candidates to wrestle with such things. Certainly, they’ll be asked these kinds of questions in the churches they serve.

Below is a helpful bibliography to serve you in addressing these topics. To be sure, such questions require more thought and time than is usually offered on a television talk show. Perhaps a few of the books below will help inform you for your own edification as well as equip you to share what you learn with others.

Happy Reading,
Dale