Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Road of Discipleship

You can watch this sermon in video format at my YouTube page

Are you willing to follow?

It is rare to find a good Paul & Timothy relationship.
A rare commodity it is to find someone who is willing to take the time to disciple someone into the person they need to be in Jesus Christ.
Paul did just that with his 'son' Timothy, as he affectionately refers to him in his letters.
Paul taught him everything he knew.
We've heard that phrase uttered many times through the years. "I taught him everything he knows"
Paul was the kind of teacher. He shared everything he understood with his student.
You might say Timothy attended the "Apostle Paul School of Technology".

How many of us can see those parameters in our own lives? Was there was someone who taught us everything we know? Looking back on our lives, was there someone who took us aside, into their 'school of technology' and taught us everything they knew?

This is the road of discipleship. To learn. To experience. To gather the necessary information that our lives might be transformed into what God wants us to be. What does God want us to be? As our Pleasantville church is going to experience soon and our Thornville church studied last year, God wants us to be Just Like Jesus. Check out this except from Max Lucado's book.

When they were young, my daughters loved playing “dress-up.”  They’d put on their mom’s shoes, fill up a grown-up purse with crayons and pretend grown-up scenarios.  For the moment, they wanted to be just like mom.

Don’t we do the same?  We look at ourselves, with our immaturity, our sinfulness, and we want to clothe ourselves in something better.  We want to be just like Jesus.  This seems like an impossible goal until we accept one simple truth:  God will help us.  He loves us. Not only does God love each of us exactly as we are, but he wants us, little by little, to become like him. Why?  Because he wants us to have a heart like his.

Need to hear that message a few more times? Don’t we all? God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way!  He wants you to be just like Jesus!
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26).

 Paul taught Timothy these things. To trust in God. To cling to the message of Christ.
He also told him to do something very interesting  with these teachings he shared with the young man.

2 Timothy 2:2

New International Version (NIV)
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.  

Ok, God wants us to be like Jesus, we covered that.
But, have you ever thought of yourself as a teacher?
I have previously spoken about my former boss in my hometown who took the time to sit down with me over an 8 week period. Each week we would sit down and go through this simple 'fill in the blanks' study. "Basic Bible Studies for New and Growing Christians" (We've done this study twice at Thornville and I will be offering it this summer and fall at Pleasantville.)

At the end of this study my pastor asked me, "Now that you have done this study, if someone else came into the church, having just found Christ, would you be willing to sit down with them and do a study like this to help them out?" Wow. That's quite a notion. To turn it around and think of ourselves as 'teacher'. To open our own "school of technology".

The question begs to be asked - are you confident enough in your faith and experience in this Christian life to be used of God to be a guide, an instructor, to someone else in their faith journey? If not, then maybe we need to take the time to learn for ourselves. Maybe we need to walk the road of discipleship for ourselves first. But, and here's the catch, we are not walking it for ourselves. We are walking it to become what God wants us to be. To be like his Son, Jesus.

Jesus was completely devoted to the Father. Jesus put his Father's needs first. He followed the instruction and direction of his Father above all else. What his Father wanted him to do was lay down his life for others. And, so, he did. He gathered twelve men to himself and walked through the countryside of Israel. He healed folks. He taught people about God and the Kingdom. He met their needs. He gave all he had to this end. There was a moment when the scriptures say he look upon the people and felt like they were like "sheep without a shepherd". So, he became their shepherd.

This road of discipleship will bring us closer to what God wants us to be. Like his Son.
His Son gave everything. His Son said these words. "Deny yourselves, take up your cross,and follow me." Forget about what you want. Forget about what is important to you. Lay it all aside and follow.

I'm thinking about an instance in the scriptures that fits these parameters.

There were two guys walking down a road. Sounds like the opening line to a joke.
But, the setting is all too familiar for us in our lives. They are confused. They are dismayed.
They had all their hopes hanging out there and they got their hopes crushed when they saw their Lord and Savior die on a cross and then laid low in the grave. And, so, they do what many of us would do.

They go for a walk.

They are wondering why things haven't worked out the way they wanted them to. 

Truly, they are wrapped up in their own desires and thoughts. They have an outlook on the world and their own view of how God works. And, then their world is shattered.

God, however, does not leave them where they are. He comes to them and shows them where they have been misguided. Jesus appears on the road with them as they walk to the nearby town of Emmaus. The scripture from Luke says that Jesus "opened the scripture to them". Its not like they have anything else to do on this long trek. Think of the town you live in, either Thornville or Pleasantville, and lets just start walking to Lancaster. Will it take all day? Probably will, on foot. So, we have a little discipleship class as we walk. God opens the scriptures and we soak it all in. Everything we have been clinging to and all the baggage we have been carrying, we find out how to lay it down. We learn how to walk freely - like Jesus. We learn to be dedicated to one thing - like Jesus. And, like Jesus, we learn how to teach others.

These men get to the end of the road and stop off to get a bite to eat and rest.
It is inside of the house that their lesson turns into their profession.
During the breaking of bread, Jesus reveals who he is to these men. They had walked the road this whole time not knowing who they were walking with or listening to. Now they know. Now they understand. Now it all makes sense. But, do they keep it to themselves? No. There's no way they can.

Luke's account says they got up and went right back to the Jerusalem. The confused became students. The students now are teaching others.The process of discipleship is immediate at times. Other times, as with Paul & Timothy, it is an apprenticeship. It takes time. It is a process. There is a lifetime of learning and understanding.

With one goal in mind. To become what God wants us to be.

And, so I ask you today...
Are you willing to follow? Following is required. And, the destination is glory.

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