Sermon Audio & Review
Pastor Tim Potter
- Category: Looking and Living (1 Thessalonians)
- February 17, 2019
Observe any living thing, and you will see that God designs His creatures to partner with others. They are not created to exist alone. Birds are always in a flock. Marriage was instituted because "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). A singer's performance is greatly enhanced by a good accompanist. Those in the trades or any career seek to replicate themselves in an apprentice. Living things do not function well alone.
Christians have been made one with Christ and His body. Philippians 3:17 sums up our disciple-making lifestyle as we are looking to Christ's return and living faithfully.
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. He had planted this church in the midst of much hardship. (See Acts 16.) In the first chapter, Paul reminds these believers that difficulty is a gift from God (Philippians 1:29). He uses all circumstances for the advancement of the gospel.
The words "gospel," "partner," and "fellowship" are repeated often in this book.
"Join in Following"
This phrase means to come alongside someone else and mimic their lifestyle. It's the same idea that we saw in 1 Thessalonians 1:6. This is a choice each believer must make to join and follow someone more mature.
This word means the pattern of one's life.
This imperative assumes that the believers are already following someone. The meaning of this word is very detailed and specific. It means to watch carefully, noticing detail, and being ready to respond based on that observation. Think of the alertness of a Secret Service agent. They are constantly scanning their environment and logging details about the people they observe, in order to take appropriate action to help protect the nation's leaders.
Believers who imitate someone more mature similarly protect the content of the Gospel and ensure its advancement. (See Romans 16:17.) They are informed by God's Word not merely for knowledge's sake, but in order to use it. Truth causes them to take action or share what they've learned with someone else.
This word indicates a person's model of behavior. It is used here positively. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, the same word is used to point out a negative example.
Disciple Making Is Not a Program
- Disciple making is not merely teaching.
- Disciple making is not merely reaching.
- Disciple making is not merely discipleship.
- Disciple making is not bound up in a volume or class.
- Its responsibility is never placed upon parachurch organizations.
What Discipleship Is
Disciple making is a normative, local church, individual responsibility that God the Spirit empowers as Christ builds His church. It is each saint shouldering the responsibility to spiritually reproduce themselves. It is the commitment of a life to another life for life. It requires that the pastor be the “chief disciple maker.” If the pastor is not personally the most active, then the congregation will not follow.
Program vs. Relationship
A program has a clean start and a crisp end. It provides measurable accomplishments. It only trains people to serve for a limited time. A program consists of a few individuals giving the Word to many, and is rarely repeated.
Programs constantly have to be reworked and tweaked, if they are not a one-time event. It takes much effort to gain participation, often ending with the realization that there will be no participation. The ultimate success of a program is hollow. What did we actually accomplish for Christ?
By contrast, a relationship is a process. Success can take decades. Relationships train people to serve for a lifetime, "one life to a life for life." Many individuals are training other individuals. Disciples, not a class, make other disciples. Biblical disciple-making naturally grows and results in the "first love" described in Revelation 2:4-5.
Jesus' Upside-Down Strategy
Programmatic discipleship focuses on getting everyone to attend, many to connect, some to serve, and a few to "go" share the Word with others. Jesus' ministry strategy grew in the opposite direction. He called a band of 12 disciples, then trained and sent out 70, who grew to 500, then multiplied to 3000; and the church continues to grow today.
Beginning with discipling the few is slow. The Kingdom of God is a mustard seed and always will be. Discipling the few is hard. People are complex, and formation is messy. Discipling the few is limiting. Limits and rebellion are closely related. We have been resisting limits since the Garden of Eden. Discipling the few demands a lot from me. I cannot give what I do not possess, and cannot help but give what I do possess. It requires I keep growing
Insights in this section taken from Pete Scazzero.
Though it is not easy at times, the process of discipleship relationships is worth the investment!
- Are you following someone more mature than you? Are you imitating their godly lifestyle? If you do not have a spiritual mentor yet, make a choice to join and follow another believer.
- How does your learning impact your behavior? Observing examples in the faith should motivate you to do the same.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Chosen As His Children"
Chosen by the Father's mercy,
Set apart to serve His Son,
Sanctified by His own Spirit--
Praise the Holy Three in One!
Saved by resurrection power,
Shielded in His faithful love,
Now no enemy can tarnish
My inheritance above!
I'm born again!
I'm God's own chosen child of mercy.
What love and grace!
Father, keep my walking worthy
'Till I look upon your face
'Till I look upon your face.
Let by wisdom into suffering,
Grieved by many trials below,
Yet rejoicing in His purpose,
That my faith has gold may glow.
Granted faith for overcoming,
Filled with love for Christ unseen;
Even angels cannot fathom
What salvation God will bring!
Fixed upon this hope completely,
As a obedient children, fear;
For the Holy One who called you
Purchased you with blood so dear.
Born anew from seed eternal,
By His lovingkindness spurred,
Lay aside all tasteless yearnings--
Crave the true and living Word!
Built on Christ, the sure foundation,
We are free from guilt and shame;
He is fitting us together
As a house to praise His name!
We are chosen as God's people,
Called from darkness into light;
O what mercy now entreats us
To proclaim His glories bright!