It would be entirely natural to be a little cautious of a sermon on ‘discipleship’
After all, we are all used to the word discipline as it is about restriction and punishment and making your behave. That is where we have to leave our world and enter the spiritual realm where Christ rules.
God created you to worship him because he loves you. He formed you to be part of the body or family and fellowship together. But his ultimate objective in your life is to make you like Christ.
“From the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him - and He knew who would - should become like His Son...” Rom 8:29 (LB)
“ God wants us to grow up ... like Christ in everything.” Eph. 4:15 (Msg)
MY 3rd PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST
So what have we let ourselves in for? Boot camp? Or maybe you fancy a 5 star conference centre with a 100 steps to become like Christ. 3 weeks and you will be transformed or your money back!
Maybe not! God chooses to work in everything. I mean everything. To bring out the beauty and strength of character that he wants in us.
“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose.” Rom. 8:28 (NIV)
So review your week. What was it made up of? God has been at work in your life, working on your love, your joy, your peace, your patience, your goodness, your faithfulness, your kindness, your self control.
Yes, that’s right, when you lost it with the kids, it was part of your discipleship plan. Well not the ravings but the events that led to it. You had a workout in all of the fruits of the Spirit at once. Feel a bit foolish and as letting God down. Then confess your sin and be forgiven. God is not a military sergeant major, he is a loving father who put you through your paces to develop godliness in you.
But not only the difficult events but the ones you respond well to build up your faith and trust.
This morning we are going to look at
THREE UNEXPECTED TOOLS
Remember the objective is to transform you into the likeness of Christ. To do that you will have to follow him. Read his life and you will soon see he faced some awesome challenges. In the desert tempted by the devil, he seemed to attract trouble wherever he went, none more so than in the garden of Gethsemane and he was abused, mocked and insulted even on the cross. So, that is what we are going to look at as tools for discipleship training.
1. GOD USES TROUBLE TO TEACH US TO TRUST HIM.
When Tim was a sailing enthusiast, I spent some time at Hillingdon Outdoor activities Centre. What I saw was boats capsizing, people struggling in the water trying to get them back upright, canoes rolling over, people transferring form one canoe to another and rarely did I see them sailing normally. In fact they had two boats called ‘turtles’, which describes a boat upside down in the water! Why? Because a good sailor has to learn to deal with the problems of sailing. Its no good going to sea if you can’t manage a capsize in a sailing dingy.
Troubles are frequently described as trials in the Bible because the Bible is a godly book. It recognizes that God is in control and therefore the thins that happen to us happen because God wants them to. So they are trials sent by God rather than troubles that just happen in the comic accident of the atheists world.
“...troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.” Rom 5:3-4 (NCV)
I understand that the idea that God sends flu for our good, sounds crazy but the alternative is that he has a malicious streak in him that sends the disasters of our lives just to be nasty. You may even now be thinking, can I really believe God would put me through all the pain and suffering for my good? That is where we have to learn faith. Trust me, say God, lean on me, learn of me. Jesus says follow me:
“They came to a garden called Gethsemane and Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ ... Distress and anguish came over Him, and He said, "The sorrow in My heart is so great
that it almost crushes Me." Mark 14:32-34 (TEV)
Why did Jesus experience this spiritual torment?
"Father," He said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want your will, not mine!" Mark 14:36 (NLT)
The outcome was that he revealed himself as the willing Son who gave himself for you and me in surrender to the Father’s will. And if I am to be like Jesus, I to have to learn to respond , not in the environment of a church service but in the furnace of daily living.
Troubles – patience - character – hope
Two simple helps to make sense of our lives.
· Keep a spiritual journal
“At the Lord's direction, Moses kept a written record of their progress.” Num. 33:2 (NLT)
Now I am not an expert in this but it is of great value if you write down things that you learn, things that happen to you, things that you have asked God for in prayer and choices you make. The act of writing them down sometimes colours your understanding. To be valid as an exercise, though, you do need to go back every so often, say once a month and review your progress in discipleship, note where God has or has not answered prayer as you wanted and what you learnt from the experiences of your life.
· Remember the reward
“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)
Never underestimate the value of our eternal inheritance. We have only got ourselves to blame because the world scoffs at eternal life but Jesus promised and sent the Holy Spirit as a down payment. God has given you eternal life. You are on your way to heaven. Enjoy! And don’t be ashamed of it. In this case it helps us to get a balance when our troubles overwhelm us. ‘No pain, no gain’ is not just for physical fitness. God is preparing you for glory. Every troubles that he takes you through is designed to make you more like Jesus, ready to spend eternity with hi.
2. GOD USES TEMPTATION TO TEACH US TO OBEY.
If we to be more like Jesus, expect to follow in his footsteps.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matt. 4:1 (NIV)
IF he was tempted, then you will be tempted. If he was tempted then you being tempted does not mean there is something spiritually wrong with you. Temptation is not sin. Sin is believing the tempter instead of the Saviour.
So how should you react to temptation?
· Resist, Just, say, “No!”
"’Get out of here, Satan’ Jesus told him. ‘The Scriptures say, Worship only the Lord God. Obey only Him.'" Matt. 4:10 (LB)
Or as James put it James 4:7
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Sometimes we are weak and flabby Christians because we simply give in to temptation.
· Keep focused on good thoughts
“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right.”
Phil. 4:8a (LB)
So read your Bible so that your mind is filled with what God wants to bring to your attention in temptations. The Battle is inside. The actions simply express who wins God or Satan. A great book on this is a book by John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress’. He also wrote ‘The Holy War’ which is an allegory of you being a city. In it he describes how Satan burrows his way in and causes all sorts of trouble in your heart and mind but Emmanuel constantly saves the day.
· Get a spiritual partner
“You’re better off to have a friend than to be all alone... If you fall, your friend can help you up.” Eccl. 4:9-10 (CEV)
This brings us back to last week. Fellowship is not an option, it is part of God’s plan for you. But here we need deeper fellowship of the kind that can share our weaknesses, our failures and the darker side of our lives. We are all sinners, saved by grace. We all struggle with sin. Unfortunately we are all too quick to condemn failure in others and bolster up our own self-righteousness, which is actually sin itself. So having friends you cantrust and pray and encourage and be encouraged to fight on is of great value.
· Trust God
o He is faithful
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
o He is gracious
Sin is bad, but confessed sin from a penitent disciple brings us into the realm of grace again.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbour his anger forever;
10he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
We should never belittle sin. It causes a separation from our Father cuts us off from Jesus and grieves the Holy Spirit. But confessed sin opens us up to the forgiveness of God
If we confess our sins , he is faithful and just and will forgive us our
sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We learn again to live by grace not by works.
Which brings us to the next point
3. GOD USES TRESPASSES TO TEACH US TO FORGIVE.
We need to interpret the word trespass here. I mean those actions and words which are intended to cause us pain.
Jesus was verbally and then physically abused in his three years of ministry. If we are to be like him, we will share the same experience.
“People passing by shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus ... and the elders made fun of Him... Even the bandits who had been crucified with Him insulted Him in the same way.” Matt. 27:39-44 (TEV)
What was Jesus’ response to this the most heinous form of abuse and degradation ever invented by man?
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing.’" Luke 23:34 (NLT)
Forgiveness is a real act of the will. It is when you let go of a legitimate offence and say, “I will not hold it against you” It is not just responding to an emotional outpouring of repentance, it is the decision not to raise the matter again. Much of our forgiveness has to be done again and again. Some people are just irritating! Others are plain rude or thoughtless! But that is not an excuse for not forgiving. Because we are being discipled by Christ. So we are learning to behave as he behaved.
· Remember God has forgiven me
“Forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.” Eph. 4:32 (CEV)
This is a vital part of your spiritual health, and has a significant effect on your emotional and physical health. Lack of forgiveness, cuts you off from the Father, locks you into bitterness and brings darkness into our life. Forgiveness is a liberating experience. Even when the abuser is unrepentant it releases you. When Jesus taught us to pray he put a line in the model prayer which is a marker for each one of us.
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”
And , as if you might think Jesus had some mystery in mind, he told a parable about an unforgiving steward in which he casts his Father as the one who withdraws forgiveness because it was not offered by one of us to his fellow.
Forgiveness is how we develop an understanding of the way God has forgiven us and what it cost him to make us whole.
· Remember God is in control
“You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.”
Gen. 50:20 (NCV)
The story of Joseph is an important lesson in forgiveness. Genesis 50:15-21 tells us that forgiveness has to be maintained but in verse 20 Joseph recognises that all events are in the control of Jesus. Any crime against you, any act or word that offends you God can use to make you more like Jesus.
“We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with Him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with Him.” Rom. 8:17 (Msg)
The footprints parable tries to point us to the fact that it is in the time when we feel least spiritually aware, when things are a real struggle, that we are often actually closest to our true destiny, to be dependant on God, his grace is sufficient, his strength made perfect in weakness.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Phil. 2:5 (NIV)