(Continued – The mission/vision of Southside Baptist Church as presented in June 2015)
WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
Now, you have heard this before, so I will make it quick. The word “disciple” is a powerful picture of God’s intentions for His people. The word comes from the Greek mathetes, a learner. The root of the word, math, indicates “thought accompanied by endeavor” (Vines, p. 171) leaving us to understand that a disciple does more than sit under the teaching of his master. He listens, obeys, and passes down to the next generation of learners that which he has learned. True disciples hear Jesus’ words and obey them.
Obedience is the key to discipleship. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:24). The entire concept of Christian discipleship leaves no doubt as to who is in the position of authority — Jesus. He was the leader; His disciples were the followers. He was the Teacher; they were the learners. He was the Master; they were the servants. The Book of Acts makes this clear. Before chapter 6, followers of Jesus were referred to as believers or brothers, but in the space of a few verses, their designation was changed to disciples (6:2). The followers who believed Peter’s message and repented of their sins — disciples. The brothers and sisters who believed “that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [they would] be saved…” (Acts 15:11) — disciples. These men and women became the disciples who were “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), even to the point of death.
If we are going to shape lives through discipleship, we must first be saved. The call to discipleship is a call to radical change. When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him in chapter 4, He was asking them to radically change their way of living. The fishermen left their boats and nets. The tax collector walked away from a lucrative business. All twelve of these men left the comforts of home and family to spend the next three years listening to, learning from, and, all but one, submitting to the Lordship and leadership of the Son of Man. Why? Because in that instant, they recognized that what Jesus was offering was worth far more than anything they had experienced or would experience in their own strength. They realized that their earthly sacrifices would reap heavenly rewards. It becomes clear throughout the gospels that these men did not comprehend fully what Jesus was calling them to become, but they knew in their hearts that the value of the treasure placed before them was infinitely greater than everything else life had to offer, so they did as Jesus commanded. They repented of their sin, followed Him, and became fishers of men.
Listen to me this morning. Repentance is required. We cannot be His disciples outside of a personal relationship with Him that begins with repentance of our sins. In the Old Testament, the word translated as repent, shuv, means “to turn or return” (TWOT, vol. ii, p. 909). It is used to illustrate the need that all men have to turn away from their sin and to turn toward God, a concept with which Jesus was familiar. However, in the New Testament, the word that Matthew used to translate Jesus’ Aramaic into Koine Greek was metanoeo which refers to an exercise of the mind. It literally means “to note after, to change one’s mind” (Kittel’s, vol. iv, p. 976). It carries with it the idea of doing or saying something and then changing your mind and being sorry for the thought or action. Taking both of these words into consideration, repentance, then, is a change in attitude that leads to a change in action. Repentance is what takes place in our hearts when we respond to our sin with godly sorrow. Repentance is placing ourselves in a position where God can do the work of transforming our lives so that we can become fully-functional followers of His Son.
If you have come to that point in your life where you have felt the calling of Jesus to enter into that intimate relationship with Him, you know this to be true. When the Holy Spirit began to speak into your heart words of conviction showing you your need for salvation, you knew there was something more to life. That is why you accepted His invitation, turned from your sin, and turned to God. That is why you, like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, the one in the temple who would not even look up to heaven because of his shame, begged for mercy. That is why you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and take up residence in your life as your Lord and Savior. And that is why, even now, you know that by accepting His precious gift of eternal life, you have surrendered your life to follow Him as a “fisher of men,” a disciple-maker.
Salvation is surrender. Tragically, the problem we have in our churches is that too many church members have never felt godly sorrow which means they have never experienced the repentance that leads to salvation. Satan has tricked them into believing that by being baptized and joining a church they have done all that is required. In essence, they have bypassed the cross, but there is no salvation apart from the shed blood of Jesus. There is no salvation unless godly sorrow leads us to turn from our sin and to take up our cross. If we are truly going to follow Jesus, then we must die to ourselves and surrender our lives to Him.
The Bible is clear. In order to come to Christ, we must recognize our need as sinners. Without Jesus, we cannot be forgiven of our sins, and we cannot walk in a relationship with Him. It is only through true repentance that our lives are transformed and we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:1, 12-17). As part of His family, God calls us to become fully-functional disciples of Jesus who make fully-functional disciples of Jesus who make fully-functional disciples of Jesus who make fully-functional disciples of Jesus. However, you cannot make disciples unless you are a disciple, and you cannot be a disciple unless you repent of your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord.