Following Jesus is the call of every believer. As the Apostle John was inspired to say, it is also the test of true salvation. Listen to him in his first letter: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)
Learning to Follow Jesus
Although the word discipleship is a common term used constantly in many churches, we don’t seem to see Christ-like people developing as readily as it is talked about. We live in a land where millions of born again Christians are suffering from acute biblical illiteracy; and many of them are enslaved to culture-accommodating lifestyles. It is a critical time to reassess how God’s Word says to train people to be true followers of our Lord Jesus.
“Perhaps the greatest single weakness of the contemporary Christian Church is that millions of supposed members are not really involved at all and, what is worse, do not think it strange that they are not. As soon as we recognize Christ’s intention to make His Church a militant company we understand at once that the conventional arrangement cannot suffice. There is no real chance of victory in a campaign if ninety per cent of the soldiers are untrained and uninvolved, but that is exactly where we stand now.”
In analyzing the Gospels we find that Jesus ministered to the multitudes no less than 17 times; but His small group sessions recorded number no less than 46. Although this is just an observation, we could conclude that Christ’s plan was to offer a mix of 25% public training (large group sessions) and 75% small group nurturing (discipleship, hands on demonstrations and accountability).
John Wesley wrote, “I am more and more convinced that the devil himself desires nothing more than this, that the people of any place should be half-awakened and then left to themselves to fall asleep again.” So, in 1743 John Wesley organized a society. “Such a society is no other than a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their own salvation.” The rest is history. From Wesley’s ministry the Methodist Church began and spread across the world in evangelism and missionary work.
Christians that were baptized into the hope of both eternal life and newness of life are often not successful in living Christ out in practical, every day ways. This most likely because the Biblical concept of “teaching” is becoming more of a “telling” or “pointing” to available resources, rather than life-style demonstration (Titus 2:7).
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:11-14)
No Discipleship =
- Marginal desire for God’s Word (virtually “Biblically illiterate”).
- Walks in the flesh; does not know the difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit.
- Few “works of faith”, i.e., no evidence of being filled with God’s love to serve others, giving, etc.
- Easily swayed or deceived by false doctrines.
- Stuck in the basics-no growth.
- Limited desire for fellowship with other believers.
- Strong desire for worldly possessions; selfish ambitions; spirit of competition.
- Difficulty in repenting/forgiving others.
- Lacking compassion for the lost.
- Not actively assisting in the spiritual development of others.
- Limited sense of God, His character or His will.
- Life filled with fear, anxiety, and the absence of peace.
- Often covetous, boastful, prideful, manipulative, etc.
- Ongoing financial difficulties (living far beyond means…in debt).
- Seekers of pleasure.
- Lives marked by lack of discipline (physically, mentally, and spiritually).
- Partial victory over sin.
- Nonexistent or lackluster prayer life.
- Little or no time or sincere interest in worship.
- Not accountable to anyone for anything.
- Small degree of grace and mercy toward others or self.
Christ’s first words, to His first disciples, should be our first priority as His disciples today. “Follow Me” is still the essence of Biblical Christianity.
Paul went to the heart of God’s goal for the church as he wrote to Titus. Paul instructed Titus himself to set the pace.
That is the essence of this next point about grace-energized men, they were men who sought to Become Representations of Christ in A Christ-less World. But the question we always face is—how?
I think that the clearest explanation for anyone who wants to represent Christ well in this world, was given by Paul to Timothy. So, to expand upon the Titus 2:7 mandate that grace-energized men be imitators that represent Jesus well before a watching world, please turn with me to II Timothy 2.19-26.
This section of God’s Word contains a complete list of how we can maintain a life that God can use for His Glory, and a life God rewards.
This is God’s standard for any and every man, woman and child who want to be a good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I speak to young men specifically, just put your name in their and ask God through His Spirit to enable you to also live this way.
The Model to
A grace-energized, godly man will model obedience to God’s Word. Here are the seven areas that the Apostle Paul pointed out to Timothy and that every man of God must always guard.
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A LIFE THAT IS CLEAN in God’s sight. This is that great Old Testament call to living in the fear of the Lord.
2 Timothy 2:19-21a Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart (aor. impv.) from iniquity.”20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor . . .
flee sin, hate sin, and keep themselves in the love of God so that they have a life that is clean.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A BODY THAT IS YIELDED to God’s Work. This is servant hood.
2 Timothy 2:21b Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
Grace-energized young men will—keep their body as God’s instrument to do His will. As Christ constantly desired and said, may we continually say, “Not my will but Thine be done”.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean, a body that is yielded; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A HEART THAT IS PURE as God’s Home.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Just as Robert Boyd Munger says in his booklet MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME, we must constantly examine our life, as if it were a house full of interconnected rooms. We must be sure Christ is at home in every part of our house.
Grace-energized young men will—guard their hearts, renounce their flesh, purge themselves from any filthiness of the spirit (II Cor. 7:1) as Paul exhorts and be that man of God who is pure in heart that sees God.
Look at II Corinthians 6:14-18 and see the way that Christ living in us changes our habits and desires.
When we let our eyes stay fixed upon the land that is far off, we will always see the King in His beauty (Isaiah 33:17, 14-16)—from a heart that is pure.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean, a body that is yielded, a heart that is pure; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A MIND THAT IS DISCERNING God’s way.
2 Timothy 2:23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
Grace-energized young men will—cultivate the mind of Christ, invite the wisdom that is from above, and think the Word.
The way to keep a mind that has confident assurance of God’s way is to always sense the way God works vs. the way the world, the flesh, and the devil works. Look briefly at James 3:13-18 to see that described.
Always remember we live in a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15). Let your life be a light as you walk in His light.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean, a body that is yielded, a heart that is pure, a mind that is discerning; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A MANNER THAT REFLECTS Christ’s meekness and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
Grace-energized young men will—stay meek and gentle in the power of Christ’s Spirit. Take Christ’s yoke He promised (Matthew 11:28-30) and let Him grow the fruit of the Spirit of God unhindered in your life (Galatians 5:22-24).
When we surrender to allowing the Spirit of God to direct our personality we find Christ’s MEEKNESS at work in us; meekness is the opposite of asserting self; meekness is the ending of our personal agenda; meekness is living daily as crucified with Christ.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean, a body that is yielded, a heart that is pure, a mind that is discerning, a manner that reflects Christ; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A SPIRIT THAT IS HUMBLE to God’s Word. The only way to change people is through the Word. We can’t.
2 Timothy 2:25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
Grace-energized young men will—clothe themselves with humility (Col. 3:12). Wrap up in the apron of a servant as Peter said to the elders he served (I Peter 5:5-6). Let the humble mind of Christ be in you (Phil 2:5-8) and let God lift you up. There is no limit to what God can do with you if you let Him get all the credit!
Open to I Peter 5:3-7 and look at the choices we must make. Peter said that the examples to the flock, the leaders, the shepherds who taught by word and lifestyle had a big choice to make in v.3, they were to be “examples” to the flock. In v. 5 there are two commands, or imperatives. The second one is “be clothed” which literally means “clothe yourself”.
The Greek word is egkombaio and described the white apron towels that slaves wore as they served their masters. In John 13 when Jesus washed His disciples feet He first wrapped a towel around Himself. That is exactly what this word means. Peter probably could still see that Last Supper night vividly in his mind. Jesus quietly rose from the meal, walked to a corner, picked up the apron towel no one else would lower themselves to wear, and did the foot washing work of a slave.
Peter said that the humility Christ seeks in His church is one where everyone from elder to newest believer, all take the slave’s apron and clothe themselves with humility. Why? Because anything less than a life of humble slavery to God for others meets daily resistance from the Lord Himself.
God just won’t tolerate any pride in His people. At every level He resists the lives of His children when they are proud.
This slavery for Christ as His humble servant is a conscious choice, Christ living in me enables me to make.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a: life that is clean, a body that is yielded, a heart that is pure, a mind that is discerning, a manner that reflects Christ, a spirit that is humble; and:
- A grace-energized representation of Christ must have A HEART THAT IS COMPASSIONATE like Christ’s.
2 Timothy 2:26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Grace-energized young men will—put on a heart of compassion (Colossians 3:12). Clothe yourself with Christ (Rom 13:14) and be moved as He was for others. Love with Christ’s compassion, and you will receive that unfading crown of His good and faithful servant!
- Do you have an eye to see how helpless our world is? There are almost 7 billion sheep, most of them without a true knowledge of the good Shepherd! There were only 250 million in Christ’s day. The population of our world is 28 times that today! What do you see in a crowd? A business man sees a potential market, an educator sees a potential classroom, a politician sees potential voters. Nearly everyone thinks in terms of personal benefit. Jesus was moved with compassion at the sight of a crowd, and that compassion led Him to give His life on a cross of wood, writing a letter of love for the sins of the world.
- Do you have a heart to feel? The word in the Bible for compassion means ‘to suffer together with’. The emotion of compassion constitute a language that is understood universally. Compassion can be seen and felt by all because it is the language of the heart that needs no translation to be understood. We of the instant gratification, veneer thin depth of commitment that characterizes our day, have lost so much compassion.. Superficiality of emotional expression from the media has seeped into our spiritual lives. We are good actors, but often poor feelers, of others pain. Ask God for a heart of compassion like Christ’s.
- Do you have hands to perform? What ministry are you involved in today touching the lives of people for Jesus ? Can you name one? Why don’t you start in our children’s ministry and then expand into the Rescue Mission,Crisis Pregnancy Center and so on?
So ask yourself, “How am I doing at following Christ”? Do I represent Him well? If not, why not stop and right now renew your decision to be a grace-energized, personal-follower of Jesus.
So Christ living my life in and through me energizes me to live a:
ü A LIFE THAT IS CLEAN in God’s sight.
ü A BODY THAT IS YIELDED to God’s Work.
ü A HEART THAT IS PURE as God’s Home.
ü A MIND THAT IS DISCERNING God’s way.
ü A MANNER THAT REFLECTS Christ’s gentleness.
ü A SPIRIT THAT IS HUMBLE to God’s Word.
ü A HEART THAT IS COMPASSIONATE like Christ’s.
May we all follow and imitate Christ all our days, by His grace!
Doug Morrell, Wesley’s 3-Strand Discipleship, May 18, 2005;http://www.corediscipleship.org/index.html