A Personal Look at Discipleship, Pt. 3
Study Guide, October 15, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
I’ll always remember my College Pastor saying that many Christians think of their life as like bringing a sheet with their plans for their life to God and asking God to sign His name at the bottom. But instead we are to bring a sheet to God with our name already signed at the bottom and then ask God, “Lord, will You fill out Your plan for my life?” What a great way to remind us of who is to be in charge of directing our lives.
And often when we think about what we are to be focusing on concerning God’s will for our life, we tend to focus on the big three: R.V.L. – Relation, Vocation, and Location, or whom shall I spend my life with, what shall I spend my life doing, and where should I spend my life living? And these are certainly good and godly considerations in God’s plan for our lives, and we thank God that He leads us in each of these areas. And yet, what often gets overlooked are the clear and distinct areas of our individual discipleship that God has already filled in on the sheet of God’s will for our lives. As we began pointing out in our studies, God has already given us our marching orders in five areas of discipleship. He has already given us specific commands about what is involved in following Him as Lord of our lives. And He has already revealed to us that there is coming an ‘appointed day’ when we will personally meet with Him to review what we actually did about what He commanded us to do, as His saved children and His ‘appointed disciples’. As Paul was writing to the Roman believers about these kind of instructions and others he paused and reminded them of this: Rom 14:12- “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.” NLT
That can kind of give you the ‘shivers’, right? Well, Paul didn’t remind them of this coming evaluation of their lives before the Judgment Seat of Christ in order to give these Roman believers the ‘shivers’ about it. And we are not reviewing these five key areas of our discipleship over which we will give an account before God in order to give us believers the ‘shivers’ about it either. We are reviewing these things because as Matthew Henry put it: “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.” And what He was talking about was the fact that we only have one life on this side of Heaven to prepare for that day when Jesus reviews what we actually did about the works He commanded us to do from the time He saved us to when our work on this Earth is through. Like we pointed out last time: The judgment for our sins is past, but the judgment for our service is yet future. And only you can do what Jesus commanded you to do about worshiping and serving Him as you live out your personal discipleship. No one else can do your discipleship for you.
In our last study we highlighted the central focus of our personal discipleship, and that was, to daily abide with Christ, to commune with Christ. And so today we want to examine the ‘key’ to daily abiding with Christ’. It’s really fascinating, so let’s get to it.
The Apostle John revealed this about Jesus: John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then he goes on and says this: 14- “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” NASU
We know that John was explaining that Jesus was the very manifestation of God to all people of Earth. And the word ‘manifestation’ means: ‘An appearance in bodily or tangible form.’ But this is not all that John was revealing, because by identifying Jesus as ‘The Word’, the Apostle John directly connected God with God’s revelation, or His communication, or His Word – His Scriptures to us. The point being, before Jesus came, the Word, or the Scriptures were the manifestation of God to the people. When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among people, He was the manifestation of the Word or the Scriptures to all people, especially His followers. Therefore, now that Jesus has returned to Heaven, once again, the Word or the Scriptures are the manifestation of Jesus to all people, especially to us, as His disciples. And this then is the key to how we are to ‘abide in and with Christ’.
Let’s let John, really Jesus, teach us further about this. In the lesson that Jesus taught about the Vine and the Branches He instructs us further about how we are to ‘abide’ in and with our Lord. Notice: John 15:4-5- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” NASU Okay, that’s pretty clear. Jesus commands us to ‘abide in Him’. And if we don’t ‘abide’ in Him, then whatever else we assume or presume that we are accomplishing adds up to a grand total of: ‘Nothing!’ Now, that should make us ‘shiver’! So we had better find out how to abide in Christ and then personally and seriously get on with the business of ‘abiding’ in Christ.
First of all, what does it mean to ‘abide’? To ‘Abide’ means: to stay connected, to be present with, to be fixed upon, to stand with, to move in sync. Think about that last one a minute: ‘to move in sync’, particularly in describing what it means to ‘abide in Christ’. In our techie culture we think a lot about things as needing to be ‘in sync’, especially like our computers and phones and cars and such. But when you define ‘out of sync’ it really begins to enlarge the picture. ‘Out of sync’: ‘A state in which two or more people or things do not move and act together, or do not agree with, or their goals do not match up with one another.’
That really fills in the picture of what Jesus is talking about when He commands us to ‘abide’ in Him. He’s calling us to make sure our goals for our life match up with His goals for our life. He’s calling us to stay connected and focused on standing in agreement with Him concerning God’s morals and values and such. And He is also calling us to to act upon these things together with Him as to how we think and live. What a way to think about our discipleship! Am I ‘in sync’ with Jesus in what I am thinking and in what I’m doing in my family, my church family, my job, my friendships and so on?
Think about it: If you are not ‘in sync’ with Jesus in how you think, then you had better think again, because that means you have not been ‘abiding’ in Jesus. And if you are not ‘abiding’ in Jesus then Jesus says, “…apart from Me, you can do – nothing.”
As born again believers who love the Lord, we do want to please our Lord and abide in and with Jesus. So how do we do that? How do we get more and more ‘in sync’ with our Savior day by day? Jesus instructed us about that, too. John 15:7-11- “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” NASU
So here Jesus reveals that the way to ‘abide in Him’ is by letting His words, the Word of God, the Scriptures, abide in us. We are to purposefully and daily seek to ‘sync up’ our thoughts and ‘sync up’ our actions with His words. And to make it even more fascinating Jesus reveals that when we do ‘sync up’ with Him by letting His words get into our thinking and planning and living, that even our prayer life will be more ‘in sync’ with His will and His acts in and through our life. Plus, Jesus says that it out of our practice of abiding spiritual fruit will grow…lasting benefits will result for His Kingdom, and for others, and particularly for you. For did you notice what Jesus said will grow out of your practice of ‘abiding’ in Him? “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
Again, how like our loving Lord to want to see us come to know Him through knowing His words, not only for the purposes of doing goods works for Him, but for His purpose of wanting to grow His fruit of joy in us. Our perfect benevolent Heavenly Father wants us to experience something of His own joy. But again, in order to grow the fruit of joy we have to get in sync with His words. It’s like in order to enjoy music through a radio you have to sync up with the right frequency. That connecting part in ‘abiding with Christ’ is crucial.
Here is another fascinating thing about abiding in the Word. Do you remember that other part in the definition of the word ‘manifestation’ in connection with Jesus? ‘An appearance in bodily or tangible form.’ We often talk about how wonderful it would have been to see Jesus like the Disciples did, to be near Jesus in His bodily and tangible form. Absolutely wonderful for sure; and one day soon that will be a reality for us. But for now, Jesus has so designed life for us that there is a way, even a somewhat tangible way, to see Jesus and to touch Him. I think of when Philip once asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long and you still don’t know Me?” Could it be when we are longing for some greater connection or sense of Jesus presence that He in essence is saying to us, “Have I been with you for so long in My Word and you still don’t know Me?” Jesus told us that He would make Himself known to us in His words, the Word of God, the Scriptures. If you want to get close or closer to Jesus, get close and closer to His words. If you want to see the Father, look to Jesus’ words in the Scriptures. If you want to respond to Jesus call to Thomas to reach forth your finger and touch His side then reach forth your hand and touch your Bible, for the Word of God is the manifestation of Jesus Christ to us until He comes or we go to Him.
This also explains to us why ever since the Ascension of Jesus Christ that the fiercest battle against the Sovereignty of God and the Saviorhood of Jesus has been directed toward the Bible. The attack has shifted toward the Scriptures. Why? It’s because now that Jesus is tangibly gone from the Earth the Bible is the tangible manifestation of Jesus upon Earth. And so the attacks are focused against the Bible. And yet, how wonderful for all who love the Lord and His Word and want to get close to our Savior. We can. In fact, the Bible is as close as you can tangibly get to Jesus ever since His ascension. When Jesus left Earth He left His words. So now His words are essentially Jesus on Earth. Again, that’s why those who oppose Jesus’ Lordship so oppose the Scriptures. But that’s also why, and should be why those who worship the Lord Jesus should so love the Bible, for the Bible contains the very words of Jesus that He left for us in order to ‘abide in Him and with Him’.
That’s even why before Jesus the Messiah was made manifest on Earth we hear the Psalmist speaking about the Law of the Lord as though it was the Lord Himself: Ps 119:1-2- “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,Who seek Him with all their heart.14-16- “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. 18- “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. 97- “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” NASU
The Psalmist loved the Scriptures like he was loving the Lord Himself, even before the Lord had revealed the rest of the Old and New Testaments, which magnify Jesus Christ and our great privileges and future with our Lord even more! So how much should we treasure the Word of God. Our Great Shepherd has arranged a way that we can tangibly touch Him and actually walk with Him by holding His words in our hands and obeying His words in our hearts and lives. In fact, if you really want to show Jesus how much you, too, love Him like the Psalmist loved Him…well, here it is: 1 John 5:3- “Loving God means obeying His commands.” ERV
Simple, yet profound…that’s the way and the wonder of God. You see, our claim to love God can be measured. And here in 1 John 5 we find that the measurement of our love for Jesus is measured by our obedience to His commandments, because when we read or hear the words of the Scriptures we have just heard the voice of our Lord. When you read the words of the Bible you have just heard the voice of your Shepherd. John 10:27- “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” NASU So what we hear the Scriptures saying is what we just heard the Shepherd saying. We have heard His voice, and as His sheep we are to follow and do what He said. To learn to follow the Shepherd you must learn to follow the Shepherd’s words. To learn to abide in Jesus you must learn to abide in His Word. To walk with the Shepherd you must learn to walk with the Word.
Again, part of my role as a Pastor is to help you prepare for that day that you will give an account of how you did or did not listen to the Shepherd’s voice in the words of the Scriptures and follow Him in obedience to His voice. Part of my responsibility is to inform you as clearly as possible what is going to be on the test at this Judgment Seat of Christ. And what is going to be on this test is the evaluation of five key areas of your discipleship. So that’s why we are going over each one so carefully and precisely. However, only you can do what is required of you to do in these five areas of your discipleship. You are going to be evaluated over what you did about this ‘Test’ of your discipleship. And what you are doing about this ‘test’, day after day, is essentially what is going to make up your ‘testimony’ before God.
Although this can give us all the ‘shivers’, what it’s supposed to do is to give us a greater sense of our great significance, since we have been called into this deep and abiding relationship with our Savior who loves us so, and is anxious to reward us so, but can only do so based upon the fair evaluation of how much we have loved Him in return, and showed Him so by keeping His commandments. And as the Apostle John reminded us in 1 John 5:3-4- “And God’s commands are not too hard for us, because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.” ERV
Just think: God has already given us the power to obey His words and to win against the world and show God and others how much we love our God and Savior. We already have the power; we just have to supply the will…to be willing to do what our Shepherd is calling us to do as we abide with Him through this tangible manifestation of Him; His Word – His Bible.