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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 1, 2019
How to make Disciples: Marks of a True Disciple
Last week I tried to impart to you a vision of what every Christian should be and can be through discipleship. There is no life as exciting as being a Christian. There is no purpose more glorious or significant than living for Christ. I hope last week’s message encouraged you in the quest to become like our Lord. I used the Apostle Paul as a model, (See: How to Make Disciples: An Example of Obedience) but I could have used any of many examples set forth not only in the Scriptures themselves, but on the pages of history and in modern times as well. People who demonstrate a vital relationship with God. People who live for a purpose beyond themselves and affect the world for the Kingdom of Christ. People who trust the Lord and have the peace that passes all understanding in every situation and the joy of the Lord in all circumstances. People in whom you can see Christ living through them.
This week I want to go over some of the marks of maturity that Jesus gave in His teaching. Each of these are qualities that will develop in the life of those who are followers of Christ. They are characteristics that become the traits of Jesus’ true disciples. They may not be present in a young or an immature disciple, but they will become present as the disciple of Christ continues to learn to obey all things whatsoever He commanded, the last part of the Great Commission. (See: How to Make Disciples: Obedience)
Next week I will be explaining in practical terms how an immature Christian becomes a mature one, so if these marks of maturity do not match your life currently, then do not fret, they can and will become part of your character as you continue in the process of being a disciple. For today, I want you simply to know where you are headed and be aware of the areas that God will be working on in your life as He fulfills His word in Romans 8:28-30 that those He saves He will also conform into the image of His son. As Paul stated in Philippians 1:6, He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Marks of Maturity
I will begin by just stating some of the major marks of maturity and then go back over each of these in detail.
*Abiding in Christ’s Word – John 8:31-32
*Taking Up Your Cross – Luke 9:23-25. .
*A Priority on Christ – Luke 14:25-35.
*Love for Others – John 13:34-35
*Abiding in Christ – John 15:5-17
None of these are burdensome to the true Christian. Each becomes an increasing source of joy as the things of this world diminish in their importance and the things of God increase. The Christian’s mind becomes increasingly set on “the things above” instead of “the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Salvation is the not the end goal, rather it is the beginning of a whole new and better life. Conversion is perhaps a better way to describe it because it is being converted from the broad way of life that leads to destruction to the narrow path of life that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). As one song writer put it, “God loves you just the way you are today, but much too much to let you stay that way.” God will change you.
We saw this played out in our brief look at the life of Paul last week. He learned the secret of being content in every situation as he found that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him to live according to the will of God instead of his own. He learned to trust God in all circumstances, in humble means or prosperity, when hungry or being full, having abundance or suffering need. God would provide him what was needed for life and the ability to respond in a way that would glorify God.
Like Paul, Jesus has called us to be His disciples and to also make disciples which includes teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded. It is an exciting life to learn the Lords’ commands and live according to them. It is also an exciting endeavor to be part of the Lord’s plan in helping others to do the same.
Abiding in Christ’s Word – John 8:31-32
The first mark of a mature disciple is found in John 8:31-32. Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” To “abide” is to “dwell in,” “live in,” “remain in.” Jesus states you must do this in regard to His word if you are to truly be a disciple of His.
The importance of Christ’s word begins with its necessity in salvation. Paul states in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” Knowing the Scriptures and what they teach about Jesus is vital to those who would be His disciples in both the initial invitation to know Jesus as Savior and in continuing to mature in the Lord.
In regards to salvation, without an understanding of “the word of Christ,” you cannot be saved. You must have the correct Jesus in order to be saved, and way too many people have a false Jesus, a caricature of Him, instead of the Jesus who revealed Himself in the pages of the Scriptures. A Jesus who is not both fully God and fully human cannot save you from sin and neither can a Jesus who is fallible and sins himself. A Jesus that did not physically rise from the dead cannot offer resurrection or eternal life to others because he does not have either himself. He would also be a liar who could not be trusted. A Jesus who has not ascended to heaven cannot make intercession for you with the Father and cannot return from there to take you back to be with Him forever. The “word of Christ” is necessary for salvation.
The “word of Christ” is also necessary to be a disciple because without it you would not know how to follow Him. This may seem fundamental and basic, yet it is the first stumbling block to many that would follow the Lord. I used to be amazed when I talked to someone that professed to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and then found out they spent very little or no time reading the Scriptures. That no longer amazes me because I find it is so common for professing Christians to have essentially no devotional life or a very sporadic one, and for those that do, it often consists of just something like “The Daily Bread.” While it is good to use The Daily Bread or similar devotional, that is why we provide them, I must warn you that if that is all you are doing, then you are on a starvation diet. You need more than a healthy snack each day to be healthy.
Now let me take this one step further. Jesus says here that you are truly His disciple if you “abide” in His word. Simply reading the Bible, even if it is on a daily basis, will not make you spiritual because abiding is not merely reading or listening. Abiding requires knowledge and application. You have to both learn God’s word and apply the principles, precepts and commands of it to all the situations you face in life.
I have consistently found that those who have a love for the Scriptures will grow quickly. That love may not be as well developed as expressed in Psalm 119, but those with a deep longing to know God will make it a priority to read and study the Bible. They will treasure God’s word in their heart that they might know Him, be blessed and avoid sinning against Him. They will delight in God’s revelation of Himself and His will.
Perhaps in saying all of this some of you are feeling some pangs of conscience because you know that you lack in this area. Well, if so, then there is hope, for where there is guilt, there can be forgiveness and correction. Ask the Lord to forgive you for not abiding in His word as you know you should, then commit yourself to making the necessary changes so that you are doing so. If your priorities are not right, then now is the time to change them, and with the new year coming quickly, include this as part of your resolutions. There are many Bible reading plans and study aides so that you can learn, understand and apply God’s word to your life. I have put together a resource list to aide you in developing a habit of being in the Bible and communing with the Lord.
Taking Up Your Cross – Luke 9:23-25
The first mark of a mature disciple is abiding in Christ’s word. The second is in Luke 9:23-25. And He was saying to [them] all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and [the glory] of the Father and of the holy angels.”
The mature disciple denies himself, takes up his cross and follows Jesus. In a real sense this begins at salvation itself and just increases as you walk with the Lord. Remember that the idea of taking up a cross is symbolic of death. Taking up your cross means to die to self. It does not refer to inconveniences and minor persecution as it is often used in our society. Having unmanageable hair is not a cross to bear and neither is being called names at work because you are a Christian.
The crises experience of salvation occurs when the sinner recognizes his need for God and cries out for mercy. This is the “poor in spirit” of Matthew 5:3. You have nothing to give, nothing to bargain with, nothing to offer. You stand destitute before God and in humility beg for His mercy to forgive, and of course, that is exactly what He offers in Jesus Christ. Mercy and grace are given to the humble in heart, but He opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5). Salvation requires you to deny yourself because you can’t earn salvation and you cannot be good enough to qualify. God saves according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit and not be any deeds of righteousness you have done (Titus 3:5). Besides, all your righteous deeds are as filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6). You either come to Christ on God’s terms or you do not come at all, and God’s terms require you to be humble, repent from sin and self-righteousness, and believe in the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
Soon after a person is saved, or at least it should be soon after, there will be a desire to publicly proclaim his identification with Christ through baptism. I pointed out a few weeks ago that baptism is done in obedience to His command as a personal identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Your old self is identified as being crucified with Christ and your new self as being raised up to new life with Him. You are proclaiming yourself to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are His disciple. (See: How to Make Disciples: Baptism)
This is what the analogy of the taking up your cross is all about. It is also a daily thing as you are being changed to reflect Christ in your life. Paul explains this in Colossians 3. Since you have died to self and have been raised with Christ, then you are to keep seeking the things that are above instead of the things that are on the earth. You are to “consider the members of your earthly body dead” to sinful practices, thoughts and attitudes in which you once walked and lived. You have a new master, so you must lay aside the old self and its evil practices and put on the “new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him . . .”
The longer you walk with Christ, the more you resemble Him. Your old self becomes a distant memory and the new self controls. Your life becomes less and less self-centered and more and more Christ-centered. That is what taking up your cross and following Christ is all about. Are you taking up your cross? Are you following Christ?
A Priority on Christ – Luke 14:25-35
The next mark of a mature disciple is found in Luke 14:25-35, Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
This is similar to what I just went over Luke 9:23-25 except that family relationships are added to it. In the context of the passage, the idea of hating your relatives and even your own life does not include any thought of malice or despising. It is set as a contrast that your love for Jesus should be so great and more important than anyone else you may love, including yourself, that such love would seem as hatred.
It takes that kind of commitment to continue to follow Jesus. Many people have been attracted to Christ, but because family members opposed them following Jesus, they turn away and forsake Him. Some of you have faced such opposition yourself. A family member or someone you love does not care for Jesus and does not like your involvement with Him, so you feel caught between the two. That can be a very difficult position, yet the Scriptures make it clear that the priority must always be given to God.
Jesus said in Luke 12:51 “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 “They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
It can hurt tremendously to be rejected by your family because you love Christ. Some of you have experienced this kind of rejection. I have mentioned before the Jewish girl I knew in California whose family held a funeral for her when she committed her life to Christ and was baptized. They would not even acknowledge that she was alive when she would call and try to speak to them. Her love and concern for them only deepened, but they rejected her.
Marriages have broken up when one becomes a believer and the other does not. Some of you have experienced this. The unrighteous does not want to live with the righteous. This can hurt even more because as you mature in Christ, you develop a new love for your spouse and other people that is much deeper than you have ever had before, yet it is at the same time, those who are unbelieving want less and less to do with the believer. Let me quickly add here that the unrighteous one who is rejecting may even profess to be a Christian and claim to be the more spiritual one, but their actions of disobedience to the commands of Scripture prove they are false. The one that does not want to obey Christ will reject the one that is striving to do so.
As believers develop their walk with Christ, they understand more and more the priority He has in their life. They recognize that their own physical life and relationships with other people are temporal and will pass away, but their relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal. Mature disciples have Christ at the center of their world and everything else revolves around Him. Family, friends and even their own life becomes secondary. How do you measure up to this mark? Would you continue to love and follow Christ even if that meant family and friends would reject you?
Love for Others – John 13:34-35
The fourth mark is found in John 13:34-35. The disciple develops a love for others that had not existed before. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The mature disciple loves others in the same way that Jesus loves them. This love is primarily seen in the relationships believers have with one another. The love that is to exist between Christians is to be of such a nature that the world takes notice and recognizes that they are a picture of God’s love and that they are Jesus’ disciples.
Notice that the action of love here is to be the same as Jesus’ love, “you love one another, even as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love is the model for the love we are to have for one another. What kind of love was that? Sacrificial, committed, forgiving, compassionate, demonstrative.
Jesus had compassion on people and because He was forgiving He could look beyond their current sinful condition to what they could become. He committed Himself to them in a sacrificial manner. It cost Him to love them, and He demonstrated that love in tangible ways with the climax being His dying in their place on the cross.
That is the way we are to love each other. There is no room for pettiness and bickering in the body of Christ. There is no room for back biting, gossip and being judgmental. When these kinds of things do exist within the church, it only demonstrates the immaturity of those acting in such ungodly ways. All of those things arise out of pride and selfishness, but we are to be humble and consider others to be more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). I have seen a lot the tragedy of immaturity in churches over the years, but I have also seen Christians mature and become what God wants them to be and for the church itself to grow into greater maturity as a whole.
Paul describes how the church grows in maturity in Ephesians 4:7-16. God gives spiritual gifts to every believer to serve Him and one another for this process. As the saints are taught the Scriptures and how to use their gifts, the whole body becomes more unified and mature and no longer prone like children to be deceived and led astray. Paul then continues on in verses 15-16 writing, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
We are to love each other in the same manner as Jesus has loved us. Though that can be difficult at times since Christians come from out of the world and therefore can still be quirky, and if still immature, prickly too, it is a lot easier to sacrificially love brothers and sisters in Christ than those who are not. However, we are to also extend that same kind of love to non-Christians too including those that do not like us. Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us (Matthew 5:44). That is a true test for great maturity. How mature are you?
Abiding in Christ – John 15:5-17
The last passage I want to us to look at this morning has several marks of maturity and it also explains how that maturity comes. Turn to John 15:5-17. In this passage we will see that mature disciples abide in Christ, are obedient to Him, bear fruit, glorify God, have joy, and love the brethren.
5 “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. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and [so] prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “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. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and [that] your joy may be made full. 12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends, if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.”
I said earlier that a mature disciple will abide in God’s Word. This passage states that he will abide in Christ Himself. The meaning of abide is brought out in the analogy Jesus gives that He is the vine and we are the branches. To abide in Him means that you draw your very life from Him, for He is the source of the Christian’s nourishment and growth. Without Him, you will shrivel up and be worthless.
Abiding in Christ begins at salvation. In the analogy used here, the believer is grafted in and new life begins to flow into him. As you continue to abide, you will grow bigger and stronger and soon will be able to produce fruit, which is the next mark of the maturing Christian.
Bearing fruit is the means by which we glorify God. Its presence is evidence that you are truly Jesus’ disciple (8) and that you are abiding in Him (5). What is this fruit? It certainly includes the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of those are characteristics of a godly life lived in obedience His commandments which defines a godly life (10). These qualities are the fruits of righteousness. Does your life exhibit these fruits?
The fruit would also include the righteous deeds that you do that bring glory to God, which is the purpose of our lives. Jesus told us to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Are the things you do reflective of the fruit produced when you abide in Christ?
There is also fruit produced in your own life which Jesus describes in verse 11 as His joy being in you and that it would be full. He desires that to happen which is why He said these things. He wants us to know and experience the fullness of joy that God has for us when we abide in Him. Certainly Christ’s love is experienced at salvation, but it is also experienced to a much greater depth as you keep His commandments which in turn bring a deep, enduring joy that the world cannot take away.
A maturing Christian produces fruit because he abides in the vine resulting in the joy of a godly life that brings glory to God. This is most clearly demonstrated by our loving one another in the same way that Jesus as loved us. Loving each other in that manner proves that we have more than just a head knowledge, we have the Holy Spirit within us controlling our hearts.
In summary, the mark of maturity of a disciple of Jesus Christ is living a life that is reflective of Him. And that makes logical sense, for as Luke 6:40 states, “A pupil (disciple) is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
Is your life a reflection of Jesus Christ? Where are you at on the road to maturity? Are you moving forward, or have you grown weary or become distracted instead? No one here is a perfect reflection of Christ yet, but there should be some resemblance to Him even if it is hazy, and it should also be a clearer image as time goes on. If you lack a Christian walk, or you have become weary or distracted in your journey, then talk with myself or someone else in the congregation. You do not have to walk alone. The body of Christ is here to help one another along in the process of becoming more like our Lord.
Sermon Notes – December 1, 2019
How to Make Disciples: Marks of a True Disciple – Selected Scriptures
There is no life as ____________as being a Christian walking in a vital relationship with our God & Creator
Today: Character traits that God will _____________ in true disciples of Jesus
Next Week: Steps in how an immature Christian ___________ a mature one
Marks of Maturity
*Abiding in Christ’s Word – John 8:31-32
*Taking Up Your Cross – Luke 9:23-25
*A Priority on Christ – Luke 14:25-35
*Love for Others – John 13:34-35
*Abiding in Christ – John 15:5-17
These become sources of joy, not burden, because the Christian’s mind becomes _________on things above
The life of Paul is a good ____________ of this in a true disciple of Jesus
Every Christian is called to be a disciple and to make disciples of Jesus – which includes __________to Him
Abiding in Christ’s Word – John 8:31-32
To abide is to “dwell in,” “live in,” “__________ in.”
Hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) is foundational to _____________
You must have the Jesus revealed in the _________ to be saved – a false Jesus cannot redeem you
You must know the Scriptures in order to know __________and His commands which are to be obeyed
Abiding in Christ’s word requires both knowledge and _____________ of it
Increasing love for God results in an increasing love of His ___________
If your devotional life lacks, then don’t fret – make the necessary ____________
Taking Up Your Cross – Luke 9:23-25
This begins at _______________ and increases as you walk with the Lord
Salvation demands a ____to self-righteousness in order to believe & accepts God’s mercy & grace in Christ
In baptism you identify with Jesus’ death, burial & resurrection: old self ______& you are raised to new life
“Taking up your cross” is putting your old self to ____)& putting on the new self to walk with Christ (Col 3)
The longer you walk with Christ, the more you will _____________ Him
A Priority on Christ – Luke 14:25-35
Your love for Jesus must be __________ than your love for anyone else – self, family or friends
The gospel will ___________ families (Luke 12:51), & yielding to family pressure results in apostasy
It hurts to be rejected by your family, but it is the ______________ that are rejecting the righteous
True disciples recognize that an eternal relationship with Jesus is more important than __________ones here
Love for Others – John 13:34-35
Learning to love others as Jesus loves you demonstrates to others that you are a ___________ disciple
Jesus’ love was compassionate, forgiving and _____________ in the best interest of others
Christians who are petty, bicker, gossip, and are judgmental are _______________ or false
Ephesians 4:7-16 – Christians mature as they _________ God and one another as God has gifted them
Loving other Christians demonstrates maturity; loving enemies shows _________ maturity
Abiding in Christ – John 15:5-17
The analogy show that a true disciples will draw his life from Christ – and this _________ at salvation
Fruit glorifies God & demonstrates you are abiding in Him – The fruit of the __________- Galatians 5:22-23
Fruit also includes deeds of _______________ that glorify God (Matt. 5:16; Eph. 2:10)
Fruit in your own life in having the fullness of Jesus’ _______ in you
Maturing Christians bear fruit by ______in the vine resulting in the joy of a godly life bringing glory to God
The mark of maturity of a disciple of Jesus Christ is living a life that is ___________of Him – Luke 6:40
No one alive has reached perfection, but __________true disciple will become more and more like Christ
KIDS KORNER – Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following:1) Count how many “maturity” is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about the marks of Christian maturity and how you can grow in them.
THINK ABOUT IT – Questions to consider in understanding the sermon and its application. How did Paul’s life demonstrate Christian maturity and being a true disciple of Jesus Christ? Why are the characteristics of maturity a joy for a Christian to develop instead of a burden? What does it mean to abide in Christ’s word? What is the relationship of the word of Christ to salvation? To becoming a true disciple of Jesus? Why is it necessary to read the Bible on a regular basis? What else is necessary as you read it? Why do mature believers have a love for God’s word as did David in Psalm 119? If your devotional life is lacking, what will you do to change it and when will you do it? What is the meaning of the symbolism of taking up your cross? In what sense does salvation require a death to self? What is the meaning and significance of baptism? Read Colossians 3:1-17. How does this passage put practical application into the idea of taking up your cross daily and following Christ? Does Luke 14:25-35 require you to hate your family? Explain. Why does the gospel divide families? Why must your love for Christ be greater than your love for self, family or friends? Being rejected hurts – who is doing the rejection and why? How did Jesus love His disciples? How can His disciples show that same love to one another? Why would this demonstrate to others who is and who is not Jesus’ disciple? Read Ephesians 4:7-16. How has God equipped the church to develop maturity? How can he use you in this process? What is the importance of love in that? What does it mean to abide in Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? How is that fruit demonstrated in your life? How are righteous deeds fruit of abiding in Christ? How do such deeds glorify God? What deeds do you do? How can the fullness of Christ’s joy become part of your own life? Do you have that joy? If not, what needs to change. Read Luke 6:40. What is the primary characteristic of a true disciple of Jesus Christ? How is that characteristic being developed in your own life?
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